Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Faction Frameworks

So, following yesterday's post, what does a DM do if you want to develop some factions?  I think the best way to do this would be to develop each individual npc in the faction and see how the relationships result in a faction social dynamic.  Bottom up.

But, perhaps you suddenly need several factions because the party travelled unexpectedly to a city you haven't fleshed out.  Or maybe you just want to try and generate some factions the other way, top down. What to do?

I was toying with the idea of using chess pieces as a generative device.  And you might still do this, the faction has members that are rooks, bishops, and knights and their abilities/relationships are somehow related to what those pieces can do on the board.  But I'm not really a chess player (gasp).  And the factions that were coming out of that framework were fairly simple and hierarchical.

Now, guild structures and militias may actually be fairly simple and hierarchical.  But, by faction I'm thinking rather broadly. And also thinking of interpersonal relationships more than power structure (maybe the King is in love with one of the Pawns).

So what would yield a more complex, familiar structure that we could use to help here?  How about this as a faction structure:
Look familiar?  Or how about this?
The first are the positions in baseball, the second hockey.  Some of you (Christian, ze Bulette) seem pretty enthusiastic about professional sports.  I figure a DM could take a sport they're familiar with and use that to build a faction or social web in-game fairly quickly.  What is interesting is that they don't tend to form pyramids with one person in charge.  The baseball grid looks like it has a triumvirate of influential people, the hockey grid, a pair pulling the strings.

Maybe you could think of what pcs are trying to do as plays: gaining guild membership requires you talk to A then B then C, your out!  Or, you have to get by the goalie first.

You might even get more specific: "Okay, the Fighters Guild is like the 1978 Whoevers, this guy they're threatening is the pitcher, looks really impressive, but if the keep the pressure on he's totally going to choke."


  1. I love the sports analogy. Using 4e terminology and hockey, the Center is a Controller, the Forwards are Strikers, the Defensemen are Defenders and the Goalkeeper a Solo. NIce!

  2. From an organizational perspective, soccer works fairly well:

    (1) Goalkeeper - head of the organization, protects the big secrets.

    (4) Defenders - protect access to the GK, and the outside defenders can occassionally be brought to bear on the offense when needed.

    (4) Midfielders - they do the day to day work of the org, and are most active. They control the flow from forward to back to forward again.

    (2) Strikers - very public, and the offensive faces of the organization. They lurk and wait for the right opportunity, and then strike quickly.

  3. Relationship wise, there are issues; in baseball, the relationships are more often one way, not two way. The hockey interrelation only applies to the moment the puck is dropped. After that, there is no organized framework in this sense.

    Hierarchical structures are built like this:


  4. Thanks for the comments.

    @Alexis, yeah I kind of muddled up a power/decision making schematic with personal relationships diagram. But think of this as a sloppy generative thing that can be abandoned as soon as it serves its purpose.

    The hockey game could spark an idea-- what would offsides mean in a guild war scenario-- or you could just use the team positions to help generate a bunch of the personalities involved in the intrigue to come.