screen top
02-262000
101
7109
1966
1222
2020
1444
102
1103
1935
1940
708
M113
1956
1209
102
8102
1987
044
0051
607
1976
1031
1984
1954
1103
415
1045
1864
103
714
1993
0222
052
1968
2450
746
56
47
716
8719
417
602
104
6104
1995
322
90
1931
1701
51
29
218
908
2114
85
3504
105
08
2001
713
079
1940
LV
426
105
10
1206
1979
402
795
106
31
2017
429
65
871
1031
541
656
764
88
001
27
05
03-LINKS
04-041969
05-1701D
06-071984
07-081940
08-47148
09-081966
10-31

Branching Factions

2023-11-11

A recent post by DeReel on the NSR server set my mind ablaze with the concept of branching factions. It’s probably nothing new, and likely something we often do as Referees without actually thinking about it. However, it is pretty cool once you actually lay it out. It goes like this:

“Every issue the characters interact with a faction about, the faction branches, a new sub-faction is formed, and at least one new NPC pops up to represent the new current in that faction.”

This principle, to my mind, is so simple, robust, and brilliant that I will be consciously incorporating it in all my future games. Settings often come pre-loaded with a couple factions along with conflicts between those factions. With this tool in a Referee’s bag, players can create conflicts within factions as well, opening up a whole world of intrigue through simple player-driven interactions.

How would this look in practice?

  1. Create a faction.
  2. Imbue it with DNA:
    • give it a Description (something obvious)
    • Define its Needs (something veiled)
    • Provide it with some Assets and/or an Agenda (something hidden)
  3. After each session in which players interact with that faction, determine if a new branch can be formed based on those interactions with.
    • The new branch may have goals that are divergent from, or even directly at odds with, the main faction.
    • Determine the new branch’s DNA, and create a single NPC to embody it.
  4. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

And thus, every time players interact with a faction the plot thickens organically.

Creating Complexity, Organically

With this principle, even relatively straightforward and simple factions, like the Space Pirates in Space Aces: Voyages, who essentially just want to be rich and powerful for the sake of being rich and powerful, can become a complex web of internal conflicts and sub-factions for players to navigate and exploit.

Interact with the Space Pirate queen once, and now her second in command is building support to take her throne and become the Space Pirate king. Interact with would-be usurper faction, and now you’ve got his second in command who thinks that Space Pirates shouldn’t be ruled by anybody…

And that’s it. Depth created through play instead of exposition. Connections woven through player interaction instead of large chunks of lore. And the best part is: your players will have context for it all… because it’s all their fault!