After a lot of consideration, we’ve taken the decision to overhaul the rules for armour in Empire. You can find a copy of the new rules here (https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Weapons_%26_armour#Armour).
We’ve made a number of significant changes, the most important of which is to remove the primary link between the classification of armour and its physical weight.
Under the new rules, all armour that looks like it is made of metal will count as heavy armour, regardless of what material it is actually made from or what it weighs. It will provide 4 hits (if covering enough of your body) and allow you to resist Cleave or Impale (if they hit a piece of the armour).
Any armour that looks like it is made of thick leather will count as medium armour regardless of what material it is actually from. It will provide 3 hits (if covering enough of your body), allow you to resist Cleave (if the blow hits a piece of the armour) and provide you with one additional hero point if you are not wearing any metal armour other than a helm.
Obviously this is a significant change so I want to explain why we’ve taken this step. When we created Empire, we were very conscious that heavy, bulky armour can restrict mobility and movement. We wanted to encourage the use of cool armour, because we felt it would make the game more immersive, and so we gave a significant game benefit to armour that was physically heavy. The aim was to incentivise people to wear it by offsetting the downsides the weight imposed.
It is clear to us now that that approach was fundamentally flawed. It took no account of the difficulties faced by people who can’t physically wear heavy armour for a range of reasons. We were making rules to benefit people who could choose to wear heavy armour, without any thought to how that would affect access to the game for people who can’t make that choice. The practical effect of the existing rules was to create additional barriers to participation for many players - that was a major error on our part.
Changing the rules has not been trivial, not least because a large number of our orc opponents on our battlefields use our own polyurethane breastplates - which will now be classed as heavy. We realise that that impacts characters using two-handed weapons and bows in particular, but we feel there is no way to fix the core problem at the heart of the existing armour rules without fundamentally shifting the game balance around the Impale call. We appreciate that affected players may have different views, but we believe that these calls will remain highly useful on battlefields. As a result, we’re not currently planning any changes in those areas, but we will monitor the situation carefully as the new rules bed in, to see if that view is justified in practice.
We understand that changing the rules doesn’t mean barriers to participation will disappear. Empire will still turn on hard skills, allowing characters to showcase that they’re good at fighting or performing or speaking or trading. But access to battles and skirmishes should be based on the relative fighting ability of a character rather than being primarily influenced by your OOC physical levels of fitness. We will try to improve access for everyone by continuing to develop new opportunities for players to get involved with the game.
As part of the change to the armour classifications, we’ve also introduced a new benefit to wearing medium armour - it now provides one hero point to anyone who wears it. That will be most useful to characters with heroic skills, but the rules have been clarified to make clear that any character with a hero point can use it to resist roleplaying effects on their character. The goal of this change is to encourage the use of medium armour and make it a very viable character choice - one that is comparable with wearing heavy armour. The hero point you gain reflects the boost in confidence and mobility your character gains when they put the armour on. We want to make it easier for players to wear the type of armour that fits with the kind of character they want to play.
A small benefit to wearing heavy armour remains, with the introduction of the new dreadnought skill. This is a skill you purchase when you generate your character or spend XP. It grants a character wearing steel mail or plate that is OOC heavy an extra global hit while they are wearing their armour. We’ve taken that step because we still want to provide some offset for the OOC challenges faced when wearing armour that weighs a lot. We know some players have invested time and money in heavy armour that looks fantastic and we want to support people to wear that armour if they want to. By making it a skill purchase, we believe it will provide a vastly fairer balance between those who can and can’t wear physically heavy armour than the current rules allow.
We’re aware that the new rules don’t prioritise realism, but that is not one of the design criteria for Empire. Empire isn’t a simulation, it’s a live roleplaying game, so the emphasis is on character and player choices and on creating a beautiful immersive world to roleplay in. We are also painfully aware that these rules are still flawed in some respects. For example, some suits of heavy plate are incredibly punishing to wear, while a good vest of mail can be much less encumbering. Some level of abstraction is essential to create a functioning game and that means major compromises have to be made about how we classify armour.
Because of this rules change, we are allowing players to attatch a Medium Armour ribbon to a Heavy Armour physrep for the next four events. This is intended to ensure that no-one gets blindsided by their physrep now counting as something different.
Most people will be able to drop a skill they no longer want using the website and the existing skill retraining mechanics, but if you wish to immediately drop a skill that is directly impacted by this rules change and can’t use that option then please email@example.com and they will remove the skill for you.
Hopefully this makes the thinking behind our decision clear. As always, you’re welcome to send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d like to ask that people remember to assume best faith from each other as far as possible when discussing this rules change. We know it is an imperfect solution to a difficult and ongoing set of challenges faced by many of our players. We know that some players may feel that it introduces disadvantages for them, just as it improves the game for others. Please help our moderation team by posting respectfully.