Hey guys, I think I’m going to start upmy own faction.
Do you want to join? Why the heck would anyone join your stupidfaction? A great question, actually.
What benefits would your faction offer toits members? Well, I have a druid and they’re basicallybig fat hit point sponges.
I mean, they’re mostly worthless otherwise, but he’ll help keep the rest of us alive.
What do you mean worthless? I have a kitty cat! Mmm, hit point sponge.
I like it.
Yep, me, too! Heck, yeah, sign me up! I’m gonna use the druid as a practice dummy! Wow, this is so exciting! I’m going to be a faction leader! You’re all going to have to do what I say! Oh crap, we’re all screwed! Welcome to the DM Lair.
I’m Luke Hart, and I’ve been a dungeonmaster since high school.
On this channel I give practical dungeon masteradvice that you can implement at your table.
Today in the Lair, we’ll be discussing howto use factions in your D&D games and the homebrew faction favor system I’ve developedand use in my games.
And if you have any questions about this topicor anything else dungeon master or D&D related, I have live streams here on YouTube prettymuch every Friday at 6 pm Eastern US time.
The first couple hours are focused on answeringquestions from the chat.
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Let’s do this! Factions are basically large organizationsthat are at work in the game world.
They can be temples, guilds, secret societies, governments, and even bad guys.
For instance, in my Sword Coast Guard game, the main factions are the Lords of Waterdeep, the Town of Rassalantar, the Drazonovites – a cult – the Hags of the Feywild, and, of course, LordPaxton.
You might notice that none of the “standardfactions” such as the Harpers or Zhentarim even come into play in my Sword Coast Guardgame.
That’s because ideally you want to customtailor the factions you use for your specific campaign.
And then basically, the way factions workis that they are active in the game world at the same time your players are.
That means that the Lords of Waterdeep andLord Paxton are both up to stuff at the same time the PCs are delving into dungeons orscrewing around on some side quest.
And ideally, from time to time – or maybeall of the time – your players will interact with these factions at some level.
That could be as simple as the Lords of Waterdeepreaching out to the heroes for help with a tribe of orcs amassing to the north.
And then when the heroes defeat the orcs, they gain favor with the Lords of Waterdeep faction—more on that later! Or your players might align themselves againstthe goals and objectives of a specific faction and choose to oppose them over the courseof the entire campaign.
This is exactly what my players did with LordPaxton.
Once they found out that Lord Paxton was slowlyconquering or annexing the territory along the Sword Coast, they took it upon themselvesto stop him.
Of course, this was the central tension ofthe campaign as well.
Why Use FactionsOkay, if the basic idea of factions doesn’t already sound cool and like something youmight want to use in your game, allow me to further convince you.
Using factions in your game makes the worldseem larger, more complex, and more realistic to your players.
Factions also give Dungeon Masters a powerfultool that they can use in their games.
Faction do crap.
They get stuff done.
And the things they do can introduce dramaand tension into your game, which should be one of your main goals as a dungeon master.
Lord Paxton has his army of orcs besiege thetown of Rassalantar and then the Lords of Waterdeep ask the heroes to help.
There you go.
And, a quest for your players to go on.
Factions can also be used to add some light-weightpolitics to the game.
In my Hand of Light game, the players usessome flippant words and pissed off the Guild of Apothecaries and Physicians, one of thefactions in that game, and then they had to engage in some basic politics and negotiations—andan adventure, of course—to appease them.
Factions—and especially when you combineit with the faction favor system I’ll discuss a little later—also give your players anobjective to work toward.
Namely, through their actions they can increasetheir favor with certain factions and get in-game benefits.
The converse is true, too.
Since bad guys are often representatives fromcertain factions, as the heroes thwart the villains’ plans, they lose favor with thosefactions.
And then there are in-game consequences suchas the faction sending assassins after the heroes when their relations really hit thebottom.
All of these mechanics reinforce verisimilitudein your game.
That is, your game seems more realistic toyour players.
It feels more like a living breathing world, then just something you are all imagining in your heads.
And that’s probably something that mostdungeon masters should be striving for.
How to Implement FactionsFactions and organization are discussed in the Dungeon Master Guide starting on page21.
However, the system there discusses a factionsystem whereby each player’s character might belong to one or more factions that are differentthan the factions other characters might belong to.
Now, I don’t implement factions that way, but let’s talk about it briefly, just in case the idea interests you, or you’re runninga module like Waterdeep: Dragon Heist that encourages you to have each player pick afaction to join.
Basically with the individual faction method, each player is a member of one faction (or possibly more) and then can gain favor withthat faction by doing things that align with that faction’s goals.
The downside I see with implementing individualfaction favor is that it detracts from the GROUP gameplay, and creates silos where playersare working individually on their own goals.
Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing asit can give your players something cool to pursue that interests their characters.
However, they would need to pursue those individualinterests as part of their downtime activities, or maybe even during special one-on-one gamesessions with the dungeon master.
That is, unless you’re okay with spendinga significant amount of table time having just one player playing the game.
And that is not something I recommend as chancesare the other players won’t find it very enjoyable to sit by and do nothing while oneperson plays the game.
So you’re back to having it be part of downtimeactivities—which shouldn’t take up too much table time but also makes it kind ofa sideshow—or running special sessions for your players.
And I’ll caution you to only go down thatroute if you think you have enough time and inclination to do that.
Or, you could build their individual factioninterests into the larger campaign and have them intersect at various points.
That would require some planning and coordination, though it could be very cool.
So basically, to absolve myself of all thatadded work and headache, I made things simpler by implementing faction favor as a GROUP MECHANIC.
That is, the entire group gains or loses favorwith factions based on what the GROUP does, usually as part of adventures that they goon.
For instance, when the Sword Coast Guard defeatedthe orcs besieging their castle, Gauntlet Hall, they lost favor with Lord Paxton, butgained favor with the Lords of Waterdeep.
And this favor lost and gained was trackedas GROUP favor, not individual favor.
And the way I do it, the adventuring groupthemselves usually don’t actually belong to any given faction.
They are their own entity, their own forceto be reckoned with.
Instead, the amount of favor they have withother factions simply influences those factions’ disposition toward them.
In other words, the group gets benefits fromhigh favor with a faction, and there are consequences for lower favor.
And I’ll show you specifics on that in justa bit.
By implementing group faction favor the wayI have, I make things much easier for me as the dungeon master, and I maintain the groupaspect of the game.
You see, I run GROUP games.
I want the group to be together.
I want them to adventure together.
I want to resolve things together as a group.
So the more I can do in my game to encouragethis, the better.
Which Factions to UseThere’s no specific answer for which exact factions to use.
What you want to do is pick factions thatreinforce the central tension and the basic storyline of your campaign.
For instance, Lord Paxton represents a factionbecause he’s the main villain at the head of a large empire.
And I knew the Lords of Waterdeep would probablybe a faction because the players would be helping them against Lord Paxton.
And then you want to let factions evolve organicallyin your game.
Remember the Guild of Apothecaries and Physiciansfrom my earlier example? Well, I had no plans for them to become majorplayers in the game, until my players pissed them off and brought them into the forefrontof events.
So then they became an important faction inthe game.
Also, if your game takes place in a pre-madecampaign world such as the Forgotten Realms, you could just pick some factions alreadyestablished in that game world.
For instance, the Harpers, Order of the Gauntlet, Emerald Enclave, Lord’s Alliance, and Zhentarim could be major factions in your game.
Then you would just need to figure out whyand what they’re up to in your campaign.
My Faction Favor SystemOkay, now I’m going to quickly walk through the faction favor system exactly how I useit in my Sword Coast Guard game.
What you’re seeing on screen are my notesin OneNote for that game.
You can see a list of the factions in thegame in the chart on the left.
The factions in green are good factions, andthose in yellow are bad factions.
The favor that they have with each factionis then listed in that chart.
The players started the game with 10 favorwith each faction because that is the neutral state.
Then, their actions either positively or negativelyaffected their favor, increasing it or decreasing it.
For instance, when they lifted the siege onGauntlet Hall, they earned two favor with the Lords of Waterdeep and lost one favorwith Lord Paxton.
You’ll also notice that their favor withseveral of the factions is close to 10.
That’s because they didn’t do much overthe course of the campaign to change their favor with those factions.
One faction, the Red Sashes, never even cameinto play during the game, even though I had originally imagined that they would.
To the right you can see what the numbersin the favor scale represent, too.
If players increase their favor, they canbecomes friends and even campions of a faction.
As favor decreases, they become first enemiesand then mortal enemies.
That sliding scale of favor represents howpredisposed a faction is to help the players, or how predisposed a faction is to opposingthe players, perhaps even going out of their way to try to murder them.
For instance, my Sword Coast Guard playershave on occasion approached the Lords of Waterdeep for favors and aid based on their high favorwith them.
And Lord Paxton has on several occasions senthit squads after them.
By the way, down in the description I’veplaced a link where you can download my basic faction favor system for use in your own game.
Hello people, me again.
Let me know down in the comments how manyfingers I have painted on my face.
Next week we’ll be talking about some over-poweredmagic items and what you can do to fix them.
But until then click on the thumbnail to theright to watch my entire homebrew creation playlist.
And until next time… Let’s play D&D!.