The arbiters lead the spires, citadels, and temples of Urizen. Not every Urizen community is lead by an arbiter, but most appoint someone whose role is to resolve disputes and represent the spire to others. They are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day business of a spire — they arrange a steady supply of necessities such as crystal mana, they ensure that the settlement is protected from outside threats and they strive to keep order by ensuring everyone's concerns are heard. Most arbiters are first among equals and have few formal powers, but the best command the respect and loyalty of their colleagues.
Arbiters are diplomats, meeting with their counterparts in neighbouring spires to arrange collaboration on joint efforts or to study problems that are best addressed together. Although the spires, citadels, and temples are fiercely independent of each other and often highly competitive, the arbiters of a territory will support each other if they think doing so will benefit their own community. Historic national projects like the heliopticon would have been impossible without the effective support and leadership of Urizen's arbiters.
By nature, arbiters are civic-minded, focussed on ensuring the good of their spire, their territory, and their nation, in that order. Committed to the wellbeing of their community, arbiters are the backbone of Urizen, collectively striving to ensure the safety and prosperity of all. Chosen to lead, they represent their community to the wider world.
Most Urizen assume that arbiters have existed for as long as there have been spires on the mountain tops, but the first definitive records describe a conclave of arbiters meeting in Morrow at what is assumed to be the start of the pre-Imperial era. The group met at Highwatch to discuss a coordinated response to the increased activity of Highborn soldiers on the east bank of the Couros. The group agreed to delegate Tibia of Highwatch to negotiate with the invaders and to supply enough mana for an arcane projection to cause a raging flood in the Araphorous, the tributary that flows from Highwatch into the Couros. The outcome of the meeting is not known, but the Highborn ceased their efforts to expand into Urizen territory and the first embassy between the two nations was established on the western banks of the river.
Records show similar conclaves occurring in Spiral, and among the spires of what is modern-day Redoubt after this point. There are no surviving records of a conclave taking among the settlers in western Zenith, but that is unsurprising given how wild the territory was for most of Urizen's history. The first recorded Grand Conclave, attended by arbiters from across Urizen, was convened more than thirty years later. This meeting was largely devoted to a discussion of the still incomplete heliopticon network. The initial designs created by the architects Anna of Comena and Martena of Tabulous had been widely distributed, but there were a number of practical considerations that needed to be addressed before their vision could become a reality. The key decision made by the Grand Conclave was an agreement on a common cipher for encoding messages; different architects had proposed different competing ciphers but the arbiters recognised that a single method of encoding messages would ensure everyone was able to freely communicate with everyone else.
Over the next decade, the arbiters were crucial in ensuring that the heliopticon network was completed, and the foundations laid for maintaining it. The network vastly improved communication between spires, citadels and temples making cooperation easier and more effective, and helping to cement the crucial role of arbiters in representing their community to others.
A hundred years after the creation of the heliopticon network, a charismatic battlemage called Vaanes of the Citadel of Mezudan tried to unite Urizen under his rule. The Urizen in Spiral were facing renewed pressure from the Grendel and Vaanes persuaded many that Urizen would never be safe until the spires were unfied. He was opposed by Portia of Spire Calator in Zenith and Belix of the Bone Tower. Although the two arbiters famously loathed each other, they were brought together by their opposition to Vaanes. Portia led the public opposition to Vaanes at a Grand Conclave held in Spiral, where she delivered a powerful rebuttal claiming she would rather be a slave of the Grendel, than a slave of another Urizen. Vaanes' demands for recognition were denied by the Conclave and he was captured by the Grendel and slaughtered soon after, the result of a betrayal openly orchestrated by the unrepentantly ruthless draughir Belix.
It was a Grand Conclave that ultimately made the decision not to join the Empire in the time of the First Empress. Some years later, in the reign of Emperor Giovanni, the Conclave reversed the decision with a narrow margin in favour of the Empire. Along with Urizen's mages, the arbiters pushed for the creation of the Imperial Conclave, persuading the Senate of the need for magic to be disciplined and well-regulated. Joining the Empire inevitably diminished the influence and prominence of the arbiters, but unofficial conclaves continue to this day and can still be important in ensuring cooperation and collaboration between the people of Urizen.
First Among Equals
While it is often assumed that an arbiter leads their community, in practice most are more like seneschals or administrators. Since the time of Vaanes, the spires have been cautious about entrusting their arbiters with unconstrained power or authority over their members. Most spires give the arbiter the final say on whether someone is invited to join their spire, and under what circumstances; many give them responsibility to distribute resources for the good of the community. In all cases however, the arbiter's position remains subject to the approval of the community — arbiters who try to rule through high-handed decrees rather than lead by persuasion are soon removed.
The most common power is the authority to arbitrate disputes and disagreements — hearing from all sides and then making a decision that they feel will best serve the interests of the community as a whole. There is no legal requirement to respect the decision of an arbiter, but anyone who refuses is generally ejected from the spire. This responsibility is important, but takes good judgement to exercise well. An arbiter's success is dependent on the continued support of their fellow magicians — if they do not serve their community faithfully, they are unlikely to remain in position for long. An arbiter must lead by example, reflect the wishes of their people, and avoid leaving themselves open to accusations of favouritism. It is a delicate balance that requires the successful arbiter to step carefully.
Arbiters also serve as the public face of their spire, negotiating with others on behalf of their community. This can give the arbiter a great deal of influence within the nation if they represent an important spire, temple, or citadel. Larger spires tend to have more political clout than their smaller neighbours, but what is crucial is how united the spire is. An arbiter can only be influential if what they say is backed up by the actions of their community, otherwise their words will soon ring hollow. The strongest arbiters enjoy the full-throated support of their spire; the weakest are little more than mouthpieces for the dissenting voices that divide their homes.
Because of these limitations, the job is often seen as a thankless task. Due to the onerous responsibilities, arbiters are often required to put their own studies on hold to deal with mundane matters that many Urizen magicians consider beneath them. Arbiters are usually accorded respect out of recognition of their sacrifice — if for no other reason than that they have slowed their own personal quest for arete to serve their community.
Creating an Arbiter
This arbiter archetype is intended to allow players to create civic minded leaders of Urizen communities. Where other archetypes encourage individual goals or Empire-wide political goals, the arbiter is focussed on looking out for their spire, citadel or temple. It's a good archetype for anyone who enjoys playing the leader of a community, but it's perfect for someone who wants to devote themselves to the good of their group. Arbiters are always looking for ways to make their spire safer and more prosperous, so playing one gives you a reason to be interested in anything that helps to protect or benefit your community.
Most arbiters are magicians, but it's certainly not the only way to build the character. If your group is a citadel then it's perfectly appropriate to play a warrior, and if you're leading a temple then a philosopher or priest may be the best choice. A good way to make your character is to look at the guidance for the archetype you might have had before you became an arbiter. For example, the arbiter of a citadel who used to be a sentinel could look at the guidance for creating a sentinel for inspiration. If you're still not sure what to take, then having magician and a mana site will give you political influence in Urizen's elections which is always useful, especially for an arbiter.
The most important thing when creating an arbiter is to talk to other members of your group. Since the arbiter is the closest thing a spire has to a leader, everyone in the group needs to be happy with whoever is going to take the role. Although you will be first among equals, the more support you have from your group, the more powerful and influential you'll be in-character. It's worth taking time to discuss the arbiter role with the group to ensure that everyone is happy with you playing it. In particular, you want to make sure that you agree in advance what kind of authority, responsibility, or powers the arbiter of your spire has.
The expectation is that a spire will have a single arbiter. Having more than one charcter with this archetype is rare, but not impossible. In-character it's often a sign that a spire contains more than one community. Good examples might be a spire that is on the verge of splitting, or one where a separate community has been offered sanctuary. Events in Spiral and Zenith have both created circumstances where entire displaced spires have taken refuge with others, bringing their own arbiter with them. The key thing with a spire that contains multiple arbiters is to work out the relationship between them and how that reflects those communites.
The crucial thing when creating an arbiter is to have a good idea what your community needs. It's going to be your responsibility to support everyone in the group, helping your spire, citadel or temple grow and prosper. If your group has a good idea for what they want to achieve, that will provide you with ready made goals to work toward at events.
It's rarely a good idea to play an arbiter if you're not part of a group. Although you can create your own spire, part of the fun of playing an arbiter is looking out for other player-characters and representing their views to the rest of Urizen. You won't have either of those goals if you're the only player, so a different archetype would give you more pressing goals at an event. One option to consider would be playing a mage, an archetype that has many of the same interests as an arbiter without being tied to the concept of being a group leader.
Don't think you have to have someone play the arbiter of your spire — they can easily be a background NPC who doesn't come to Anvil. Likewise, if your group has one person who is the out-of-character contact or organizer, there is no reason why they also have to play the arbiter — the arbiter's responsibilities and authority are entirely in-character. The best reason to play an arbiter is because you want to play a character who is looking out for their spire and everyone in it.
You can find some additional information about creating an arbiter, from the point of view of making an Urizen group, on the page about spires.
Playing an Arbiter
Playing an arbiter gives you three core character goals: to help and support every member of your group, to represent your group to the rest of Urizen, and to find ways to help your group prosper. You want to make sure that Urizen is taking decisions that will keep that your community safe from attack by the Druj and the Grendel, as well as looking for any opportunity to help them get ahead.
Each member of your group will hopefully have their own character goals, some of which may be linked to the general goals for your group. Anything they are doing which benefits your spire is something that you can try to help them achieve. If a character doesn't have any well-defined goals yet, then your character can use their position to help them get more involved. The more active the other characters in your spire are, the more influential and important your group will be.
An arbiter's first responsibility is to their own spire, temple, or citadel. The archetype gives you permission to put the demands of territory, Empire, and even the rest of the nation of Urizen second to the needs of your own group. Even if your group as a whole are pro-Empire, as an arbiter you should always be looking for ways to improve the position of your own community even at the expense of the greater good. While you can't ignore the politics of the larger game — your spire is part of a territory an the nation of Urizen after all — putting your own peoples' concerns first or being forced to juggle different priorities will definitely provide more roleplaying opportunities.
Crucially everything that could affect your community is your business! Poke your nose into the affairs of senators and the Urizen general — you want to make sure that any decisions the Imperial Senate and the Imperial Military Council take will benefit your group. If you can increase your influence sufficiently, then you may be able to negotiate for some of Urizen's bourse resources to be allocated to your group. Never pass up an opportunity for anything that would benefit your group, even if it's just a few extra mana crystals for one of your fellow magicians.
It's a good idea to find out who the other arbiters in Urizen are. The egregore will probably know if there are meetings of arbiters planned at a summit, but if there aren't then they can help you organize your own. This will give you a chance to represent your group to the rest of Urizen, to speak on their behalf, and if you have something that the other arbiters can help you with then all the better. It's still worth going even if you don't have anything you need as this will help you to develop contacts and allies among the other arbiters as well as establishing your character's position and importance — as well as that of your spire.
Although arbiters are respected figures who are the leaders of their communities, you need to keep in mind that nobody is more important than anyone else. Nobody will be deferential to you just because you are nominally in charge of your group. An arbiter is chosen because they are astute and diplomatic — if you try to throw your weight around and expect other players to do what you say because "the brief says Urizen respect the arbiters", then you are going to get nowhere. An arbiter is supposed to be shrewd and wise in their dealings with people; you have to play that part of the Urizen brief to get other players to play theirs!
Ultimately many people may expect whoever is playing the arbiter to act like the group-leader and look out for individual members. It might sound onerous to be trying to help everyone in the group get what they want, instead of concentrating on your own goals, but aiding other members of the group will mean you have all their challenges to add to your own. The best arbiters are likely to be the ones who genuinely enjoy helping everyone else in the group get involved in the game and enjoy themselves.
It is traditional for an arbiter to carry a single distinctive item, a piece of regalia that serves as an indication of their office. This could be a decorated staff or an ornate rod, or it could just be a simple talisman or device marked with the symbol of your spire, citadel or temple. It's a good idea to chat to your group, and see if you can come up with something iconic and distinctive between you. This item can then serve as your regalia of office, demonstrating that you are the arbiter and that you have the right to represent your group and speak on their behalf.
Your group might be able to help you create a ribboned item for your regalia. Any character with the hallow skill can use a dose of liao to give the regalia an evocative name and chose an appropriate aura to inspire you while you carry it. Alternatively you could use a magical item as the basis for your regalia if you have a suitable ribboned item. If your group are wealthy enough, then you might eventually be able to get your hands on enough ilium to make the regalia a named artifact.
Your regalia is your symbol of office — its existence reflects your status and importance. You can use the regalia to deputise someone to attend a meeting to speak on your behalf. In a way it's a symbol of your community; if you treat it as important, then other characters are more likely to do the same.