Hello, Clare from PD Player Support here.
I’m back from an unexpected absence from being useful following a car crash, the plague and then Christmas. I won’t say I’m firing on all cylinders yet but I’m back and wanted to start with a topic we’ve had a lot of discussion and debate about.
Costume and kit standards (https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Costume)
Other relevant pages are the costume guides for the individual nation pages and the costume advice page on the wiki. The costume advice page is really useful as it links to the nation costume wiki pages, has pattern links, trader links and all sorts of good stuff. There is also a Look and Feel page for each nation which links from their individual nation front page. Yes the wiki can be a pain, but it’s evolving slowly!
This is what I feel the most important phrase on the wiki regarding costume and kit is -
“What we want for Empire is for every player to agree to try their best - but for no player to ever feel embarrassed that their best effort is not good enough.”
The concept of the Empire is that 10 culturally distinct nations came together for mutual support and defence and that each brought something valuble to the table by their distinct culture and views. This was deemed necessary for the continued viability for the Empire and the Egregores were created to encourage and support the cultural difference.
From an out of character point of view having 10 different looking nation is way cool and having them all have reasons to squabble and preen is much more fun than a stable status quo!
Which brings us to kit and standards. We want our game to look amazing and feel amazing to play in. No one starts a character or a game with all the kit they want and that is fine! No one has all they want in real life either and we constantly acquire and expand. This is what we want from people with their characters too. To add and develop their kit as they go. Maybe an upgraded waistcoat, maybe looking at someones Suaq coat and realising you have a mate who could paint animals on yours for you, maybe getting inspired to learn a new craft or spotting the perfect piece of jewellery in a charity shop! What we do want straight away is people to think about the setting and their nation brief and what is appropriate and tailoring their kit choices to that. Yes, those beautiful pastel robes are gorgeous, for your future Urizen character but maybe not for your current Highborn!
There’s a series of items which are basically on a prohibited list, because they are out of period for the setting and look we are aiming for. These are on the wiki but sometimes they’ll have to be searched for! I’ll add it onto my list of jobs to chase Andy for! These include things like corsets, tricorn hats and frock coats.
Everyone has a particular thing that they think isn’t appropriate and makes them cringe when they see it (Mine is shemaghs!) which brings us to critiquing other peoples kit. Don’t be an ass about it! It’s against the rules and no one wants to start a game feeling like they’re behind before they even get there. However if advice is asked for go for it and help! If you’re genuinely concerned drop PD an email and we’ll try to help too.
Mostly what I’m trying to say is that Aspirational Kit isn’t meant to be a thing to beat people or yourself up about. It’s meant to be a thing that encourages you to improve and develop your kit as and when you can. If you’ve tried then we’re happy! If you’re not perfect at your first event that’s also fine! We’re 6 years in and people are still developing and changing their kits for characters they’ve played over all that time.
So in conclusion:
Nation briefs important!
Costume important and something that evolves over time
Help is out there
Be excellent to one another
Happy New Year
I think a few new players may get put off when they see experienced players telling someone else that some kit they are planning is not good enough. An important thing to note is whether we are telling someone what they could find in time/budget isn’t good enough, or whether we are complaining about them making an effort to buy something specially for a character which is way off-brief. It’s usually the latter. There are very few people who whine at new players about genuinely the best they could do, and those who do are Wrong.
I have/do use a shemagh but for the battles, much easier than hats/helmet, and they were worn in the medieval period by crusaders, just 'riding around, they have been used from the first 1000yrs BCE, so originally have no religious connotations.
Can fashion evolve (as long as it does not roll into another nations brief?
Unfortunately the wearing of shemaghs has a tendency to blur the distinctions between nations, if everyone from various nations are wearing them then they start to look more alike. Which is why the costume briefs are distinctive and draw clear lines between the nations.
I’m not sure about evolve, but the briefs certainly can get “coloured in” by what players do. But that’s working with the brief.
I would rather see someone who is slightly off brief (as long as it does not cross into another nation brief, that someone who has wasted money on kit they don’t need, of ‘fancy dress level kit’.
e.g. The Dawnish Brief if Metal armour, but if someone only has leather (maybe from a previous character) then I have no issue at all, provided they look dawnish (surcoats, bright colours etc).
That’s a good example, except that the Dawnish brief isn’t metal armour. it is more like “fancy looking leather or metal armour if you have it, and are a knight”
From that page:
- Most knights wear the most flamboyant armour they can afford,… Some will wear mail, some with plated reinforceent, and some a full harness…
- High quality leather armour mimics the form of plate.
- Leather armour is common in Dawn, and is often worn by yeofolk and knights-errant. It should range from simple protection to something designed to look as stunning as possible.
Two major distinctions between Dawn and the Marches are that Dawnish armour is often designed to be ornate, and Dawn doesn’t promote padded armour.
Which is, I guess a major reason why PD want to keep down open criticism. There’s a lot of people who didn’t notice a corner of the brief that didn’t apply to them. Or promoted their own “brief” based upon just the bits they liked. Playing in the marches, we used to have some problem players who did that, but they seem to have left.
very well said
missing a [Mod Hat]
Nope, just from my personal opinion and that I’m a Empire keener who’s read the wiki a lot more than is probably healthy . Hopefully we’ll get some extra content on the wiki along the lines of the corsets page at some point.
Shemaghs are mentioned on the Brass Coast kit (as less on-brief than a tagelmust) but not on the general kit page. It’s along the line of ‘these are pretty modern and don’t fit with the Empire setting’, a bit like corsets. They’ve also got quite a modern military aesthetic about them which I think the game doesn’t want to encourage.
Shemaghs are NOT modern they date back over 1000 yrs in the middle east/Arabia, just a point of history it is thought it originated in the Mesopotamia/Sumaria region
I think those associations are important to consider. If I were to guess, I would say that maintaining distinct cultural identities / aesthetics kind of trumps historical accuracy. In the same way, a tricorn is not far off League fashions (roll up the other two sides of the newer-style league hat†) but it’s associated with the wrong place and time. Heck, you can make a case for denim dungarees from what I recall, but that still doesn’t mean they would not seriously confuse the costume brief.
† As a wearer of that ‘pinned up on one side’ style, I am hoping that the tacit approval / resignation continues.
While the origin point of shemaghs may be more historical, the modern form is very much associated with 20th and 21st century military, paramilitary and political elements that mean they generally are strikingly out of place for many people. They also pull from the costume/fashion origins of a specific nation and therefore are less than ideal for most other nations costumes, even if one were to ignore the modern impression they often provide.
Yes, also Empire isn’t trying exclusively for realism or historical accuracy. It’ll take them when that makes the costume look good, but it also wants to look like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and many other films and TV shows. Which is why Shemaghs, which have a lot of modern associations, aren’t something the costume briefs recommend.
So I am a fairly experienced roleplayer and I adore costuming. One of my big loves is really getting stuck into a nation or lineage brief (in Empire). I really like playing on brief and doing costuming to fit that. And here’s why:
So in the real world we know that not everybody wears the same thing and people from different countries - especially European and Wetsern countries- often dress pretty much alike. There can be some regional or national differences usually due to climate as much as anything but we vary a lot. But you see that’s because in real life we have a lot more time and many more indicators to rely on to learn about a person. Also in real life (and I try not to get too political here) knowing exactly where somebody is from and basing our behaviour on that is for most people Simply Not On.
In a LARP it’s different. National identity in Empire is a big deal and a core part of the game. Being able to tell where other people are from and in turn them identifying you, is important. We are also all playing brand new out of the box characters. Even those with extensive backstories nobody has actually ever met them. We are dealing with looks, terms, history, politics and identity which our characters should be intimately familar with but our real life brains aren’t. So we have to create short cuts and cue cards. One of the best ways of doing that is through costume and how you look. Being able to look at a battlefield and say “that group is from X nation and that other group is from Y nation” is a big thing (and sometimes a matter of life and death for your character).
So sticking to costume briefs, making sure you have a look that fits the basic description and crucially doesn’t contain elements that don’t fit in the world or belong to a different nation (unless that is specifically a part of your character, for instance somebody from the Brass Coast who has joined Highguard may still have a tendency to wear layered scarves even with their black robes) can make for easier characterisation and easier smoother roleplay, especially if you are newer to the game.
That doesn’t mean your kit has to be super fancy or expensive. You don’t have to spend hours labouring over a sewing machine if you can’t or don’t want to. But getting a few basic items in appropriate shapes and colours is well worth taking the time to do.
I usually split “making/acquiring kit” into a triangle of Time/money/skill. If you are lacking one you usually need to invest in at least one of the others. For example I am skint. I have little money. However, I can sew a little bit and I do have time so I can spend some time and effort putting pieces together. If you don’t have money or skill but you still have time then the making process may go slower but if you give yourself the time you can usually create something. (for what its worth due to CFS/ME it can take me weeks to make something that other makers can make in a weekend - i have to invest time). If you really don’t have time or skill then you will have to spend some money, but you can keep that spending low if you need to by picking up things second hand. You can of course combine the elements - make some things buy other. Buy something cheap and plain and use some time or skill to embellish or alter it.
The ultimate goal is that your kit should help to sell your character and bring them to life. Costume that tells a story about who you are or shows off your nation or some element of your characters personality stands in for the fact that we don’t actually have years to get to know each other IC and have to roleplay that yeah sure me and Jim are best buddies, known each other for years, travelled all over together when in reality, this is the first time the characters have been played.