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John’s Wintermark banner

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

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The Shattered Tower from Highguard are an excellent example of a group with a strong visual identity, based on specific colours and an easily identifiable group symbol. (Image from Scott Anderson)

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.

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John’s Hahnmark Banner

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.

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John’s Sermersuaq banner

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.

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John’s Kallavesa banner

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.

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It doesn’t need to be banners – though they help. House Vexille creates a powerful look while maintaining individuality just by using a similar colour scheme echoed across all their costumes (Photo by Beth Dooner)

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

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They start out pretty rough and ready

Politics Is Not A Dirty Word

Following on from his last post about the Synod, I badgered award winning organiser of live-roleplaying games John Haynes into writing me something else. It’s a bit rambly, but he’s just finished running a major Jurassica event bless his little cotton-tail. It’s possible that some t-rexes may turn up in this piece; if they do just ignore them. They can only see you if you pay attention to them or sutin.

In other news, I’m quite enjoying having someone write things for me when I’m too busy doing my actual job to do it myself.

Politics Is Not A Dirty Word

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John “Not a cult leader” Haynes wants you to be a political roleplayer.

That title is what PD first said to me when they asked me to write this. I think i was asked because I played a senator back when i played in Navarr and also I have a relative thick skin when the internet gets angry about the suggestion that Empire is a political game and that playing politics at Empire is a valid form of roleplay.

He’s not wrong. Also I find it really easy to manipulate him into doing things for me, using the cunning tool of asking him nicely. This is probably politics in action. RAFF

That and my writing style means Andy can insert comedy snarky comments all the way through it to highlight specific bits of information as important, tricking you into believing its off the cuff banter rather than information you should know.

Hmpf. RAFF

I suppose I should say what politics is within the context of Lrp and Empire (By should, I mean my editor told me to) .

Within lrp, Empire specifically it aligns closely with the dictionary definition of Politics. Politics in Empire is about the running of the Empire, but also improving your status or power within the Empire. It in many ways could be described as power and influence.

Politics for me at empire is not a dry boring running by statistics  and administration of a government, no its more to do with the high drama of gaining power and influence to get what you want, to push your agenda. Your goals and political desires are an extension of your character writ large on the face of an Empire. It is arguing with it is opponents and backroom deals. It is the weft of history rather than counting beans or camp attacks. Politics is about player agency, if you can roleplay hard and put the work in you can grasp the things you want.

Or even better gain bitter rivals to butt heads against and allies who have your back, sometimes for a price. It’s about being stabbed in the back and enjoying your made up ploys and plans come undone at the hands of a rival or getting things passed in senate that are unpopular through the strength of a good speech and a well placed priest watching for unvirtuous behaviour.

Conflict, My Neighbour Totoro, and Titles

The centre of good drama is conflict (other than My Neighbour Totoro – that’s good without conflict).

It’s not really drama though is it? RAFF

At Empire, conflict is usually built around politics.

Empire was designed as a political PvP fest game at its core. That’s why there is so much emphasis on players having positions or titles, and using those positions or titles to change the game world. The driving force behind a lot of player interactions is them chasing the things they want through talking (rather than stabbing).

Personally I hate “PvP” as a term by the way. It makes a live roleplaying game feel like the actual character is just the equivalent of a cricket bat you use while exploiting every advantage you can get to beat your opponent. I much prefer “Character versus Character” as a descriptor. The Boss talks about “Character with Character” as the foundation for a game where people interact with each other in a variety of ways that “make game” whatever the fuck that means. RAFF

The very fact that the person sitting on the throne is a player speaks volumes to this fact. The fact that the Empress is a player actually probably needs repeating on a very regular basis so that player doesn’t get treated like an NPC 

Have I mentioned that I also hate it when people treat characters in a game differently based on whether they perceive them to be players or non-players? I could rant about that but I won’t as this is technically John’s piece. RAFF

Politics is encouraged at Empire. The fact there are no real jobs for life, and almost every significant position in the Empire is voted on or appointed by other players is a core part of the design. It allows players to have real power rather than a safe little title that doesn’t effect the world in a meaningful way.

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Totoro mostly seems to want people to live in harmony with each other and the world. I love Totoro. But at Empire I would grind him into the mud in pursuit of total domination.

While some positions have tenure – meaning they are technically lifetime jobs –  there’s almost always someone who can remove you from your position if they want someone else to have it. RAFF

The other reason titles exist is to create game. Give someone power and others will want it. If there is no mechanism to remove them or vote new people in its a waste of game and drama. 

There’s a great bit in Carpe Jugulum in which Pratchett basically talks about how the more powerful something is, the more vulnerable it has to be. He’s talking about vampires, but it applies to titles in Empire. It’s no coincidence that the sinecures are the titles that tend to be voted on least while the titles with actual power are almost always annual appointments.  Man I need to shut up and let John talk. I’m meant to be writing Winds of War. RAFF

Imperial Titles (Levers and Hats)

Now if its a job in the Empire it needs three things.

It needs a system of election that is not for life; it needs a lever to change the world in some way; and it needs a trap door under it so people can remove someone from position without knives by the toilet block.

It also needs a nice hat, but we have a limited budget. RAFF

Without these things there is no accountability, no way of removing someone not doing the job and its not making game. This is why almost all positions in the Empire can be revoked, have a carrot to make you want them, and have a way of being elected that means you are ideally in competition with other people. 

(Well at least these days they do; some of the naughtier senators may have passed positions that only they could vote for back in the day before the Constitutional Court cottoned on to what they were doing).

WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS. RAFF.

Every system in Empire is geared towards encouraging social interaction, and that usually means conflict.

Now some people might suggest that this constant emphasis on competition is a bit harsh. Players often want to take more cooperative approaches in which everyone gets what they want. Unfortunately, the DNA of Empire is built on the the idea that drama comes from conflict not from sharing. Its like slipping Risk cards into the Monopoly chest. You can do it, you might even enjoy it, but at least some of the people at the table sat down to play Monopoly and are very confused now about having to invade Australia so they can get more troops. 

Any that aren’t I imagine would be retooled in quick order to ensure that nothing is self contained. By making sure that people need to talk to each other it creates nexuses of interaction, and by making conflict it causes drama and political interaction.

Not everything is about conflict. We also want to create spaces for people to just hang out and have fun – listen to stories, sing songs, share a beer. But that’s something players naturally do themselves. We rarely have to provoke them into enjoying themselves in this manner. So we focus our energy and design in the other direction – toward things that create conflict or that reward people for engaging in politics. RAFF

We Want You Political

PD is giving you permission to pursue your own agenda at Empire. It’s encouraging you to put what you want ahead of what other people want. It is very much waving carrots to persuade you to play political games with your peers – to in-character manipulate other characters into doing what you want. 

So why is politics not a dirty word?

One reason I think is that in a live game it’s often difficult to differentiate between manipulating a character and manipulating a player – or rather from the point of view of the player being manipulated/influenced there’s little difference. This can definitely prompt unhappiness and bad feelings. A lot of people don’t like to feel like they were tricked by someone at a game they are both playing. It’s a weakness of Empire that the organisers like that kind of experience and built it into the DNA (ugh) of the game. RAFF

One reason is because it’s roleplay. It gives you a hook for high drama, conflict, regrets, triumphs, defeats, and strong character motivation. The idea that somehow it’s dirty and that the players involved in it are somehow ‘doing it wrong’ and not actually role-playing is very strange. It’s like suggesting that The West Wing, or the Sopranos, or House of Cards are not valid drama. 

Let’s look at some examples Dune is the story of fuel, the control of the means of production of that fuel, the exploitation of the locals through religion and the after effects of that. It is a profoundly political story. 

Need I mention Game of Thrones? I watched the first season, it seemed a tiny little bit based around politics. There was even a Throne people were fighting over.

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I think the Imperial Throne looks a wee bit more comfortable. Although I imagine it still needs a cushion.

What I mean is that a great many of the timeless classics of the fantasy and science fiction genres that live-roleplaying draws on are profoundly political stories. You only need to look at the sort of influences Profound Decisions mentions when they talk about them to see that they want to emulate political stories rather than heroic quest stories, for example.

As a means to drama and roleplay, Politics can’t really be beaten. Even the complex web of relationships ballgowners like me enjoy is just social politics if you look at it from a certain point of view.

To say that politics is not a valid play style is unfortunately akin to saying there is one way to lrp, but also more importantly its saying Empire is not a valid game.

I’m not sure I’d go quite this far – not everyone enjoys politics. Saying that not liking politics is not valid is a bit of a stretch. But John talks about this in the next section so I’ll shut up again. RAFF

You Do You

Now for some folks politics is a turn off, and that’s cool. I do not enjoy mass battles. It’s not my thing. I often read about the theory of them, talk to people who run them, but i have no interest in them as a participant, it’s not my thing anymore. And that’s cool, I don’t have to actively engage with them, but i may have to passively.

This is where things get contentious.

If a battle goes wrong and it damages my resource production, I’ve lost a coven member or the objective involved liberating my territory, a thing I have no interest in has affected my game.

What do i do?

Well, I roll with the punches. I could email PD and say that battles ruin my game and should not intrude on it, but Empire is a complex ecosystem and that’s not going to happen. Battles will interfere with my game and my game will be richer whether I like it or not.

Politics is the same. It will intrude on your game. You do not get a choice, the game is designed to do that.

A fella called Ryan Paddy I think it was described PD’s previous game (Maelstrom) as a series of interconnected games/economies rather than a single game. Empire is like that as well I think. If all the cogs are meshing right, then the battles influence the Imperial politics, which in turn influence the personal politics and the personal character stories, and vice versa. The interaction of these different parts of the game are the machinery that turns random stuff into emergent narrative. And now I have to put a pound in the emergent narrative jar. RAFF

Wanting Things Is Half The Battle

Here’s an example of what I mean.

If you want a Runeforge you had better go out there and get people on side, trade for cheap resources, find out what people want and use that as a lever to get them to do/give you what you want.

But Urizen might want a really swanky tower, and suddenly you are in competition for resources and Senate commissions. You are engaged in politics.

DinosaurHat

Quick! Ignore this dapper dinosaur! It’s got a gun!

More importantly Bob Marcher, that farm you want to upgrade? It just got a little bit more expensive as Urizen and Wintermark start trying to buy the resources they need for the thing they want.

So you are complaining the Bourse makes the 1% richer to the Synod (feature not a bug) who have decided they are fed up with the Bourse members buying all the religious artifacts in private auction so you are an excuse to go after them…

Hey i see you over there Dawn player of House …..erm…. Verte….and your run at the Throne. Now you need to decide if you want Wintermark or Urizen on side, so you know whose bid on the Senate floor you will conspicuously support.

Of course now the people who work in the Throneguard are looking down the barrel of unemployment because if your Throne run goes ahead they sure as shit are not keeping their jobs and neither are any of the Imperial advisors – unless they jump ship.

All of a sudden a bunch of stuff got very complex and it’s all because politics.

Because people have goals and ambitions in the game, but there is a limited supply of chances to realise those goals and ambitions (in terms of available motions, or the amounts of materials, or the amount of damage to the treasury the Senate is prepared to tolerate, or whatever). Competition is the most obvious way to encourage political game play. RAFF

Push Your Agenda

So why should you care? Well if you try and ignore politics, it will still happen around you, just like the mass battles will. Instead of charting your own course, you will be caught in its wake. Almost every Wind of Fortune is created to create political tension. 

So if you want to influence the world of Empire you should have opinions, you should lean on your Senators and priests. You should go to Conclave and vote, vote the way you want to vote – unless someone bribes you to vote they way they want.

One of the reasons to have opinions, in my opinion, is that it identifies you as a playah. Not a player, a playah. It signals to other people with goals and agendas that you are available for political game play. That you’re someone who they should try to influence, possibly by giving you what they want. People tend not to worry about how the people who don’t vote might have voted, for example. RAFF

When your leaders tell you stuff and you don’t really agree with it, don’t agree with it. Remind them who they work for. Let’s face it the greatest threat to a person in high office (Senators, Cardinals etc) is a motivated bunch of people, actively holding them to account and expecting them to support the people who put them there.

This applies just as much to the people those people appoint. All Senators and Cardinals are elected/appointed by a group of players. Those Senators and Cardinals may be able to appoint (say) Generals or Gatekeepers, but if you don’t like the people they appoint make it clear that you’ll be supporting someone else for their position next time it comes up for election.

One Last Thing

Diras

The nice (?) thing about Empire is that while we have tried to create a game where the players are powerful, and have agency, and possess the ability to change things, we have also create an environment where some players are 100% in-character working to try and convince people they aren’t powerful, they don’t have agency, and they can’t change anything so as to preseve their own in-character status.

Because here is the big secret of Empire.

It’s not really a secret John we bang on about it all the time. RAFF

In most live roleplaying the economy is trickle down, at Empire nearly everyone has similar resources, but through joining together in large enough power blocks they can have huge amounts of control.

The same is true of the politics of the game. You can unseat your Senators with enough people working together. Fed up with the Empire placing foreign slaves ahead of Imperial citizens in chains? You can do that, if enough people agree. But here’s the catch…..

It takes roleplay to do that. Political roleplay.

(And if someone says you cannot change anything at Empire without a group of OOC friends, just tell them that all the best senators were solo players 😉 )

I hope you found that as interesting to read as I found it to edit. You might want to engage (ugh) by posting something about your own experiences/opinions in the comments so John can argue with you. If I needed to sum up I would say; Empire is designed to be a game full of interactions with other people. if you want to get the most out of the game, have opinions about things and wield whatever influence you’ve got at every available opportunity. Set yourself ambitious goals and then go out and try to achieve them.

And if anyone complains that politics is not roleplaying, or that wanting an Imperial title is not an in-character goal, you have my permission to push them into the mud. Which there is bound to be some of, because PeeDee. RAFF 

How to Beat the Musketeers and the New Media of Virtue

This is another guest post, from my mate John Haynes. John is an award winning organiser of live-roleplaying games who among other things has been involved in running Green Cloaks (space vikings), and works extensively with EYE Larp where he was behind HADES (a game about being dead and punching Nazis), Jurassica (dinosaurs and pith helmets), and the Forest (a game about … um … I want to say dreams?). He’s also a former player and long-time volunteer at Empire, currently in the role of one of the Wintermark egregores. Here he’s doing me a favour and writing about the religious game at Empire, and I’m doing him a favour and adjusting his capital letters and punctuation.

I feel the nagging urge to put a disclaimer of some sort on this but … nah. I’m sure it will be fine.

Guarding Souls, Punishing the Unvirtuous

All4One


* “All for one” larp by Crooked House, was however amazing and beautiful and makes me cry I couldn’t get to it. Rachel, Ian and Harry are very bloody talented. (says John)

From an outside perspective the religious game at empire is about guarding peoples souls and punishing the unvirtuous…..which is nice if you like that sort of thing, but myself I always felt a certain French cardinal had a bit of a raw deal. He had ambition, he knew what he wanted, had fun and will always be Tim Curry to me.

None of that mutual ‘All for One’* malarkey, screw that. I wanna wield power, wear red and hang out with M’lady.

The religious game at Empire has several levers. You can remove people from their jobs with revocation; poke your nose into Imperial meetings and glare; raise a statement of principle; enact a mandate etc. I really want to point out people who are good at this, the really talented people who play this game well, but that would be unfair as you probably won’t notice them, because they are good at it.

This is not really the focus, there are in fact other levers of both official and soft power. You have to work for them, but you are ambitious right?

All is Politics

At its core the religious game at Empire is about politics and social engineering. A well written judgement can be devastating, or have a major impact on the direction of the game in the field. You may need to put some baggage to bed however. Empire is not “us against the world”, it is “you versus everyone else” with the world as an external force providing pressure.

No really, that’s the design brief, that’s the point of it. Sure you can look at it from the perspective of us vs them, but you will have a richer game kicking over Janet’s sand castle rather than waiting for the Sunday battle.

“Us versus the world” probably means “players all united against the outside threat” model common to many live-roleplaying fests. There is an element of that, of course, but really the game is about players interacting with players with the outside threats – the world if you will – just another thing for them to compete about/over – RAFF

Previously I have wrote an article on how to destroy people politically with judgements for fun and profit. This time I’m going to look at some other areas of horrible things.

Now what do I know? I spent a number of years playing the political game before moving to crew, I generally got what I wanted, when I wanted through not being mutual and following my agenda. The one time I was mutual with no benefit to me I ended up creating a massive political bedrock for someone else which was not in my interests (Damn you Roz! <3).

Medieval Social Media

Facebook

The Synod is basically Facebook.

An imperial priest is an orator backed with medieval social media. The judgements at Anvil are a matter of Imperial record and (if they get a greater majority) spread far and wide.

A National assembly judgement is a Facebook message on your timeline. A Virtue assembly judgement is in a group, and the General assembly is a viral cat meme. Remember that when you make a judgement; off screen the population of your nation and the Empire are judging your statements, and in some cases are desperately want to unfollow you, but cant.

So what to do with this?

First of all make sure people wont scroll past it. You need it to be punchy and interesting. “I think punching Jotun is virtuous” is the equivalent of posting photos of your food. No one really cares, we know that. You eat, great. We punch Jotun, we all do that. You may have well said “Breathing is virtuous“.

Don’t do that. You want to people to take note? Say “It is disloyal to not punch Joton, and those captains who do not punch Joton with their military units will be subject to inquisition by the national assembly of Urizen” and people will notice.

You just posted a picture of you eating a baby turtle. Naked. While strangling a seal cub.

It may not be something people are going to support, but at least its going to get attention. You want people to notice, you want discussion. You want cardinals coming up to you and saying “Hey, Jean….erm…..you’ve got a bit of turtle on you there….”

And it might get support. It might get voted on. And if it gets a greater majority, there’s a chance that next even there’ll be a whole Wind of Fortune about it with mandates that have awful implications for people who aren’t into punching Jotun – Raff

Rewarding  (Or Why We All Hate Bob)

Next up is what are you doing? Are you posting “Bob is virtuous and we think he’s great“? Grand, you do you. I’m sure people will support this – you will get all the likes – mainly because its inoffensive and nice. We naturally want to say Bob is nice, if Bob is nice.

On the other hand you have made me hate Bob now and want to destroy him. Because you are an awful person. Because you just posted “Believe in your dreams” with a picture of a dolphin on my time line, I actually hate you and actively am trying to hate you to death with hateful mind rays.

How can we make this better?

How about?

Bob is <inset virtue here> because <insert behaviour you wish to promote in the wider community> and should be rewarded with <insert testimony, cash, consideration for an imperial position because bobs goals align with yours>

What you have done is made people look at Bobs behaviour and shown that Bob gets cool stuff. You are social engineering a behaviour. This works really well at a National assembly level, although you may have to reach into your own pocket to reward them, but you are invested in the long game right? You understand that power takes time. You are being seen as someone who rewards folk, that you care, that you are “important”, that people agree with you.

Give it a year and people will be eating baby turtles just like you.

The Empire Doesn’t Give Two Shits About Your House

Next up is “the Empire fucked my plan“.

PenisHead

John is not a man who worries about making his head look like a penis. Photo by Oliver Facey, taken at Five Kingdoms LARP.

If Jeremy is off conquering the land of gold and silk, while your home burns you might want to stop Jeremy and get the Empire to help put your house fire out. Trust me the rest of the Empire doesn’t give two shits about your house, they care about theirs.

We may all be singing “‘Empire is great, we are united“’ but that only serves the Haves. If you’re a Have-Not and you are singing that tune, you have ingested the solid awesome propaganda that someone else has pushed for their goals.

I think Jeremy is a specific person but John is being discreet. Are you Jeremy? If not, why not? Jeremy sounds like someone who gets things done – Raff

At its heart Empire is a political knife fight, it can be a subtle one, but its still a knife fight. Don’t turn up and hand your opponents a selection of knives to choose from and turn your back because they have told you “we are all in this together“. When someone says “don’t do that, its bad for the Empire” they are the same as someone arguing your point is invalid because of bad grammar or spelling…. Andy.

I feel called out – Raff

The Synod is where a nation can make its feelings known. Seriously look at the Marches. If they are irritated, they will tell you, via a combination of the Synod and cooking implements.

They don’t sit in a tent and moan about being given a short poo stick, they wipe that stick off and beat someone with it until they get a better stick. And then possibly commit a war crime with it…

As a national assembly you can make a statement that says we are very angry at Jeremy, tag in the appropriate virtues and back with evidence. Don’t whine, no one likes that. Tear Jeremy apart, make Jeremy look selfish, greedy, non-mutual. Live roleplayers hate non-mutual people who have stuff when they don’t. Stoke that mob. Pay another nation to curse them.

Your aim is not necessarily to destroy Jeremy but to make Jeremy look bad and someone its okay to dog pile so everyone else destroys Jermey.

Is this mean? Yup, but Jeremy would do this to you in a heartbeat, because Jeremy is in this position because he is playing the game.

Pick your Targets

Remember that live roleplayers have short memories. I have a list of awful things people have done, I keep it in case I come back to play. Some of the upstanding citizens of the Empire have some pretty upsetting skeletons in their closets but come end of season we forget them.

Strike while the iron is hot. Much like Facebook if I post a dead meme, no one cares and half the player base won’t get the reference anyway.

Also, you should never apply this to a nation unless no one likes that nation or everyone is jealous of them. Instead you want to go after people of perceived power in a nation and drag the nation down with them.

Going after a nation has a galvanising effect – they all pull together against you and you look like a bully. Likewise, never go after egregores, it is the equivalent of punching a nations puppy mascot. Sure everyone wants to scalp an NPC, but ultimately an entire nation is going to be cross with you and an egregore will no doubt pay good money to curse you into next week (one of my favourite moments was trying to steal a cadet from the Mark into the Navarr, and a Wintermark egregore straight up threatened to kill me. He would have too. NPC’s at Empire are people).

Instead go after the powerful and unpopular. The people no one likes already but feel they cant take down and then lay the blame for the thing you dislike at their feet. You have given people a Facebook post that gives them a reason and permission to hate someone they already dislike which backs your agenda. You’re a winner.

Obviously this doesn’t just apply to Jeremy, you can apply it to a situation, anything really. You just need to do something about it.

Sharing is Caring

SynodPapes

Synod Judgements communicate not also to your fellow priests, but also to Profound Decisions and its plot writers.

The last one is a bit meta, it’s the “Hey PD we care about this” effect. Statements backed with enough of a voting block make Profound Decisions take notice. You get a voting block of 400 to say something, it matters.

Our nation believe its virtuous to use Artoks in combat” could make a plot writer go “Hey I could run something with that”.

This is a terrible example John. If I had the budget for artoks, I’d give them to the Jotun. But I guess the principle is sound – Raff

Our nation thinks dealing with the Commonwealth is virtuous and that dealing with the Iron Confederacy is the behaviour of barbarians” could lead to PD using plot to represent those nations reactions, and some very angry diplomats (from experience no Imperial diplomat wants to hear “I don’t care about the imperial position, I care about what’s right” after causing a diplomatic incident. Think about it as giving them ‘game’).

Again not the best example – we’re more likely to give the Empire a chance to cause a diplomatic incident as a result of a statement of principle than to escalate straight from a statement to an incident – but the principle is again sound – Raff

We believe that dealing with x eternal is unvirtuous, and any who do must be testomonied as such.” This is the double whammy of “hey PD we want to poke this eternal in the eye” and politically stabbing up your enemies. You will have to do some testimonies yourself mind you to get the ball rolling, but once it starts mob rule kicks in. I’d suggest this would be a hard one to get through General assembly, but National? Pretty easy with some leg work and in a Virtue assembly with a sympathetic cardinal (you did vote for them right?)

This comes with a massive caveat. Don’t expect PD to do something with this and if you make a statement like “All Navarr should be allowed to wear Tricorns” understand I at the very least am judging you, with a small effigy and a blow torch.

Fucking tricorns – Raff

Something about Scratching and Complaining on Facebook

This is all scratching the surface, of course. Statements in the Synod are a lever for game, plot and politics that if you are not using you are missing out. All of this however takes leg work. You need to talk to people, persuade, bribe and cajole. You have to be active, but if you are you can change things and manipulate situations to your advantage and agenda.

Don’t passively complain about something on Facebook, actively fight for change. The same goes for the Synod.

Make your metaphorical Facebook posts controversial and foster the change you want to see in the world; have arguments about what you care about; engineer likes.

Opting Out

Cardinal

Cardinal Richelieu says “All for one – and more for me!” A lesson we can all take to heart at Empire.

So what if you are priest and you don’t like this sort of thing? I’d suggest you would have more fun with a different resource. You can roleplay being a priest at Empire, by being a priest. You do not need to be part of the Synod to preach, the congregation resource is a key, it allows you to open a very specific door to do very specific things.

You can always buy liao in the field to fuel your exorcisms and amusingly if you had a mana farm you could probably buy more Liao than a congregation would provide.

You can also these days take a boat to Sumaah and pick up some Liao from there thanks to Imperial diplomacy – Raff

And remember kicking over peoples sand castles is not just big, clever, and cool, it is actively encouraged at Empire.

John also has a Patreon apparently but buggered if I can find the link.