A slight change of tack - Toni is our long suffering Urizen egregore. She’s written a short piece about what an egregore is and what they do, and why they’re there to make your story cooler.
“I have a confession to make,” the Magus said, somewhat abashed.
I gestured to the shade for them to be seated. “Tell me what happened,” I suggested with what I hoped was stern sympathy.
“Well…” they began, “there was this Eternal…and let’s just say they got the better of that deal…why are you laughing?”
I tried to keep my ‘responsible NPC’ face on but I just couldn’t help myself. “Because,” I said, “you’re the third person to say that to me today, and I’ve only been in Anvil for half an hour.”
My name is Toni, and I’m an egregore. Specifically, I am (in the field at least) Menos-Theodosia, one of two hosts of the spirit of Urizen.
PD have previously published information about the role of egregores in Empire, namely this wiki page and this helpful podcast. I’m not going to rehash that information, but will follow on from the recent “how to get plot” posts by members of the game team – this time from the perspective of a field NPC.
As a brief overview, an egregore is a non-player character (NPC) who is magically bound to the spirit of their nation as a result of a ritual to keep the nations of the Empire culturally distinct. We are the repository and embodiment of our nations’ culture, customs and hearth magic, and as such, even though we’re not all mages, we all have a magical link with every citizen within that nation.
We are the beating heart of the nation – in poetic Urizen terms, the lodestar of the Net of the Heavens; the node from which all other strands flow. Each host, and each nation, plays out that dynamic slightly differently, and it’s important to remember that we are all individuals (IC and OOC) with histories, motivations, ambitions and desires just like player characters. Each of us experiences the egregore bond and the nation bond slightly differently and plays the magical aspect differently.
What does this mean for your character? Well, we’re Gandalf to your Frodo; Polgara to your Belgarion; cranberry sauce to your Christmas turkey. We are support characters with a few nifty additional skills whose job is to make your story cooler, either by giving you nudges in the right direction or providing big magical set-pieces like opening the Sentinel Gate before large battles.
We’re part of PD’s Player Support Team whose function is to engage players (new and experienced) with the game. We can help with interpretation of the cultural and costume briefs for our nations, direct you to other players who have their fingers in the pies you want to eat, direct them – and plot encounters – to you if we know you are interested in particular elements of the game, meddle in your IC love life, call a ref for your ritual, and basically help with all those little queries that arise in the field like “how many crowns to a throne?” “where are the loos?” and “help! My friend is too drunk to move.”
We also work closely with the plot team to help the stories they’ve written get told and ensure you have a starring role in them. As I mentioned before, if we know what you’re into (be it a burning ambition to meet with a particular Eternal, a gastronomic passion for the cuisine of a particular foreign nation or a deep and unhealthy wish to use a particular Big Bad Gribbly for taxidermy), when those opportunities arise we can send them your way. Many plot encounters pass by an egregore on their way to find the relevant group of players to traumatise … I mean PROVIDE WITH A QUALITY ROLEPLAY EXPERIENCE, and any number of players have “got plot” by being the person standing next to me when that happened. Also, if we know which plots have been well-received, or those which may not have gone down so well, we can feed that information back to plot writers and they can tweak what hits the field accordingly.
What this all boils down to is “talk to your egregore(s)!” Don’t feel we are too important, too busy, or too law-abiding to warrant paying attention to you and your schemes. We want to know what makes your character tick, what floats their boat and what they want to achieve – because we’re here to help them achieve it. People tell us many things, so we’re a great source of information about what’s happening within the nation and occasionally gossip from outside it. If you want to get more into the game, come and ask one of us what’s going on. The only thing I love more about being an egregore than tea, cake and a good natter with players is wine, cake and a good natter with players. And ballgowning. I’m an inveterate ballgowner.
On a note of seriousness, there are things you can do to make the egregore experience work for you: first and foremost, don’t assume that we are slot machines that you can put requests/cake into and plot falls out. PD games are player-directed and require in-the-field legwork from characters. We can hook you into the game, but we can’t make game for you. Ask us what’s going on, if we know about situation X, or what our opinion is of the latest fashion for open-fronted battle-robes, but not “where’s the plot?”
Secondly, remember that NPCs are people too. We won’t favour particular groups or characters, but we will naturally gravitate towards places where there is warmth/shade, comfortable seats and people wanting to engage in conversation. Several Urizen Spires realised early on in year 1 that they could pretty much summon me by putting the kettle on – just sayin’.
On the subject of conversation, we are happy to provide a listening ear when things go wrong, to escalate complaints to the right members of PD crew (up to and including Matt P) and to help you find a resolution. We do this because we genuinely want you to have a good time at Empire events and most of us feel responsible if you don’t – even if that’s nothing to do with us personally. Like all PD volunteers, we do this without expectation of reward or recognition, but a “thank you” never goes amiss. However, getting home to find your name and that of the organisation blackened all over Facebook because you couldn’t give people the answers/plots they wanted really shakes the confidence in a role where you need to project confidence. It’s not OK, so please don’t.
And lastly – egregores are not leaders and there are few occasions where we will seek the limelight or have to make use of it. Gate opening ceremonies are one of those times, when we highlight the otherworldliness of the Sentinel Gate and give the heroes of our nations a rousing send-off before battle. Unfortunately, at recent events we’ve been shouted over by military personnel giving last-minute speeches, crowded right up to the Gate and in my case, trampled over by an entire nation (while 6 months pregnant OOC) who could not wait for the ritual to finish. Sure, we may be show-boating, but we’re doing it for you, so sit back, give us space and enjoy the show.
That’s about it from me – I hope this has helped shed some light on the role of our somewhat motley fellowship, and look forward to chatting with you in a field soon.
One of the things the egregores do is open the Sentinel Gate for their nation to go on battles - this is a goregeous picture of Toni doing just that, taken by Beth form the perspective of the poor, doomed orc barbarians.