Friday, March 25, 2011

Factions Part 1

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about campaign styles for The City of Lives. Every game system has a type of campaign that it works best for: D&D is based around the assumption of dungeoncrawling, meeting monsters and taking their stuff; Vampire assumes political maneuvering and angst; Champions assumes comic-book vigilantism. This is not to say that you can't dungeoncrawl in Vampire or do vigilantism in D&D, but it's not the easiest, it's not what the system is built around. So what kind of game is The City of Lives built around? The answer is, I believe, what the current playtesters are playing -- spy-genre intrigue, the PCs working as espionage agents and troubleshooters for one of the "noble Houses" that, like the Montagues and Capulets, run the City and are constantly feuding. So, now that I have that basic idea in my head, how to best encourage and support it?

To help answer that question, I went back to one of my original inspirations: The Planescape campaign setting for AD&D 2nd Edition. I've avoided reading all the way through its material, or even revisiting it at all, for quite some time -- I wanted to ensure I knew what the City of Lives was on its own before polluting my mind with a source as potent as Planescape, worried that I'd end up just writing a rip-off fanfiction. However, the City is now quite distinct in my mind, so I felt it was safe to return to the well. And I discovered an idea that I had actually used before in my earlier game Crosstime, but had largely forgotten about: Factions.

Factions, as the term is used in Planescape, are groups of like-minded individuals who provide each other with support and push their agenda into the landscape -- much like political parties in the real world (or secret societies in Paranoia, for those familiar). Their main purpose from a meta-universe and worldbuilding standpoint is to provide characters with extra flavor and structure -- being a Republican says something about your character, and the Republican party sending the PCs on missions provides a good structure either for a campaign or an occasional adventure.

So let's take a look at these factions, see what we can figure out.

First, I'll take inspiration from Planescape and my old Crosstime campaign, and come up with a list of what each faction in the games are fighting for (and apologies to Zeb Cook if I misinterpret any of his ideas):

  • The Athar: Discover the true nature of the gods
  • Believers of the Source: Become a god
  • The Bleak Cabal: Accept the meaningless of the universe
  • The Doomguard: Assist the entropy of the universe
  • The Dustmen: Prepare for death
  • The Fated: Become self-sufficient and take power
  • The Fraternity of Order: Understand the laws of the universe
  • The Free League: Stay independent
  • The Harmonium: Create peace in the universe by conquering everyone
  • The Mercykillers: Enforce justice
  • The Revolutionary League: Tear down the system!
  • The Sign of One: ...not sure. Make other people accept that you're the center of the universe?
  • The Society of Sensation: Experience as much of the universe as possible.
  • The Transcendent Order: Become one with the universe and act accordingly
  • The Xaositects: Learn the nature of the universe by embracing chaos
  • The Outsiders: Understand this bizarre world they've fallen into.

And from my old Crosstime game (a time-travel game with lots of changing history):
  • Archivists: Learn everything in the universe
  • Freelancers: Stay independent
  • The Free Market: Make money
  • Green Time: Restore nature to dominance
  • Hedonists: Experience as much pleasure as possible
  • Machinists: Introduce as much high-technology into the timeline as possible. 
  • Messiahs: Become the most important person in the universe
  • OTL: Restore the timeline to its original state
  • Racketeers: Also make money... (hm. a potential problem for if/when I return to Crosstime)
  • The Revisionists: Change history to create utopia 
  • The Shelter: Altruism
  • The Span: Destroy time travel
  • Timelost: Get home

Don't worry if it all doesn't make sense. The important part is the goals for each faction -- and, as you can see, there is a lot of overlap. This tells me that there are a limited number of fundamental concepts in the collective unconscious, and thus Zeb Cook and I stumbled across a lot of the same ones. So, if I put them together and cull out the ones that are inappropriate, then throw in a couple of ideas that don't seem to have made the list, I think we'll have a good list of faction goals for The City of Lives.

We'll associate them with a few names I already have kicking around my head -- political parties, religions, and noble Houses, and see what we get:

The Church of the Blinding Light: Peace and order
Kivian Taoism: Self-sufficiency in harmony with the universe
?: entropy and chaos
House Daceas/The Promethean Heresy: Art and pleasure
Faberists/House Solfidly: Revolution
The Seeding Manual: Nature above technology
?:  freedom
Academy of Artful Sciences/Practical Theosophy: Knowledge of the universe and the gods
Publicans/House Trelius: Altruism and charity
Sabercrats: Imperialism and war
The Iversdotter Revelation: Justice
Triocheans: Utopia
The Free Association of Merchants and Businesspeoples: Money
The Church of Lies: Pure Self-interest

Okay, that's enough for this post. Let me mull over these concepts and see if I can come up with some names and more information, and I'll meet you here next time for Factions Part 2!