Creating characters in a group (Character Creation Week)

One of the best ways to enjoy Empire is to create your characters together as part of your IC group.

So tell us how you went about creating your characters together and how you created your group background for your nation of choice? Come to think of it tell us how you managed to chose the nation you ended up in as well for your group as it’s often tricky to get everyone to agree on one.

I tend to come up with the skeleton of a character and then pitch it around a few groups I know to see if he’ll fit. Brother Martin was “I want to play a Monk who does theology!” and I got talking to a couple of groups to see if they wanted a new Monk. Then I stuck winter magic to the character because my partner was playing a Winter Landskeeper and I wanted an excuse to be an old buddy of hers.

So it tends to be

  • What do I want to play next?
  • Who do I want to play with next?
  • Do I need to change anything about this PC to fit there?
  • Has someone suggested I could join their group? If so, what could I do there?

My next PC is likely to be an Ambition-dedicated Right Hand Man For Hire. He’s either going to be a Highborn Unconquered or (more likely) a Navarri Guide. I’ve asked a couple of groups if they’re okay with me joining them as this concept, meaning I can hit the ground running if my current PC gets killed or I get bored of him. The kit’s similar, with the major difference being that the Unconquered will have a solid blue top layer and the jewellery will be different.

A previous PC came out of “Oh, you died, that sucks. Want to come join us? Okay yeah sure… do you need a Bishop?” And then I went away and came up with a Bishop idea for next event and borrowed some extra kit to try it out.

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[disclaimer: there is not just one true way. But this is mine and I really believe in it]

For me, designing your group is the most important part of the character creation process - much more than designing your individual character. My preferred method is to meet up with my friends away from an event and talk over our ideas, as between us they will get refined and we can work out the best way to get the most fun out of our events.

What usually happens (with the mates I most often do this with) is that we all take it in turns to pitch ideas and see which ones really appeal to us. Maybe someone will say something and someone else will pick up on a detail and say ‘hey, we could do that, but push it harder’. Often we will discard an idea that initially seemed promising because we realise it doesn’t have the potential we first thought - being willing to do this is vital.

Once we have got some ideas to mull over, the first thing we do is test them with key questions. Number one is ‘what will we do at events?’ This kills lots of bad ideas stone dead.

For example, I often see people pitch ideas for groups based on what they will do on the battlefield. But battles are three hours (and maybe a skirmish) of a long weekend. If you don’t know what you are doing the rest of the time, your concept isn’t working well enough yet. So you could say ‘we’ll be League mercenaries’ and I will be instantly bored. If you say '‘we’ll be League mercenaries who go round the bars starting brawls with each other, but are secretly using this as a cover to gain political support for having Siroc become a fifth League city’ then suddenly you have my interest, because that is enough to fill many events with fun.

Your group should have a strong sense of identity of its own (which you can reinforce through consistent costume, but that is a whole other topic). You know you have really made it when someone meets one of your group for the first time and instantly has some preconceptions. If someone backs away from your Varushkan ritualist for fear you will curse them the moment they hear your coven name, you are winning, just as much as if someone assumes you must be glorious because they hear which Dawnish noble house you belong to. Having a reputation is really cool, and it is a load easier to do at a fest larp as a group than as one person. Out of 2000+ people on the field there are hundreds trying to be known as badass fighters (and hardly any of them are well known), but I could name you far more groups with a reputation for being nails. That applies to pretty much any type of character/group.

On that basis, agree amongst yourselves that you will create characters that reinforce that identity. If you all decide to play Brass Coast hakima, it’ll fall flat if half the group decide that they want to be the one exception who is a corsair.

Common pitfalls that I would recommend you avoid:

  1. Many people will design a character, then look for a group. This often goes wrong, as the character is rarely a perfect fit. Often a very bad one. If you join an existing group, make a character that fits in, rather than expecting them to adapt for you.
  2. Sometimes a single player comes up with a group in isolation and then looks for other players to join them. This can work, but IME you find that one players feels like they have ownership of the concept and is not open to discussion. That leads to people second guessing themselves in play as to whether they are ‘doing it right’.

…and another thing.
Pretty much every group I have a hand in creating has a series of OC rules that we all agree to abide by. Experience has shown us that this can be valuable for making sure that we all share an understanding of how we want to play the game. Some common rules which we might use include:

  1. Stick around for the consequences. This rule is because we often play controversial characters, but we believe in fair play. So if we do something naughty, we won’t just retire our characters and sod off so no-one can touch us.
  2. It is OK to cause trouble. We often make this explicit so no-one worries that they will upset other players if their character does something. So if an angry mob turns up, drags us in front of the magistrates and we all get executed because of something you did, we will be OK with that. You created a dramatic scene, and even if our characters might be angry, the players are not.
  3. Better to regret something you did than something you didn’t. This is kind of one of my rules for larp in general, but including it in your group rules acts as a suggestion that the group is in favour of exciting shenanigans, even if they were ill-advised and rash. Some random eternal offers you the thing you want in exchange for an unspecified favour which we will all owe them? The champion duellist in Wintermark challenges you to a fight because you spilled her pint? Rock on - we are all here for that.
  4. New members often need to be approved by existing members by some mechanism. There are loads of ways to operate this, but my preferred one is an open and honest discussion. For example, if someone doesn’t want you to invite their ex-boyfriend to the group, that seems like a fair thing to ask. Or maybe they just really don’t enjoy roleplaying with a particular person. But allowing people to talk over prospective new members before you invite them can save you headaches later.

There are loads of other rules you can choose to use, but those are some of my favourites, because they make it clear to everyone who joins the group later what kind of people they are with and what they can expect. If your rules strongly imply that you are maverick loose cannons who will leap into trouble, someone who wants to play safe and keep their character for ten years might want to think twice. Or vice versa. As with everything in life, clear communication is OP.