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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.  
 
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.  
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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.  
 
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.  
  

Revision as of 12:40, 14 October 2018

Overview

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.

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.

Ezra.png
Robin Tynan

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.

Security APPROVED

  • 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.

Cherry Matcham.jpg
Sandy Wragg

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. .

Without the bog otters... no event.
Ben Stevens

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. {CaptionedImage|file=Jonathon Cooper.png|align=right|width=300|caption=Jonathon Cooper}} Field Reffing
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.

Battle Reffing
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.

Skirmish Reffing
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.

Our glorious leader.
Clare Evans

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.

Open House
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.

Kit.jpg
Kit Armstrong-Gardner

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!

Reffing Empire

  • 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.

Introduction
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.

Overview
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 have no idea what is going on in this picture.
David James

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.

Between events
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.

Supporting Plot
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.

Debrief
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)

Fails to mention the barely diluted orange drink he supplies.
Graeme W. Jamieson

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.

PROLOGUE
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.

THURSDAY
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. Fort and Contested Territory progress - This is new, but needs updated at this point.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

FRIDAY
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
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.

SUNDAY
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.

EPILOGUE
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.

Hasn't broken the internet in, gosh, hours.
Emma Rowden

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.

Stopping any Freeborn tripping over their tagelmust and impaling themselves on spikes is a full-time job.
Peter Green

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.

Dave and Ian have set a good tone here. I'm going to talk about the process of writing plot between events, because that's where the REAL magic happens.

(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.

The man we call Cool Jim
David Kibblewhite

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.