Three 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. 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. Most recently, we shared how the Andoran an Cheliax factions are developing over time.
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.
Both of our factions for today tap into the past in the hope of creating a better world, though their methods and vision of what constitutes "better" differ. Be warned that there are some light spoilers from Season 5 scenarios referenced below—particularly for the Scarab Sages and developments that appear in the Destiny of the Sands trilogy.
Scarab Sages: Unlock the Wisdom of the Past for a Brighter Future
Nearly two years ago, agents of the Osirion faction brought a collection of Thassilonian relics to offer to the Ruby Prince Khemet III. One of these relics was cursed, and it afflicted the Ruby Prince with a terrible wasting affliction. Despite the faction's attempts to find a cure, they were unable to remove the curse, and the monarch resorted to powerful magic to be rid of it. Disappointed by Amenopheus and his agents both for overlooking the curse and failing to remove it, Khemet III dismissed the Sapphire Sage and the Pathfinder allies from his service.
Season 5 has given Amenopheus ample time to catch up on past projects, including researching the mysterious order of Jeweled Sages to which he belongs (and appeared to be the last surviving member). About a year ago we discovered that he is not alone, when faction PCs began to hear rumors about the Diamond Sage and learned the secret history of the Jeweled Sages (as well as how Amenopheus gained his power and wisdom). With the assistance of Osirion faction PCs, the two sages have reestablished their order independent of the Osirian state, intent on recruiting new sages to those replaced millennia ago, securing ancient secrets, and disseminating that lore to modern innovators to spark a new golden age of thought and technology. Working with the Pathfinder Society to unearth these secrets is only logical.
How will the Osirion faction be different? Although the faction may not be a direct agent of Osirion, there's still a great deal in that nation that ties into the Jeweled Sages; the faction will still have plenty to do in its old stomping ground. The faction is also interested in recruiting new sages, which means recovering the lost sage jewels and finding worthy inheritors of that power. The leadership of the faction remains up in the air, so there's still time to influence that aspect. Despite these subtle shifts, the faction remains a strong choice for scholars and Osirion enthusiasts alike.
Sovereign Court: Nobility United for a Common Cause
For an empire in decline, war is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it drains resources from already dwindling coffers. On the other hand, it provides a cause to rally behind, spurring squabbling houses to cooperate and struggling industries to increase production. Such was Lady Gloriana Morilla's thinking when she tried to convince the Taldan nobility to send more support to Mendev to combat the Worldwound. In numerous campaigns that united nations against a common evil, Taldor had led the charge, so why not do so again and return Taldor to the spotlight?
Although Lady Morilla found a few like-minded allies at home, many of her peers laughed off the idea. Sending more troops north would leave the southern border vulnerable to Qadiran aggression, argued some, whereas others simply laughed off the idea as idle fancy by an upstart who had spent more time in Absalom than in Oppara. Since words were not enough, Lady Morilla raised a self-styled Army of Exploration (which sees action in an upcoming scenario) with the assistance of Taldor faction PCs. The idea had been to inspire Taldor's leadership to party less and lead more. In this regard she failed, for the majority have not changed their attitudes and view her campaign as an amusing curiosity. Taldor is not a lost cause, but its inertia is too great for the faction to change it on its own.
Instead, Lady Morilla is examining some of the unintended fruits of the faction's work—in particular the stronger relationships she has with several noble houses in other nations. What if, rather than work exclusively in Taldor, the faction instead worked through other nations' leadership to create a network of like-minded aristocrats that all promote the virtues of nobility and strong governance? This secretive sovereign court would have an agenda all its own, not one tied to any one nation. Under Lady Morilla's leadership, the faction focuses on second-tier nobility of each nation, using them to act as the powers behind their respective thrones to steer national policy. Perhaps years or decades in the future, this shared vision will birth a new continent-spanning empire through politics rather than conquest—one that will bring prosperity and peace to the Inner Sea region.
What does this mean for the Taldor faction? Glory and politics are still central themes for the faction, and it's still a great home for those who love both audacious action and court intrigue. Nothing stops PCs from being active in Taldor, but the goal is now something bigger and bolder. Of course, the Pathfinder Society is happy to have the Sovereign Court as an ally, for friendly nobles are more likely to allow Pathfinders into countries where the Society had once been banned.
John Compton and Mike Brock
Developer and Global Organized Play Coordinator