Following on from his posts posts about the Synod, and the political game, award winning organiser of live-roleplaying games John Haynes badgered me into letting him write about banners and standards and uniforms and branding. Given we’re in the middle of unofficial-HADES week, now seemed as good a time as any to put it together.
As usual it’s a bit rambly, and I’ve interspersed my own comments in grey because I can’t help myself and because sometimes John skips over some details. If you want to talk to John about any of this stuff he’s usually hanging around Wintermark during Empire games, or can be stalked on the internet. He also has a patreon, as do all the best people.
They don’t just give you a reroll on Ld tests
Banners are cool, they look great. Be they a red rag on the end of a stick, or a beautiful piece of art on a proper pole (I’m looking at a certain player in Dawn right now…) they make a battlefield look stunning and bring the world alive.
They also make the nation camps look good as well – banners aren’t just for fighting next to. Raff
In Wintermark I play a banner-bearer. You can blame Kitty for that, its her fault. When discussing what archetype I should play in the ‘Mark I talked to her for her perspective and she basically pointed out that banner-bearers role was to support and lift the people around them – the basic job of an egregore.
Banners do this as well – they’re basically egregores on sticks. There’s a sense of pride in marching behind a banner – a sense of belonging – and this is especially true of certain nations. The “Banner” is also the name of the basic “fighty”’ group in Empire, so here I am again, much like the renegade master, to talk about a bit of Empire at the behest of the most positive person on crew.
Branding and roleplay
Yeah, this is a thing. You know who the Shattered Tower are right? They have good branding. The group identity dollar is a strong dollar right now.
A banner makes you stand out, it gives you an identity, and people recognise you. A flag combined with elements copied onto your kit lets you stand out as a group. People know who you are; even if they don’t know your character they know your group and your groups reputation.
I cannot emphisise how much soft political power the idea of belonging has. People may not remember your name between E4 and E1, but if you have a strong identity, people will recognise your symbols.
Plus you look cool
It’s maybe a bit counterintuitive that you stand out by looking like part of a crowd, but there’s no doubt that in live-roleplaying as in real life being part of an identifiable group brings social captial with it. Raff
On a battlefield that brand really matters. It gets you noticed. If people know your banner and you do something cool, guess what? People will be able to identify you on the battle field as you charge or hold. If you run away? Cool! Someone will notice and you get roleplay and game as some priests are mean to you.
Furthermore the ability to identify where the rest of your group quickly on a confusing battlefield can save your life. Not every group has the loudest human being on earth constantly shouting like a mother duck reminding the ducklings to keep up. In the confusion of the battlefield, finding your banner means finding your group.
Or finding the members of skirmish team who killed your banner-bearer and nicked your banner. Still, at least you’ll be together again soon. I digress. Raff
More importantly the baddies might steal your banner giving you game, the chance to get your banner back, roleplaying fun around tropes of failed duty, seeking vengeance and the like.
Off the battlefield you can rock up to meetings with your banner-bearer, and then look at the peasants who didn’t. Bonus points if you don’t have a hat and the ‘important people’ don’t have a banner. Feel free to gloat at your prosperity.
Did i mention you look cool?
This isn’t just about banners obviously. Among the reasons we have a look-and-feel for each nation is that a big group of people who have some similarity in look have increased impact on the field. When you take that down to the group level, a uniform, a prominent symbol, or even just a medallion in the shape of the hammer of the Smith can be effective at making you memorable, increasing your impact, and making you feel like part of something. There’s a reason real-world armies, fast food franchises, and supervillains like to put people in uniforms. Raff.
The snacky stuff
For those of you sort of interested in snacky abilities (some people will say they are economically not cool, but they are terrible people, enjoy the emails Andy).
Cheers John. Sensibly I don’t have a Profound Decisions e-mail address so the complaints all go to Matt. That’s Matt@Profounddecisions.co.uk. Raff.
Banners can also be magic.
First of all wanna fight as a mercenary? You need a banner, that’s not a negotiable. Go get one.
Technically it’s a gonfalon, not a banner or a standard. The difference is… actually nobody cares about the difference except me so I’ll shut my hole. Raff.
However there are some other stand out banners on the magic list.
Standards! For crimminy’s sake John, we spent ages calling them “magic standards” so people didn’t get confused between the magic item and the group type. Did you even read my style guide man!? Raff
Chirurgeon’s Ensign lets you use stay with me on two people for the cost of one.
Unlimited use – so basically if you use your hero points to keep people alive, you double your effectiveness. Couple it with some hero-point restoration potions and you can save a bunch of lives in theory. Raff
Sunfire Pennant Five times per day you may use the empower spell as if you knew it without spending any mana. You may not use this ability if you are wearing any armour other than mage armour.
The empower spell gets bad press occasionally, possible because it’s about letting other people do cool things rather than letting you do cool things. On the other hand this makes it a good fit for someone whose character concept is around supporting other people – such as a banner-bearer. Raff.
Loyal Stanchion Five times per day you may use get it together as if you know it without spending any hero points.
It’s five incidents of very quick healing on your friends. It may not be earth-shaking but it’s also not to be sneezed at. Plus, never forget that healing done with heroic skills can be done in armour without needing to dick about with herbs or potions. Raff
Warsmith’s Shingle Five times per day, with five seconds of uninterrupted appropriate roleplaying, you may repair any item, such as a weapon or shield that has been broken using the SHATTER call. The roleplaying must include touching the broken item. If you or your target attacks another character or either of you are hit then the attempt to use this ability fails. The charge is not lost but you must begin the roleplaying again.
Again limited number of times, but it uses the hero skill rules so it takes a sixth of the time it takes to cast the mend spell and you can do it while wearing armour. If your mate has had their sword broken, you can restore their ability to fight. Don’t underestimate it. Raff.
Celestial Sigil While wielding this standard you gain five additional personal mana. This one…..Wow, wanna fix stuff? Wanna fix people? You get to be a swiss army knife of support. Heal, Mend, restore limb, Empower…..for free.
Extra mana is extra chances to shine. No other item gives you five mana, and despite being expensive theres no other basic talisman that gives you mana. Couple it with an Ashen Mantle and a Neophyte’s Aid and go crazy. Or not. It’s your character. Raff.
Yes they are costly to make, and i have no doubt someone will run the numbers on them, but they are actively force multipliers. More importantly if you are the kind of person who wants to be useful, but don’t fancy fighting these are great. If anyone is running a healer block behind the line, a banner like one of these combined with the ability to be found is a must have.
Want to be really prosperous and ambitious? Get an artefact banner. With the added bonus that you may even be able to claim it as a legacy when you die and your will hands it to the nation you belong to.
Standards are expensive because they’re mostly prestige items, but when we transitioned to the New Maths (the new maths), we applied a cost reduction to magic standards to take into account both their bulkiness, and the fact that they are super cool on battlefields. So they’re expensive, but also cheaper than a similar item might be. Some of them give you abilities you can’t get easily anywhere else as well. Oh! And they all come with cool roleplaying effects. Not everyone likes roleplaying effects but I think that’s a neat bonus. Raff.
Making them real
Standards can be expensive. And a pain to pack and move around without a big car. Certainly a five foot pole and a six-square-foot banner is… quite large. However if you are not aiming for magical, you can go smaller.
There are some work-in-progress territory and national banners for Wintermark attached to this file that Andy kindly spent afternoon mining from facebook because I’m lazy.
It took me five minutes. Honestly. Raff.
These banners cost maybe five pounds each. The paint is acrylic and the fabric is a dust sheet. The initial design was created in a sketch book and transferred with chalk and then painted over with acrylic with a few coats. The time taken was probably, including designs, two hours each.
Now they are scrappy and not to a very high standard, but the intent was to show what you can do.
Yeah. “Scrappy and not to a very high standard.” I think Mister Upside-Down-Head is again underestimating the difference between an actual artist doing one of these things and a fat-handed twat like myself. Still, there’s ways and means you can create reasonable looking banners without being a professional artist. I hear stencils are cool for example, and there’s no requirement for a banner design to be complicated. Raff.
I’m sure you can do better, and if you don’t want to do-it-yourself there are plenty of talented artists that are happy to be paid to make beautiful objects of art (such as Steph Morris who did the banners you see in Senate, cough cough).
So. Banners and standards. They are big and clever, you look cooler and make you 37% cooler than other people.
37%? The science checks out! Who wouldn’t want to be 37% cooler than everyone else? Raff