More from matt – this concerning low-status characters in Empire:

“In Empire, the game setting and rules are very much trying to empower individuals and groups of players. This is a game where you can become Empress, it’s a game where Senators pass laws, where generals command armies and where sorcerors control magic. To make those things happen, you have to empower the PCs, you have to give them meaningful abilities, skills and resources so that the setting and the characters in it make sense.

To me, when I try to create a LRP, I want the characterisation and roleplay to match up with the opportunities that the game offers. If I create a setting in which you are Conan the Barbarian – and you create a character called Conen the Barbarian. Then I feel like something has gone amiss if your character gets slaughtered in the first encounter by arrows from 50 archers “because you should have worn some armour and carried a shield you idiot”.

So when someone says “I want to play a beggar” then you have to think about what that means. Presumably, most beggars are begging because for whatever reason they don’t have any choice. Putting aside mental issues for a moment, they’re begging for the money to survive, precisely because their character lacks the skills, abilities and resources that would allow them to pass laws, command armies and wield magic.

So the rules, practically speaking, forbid players from playing beggars. Because the rules say “You have abilities, you have resources – you are a powerful, important character, you have choices, you can DO SHIT” – and the rules and the setting are doing everything possible to make that true for every character that the players are playing.

Of course players are free to ignore all these things. You can roll up at your first event and when others say “What skills do you have?”. You can say “None. I have no skills, I have never learned any useful skill that would make me valuable to society.” And when they say “Well then, do you command men? Do you own vast tracks of land? Do you own a ship or run a market town?” And you can say “No, none of those things, I’m just useless me, I have no abilities and no skills and no resources. That’s why I am begging. Can I have 2 gold please?”

But very few players choose that option, because relatively few players choose to be useless when it gains them no game advantage of any kind and when it requires you to simply turn down all the free stuff that the game organizer is trying to give you. Cudos to the people that do it (c.f. attendants in Odyssey), but it’s a very rare choice.

We will get a proportion of people who want to play “low status”. Low status is the new black and for anyone who enjoys that game it’s fantastic fun. I have played a servant in Maelstrom at a player event and had a fantastic time doing it. But if you look at the player ratios in Maelstrom – it’s not ten servants to every lord – oh no.. it’s ten lords to every servant… Servants are rare, precious, priceless, irreplaceable. A good servant is harder to get in LRP than say a poxy artefact like Excalibur or Mjolnir – they’re ten a penny – but decent servants – they’re rocking horse shit. Because very players get the fun of being low status.

The net result is that it’s perfectly possible to play a beggar in Empire – but practically speaking I do not expect many people to make that choice. And given that we’re doing everything humanly possible to find ways to empower players – then basically every game design choice we’re making makes playing a beggar “harder” for the PC. So I confidently predict that there will be a historically improbable number of beggars at the first event. There won’t be none, someone will see this post and think “I’m going to play a beggar” but it will be single figures.

I’ve no objection to people playing beggars, play what you like – knock yourself out. But we need to create a setting where what the majority of players want to play makes sense with the setting that is described. There is no point in us describing a world with beggars on every street corner… when in practice they will probably be rarer than dragons…

I have given a lot of thought to the role of servants/low status in LRP fest games and we do have some ideas about how they fit into the Empire setting, how to make them work better in-character. How the setting views them – given the fact that they are rarer than say – an artefactual weapon. At some point, much later on, we’ll do a blog post exploring the ideas of how low status fits into the game world, but we need to get the core ideas out there first. Suffice to say, there is room for it, but it’s a top-heavy world – because most players will chose to play top-dogs when given the choice.”

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Revised by Delvy @ Wed, 16 May 2012 14:33:48 +0000

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  1. Wed, 16 May 2012 14:33:48 +0000 – Delvy : Start of a brand new world [ Current ]
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