So, I’m back from the first Empire game of 2015, and the last as my old character.

The past year hasn’t been good to him, and I’d given him a last chance this time to try some more things. However, a combination of mud, consequently poor turnout and a few other things has meant that I couldn’t get this character retired soon enough.

I knew things were off to a bad start when I tried making chocolates for The League’s Masquerade of the Reaper festival. I’d made chocolates before with no problem (once I got the recipe right), so this time I decided to try adding a cream filling, flavoured with Grenadine syrup to add a fruity flavour and red tinge to simulate those “bloody skulls” we had as kids.

The cream tasted amazing; very sweet. Trying to add the chocolate topping, however, didn’t go so well.

Adding the extra chocolate didn’t go well. I even ran out when I got to the last one

The resulting chocolates, once out of the fridge. I needed to wrap them in foil to hold them together

Having still got positive feedback from others, and that I should bring them anyway, I shrugged and packed them away to head off to the new site for E9.

Mud, mud, not-so-glorious mud

We’d heard the weather was bad that weekend, but nothing could have prepared us for the quagmire that was the new site. As I walked with one player across the field on Thursday, I asked if it reminded him of a certain other event last year (namely E6, or “MudFest 2014” as some are¬†calling it). Despite the number of tents flooded out that event, we quickly found ourselves preferring the mud then to the mud now.

Vehicles getting stuck in the mud was a startlingly common occurrence this event.

Players walking through the mud on Thursday. This was how bad it was for most of the weekend.

Because of this, player turnout was quite low; those with no special need to be there didn’t go, and who could blame them?

I did need to go because I knew by then it would be my character’s last time there, and I needed to tie up loose ends. However, the mud had a draining influence on my already “blah” mood that weekend; walking any distance took real effort as the mud was reluctant to release our feet. The chocolates therefore didn’t get sold – but they did at least get eaten ūüôā

Drummers get double pay

My final hope with my character’s group was to offer services as a battle mage for the¬†mercenaries, but even that didn’t work out. Instead, I was given a chance to drum for another group fighting for someone else; having been given the all-clear from that group’s leader, I jumped at the chance – and got my first glimpse of mercenary life.

I was given two assignments; the first (below, left) was an escort job, the second (below, right) was for battle the next morning.

Empire E9 HaugagenButcherJob
Line inspection by the person who hired us to escort him to an auction.

E9 Ready For Battle
Waiting to go into battle, kitted up with mage armour and huge battle drum.

Now, I’m not really a fighter. I have zero sword-fighting skills, although I was considering learning. As we went into battle, I soon decided that it was just as well. The whole environment of running around, hoping you don’t get killed, and the macho attitude that follows the soldiers out of battle isn’t my thing at all.

On the plus side, I found that a battle drum makes a good arrow shield. Looking down on one occasion, I got a shock at finding an arrow embedded in the drum. I was half-hoping the character would die in battle, giving him a better ending than just packing up and heading off, although in-character, survival instincts kicked in and I spent most of the time dodging arrows.

Of all the things I’d hoped to do but couldn’t – for whatever reason – this event, there was one thing I absolutely needed to do and had the perfect opportunity to do so.

Setting a course for far away shores

I’d got disillusioned with the League as early as my second event, but moving my current character was a daunting prospect considering how he’d been set up.¬†Having got a feel for the different nations over the last year, I was taken with the Brass Coast¬†– even more so on reading the brief – and as my character continued to get foiled whenever he tried to do something useful, I decided the best course of action was to start with a completely new one, this time originating in the Coast rather than needing to move. Having been inspired by a few people/places on what that character could be, my next course of action was to do something that I should have done in the first place: talking with different groups to find a good fit for my new character, and maybe get more concrete ideas for what they could do.¬†I’d started that during E7, although the time wasn’t right as I was feeling pretty low; I did at least get more insider info on how it’s played.

I had a vague idea of what I wanted. Autumn ritualist, possibly Artisan or Apothecary; couldn’t decide which. I had a pretty good idea how the Coast was run; I also knew that this time I’d choose the Cambion lineage, rather than the Changeling that was my current character. As I mentioned to someone when discussing this new character prospect, all I needed now was an excuse to slip away to the Coast to meet with people.

Ironically, this was one thing that went right for me this event: a chance to get to the Coast was dropped in my lap, not once but twice.

One benefit of doing work with this group of people, was getting invited to a night out at their favourite watering hole – a paradour in the Brass Coast. When the others dispersed, I just hung around and started chatting to a few people; one in particular was throwing all sorts of ideas my way, including one or two I hadn’t thought of.

The next night, a chance conversation with one of the men directed me to a family I’d seen before, who run auctions at the main tavern. I was sent to ask for a particular song, and ended up spending most of the evening with them. I explained my intentions of playing a new Freeborn character, we discussed options and how the family works, we had a good laugh – and I was sold.

I didn’t have high hopes for Empire¬†9 purely because I knew that, unless a miracle happened, this would be my last event as a male Changeling who wasn’t getting anywhere. Instead, I took inspiration from various places to come up with something that, hopefully, will be a lot more fun to play next time.


Photo credits: Tom Garnett, Jo Perridge, Paul Venner