This page is part of our introduction to Empire, explaining more about the game. It is intended for people who are new to live roleplaying as well as experienced live roleplayers who have never done Empire before to give you a sense of how Empire is designed and how it plays in practice.
Empire is a sandbox game in the sense that you will be entering a completely open world that you are free to explore and influence. There is no grand narrative being created by us, rather the Empire campaign consists of the stories that emerge from the interactions of the player-characters who collectively run the Empire. You are part of a game with thousands of participants all playing together at the same time, you decide what happens next between you. In one sense, Empire is a lot like the real world. There is no predetermined outcome and you are free to make your own choices within the constraints of the setting. You work with - and often against - other player-characters to determine what happens.
This means that it's really important to think about your character, their place in the setting, and what they aim to achieve. In many roleplaying games, your character's skills and abilities are crucial because they determine how you deal with the plot that is written for you. In Empire, your character's motivations and goals are crucial because they determine the plot you create for yourself as you interact with others.
Player vs Player Politics
At it's heart Empire is a game of politics that is quite deliberately player versus player (PvP). That means that if you are going to be active in the politics of the Empire then the protagonists that you encounter along the way will be other players. The game is deliberately designed to encourage many different forms of political rivalry, and the expectation is that you'll find yourself looking for allies to help you as you try to find ways to advance your agendas and defeat your rivals.
Although Empire has a strong emphasis on PvP politics, the setting has been delibrately designed to discourage physical violence between characters. The setting is a very lawful one, with magistrates and militia who will investigate any murder and try to execute those responsible. The aim is to make assasination the last act of desperation that is the result of an long-simmering political rivalry, not the first choice in any conflict between characters.
As part of this the game supports many different ways in which you can harm your political rivals. If they hold an Imperial title then you can try to get the Synod to revoke them or potentially even excommunicate them. Magicians can be declared sorcerors by the Imperial Conclave. Violence and murder are illegal, but coercion and blackmail are not. The setting works hard to encourage and support a wide range of options for social interactions.
Player vs Monster Battles
The ongoing military campaigns against the barbarian enemies that surround the Empire complement the politics. These battles are Player versus Monster (PvM). If your character chooses to take the field, then you'll be facing off against five hundred plus hostile enemies who are "monsters" - that is they are volunteers who are playing a role just for that battle that has been created and briefed by our team. They're there to give you a dramatic and difficult battle - one where victory is far from assured - but where death is uncommon provided you don't mess up too badly.
There are two big battles each weekend as well as many smaller quests and skirmishes. Taking part is completely optional - around half of our player-base usually do so each event. However if you do take the field for a battle as your character, then you must volunteer to monster the other battle (we have to get our five hundred orcs from somewhere!). We strive to make monstering as much as possible, and we provide a masks and an armoured breastplate for our orcs, so if you're just starting out then all you need to monster is your basic costume and a weapon if you've got one.
Where the battles take place, who you are fighting and why, is down to the decisions made by the generals and their advisors in the Military Council. Those decisions are strategic and political in nature - the Empire is fighting many wars and has limited forces at its disposal. Empire is designed so that success on the battlefield at the event helps the Empire significantly in its ongoing wars, while defeat may give the advantage to the enemy.
Player with Player Interactions
Politics and battles are just part of the appeal of Empire for many players. A huge part of the game is focussed on the interactions between players which aren't directly political or confrontational. Empire has beeen designed to support a wide a range of different interactions, between characters which is broadly cooperative in nature. Beyond the cuthroat politics and the adrenalin of the battlefield, the Empire is a world you can live in.
Trade and commerce are an important part of the game, with many characters striving to make as much money as possible. There are many things to buy and sell, with a position in the Imperial Bourse as the ultimate prize - bringing prestiege and wealth to those who can afford it. Characters can trade resources like mana, liao, herbs as well as items like potions and magic weapons. But you can also use your in-character money to trade for consumables and phys-reps like cakes, a bottle of wine, or jewellery that players make and then sell as their character. Everything is on sale in Anvil!
Religion and magic are possibly even more important. In addition to being politically powerful the Imperial Synod is the starting point for many religious and philosophical conversations as characters debate virtue and the Way. Magicians meet in the Imperial Conclave to decide matters of magic but they also share knowledge and learning in the form of arcane projections as well as seeking allies to cooperate with to perform the more powerful rituals.
Entertainment and culture provide yet more opportunities for players to interact with each other. There are plays and performances at the League theatre, there is music and singing at the Navarr Song and Story. Every nation has its own festivities and every event there are festivals and celebrations. Anvil comes alive at night with parties and singing, there is even a group that takes over the Senate building on Saturday evening to host and teach formal dancing.
Profound Decisions run four Empire events each year; each event is a political summit held at Anvil, the Empire's capital. Players portray the powerful figures of the Empire as they come together to make the decisions that will decide the Empire's fate. The crucial decisions that determine developments in the world for the next season are taken by the players at the event.
Downtime takes place between events. We give players a week to use the website to let us know what decisions they made at the event if they have an appropriate resource or relevant skill. Then the setting is updated to reflect the changes the players have made; armies are moved and campaigns fought; colleges of magic research new spells, and so forth. As part of that you'll generate a handful of resources for your character to use at the next event they attend.
Before each event we release the Winds of War and the Winds of Fortune as we update the recent history. These updates describe the consequences of all the actions taken at the previous event, along with any new developments dreamed up by our plot team. You don't have to read them (it can be fun to roleplay finding out the latest news from other characters at Anvil) but they represent common knowledge of what is occurring in the world so if you do read them then you're free to choose how much of the details your character knows.
Immersive and Aspirational
Empire strives to be as immersive as possible - we want you to feel like you're actually in another world when you're at the events. To achieve that we need everyone who plays the game to have a shared understanding of the setting and a commitment to do their best to make it feel real. To help you get to know the world, the wiki provides detailed information on each of the ten playable nations, so that you can read up as much as you want for you character background. Everyone is encouraged to play characters that fit the setting, to have good costume and props, and to discourage anything that would disrupt immersion. The more effort each person puts into making their character feel real, the more immersive Empire becomes for everybody who takes part.
To help people get the right costume and kit we produce look and feel guides for each nation. These are intended to give you a good sense of what the costume should look like. Getting a good costume can be difficult, and is often an intimidating prospect. Our photos often show off the best costumes, and this can support the illusion that everyone who attends Empire has amazing costume. The reality is more prosaic and what we ask is that everyone commits to be aspirational - to meet the minimum standards for the game but to aim to improve their costume over time. Furthermore we don't allow participants to criticize each other's costume; nobody should be judged for what they achieve. Our page on costume lays out our approach in more detail and is worth reading if you have any concerns about your costume.
High Magic, Low Fantasy
The Empire setting includes a number of high fantasy elements, such as the ability for players to wield powerful magic and the presence of magical creatures such as heralds and eternals. In the setting, magic complements science and some simple magical devices like light stones or rune-enhanced lockboxes are readily available. The page on technology gives more details on the various wonders which are readily available in the setting.
Although the setting includes many high fantasy elements, the style and tone of the game might best be described as low fantasy in nature. Empire is designed to be a game of difficult choices. Success is never guaranteed, and characters can fail simply because they didn't have the resources they needed to achieve their goals. Many situations that you will encounter have no perfect outcome, just a range of messy compromises that leave everybody disgruntled to a greater or lesser extent.
It is possible to play a hero in Empire, but it is a challenge precisely becauase the game is not a high-fantasy narrative. You aren't rewarded for your heroism by a sympathetic narrator. Instead, the more heroic you strive to be, the harder it becomes to achieve your goals. This is a deliberate design choice for the game - if the setting rewarded heroism the way a novel often does - then being heroic would be the easy option for everyone. Empire provides material rewards for characters, groups, and nations that take the self-serving route precisely so that it is an achievement to play to a heroic ideal