The torchbearers are dedicated to ensuring as many people as possible know the truth. They strive to keep their fellow citizens informed about current events, but they also delve into the past to make sure that the Empire is built on solid foundations. They dislike falsehood and secrets, especially political secrets, and regularly clash with those who value a palatable lie over a painful truth as well as those with something to hide.
Torchbearers often write and publish journals and pamphlets, or maintain a wide circle of correspondents with whom they share their findings. Many travel extensively, learning as much about other nations as they can and creating networks of allies and confidants who can help keep them abreast of what is happening across the Empire. They are drawn to places where important events are happening, making them a regular presence all over Anvil during the seasonal summits. Depending on their particular interests they may become political commentators, battlefield observers, or even criminal investigators.
Nothing built on a foundation of lies can endure - nor should it - and the ultimate goal of the torchbearers is to transform the Empire. They strive to convince their fellow citizens to embrace the truth as they do, to think critically about the news they hear, and to demand accountability from their leaders.
There is significant tension between torchbearers and Highborn archivists. The torchbearer philosophy is at odds with the archivist's tendency to treat facts as less important than evoking a "greater truth" with their stories. No matter how inspirational these accounts are, treating them as historical fact is dangerous. Fictional tales are valuable because they can inspire and entertain as long as everyone understands the difference between history and fancy.
While the pursuit of the truth has always been a calling in Urizen, the modern torchbearer movement began with the brilliant if eccentric artisan Didactylos of Delving. He was a fixture of the seasonal summits at Anvil throughout the reigns of Emperor Giovanni and Empress Richilde. Every evening during the first hour of full dark, he would declaim important facts about the day's happening on the steps of the Senate building, while holding aloft a heavy orichalcum torch set with a fist-sized lightstone. A popular anecdote recounts how, on discovering how heavy this torch was, a friend offered to make him a much lighter instrument using a mithril alloy. Didactylos scoffed and countered that he could easily do that himself, but then it would be too easy to fall into temptation and waste words embellishing his accounts, boring his audience, and obfuscating the truth. After his death in 72YE his name was placed before the imperial Synod with a judgement of recognition as an exemplar of Wisdom, but while that judgement was successful no inspirational tomb was created to immortalise his deeds and he largely faded from memory.
Didactylos influenced not only his fellow Urizen but also truthseekers across the Empire. The woman who became Sacharissa of Spider's Vantage began her life in Tassato as a member of a pioneering printing guild. Inspired by Didactylos, she left the League for Urizen, first as a member of Arlspire in Morrow and then as a founder of Spider's Vantage in Redoubt. Where Didactylos believed in word of mouth as the best way to spread the truth, Sacharissa argued thait t the truth should be written down. Written words would be more readily available to Imperial citizens across the Empire, and harder to misconstrue. Sacharissa is recognised in scholarly circles as a pioneer of the view of history as a record of what happened. Sadly, much of the work done by the Sacharissan school of historians to preserve the truth about the early Empire was lost during the destruction wrought by Emperor Nicovar, but the tradition - the importance of writing down facts about events with as little editorialising as possible - continues to inspire torchbearers to this day.
Emperor Nicovar's destruction of the libraries remains the greatest challenge faced by the torchbearers, one that nearly saw the end of their movement. In the early part of his reign, he was a staunch supporter of the torchbearers, using Imperial funds to finance their work. When he began to burn the libraries the torchbearers were fundamentally divided in their response. Some denounced Nicovar, and tried to rescue as many respected works of scholarship as possible. This lead to several prominent torchbearers - especially Senecassa of Truth's Arrow and Cassius of Thought's River - being effectively martyred, killed by Imperial troops responsible for burning the libraries. An equally vocal faction supported the Emperor however. Atonaius of Truth's Arrow, a confidante of the Emperor, reportedly threw the first torch that ignited the archives at Diora University.
In 210YE, after the death of Emperor Nicovar, Cardinal of Wisdom Hesther of Cesa's Watch called every prominent torchbearer to inquisition over their alleged involvement in the excesses of the late Throne. The most active supporters of Nicovar were excommunicated and several, including Atonaius of Truth's Arrow, were ultimately executed by the magistrates for their crimes. The reputation of the torchbearers was tarnished for generations as a result, with many assuming the whole movement was "infected" with Nicovar's madness, ready to burn any books that did not live up to their unachievable high standards of scholarship.
Their influence has ebbed and flowed in the years since. "The darker the night is, the brighter the torch must be" as one oft-repeated quotation from Sacharissa has it. The need for the torchbearers declines a little when the Empire is at peace. The torchbearers tend to be more active when the Empire is in a time of turmoil, or when its leaders are succumbing to corruption and vice. The wider the separation between Imperial citizens and their senators, cardinals, and generals, the more the Empire needs torchbearers prepared to make a stand.
• Honesty is valuable because it’s the means to achieve desirable things: social cohesion, trade, virtue, love, communication, etc. Lies undermine things that are good (such as trust or friendship), lying has bad long-term consequences.
• Honesty is valuable because we need it to act freely. If someone lies to us then it prevents deliberating for ourselves and acting autonomously. Lies are a form of paternalism, to lie to or deceive someone wrongs them.
• Our nature as humans is as rational beings, to convey false beliefs and intentions prevents people acting upon authentic reasons. Lying, in addition to threatening the goods that come from honesty, also fails to respect the nature of humanity.
• From the above, lying can be resisted as an offence against truth, or as something that undermines trust and reliability, harming valuable relationships.
A Light in the Dark
Every Urizen knows that the truth has profound magical qualities, but the torchbearers embrace this hearth magic more than any of their peers. They strive to be scrupulously honest and enthusiastically evaluate everything they encounter separating what is true from what is imagined or supposed. Some torchbearers take a philosophical approach to truth, arguing it is essential for free will; some are criticized for talking about truth as if it was a virtue, something that can affect the soul; and some take a rationalist approach claiming that truth is essential for the Empire to function effectively.
Torchbearers regularly struggle with the question of what the truth actually is, but at the end of the day it often comes down to personal judgement. Even primary sources such as letters or journals may be biased or misleading. The torchbearer calling is one of constantly evaluating information, weighing it based on its provenance, and how it related to other information. Speculation and hypothesis can be interesting, but they must always be presented as such never as proven facts. One of the first questions a torchbearer is likely to ask when encountering a new piece of information for the first time is "How can we determine the truth of this?"
Didactlyan Torchbearers usually focus on current events, and on ensuring that their fellow citizens are well informed about what is going on around them. Where they can't witness events themselves, they try to speak directly to people who did. They are much less concerned about the past, arguing that what matters is to communicate what is happening now to other citizens. While other torchbearers worry about the veracity of a piece of information, Didactlyans prefer to tell everyone and then let people make their own judgements about what is true or false. Because of their desire to engage and inform their fellow citizens, Didactlyans often summarize the basic facts and present them in a dramatic fashion, rather than focusing on creating formal records.
The Sacharissan Torchbearers by contrast focus their efforts on the past, seeking to illuminate and record what actually happened. Finding the truth is always difficult, so they search for primary sources - historical records that provide details of decisions taken as well as journals, letters, accounts and the like - that give insight into what people at the time thought was happening. They are often fascinated by past life visions - as evidenced by the recent excitement around the collected visions of the Seer of the Gateway - but they advise caution because any testimony is prone to assumptions and bias by the observer. Many torchbearers argue that the role of the guide priest is actually more important than the visionary because the guide can be a dispassionate observer of what takes place, while the visionary is inevitably swept up in what is happening.
The final common group, the Atonaian Torchbearers, concern themselves with separating facts from falsehoods. They often take a dismal view of humanity, arguing that people are naturally untrustworthy and prone to lie. They require corroborating evidence before they will accept anything as fact. They may spend their time comparing records and other primary sources looking for incongruities or inconsistencies, or they may actively seek out new evidence and new testimonies. While most Urizeni believe that the truth will always come out eventually, the Atonaians often take a more pessimistic view, believing that deceit is a corruption that spreads over time. Lies and errors that go unchallenged compound each other until it becomes impossible to tell fact from fiction. The philosophy has a tarnished reputation not only because of the activities of their founders during Nicovar's reign, but also because a handful of Atonaians see their role as the active destruction of anything proven to be false.
Torchbearers sometimes face resistance from citizens who claim that information must be kept hidden for the good of the Empire. Torchbearers find most of these claims to be self-serving when examined in detail. Torchbearers are not fools who want to share the Empire's key secrets with other nations - they understand that sensitive information like current military strategy should only be spread across Anvil until the strategy has played out. In practice by the time a torchbearer is actually able to widely publish such details, they are no longer sensitive. (OOC Note: Empire has some specific guidelines about secrecy at Anvil which you can find here.)
Creating a Torchbearer
This archetype is intended to appeal to people who enjoy finding things out and sharing what they've learned with people. You might be an idealistic reporter, a principled historian, or a dedicated investigator. Torchbearers are always looking for secrets to ferret out, so playing one gives you a reason to poke your nose into every facet of the game. If you're successful, your commitment to revealing the truth will win you the enmity of people who want to control the flow of information for their own ends.
Torchbearer can work with any combination of skills. Didactylos, one of the founders of the movement, was an artisan rather than a magician, while Sacharissa was a publisher first and foremost. The best advice is to think about what area of the game you want to investigate. It's perfectly fine to be a generalist, or an outsider, but if you're interested in exploring the activities of the Synod and the things priests are doing then some religious skills, and knowledge of the Way, makes sense. Likewise, if you're interested in the Conclave then being a magician will allow you access.
The same goes for personal resource - if you have a congregation that will grant you membership of the Imperial Synod, which will give you a role in the debates of the day. Conversely if you are interested in the Conclave, then a mana site will provide the crystal mana that you need to make announcements and declarations in front of the Conclave. A personal resource that allows you to pay people for information such as a business, or a set of skills that gives you something to reward your confidants with such as apothecary or artisan, can encourage people to keep coming to you with things they find out.
If you are creating a character who is part of a group then it's a good idea to discuss playing a torchbearer with your friends. If you are committed to spreading truths widely then it might lead to conflict with other characters if they are interested in political power or controlling information. If everyone is happy to play with that conflict then this will make the game even more enjoyable for everyone, but some groups prefer to avoid this kind of intra-group friction.
If you're creating a group of torchbearers, then this can help define the nature of your spire. A spire that serves as a public library where people can come and study your collected documents, or one that publishes a newspaper, would both make a great basis for a group of torchbearers. Obviously the group can also include characters with aren't torchbearers, who can play a variety of roles based on the core concept. This could include other archetypes such as a mage whose idealism synchs well with the torchbearer philosophy, or a stargazer interested in exploring the magical implications of Truth..
Playing a Torchbearer
The core of being a torchbearer is finding out important truths, sharing them with Imperial citizens, and challenging falsehoods. You might spend your time making sure as many people as possible understand what the military council strategy is, so that captains from individual nations can make informed choices. You might be more interested in exposing lies designed to shield people from accusations of corruption or incompetence. Bear in mind that torchbearers are reporters and historians, not gossips. The key is to make sure that the secrets you investigate and reveal are in the public interest - information that might effect the choices other characters make.
Finding things out is only half the job - you also need to make sure people learn about it. If you feel confident, you can follow the model of Didactylos and set up a soap box to declaim what you're found out, or take centre stage in the Conclave to raise a declaration or address. You might be more comfortable sharing the truth in the written medium - pamphlets, posters, or statements of principle in the Synod. You don't need to share the information by yourself - you could take a role as a correspondent for one of the player-run newspapers for example. Alternatively, you might see yourself as a "herald" - making sure that the right people learn the truths you've uncovered and trusting them to do the right thing (this approach is particularly in synch with the net of the heavens).
It's relatively easy for an Urizen to find out what is going on in Urizen, but the torchbearer's remit extends to the entire Empire. It can be challenging to find out what is going on in other nations - or to get access to the people who need to hear the truths you've uncovered. it's a good idea to try and develop a network of contacts you can go to for information, or who can help you get access to the witnesses or documents you need to do your work. Finding other characters who share your interest in uncovering the truth can be an important early character goal.
Torchbearers who are members of the Synod and Conclave have additional tools at their disposal. An Inquisition can help uncover corruption, while a Statement of Principle can be used to announce important information. If the statement receives a greater majority in the General Assembly then we will assume that it has been heard right across the Empire which may create an opportunity for a mandate. Likewise, an address or declaration before the Conclave can be used to spread information to magicians across the Empire.
You don't have to pick one of the three common philosophies (Didactylan, Sacharissa, Antonaian). Each one is intended to focus on one element of the torchbearar philosophy, but as long as you're finding out facts and sharing them with others there's no need to limit yourself to a single approach. There's nothing to stop you changing philosophy even if you do pick one. Whatever you choose, it's worth considering your attitude to these three philosophies however, as your views on them may affect your relations with other torchbearers.
One area of the game that may be interesting to explore as a torchbearer is the militia - the characters who help the NPC magistrates investigate crimes and prosecute criminals. There's a lot of potential fun in being a detective, but there's also the matter of making sure that justice is not only done but seen to be done. Reporting on court proceedings, ensuring that evidence is sound, and offering expert testimony are all ways to get involved in this area of the game.
Finally, the best situation you can find yourself in is uncovering or learning something that other people don't want you to share. This gives you a great opportunity to stand up to people who want to hide or bury the truth, and be the whistleblower who exposes a conspiracy. People with secrets to hide should be very worried when they realise a torchbearer is paying attention to them, after all.
While there is no formal torchbearer organization, those who feel a strong affiliation for this philosophy wear a badge, pin, or piece of jewellery in the shape of a lit torch. This allows easy identification of other torchbearers. In keeping with the Urizen aesthetic this might be quite stylised - a common interpretation is a long thin inverted triangle representing the torch, topped with a squat triangle representing the flame.