Urizen is a rugged, mountainous land and most of the inhabitants dwell in a spire, a secure settlement built on the summits or sides of hills or mountains. Most spires are built on plateaus, but some are cut into the side of mountains, or make use of calderas, buttes, mesas, or even cave networks. They tend to be large and airy; stone is plentiful and the Urizen prefer open plan chambers, designed to let light flood into them. These chambers are usually joined by short paths, but it is not unknown for individual Urizen to dwell an hours walk or more from the main body of the spire. A typical Urizen is used to having plenty of space to move around in, and plenty of privacy to get on with the things that interest them.
Urizen architecture is among the best in the world, and they have developed ever more impressive ways to adapt the landscape to create defensible homes. Citadels take this approach to the apogee, but most spires are fortified. This is usually achieved by creating a central keep and building defensive walls and gates to protect the narrow paths needed to reach the summit, rather than attempting to wall off the entire community. To the Urizen life is rare and precious but space is plentiful so it makes sense to protect the former and not the latter.
The unforgiving geography requires a rugged independence, so each spire elects their own leader and governs themselves. The creation of the heliopticon, a magical network of signalling mirrors, makes communication between spires practical, allowing spires to collaborate. Almost all spires apoint an arbiter, the title used to describe whoever ends up representing the spire to others, as well as resolving disputes and overseeing the day-to-day business of the community.
Spires reflect the Urizeni search for arete. Most are founded for a specific purpose; to study a particular kind of magic, to embody an ideal, or to defend a region. All spires are dedicated to the ideals of learning, reason, and expertise but experience has proved that only by specializing on one subject or domain can a spire become a centre of excellence. If inhabitants want to pursue a different path, the expectation is that they will move to find a spire that best suits their temperament and interests. Most communities that have room to spare welcome new members who can contribute to the spire's arete.
The difficulty of producing food means that the population of each spire is relatively small. Most keep large herds of goats that provide meat and milk and feed on the thin vegetation that grows on the hillsides. This is supplemented by fruit and vegetables specially cultivated in arboretums and gardens. Magic is used to ensure that harvests are sufficient to feed everyone, using ushabti to perform the hard labour of agriculture. There is rarely much in the way of surplus but joining the Empire helped considerably, with shipments of grain from the Marches and dried meat from Dawn ensuring that there are usually reserves to fall back on when harvests fail.
It is common for a spire to split if it grows too large to feed itself. If that happens they will begin construction on a new spire – usually on a nearby hill or mountain peak. When the new spire is ready, some of the existing members choose to move to the new home. The two spires may maintain a relationship a little like that of a parent and child until the “child” spire is “mature” enough to be self-sustaining. At that point a formal ceremony is held in which the two spires become independent but political ties often remain close between them.
Sometimes a new spire is formed because a group disagrees with the way things are run, and occasionally just because a group wants to try something new. These spires tend to be less well-planned, and more prone to failure. When one succeeds there is often an enduring personal or philosophical rivalry between the new spire and the estranged "parent".
Often more than one spire will co-operate to create a new spire, mingling their populations in doing so. There's any number of reasons to do this, it might be to relieve pressure when the parent spires become crowded, to exploit a valuable resource, to defend a region or a key pass, or as part of a political agreement. Regardless of the reason for forming the spire, the assumption is that eventually it will achieve self-sufficiency and become independent of the parents.
A great city is not to be confused with a populous one.Aristotle
Creating a Spire
The spire is the best way for players to create an Urizeni group. Spires are in constant pursuit of excellence, giving everyone in the group a motivation to master their skills and achieve their ambitions. Urizeni often seek out a spire whose interests and endeavours match their own, so there's a good in-character reason for all the members of the spire to support a single unifying goal.
You'll need to decide what kind of spire you are going to create. There are three different type of spires: citadels (that practice the arts of war); temples (that debate philosophy and morality); and arcane spires (that study magic). Somewhat confusingly the term spire can be used to refer to all spires in general, or as shorthand for an arcane spire. It's a good idea to pick an appropriate name to make your spire's status clear, such as the Spire of Endsmeet in Zenith or the Citadel of Phoenix Reach in Morrow.
Many spires adopt an apothegm, a short statement that epitomizes the focus and ideals of the spire. Your apothegm might be far-reaching like "Where there is darkness, we will bring light" or something more focussed such as "To master the Realm of Spring and bind it in service to Humanity". Choosing your apothegm will help to give your spire it's own personality, and give everyone in the group some direction and potentially a common goal. If it's a pithy aphorism, it gives you a fun quote you can share in play or put on props. Some spires adopt a constitution to expound on this principle, providing guidance and clarity, but it's fine to stick with the freedom provided by having just a single unifying maxim if you prefer.
The notable characters in your spire will usually be the characters portrayed by the players in the group. Your spire may include a few off-screen magicians, sentinels, and other characters who never attend events, but it is usually better to avoid assuming that the spire contains dozens of magicians who are not played. In fact most spires have a small population, with labour provided by ushabti rather than humans. A "farmer" or a "miner" in Urizen is most likely an accomplished magician who uses their magic to control a score of ushabti to perform the necessary drudgery.
Every character is likely to have their own story of how they joined the spire. You might have been born there and raised to share the spires ambitions and goals, or joined in search of like-minded individuals to challenge and support your quest for arete. Most spires are fairly united, with members working together closely to advance the spires goals, but a notorious few are hotbeds of intrigue with members spying on rivals and sabotaging each others' work as members seek to promote their own agenda.
When Imperial citizens imagine an Urizen spire, they are usually thinking of an arcane spire - a community of magicians perched precariously on a mountain top, dedicated to the mastery of magic. The arcane spires are the backbone of Urizen - they wield the magic that makes the nation powerful and are usually deeply embroiled in the politics of the nation and the Empire.
Although most inhabitants of spires are magicians, any Urizeni character can find a place here. Most spires are grateful to have a sentinel or two to whom they can devolve responsibility for the defence and protection of the spire. Likewise a capable architect can be invaluable to ensuring the spire's needs are met. Urizeni are not pious by nature, but most are interested in philosophy and see virtue as an essential part of arete, so an illuminate or a questor whose interests align with that of the magicians can be an integral part of an arcane spire.
The most important choice when creating a spire is what your approach to magic will be. Because of the benefits of cooperation when performing rituals, many spires are devoted to the study of one or at most two realms of magic. In Empire, the only way to cast the more powerful rituals is for magicians with expertise in the same realm to work together, so it's best to pick one or two realms of magic at most to focus on and coordinate at least some of your mastered rituals. You can take a different approach, focussing on studying a magic technique or principle that can cross realms - a spire might be devoted to creating new divinations, studying a specific magical law or limit, or trying to reap the benefits of a specific resonance or break the limits of a known dissonance. Adopting a specific magical focus, something the magicians of your spire are seeking to achieve with their magic, will make your spire unique and interesting and create impact for your group in play.
Urizen is a highly magical land, so your magical focus can give you ideas for how to characterize the geography of your spire. A spire studying the Autumn realm might be built on a valuable mine - perhaps there are great vaulted caverns lined with veins of silver beneath your spire where the magicians can work their magic close to the wealth of the earth. If you are focused on exploring the magic of divination your spire may be built around a deep well whose waters bring strange dreams. Don't go over the top, Empire is not a setting with flying castles, but a touch of the magical can add to the flavour of a spire.
The citadels of Urizen are an essential part of the nation's defence; without these doughty fortresses controlling the key passes, the land would long ago have fallen to the Druj and the Grendel. The nation is neither wealthy nor populous, but it's mastery of magic provides a way for them to mitigate those factors. Each citadel is an impressive defensive structure, an epic mountaintop stronghold capable of dominating the lands around them, strengthened by the support of the peaceful spires that shelter beneath their outspread wings.
It's a good idea to create a citadel if a significant number of your group want to play sentinels but you don't all have to play warriors. Citadels are devoted to studying the arts of war, in the same way that an arcane spire is focussed the arts of magic. A citadel might have their own ritual coven, if they have enough members who are magicians, or they might include one or more battle mages who support the sentinels in battle. Ultimately any character that wants to work together to ensure the defence of Urizen is a good fit for a citadel. The only character you wouldn't find in a citadel is a sword scholar due to the longstanding rivalry between them and the sentinels.
The most important thing to decide when creating your citadel is how you are contributing to the defence of Urizen. What are your strategic and military goals? Your citadel might be keen to acquire more mithril so that you can improve the weapons and armour of your military units or you might be looking to fortify the region where your citadel is based. You might be interested in pushing for the development of new military rituals or arguing for the invasion of the neighbouring barbarian territory to create a buffer zone between your enemies and the people you protect.
Choosing the region and territory is an important decision when you're creating a citadel. Your home exists to defend the surrounding area from the many dangers that threaten Urizen, so where you are located is going to be vital. If you know some existing spires or temples then it's not a bad to create a citadel near to them - having allies who support your citadel makes sense and can help in play. Another way to choose is to look at the recent history of the invasions of Urizen by the Grendel and the Druj. Putting your citadel somewhere where it is likely to be attacked is a great way to give everyone in the group something to focus on as soon as they hit play!
Once you've decided on a territory and region for your citadel you can decide how it has been built and developed. The ancient fortification of Masada was a big inspiration for citadels in Empire, but your citadel might be built around a labyrinthe of twisting caves and caverns in the mountains of Peregro in Morrow, it could be a fortified lighthouse in Optarion in Redoubt, or a fortress constructed in a volcanic caldera on the edge of the Black Plateau in Spiral.
Urizen is a land where philosophy and reason are considered high ideals to which all citizens should aspire. Temples are spires that are dedicated to exploring spirituality and virtue, in the same way that an arcane spire might study magic. The temples guide the spiritual development of the people of Urizen, but each has their own vision of what that might mean and not all of them embrace the orthodoxy mandated by the Imperial Synod.
It's a good idea to create a temple if a significant number of your group want to play priests or are interested in the sword scholar, questor or illuminate archetypes. Most temples are interested in spreading their ideals. This can take many forms. For example sword scholars and illuminates alike seek to change society for the better, while questors are more focussed on challenging dogma and perfecting doctrine. All of them want to change the world, few temples are content with splendid isolation. Not everyone in your temple needs to be a religious character, but it works best if they are inspired by the temple's guiding philosophy. The only character you wouldn't see is a sentinel in a sword-scholar temple due to the longstanding feud between these two groups.
The key element when creating a temple is to decide what principle, philosophy, or spiritual message guides your community. Your temple should have a core ethos that everyone can unite around. This can be as simple as choosing a single Virtue, but you might pick a single tenet to focus on, or craft an ideal built around two or more virtues from the Way. If you are interested in philosophy you might choose an ideal for your temple inspired by one or more of the Hellenistic philosophies that are the inspiration for Urizen. Some of the heresies such as Lucidianism can also be used as the inspiration for your temple's purpose. Regardless of your focus it's best if your temple is trying to achieve something in the game whether that's spreading a particular approach to a virtue or enacting wide-reaching radical reform of the Empire.
There are temples scattered all across Urizen, so you can choose any territory or region to be based in, but if you're playing a sword scholar temple, or a temple inspired by Lucidianism, or another heresy, then it's a good idea to pick a remote, out-of-the-way location for your temple.
Choosing an Arbiter
Each spire will usually have one person to resolve disputes and represent the community to other spires. The Urizen call such leaders arbiters, a reflection of the expectation that they will settle disputes through arbitration, rather than by issuing decrees. Although arbiters are expected to provide leadership, they are usually chosen by, and serve at the pleasure of the members of the spire. In effect they are "first among equals", no more or less powerful than any other member of the spire, but accorded respect owing to the importance of their responsibilities.
If you are choosing an arbiter for your group, it is a good idea to pick a player that everyone in the group can get on with and respect. You don't have to defer to them, but if they are going to represent your spire to the rest of Urizen then it makes a big difference if they have your respect and support. If you treat your arbiter as someone worthy of your respect, then other characters will naturally tend to follow suit, and by extension show some respect for your spire. The more unified your spire is, the more your arbiter can count on your support when he represents you to others, the more impact your spire will have on the political decisions Urizen makes.
When you're picking your arbiter, it's a good idea to think about what process your spire uses to makes the big decisions and what sort of decisions you expect your arbiter to be make without consulting the rest of the spire. In some spires the arbiter has the power to decide who can the spire, and some have the power to expel members who are no longer welcome. You can't override Imperial law, but it's up to you to decide what powers your spire grants their arbiter to help them resolve disputes, allocate resources and so on.
The arbiter is usually an exemplary figure reflecting the spire's expertise and areas of interest. The arbiters of arcane spires are usually magicians, most citadels choose a sentinel, and so on. But you don't have to follow this rule, it's more useful to have someone who has the respect of the characters in your spire, and who can represent the spire's ethos than it is to have a particular skill set. Most spires only have a single arbiter - but it's fine for mages, architects, and other characters in the spire to work closely with the arbiter if they want to.
Forming a Spire in Play
You can form a new spire in play at any time in one of two ways. Your new spire's background can be that is has existed for a long time - this would reflect your character changing their location to join an established spire. You should create a spire as described above and then update your character to indicate that you are a member of the new spire.
A more dramatic alternative is to have your character set out to create the new spire as an in-character goal. The best way to start is to think of some ideology or goal that will form the core for your new spire. Perhaps you want to bring like-minded characters together to devote themselves to the defence of Zenith - maybe you want to attract magicians who will work with you to develop and perform Spring enchantments. Once you've played in Urizen for a while, you may develop an idea for a driving goal for a group to aspire to - you don't have to be part of a spire from the outset, or to remain with your current spire if you're looking for a new challenge.
You'll need to choose a home for your new spire, but you're free to make up some appropriate details for this. The are lost spires scattered across Urizen so your new home could be some long-abandoned edifice - or it could be some entirely new domicile that you and your fellow spire mates are working to raise. While it's fun to portray some ancient congregation of wizards whose fraternity stretches back through the centuries, it's just as cool to create a vibrant new community that has come together because they are inspired to purse their arete and achieve something extraordinary.