How do you make an Empire group?

Empire is a big game but it’s certainly a lot less intimidating if you’ve got a few friends playing in a group with you. But what are the best ways to set up a group? What are the things you’d recommend thinking about when building a group? What are the pitfalls to watch out for? And what are the best ways to avoid them? What’s the best way to stay mates OOC?

So anyone who’s ever helped set up a group at Empire, tell us how you went about it and what you learned.

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This is a tough question! I’ve only every played in small groups of OC friends, so this is just what is falling out of my head based on that.

  • People have different RP styles. What one might consider dull (e.g. IC cooking) another might find a great part of the their game… but don’t assume someone will like a particular role, or that they haven’t changed their minds once they’ve been doing it a while.
  • There are some jobs everyone usually hates (e.g. washing up, tidying up litter, porting water, collecting firewood). Agree in advance what these chores are and how to divvy them up fairly if you can.
  • Be prepared to talk about money, both OC and IC. Sometimes an equal contribution isn’t a fair contribution, either because of a difference in incomes or a difference in how much the money is used. Some people may prefer to throw money at problems, others can do the same but with time. If half the group buy their beautiful matching emblazoned kit and expect the rest to do the same when they have less disposable income, say, that could cause resentment or friction.
  • Talk OC about how you can support each other on the field. That might be giving someone OC space of an afternoon, or walking with them to a task they are finding daunting, or taking notes during something important.
  • Have group goals, but have individual goals too. It’s boring following after someone as they tick off group goals. Spread the game between you, and aim high!

There is way more than this but it’s a start…

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Delegate!

For bigger groups this is essential

Sort out who is the OOC organiser, make sure they delegate also especially if you are planning to do group food, bring and kit out a group tent etc.

Sort out who is the IC head - probably not the same person as above, and make sure they know who is wanting to do what IC in the field if people have particular goals, or areas they want to look at.

Keep track of who offered to do what OOC or IC, and be prepared to be flexible if someone’s health doesn’t agree with the weather or someone suddenly gets elected to something that’s very busy.

Communication is key.

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My first Empire group I didn’t know anyone else on start-up, although a few others knew each other.

Having recruited online, there was a meeting about many of the above issues a couple of months before Empire started.

Issues covered included, yes, IC and OOC leader/organisers, and a sliding scale of OOC contributions: basically we asked everyone to be able to make some sort of contribution to the group, in terms of cash, or transporting things, or props, or effort. My part, for example, was transporting our IC group tent (a large burgundian), and supervising the pitching and striking thereof, but paying for the hire of it was done out of group funds. Others volunteered to do plenty of set dressing, or cooking, or even just able to throw in more cash.

We sat down and discussed such froth as where we were in setting, previous links to established history, and group symbol. I remember I got carried away and produced a map of our lands and last years tax roll in the style of the Domesday book…

Slightly to my (Why are we bothering with this?) there was a long discussion on the level of loyalty to the group. This resulted in a setting of “knives out at start” (ie, knives outwards from the group, all loyal to the group and not going to turn on each other, able to be altered through play).

(Other options were “knives out permanantly”, so that no-one ever betrayed the group, or “knives in”, so we’d start with internal PVP)

This is probably a good idea to agree, OOC, before play starts and characters are generated. Because you don’t want to find out 3 events in that your group priest is having you all executed as heretics so that he can inherit the family castle, and they’ve been planning this since day 1, and don’t know why you’re so angry about it OOC…On the other hand, you don’t want a character locked into loyalty to the group even if IC events leave her feeling betrayed and wronged and slightly murderous, but unable to act on these IC feelings due to OOC agreements.

What it boils down to is:

  1. Make sure everyone agrees on what sort of game they want to play
  2. Make sure everyone knows and agrees on their group contributions, in various forms.
  3. Plan a few things in advance, including a starting group objective, costume guidelines, and similar.
  4. Ensure everyone has some media to keep in touch OOC, whether email, facebook, phone numbers, or so on. This allows for messages like “I can’t make it, can someone else supply tent?” or “If I bring a BBQ, will you lot eat it?”

Just my 2 rings, hope that helps…

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Decide on your level of group aims vs independent goals. Do you have a common purpose or are you a loose association of people who will back each other up but not have any grand plan?

Decide on your level of OC organisation and investment in kit and props. I’ve played a group where everyone chipped cash in for food, props and the IC pub, and a group where we have no expectations of anyone bringing or doing anything beyond what they need themselves.

Have a strong group brief and write down what it is. This helps people stay on the same page with costumes, goals, etc. Think of some IC rules or traditions, these are great for developing a sense of identity. Try to make a costume brief that’s easy to meet unless you all want to go wild with kit. For example, a colour palette and obvious group heraldry go a long way. Ours is “dark blues, greys or blacks, maybe greens” and “big obvious monastery crest on a tabard, chasuble, stole or something”

Support each other OC. Check everyone is having fun, and they they are getting what was promised out of the group.

Decide on your recruiting policy. Do you need to have a new member approved by all current members? What is an acceptable reason for declining someone? Will you tell people why they have been declined? Unless your entire group is a bunch of mates sitting down and planning it, you need to know how you’ll resolve “No I just don’t get on with that person”.

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As stated above, the direction of knives and how negotiable that is is a good thing to nail down.

@Iulian What does ‘direction of knives’ mean? I can’t find any reference to it online as a phrase?

“Knives Out” means we don’t want heavy IC internal conflict in the group.
“Knives In” means we’re totally ok with internal conflict up to and including killing each others characters.

They’re broad bush statements, it’s good to talk OOC about how you want IC conflict and disagreements handled in the group so you’re all on the same page and have the same expectations.

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Get all the OOC stuff sorted first
Decide and agree on the basics Nation, name of group, type of group.
OOC agree what the group is there to achieve this can be as simple as just providing an IC space for characters on the field to being an elite group of performing mimes who will dominate the empire and only communicate in interpretive dance.
Decide on OOC logistics if required. Do you need to have an IC camp? who is responsible for it? how are you transporting it? How are all your group members getting there? What kit do you need?
Decide if you will be recruiting IC or just keeping it as a group for your mates.
Do you have a look and feel for your group? is that look in keeping with the costume brief for the nation you’re playing?
How are you going to display your group identity? are you all buying the same bit of iconic costume? is it a sash or a brand on your face and OOC how are you getting it all?

As above the decision of if you want internal PVP is important
Is everyone OK with the roles within the group? the IC group leader needs to be prepared to make decisions in the game.

From there it’s more about how involved you want to be. Some groups are so organised that they break out in a nasty case of spreadsheets and flow charts in managing the group. You have an artisan that can make items A, B and C and to make those they need resources X, Y and Z so in order to have enough we need this many people with this type of resource. and then repeat for rituals, lore, potions etc.
How far you go in this is up to you some people love having everything planned out and some enjoy having to make things happen.
Manage your expectations of what you expect your members to do in game with regard to how much autonomy each character has. Do you expect all your mages to drop everything to do a ritual at 6 every night? Are you intending to do the uptime battles as a unit or just tag along with the rest of the nation?

In the end it’s up to you how you want the group to be but pretty much everything here is worth considering well before your first event.

What Mark said. If you’re playing House of Cards, it’s good to know if your character’s best mates expect OOC to be sold out and backstabbed.

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Hard work, often without recognition due to what goes off ‘behind the scenes’ but it is worth it when it all comes together IC at the events