Two Quick & Easy Faction Play Tips

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1012

Need more ideas for using factions to help your campaigns? Here are a couple of tips sent in to me from your fellow RPT GMs:

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Factions Are Good People Too

From Lasivian Leandros

I decided that my world would not just have powerful evil roaming the lands, but powerful good too. It’s not unexpected to think that other high level NPCs are now retired adventurers working for different factions.

For example, a small village sends a letter to the major city requesting aide. (As we might expect in the world, the states ask for help from the feds in return for taxes, etc.) And the next day a force of 50 men led by a powerful fighter and mage arrive.

Now doing this can put the PCs into an impossible situation. BUT I find that impossible situations make for the best roleplay *IF* you make sure the NPCs’ motive is not to kill the party.

For example:

  • “We are taking you back to stand trial.”
  • “We need to get to the bottom of what’s happening here.”
  • “We are here to clear this ruin of evil. You are just in our way.”

While this is a bit of railroading, it presents the PCs with a spot they simply cannot fight their way out of.

When you give these strong “faction muscle” backstories it gives the PCs something to play off of, as well.

  • “Oh, you grew up there too?”
  • “You have that same scar?”
  • “You also like playing Three Dragon Ante?”
  • “Yeah, I was an adventurer once too.”

This alllows the party to negotiate their way out of a situation and possibly make friends. Or you give them a reasonable chance of escape if they want to become fugitives.

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Make Factions Rivals With PCs in the Middle

From Stan Brown

Hi Johnn,

I just introduced the party into a power struggle between three factions.

Instead of making the factions enemies with the PCs I put them at odds with each other.

To draw players into the politics players were offered free training to join.

Two of the factions are guilds, the third is a mercenary company. Each faction backs a specific person in the city.

The party quickly picked two guilds to join for a different reason (you might want to tailor factions for your players to make this more likely).

And one joined just because one guild wore red cloaks and his favorite color is red.

The guilds sent one of the party members to join the mercenary company to spy and steal information.

I tried to make each of the leaders morally grey. Each leader has their own agenda and personality traits that caused the party to form their own opinions of each individual.

As a result, the party runs the risk of supporting the wrong person, and making enemies of others. But I feel it’s important to point out that the enemy they make is of their own choosing.

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Thanks for the great ideas, Lasivian and Stan!