The Dungeon Project, Part 4 (Settlement Factions)

This week, I’m going to be focusing more on the immediate “safe” settlement that the players start the game in. But, before I get into that, I wanted to bring up some other great ideas.

Lazy Litch had some great ideas for why the statues might be here:

  • Instead of a flood, a god reset the world by turning everyone to stone and pushing them under the carpet of the world.
  • A Pompeii type scenario from a giant volanco.
  • The statues are a collection being made by some great villain, who wanted to turn them into an army, but now the obsession of collection has taken them over.
  • An ancient war was happening, so a powerful wizard just turned all the armies to stone.
  • A social experiment that is being run by other forces (to see how people act in a small society.) When the prisoners die, they turn to stone—all characters who die in this dungeon become part of the forest.

I love all of these ideas, and it’s great to hear from someone else in a way that sparks my own imagination. I think collaborating—in whatever way you can with others—is a way to bring out greatness in yourself. Creating this sort of stuff might be done alone in some dark room, but coming up for air and showing friends what you’ve done can be a ray of light that reignites your spark.

Gus L. also pointed out that he was working on something similar to this back in 2014, shown on his blog as a series of posts called Underdark Musings. The fascinating thing here is how similar some of the concepts are, including an interesting underworld town the players start in, and how Gus was creating the exploration parts as a sort of half-dungeon, half-wilderness. I can also see why Gus pointed this out to me, considering the following passage:

The Dusklight Quay is a huge chimney that terminates thousands of feet above in with the monumental grate in Fortress White’s courtyard. Prisoners are lowered into The Dusklight Quay by means of long, rusted chains, either individually shackled to the chain or in rough cages of brittle wood. Note that it contains several locales requiring small maps of their own. These important areas are keyed.

Emphasis mine. This is very similar to the description I was working with in terms of new characters being introduced, and at this point I’m wondering if I read this blog 7 years ago and this specific passage stuck with me. I might return to the drawing board in terms of how prisoners are lowered into the sea of sculptures, but we’ll see. One thing I tend to do with my own work is iterate over and over again, so hopefully that won’t become annoying with weekly blog posts about creation!

The Settlement Factions

After reading the Underdark Musings posts, I’m a little mad that Gus managed to name his starting area Dusklight Quay, which is a cool name that I now need to somehow compete with (the competition is completely in my head.) Names are always a hard thing to nail down, and can take a long time for me to cook up. I tend to be pretty careful and avoid placeholder names: I find that when something is given a placeholder, that name solidifies and becomes canon in my head, never to change again.

To drive the post back towards the main intent, I’m going to start working on some settlement factions now. These are going to be groups of prisoners, banded together, in the starting town. Once again, I think that factions are incredibly important to a game—you can get a lot of bang for your buck by creating factions inside of a settlement and nothing else, though I wouldn’t quite recommend that.

So, what kind of factions do we need?

  • Since factions ties are going to be linked to character levels, we’ll need factions for archetypes or classes. If we go the Errant route, we need factions for Violent, Deviant, Zealot, and Occult. If we go the Down We Go route, we need factions for the Bloodthirsty, Sneaky, Holy, and Mystical. I also think multiple groups, giving the same sort of advancement bonus, is a good idea. You might want to be a Violent errant, but if there’s only one Violent faction and you hate them… well, that’s why options are good, right?

    These are also the factions that would “welcome” newcomers, and force them to choose a side. So a healthy abundance here makes the first session, with the players arriving, feel a bit like a job fair. And that’s something everyone absolutely loves as a roleplaying scenario, right? RIGHT?

  • We probably also need factions to represent some kind of economy down here, though I’m leaning away from things like gold or money. Prisoners in a sea of sculptures don’t really care for money, so what instead are you doing for supplies? Trading? Favors?

  • More antagonistic type factions. Maybe not outright hostile, but definitely the group of people that rub characters the wrong way.

  • Religious factions. I think tying religion to a faction as heavily as possible is a nice, often neglected way to handle it in roleplaying games. Making something more localized and tied in to the world around the characters often feels better to me than just having “that one god that everyone sorta knows about.”

Let’s start the actual work of creating some factions. I’m using Smoke, Fuel, & Fire to do this, but as mentioned Motive, Method, & Opportunity also works. (recap: smoke is how to identify the faction, fuel is what they use to accomplish things, fire is what their goal is and what drives them.)

The Whitegloves

Members can take ranks in Violent/Bloodthirsty/Fighter/etc.

Smoke: White leather gloves, alchemically treated to remain untarnished.

Fuel: A horde of trained killers with a singular mindset.

Fire: Retake the Marble Fortress from the Ghouls.

Bloodseekers

Members can take ranks in Violent/Bloodthirsty/Fighter/Etc.

Smoke: Dried, caked-on blood painted around the edges of their eyes.

Fuel: Blind faith in the vision of their leader.

Fire: Find the lost blood lake and perform a mass baptism in it.

Wagtongues

Members can take ranks in Deviant/Sneaky/Rogue/Thief/Etc.

Smoke: Glowing orange tongues, the result of a secretive substance.

Fuel: Mass stockpiles of tools, weapons, maps, and information.

Fire: Defeat the Archaic Cult near the settlement and take over their resources.

The Unseen

Members can take ranks in Deviant/Sneaky/Rogue/Thief/Etc.

Smoke: A small tattoo of a scorpion, right above the member’s heart.

Fuel: Subterfuge and spywork.

Fire: Collecting the 3 lost pieces of an Archaic Codex.

Speakers of the Night

Members can take ranks in Zealot/Holy/Cleric/Priest/Etc.

Smoke: Each member carries a jawbone, attached to a cord around their neck.

Fuel: A wide expanse of followers in the population that obey.

Fire: Recover a holy relic lost in Necrophage territory.

Constellations

Members can take ranks in Zealot/Holy/Cleric/Priest/Etc.

Smoke: A sickly tinge to their skin.

Fuel: Senses honed beyond mortal limits.

Fire: Find the lost ones and bring them back to the settlement.

Cryptics

Members can take ranks in Occult/Mystical/Wizard/Arcane/Etc.

Smoke: A daily morning ritual that includes shaving each other’s heads.

Fuel: The unravelling of a Great Mystery through the Igneous Tablets.

Fire: Recover the final Igneous Tablet from the Archaic Cult that holds it.

Fleshwringers

Members can take ranks in Occult/Mystical/Wizard/Arcane/Etc.

Smoke: Veins glowing purple beneath the skin.

Fuel: Quick adaptations of magical power and mutation of the body.

Fire: Harness the mutation properties of the Necrophage.

And that, for today, covers a good chunk of factions. These are all factions that the players can join (and thus get levels in respective classes.) Eight might seem like a lot, but apart from the initial “poaching” of new recruits, I don’t see every single faction having the same amount of time during play as the game continues.

For this first pass, I’ve tried to have each of the factions have a goal that directly can be tied to quests the players can take on. It’s an easy way to get the delving started.

One of the ways I tend to work and create is through iteration. These factions will almost certainly change and mutate as this project goes on, as I refine them and make them more exciting. For now, the main goal is getting things down to start the creation process. If you’re reading this blog you’re seeing the raw creation process, which at this point, is quite far from anything resembling a finished project.

Conclusion

Next week will probably be more of these settlement factions, but I’ve also been mulling about how to map out some more of the space around the settlement. I keep switching back and forth between a depthcrawl and a pointcrawl, and I’m quickly reaching a point where I’ve got to make a decision. If you’ve got advice, I’d love to hear it!

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