Following some discussion with members of the larp community about establishing and communicating expectations about games, the Embers GMs offer this as a statement of our intentions for the campaign. We hope this will help people to prepare for and approach Embers productively.
A statement of intent for ‘Embers’:
Embers is a game with an overall co-operative goal (essentially saving the world). However, we expect characters to disagree about how to go about that. Player characters will not necessarily all have the same goals.
Player characters may attack or hinder each other, and there are things in the game to facilitate this. However, the overall success of the player characters does not require dominance. Rather, it’s about choices.
Character death is not expected to be common, and the game is designed to offer many non-death alternatives for player characters in conflict with each other. When death does occur, it is expected to be significant, and the choice to kill any character (PC or NPC) should be a meaningful one.
Player characters are not treated as ‘heroic’ - that is, the story does not err on the side of these characters succeeding or coming out looking good. Embers focuses less on heroism and more on shades of grey; every choice should have downsides, every commitment should cost a character something, and things are not necessarily what they seem. There is scope for player characters to change the world, but there will often be consequences or sacrifices needed, and neither players nor characters will necessarily know whether they are making the ‘right’ choices. Dealing with complications, dilemmas or mistakes is intended to be a theme and should challenge characters.
Player characters will frequently be operating without full knowledge of the situations or forces they are interacting with. More can be discovered in the course of the game, depending on what players pursue. Players should set their own goals for their characters based on what they know or believe, and GM plot should complicate these or provide opportunities to pursue them. Plot should be open-ended and responsive to player input, direction and decisions.
GMs will not be writing personal plot in the sense of plot directed towards specific characters, using backstory NPCs etc. Our goal is to write so that every plot sent out can be interacted with by anyone who engages with it, even if it is more relevant to some backgrounds or skill sets than others. If something from a character’s backstory appears, it will be as part of the world and won’t necessarily go to that character.
The exception to the above is covenant ‘plot’ or missions, which may be directed at specific members of covenants. This is intended to be separate from the ‘main’ plot of the game and largely contained within (or between) covenants. Membership in a covenant will generally also entail obligations and may cause complications.
There is no structured downtime system. Players may tell GMs what their characters intend to pursue between games, but this will not have impact on the story or setting until the next live game.
Choices in (or in the wake of) one session, however, can be expected to have an impact on the next in many cases.
In summary, core principles of Embers include:
- story hinges on choices
- everything has costs
- not black or white but shades of grey