Faction Evolution, Part IV: Diversifying the Portfolio

Monday, July 7, 2014

Before we get rolling into the main subject of this week's blog, we'd like to give a big thanks to everyone who came to PaizoCon—especially everyone who participated in Pathfinder Society Organized Play (understandably, we're a bit biased). We got lots of really positive and helpful feedback following the test run of Legacy of the Stonelords, one of the upcoming Specials set to run at Gen Con Indy 2014. There were also two lottery events called "Out of Retirement," in which Mark Moreland and John Compton revisited two of Season 0's retired scenarios, redid the stat blocks (and redeveloped a few other features), and ran them for credit for excited players. Rumor has it that Mark's Blood at Dralkard Manor claimed a few lives, whereas John's Hands of the Muted God proved less deadly but equally fun. You won't hear us promising to un-retire these for the public just yet, but the positive response we got this makes it likely we'll do something similar for the next PaizoCon. Thanks again!

A month 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. The following 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. Recently, we revealed the changes coming up for Andoran and Cheliax, and Osirion and Taldor.

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.

Today's factions both love their money, though in the past they've pursued this goal in slightly different ways. Be warned that there are some light spoilers from Season 5 scenarios referenced below.


Illustration by Jon Hodgson

Sczarni: Use Pathfinder Missions as a Front for Personal Gain

Guaril Karela's takeover of the Sczarni families seemed nothing short of flawless, and within a year, he controlled most of the Sczarni operations in Varisia. In doing so, he and his agents had stepped on quite a few toes, earning them the enmity of the "survivors." For the past year these survivors have orchestrated Guaril's downfall—preferably executed with a sharp knife in a dark alley. Fortunately for Guaril, he had also worked his way into the Pathfinder Society's good graces and established himself as an indispensible spymaster, and the Society devoted some of its resources to keeping the canny Varisian out his enemies' sights.

Guaril is tired of lying low, and now that his agents have tracked down and dispatched a few of the rogue Sczarnis' ringleaders, he is ready to deliver the killing blow and be rid of this threat forever. Of course, his enemies won't go down without a fight, so Sczarni faction PCs should expect a deadly showdown. Should Guaril die, his nascent empire could crumble without his threats and arm-twisting to keep things together. Even if he should live, he has demonstrated weakness in the eyes of several key supporters, and it may prove too much for the faction to recover.

Qadira: Dominance Through Trade

Aaqir al'Hakam stepped up to guide the Qadira faction after its then leader Pasha Mualia al'Jakri disappeared under violently ominous circumstances, and for several years he has extended the faction's influence and commercial interests in distant ports. Of all of the faction leaders we've discussed thus far, al'Hakam has perhaps the least antagonistic relationship with his home country. It's not that his superiors have betrayed, disowned, or disappointed him. Rather, he has found that some of the more promising opportunities are available only to those without a national affiliation.

Two years ago, the Qadira faction undertook an ambitious project to claim markets in Varisia and establish trade relations with Janderhoff. Although agents succeeded in some regards, a wide variety of factors—including the existence of other aggressively mercantile operations like those maintained by some of the Sczarni—stymied their progress. It also seemed that the local people perceived the ambitious, foreign merchants as invaders rather than as well-intentioned entrepreneurs. After months of hard work, Aaqir al'Hakam redirected his resources elsewhere, admitting that the circumstances were not yet right for his organization to supply Varisian demands.

During the Year of the Demon, Qadira faction agents have developed trade contacts far and wide in the Inner Sea region, building upon their past successes in the years before. Markets in the Five Kings Mountains, Druma, Rahadoum, Kaer Maga, Taldor, and Andoran have all shown an interest in the faction's services, and their cooperation has only improved the more that al'Hakam portrays his operation as an independent outfit and less as a state-sanctioned business. The significance of this is not lost on the faction leader, and he has quietly laid the groundwork for a new business with the blessing and support of his late mentor, the trade princess Zarmina Bahjari.

Qadira is now aware of Aaqir al'Hakam's plans, and for the most part the satrapy has accepted his new strategy with grace—even though he is severing some of his ties to the nation. Most trade princes operate independently, yet their successes nonetheless fill Qadira's coffers by encouraging more trade to gravitate to Kelish ports; al'Hakam's venture is similar in many ways but on a larger scale, and the ruling elite believe it is a better investment to formally accept the faction's transformation, make the most of past accomplishments, and enjoy the fruits of having the faction leader as an ally rather than as a proxy.

What's more, it allows the one-time Qadira faction to merge with like-minded operations that might otherwise balk at heavy-handed Kelish affiliation. As you may have guessed by now, two of the factions are merging into one.

The Exchange: There are Two Sides to Every Coin

In many ways the new faction is going about business as usual, though it no longer operates as an extension of the Qadiran state. PCs from Qadira (including those interested in forwarding national interests) will still find the faction an attractive choice, but by stepping away from its parent country, the faction also broadens its scope and the types of stories we can tell. Flavor-wise, faction PCs will be more like business partners and less like agents, and we anticipate missions, boons, vanities, and faction traits will reflect this.

As for the Sczarni faction, Aaqir al'Hakam has an eye for talent and believes the Sczarni network is too valuable to dissolve as a result of Guaril Karela's recent troubles. Instead, the Sczarni would benefit from being a part of al'Hakam's new endeavor, and in doing so his business would expand beyond the mundane delivery of goods and into the realm of more…"challenging" commodities. When the time is right, the trade prince trusts Guaril will approve the merger.

And just in case your character is an upstanding merchant that would frown upon the underhanded tactics used by the Sczarni, we have some exciting ideas as to how to keep this combined "money" faction appealing to both you and the less virtuous entrepreneur.

Happy gaming,

John Compton and Mike Brock
Developer and Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Factions Jon Hodgson Pathfinder Society Qadira Sczarni
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Liberty's Edge *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I can't believe I actually was right about this.

I have some heavy thinking to do regarding certain of My characters future affiliation.

***

Always appreciate the info.

Very intrigued by "out of retirement scenarios", makes me even more tempted to make it out to PaizoCon next year.

-TimD

*****

Down to seven factions?

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Three down, two to go. :)

Scarab Sages **

Mike Brock teased this one all the way back at CoastCon in March (and, I'm sure, elsewhere). It's good to see it stayed secret until now.

I have a few characters that will be watching this one closely. My 2 Sczarni characters are very loyal to Karela, and my Qadiran character has recently renewed his loyalty to Al-Hakam at a certain wake, so they'll likely all follow their respective leaders. How the Paladin of Sarenrae and the mafia-esque Brawler enforcer and the Roma-esque Magus/eventual Harrower will fit into the combined faction will be interesting to find out. And, should something happen to Karela, it could be chaos.

***

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yes, but what about those of us who like the whole "legitimate" business thing? (ie like to be pirates, mobsters, and crooks?)

Sczarni ***

Yay Unci Gorrilla. All for us!

Scarab Sages **

The Fourth Horseman wrote:
Yes, but what about those of us who like the whole "legitimate" business thing? (ie like to be pirates, mobsters, and crooks?)

My understanding of it is now you have a very large legitimate business to hide behind.

***

Ferious Thune wrote:
My understanding of it is now you have a very large legitimate business to hide behind.
John Compton and Mike Brock wrote:
And just in case your character is an upstanding merchant that would frown upon the underhanded tactics used by the Sczarni, we have some exciting ideas as to how to keep this combined "money" faction appealing to both you and the less virtuous entrepreneur.

Oooooo right. Reading comprehension came up light this time. I'll show myself out.

Scarab Sages *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hmmmm... Selling sustainably harvested fair trade cruelty free free range scorpion venom to respectable merchants was one thing, I"m not sure if I want to be a part of this...

The Exchange

Darsadi spits, "Sczarni, the scum that smears all honest Varisians. And I'm not interested the least propping up Qadira. I've given quiet support to Silver Crusade because of my friend Annik, but I'm no altruist. Let's here more about this, and the difficulty of changing to a proper merchant supporting faction!"

Grand Lodge **** ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, Indiana—Decatur aka Kadasbrass Loreweaver

Two factions may be merging into one. But does it mean there will be seven factions? Or could an eighth faction suddenly appear?

Liberty's Edge *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Three down, two to go. :)

Nothing personal but I really hope you are wrong.

Grand Lodge *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

this news is mildly disturbing
I Joined the Sczarni because they were the only group appropriate to my talents and my ultimate desire to make the burned man pay for his ultimate betrayal

tho if Guaril has gone soft there may be additional problems he has yet to foresee

Haqim may be resourceful but I don't think he has the stomach for dirty work .. always expending society's resources searching for pretties for his daughter, only recently representing his moniker as a trade prince

Grand Lodge ***

I may owe more favors to the Sczarni than I care to admit, but I'd still sell my soul to Asmodeus to take one clean shot at that man. He's been begging for this bullet for a long time.

Scarab Sages ****

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Kadasbrass Loreweaver wrote:
Two factions may be merging into one. But does it mean there will be seven factions? Or could an eighth faction suddenly appear?

Technic League should be the eighth faction. They are way too interesting to be simple mooks to go kill.

Sczarni ****

Welcome to the family.

Silver Crusade ***** ⦵⦵

graywulfe wrote:

I can't believe I actually was right about this.

I have some heavy thinking to do regarding certain of My characters future affiliation.

Me too, on all counts...

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Seattle aka Taenia

I imagine it will be a lot of fun to play The Exchange. You never know when a mission comes your way if its doing something legitimate for Aaqir or something questionable by Guaril. The best will be where you have the option to do one mission but with two methods, which will you choose?

Grand Lodge *

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Taenia wrote:
I imagine it will be a lot of fun to play The Exchange. You never know when a mission comes your way if its doing something legitimate for Aaqir or something questionable by Guaril. The best will be where you have the option to do one mission but with two methods, which will you choose?

The more profitable one ;-)


Hmm, now I have to actually consider making a character for this faction. How to play it though. As a businessman/adventurer looking for profit while rescuing damsels and whatnot? Or being a shadier character who tends towards "acquisition" missions and other dubious jobs? Hell, why not put the two in a blender and hit puree?

Decisions, decisions.

Dark Archive ***** Venture-Captain, Florida—Tampa aka Dominick

All the better for resale of merchandise that falls off the wagon!

Grand Lodge *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I am quite intrigued by this. But I am wracked by one thing, does that mean my Qadarian bard now has to call everyone "cousin" ?

Sczarni **

And another set of characters end up changing over to Grand Lodge...

I should just switch them all over and save the trouble.

Sczarni ***

Michael Meunier wrote:
I am quite intrigued by this. But I am wracked by one thing, does that mean my Qadarian bard now has to call everyone "cousin" ?

I'm afraid so, Cousin...

Sczarni ****

If I die in my last missions its for szarni. If I live hello Darkive!

Shadow Lodge ***

My Sczarni character was only sczarni because he is varisian and shadow lodge died...he went to sczarni to work with "family" basically. He gives a f*+$ less about money or trade....I see him using the free reassign to jump to dark archive

The Exchange *****

I do hope that we can work with the camelj... Our brothers to the south.... I wonder if we cousins should consider Aspis?

*****

There is little philosophical difference between the Sczarni and Aspis to begin with, so it may not be an inappropriate thought. Maybe they will be the replacement faction if there is one?

Grand Lodge ***

Hmph. When the Lantern Lodge abandoned me, I found like-minded brothers in the Sczarni family, who shared my interest in amassing wealth and power through whatever means were available. But at the core of it, I am an adventurer, not a common merchant. Perhaps the Sovereign Court will have more to offer me.

Shadow Lodge *****

Anyone know if the new vanities are going to be in the guide?

Shadow Lodge **

My tiefling Qadiran slaver with ranks in profession "merchant" is *certainly* happy to hear of this merger... >:)

I hope they'll let folks get a free faction change when the dust settles. All my characters could actually do very well in this new under-the-table enterprise. :D

Shadow Lodge *****

Dixie Landoe wrote:

My tiefling Qadiran slaver with ranks in profession "merchant" is *certainly* happy to hear of this merger... >:)

I hope they'll let folks get a free faction change when the dust settles. All my characters could actually do very well in this new under-the-table enterprise. :D

Free faction changes for everyone!

Silver Crusade

Looks like my fighter is now a member of the Exchange.

Shadow Lodge *****

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Anyone know if the new vanities are going to be in the guide?

Yep... John and Mike know if they'll be in the guide... ;D

Silver Crusade ****

Huh.

The previously announced faction changes all work for my PCs, with none of them having any reason to change factions. The overall themes of the factions really didn't change much, other than Cheliax, which is the one faction I've never had a PC in. This is completely different.

I have 2 characters in each of Sczarni and Qadira, and I don't know how many of the 4 will stick with this combined faction.

My newest Qadira PC that I haven't played yet will be the one who fits in best with this combined faction, as he sees himself as a free wheeling wandering entrepreneur. My greedy pirate thug from Sczarni might have trouble accepting a legitimate front, but he'll probably stick around.

That leaves the two whose motivations never revolved around money to begin with. I'll have to think about it for them, as well as waiting for more details on the modified factions.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

As a loyal son of Varisia, this makes me sad. To shake the yokes of Cheliax only to be forcibly shackled to the palanquins of Qadira. Who now will champion freedom for Varisia?

Silver Crusade

As an upstanding, respectable, and honest business-woman, I do not thinking merging with a bunch of thieves, cutthroats, and brigands is such a good idea.

However, if this means I can sell my "antique" coffee pot* for way more than it is worth, then perhaps it's not as bad of an idea as I thought.

* Nisha likes to offer to sell her "antique" coffee pot to any NPC she meets as a way to break the ice. :)

Dark Archive ****

It seems our dear Guaril has had a rough year. No surprise, given his preoccupation with money and over-reliance on common thugs. He always seemed to think power could be bought and sold. He should know better.

Real power comes from a variety of sources. Money is one, but a small one. Having a network of people who owe you favors is far more useful. But making sure you don't have an equally large network of enemies was the part Guaril missed.

And then there's the raw power that flows through my veins. That magic is my greatest source of power, but not my only one. I have many allies in the Society these days who owe me favors, and unlike Guaril, I've avoided making enemies.

That man never deserved my loyalty, and I daresay, he won't have it much longer. Not that he ever fully did, of course. I'll have to look into my options and choose some new friends soon.

**

I, like many others here, changed a character to Szcarni after Shadow Lodge shut down. I have always disliked the whole trading business overall and I gotta say that you guys have really managed to leave my char without a faction.
Disillusioned after the end the shadow lodge, he felt right at home with some distant cousin doing whatever was asked. Putting the whole business part up front takes something away from the Szcarni.

But this change now means you just got rid of the faction for crooks, scoundrels and mercenaries. I am not liking the way the faction evolution is done and even less how options are taken away to be streamlined. I hope there is something else coming. A headhunters faction would already be good. I could already think of some burned head that should be atop the list...

I understand that there are business decisions behind these changes. But with faction missions mostly gone from the game, you also have to consider that a faction is a way to tie your character into the organised campaign. I was already disturbed by shutting down the shadow lodge, but with the szcarni being turned into businessmen it seems to me that all factions are pretty much grand lodge with different flavour. There is grand lodge flavour royalty, grand lodge flavour devils, grand lodge flavour freedom, grand lodge flavour trade, grand lodge flavour sages, grand lodge flavour good. But an organisation like the shadow lodge, trying to improve the conditions for all pathfinder agents and challenging the rules of the decimvirate would provide an actual option rather than a new grand lodge flavour..

And in all honesty: What is up with the faction names?? Do they seem very, let's say adolescent only to me?

***

Hey Dave, I think the way the Exchange was written, there's room for both legitimate businessmen and "legitimate" businessmen. At least I think that's what they are going for. I think I interpreted the change the way you are here as well, initially.

Shadow Lodge ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Dave_Vader wrote:
And in all honesty: What is up with the faction names?? Do they seem very...

What's in a name? Well, everything!

One of the greatest things about Golarion is the names are so evocative. Cheliax, Andoran, Osirion, Ustalav. Absolutely brilliant names where the combination of (made up) syllables manages to convey a feeling. I imagine a lot of the naming credit goes to JJ?

It's a bit eerie when 5E OP is bringing out factions like the Zhentarim or Harpers (obviously words that mean nothing outside of the context of the setting but are evocative) at the same time PFS is doing away with the similar words (i.e. fictional ones like Cheliax, Andoran) in favor of common noun/adjective names.

I'm not sure how I feel about the Exchange, yet. I feel like I need more details before I can render an opinion... what is being exchanged? I understand goods are exchanging places... but the best names that use common words have multiple meanings...

Speculation invited.

Shadow Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

so is the global free faction change going to override the Risen Guard's faction lock? they're not really abandoning their faction, Amenepheus's interests have moved away from those of the Ruby Prince. And the other factions are no longer directly associated to rival nations. so it seems justifiable that the Risen Guard can serve the interests of their pharoah through other factions like the Exchange or Dark Archive or Sovereign Court.

Grand Lodge *****

Shame, I came to the family because they accepted my skills, not my heritage. I'll remain loyal to my family, but I am not sure how this is good for business.

Grand Lodge **** Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

Nicolae "Nic" Plamen wrote:
As a loyal son of Varisia, this makes me sad. To shake the yokes of Cheliax only to be forcibly shackled to the palanquins of Qadira. Who now will champion freedom for Varisia?

Obviously, Liberty's Edge.

And you need to try rereading what has been written, since one of the major changes to the Qadiran part of the new, joint, faction is a removal from being a national faction, but a free trader faction.

And, I suspect, as a faction of free traders, there will be plenty of room both for the honest free traders, ala the Solar Queen, and those who are a bit more ... flexible ... in their trading stance.

The Exchange ****

ARRR!!! Ah dunno if ah like this. Ah signed on ta this Pathfinderin' thing ta go raidin' in tombs an' such, 'stead o' raidin' ships like ah used to. Guaril un'erstan's that. Ah dunno 'bout this legit tradin' stuff. Not really ma style.

Sczarni

Ugh. Of all the factions, Qadira always rubbed me the wrong way, mainly because of it's merchant stylings and the fact it was so heavily tied to the one Golarion country I dislike the most. The Sczarni, on the other hand, worked well for my more shady, criminal, mercenary and goonish characters.

This faction merger just grates my nerves. Meh.

Sczarni *****

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Three down, two to go. :)

Silver Crusade and Grand Lodge aren't going anywhere.

Or, at least not this season.

The Exchange **

Green Beard the Pirate wrote:
ARRR!!! Ah dunno if ah like this. Ah signed on ta this Pathfinderin' thing ta go raidin' in tombs an' such, 'stead o' raidin' ships like ah used to. Guaril un'erstan's that. Ah dunno 'bout this legit tradin' stuff. Not really ma style.

Cat leans in and whispers some advice to Green Beard. "It doesn't have to actually BE legitimate trading. You just need to convince the other guy that it's legitimate trading! I, for one, look forward to cooperating with some other entrepreneurs willing to think outside the box."

The Exchange ****

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Trade Princess Katarina wrote:
Green Beard the Pirate wrote:
ARRR!!! Ah dunno if ah like this. Ah signed on ta this Pathfinderin' thing ta go raidin' in tombs an' such, 'stead o' raidin' ships like ah used to. Guaril un'erstan's that. Ah dunno 'bout this legit tradin' stuff. Not really ma style.
Cat leans in and whispers some advice to Green Beard. "It doesn't have to actually BE legitimate trading. You just need to convince the other guy that it's legitimate trading! I, for one, look forward to cooperating with some other entrepreneurs willing to think outside the box."

Ah don't trade! Ah take stuff! That's th' whole point o' bein' a pirate!

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