I just spent the weekend at Profound Decisions new LARP system Empire at there systems first ever event Winter Solstice.
The event was held at the Tournament Stud site down just past Banbury within England and was a Friday till Monday event over the Easter bank holiday weekend with option free Thursday attendance for set-up. With early pre-book and multiple event bookings the event cost me about £52 for my ticket price which is pretty good really.
Empire is PD’s (Profound Decisions) newest game world and system after running now a string of successful game worlds and fest systems including Omaga, Maelstrom and Odyssey. For years they have been classed as the UK’s third biggest system but resent times Maelstrom before the systems end moved it’s way up to become the UK’s second biggest system for player numbers.
The system itself is something new and rich, it is based on an Empire, much akin to the Roman empire, in a fantasy world setting. There are only two races, Humans and Orc’s but there are 6 blood lines (lineage) from other races not of the world which Humans may have, making them look like other fantasy races. There are then 10 different nations within the empire who all have there own cultures and back story’s.
Myself and my brother played Orc’s at Empire. Imperial Orc’s are both a race in Empire and a nation, however they are currently a nation without land. They have a very rich and detailed back story which meant for a brand new game world there was instant plot and because of the work done pre-game on the Orc’s brief everyone knew exactly what they where doing. As it was just the two of us my brother and myself decided to start a new group on our own called the Protectorate. We where the smallest group in the nation but seem to fit in well.
The event itself was VERY cold, there was still snow on the ground from the week before and it continued to snow with little flurry’s all weekend. The temperature did not seem to get above 4oC in the day and went to -6oC at night. The site was also VERY wet and showed signs of poor drainage which resulted in it become very muddy very quickly upon arrival. Because of the poor condition of the group we where not able to drive onto the IC field to unload our kit, which resulted in myself and my brother making about 15+ trips back and forth to unload the cars with a lot of heavy kit. the walk was a long one too and over muddy ground! HOWEVER if you camped OOC then it was a dream, you could just park up where you wanted and pitch your tent right next to your car in the OOC field. All players who slept OOC camped together and it was a really nice layout which appeared to suit everyone well.
The IC area’s where IC only and a LOT of time and effort had been put into making them fully IC. Someone in our nation built an Orc fighting pit for us on the Thursday and the standard of IC camping, tents etc… was very good. No nylon or plastic tents in sight, all proper canvas jobs, ever ex army or period tents. That and PD had built facings for things like the bar to make it look like an old broken down pub and the senate buildings. There was a lot to see and the standards where all very leaving me feeling very impressed and fully immersed. My only small grips where that building work was not finished till late into time in on Friday and some building and site materials (like giant water butts) had been left out in the OOC areas, however this really was a small issue really.
I found the kit standards of everyone there to be really high as well and even more so in the Orc camp. Everyone in our nation had put a lot of time, money and effort into trying to follow the kit brief and getting good kit together. It really showed that everyone had tried very hard and I feel that even with us being the smallest nation we looked the best and most uniformed on the field. But as I said it was not just the Orc’s it was everyone. People really seem to get behind there own kit briefs and so you could mainly tell what nations people where from from there clothing, yet everyone was still very individual. It left you with the feeling of separate cultures and a really strong game world. For the Orc’s this meant getting kit together was not cheap. I used and made a LOT of my kit but still must have spent an easy £230 (including new pole arm) however I don’t believe it has to be this expensive for everyone in every nation.
The role play level of the whole game was REALLY high and good. I felt it was easy to slip into a character and everyone kept there characters up and running all weekend. This really was aided by the game world and the nation briefs done before the weekend as everyone got a feeling of what was going on pre-event. For the Orc’s the role play was detailed and intense sometimes as we tried to build a nation for our people within the Empire. There was always something to do or watch or get involved with and the scope of the game world is pretty big but well suited to the player base. Tailored mini plot lines, custom rule systems for rituals and rites, an in-depth political system and rich character, race and nation backgrounds gave the whole event the in-depth hardcore role play feel of a small event but on a big grand scale of a festival LARP system.
Because of when the event was timed you had many players from CP and LT there, the UK’s other big fest systems. For me I thought it was like a who’s who or the LARPing world within the UK. You saw ref’s from CP and LT (competing company’s) working together as ref’s within Empire, you saw most NPC’s and prominent player characters from both systems there too. For me, as a player of both systems, it was amazing because I finally had my friends from both systems in one field at once! Something that never normally happens. I did not run out of people to see or talk to all weekend and got some good socialising with friends in as well as some good role play.
The political system and aspects of the game blew me away! I have never really played the political type at LARP as I am much more into the combat, scouting or ritual side of things BUT after seeing empire in action I want to become a politician!… well an in game one anyway…. Nations are all PLAYER lead with NPC roles just there to guide players but not tell them what to do (not in command roles). The whole empire is player lead as is the game world and so politics has real meaning. When the players in the senate vote on laws for the empire they event the whole game world. I loved it! PD run the administration and bureaucratises of the empire allowing them to control the game world and enact the players wishes, as well as get out the correct information but in the main its all player lead and ruled. I think the system works great like this.
The combat was good and something a bit new for me. It’s a global hit system and does allow stab safe weapons. I have never been a fan of global hit’s before and never done a fest system with stab safe before and while I had concerns about both it did seem to work. Don’t get me wrong I still prefer locational based hit systems as I feel it’s a bit poo to die from being hit in the ankle BUT in empire it worked well and kept combat moving at a nice pace. We had 2 big battles, One you played in and one you monstered and we had 2 big skirmishes. In my mind the battles could have gone on for longer but the combat in them was fun and safe. Even monstering was fun as monsters where pretty much on player states so thy really made the players work for it. My biggest complaint with combat and the system was a lack of camp attacks, as in none… I felt this left the system feeling too safe at times however i feel that may change as the system progresses.
I am still getting my head around the magic system and to be honest as I am not a mage or priest I don’t know a lot about it however the bits I did see meant magic was great in ritual formates, making areas or people or items special and with effects and most of this was heavily role play based. It really did have a nice flow and feel to it, being very powerful but not detracting from physical combat on the battle field. The economics, trading and crafting systems also feel nice and user friendly however I am also still getting to grips with al of this. I felt PD released information about crafting a little too late really and that the information was not widely distributed with them mainly relying on there website wiki which was updated at different periods of time with no update to players when set sections went in. HOWEVER with lamies being replaced by physical props or item ribbons I felt the system had a nice feel too it and look forwards to using it more in the future.
If anything let the system down it was logistics. I think PD had too many players, or more then they counted on when they first devised the system. It’s good for the company and great fo the game world but meant there where teething problems. The queues for the GOD desk where crazy at times and there was a lot of “I don’t know” when asking game staff questions. Also I felt the site was not really suitable for that many players and think the game world will very quickly outgrow it, making the site boring unless its changed. They DID however deal with the mud better then I have seen any other large fest company deal with muddy events and had the foresight to order in mountings of wood chips which players then used to build roads all over site and help keep the ground firm. If you give players the tools they are normally happy enough to get on and fix things themselves and feel happy while doing it and this was a perfect example of tat, so well done PD.
So my closing thoughts… I LOVE the system and am really looking forward to playing in it. I feel it has the potential this year to become the UK’s biggest and main LARP system. There are some teething problems with logistics that PD will need to sort out but that will come over time and they should look at changing sites for there events. All in all however the system feels nice, flows nice and is nice to play in and I felt very happy and validated in my choice to go and play there this year over LT and CP.
This post courtesy of Adam Schemanoff
Adam can be found on Google+ – https://plus.google.com/u/0/110269856648338111774/posts