17 July, 2013

Putting Theory into Practice

First we’ll look at the idea of isolated, secluded and open factions.

An isolated faction is a group of dedicated individuals, they live their life according to the ideals of the faction and belong to no other faction but this one. Examples of an isolated faction might include a fanatical sect within the church, an isolationist group of paramilitary hermits, or the local duke’s personal guard.

A secluded faction is a group of individuals with a common goal, but they often have other agendas beyond the faction. Members of a secluded faction may not belong to another isolated or secluded faction, but they may belong to open factions. Some secluded factions may exist within open factions (as their leadership or inner circle). Examples of a secluded faction might include a family group, a secretive conspiracy (with tendrils reaching into other factions), a general religious group, or an organisation that takes up a lot of a character’s time (such as the local courtiers, or town guard).  

An open faction is a public group that doesn’t take up much of a character’s time or resources. A character may belong to any number of open factions, but sometimes the agendas of these factions will come into conflict and characters may have to take a side when a conflict arises. Such groups might include a gossip circle, a chamber of commerce, a local guild, or the town militia.  

Now for some examples using the mechanisms discussed so far...

The Thieves Guild
This is clearly one of the staples of any fantasy setting. The Thieves Guild is never small, it is always a shadowy organisation behind much of the crime in a city. Somehow the Thieves Guild is widespread across entire worlds, while their main opponents “the town guard” are left as insular groups of local law enforcement. The thieves guild has connections in a hundred nearby villages and towns, but the town guards are too busy looking after their own villages to communicate with one another. But we’re not here to deconstruct a trope, we’re here to see how a group like a thieves guild would work within the systems that have been set up so far.

To be considered a recognised chapter of the empire wide “Thieves Guild”, a local secluded organisation needs at least six members. Each of whom has contacts among the underworld and on the streets, as well as some other way to manipulate the locals. Generally, the Thieves Guild is only permitted to operate because they keep the crime from getting out of hand. High crime leads to instability, instability leads to rampant chaos and an inability make a good profit.

A new level 3 chapter of the Thieves Guild
6 members starting out (each with an average of 2 Street influence, 2 Underworld influence and 1 other). This basically works out to 48 Street actions and 48 Underworld actions each month. Let say that half of the members have a level of Craftsmanship influence (3 members x 1 level x 4 actions = 12 actions a month).

Within 3 months, a level 3 stronghold could be built by the faction through the pure use of Craftsmanship influence actions (36 actions); they could halve this time by spending gold on the activity, and with so many Criminal actions under their control, gold shouldn’t be hard to come by. These members could easily pay the 9 points of upkeep each month.

The Thieves Guild probably wouldn't be too interested in a battle standard. They might have a sacred vault that fills a similar function within their headquarters (they gain morale, and find it easier to stand firm when guarding the Guild’s sacred vault).

If 30 points buys a sphere of influence as a factional specialty, then the first month might see 30 points spent on Underworld actions…which would give the entire faction a virtual level of Underworld influence. The second month might see everyone dedicate their actions toward a specialty in Street actions (thus giving everyone a virtual level here). In the third month, each of the 6 players have 3 underworld influence (2 of their own and one virtual level from the faction), this increases the factions total to 72 underworld actions...another 30 points would buy another level of Underworld specialty influence (actually I might bump this up to 30 points worth of actions per level, thus increasing the cost to 60 points…it’s still possible to grow, but it takes a bit more sacrifice to do so). The faction couldn’t buy any more because they’d have reached their level 3 cap for specialty spheres of influence.

In addition to these, the group might craft signet rings for their members.

Within 3 months, a group of six dedicated new players will have become a formidable faction. After this point they might start building new safe houses, and possibly expand their operations into other aspects of city life. If they took their time and acted more carefully, by spending some of their actions to conceal their activities, they might take six months to reach the same strength, but they’d be ready to strike from the shadows and become a truly formidable conspiratorial group within the city.

The Pitfighters
On the outskirts of town is an old arena. It is one of the many ruins from the old age; an age that most people have forgotten. A band of warriors have chosen to make this ruin their base of operations, a place to train in the arts of combat, make a bit of money by putting on a few shows, and maybe do a bit of gambling on the side. Officially, the town guard don’t like this sort of thing; but unofficially, a few members of the guard wouldn’t mind testing their skills against warriors (some have even considered joining since all they do in the town guard is stand around protecting the duke’s chateau, or walk the streets of town). 

There are a dozen individuals who have gathered together to restore the old arena. They have a wide mix of influence spheres, but Militia, Street and Craftsmanship are more common among them. Let’s work on the assumption that every member has an average of one each in these three influences (some might have 2, some might have none). For this exercise, let’s also say that half of the members have High Society influence; maybe they consider this “medieval fight club” to be some kind of subversive activity that keeps their lives interesting, and keeps them on their toes in case someone should challenge them to a duel. For half of the members, this is a serious endeavour, for the other half this is just a side interest (they spend up to half of their influence actions on this), it is an open faction. 12 members make it a level 4 faction; since it is above the 10 character threshold, but not above 15.

Working with these numbers, we have 36 actions each month in Militia, Street and Craftsmanship (6 members x 1 level x 4 actions + 6 members x 1 level  x 2 actions = 36 actions total). If half of the members have High Society influence then we can probably assume 18 of those actions available.

To rebuild the ruins, we’ll work off the numbers for creating a building from scratch. Before this point the ruins had no real impact on play, but now they’ll become a feature of the political landscape (perhaps the GM might offer a discount if they’re lucky, but for this exercise full cost). Within 2 months, the ruins could be built up into a level 4 stronghold through the pure use of influence actions (48 actions); they could halve this time by spending gold on the activity, and with their high society influence and other actions they could probably gather up enough gold (12) to reduce this to a single month. The twelve members could easily pay the 12 points of upkeep each month.

The pitfighters would definitely be interested in a battle standard, once they gain a bit of renown they might be able to hire out their services as a mercenary company. They might just start with a level 3 battle standard (they don’t want people to see them as too much of a threat at the moment). This would cost 12 influence actions to build, so they could easily accomplish this in the second month. Only those characters who have the Pitfighters as their exclusive faction would gain the benefits of the standard.

The first month might see 30 points spent on Militia actions to improve the arena’s association with fighters…which would give the entire faction a virtual level of Militia influence. The second month might see everyone dedicate their actions toward a specialty in Craftsmanship to reflect an ability to produce arms and armour for the fights (thus giving everyone a virtual level here). In the third month, each of the players have additional Militia influence (one of their own and one virtual level from the faction), this increases the factions total from 36 to 72 militia actions...another 60 points would buy another level of Militia specialty influence (using the modified costing discussed in the Thieves Guild example). In the fourth month, the faction might buy a level of Street or High Society Influence for 30 points, another level of Craftsmanship influence for 60 points, or might spend a bit longer gaining a third level of Militia influence for 90 points.

With this in place, the group would be able to produce weapons for its members, it might even start to develop a specific coat of arms. We could also start looking at the permanent hiring of support crew such as healers, apothecaries, or even town criers to advertise upcoming events.
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