A Dedicated Follower of Factions
Monday, April 16, 2012
One of the defining characteristics of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign that separates it from other organized play programs is the faction system. A few weeks ago, Paizo Publisher Erik Mona, Campaign Coordinator Mike Brock, and I spent an obscene amount of time in a few very long meetings really digging into factions to determine what worked with their current implementation, what was lacking, and how we could improve them, and in doing so improve the quality of the Pathfinder Society campaign as a whole. We came up with a lot of great ideas, and Mike and I have hinted at them in recent weeks on the messageboards. Well, today I'm going to pull back the curtain a little bit and reveal a few of the changes we have in store in a bit more detail.
First, starting in Season 4, all 10 factions will have a specific goal they hope to achieve over the course of the year. In general, we'll be moving away from the original metaplot of the factions vying for control of Absalom, as the campaign has expanded to incorporate the entire Inner Sea region to a much larger extent than was anticipated in Season 0. These goals will be clear and will be disseminated to all members of a given faction by the faction heads at the start of the season. Make sure all your Pathfinder Society characters are registered on paizo.com and that your email address and privacy settings are updated before August so you'll be sure to get any missives your faction leader may send. All Pathfinder Society scenario designers will receive an overview of the factions' plans in order to incorporate opportunities to achieve these goals into their respective scenarios.
Note that I said opportunities and not missions? Faction missions aren't going away, and you'll still get faction missives from your faction head at the start of a scenario. But except in specific cases where necessitated by the circumstances, faction missions won't just be a specific skill check you need to make or else fail the faction mission. They'll be more general, and tied to the overall faction goal for the season. While we'll make sure there's an opportunity presented in each scenario for members of each faction to put forward their factions' goals (and any specific tasks suggested in the scenario's faction handouts), we'll also be allowing for more player creativity.
For example, Andoran's goal for a season (and this isn't their goal next season) might be to bring slavers to justice. In a particular scenario, the PCs may encounter a merchant in Osirion whom they can discover has ties to slavers. Andoran faction PCs who discover this can then deal with the guy as they see fit, or if they miss this clue, they can use their time in the markets in a later encounter to put together a list of slavers operating out in the open in the markets of Sothis. In both cases, the PCs are helping their faction toward the overall season goal, and while we will present an opportunity to do so without the need to go off the rails, PCs will be rewarded for taking the initiative and going beyond these suggestions.
Another hot topic of discussion has been the so-called "faction war," in which each faction competes with the rest to be the winner of a given season. We're revising this faction-versus-faction paradigm, instead measuring each faction's success against its own goals to achieve varying degrees of success. Thus, a faction whose members get all their possible prestige in a given season achieve 100% success, and the results of their actions will play out in the ongoing, unfolding plot of the campaign. Similarly, a faction that struggles a bit and only gets 80% of its potential prestige might not achieve its ultimate goal but will certainly see the results of its many successes. Finally, a faction that only reaches the lowest threshold of success might see in-world consequences of its failures, which may determine the faction's goals the following season (perhaps calling into question the faction's very existence).
We've got some pretty deep and (we think) fun plots developing for all 10 factions, and the authors of our four Gen Con scenarios are already working to incorporate those threads into their adventures. Stay tuned this summer for more information from your faction heads about what your PCs are going to be working toward in the next year.
Illustrations by Ryan Portillo