Coterie Faction System

A SIMPLE FACTION SYSTEM FOR RPGS

I love factions in RPGs and I think there’s a lot of good games out there that support faction play! However, there’s been a few issues that I’ve had when trying to implement them:

  1. They are very mechanically-heavy and time consuming to set up and run.
  2. They were rigid in their possibilities in what the factions could do.

Goal: I wanted to set out to see what I could come up with that was more open, freeform, and in line with “rulings not rules.” I don’t think anything I’m creating here is terribly original or ground-breaking, instead I want to facilitate a level of faction play where you can put everything you need for a faction on an index card and pick up a stack of them for a group of factions and immediately begin taking faction turns.

The Core Rules

All factions should be placed on their own index card. You should write in pencil since many of the faction attributes will be in flux.

Faction Creation

Create a faction by giving it a name, a goal, a weakness, and a strength. Create at least one asset for the faction.

The goal of the faction should be immediate and achievable. This is something that the faction can take direct steps to achieving right away if they so choose and are able. It is not a far reaching 5-year plan. (If you want, you can write down an grand scheme but you must have an immediate goal as well.)

The weakness of the faction should be something relatively easy to exploit but doesn’t have to be obvious. It should be broad and wide enough that the weakness comes up regularly if the faction is doing things that do not align to its foundations.

The strength should also be something that the faction can leverage easily, particularly when it is working towards goals that it is built towards. An obvious strength is good, but a twist can also be fun.

Assets

Assets are the meat of the faction. They’re how the faction gets things done. Without any assets, the faction is dead in the water.

Create an asset by giving it an evocative name and assigning a asset die to it. Dice ratings are between d4 and d12. This dice represents the efficacy of the asset. In some cases that could be the number of people in it, but it doesn’t have to be.

A good asset is something specific and leverageable in the world.

Going Against The World

When the campaign moves out to the faction timescale, have the factions act. Choose a faction and have one of their assets perform an action. There are no rules governing what an action is, so you should use judgement. If it is something that the asset could conceivably do, allow it.

First, you must decide on the reward for completing the action. This could be a new asset, an increase in the asset’s die, or something else in the world that does not tie to the mechanics of the faction system.

Roll the asset die. If you are leveraging the faction’s strength, roll twice and take the better result. If you are suffering their weakness, roll twice and take the worse result.

If it is a 5 or above, the action succeeds. If it is a 1, 2, or 3, step down the the asset die to the next lowest dice. If the dice is already a d4 when you roll a 1-3 the asset is defeated during the action in some way.

If the action taken is particularly large or time consuming, create a project clock and mark segments for each success. Make sure you decide on the reward for completing the clock before you begin.

Going Against Other Factions

When one faction takes an action that could be directly opposed by another faction use these rules. The defending faction chooses an asset to stop the attacker. Both sides roll their respective asset dice. If both succeed, the higher number on the roll wins. If both fail, no progress is made.

If the attacker wins, they complete their action. If the defender wins, they block the attacker and may choose to succeed in a counter-attack if they wish. This is resolved the same way as a regular action, and an appropriate reward should be selected based on the contest.

PCs Getting Involved

If the PCs successfully execute a mission to help the action before the faction turn, they can grant +1 to the asset’s roll.

If the PCs tag along with the asset and assist during the faction turn, they can grant +1 to the asset’s roll. Failure means that the PCs face harsh consequences.


That is the bare bones of the system! I have some concerns and I’m going to try and address them now:

Can anyone offer feedback?

Absolutely! Please reach out to me on twitter: @eldritchmouse, or on discord: ‘eldritch mouse#3320’

The name sucks.

I’m working on it! Please offer some suggestions if you have any!

So a d4 asset can only succeed with PC intervention?

Yes. In this system I consider an asset ranked at d4 to be struggling and on the verge of collapse. When an asset is downgraded to a d4 that is a sign that the faction should begin tending to the asset to strengthen it. In desperate times, the PCs might be able to swing an impossible roll.

What’s the difference between taking a regular action and going up against other factions?

In this system I don’t believe that most groups in the game world should be drawn up with stats. Instead you should choose your favourite factions or the relevant ones to the campaign and add them to the system. Being picky here is good. If a group of thieves tries to rob an unconnected noble, there’s no reason to create a new faction for the noble house. Just have the thieves roll against the world and move on. If the noble house is already important to the game and has stats, the roll against factions rules come into play.

What about factions that are way bigger in scope than the other factions in play?

I think most factions should be on the same scale as the factions important to the game world, whatever those are. If you are playing a city game with a bunch of thieves you don’t need to create the standing government of the entire nation. If the thieves ever push against that faction, resolve it as a world roll.

How do I create and balance these things?

I would just create them based on how they already exist in the game world! Add what assets seem appropriate. Giving a faction more assets makes it more powerful as opposed to a singular asset at d12. Instead of balance worry about consistent rulings against the factions.

How do I know what a faction can do? What counts as a clock? What’s an action?

Go with your gut instincts! Make sure big project clocks give big rewards. Make sure that the other factions try to stop those clocks from getting filled!

How does a faction get new assets or upgrade what they have? How is a faction destroyed?

I would probably just deal with asset things via progress clocks for projects. A faction without any assets is just a shared dream amongst people, but maybe the PCs could undertake a mission to create a new asset?

Okay, but what about an actual war between factions?

Seems like a faction vs. faction roll. If it’s a long war, give each side a progress clock. Maybe both assets step down 1 rating no matter what each time they roll?

What about an advanced version?

Definitely noodling on that, but simple might be best?

If I do put together an advanced version, the things I am thinking of adding are:

  • Scale (so a bunch of little factions can feed off a big one while it deals with other big problems)
  • Wealth (a way to throttle upgrading of assets)
  • Asset tags and specialties (so that a mercenaries asset is better at fighting than a merchants asset)
  • Overextending and Acting Cautiously (so that you can achieve more successes or mitigate failures)
  • Order of events (smaller dice assets should be more agile and act before bigger assets that take time to position and set up)

How about a couple example factions?

Sure:

The Sewer Wizard

An old wizard that lives below High Tide Landing.

Goal: Recruit more fish-folk from the sea to serve him

Strength: Knows powerful magic

Weakness: Terrible interpersonal skills

Asset: A wizard lair with wizard magics d12

Asset: Fish-folk allies d4

The Goldplate Watch of High Tide

A group of automatons programmed to protect High Tide.

Goal: Locate the ancient codex that details their origins

Strength: Tough and emotionless

Weakness: Solar-powered

Asset: Squads of automatons d10

Asset: Arcane knowledge database d6

The Flicker Boys

A gang of raucous brigands.

Goal: Rob the town of High Tide Landing

Strength: Excellent sailors

Weakness: Terrible at fighting

Asset: A band of pirates d8

The Roots of High Tide

The hardworking and downtrodden of High Tide.

Goal: Establish a union of the people

Strength: Resilient and reliable

Weakness: Ill-equipped

Asset: A courageous leader and her close loyalists d6

Did you enjoy this post? Consider signing up to the mindstorm, my semi-regular newsletter!