Part 2: Creating A Group Concept
When you book for an event you’ll notice that the form asks about your “group”. Oddly however there’s little or no mention of the concept anywhere in the Player’s Handbook. The reference on the booking form is a legacy from earlier rules editions but has diminished in importance as more recent versions have tended to focus increasingly on individual characters. In spite of this groups do still have a role to play – both in terms of faction organisation and in helping you to define your character’s identity and his place in the wider campaign world.
From an Out Of Character perspective, your group is part of a mechanism to enable contact between the Lorien Trust and players. Your group leader is a point of contact for the faction’s command team, who are in turn the Lorien Trust’s point of contact for your faction. In addition, a group is a convenient way for players to pool their resources … the few gold pieces you get in your booking pack may not buy much on their own but if your group is big enough then you may be may be lucky enough able to afford a ritual slot or a special item.
From an In Character point of view your group concept is incredibly important. It helps define your place in the campaign world, and can therefore be your lead into both roleplay and plot. Your group concept will be the first impression people have of you, and the stronger that concept is the more people will want to find a reason to interact with you.
If you already know some Harts players then you could consider playing a group with a linked background – a new vassal house to an existing noble lineage, a breakaway sect from an established ancestral tradition, or similar. Looking at the faction website should help give you an overview of many existing groups in the faction and, even if you don’t know the people involved, its always good to have some sort of link to someone else.
If you’re not sure about a group background or how it would fit into the game world then you can always contact the Harts command team, who will be happy to discuss things with you. As well as being a source of ideas they may well be able to help with background information, contacts to other groups, or maybe even a link into a current plot line.
The most common group concept within the Harts is that of the noble house. Such houses are one of the Harts faction’s signature traits, and are popular because they allow a wide range of character types to gather under a single banner.
A house generally consists of the members of a noble bloodline and their entourage. Usually it’s led by the most senior (or most politically astute) noble and there is often a fairly strict class divide between the nobles and any common-born retainers. Sometimes members of the entourage will have clearly defined roles (e.g. butler, physician, counsellor, bodyguard) in relation to the nobles and in other groups (particularly as the household grows larger) they can simply be a collection of people sworn to the service of the house.
Most noble bloodlines within the Harts are human and can trace heritage back to some off-shoot of the major houses (those with more recent roots will often marry into older bloodlines in an effort to justify themselves as truly noble). Non-human noble lines are likely to have more recent roots and result either from marriage into a human house or the ennoblement of a non-human who then went on to found a household of his own.
Your group is unlikely to be a “new“ house (because if the King created a new house people would expect to have heard of it beforehand) and more likely an older one that has quietly existed for some time but is only now becoming involved in faction politics. A minor house is probably a vassal of one of the larger houses (most likely Corvidae, Hunter, Karlennon, Charenten or Falcon). Being vassals like this allows your group to start play with contacts and potential allies, and also helps people understand your place in Albione society.
A household with several nobles is generally a safer concept than playing the entourage of a single nobleman. If the head of the household is unfortunate enough to die then there needs to be another noble able to step into the role or else the group concept is broken.
Other Common Concepts
Whilst the noble houses are very visible in Albion you shouldn’t think that they’re the only option. Albion has a powerful middle class of merchants, scholars, professional soldiers and the like, who may not be able to trace their family tree but who can easily rival the nobility for wealth and influence.
Shown below are some examples of common group concepts within the Harts. You shouldn’t feel bound by this list but hopefully it might help provide some inspiration.
- Arcane tradition … A group of mages, ritualists or similar; united by their search for knowledge or a certain style of magic (e.g. demonology, enchanting or shadow magic). They might all be members of a single, powerful ritual group. Such a group is probably led by either its most powerful member or its senior ritualist.
- Feral pack … A primitive hunting or family group; loyal to its homeland but often lacking many Albione social graces. This sort of group is most common amongst non-humans such as beastkin and feral elves but Albion has plenty of wild places where uncivilised humans might also live. Many feral groups will be led by their strongest member but social skills, bloodline and ordination by the ancestors might well also play a part.
- Free company … A privately organised military unit; loyal to Albion but not a formal part of Albion’s military. Free companies can sell their services as they wish, so long as serve the Pendragon Throne when needed. A free company will usually be under the command of a minor noble, veteran soldier or wealthy merchant.
- Military order … A group of would-be knights or other warriors; united perhaps by chivalric ideals, martial philosophy or simple camaraderie. Such groups can often attract minor nobles of various houses and are usually led by either the most distinguished or dangerous of their number.
- Peasant cooperative … A group of commoners banded together for protection or in the hope that collectively they might gain some political influence. Usually led by an elected spokesperson or the most socially skilled of their number.
- Performing troupe … A group of entertainers united perhaps for reasons of artistry, finances or security. A successful troupe may well include promoters, guards, financial backers, labourers and similar as well the entertainers. Usually led by the member with the most business skills rather than necessarily the most skilled performer.
- Religious order … A group of followers of a certain ancestor. In the case of the major ancestors the group might espouse a particular philosophy or interpretation. Equally they might follow a minor or local ancestor that few others have heard of. Such an order might be led by the most charismatic, wisest or oldest member or potentially the most powerful incantor amongst them.
- Scholastic order … A collection of academics from various backgrounds; perhaps united for protection, convenience or by a shared interest. Usually led by their founder or an elected leader.
- Trade concern … The owners and staff of a business. Usually led by the owner/financier of the operation, or a representative thereof.
If one of your friends wants to play a character with ritual magic then he may want a ritual group to support him; the easiest way to achieve this is for other members of his group to take the Contribute To Ritual skill. The style of your rituals can be tailored to match the group’s identity and a ritual performance is a very good way to get yourselves notices and show off elements of your group’s background to the rest of the faction.
That said, it is worth being aware that ritual slots are a precious commodity and not every group will necessarily be able to get one. The factions do all have a number of ritual slots allocated to them though and ritual groups who are willing to perform rituals for the faction will probably be quick to gain friends and influence. With money, luck and influence, it is possible to obtain more slots for your group, but this can never be relied upon.
One of the first questions a new group is likely to be asked is “Where do you come from?”. Albion has twenty baronies (four in each duchy) and the easiest way to define a place for yourself in the faction is to choose one of these as your group’s base. The baronies are as follows (listed by duchy) …
- Cornwall … Alton, Silverlake, Pendrinn and Southampton
- Gloucester … Hereford, Shrewsbury, Castleford and Edwinstowe
- Keswick … Havoc, Naseby, Milford and Rufford
- Winchester … Kingsfield, Sherburn, Bollington and Selby
- York … Durham, Norhault, Chelmsford and Londinium
Some information about the various duchies can be found on this website but ultimately there are no hard and fast rules about where a particular type or style of group should come from. If you later decide that your group is at odds with the local baron, or if one of your number is offered a barony in a neighbouring duchy, then there’s nothing to prevent you from relocating at any time.
Once you’ve chosen a barony you should look out for the nobles and faction officials who have responsibility for that barony and for looking after your group. These should include …
- A local Baron or Baroness who governs your barony. This noble should be able to answer questions and make introductions as required.
- An Earl or Countess who oversees your barony and a neighbouring one and who represents your views to the King or his Councils.
- The Duke or Duchess of your duchy who has responsibility to four baronies and two earldoms, and who sits upon the Royal Council as a direct advisor to the Pendragon Throne.
- A sheriff who is responsible for law enforcement in your duchy. If you witness a crime (or are accused of one) this sheriff should be your first point of call.
- A general who oversees military matters in your duchy. When a battle occurs your captain should help you coordinate your efforts with the rest of the faction.
- A ranger who is responsible for the wild areas of your duchy. The ranger’s role mixes military duties and some law enforcement with scouting and information gathering.
These characters have an interest in seeing their baronies prosper and should therefore try to help your group to settle in. You may find such positions vacant, in which case you may want to make it a personal goal to acheive one of these seats for yourself or your group.
Heraldry & Colours
One of the best ways to promote your group is through common heraldry. A group of characters in matching colours will immediately get themselves noticed, and ultimately getting noticed helps you to become involved. Whilst most characters don’t want to wear group colours permanently, having tabards/surcoats available to wear into battle or at formal occasions is fairly common.
The primary function of heraldry is the same on an LRP battlefield as it was on a historical one; to allow combatants to recognise one another. When you see over a thousand people on the battlefield at The Gathering the value of this will be fairly obvious. There’s an additional tactic edge however, in that costuming your entire group the same way disguises the numbers of combatants and non-combatants … a group with 5 warriors and 15 healers doesn’t look very threatening, but a group of 20 characters in matching heraldry most certainly does.
Many groups choose to make banners showing their group’s colours and these are usually displayed in the faction command tent at mainline events. At smaller faction events they’re also used to “dress” buildings for use IC. If you’d like to make a group banner and bring it along then speak to a member of faction command, who’ll get it displayed for you. It’s also possible to take standards into battlefield but banner poles must comply to the same safety standards as melee weapons, so you need to make sure you have something suitable prepared.