Empire (Third thoughts…)

So another year, another try of PD’s Empire, the general upshot of which is this time I left feeling a lot more positive about the game and the system than I have before – this is the first time I’ve left wishing I was going to the next event rather than thinking “I’ll wait till next year…” (I can’t – I’m cycling a stupid distance for charity within two weeks and will be deep in last minute training & panic mode).

As before I’m going to go through the issues I raised previously, although pretty much all of them have been resolved. The game seems to have matured quite quickly; it no longer feels like a placeholder game but something else, more distinct and with a definite flavour.

Previous Concerns…
– For all of the money that has (undoubtedly) been spent on the IC infrastructure, not getting the OOC toilets right smacks a little bit of misplaced priorities. I work on building sites and the toilets were quite frankly worse than anything I’ve encountered in the building industry. This really needs to be sorted out.
It has been – oh good God it has been. Yes, there were the occasional queues, but for the most part the facilities were pleasant to use, although I still think there could be a bit of mileage in having dedicated make-up facilities. I didn’t see the disabled facilities, but everything seemed a lot more accessible despite the generally poor state of the ground. As a sign of how much this has been sorted I can’t recall seeing a single Red-Cap having to clean out the stalls. God and the other Admin tents are almost invisible to view (the joys of a large hedge) but still readily accessible (and God remains a joy to deal with, you walk in and are almost walking out straight away).

Even the sites mud problem seemed to not be a problem – although how much the traders trying to get off site after the event thought this I’m unsure – probably down to me buying some better boots!

– There are some things you can turn a blind eye too, cut-off jeans and modern tee-shirt aren’t one of them. Whilst the general levels of costuming have improved greatly, the worse elements of costume have got worse. Yes, I understand that PD are trying to be inclusive, but there are times when they need to step in and comment as to what’s acceptable.
Not once seen on the IC field, even when the weather was pretty crappy on the Sunday and people were trying to get tents down early – very much appreciated and a sign of how much the system & settings matured. Each nation now has it’s own look whilst still feeling part of an overall Empire (although I’m still less than convinced of the direction of the Brass Coast, although that may be a personal flavour thing).

– The various nations going to war are brilliant, but for all the time that appears to have been spent creating a different look for each nation seems to have disappeared on the battlefield as everyone metals up to get the immunities. There didn’t seem to be much individuality to nations on the battlefield, perhaps something like the Navarr getting the immunity to Impale from Medium Leather Armour (without gaining the extra universal hit point) would address this and play to the supposed strengths of each nation –although how you’d balance this I’m unsure.
Time seems to have sorted this as people have had time to sort out gear and costume to the extent that there doesn’t seem to be a need to back this up mechanically. It’s more noticeable when you’re monstering than when you’re on the field yourself, but it does look fantastic.

– Site Set-out. I understand that putting all of the general areas in the centre makes a degree of sense logistically, but I wonder if spreading things out would lead to people getting to now other nations more? Put the Arena on the edge of the field next to the Orc Encampment, the Senate opposite the gate and surrounded by High Guard – break things up so it feels more like a living, breathing place than a series of camps around an unsupported town in the centre. Make people use the whole of the field to access the various IC services.
The new venue seems to have sorted this (although I do miss how peaceful the woodland could be), adding a bit of terrain to the main field and splitting up the traders does a lot. Separating the showcase buildings means that the whole camp feels a little more special.
Keeping the battlefield separate works stylistically, but I wonder what it would be like if the enemy raided the camp (difficult to set up logistically and potentially problematic with children around) instead of being encountered?

– Likewise, the woods are big enough that a section could be opened up to players for use throughout the day. Even a small section could lead to secretive meetings, a spot of murder and the like. They don’t need to be monstered, they just need to have a small bit accessible.
The woods are gone (*sniff*), but the positives of the rest of the site far outweigh their loss.

– The IC economy needs balancing a little, festival prices have always been a bug bear with festival LARP and now there’s a civil service some sort of sense needs to be applied so that trading doesn’t become the default for anyone who wants to get anywhere. Players will vote with their wallets, and I’m aware that this isn’t something everyone has comments on.
Trading (and by extension construction) don’t seem to dominate the game as far as I can tell, and festival prices are less of an issue. The game appears to be managing itself nicely in this regards with people being brought to task if they’re trying to gouge people (the sin of profiteering seems to go a long way to resolving this).

– I miss the PvP. Not being constantly gate-camped is great, but outside of the battle field there feels very little threat. Assassins working for the barbarians targeting dangerous individuals, orc sympathisers, all of these could add colour to the game. Yes, it’s still PvE, but it could be used to generate PvP.
I’m beginning to see the PvP aspect of the game more clearly, it’s not overt but it is present. You’re less likely to get stabbed in the back than before, but lots of nasty things can still happen to you. Getting a bad reputation in game can be very damaging (as it should be…)

– The group I’m with are all genuinely lovely people. LARP can be made or broke by the group you’re with and this seems to be the right group. Felt welcomed by everyone and looking forward to seeing them all again.
They’re still lovely people and the thing that keeps on bringing me back to the game.

– PD seem to have struck the potential of gold again. I say potential as there are a few rough corners that still need working, but this looks like a promising start. Given that it’s only two events old, the system seems robust enough for very little to be changed.
Two years and a bit of growth seems to have matured the game significantly, it feels fleshed out and complete with little in the way of “background plot” getting in the way. The rough edges seem to have been worked away and everything seems very well balanced. Even if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to be or get involved in, there’s plenty for you to do.

– Monstering is great fun. I’m sorely tempted to get myself my own mask (the PD ones are fine, but it would make life a little more pleasant) and do two or three turns of monstering on a day. I’ll certainly be getting a bit of monster ready kit for the next time to differentiate (perhaps PD should make a note of this somewhere so that new players are aware).
It’s still great fun (and I still need to sort out my own kit…)

Overall, I’m far more positive about returning to the game than I’ve been before – I really, really enjoyed it this time and I’ll hopefully be able to do more events next year.

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