Phew. This has been a long time coming.
After playing lots of Alpha Centauri, I think I’m actually at a point where I have enough mechanics built up to begin bridging “factions” and “cultures.”
Uh, to make sense of that you’d have to read back through my archives, I don’t think I could even offer links at this point to help you. Some of it I don’t think I even posted to the site (too much backlog), which means I really can’t help.
So this post will summarize as much as I can.
I’ve been working for a couple years to develop gameable factions. I initially adapted portions of 3e’s Affiliation system, then I tried to merge it with the fantasy RPG concept of “Race,” then I incorporated The 13th Age’s concept of Icons. Then I threw 5e’s Backgrounds into the mix.
It was actually working. I ran a fairly successful playtest using just the ideas I developed . . . uh, about a year ago.
What I was really lacking at that point was an integration of Background/Faction mechanics and . . . well, the rest of the game. I mean, combat still existed, but it had become this limp appendage to the system. There were better things to do.
Also, I was seriously lacking dungeon integration.
I was just lacking experience with dungeons. I needed to experience dungeons in the most dramatic, mechanical fashion. That led to my experiments with Castle Dragomir and Stars Without Number last summer.
Where did all of this lead me?
I know I said I couldn’t help, but here are
three a number of relevant posts for what I’m talking about right now:
Link: Genre Conceits and Guiding Principles
Link: Rolling a Region in Broad Strokes
Link: Orders of Magnitude in Production
Link: Villainous Non-Entity General
Link: Collect Debt for a Lord
Link: Player Plans Versus NPC Plots
I’m working on the concepts of UNIT PRODUCTION — including broad strokes concepts like Player Characters, and Classed-NPCs — alongside mechanical definition of geographical regions and integration of villains and PCs with uh, location and faction development. Also, quests and intrigue.
What I have hashed out in a Google Doc are rudimentary Social Engineering and Technology “tech trees,” designed to model development of different races and cultures. I’m also working on “faction improvements.”
I like how Stars Without Number handles factions and assets, but I was working on a system in parallel that doesn’t quite agree with it. So like, I think it’s cool and everything but I can’t use it without significant modification.
I created eight “Sectors” of society which by some coincidence, superficially resemble “city quarters” from Eador: Masters of the Broken World. Something, something about great minds and similar gutters. I don’t know.
Those eight sectors are (all together now): Political, Military, Criminal, Vigilante, Academic, Spiritual, Commoner, and Mercantile.
What I’ve been able to do is begin bridging the sectors with faction scores, which are (at least for the time being): Populace, Industry, Facilities, Science, Culture, and History. I’m still working out the bugs of the latter three.
What the players (and Dungeon Master) should be able to do, is roll up a region and some random factions. Use the factions to build some settlements. They can adventure in the region and manipulate the factions.
Factions interact with settlements, and settlements develop in the region.
You can send one faction against another, or merge them. Or divide them.
Everything will have a loose mechanical basis that can be manipulated as easily as a character sheet — or can be simplified like a monster stat block.
Do you like multi-page PCs with extensive backstories? Got you covered.
Do you prefer 1e-style, one-page PCs. It can do that too.
Do you want to give the PCs some domains to conquer? Trim those settlements down to little blocks of numbers no more complex than a kobold.
I would love to see a Monster Manual-style publication with just . . . cities and their stories. “Here’s a winter settlement with X culture and Y quests.”
One of the MAJOR differences between Civ’s tech trees and mine, is that each bundle of techs (cultural or otherwise) is broken down into a climactic tiers. Fantasy cultures are weird, and not all of them develop the same as humans.
One of Civilization’s weaknesses (early entries, anyway), is illustrating only a few ways human cultures developed. Fantasy races can develop into Hat Cultures.
And Hat Cultures are ripe for narrative shenanigans.
Climactic tiers will allow fantasy races to develop in strange ways, skipping entire branches of sociocultural development because they developed magic instead of religion. Or you know, hats instead of basic morality.