Two weeks ago, we briefly discussed the impact of faction PCs' decisions in the campaign and how these decisions have shaped the direction that these factions are going. Last week on the Know Direction podcast, John Compton expanded on what this evolution might entail for many factions: name changes, shifting goals, and even changes in leadership.
As advertised over a year ago, the so-called nation-based factions have spent the past season (or longer for some like the Cheliax faction) distancing themselves from their parent countries to embrace less territorial and more broadly philosophical endeavors. When the Pathfinder Society Organized Play leaders began discussing how factions would change, we looked at the reporting numbers contributed by players worldwide and carefully considered how the faction might change to reflect this information while still appealing to a large percentage of its members. For example, members of the Silver Crusade faction tend to be good guys, so changing that faction to be neutrally aligned would discourage a lot of players.
This week we're sharing the direction that two of our factions are heading (new faction symbols will come a bit later). Be warned that there are some minor spoilers from Season 5 scenarios referenced below.
Dark Archive: In Darkness Lies Enlightenment
It's been more than a year since Chelish officials condemned faction leader Paracountess Zarta Dralneen on false charges. Because the accusation and punishment were largely off the record, there was little context for Cheliax to apologize, formally withdraw the charges, or invite Zarta to resume her duties as a liaison to the Pathfinder Society. Even Zarta's agents have not escaped blame entirely. It's a bitter reminder that the servants of Hell are hardly forgiving.
Since then, Zarta has worked from Korvosa to consolidate what remained of her faction, and to her surprise, the Pathfinder Society has extended a hand to help on multiple occasions. As a result, Zarta finds her professional relationship with the Society has grown stronger. As her agents stay busy recovering powerful artifacts and tomes that they might use to track down the faction's enemies and defend themselves against future betrayals, Zarta has corresponded with the Society's leaders to carve out a niche for her organization.
What resulted is a major victory for the faction, for Zarta has convinced the three Masters that she and her agents are uniquely suited to handle dangerous relics. Not only does this cover for the evil artifacts that the faction has recovered, but it has also earned an invitation to begin cataloguing the vast array of perilous finds the Society has acquired and then promptly hidden away for later study. Zarta intends to accept the offer and found a dark archive, giving her faction access to untold numbers of forbidden texts and relics—purportedly to catalogue and better understand these objects, but also as a backdoor for her agents to gain power from sinister sources.
How will the Cheliax faction be different? Despite being estranged from Cheliax, the faction still values order and law. These are worthy end goals in their own right, and they are also potent mantras in maintaining a positive working relationship with the Pathfinder Society. Any betrayal of that trust must be a calculated one. In many ways, the new Dark Archive faction is still the “bad guy” option that the Cheliax faction has always been, but its reason for being welcome in the Society is stronger.
Liberty's Edge: In Pursuit of True Liberty
Almost a year ago, Major Colson Maldris learned of a thriving contingent of statesmen—many who had held noble titles before the People's Revolt—who had established themselves as the new nobility of Andoran. Of course, these career politicians were not embracing this lifestyle publically; doing so would invite criminal charges. Instead they have built up networks of political and economic power that keep them perpetually elected to office, in control of major industries, in a position to shape a new generation of leaders through favors and cronyism.
These corrupt leaders represent only a small fraction of Andoran's elected leaders, and much of the nation still operates in a manner true to its founding principles. Nonetheless, it is a chilling reminder that the great democratic experiment is not without its flaws. With the help of Pathfinder agents, Maldris has tracked down enough evidence to accuse a few criminals in high places, but his attempts to demonstrate how deep the corruption runs has met with pushback from both the crooked and the honest. So long as his faction operates as a direct extension of Andoran, the faux-nobility can track Maldris's attempts to root them out. The only way to save Andoran is to leave Andoran—at least for now.
What does this mean for Andoran going forward? Well, in some ways little has changed. For example, Maldris still seeks to help other throw off the shackles of tyranny and bring freedom to all people. Now, though, the faction's reason for doing this has expanded beyond altruism. In studying others' philosophies and techniques, faction PCs can borrow strategies that might help Maldris hunt corruption at home and abroad.
John Compton and Mike Brock
Developer and Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator