What we do
- 1 Overview
- 2 That Was The Year That Was
- 3 Exhausting But Rewarding
- 4 All the Little Orc Chrysalises
- 5 I Don't Do Tents
- 6 Position of Trust
- 7 Occasional Monster
- 8 Three-thousand, six-hundred Freddos
- 9 Gin, Sweat, and Tents
- 10 Won't Somebody Think of the Orphans?
- 11 I'd Have Done Mine But
- 12 Exhausting But Worth It
- 13 Security APPROVED
- 14 The Secret Life of Bog Otters
- 15 Weekend in the Life
- 16 She Doesn't Even Go Here
- 17 Shiny Happy People in Blue Caps
- 18 It Would Help If Players Stayed In One Place
- 19 Reffing Empire
- 20 Graeme's Event Cycle
- 21 What I do when not egregoring
- 22 We Do Indeed Have a Job
- 23 Six Step Process
- 24 What I do on my holidays
- 25 Running Plot at Empire
These are short articles written by crew members about what they do during, or between, events. Originally written for Facebook, they maintain the same sort of informal tone found in the more game-design oriented essays you can find here.
That Was The Year That Was
- Matthew Pennington runs Profound Decisions; it's his name over the door. He probably has the most diverse job portfolio of anyone, doing everything from answering everyone's e-mails, to ordering toilets, to approving plot, to writing his own plot, to making sure there are first-aiders, to... you get the idea. As part of the "What We Do" initiative he's written this quick piece looking back over 2018 - and looking forward to the future.
Andy asked me to try and write a piece on what I do at events, but for once I couldn't think of anything I wanted to say. I'm not usually stuck for words, but it's mostly meetings and that didn't seem that interesting to write about. But I did want to talk about the year we've just had - how extraordinary it's been for us - and what that means for the year ahead - so Andy said I could write about that instead.
The single word I'd use to describe the last twelve months is "unprecedented". To be fair the changes all began half-way through 2016 - when hundreds of new players first started coming to Empire - but the impact of that weren't really felt until this year. At the end of 2017 there was always the chance that everything was just a flash in the pan... It was soon clear in the run-up to the first event that that wasn't the case and so we started responding in earnest to the changes.
The first of those challenges was logistics! There are 5-600 more players per event this year than there were last year. That's a lot of people and the first thing they need is a lot of space. Of course you don't just have to plan for the players you have - you have to try and ensure there's enough room no matter what happens - the last thing we'd ever do is turn people away on the gate because we're full. I've done that once before at an LRP event I was involved with decades ago and I swore I'd never do it again.
As the bookings started pouring in for the first event, it became pretty obvious that we couldn't carry on just using one field. It's always preferable to have Anvil in one field if we can - but the game is just too big now to accomodate that on our current site. We'd already outlined some plans with the farmer, but once it became clear that it was definitely going to happen, there was some pretty hasty work needed to get the gates put in between the two fields.
Of course it's not just space - you have to get everyone in and out of the site. That meant laying even more new woodchip roads - this time through the woods - and that meant creating new bridges and yet more gates - to get over the streams and ditches. That's when we hit our first hitch - it was one of the wettest winter's on record. It basically started raining in October and didn't really stop all winter. Once the ground became utterly waterlogged that made any ground work incredibly difficult. And the longer we waited for it to dry out so we could get to work... the more it just kept on raining.
In the end we just had to get on with it and suck up all the extra work involved with operating in such poor conditions. And given that the winter rain continued right up to - and through - the first event - it's a pretty good job that we did. The new roads only just held up at the first event and the ground itself was in a pretty terrible state. 6 months of rain will do that! Things were a little better in the old field - the new storm drain we'd put in carried the rain away - almost as quickly as it came down. But getting everyone off the site from anywhere was a real struggle.
Fortunately it finally stopped raining shortly after the first event... and at that point it decided not to rain again that summer... That brought new challenges of its own, but in did mean that at the Spring Event we were finally able to see the new roads working the way we'd hoped. The previous three events had seen long queues to get off site - queues that were getting longer and longer with each event as numbers kept growing. But the new roads did everything we'd hoped and more and the queues pretty much disappeared - much to our delight.
The other big thing you need with so many people is toilets. These problems were compounded by the fact that the toilets that we'd bought years earlier were at the end of their life and some of them have not survived the move to the new site. We'd been making do by renting additional toilet blocks - but now we needed to make a decision of whether to buy more second-hand units or switch to renting. Whatever happened we were going to need a lot more toilets - but it was a question of whether we spend the money up front buying - or spend it over time by renting.
In the end we chose the latter option - and I'm really pleased we did. We simply could not have afforded to buy enough toilet units to support the event properly. We'd have managed... but there wouldn't have been enough. Renting large numbers of units meant we could get better quality toilets - and more of them. It's expensive of course - the rental is £30,000 a year - but it meant that we could put a toilet in the crew area for the first time ever.... One day we'll have the money to invest in our own toilets - but not until we've got on our site to build them on. Until then we'll stick with renting - and that means we'll always be able to stay on top of the numbers - as more people come to the event, we can just rent more units.
There were lots of other challenges that I could talk about. We had to upgrade every electrical cable we owned so that we could get power into the new field. That wasn't straightforward by any means. And rearranging the entire site meant a lot of work for everyone - not least the camp planners. They are a hard working bunch and they cope incredibly well with all the demands put on them by us and the players. In gratitude we switched them all to complimentary tickets this year onwards - it's only fair given how much they put in to organize the camps for everyone's benefit.
Logistically the year culminated with the extraordinary third event. After non-stop rain all winter, we were now faced with running an event in record temperatures after 6 weeks with no rain. The site was dry as a bone and the fire risks were sky high - so that meant putting a whole raft of new fire restrictions in for the event. I'm delighted to say that we put our trust in the players - told them what we needed them to do - and everyone was incredibly mature and responsible and we had no problems. But it was an interesting challenge for us as I spent days reviewing all our fire planning, looking at evacuations plans and the like. Such work is never really wasted... although in this case I rather hope it's never actually needed.
Predictably the hot spell broke... over the July weekend we were running our event. The PD weather curse marches on! It didn't stop people coming to the event though... nothing seemed to stop that. The third event it almost always our biggest - since it's during the summer holidays and it's when most people can attend and bring their whole family. This year we shattered all our records though - with well over 1900 adult players on site and just under 2500 people on site by the time you count the young players, the crew, and everyone else. I honestly never imagined that many people would want to play Empire - it's an incredible feeling knowing that you've been part of making a game for so many people.
Having achieved that milestone, we were able to relex a little and turn our efforts to the battles for the final event. Our battle team were keen to try and create something new and the changes in the woods over winter gave us an opportunity to really go for it. Creating the fort in the woods was a lot of effort - but I'm really pleased they pulled it off It wasn't just the perfect way to end the year; having that there really sets us up nicely for next year. This year it was an epic location for a battle - for 2019 it will be just another tool in our arsenal to try and create better events - at least for as long as we're at the current site.
How long we'll stay at Dadford Road remains a mystery. We'd been looking at a few places for a year now, with a view to trying to find a new site to rent, somewhere a bit cheaper and closer to the centre of the country. But the extraordinary year we've had forced us to rethink our plans once again. Renting land will always be a hiding to nothing for us - we'll never really be able to create the kind of extraordinary site we'd like to have for the events without a massive programme of investing and the planning permissions to go with it. And that only really makes sense and is only really possible if we own the land. Like almost every LRPer we've dreamed about what we'd do if we owned a LRP site - but by the end of 2018 it was very clear we were in a position to be able to afford to do it - we just have to find the right site to buy.
So as of last week I was out on the road again - looking at potential permanent sites to buy. That's a long road and one we've been down a few times before and never got to the destination. But I'm feeling really upbeat now. It's going to take a fair few years - just finding a suitable site might take years. But we're better positioned now than we've ever been. We can finally get serious about trying to create a permanent dedicated live roleplaying site to support what we do and hopefully the entire hobby.
That hasn't been the only big change though. Gaining so many new players brings a lot of challenges in terms of supporting them. As a result, the existing game team, myself, Graeme, and Andy - asked Clare Evans if she'd step up and join the team. Clare has run the egregore team and the new player team since the game began - and she's been amazing. So as part of the change we asked her to also take responsibility for all the field NPCs - so the civil service team now also comes under her wing. That means having a consistent philosophy about the way our field NPCs support players in the game - and it means that every field NPC has a direct link to a member of the game team.
At the start of the year I asked Andy to join Profound Decisions as a full-time member of staff as campaign director. Obviously Empire runs on an army of volunteers - the events happen because of their hard work and ambition. But as the game kept growing we needed more people who were available to support the game 24/7 and that's not something we can realistically ask of a volunteer. Having Andy onboard as the full time member of staff responsible for the setting and the plot meant we were able to do more to improve that side of the game as well as freeing up my time to do things like look for a few new site.
And that brings me neatly to my final piece of news - I'm genuinely delighted to let people know that Graeme Jamieson is going to be joining Profound Decisions full time. He'll continue as a member of the game team and head of rules for Empire but take on the role of finance director for Profound Decisions. As anyone who knows me well knows - I'm ok at running a LRP event - but I'm bloody awful at running a business. Graeme is going to bring some much needed discipline to PD - we'll have proper budgets and plans and all sorts of things real companies do (allegedly). That means we'll have a much better run business and I'll have more time to concentrate on land sharks and dragons and forts - so it's a win-win for everyone. Know your own limitations and do the thing you're good at is my motto!
It'll be a big change for our crew - going from a situation where I basically just say yes to everything - to one where they agree actual budgets for the year with Graeme. But in the long term it should help everyone to have a lot more certainty and be able to plan properly for the year.
And it's a huge step for us - it basically means Profound Decisions has doubled in size this year - at least in terms of the number of people we're employing on a full-time basis. But it's an absolutely crucial step to take if we're to buy our own site and make a success of developing it.
And it really sets us up going into 2019 - we have the strongest team we've ever had at Profound Decisions - both our volunteer crew and our full time team staff. So we're all set to keep trying to improve every event to make it better than our last. And the incredible influx of new players has brought a fantastic energy to the game, with so much enthusiasm and passion.
I hope I see you there!
Exhausting But Rewarding
- Beth Dooner is one of the prolific crew photographers responsible for capturing many of the images of players doing things that stop our wiki pages being unreadable walls of text (among other things).
I go to events. Take photos. Go home. And that’s it right? Well, sort of. There’s a lot more to it than that.
Before events, I try and get feelers out for any cool encounters that may be happening, or big set pieces that the game may want me to capture (think The Wicker Man or the Kallavsei Funeral). I’ll take a look at what national festivals may be happening and try and record general times for them. Then it’s looking at predicted sunset times to figure out how much time I have to shoot on Friday night; looking at the weather forecast to see if I need to bring any protection for my kit; and look at the field layout so I can see where everyone is.
Did I mention I also play a character? So this is alongside all of the Winds of Fortune absorbing and goals planning for her.
I can plan styles of photos as much I like before an events - and I do tend to have some idea of what I’d like to achieve - but there are always factors that change that slightly. Perhaps the weather is cloudy all weekend when I wanted to experiment with more lens flares. Maybe all those epic battlefield shots I wanted that show how big shield walls can be are put to rest because all battles will take place in the woods.
Being able to work with what you are given with very little control over it outside of your own camera and where you are standing is part of being a photographer at Empire. Spontaneity and being able to think on your feet is key. And don’t get me wrong, it’s frustrating as heck to see the perfect shot lined up and just as you go to get it, the key figure turns away or someone walks in front of you. Due to our rule of not interfering with role play whilst doing photography, I can’t exactly ask someone to do it again. It’s a moment lost, so you often have to decide whether you stay where you are and hope the same opportunity comes up again or move on.
At events, I do a mixture of playing my character and photographing. I am purely out of character during battles (shown by my red and black coat) but tend to remain IC for much of my Anvil shots. I thankfully play a character who is quite active and has a lot of reasons to wander around the field and see people. I try and do a purely out of character lap of the field once or twice a day though.
There’ll always be stuff you miss, but it’s amazing the scope of stuff you get and it’s always significant to someone. Whether it's a big moment heroic moment on the battlefield, or a hushed conversation between two characters, or someone looking wistfully off into the distance… each of these moments have story, and that’s what I love about photographing Empire.
After an event, I’m usually too exhausted to work on photos straight away. Carrying a camera bag and camera does have somewhat of a physical toll on me, so I usually take a night or two to rest up. Once all my images are on my computer, I get to work on going through them. First to go are all the blurred or over exposed ones. They do take up a lot of space. Next to go are the ‘doubles’ from when I have gone click click click with a camera to make sure I don’t catch someone blinking or that slightly unflattering frozen moment during mid speech. We all have them. Then it’s a final look through to take out some weaker shots, but I try to be as kind as I can with these; what may be a ‘weak shot’ to me could possibly make someone’s day and be the centre piece on their grandma’s mantlepiece.
Then it’s time for that good old post-production. I could be kind to myself and treat every photo the same and just put the same filter on them all after I’ve done some general fixing. However, I like to try and get the best out of every photo, so I retouch each photo individually. I enjoy it a lot, even if it does take more time than simply popping a filter on. I love tapping into my knowledge of colour theory, and looking at film production stills and illustrations to figure out how to make each image shine on its own whilst still being part of a cohesive album. A narrative within the image and the album.
It does take a lot of mental energy though, which is why likes and comments when the album is uploaded is crucial for my wellbeing. I am especially happy if someone from the Game Team or who helped create the world comments on or likes a photo. I do this for the players of Profound Decisions on the whole, so being able to make both of them happy is a job well done for me.
It is exhausting, but ultimately rewarding. And keeps me being creative!
All the Little Orc Chrysalises
- Leah Tardivel heas up our plot production team who make sure we have props, costumes, masks, and the occasional monolith for our assorted plots.
I’m part of an exceptional team. I’ve found this really hard to write because while I have done all these things and would consider all of these things, at least in part, my responsibility it isn’t just me that does them, and for some events it isn’t me at all.
Empire owns various props that can’t be stored in the field, and some of those live in Coventry. A lot of these are taken because they need care or cleaning such as the orc masks and the NPC costume. Others come back to Coventry because they are too delicate or vulnerable for the field, such as the AV kit and some of the larger monster costumes. As a result our early Empire jobs involve getting things cleaned, prepped and repacked from last event, and working which bits of kit we’re likely to need in the field for the next one.
We also work with plot writers to ensure we have everything we need by way of set dressing and props for them to do their thing at the next event. We have sorting days and packing weekends (and we’re always grateful for anyone that can spare any time to help).
I’ve always felt the event proper starts with the vans. They turn up on the Wednesday or Thursday and everything goes to site.
I regularly say that I haven’t got a clue what I do on site, but that’s not technically true. I talk a lot. I listen a lot, and then I fill in for whichever of the rest of my team needs me to help in order to ensure we get stuff done. My team are plot production. We consist of makeup, costume, props, encounter tents, SFX, and the props workshop, working out of the monster tent. It gives me very varied events, and often very varied days. I can move from dressing NPCs; to building random props out of cable ties, gaffa tape, and hope; to trying to work out how to get the lights on the regio to work within the course of an hour. I’ve not recently been called on to do makeup. They’re pretty independent.
I’m currently spending time with Beth working out how to build communication between Plot Production, the NPC team, and the plot writers. This has improved massively over the last year, but I still want the system to be a lot more useful to everyone. I like the idea we can do the impossible more often.
I really like getting to site on a Thursday afternoon and walking into an empty monster tent full of long grass and then building it up to a functioning busy hub, and slowly dismantling it all again so that it can be just empty space again by Sunday evening. As with the rest of Empire it feels so substantial to be something that exists for less than three days at a time.
For the most part I tend to be busy with set up on Friday, spend Saturday filling in and discussing how to build bigger and better things and then I spend Sunday getting everything packed down, and offsite or stored. We aim to have the monster tent empty by about half two so we can drop our stall at time out and then load the van(s) to get the kit back to Coventry so that we can dry, wash and store it all, and begin planning for next time.
I Don't Do Tents
- Woody Grimsby doesn't really do tents, but he does hack things out of wood. He also runs away from things in his spare time.
I don’t do tents. Actually, that’s sort of a lie, though, as I do help on tents as needed - such as the big ones for Monster and GOD - but I don’t tend to do tents the rest of the set up.
So, what do I do? Well pretty much anything needing power tools and construction, except ramps. Andy (##McCullough - Raff) does ramps. Plus each event is different depending on what PD want to achieve and where in the year we are. Typically, if it’s been made using wood and screws I have been involved somewhere along the line.
I am generally onsite on a Tuesday and start work Wednesday morning. For the first event of each year the first jobs are the floor and the roof on the tavern so the Thursday night crowd have somewhere dry to stand without holes they could fall in. After that it’s the same with the Senate building, then other odd jobs such as the table for the Military Council or the portal in the Hall of Worlds. Occasionally I am needed to put holes in things or fix things for the plot people but that’s rarer now they have people who can do that. Outside of event one I tend to have a bit more time so this year it was building a certain fort. Previous years it’s been arenas and stands for tourneys, or seating for coronations.
Once the event starts I am often on call as a red cap carrying out repairs for instance if someone manages to find a way to fall through the floor of the Senate or Tavern. In events with very bad weather I spend a lot of time going around re-pegging tents and just doing what needs to be done. Again, the level of commitment depends on the events some events need very little work during them.
Once the event is over there is often very little for my specific skill set so I pitch in with whichever team needs to assistance, either traffic or taking down tents. On muddy events i'm often busy pushing cars and vans toward roads.
Then its relax at the crew party and hear about all the things that people have done over the weekend.
Monday its finish up tents occasionally do some litter picking. Seriously if you want to find the most soul destroying job in the world its litter picking the field once everyone has gone.
So yeah that’s what a red cap who doesn’t do tents does. What I will say is when I started this crewing malarkey at event one of Odyssey I had no clue, its working with the great people of PD crew that I have been taught how to do what I now do and am trusted with power tools. I even know a little bit about plumbing too, which is nice.
Position of Trust
- Nick Turner is a player who volunteers to help out in various capacities through the weekend, such as player-reffing and helping deliver some of our new player briefs.
I’ve been playing Empire since the start but in that time I’ve helped out on the other side of the fence as well in various guises. This came about from spending a chunk of my formative years on the other side of the world and I wanted to give back to my hobby, without having to stop playing. Most of the time I’m a regular player - paying for my ticket as usual - but I'm happy to help out where I can.
My event starts briefly a couple weeks beforehand when I check with the Ref team about any particular items they want me to mention in the combat brief I deliver on Friday afternoon. These are normally things that have flagged up from previous event that need to be covered/reinforced.
I arrive on Thursday and get set up in the play area as any character camping IC does. On Friday afternoon I run the combat brief (twice) for new players. These briefing sessions are aimed at new players (of which we had hundreds this year), but are also open to anyone else who fancies a refresh of the battle rules. They last about 45 minutes all told. During the briefs myself, Johnny Fisher, and Emma Rowden go through the general rules, safety, special calls, archery, magic, and most importantly the “cinema” of LARP combat. I’m a great believer that role-playing doesn’t stop the moment we go through the gate, and I stress that wherever possible. The team field questions on combat and battle, an then the new players crack onto the practice skirmish which is led by the fantastic Tim Baker and Maz Wilberforce. As I said above my sessions are open to everyone so please feel free to drop by even if you aren't a new player.
Come time-in I’m ready to play my character - but my support duties don’t end completely.
I also hold a radio as a “player-ref”. At certain times the core ref team benefit from another body, and that's where I come in. Essentially, I’m an extra ref in the field to help where needed. I carry a tabard in my bag and put it on when required (On-duty referees are identified by their black-and-gold livery - when Nick's not wearing this he's just another player - Raff). My role is primarily dealing with general questions, performing bondings, processing rituals, and reffing Anvil combat such as the Dawnish tourney or the Imperial Orc fighting pit. I also do whatever miscellaneous stuff the ref team require.
Come the battles I join the battle ref team where I tend to act as a roaming ref covering mass combat. As an IC archer I’m often asked to keep an eye of archery safety on the field (Nick made this helpful video for example which is helpful watching for anyone doing LRP archery - Raff)
As a player referee, I am limited in that I cannot hold an Imperial title, or get highly involved with certain parts of the game (Even though he's a player, Nick abides by the same rules about what he can and can't do IC as the rest of the event crew - Raff), but it has suited my game (and enjoyment) to help out like this for several years – I’m never bored or slowing down during time in. This role takes me all over the field and it always amazes me the detail in every corner. I also never forget how much of a position of trust I am in.
Like most refs I stop at time-out on Sunday, hand my radio/tablet in and pack up my IC kit ready for next time.
- Mark is one of the people responsible for wrangling the Skirmish team, but he also writes some plot, and plays monster and NPC roles throughout the event. Here he's writing a little about what he does, and a little about what Skirmish team as a whole do.
Sometimes I’m a monster
During downtime I write plot, but for events I tend to wear several hats. At the event I'm mostly the quartermaster for the Skirmish crew, and when I get a chance I'm a monster on quests, battles, and skirmishes.
My event prep normally starts about four weeks before the events where I normally am writing up my plots and hatching my ‘evil’ plans. I tend to try and have them in a finished state at least two weeks before the event kicks off so I can get final sign off from Matt and Andy. The next week is spent double checking I've made any props I need, and checking I have back up of plot briefs in case of IT issues on site. (Which never, ever, ever happen - Raff)
Then comes the joy of the event. On Thursday morning I'll start heading up to site from the sunny south. On arrival I'll do some light set-up in monster, and join others in Skirmish crew to set up any special surprises planed for the battles (e.g. the fort from last event).
Friday is when the real work begins, though, As soon as we have about eight crew together we begin unpacking the Skirmish crew container. We have a mix of light, medium and heavy armour, typically around thirty sets of each. Once all the other boxes are unpacked, there is always one hated box remaining - the box of chain (well mostly ring mail). Again there is about thirty sets in there, so skirmish crew put the "chain" in "chain-gang" as we lug it all into monster. We will spend the next few hours getting it all set up and easy to access so when we really need that ‘awesome druj blood soaked apron’ we can find it quickly.
By this time its normally around 16:00, when the skirmish crew will go out for some fight training run by Gary aka ‘evil’. After this we get our time honoured briefing from the Skirmish boss (Andy Connell), and then the crew are split into two teams - team Plot and team War.
Team War - the larger of the two teams - monsters quests in support of the military campaign. The skirmishes they take part in range from an elite unit of Jotun Skjaldir to injured Highborn troops just trying to get home. At the same time team Plot, generally the smaller team, will be monstering skirmishes in support of plot lines. These could be anything form a lost mandowla to drugged-up bandits. Either way fun is guaranteed. Typically one team will be in the woods and the other in the field, and fight three or four twenty-minute quests with a ten minute breather between each, then go back to monster for a longer rest and re-kit.
On Friday we start around half six which, after the briefing, means we just have time to grab food then we start prepping for the first encounter of the event. Our next proper break comes around 22:00.This is when we hear what battles the heroes of the Empire have chosen, and get our battle plans form Andy C. Then I and a few others will begin to prepare for tomorrow's batte, doing jobs such as sorting out base layers and the like. Then I run round all the toilet blocks putting up the "what you need to bring" signs for Tom (Thomas Hancocks - Raff). I'll then get back to monster for the Elite Military Unit briefing at midnight, after which ill do a bit of tidying, and find out how my plots went, just in time for bed at 01:00. (Elite Military Units are the player volunteer bands of monsters with specific roles who'll take part in the next day' battles - Raff)
Saturday rolls on. I'll normally be up by 07:30 sorting out my kit ready for the battle. Then I grab a quick breakfast, before finishing kitting up, and getting the battle prep boards out the front of monster. A few skirmish crew will stay behind to help players kit up, but the rest will head on out to the field. When all the crew are ready and we get the okay from Tom to start letting the players thought (around 09:30), we will start briefing and counting the volunteer monsters. I'll spend the next hour counting/briefing and helping out with any issues that come up. We will close monster at around 10:30 (Graeme Jamieson gives us the shout when to stop), at which point I'll ether run out to join the monsters or help with battle logistics depending on the need. Either way I normally arrive on the field just as the players are about to enter so it’s all a bit of a rush. But a glorious battle awaits!
After the battle we will help sort out the battle prep tent, then go to Andy’s debrief on what worked well and what didn’t. After a quick lunch I'll tidy monster up and prep kit for the afternoon quests. We will pick up again with the patterns of three-four quests followed by a break and do this until around 18:00 which we break for lunch. By this point we are usually beginning to lag a little, and lunch is a welcome break. After this we are back to fighting again until about 22:00 when we again start to get ready for the next day’s battle with a briefing. Saturday night is much the same as Friday night, and gain I finally roll in bed around 01:00 ready for war the next day.
Sunday morning's battle unfolds like Saturday's, but afterward we split into two. Half of the team search the battlefield for lost property (which is sent to GOD), and do some litter picking. The rest help me pack down monster. At current rate we seem to finish take down just in time for Time Out, and the end of the event.
Over the weekend, between the two teams we will have fought two battles and around thirty quests.Skirmish crew is exhausting, but it's always a joy to fight alongside such mad keeners. My personal pet favourites are playing Druj and unliving husks, but hey who wouldn’t want to be the baddies, who know they have skulls on their hats? I have been spray painted black, duct taped into monster costumes, died in a sinking muddy puddle, but not once have I ever considered stopping - after all the Hundred live to die!
Three-thousand, six-hundred Freddos
- Louise is a member of the Crew Welfare team who make sure that PD crew are fed and watered throughout the weekend.
Various people know me as either Louise, Lou, Lulu, mum; or in one special case, Madame Freddo. I started crewing for PD some years ago after I discovered you could get your event ticket, meals and even a drink for free. After that I just sort of got sucked into the camaraderie, community and fulfilling emotions of it all. I actually started out as a redcap but went looking for other things to do and found myself in the crew hut cleaning up. From there it didn't take Maria long to snap me up and make me an official member of the Crew Welfare team. Since then my events have seen me take on more responsibilities.
My event usually starts the Tuesday before. I arrive on site, put up my home and assess the state of the crew welfare hut. If the previous event was a muddy one, this usually involves emptying out the hut, wiping down the surfaces and then mopping the floor about 4 times to get it clean. I go through and arrange whatever supplies were left after the last event and set out the hut in a manner which makes everything easy to find.
Wednesdays see me up at 8:30 am to grab breakfast, finish any organising and cleaning in preparation for the Morrison's and wholesalers deliveries. This tends to be several crates of perishables and 2 to 3 pallets stacked high with all sorts of goodies for the various departments. The rest of my day is spent sorting through these, putting some of it in the hut and delivering the rest to the bar and toilet teams. I try to be done by 6pm because my next job is to find one of the Penningtons and go buy 20 pizzas for the crew.
The rest of the week is much the same, I tidy, clean, restock and problem solve. I take orders from all the teams for any supplies they need and go get them. I remind, and sometimes force, people to eat, although most of the crew seem to have gotten quite good at this now. I also make sure people have hydrated, put on sunscreen and are not overdoing things. From Thursday onwards I set out a buffet in the crew tent for people to make sandwiches and deliver supplies to those who can't always get to the hut.
3600 Freddos later, before I leave on the Monday, I do much the reverse of Tuesdays and pack everything into containers, clean down and take anything that won't survive to the next event to a food bank.
My main concern is that everyone has what they need to do their jobs and they have a warm, clean, welcoming home base.
Gin, Sweat, and Tents
- You may have seen Tom Butterworth dashing hither and yon at events, sometimes with a clipboard, always with a red cap and a friendly can-do attitude. He heads up the set-up and take-down crew who are responsible ultimately for taking Anvil out of its box before an event and then putting it back in its box after everyone has gone home.
I manage one of the key site teams and do a bunch of trouble shooting on the field during set up. I often get the impression that people think I somehow work miracles at Empire. If only!
My team is most accurately described as the Tent team; if it’s canvas and it’s PD’s, we’re responsible for it. This means we’re visibly out on the IC field and tend to handle lots of other things as well, from deploying benches and emptying bins to helping players with problems. We have anything to do with the running of the electrics team or toilets, or provide running water to the site - separate teams that handle those areas. While we’re all part of site (under our glorious leader, Ali Pennington) our team is the one people usually mean when they refer to the ‘Red Hats’.
I have a measure of responsibility for the Traffic Team (also part of site) who organizes everyone’s OC camping and parking, but in reality that is entirely handled by the ever-adept Wayne Newton and his capable team, I’m rarely more than a backstop for any tricky decisions he has to make.
I contribute to my team’s efforts in two significant ways: I arrive with a plan of action and I co-ordinate efforts on the field.
Everything I do is about minimizing effort to maximize productivity. Many PD players and crew have great memories of Red Hats stepping into the breach, hurling themselves at physically strenuous tasks in terrible weather, with few resources other than their muscles, improvisational skill and determination.
The times when we have to do those things are often great examples of a dedicated team of volunteers pulling together to overcome adversity. They are also an indication that something has gone wrong which could perhaps have been thought about days or weeks before and thus been prevented. So I try and plan to do things the easiest, most efficient way and save our proverbial spoons for the storm winds, the emergency repairs, the mad panic as we look for a tent to replace something that won’t do the job and so on.
I also often end up linking activities between other teams. You can’t put power in a tent or set dress a tent or send players to a tent until that tent is up, so by necessity I’m either informing or being informed by other teams as to their locations and activities. I’m not in charge of what they do, but I do end up as a de facto coordinator.
Having a lot of information pass through me to others is probably why my team and I often gets called in to deal with problems that don’t quite fall into any other category. Most of the time that’s fine, though Thursday set up is usually pretty mental…when you’re half way through a complex radio conversation and several people are stood in front of you trying to ask you questions at the same time the brain does sometimes melt!
(I rarely succeed at reminding myself that I’m only one person at times like this, though usually friends remind me of such later on, when I’m unpacking the day out loud over beer/gin).
Other things I do during setup include providing backup for Camp Planners if they hit problems, liaising with traders and caterers for their set up (again, usually only if there’s problems), ensuring the structure and roofs on the tavern and bar are safe and secure (my team will usually handle that work if there are issues). Other things come up and in my role of joining the dots together they sometimes come to me…it’s varied, to say the least.
There are also a couple of key things I keep an eye on during the run up to an event.
3-4 weeks before each event I’ll generally start prodding people in my team to see who is available. Knowing how many people we will have is an inexact science but I ask on the FB group and chivvy people into responding via PM or email. If we have new crew I go through a slightly more lengthily process of explaining what’s involved, making sure they know who to talk to and where to go when they first turn up, that kind of thing.
On the run up to the event I put together a job list for the team, which includes the tents we have to put up and other odds and sods (benches, repair jobs, finding wee Andy’s toys if he’s lost them). I operate on the principle that I should provide as much information as possible to everyone I can. I’m not sure how helpful that is, but we seem to get through it most events!
Another thing I do is dividing the Red Hats into tent teams, usually teams of 4 one of which is an experienced Team Leader with a radio (the Team Leaders, by the way, are the core of the team, constantly problem-solving and improvising while leading and swinging a sledge hammer). Sometimes this feels a little futile - people clump together and work with each other as they turn up and are available, so sometimes a proscribed team won’t ever materialize, but when it does work it works well and everyone arrives knowing they have a Team Leader to report to, even if things often change due to circumstances.
There’s a map that the camp planners put their camp plans on, which I nominally supervise. They do a ton of work on this, organizing what their IC nation camp will look like, from which they inform me where the PD hire tents will go. Once that’s done, and I know which PD tents are going where, I use that information together with the spreadsheet that tells me the contents of the large, brown boxes with numbers on you see littered about the field (sometimes referred to as ‘coffins’) and produce what we call the Box Map. This logistical exercise basically ensures that, when it goes to plan, the complete tent that a team needs is in a box where it should go.
As part of that I work very closely with Steve Thomason, one of our tele-handler drivers, who has the job of making sure the coffins are in the right places on the field. I get him the map and he deploys the coffins! He’s my hero.
That’s assuming that I haven’t made mistakes in deploying those boxes, which I normally do, so we have to shuffle them around a bit!
Actually I’m being a bit unfair to myself there…. those issues are usually related to the previous takedown.
Because takedown of the previous event often happens with an ever-dwindling number of tired people and the information I receive on what has gone into the boxes is never 100% accurate, there’s always a certain amount of re-shuffling of misplaced resources to be done during setup.
During takedown, I supervise the process of packing away every tent and our other equipment as much as possible. This is really important as unless we pack down carefully and record where we’ve stored things, life becomes very difficult for the next event. “Surprise tent in a box!” is a nice problem to have but missing parts from a tent in a box are less so.
One of my key jobs during setup is to ensure that this resource re-shuffle is happening ahead of the work the tent teams are doing - usually with the help of Steve and the tele-handler.
Many of our problems occur if it rains just before or during takedown. On those occasions it falls to Ali and usually a very small team to do takedown days or even week after the event once the weather improves and canvas is dry. This is where we often struggle with things not being put where others might expect them, or separated…generally a wet takedown means a difficult setup for the following event as we’re still recovering. For my role it’s a nightmare as it means next setup I’ll be running round the field, flinging lids of boxes to discover their true contents. Recently we’ve evolved a system whereby anyone still working on site during a late takedown just texts me the details of wherever they’ve put things, which I can then keep a record of - that seems to work okay!
After the event, once I’ve got home and readjusted to life inside a building, I record everything I can onto a spreadsheet for next time.
Essentially my job is to make sure that whether its setup or takedown, the Red Hats can do their jobs with a minimum of too-ing and fro-ing. Again, a certain amount of frustration is inevitable - there’s going to be something that wasn’t put back somewhere sensible - but I try and minimize that as much as possible. I am hopeful that now we finally have a storage container with shelves (lovely shelves!) and labeled storage crates, those issues will continue to improve.
Being crew at a PD event is, much like the hobby of LRP itself, an entirely co-operative game; the more you do to help everyone else do what they’re doing, the easier things will be when it’s your turn. While PD has by necessity had to expand and have more specialized teams, this remains the core philosophy of the Red Hats and I think it’s still a vital part of how we run games. I hope we can continue to deliver that attitude and support the teams who do the really cool stuff.
Won't Somebody Think of the Orphans?
- During events Liam Spinage is busy as one-half of the Urizen egregore. Between events, in addition to moderating the Urizen player Facebook group, he's part of the player support team with special responsibility for reading and approving backgrounds - he also occasionally writes IC Empire novels. Here he's talking about player backgrounds (which you can learn more about on the background page).
As well as being an Egregore and moderator for my nation Facebook group, I read all the backgrounds for characters and groups submitted to PD.
Usually this takes up one evening a week, every week, over the summer – there are often a few hundred new backgrounds to read between events as new players come on board and old ones create new characters after their previous ones have met some grisly/tragic/glorious/heroic demise.
Between Event 4 and the New Year I give myself a little rest (by ‘rest’ I mean ‘write Empire fic’) and then start looking at newly submitted backgrounds again ready for Event 1.
I mostly look for two things in backgrounds. Firstly, there are a number of tags I can add to a character which helps flag them up to the plot team.
Who are you?
Is your character a criminal or heretic? There are plenty of ways this information can come to light in the game world, even if those acts are in your dim and distant past. Are you medic, military, messenger, militia? These are all elements we can flag to our plot team.
What do you want?
Do you seek the boons of a specific Eternal, or have a particular axe to grind with one of the Empire’s many enemies? Are you interested in heroics, politics, theatrics, economics? Our plot team can search on all these tags which helps them to formulate and direct plot.
The other thing I keep an eye out for are elements in backstory which don’t fit with the setting of Empire. There are some submissions we reject, or ask for clarification on but these tend to be few and far between. You can’t come from a foreign land that isn’t on the map, you can’t be a death knight, your fleet can’t be a yellow submarine.
We encourage you to look at the nation brief for your chosen nation before you submit a background; pay attention to its traditions, naming conventions, archetypes and you’ll fit into your chosen nation better and have a more fun event for it.
I’ve seen all sorts of backgrounds since we started – some tragic, some inspiring, some less so. That’s OK – what defines you as a character is what you do at Anvil and going forward. Backgrounds are there to give you a reminder of who you are as much as your nation, lineage and skill choices do. They’re a good springboard for your interactions with others as well as for our plot team to look over.
And yes, there are a lot of orphans out there. The world is a harsh place.
I'd Have Done Mine But
- Harry Harrold has been doing Profound Decision games since before it was popular. You may remember him from a number of roles including spending all his time in an arena asking if the gods were entertained at the top of his voice. Right now he plays John of Meade, who along with Amy Woodhead fulfills the complex role of Speaker for the Senate. In response to repeated requests to write something, he instead provided a list of excuses as to why he couldn't do them.
I'd have done mine, but I had to drink cocktails instead.
I'd have done the paperwork by now, but these cushions won't sit on themselves you know...
I'd go to over-the-hedge meetings with the constitutional court, but Amy Woodhead can still be bribed with rhubarb gin to go in my place.
I'd have done mine, but I finish work at 11pm, then we go to the bar.
I'd have done some writing, but it's more fun helping citizens navigate their way round our procedures to get shit done... and managing their expectations, so when they *do* get excited about doing something, it's less likely to fail for some logistical reason beyond their control.
I'd have done mine, but my "characterisation" is just a minimum facade to cover what's really a purely logistical role - most of the time, anyway. I mean, I've been known to take unscheduled breaks to play foot-the-ball, and you can't play foot-the-ball and do paperwork at the same time - not even when you're on wide defense - unless the ball has got in the tavern somehow. In which case it's dead until removed, which only happens by mutual agreement of both team captains and at least one priest.
I'd have done mine but I was on my way to or from the Senate building. I'm very happy with the current site layout, which puts the Academy, the Hub and decent toilets within 50 metres of each other. With five trips to the Senate, that's pretty much my weekend sorted.
I've run out of excuses it seems. Amy Woodhead and I are Speakers for the Senate. We're responsible for holding the coats while the politicians fight it out. Most of that game is out in the field, in constantly changing teams of hundreds. We're there to keep the score, when voting happens at Senate sessions, and keep accurate paperwork. We're also there to manage Senate sessions so they're as dramatic as possible for folk who aren't *specifically* involved. And run to time. We are also unbribeable, with all donations going on a spreadsheet, for the amusement of those the players keen enough to read the whole wiki. (They are also entered in the Register of civil service gifts - Raff)
John Of Meade is also available to judge cookery competitions.
Exhausting But Worth It
- Robin Tynan is a hard-working Blue Cap, part of the GOD team who deal with admin and general queries. They've written about what their event entails, and about some of the less obvious tasks Blue Caps can end up doing.
Hi I’m Robin! I’ve been playing PD events since 2008 but only jumped the fence to crewing at the start of this year. Now I have four events of being in GOD under my belt and I love it!
Other than maybe a quick bit of Skype training with Waz (the boss) if there’s been any changes to the database, my Event starts on Thursday morning. (You can read some words from Waz further down the page - Raff)
As soon as we arrive it’s work time. The Red Caps will have the tent up and most of the electrics in by then, but it’s our job to make sure the computers are set up, plugged in and working, get the player pack boxes out, and get all the other bits and bobs needed to run an event in place and organised. We may also spend some time getting last minute plot documents, ribbons or items into people’s players packs as well as getting those last packs printed, packed and into the right boxes.
Thursday’s are pretty busy but we have a good laugh doing it - the stereo is on and we have a good energy going. Well sort of keeping us going. I am one of the many members of crew who has a disability and there are times when I need to rest. I usually have to take a nap mid afternoon, but that means I am free and able to get on the front desk if we open up on Thursday evening. Waz and the rest of the senior GOD members are lovely and understand that we have to look after ourselves if we want to be a functional team.
We usually don’t stay in GOD until late on Thursday as we are saving ourselves for the next day. I’m usually out of GOD by 9pm and have a little time to socialise before getting an early night as I know I’ll need my energy for the weekend to come!
Friday sees us all in GOD by 9:30 after the heads of department have had their meeting. This gives me time to have breakfast, coffee (I love the coffee stand so much) and say hi to friends before getting to work. Friday mornings are all about last minute training and brushing up on odd queries as well as the inevitable last minute player packs. Waz and his deputies will decide what tasks we are going to be on for the day and check our rotas with us. Then I’ll scurry off for a quick snack and cup of tea, or to make sure we have everything we need before 12. At 11:55 we’ll all be in our places running through our personal checklists (where’s my pen? Did I take my meds? Have I got time to run to the loo?) before the tent doors open to players.
I usually start on the Concessions desk - it lets me sit down so I don’t end up too exhausted or in pain. I’ll spend a frantic couple of hours there checking your IDs and handing out player packs. I absolutely love seeing you all come through, getting to meet you and hopefully sorting out any problems. Then it’s 2pm and we close for lunch and a well needed break. I don’t know about the others but I get super dehydrated - all that talking, laughter and my water bottle always runs out. So now is time for lunch, maybe a quick nap and rehydrate. Once self care is dealt with it’s back to printing out and filling any new player packs from gate bookings and checking everything is still working smoothly.
Then we open again at 4pm. We are open then from 4pm until 1am and it is pretty none stop for the entire time. We do get breaks for dinner of course and it’s nice to stretch my legs and see everybody getting ready to go time in. I’ll still be on the concession desk for this period and the enthusiasm of players is fantastic. Later in the evening we will all have some time in the rota off which we can use to go IC if we want. I generally have mine organised so I can head to bed at 11pm - it just suits my health best that way though I am sometimes tempted to kit up and head onto the field.
Saturday morning is another 9:30am start getting ready to open at 10am. At this point I am starting to feel it! The main rush for player packs has eased up by now so though I am still sat at the same computer, as well as sorting out concession player packs I will also start taking general enquiries which can be anything from bonding an item to sorting out a gate payment to doing some exciting magic for you. A lot of the time it can be uncertain if a question we get is something we can help with as GOD or if it requires a Ref or member of plot. I’ll always do my best to help but if you see me looking properly confused it’s probably because it’s something I need to refer to a Ref.
Saturday morning also brings with it a slew of players who sadly lost their character in battle. As well as the admin of activating a new character or helping with character creation I also like to take the time to chat to every player. Pretty much everybody in GOD has had a character die at some point and we know it can feel a bit crap. We also know it can be awesome and the source of amazing roleplay and stories. I always like to find out how characters died and do my best to make it a good death for players, especially those with less LARP experience.
At some point on Saturday I get time to kit up and head on to the field to play (after another nap probably). This is always great fun. GOD crew have proper player characters but because of the time we spend in GOD and the access we have to back-of-house stuff we have some restrictions on what we can do - we don’t hold imperial titles and priests can’t have congregations (because it throws off the synod votes). But that doesn’t mean I can’t really get into the game and have some fun with my group in Highguard.
After some dinner I am usually back in GOD for the evening until we close for the night at 1am. Because we are the easy OC point of contact for players we often act as a kind of “triage” for player questions. Most of the questions players have are GOD related and we can help with right away but there are times when we may need to refer you to other departments such as the ref team, player welfare, monster or accessibility. No matter what time is it I am always happy to talk to a player or even crew member and see how we can help them. It keeps the job interesting and varied.
By Saturday night I am normally tired and aching but things slow down a little - the camaraderie of the rest of GOD always keeps me going until we close. We spend a little bit of time shutting down computers and tidying up before it’s off to bed.
Sunday is another 9:30 start and much as the previous day I fire up a computer and get started with general enquiries - after breakfast and coffee of course. We start the wind down early on Sundays and I might start the day with breaking down unclaimed character packs or filing away things that haven’t been used that event. We get busy post battle, and again I always try and take time to chat to those players who have lost a character.
At some point on Sunday as players start to pack down their camps we get resources being handed in. There is usually a team member or two supervising the hand-ins and then myself and another team member will start to log them all into the system. It’s slow at first with time to answer other enquiries but as the day goes on my focus is entirely on booking in resources. Once time out is called, we have a quick break for a team meeting which is always lovely, but then it’s straight back to the hand in baggies! All-in-all I may be working solely on those hand-ins from 11am until 5pm. We aim to have as much of GOD packed away and ready to go to storage by 5pm (give or take) so it’s all hands on deck to get that done.
Then we say our goodbyes.
I stay on site that night for a crew meal and to catch up with friends (plus my partner is a redcap and there until Monday) and get some well deserved rest until the next event. It’s exhausting but totally worth it.
- Sandy has been part of the security team for two years; she helps keep us safe while we sleep (among other jobs).
Hi, I’m Sandy from the security team, and here is my account of what we do at events (naturally, all sensitive information has been redacted ;-) ).
We are on duty every night of the event from 1am until 8.30 to make sure that there are members of staff awake and ready to help round the clock. On Thursday, it’s just our team: [NAME REDACTED] known as “The Boss” and [NAMES REDACTED] known as “The Minions”. The best place to find us is the crew welfare hut located between GOD and Monster; even when we’re out on patrol, we regularly return there. On Friday and Saturday nights we are joined by the lovely first aiders. While we roam around, they stay in their warm little home by GOD, so if you need help, head straight there and they will summon us.
Our shift starts at [BAR NAME REDACTED] where we help the staff to close down for the night. Then we proceed to the welfare hut for a nice hot brew to get us ready for the first patrol. And then we walk, and walk, and walk some more, returning to the hut from time to time for more caffeine and sugar. The site is really big now - it stretches all the way from [FIELD NAME REDACTED] to [LAKE NAME REDACTED] - and we visit each area at least twice during the night.
What we actually get to do is variable and unpredictable (apart from walking, of course). In my two years with the team, we dealt with anything from first aid incidents to tent troubles to overflowing showers. Sometimes, more serious things happen; other times, nothing at all.
Our main concern are the people. Everyone should be safely tucked away for the night and if we find someone who isn’t, we make sure they reach their home-from-home and have everything they need. When the weather is bad, we also keep an eye on the infrastructure, especially the biggest tents, making sure they are secure. Which means that, after being a good walker, being waterproof is the next most important job requirement.
What I like about it is being able to help people (obviously) but wandering around at night offers many nice surprises. We get to see the site like nobody else does, and visit all the nooks and crannies. People often talk about sounds and smells of Anvil - to me it sounds like gentle noises of sleeping people, and smells like fresh grass in the morning. A night in Anvil is a very peaceful, relaxing time (well, once partying is over). The nature is amazing too: falling stars, beautiful sunrises, mysterious mists in the forest...
My favourite bit is when, just after sunrise, we visit [CAMP NAME REDACTED] and put their lanterns out. The sun comes into the forest much later than to the rest of the field so, while there may be light outside, here the night magic still lingers...
The Secret Life of Bog Otters
- Ben Stevens heads up the hygeine team at Empire. As he says... no toilets means no event.
The Bog Otter, in it's native habitat, can be frequently observed utilising tools, such as the plunger...okay enough of that. The hygiene team is one of the less desirable yet critically important jobs on the field.
As no toilets of course, means no event.
The sight of us running around, plunger in blue stained hands, shouting about “brown trout” is a fairly rare one and the better things are going, the less of us you'll actually see. The job is a bit like an iceberg, with most of the stuff happening quietly behind the scenes, with a lot of prep before, a fair bit of upkeep during and then a bunch of clearing up afterwards. .
My event starts about 3 or 4 weeks before the actual start date, at the crew prep weekends. This is where the deep cleaning and major repairs, such as boiler replacement, pump servicing and such like go on. It allows us to try to stay on top of the inevitable wear and tear that 2000 odd bottoms will do to the toilets! Then it's a case of showing up on Wednesday or Thursday to actually get them operating. Running power to them, filling up the waste tank with water n blue and stocking the consumables.
The actual event is a bit more hectic, with an 8.30 start to go pump out the tanks before time in and refill them with fresh water n chem, so that they are fresh for time in. This is also when any tools, consumables and spare parts get ordered every day, to make sure we don't run out of the vital stuff. Then during the day it's half a dozen at minimum checks on the stock levels, making sure the secret storage boxes are loaded and ready and bins emptied. Plus making sure the bogs are reasonably clean, making sure the showers storage tanks have water along with gas for the boilers, as well as filling the tanks to refill the toilets the next day. And of course, any repairs or emergencies that need to be dealt with.
Then on Sunday around 5, all of those nice hire blocks need to be cleaned down so that we can return them in the condition we received them in. This takes me and three others about 3 hours to do, then we can finally relax and have a shower. But, it's not all over yet!
Before I leave on Monday, all of the storage tanks need to be emptied from the toilets and replaced with clean water. All tools and stock boxes collected, all bins emptied n put away, power disconnected and the main storage cabin tidied Then, in the evening I get to go home and rest my weary little otter head.
So there you have it, an insight into the very literal PD “S**t job” but someone really does have to do it.
And oddly, I'm happy for it to be me as there is always something new to learn and something (often gross) to discover.
Certainly beats a desk job!
Weekend in the Life
- This piece was written by Jonathon Cooper, a fairly new ref, after the Autumn Equinox 382YE. It recounts a day in the life of a (fairly new) ref.
I started reffing two events ago, having been a player for 3 years. Normally refs focus on either field reffing or skirmish and battle reffing, but having just started I've recently experienced all three, so I thought I'd write about it.
Getting to site, I check in with Emma and set up my tent, then head to GOD to get my tools of the trade ready. Printing off and guillotining my Signs and Portents pack, checking out my radio and tablet and making sure I have my notebook (essential for writing down details of rituals and bondings in places the wifi doesn't reach) and picking up traumatic wounds. After that I hit the field before time in to catch up with friends. After time in it's difficult to interact with people socially, being an incorporeal part of the fabric of reality, so I really value the time I get to spend with them while timed out.
After time in I start doing what I spend most of my weekend doing - field reffing. I head to the regio and gate, expecting there to be people who need rituals processed and items bonded before they go on their first skirmishes, and sure enough there are many. After clearing that backlog I start walking the field. After checking things are under control at the regio, I set off on my chosen route through Urizen and the Brass Coast to Dawn and Wintermark, through the back alley to Navarr and the Imperial Orcs, then turn around and do the same again, being available for people to grab me if they need me. This role involves a lot of walking. Interspersed with that are calls over the radio for free refs to process things, such as a Signs and Portents party, or (my favourite) reffing a cursing.
On Saturday instead of going to the field I head straight to monster where the battle refs are mustering. For battles we need more refs than the crew ref team can handle, so some players put on tabards to help out. We're briefed on any special rules for the battlefield, what the player objectives are and any information we've been given from players and monsters on what they're planning, which players and monsters have mass effect rituals, etc, all so we can make good decisions about where to be, where crushes might appear and how to resolve them. The refs and medics then do a battlefield walk together to make sure everyone knows the likely locations for fighting, and we look for specific hazards and how we plan to handle them. Saturday's battle was almost entirely on the field, so this was simple and brief, but on Sunday we had a much more in-depth inspection of the woods and fort area, planning how we'd handle fighting around the fort and ensuring we all knew the landmarks to describe our location if we needed to summon a medic, since navigation is harder in the woods.
This battle had two miasma pillars, and I volunteered to handle one, standing nearby and calling out the effect to people that strayed too near. Once the battle moved off from my pillar I joined the other refs watching the battle lines, making sure fallen people aren't stepped on, ensuring rules are followed properly and handling Man Downs (none for me today thankfully). I also spent some time checking in on fallen players, letting them know the terminal rules and that they're doing ok OC.
After the battlefield is timed out the refs gather and we have a debrief, talking about what went well and what could have gone better as a ref team, and raising any specific problems.
Saturday afternoon I'd asked to ref some skirmishes. We have two concurrent skirmish teams going and I joined the team working in the woods. We'd start by finding our plot writer, get the briefing and any special conditions we need to be aware of. We ask how the skirmish is expected to go, and also plan for what should happen if things don't go as planned - I didn't expect a fight to kick off between summer heralds and players on the senate floor, but you have to be prepared for if it does! The skirmish and plot crew get themselves kitted up and ready, then one ref heads to the gate to meet the players while everyone else set up in the woods. The players open the gate and then we take them to the woods entrance, and the skirmish happens. As refs we then stand back and handle safety, rules and the occasional Man Down, while the skirmish unfolds as played out by the NPC crew and players, though sometimes we need to step in to give briefings for specific events such as rituals. I can't go in to too many details about happenings on quests, but highlights from this event were some highly entertaining exorcisms and some players encountering their ancestors.
Each team runs a quest every 30 minutes, each lasting 20 minutes, so after we finish one we get a short break, then we start the cycle again. Time to track down a plot writer...
She Doesn't Even Go Here
- Clare Evans is an old hand at Profound Decisions and the second member of the Game Team to write about the Autumn Equinox event. She has a lot of responsibilities which come roughly together under the heading of "Player Support" - organising the egregores, civil servants, Academy, and Three Refrains; heading up the New Player team; and working with the Conduct team among other jobs.
“You should do one yourself”
My first thought was that would give the secret away and everyone would know that I mostly drink tea and gossip at events. So between events I answer emails to the new player email address, the backgrounds address and by PM. These are mostly directing people to the most helpful area of the wiki, helping them with confidence to come to the event, helping with backgrounds and answering the strangest most unpredictable questions about life in the Empire you can think of. I exist in a permanent guilt bubble about not answering these fast enough as my real life job takes a lot of my time. I also plan schedules for player support events before time in, sweet talk people into field NPC roles and take part in conduct meetings and decisions. I also try to post on the Empire LRP and Player Support pages highlighting parts of the game and wiki that would be good to read and brush up on the rules/style of the game. Then there’s finalising crew levels and requirements for them from GOD and admin.
Every Wednesday there’s a Skype meeting which covers everything from tiny rules change details, to battle numbers, to ethical decisions about how we run our game.
I also try and manage the field NPC kit and prop needs.
The week before the event I finalise the Player Support for the event and post it online. I make sure everyone has the kit and props they need. Check that Dave is ok to print briefs for the egregores, bards and civil service. Pack the van and go to work for the week. Wednesday night I go to Als, make sure I’ve answered all the emails I can before the event and drink rum.
Thursday morning I go to site via a shop to buy cherry coke and as many lollipops as possible to keep people quiet in the new player meetings. Then there’s a big breakfast and a quick psyche up session before getting to site.
I check in with Andy, Matt and Graeme, talk to as many of my team as possible and distribute meal tickets to them as I see them. Thursday evening my team and I meet outside the Senate building and talk to everyone we can find who looks like they might be new, might need company or otherwise doesn’t move fast enough to get away from us. Usually at this point I find someone who’s at their first event alone and take them off to meet people.
Friday morning starts with tea and the Heads of Department meeting in GOD where we get a general overview of how things are going and anything to be aware of over the weekend. I don’t usually have much to add at this point as I’ve not really started.
I then move all my things about to the correct places, get stuff down to the Hub, talk to anyone I see from the night before and get a pep talk about it being ok.
The new player meetings start at 2 and we run two of them most events. Friday then disappears into a blur of being reassuring, excited about all the new people about to have their first event and checking the other scheduled events go off ok. We’ve been running more and more each event nd I’m really excited about how it’s all developing. Last event I went to the start of the Public Speaking Class, ran a new player meeting, checked on the skirmish and then ran a second meeting. When time in hits I’m trying to rush all my OC stuff off the field to be out of the way of the Hub.
There’s a few things I have to be in set places for during the event and around them I walk and talk and answer radio calls. At 9 am Saturday and Sunday the field NPCs, Matt, Andy, Graeme and any plot writers who want to have a meeting. It’s like chairing a meeting of cats, who wander off, don’t listen, get distracted and turn up late. We are pretty good at keeping it to half an hour – ish! This is where field staff get to feedback what’s happening and if plot is hitting or missing and any queries or concerns. I make a list during this and that details most of what I do that day.
I always make sure I’m at both gate openings to liaise with Emma and Tom and the egregores to make sure the gate opens at 11 on the dot! Then the team who aren’t on the battle go for breakfast together and scoop up any loitering players and take them too. If there’s anything big happening which I think might be a bit contentious for any reason I try to be in the background to offer back up to the NPCs and help any players who might need it.
I try to do a couple of circuits of the field every day to see what’s happening and stop to talk to anyone I recognise from the New Player Meetings and my team.
I swing through the Hub and try and help with any problems they’re having. Sometimes I remember to drop into the box and catch up with Matt, Andy and Graeme.
At dusk I try to be sat on the box outside the Imperial Orc camp to watch the lights of Anvil come on, that’s’ straight up just for me, it’s the moment I get to look at our living breathing town and be smug about what we’ve achieved.
At any point during this I might get a radio call to summon me across site, I get called for all the odd and weird stuff, flooded tents, plot queries that need a person to investigate backstage, dead or alive queries for egregores, can they really do this queries from egregores, helping people get involved in the game, helping people after character death, talking people through IC problems and helping them realise that they aren’t as bad as they first seemed.
I also am on call to Emma to help with conduct queries.
Basically I kind of do nothing and everything. Sometimes I remember to eat. Sometimes it’s really hard and I wonder why I volunteered to do it all. But when I see someone who was extra nervous at the first event come back again and love it or people show me how much they’ve done since they started coming, or show me what they’ve made or tell me their adventures or are too busy to talk to me because they’re throwing it all at the game it’s the best feeling.
Shiny Happy People in Blue Caps
- Waz Bretherick is the head of Games Operation Desk (GOD) at Profound Decisions. Working alongside his two deputies Jon Merrifield and Francesca Brett he is responsible for overseeing all of Profound Decision's administrative tasks. He also works closely with James Toze, who runs the Gate Team.
Before the event
Part of my role at PD between events is herding cats in the form of making sure all the other Heads of Department get their crew members to book for events. Once that is in hand our real work starts the weekend before each Empire event. We gather some of the GOD crew and travel over to Profound Decisions headquarters in order to prepare all the player packs that are required for the event
Starting at 8am on Saturday morning with six or seven staff we spend the next thirteen hours solid packing between 2000 and 2300 player packs with all the stuff for the players to use at the event. That’s your passport, money, herbs, mana, liao, league bonds, ribbons, artisan oils and at the end of all that we sort the packs into three boxes dependant on whether they are standard players, players who need to confirm concessions, or crew members.
Finally on Sunday once Andy and Matt have finished the last bits of the plot approval process we print and pack all the pre-event plot into those player packs. We also have to pack everything from the stores into the van ready to take to site.
Once on site at the event out work starts on a Thursday, We set up the GOD tent and then start with all the additional tasks we do in the field. These tasks include making up all the encounter packs for our lovely plot team, getting resources ready for our civil servants to run the public auctions and Bourse seat auctions and packing any packs for players who have booked between the last weekend and the event.
We normally manage to open on Thursday night for a couple of hours about 6pm till 8pm to allow those staying the extra night to collect their packs. At that time you can come and speak to any of my front desk staff in GOD and check any queries at all regarding problems with your pack, or character problems. We open at Noon on Friday at most events, closing for a brief lunchbreak and to allow us to process and pack the packs for all of our lovely players who pay on the gate. At 4pm we reopen again and then straight through to one in the morning.
Saturday we open the tent at 09:30 when all our lovely players come in wanting to make potions before the battle begins. We have busy periods on Saturday this tends to be post battle when people are coming in to register deaths and create new characters. However
What do blue caps actually do?
So what else do we do during time in? Well when we hit time in at 6pm on the Friday all the front desk staff can continue to deal with all your OOC queries as well as process rituals and ceremonies for your characters exactly the same as any ref can on the field. We have a lot of overlap at events with Emma Woods and her lovely Ref team and they share our GOD tent with us. In GOD you can also change your herbs in to potions. Our back office crew lead by Jak Horner and Lesley Sweetman will do that as well as change money and resources for you as well.
Lastly Lost Property Dave and Choo are responsible for dealing with all the lost property that the players and crew produce at PD. If you lose anything you should go and see them or if you have an IC items stolen, go and see them to get the phys reps back.
We are the first point of contact for all enquiries on site and the place you should come to if you don’t know where else to go, we have radio contact here with all the other departments.
Takedown and back to the start
Having done all your admin for you all weekend we get to Sunday. On Sunday we prepare all the herb gardens and mana sites ready to go in your packs at the next event. You can hand in resources to GOD that you want to use in downtime. We do ask that you only hand in stuff that you intent to use in downtime and not treat it like a bank for us to store your stuff. We then count the stuff in your bags make sure it matches your hand in sheets and then data entry all that data onto your accounts so it appears for you when downtime opens after the event.
Then it’s time to pack it all away again ready to go back to PD headquarters.
It Would Help If Players Stayed In One Place
- This is a short piece written by Kit Armstrong-Gardner, one of our NPC Crew, after the Autumn Equinox. In reality, there's several departments that come under the very broad heading of "NPC Crew" - but usually when we say talk about NPC crew specifically we mean people who play assorted roles over the course of a weekend in collusion with plot writers. They spend a lot of their time on the field at Anvil... looking for the right player-characters.
Hi I'm Kit, one of your friendly NPC crew. Different to skirmish in that we probably aren't trying to kill you.
What I do at empire starts usually a couple weeks before hand, on the NPC crew Facebook, where our wonderful plot writers start putting up short snippets of plots or roles they need going out into the field at the next event, that might need the NPC to familiarise themselves with a complex brief or a section of the wiki. I usually check in the writer with whom I have a recurring NPC as to how much they're likely to need me on field before I sign up to any precast roles, and ensure I only sign up to roles at times that NPC isn't needed.
A few days before the event I write out my schedule, check in with any writers that I haven't had briefs from etc to get everything straight.
On the actual Friday of the event, there is an NPC briefing at 4pm where the main information we need to know for the weekend is given out (well, as I understand it. Being a teacher in my real life means I've yet to make it on site by 4pm...). Then it's final briefs and getting kitted up for any roles that need to role out ready for time in, consulting Beth Charlton's magical board of plot to see if anything needs filling if not in a precast role.
The rest of the weekend is spent between the encounter tents, skirmish field and Anvil being a variety of people and things for players to poke, question, interact, annoy and make deals with. After each role I return to the monster tent to complain about players being impossible to find, be shouted at by Beth to eat something and most importantly write my debrief. This is electronic, and how we are able to let plot writers have a record of what we did, who we spoke to, and what ramifications we think it might have on their plot as currently written.
Roles I have played range from reccuring Heralds, to thug number three, but all of them are designed to enrich you as players games and push plots forward. I am often out on plot from time in to 10/11 at night each night, and time out on Sunday. I can play upwards of 10 roles a weekend if it's a particularly plot heavy event. I circle Anvil more times than my body can realistically handle, and I love every second that is interacting with players!
But it would be much easier if you all stayed put!
- David James has been reffing Profound Decisions events for longer than anyone can remember. Indeed, he was there at the first ever rules meeting where the earliest attempt at the Empire rules set was made. Here he talks about what he does as an Empire referee. You can learn more about what it takes to become an Empire ref here - from what I understand it is somewhat different to the role played in some other fest LRP systems.
Afternoon everyone, as part of this ongoing series on behind the scenes looks I'm going to present at least part of the ref perspective. I've been reffing for PD on and off since about 2007 and hope to supply some insight into how reffing works at Empire and how that differs from previous games.
One big difference between Maelstrom and Empire is the organisation of the ref teams - we never had more than about half a dozen at Maelstrom, often only 3 or 4 and we all tended to cover all roles. At Empire the overall team is much larger - around 10-12 depending on attendance. There are also more tightly defined roles - skirmish, field and desk, though people tend to jump to what's required when there's a shortage in one area. I’ll also mention at this point we’re often short handed and would love to pick up some more crew refs.
I've mostly done field and desk jobs in my time on the team so this won't really cover battle and skirmish reffing but I'm reliably informed that there's one of these coming from one of the fine folks on that topic.
Rules design and principle
Before I get into the day to day task, I'd like to say a few words on rules designs and reffing principles. One thing that's very important in a game of this scale is that everyone gets the same treatment as far as rules go - from the newest player to the Empress or a Triumvir bringing an NPC onto the field. As such the rules aim to be clear and definitive with little room for interpretation and one of the tasks of a ref is to aim to keep this true by not allowing effects onto the field that require that kind of interpretation or break one of the basic rules principles. You may have heard of the of the principle of "Rulings not Rules" applied to tabletop roleplaying games, but here the opposite needs to be in effect to ensure fair treatment for all participants.
This is also why you'll often see a ref call the desk for clarification - we don't want rules calls to be inconsistent, so we'll push the request up to either Emma (our formidable Head Ref) or one of the Triumvirs depending on the nature of the query. This means we don't have the same kind of free-form experimentation that we saw at Maelstrom, but this game isn't really about that and it means you can be confident that if you get a call, you'll get the same one next time - and so will your rivals.
Unlike a lot of the teams, the work of the Ref is almost completely limited to time-in. We don't handle rules queries directly - in accordance with the above principles they get handled by Graeme or Emma. We do have facebook group where we discuss the odd rules topic but mostly engagement is limited to a couple of days beforehand where we volunteer to ref for specific encounters.
Arrival and briefing
Set up for the ref desks is fairly straightforward - everything gets packed down at the end of the event and the snakes nest of laptops, tablets and chargers are re-deployed in the vain hope that this time this time they'll all still be working at the end of the event. There's a ref briefing on the Friday afternoon covering any plots needing refs and any important rules or safety information but there's little else formal to do - time is spent helping with other set up, making up Traumatic Wound lammies and double checking there are no outstanding issues from last event. Doug helps with the New Player orientation and it's fairly common to walk the site to re-familiarise yourself with the layout, you'll often be getting direction to a tent somewhere in the dark woods so it pays to keep up to date.
On the Field
After time in is when we really go on shift. We head out with tablets, radios and bags full of Traumatic Wounds and visions and await player requests. There can often be long periods where we just patrol without being needed then bursts where all hands are needed on deck, inevitable as a result of the reactive nature of what we try to do. The aim is to be visible without being obtrusive so we can be easily found when needed but easily ignored when not. This is kind of a synthesis of the Maelstrom and Odyssey approaches - at Maelstrom we were in bright hi-vis, clearly OOC intrusions into the game world whereas at Odyssey the Drowned Dead existed as IC entities. Both approaches had problems - the glaring OCness of one lead to immersion breaking whereas the IC nature of the other lead people who needed refs for IC nefariousness avoiding them incase it fed back IC.
The field tends to be pretty quiet so if you need a ref and there's one wandering past they may be just racking up their Fitbit high score so feel free to approach them, they'll be able to summon another for you if they are on some other task.
At the Regio
While we do get requests to ref rituals elsewhere on the field, the real magical action is at the Regio. I enjoy taking shifts there - there's a constant flow of players and cool roleplay going on (as well as a nice dry chair and the chance to spook people with the SFX). Chasing off after a curse laden player aiming to throw a Pronouncement of Doom is always a highlight, particularly when the ritualist has got several on them...
Behind the Desk
Partly a nerve centre, partly somewhere to put your feet up after getting that high score, the desk acts as second line support for GOD and a way for refs who are out of tablet battery or connectivity to get player actions processed while out in the field. During quiet periods it's also where we dream up new and unusual trama to add to the decks.
Whether in encounter tents or on the field many plots require a ref presence to communicate unusual effects or to ensure that rules are being followed in the high-intensity situations that sweep after the various denizens of the world of Empire that Plot send out. The job here is to be available but out of the way, which can be tricky in the smaller encounter tents! Ideally here you don't have to do anything other than be present and shuttle the players too and from from the Sentinel Gate for off-field encounters - and we typically manage that - but the disruption inherent in needing a ref when there isn't one means ensuring that these always have someone assigned. The opportunity to help facilitate the more elaborate experiences of the game make this a fulfilling way to spend a couple of hours every event.
Inevitably there are issues arising every event, from IT failures meaning that we need to take player details for rituals or ceremonies down by hand to seeing the impact of rule changes in action and whether these are having the desired effect so we dump all this into a document that gets reviewed at event end and between to make sure we're on top of it all - this then sparks the discussions that lead us back to next events preparations.
Hunt for "Some Ref"
I hope that's given you all some insight into what Refs do and why, and so I'd like to ask for some help finding a rogue. We from time to time hear that "Some Ref" told a player that they didn't have to fall down from being hit by STRIKEDOWN, or that they could just ignore roleplay effects they didn't like or similar japery. This nefarious devil clearly needs to be caught so we are offering a reward for information leading to their capture. (The reward is lammies) (The lammies are Traumatic Wounds)
Graeme's Event Cycle
- Graeme W. Jamieson is a senior member of the game team. Of the four of us, Graeme is usually the one who spends the most time on the field IC providing "clarity" to various people, usually in the Military Council and the Senate. He is also "the Numbers and Strategy Guy" in our particular event heist team, and has the strongest grasp of the actual Rules of the Game.
My event starts several weeks before the actual event. This is when Matt will close downtime. At this point, we take the data of what everyone has done at the event, where the armies are fighting, what enchantments and curses are relevant, process them all through one big spreadsheet, and use cold hard logic to decide who wins each fight. This then gets passed to Andy, who turns my unfeeling numbers into wonderous prose for players to enjoy.
Next major event is 1-2 weeks in advance. This is when we'll start looking at the Arcane Projections for the event. These vary from the ingenious to the... less ingenious ("I'd like to turn Navarr into a Trifle!"), and take between 5 minutes and an hour each depending on complexity. Average is about 15 minutes I think, and for the last event we had 90 (Though that's the final number, at this point we'll probably have about 60-70)
On the Wednesday of the week before the event, I'll download my google docs with all the data we've been working on, stick it on my laptop, and get ready to leave the next morning.
One sleep and a 7 hour car drive later, I'm now in a field, and it's mid-afternoon Thursday. At this point I'll start processing data frantically, with the following priorities:
- Arcane Projections - Any APs that we've put aside to discuss or that have been submitted since the last check are now due. These need to to go GOD to be handed out, so this is crucial to cause them as few issues as possible. This includes any that we are failing, which need to have details on why we're failing them. This is then signed off for Matt to manually add compassion for failures.
- Army Locations and Force Strength - Casualties and resupply and anything else we might have missed are checked, and the data is then move from the spreadsheet to the Database, so that Matt can spit out the army reports
- Fort and Contested Territory progress - This is new, but needs updated at this point.
- The Imperial Treasury - I now process the Imperial Accounts, applying any changes to Taxation, Costs, income, validating to motions which were passed to give out funds or abrogate Imperial Stuff. This spits out the bottom line of the Budget for the Senate, and a complete set of accounts for the Master of the Mint.
- Eyes - I now go about finalising the Eyes data for scrying results upon the Empire. This covers: Shrouds that are in place; and the results of the Rituals Eye of the High Places; Eyes of the Sun and Moon; and Dreams in the Witch House. This is then saved off for Andy to add Flavour and to verify there's not any relevant plot effects we've missed.
- Battle Options - I now sign off on and format the Battles options that Tom has written. These will have been being worked on for some time, but this is the final check.
- Compile General's Reports - The 3 reports for generals are then compiled into a pack for each individual general. If I'm really lucky I'll remember the Scouting Report for the Scouting Army.
At this point, it's now magically about 5pm on Friday, if I'm lucky, and 7pm if I'm not. I might have squeezed in a meeting with the Refs in there, but probably not, as I am the worst. No doubt a number of weird and wonderful crises will have also passed through The Cave as well, but they're now all dealt with.
I'll now kit up, grab my paperwork, and go in character as Auditor of the Imperial Treasury Gerard La Salle. I'll spend until 8pm in the Hub, sticking my nose into stuff and providing "clarity" where needed.
At 8pm, I'll head in to the Military Council. I'm hear to answer any questions around the options and the campaign that are mechanical in nature, and to provide senior game team support. They'll spend a good amount of time debating the options, and will choose who will go when, and where they will be going.
As soon as they've made that choice, I'll leave that meeting and head to Senate. Senate Starts at 10 on Friday, and if I'm lucky I'll again make it there for the start. Again, I'm there to provide "clarity" where needed, and to provide senior game team support.
Senate will end, I'll attempt to find the Master of the Mint and arrange with them what time they would like their meeting at. I'll now crawl back to The Cave, where we'll discuss what's happened throughout the day, and any issues arising from MC or Senate.
At some point, I'll go to bed.
Saturday will dawn, and I'll get up, and feel a brief moment of joy that I'm not longer working through the night on Arcane Projections.
At 9am, I'll head to Clare's Field NPC meeting, where we catch up with the Civil Servants, Egregores, Academy, and the Bards.
At 10:30, I'll head over to the Monster Reception Station (where player monsters check in before the Battle - Raff), where Thomas, Mark, and I will agree the exact cutoff point for accepting players. Everyone after half past 10 is late, but we need to agree when is "Late! Go Go Go!" and when is "I'm sorry, you're too late". Event 4 was the first time with me doing this personally, which is a change we made as we are at this point disappointing player who've wanted to Monster the battle, but turned up too late to be able to do so, and so we felt it should be someone from the senior game team to do so.
Once that's done (Around 11ish), I'll have nothing planned until about half 12, so I'll either have breakfast, catch up on issues outstanding, or head to my meeting with the MoM if they wanted it in that time.
At about half 12, I'll sit in a take reports from refs on the battles. This is from volunteer players making reports of serious incidents on the battles, either where they've had to talk to a player and dealt with it (which just gets noted, in case we can use it to spot a pattern of bad behaviour versus a one off occurrence), or more serious instances which need followed up on (often where they've spoken to the player and received abuse in response).
I want to take a short interlude to talk about that. It's something that's worrying me quite a lot, and that's people hurling abuse at volunteers on battlefields. This isn't acceptable. I spend this hour on each of the Saturday and Sunday taking in reports so that we can try and combat this post event. It's not exactly the high point of my weekend.
We'll also have the results of the battle, which I'll try and find a way to get to Sam in the military council.
Shortly after 2, Amy and Jon will turn up for Senate Scrutiny. This is actually the second scrutiny meeting of the weekend, but the first one happens during the Friday MC meeting, so I miss that one. This is where the Constitutional Court goes over the senate motions to check if there's something we need to advise on, or something that's obviously awry. It's a fun meeting, but does need us to balance IC and OC quite heavily at times.
Once that meeting's done, I'll head IC, and hang about in the Hub, providing "clarity", until the 4pm Senate Session. Where I will again provide "clarity".
After Senate, I head back to The Cave, catch up with M&A on what I've missed, and help where I can.
Shortly after 7pm, it's time for the third scrutiny meeting! Once that meeting's done, I'll head IC, and hang about in the Hub, providing "clarity", until the 9pm Senate Session. Where I will again provide "clarity".
After Senate, I'll head back to the Cave and discuss the dealings of the day, between the various houses of state and similar, and we'll discuss anything urgent arising.
Matt will start to fret about the weather.
We'll wind down, and I'll fall asleep some time between 12 and 1.
At 9am, I'll again head to Clare's Field NPC meeting and catch up with everyone. At 10:30, it's back over to the Monster Reception Station.
Once that's done (Around 11ish), I'll have breakfast. In this hour I also need to make sure the Order sheets for generals are printed so they can write their army orders on them.
At about half 12, I'll again take reports from refs on the battles. We'll also have the results of the battle, which again need to get to Sam on the field so she can brief the generals IC.
Shortly after 12, Amy and Jon will turn up for the Sunday Senate Scrutiny meeting. The astute will notice that I'm potentially in 2-3 meeting simultaneously here, and you're not wrong. They sometimes manage to slot together well, but I prioritise the Refs over Scrutiny where they don't (As M&A can do Scrutiny without me).
As soon as that's all done, I'll run out to the 1pm Military Council with the order sheets. I'll stay there until I have all the army orders (providing "clarity" as required) and then rush to Senate, where I'll be until time out.
After time out, I'll stagger back to the cave with the Generals' orders, and write them all up. Then I'll either get in my car and drive home, or crash out for an hour or two before dinner, and drive back the next day.
A week after the event, we'll have a call and I'll provide Matt with the General's orders, and shortly after that he'll open downtime.
And then we return to the start.
What I do when not egregoring
- Emma Rowden has been involved with Empire for quite a while, as a player, an egregore, another egregore, a facebook moderator, and a battle ref among other things. They've written a few words about what they do between and during events.
So, in addition to my role as Egregore (Which Peter Green has already covered very comprehensively!), over the last few years I’ve also picked up a bunch of other odd jobs around Empire both at events and online
By far and away my biggest (In terms of volume and time) job for Empire LRP is as moderator on the official facebook groups. Currently I’m one of your friendly neighbourhood moderators for the main Empire LRP group (2.5k members), the page (5,295 likes), Dawn (1.2k members) and Navarr (1.5k members). Whilst we’re a reasonable sized team there’s still a lot of work to do and there’s no real “off” time as people are posting 24/7. We do our best to arrange cover if any of us are off on holiday or are away. When the Winds of Fortune are going up, I can get upwards of 200 notifications a day!
On an average day I review people who’ve asked to join the groups to try to weed out any bots. I also try to have a cursory glance at most posts that go up, quickly parsing them as whether they contain any hot topics that are likely to cause people to have strong reactions. If it’s likely to and the post itself doesn’t contravene any moderation rules, I’ll “Follow” it and lurk in the comments section in case I’m needed. If something contentious from PD is about to be posted, we might get a quick heads up from the Boss to be vigilant. People often also PM me if they’re concerned about anything they see.
If we have to moderate anything we try to PM the people involved or put a post on the related thread explaining the action we’ve taken. All of this is recorded and documented in case we need to refer to it later. We often discuss best practice or how things could be done better next time. Clare as Player Support Head and Emma as Head of Conduct also keep an eye out in case they need to get involved.
At events, in addition to Egregore things I also help Nick run the Weapons demos. Along with Johnny, I’m one of Nick’s combat test dummies. We cover what Empire LRP fights should look like, the rules, the calls and a whole bunch of safety issues that can arise when fighting. Everything from “What is (And isn’t) a stab safe weapon” to “getting consent before touching people when healing”. No question is too daft! This usually takes about 45 mins and sees me bouncing off trees and hamming up dying multiple times. It’s a lot of fun and is a useful refresher even for older hands!
I also help out on the New Player Skirmish which David runs, with a bunch of other folks like Maz and Tim. We split the new players into 2 groups and run a couple of basic combat scenarios such as a fighting retreat, or rescuing a target. Everyone gets an opportunity to try on an orc mask and to have a go with using their character’s skills. It might only be 20 a side but it’s a good introduction to what Empire combat can be like. Sometimes we even get the smoke machines out too!
Whilst the rest of Highguard are monstering, I can be found in a yellow and black tabard Battle Reffing. Battle refs are there to help with any Rules or Safety issues that might occur during a battle.
After the 9am player support briefing I head over to where the rest of the refs are meeting. We have a ref briefing which covers the battle plan and any potential issues that might occur. Then we head into the battle area and spread out around the likely combat zone. Often I’ll pick a group of monsters or an EMU and stick with them. There are also plot refs on respawn points and battle refs on any notable features such as regios. We have radios and can hear the count down to the gate opening and the players arriving. Our radio channel has other refs on it and first aid. We can call for Emma Woods if necessary who can liaise with the plot team who are on another channel.
During the course of a battle I will speak to players to check their understandings of rules and take their PIDs or names, calling on other refs if necessary for support. I will hand out traumatic wound cards to people who I see doing particularly excellent roleplay. I will help players avoid any safety hazards such as barbed wire fences and help de-escalate and control other potential danger zones such as crushes (I get hit a surprising amount whilst doing this!). If a man-down is called in my vicinity I’ll first check on the injured person and do a basic assessment as to whether they’re walking wounded, just need a minute, or we need the first aid team. If the first aid team is needed I’ll radio them, giving a location and a rough idea of the injury. Once I’m not needed there, me and the other refs will try and get the battle started again as safely and quickly as possible.
Once the battle is over all the refs will meet up for a debrief. We’ll share any PIDs we took which will then be logged on the PD database, any general rules issues we had (e.g. people executing poorly or unsafely) and any things that went well or that we feel we could have done better. Then I’ll get back into egregore kit and head into Highguard.
We Do Indeed Have a Job
- Peter Green writes about being an egregore and about his his experiences as one of the newer members of the Player Support team.
I was ridiculously honoured to be asked to write something about what exactly it is that Egregores do. Contrary to popular belief, we do indeed have a job. You see, I’m rather new to the Player Support Team having done a whole two events as the Brass Coast Egregore. I have been asked back and not banned forever, so I can’t have done too badly. This puts me in a pretty cool position of being able to comment about the learning curve and duties of an Egregore with fresh eyes.
I firmly believe that Egregoring is one of the most fun and rewarding jobs I’ve done at a LRP, let alone at Empire. It seems to take a little from several other sections of the game- a little reffing, a little playing, a LOT of meddling. And a truly inordinate amount of combining other words with the word ‘egregore’.
We are field crew - this means we spend the game time almost entirely on the field, in character. Our entire job is to help players to have fun, find the game they want, and enable whatever dreadful schemes they have. It’s a pretty tough mental switch to make if you’ve come straight from being a player. Your success condition becomes other people’s successes and stories, and that is what you focus on. It can be easy to feel like you haven’t achieved anything, or been particularly memorable. But if a player can point to you, and say you helped them, well, that’s a win.
Before I do a bit of a ‘day in the life’ about what I spent my last game doing, I’m just gonna clear up some common misconceptions:
- We do play characters. They can have IC opinions and views and personal connections, and do in fact ROLEPLAY. They’re not just lampshades for a OC help point and can absolutely be interacted with on a personal level.
- This doesn’t mean it translates to OC bias. If you feel like you can’t go to your egregore for OC help, they’re doing something wrong.
- Yes, we can die. Ask Wintermark and The Coast.
- No, we don’t start with more character points than anybody else.
- Our ‘special powers’ essentially come down to seeing if a character is alive or dead and opening the gate. Seriously pals, we are not loaded with magical macguffins.
With that out the way…
The first thing the job seems to include is walking. No, more than that. Before time in we have new player meets, briefings and other bits and bobs to pick up. As soon as time in hits, I tend to hit the ground running. Meet new players IC, find out what their goals are. Check up on old groups and see if they need any help or just have a chat. Usually there’s a LOT of introducing people to each other. Helping forge connections is really, crucially important. You have to have a pretty good head on who does what in your nation, so you can point people in the right direction.
Helps if you know the rest of the field too. There’s a lot of showing people to the correct place if they don’t know where something is in Anvil. Unhelpfully, sometimes it’s a LOT of guesswork, but you know. Don’t tell anybody I said that. Gotta look all knowing.
There’s a few other formalised duties. Opening the gate is probably the biggest and consistently the most nervewracking. You stand in front of half the nations, grandstanding. It seems to be a honest fifty fifty split on how they can go, with it depending as much on the weather and the general mood as anything else. There is literally nothing worse than performing and looking out at a sea of backs or indifferent faces. Engaging the crowd is always our aim, to get them riled up and ready to fight. If we get a cheer, that’s our aim achieved.
Other bits and pieces that are slightly less intimidating are things like presiding over people coming and going in your nation, being sad at funerals, checking on the status of characters and doing adminy bits like arranging the senatorial elections/auctions/festivals. The main thing to constantly keep in mind is that you are there to facilitate, not to lead. That’s up to the players. Wrangle logistics, spitball ideas, spread messages, but DON’T tell people what to do.
At the beginning of each morning, we have a super secret meeting to gossip about player actions and to let the plot team know if hooks have been picked up or dropped, if there’s a lack of interest in something or even if we have an idea about what might want to be poked at in the future. By reporting back to the plot team, we give them an idea about how their work is actually hitting the field in real time.
We’re also a point of contact (via radio) to get hold of refs/GOD/redcaps/accessibility crew, report OC safety issues, check on skirmish and battle times and other various appointments. Importantly, we probably shouldn’t mediate rules disputes and most of us don’t have tablets. We are so not trusted with that power. Trust me, it’s for the best. That’s why we have our amazing refs.
Character skills can also play a big role in how you support player action. I mostly took priest skills - so I can stick roleplaying effects on anything that moves and use it as an IC encouragement to incite action if a player is showing reticence. Other egregores may take combat skills so they can battle alongside their nation or magic so they can assist in rituals. We are pretty much all broke though. Except the League Egregores, predictably.
The biggest part of our job, arguably, is re-enforcing the national brief. We make sure that there is an IC presence nudging people to stay within the confines of the brief without it coming across as OC chiding or preaching. In my case, it’s a lot of glaring at people if I suspect they’re telling lies or loudly proclaiming my hatred of the colour black. It’s about embodying the nation and leading by example. There’s a clear line between interpreting the brief in an unusual fashion and simply ignoring it. Guess which one we don’t like.
So, that’s pretty much it, though I’m sure I’ve left out something crucial. We’re fundamentally here to help (to sound cliche) and the drama, meddling, advice and tears is just a free, exciting bonus.
Six Step Process
- Post Autumn Equinox 2018, a discussion of how David Sheridan handles the prep and running of plots at Empire.
(The set design team are going to thrash me with DMX cables for that, but it's worth it).
Step 1 is to debrief the event that just happened. After we've all had a week to calm down, tidy up and get back to civilisation, I Skype Management and we talk about what went down. Stuff like "the Marchers loved that CSI tent encounter we gave them," or "the Urizeni didn't really engage with the NPC going to challenge them to an egg-and-spoon race," or "the skirmish where they talked the Druj onto their side against the Thule was a bit of a turn-up."
We work out what's coming next as a result of player action, and trust me, this shit gets WILD. I am paraphrasing when I say that easily two debriefs an event go something like: "The NPC didn't meet the people she was meant to meet, but did bump into their rivals/made a public announcement/sold the item to someone else, and long story short, I think that's just derailed one of the Conclave Orders/drawn an Eternal's attention/altered the course of a war-front/got [x] blamed for [y]."
We also bat around ideas for next steps for ongoing stuff. If you've met the same NPC three events running and built a working relationship with them, then chances are you're going to get something next event which builds on that storyline. Maybe they're in trouble and ask you to help; maybe they have an opportunity for you; maybe they want you to commit to them over a rival you're also friends with.
And we have the sad duty of packing off those plots nobody wants to play with. They get sent to a nice farm upstate, where there's lots of space to run around.
At the end of that meeting, I actually take pins and stick them into an actual four-foot-wide map of the Empire hanging on my dining-room wall. Yes, I'm that sad. Worse: the pins are colour-coded to show how developed the plot is. These ones start out blue for "Approved in Principle", and by the event they'd damn well better be green.
Step 2 is "have ideas". As any writer can tell you, this is the easy part.
Seriously, though, I read all the Senate Motions, Synod Judgements, Conclave Declarations, Winged Messengers, Plenipotentiaries, and the updates to ongoing WoFs that people make in the week after the event. And I jot down anything that strikes me as curious. Why DID the Senate agree to fund a trip to the Moon? Why did someone put a motion saying "Rabbits are Good" before Conclave, and why did they vote it down? Why did someone put forward a Statement of Principle saying that "Rabbits are Bad" before [x] National Assembly, and even though it got voted down, why was it so close?
(And why is everyone so obsessed with rabbits, anyway? Who's running all the Rabbit Plot? And if nobody else is, can I? I like Rabbit.)
I also try to come up with some stuff out of whole cloth, taking ideas from sinecure and ministry descriptions, fluff-text off the wiki, and by less creative methods like saying, "Nobody's put Dawn and the Freeborn in conflict recently; what do they each value that we can make them fight over?"
As these ideas are coming, collaboration is key. We have a number of backstage Facebook groups where I might post "Is anyone running anything with the Faraden/the Hercynia Vallorn/the Shattered Tower?" or "Hey makey-people, how would you make an NPC crew-member into a gryphon?" People reply with ideas and budgets, and I adjust my ideas and expectations accordingly. Usually upwards: I'm constantly being surprised by the talent and open-handedness of our makey-people.
In addition to ongoing plots, I try to come up with ten suggestions for either entirely new plotlines or engaging the levers that PCs have pulled. I've found this leads to about 14-15 things to run in an event, which, along with other duties I have at events, is about the right amount for my blood pressure.
These get white drawing-pins, for "Not Approved Yet".
A digression: my plots often aren't the big things you'll have heard of from the WoF. I'm known as a "bijou" plot-writer: my stuff is usually meant to only directly influence a small number of people, but in such a way as that influence can ripple out into the world. I love reifying the fantastic elements of the setting, making them more relatable by portraying human reactions to the inhuman: ghosts and curses, immortal sorceror-dragons and cruel Sovereigns, Eternals and Sydanjaa.
The upside to this is that these plots can be great game. If they touch the right character, they can change the course of a nation, or become the next accepted truth about a historical matter. The downside is that they aren't DESIGNED to do this, and in a game that's centred around various kinds of macro-scale politics, this can mean their signal gets lost in noise.
Honestly, I don't mind that. Because half the time, what this means is that in two years' time, someone is able to say, with passionate conviction, "No. I went there, I dealt with the consequences of [x] myself, and I won't let it happen again!" - it's always, always more effective if it's coming from the mouth of someone who went out through the Sentinel Gate to do [x] rather than who simply took an option to roleplay about having done it in downtime. And what REALLY makes my game is when that's someone you'd never have expected to get involved: someone with no title, no former political prominence, no rich friends, who's become a crusader off the back of that short, intense experience. There's a reason we all go to a field rather than playing by email, and this is it.
Step 3 is to call up Management again and put these ideas to them. This is Plot Approval, and it's a collaborative process, where the results of that collaboration can be anything from a simple "Yeah, great idea, talk to [x]," through "Let's talk about the fine details for two hours." Other options include: "That's such a good idea that another writer did it two years ago," or "That goes against a recent Synod Judgement that just got a GM," or even, "No, that's dumb."
It takes 2-3 hours to go through maybe half of those plots, so it takes a couple of those meetings over a couple of nights.
After this point, anything given the go-ahead gets changed to blue, and the race is on.
Step 4 is to frantically write everything. The Plot Wiki is very forgiving: accessible from anywhere, and if you leave it logged in overnight, editing a page, it won't have forgotten your unfinished edits the next morning.
This involves a LOT of wiki-reading. I design characters to reference the game's Archetypes, because NPCs should reinforce setting in their very bearing. I try to make sure my NPCs never fail to have the answer to an important question, and that they don't have to improvise things like names or dates.
Checking who to target the plot hooks at often involves a database search: "Navarri Vates with Night Magic", or "Characters in Astolat with Military Units", that sort of thing. If a plot involves a crop-blight in Highguard, you can bet that Highborn Farm-Owners are getting an OOC pack-briefing to clue them in before angry farmer NPCs turn up at Anvil.
After the research, I usually take a couple of hours per plot getting everything down on paper, and then the fun bit begins.
(Each pin goes to yellow once the bulk of it is done).
Step 5 is all the admin needed to make the plot run. This is where I need to work with the silent-silent partner, the PeeDee PLOT MATRON. I will tell her what costume, make-up, SFX and set design, NPCs and ribbons I need; I will use her to book Conjunctions and set their size, duration, locations and Accessibility options; I will give her the NPCs' briefs to remember for me. I create new ribbons, curses and divination results, and briefs for egregores and magistrates where relevant. I shuffle things around so I'm not briefing three things at dinner-time. And finally, I talk to human beings again.
I put out juicy NPC briefs for pre-event casting in a dedicated NPC-crew FB group. I talk to Beth Charlton about who's attending and their skillsets, experience and enthusiasm, asking for recommendations. I talk to Plot Production to get stuff made. I talk to Tom Hancocks about running things with the Skirmish teams and, sometimes, about borrowing members of Skirmish Crew for field plot. I VERY rarely talk to ACTUAL PLAYERS (usually former crew-members, giving them the chance to take a new plot onto the field with a retired NPC, but also sometimes when I know someone on the field has a rare skill or talent that's impossible to improvise).
I also usually put some hours into making something for the event. I love making paper props and similarly-designed things - maps, illuminated manuscripts, artworks, cryptic encoded heresies, letters hinting at details of history or politics, journals, architectural plans, all sorts. Here, as at every stage, collaboration is useful.
I prepare, and prepare, and prepare. It takes far longer than I hope it will. But it's worth it to be prepared on the day.
(And the pins turn green!)
Step 6. On the day.
I'm prepared. I'm timetabled, I've got stuff pre-assigned to encounters and the heart-meltingly wonderful Blue Caps to put my ribbons, coin and resources in little named envelopes for me. I've got NPCs who know when they need to find me, or whether their timing is flexible. I've got my meal tickets. And PLOT MATRON can take very much of the weight all by herself.
By now, most of my work is done. All the thought, obsessively reading the wiki for details and checking names and dates, all the writing, most of the briefing: that shit's already happened. I need to stay on the ball for the weekend, but... most of my work is done. All I've got to do now, basically, is to explain my brilliant ideas to people and froth with them when they come back from the Anvil field.
By the time I hit the field, 95% of my job is done. And I love it that way.
What I do on my holidays
- Following Autumn Equinox 2018, Ian Horne talks about his role at events with particular emphasis on tent encounters
So my work starts about a week after the previous event. I dig myself out of the froth caves in which I was impersonating some kind of Russian troll, call up the editors (with a summoning circle) and provide elevator pitches for my next event’s stories along with at-this-stage vague ideas for the shape of the three encounter tents. They demolish my ideas and together we put the pieces back together stronger. My notes from this are full of CAPITAL LETTERS and CRYPTIC DRIVEL: over the next week I shovel these into google docs outlining what my plots will be.
Meanwhile, two things happen: first, the SWIVEL EYED SYNOD JUDGEMENTS, which I produce as a resource to roll my own face in, and second the Past Life Visions (PLVs) are assigned.
I don’t write them: I underwrite them. It is not permissible for us to miss one, and I’ve volunteered to backstop that - it is my responsibility to make sure that SOMEONE writes, designs, casts and otherwise actuates your Vision. The worry that those someones will all be me in a succession of increasingly bad hats is a great motivating factor to get people writing.
Anyway, once I know what the visions are and if any Eternals are using tents, and in discussion with the tent leads and SFX designers, we set up what the encounter tents will look like. We ask for plot from the other writers too, because threeish visions and sixish Eternals do not fill three tents for an event. Typically I will also write mini adventures to go in some gaps if I spot them early enough, because I am disgustingly proud of our sets and want as many players to see them as possible.
You must understand I have the visual art sensibilities of a housebrick - I do not design what you see! But plot writers semi-regularly come to us with a lovingly detailed masterwork of drama, and excitedly I ask them where it happens, and they say ‘Um. A fairly spartan tent, near Anvil. It needs a chair in it. And a table, if you can stretch to that?’
And if I pass that straight to the tent leads, our encounter will be set in a featureless pitch black tent with a chair containing the bludgeoned and insensible form of a plot writer slumped on a lovingly detailed table. So, armed with someone else’s artistic faculty, I engage with the writer to try and locate a part of the world the encounter could reasonably be in. Ideally, of course, it is suspiciously like the one that is already scheduled for 11.30am that day, halfway between that and (say) the 3pm one - and we iterate on that until the mental image of the set is beautiful, and once that’s locked in I pass it to the excellent people who make sure we will have all the objects onsite with which to do the things.
It’s particularly bad with Visions. The conceit of uptime is that everything happens at Anvil - so visions of being a mover and shaker often get set at Anvil in their first draft. And frankly, that’s a waste. The tents are one way we bring the world to life… the players are already working hard bringing Anvil to life, and can throw more effort and resources at it than ever we can. Meanwhile we spend a lot of time and effort not being a tent and not being near Anvil. If all else fails, thanes have halls and stridings have taprooms and I have before resorted to a Highborn Travelodge…
Anyway, about three (ahahahahaha) weeks before the event I know what the tents will be and possibly even what’s happening in them. A week after that I start making increasingly insistent noises at people I’ve frothed with who don’t have plot for me yet. As the Winds of War and Fortune issue from Raff’s blazing keyboard I am metaphorically backstage creating an order for ducks to be arranged in. At some point the editors make time in their overstuffed schedules to do a quality control pass on my plot. I write up briefs, send them to NPCs, rummage through eBay’s sock drawer and the local garden centres for props. And then we go to site, and my work is largely done and now I can have fun.
Because it is fun. We’re volunteers, we’re on holiday too - I try to ensure that whatever else, my stuff is at least as much fun for players as crew. Most of my briefs will include the line ‘come back if you stop having fun’ or ‘milk it as long as it continues to be funny’ or words to that effect. Our NPCs are great at improvisation and tend to enjoy it, especially when we remember to let them know exactly how far to take it. One of the main areas where I think that experience helps with plot writing is in intuiting the difference between a brief that will give your NPCs a no good very bad time (“this encounter takes place in the aftermath of a battle, full of corpses”) and one that really sings (“wait, does that read corpses? I meant ‘Terminal’. You recall the Terminal rules? I want a wall of noise. Oh, and *you*, *you* and *you* are Imperial and the rest are barbarians.”).
The sets in our encounter tents are amazing, and I can say that because I am at best a stevedore for them. The tent leads and SFX crew are actual wizards. I say ‘it would be nice if there was some rubbish in this one’, and the next time I walk past I hear a discussion on what the mediaeval equivalent of a discarded rotting sofa is and can we fake one. I say ‘volcano forge’, and the next time I look the corner of the tent has what I can only call a geode with what looks decidedly like a river of quicksilver. We decided that one tent would be the inside of an organ and … you had to be there. Pictures don’t do it justice.
What am I doing while the team are doing this? Ideally, if it is all going perfectly, not much. I check in with the NPCs that they are on their way, with the plot writer that nothing is on fire (except for that which is supposed to be on fire) and with the tent leads and SFX people that we will have a set - then pitch in wherever someone needs something. And if the metaphorical wheels look like they are coming off, or going wobbly, I go find the duct tape as early as possible. I have been two people in some Visions - I’m getting quite good at quick changes, and I love chewing scenery.
Other than that? I play the odd NPC - he’s really quite odd - and brief the odd plot - and wasn’t it just - and then when the tent plot is all spring-loaded, the ducks are in obedient rows and the evening’s last sets are shipshape, I get onto the field as one of those characters you get in CRPGs who regurgitate basic setting info if you click on them. Because I love Anvil by night and I like to experience it if I can. (If you see an unfeasibly tall man in a stupid red hat, it’s me, and I love regurgitating basic setting info in an IC voice.)
Last event was uphill. Two of our three tent leads were out with OOC issues. But thanks to excellent work by excellent people we won through, and we had fun doing it. The mission statement could be, in a word, aspiration - year on year, we will outdo ourselves. That is our aim: that is our target. I look forward to giving it my best shot.
Running Plot at Empire
- Writing after the Autumn Equinox event 2018, Dave Kibblewhite talks about what his event entails as a plot writer and egregore.
Got there on the Thursday, needing to replace shock cord in a tent pole before I could put it up. Nearly gave up and then realised that my tent does in fact contain two poles that are identical once assembled but made up of slightly different components. Very confusing. Once I had pitched the tent in order to make sure the award-winning Clare Evans had somewhere to comfortably sleep, my primary role at PD was out of the way and I could get on with other stuff.
We had some food from Obanzai and it was so amazing that I resolved to eat all my non-breakfast meals there for the weekend, which I did with no regrets. We did our new player social, which a few people showed up to. When it got chilly I went and put thermals on under my clothes. This made a big difference and I basically did that for the rest of the weekend. Definitely a top self-care tip. We hung out with the orcs a bit, I failed to locate Alexis Celnik and eventually gave up on the tavern because I wasn't really feeling it and went to bed.
On Friday I spent the morning checking in with makeup, costume, set dressing etc in an attempt to minimise the amount of surprises I'd drop on them later, then got my camping furniture over to the Varushka camp ready for the IC tent once it was up. We had the first new player meeting at 2 and I dished out some briefs to egregores. Sadly I had to dash off before the end as it started raining and I was conscious my stuff was in a pile in the Varushka camp. Consequently I missed chatting to new Varushka players at that point.
At that point the tent was up, so I stood staring at a pile of fabric while my brain switched off and played cartoons in my head for a while before getting Emmanuel Goldstein and Simon Manby to give me a hand set dressing it . Then I located a bag full of random pieces of wood and arranged someone to drill holes in them because that's what my life is like.
By that time I was into my window for getting my costume on and weapons checked before getting over to the hall of worlds for the intro to magic session I do with Martyn Sullivan and Emmanuel Goldstein. Attendance was not great so we obviously need better PR, but if the players who did show up go into time-in confident to jump into the magic game rather than standing on the sidelines then I still say it's worth it.
Then I got over to Varushka almost for time in, greeted the new people at the hearth, did a bit of chatting, then went to support the IC weapons training. By the time that was done it was basically time for me to get back and brief Taz Magpye's storyteller who had stepped in to replace an absent and crew member and hadn't therefore had time to absorb what was quite a complex brief. Left the IC stuff to the infinitely capable Si Childs.
It was then approaching time for my first tent quest of the weekend, so I checked in on the set build, made sure it was looking as I wanted, and I knew how to make my sounds play with Ian Horne Cattes and Jess (can't tag). Made sure my NPC was briefed, happy and looking good. Got players and chucked them in. Good atmospheric encounter with some imperial orcs where they tried to do some riddles and stuff while I freaked them out by occasionally blaring a DRAMATIC sounding Anna Alexandria Reid through the PA. They took the item they were meant to take, appeared very engaged with the story and I sent them away smiling, so that was great.
Came back to find the storyteller npc a bit panicky and needing clarification on some bits of the brief, which I think we resolved and got her happy and back out. Chilled out backstage for a bit, then went out IC for a while, where I didn't do much except be a wallflower at the empress/wise one pre-marital questioning. Went to bed at time out.
Saturday was my big plot day. First I got the ribbons for Taz Magpye's random bits of wood plot attached and distributed, mostly at the morning, pre time-in player support meeting. This plot was super successful at getting people engaged and required very little effort to run out from plot (although a bunch from field refs though I guess).
I had set the morning aside to battle, but I didn't trust my ankle if I had to run so instead I painted myself silver and went to play an Autumn realm jeweler for Wrenna Robson. Enjoyed doing some trades for very specific denominations of coinage. Did horribly disappoint one player through my first-come first-served policy, but being beaten to the deal is the nature of the Autumn realm I guess. Never quite got the silver paint all off all weekend.
At that point I checked in with the NPCs for my three Anvil based encounters (these people had already been sent their briefs before the event) to answer any questions. I collected and attached ribbons to the weapon physreps I'd brought as one of them was a peddler for the Varushkan market. Also found an orb physrep and a way to ribbon that (hot glue gun). Threw all this in a bag I got from the prop boxes along with something another plot writer added to the encounter and made sure the NPC knew where it was since I wouldn't be there when she went out. Lastly, made sure the 70 beautiful potion physreps Beck Hemsley made for my potion trader were available for that npc. These were new potion types that Matt and Andy were yet to sort lammies for although I'd been assured they would be ready in time. I poked my head into their office, noted a post-it in front of Andy's desk reading "Dave drugs" and declined to bother them further.
Checked in on the "inside of giant monster" set (thank you Mark Nichols, Heather M Clayton etc, then went to the orc camp where I had been asked to support what was already a very cool scene starring Steph Morris and Mike Kilburn. Matt Couldridge came with me to set off some smoke while the players threw a lot of expensive hallucinogens around, then I played the 3.5 minutes or so of audio I'd mixed. I think a lot of people were actually pretty blown away by Matt Notcutt's ominous intro, Emma Rowden's supervillain monologue and the minute or so of visceral stabbing sounds. Then I chased an orc around with a speaker shouting at him in Anna Alexandria Reid's voice some more and told them when their quest was.
Then I pegged it back to the encounter tents to make sure the set was ready to go, grabbed a surgical kit with actual sharp things, and got the players for my "autopsy from the inside" quest. Players proceeded to destroy the set and props, I told them some hopefully interesting stuff and sent them on their way. They got extremely sticky and the encounter involved a lot of "EEEWWWW THIS IS VILE!". Conjunction caused some confusion because I'd moved it to accommodate the aforementioned player-organised scene and not informed the refs in case they needed to rely on paper timetables, so that was my bad.
Went out with the skirmish crew then to do the imperial orc ancestor pilgrimage (whole nation encounter in the woods). Skirmish knocked it out of the park in the end, but I learned some important stuff about how to split up a complex brief for a large group. In addition I think the orcs might be able to take a bit more railroading and stage management than a lot of our players, and it was clear to everyone involved that the whole thing would have been better in the dark. That said, it all went pretty well.
Sat down for food then set to work getting the Varushkan "make evil bargain with creature whilst inside other creature" quest ready. Taz Magpye showed up to help and the whole thing went very smoothly. Got the players and brought them down. Sadly a player had some health issues just before getting to the encounter so we sat down for a while while I looked after them and cheered them up then walked them back to their friends. Got back to the end of the encounter to find they'd used some headology and bypassed a lot of dilemmas by simply hacking off the hostage's arm at the shoulder and dragging them back through the sentinel gate spraying arterial blood around, so I think we're proud of our players for that one.
Then spent a while getting ready for the past life vision I'd written. Never done one of these before so it was a lot of pressure, plus I'd opted to do it outside, have multiple scenes, and NPC it from the skirmish team plus the rogue element Matthew Pennington, none of which is normal for these encounters. I feel I may not have done the PLV team's heart rate any good, but everyone involved came together to make what I think was a really powerful scene that I hope the player will remember for a long time.
That done, I rushed off to the Wintermark camp with my NPCs and pyro person to do Kallavesi vision time, which on this occasion was two NPCs miming in a tent full of very thick smoke with me as an IC narrator. It was lovely to hear Harry Morris in her element encouraging the players to take it seriously, and I've realised I can now recognise the sound of forty potion lammies being ripped simultaneously (it sounds like player engagement).
Got back to monster, got some paperwork associated with the PLV sorted, then went to chill out IC and heard some lovely singing. Thought about going straight to bed but instead stayed up with the cool kids in monster. This was an incredibly good decision because not only did I have a good laugh, but I met someone who is going to provide tremendous technical help with Fairyland next year.
On Sunday I actually just played my egregore character, including accompanying Si Childs while we tried to by him a goat (thank you for playing, Felix's Watch). Then spotted an important plot point which had been missed, and resolved it by quickly getting a ribbon sorted and dressing the closest person, Erin Catherine Marsh, as a zombie. After time out the rest of the day/night was remarkable only because I actually spent time with Clare, and that a number of us spent quite some time being relentlessly cruel to David Henderson, who is utterly deserving of the treatment he got.
A busy event, but super rewarding. Really feel like I have learned a lot this year. Which is good, because Clare and I are running our first event next year and in many ways it is a bit ambitious.