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Ultimate Factions (PFRPG)

***** (based on 1 rating)
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Treason or Triumph?

The sultan’s grand vizier is secretly plotting against him with other members of the court. The guilds are trying to bully small businesses. The neighboring country have spies in the palace. The city guard in the capital are under the pay of the thieves’ guild. The local druid circle aren’t happy about all the farms being built, or the woodcutting in the forest, and want the kingdom’s Councilor to help them persuade the king to put a stop to it.

All of these are themes from fantasy stories, but the core kingdom building rules introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Campaign and expanded in Ultimate Rulership from Legendary Games focus primarily on your heroes and the decisions they make as the ruling council of their own kingdom. With Ultimate Factions, we provide you with detailed rules for different political factions, religious sects, and any number of influential power brokers and wealthy elites devoted to rising up and seizing whatever they can hold. Your heroes may play off their rivals against one another and use their wits to consolidate their own power and secure their throne from threats that can't be defeated by sword or spell. In the great game of houses and thrones, your heroes must triumph! Grab this 26-page kingdom-building supplement today and Make Your Kingdom Legendary!

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Skulduggery is afoot

*****

With this latest PDF from Legendary Games we return to both their 'Ultimate' and their 'Kingbreaker' lines. Ultimate Factions follows in the trails blazed by such fine products as Ultimate Rulership, Ultimate War, and Ultimate Battle in that it mainly deals with some new problems that can arise for the rulers of a nation.

Politics. We all hate them but we all have to deal with them too. They can make your life exciting, yes, but infuriating as well. However, they are part of running a nation and dealing with society, yet they rarely show up as a force in their own right in campaigns. Oh, they may be an enemy to be defeated or an ally or patron to provide work and aid, but rarely do we get much insight into what they specifically want and how they intend to attain it aside from what directly affects the PCs. Ultimate Factions was written in part to address these problems as well as a way to give the poor downtrodden NPCs a voice in the councils of the mighty. How well does it work?

The PDF proper consists of 28 pages. There's one for the cover, back cover, a splash page, credits, OGL, introduction, table of contents, an ad for the rest of the Ultimate line, and a basic rundown on what to expect, which leaves us with 18 ages of content. Like the rest of the series, they are eighteen well-done pages.

We first get a definition of 'faction' for the purposes of the game: 'an organization or group within a kingdom which is attempting to assert political, economic, or social control over the entire kingdom, or some part of it'. This covers a lot of ground for possibilities ranging from a thieves' guild attempting to reduce the effectiveness of the town watch to a secret society seeking domination behind the scenes to the patrons of a particular tavern seeking to keep their favorite watering hole open. It does get recommended that even the smallest kingdom have at least two factions to represent the interests of the leadership and the public.

Factions have alignments that affect their stats, much like kingdoms. They also have goals that they try to gain through operations, and for stats they have power, resources, and reputation. They also have size and type, for just what sort of a faction they are. As kingdoms have Build Points, factions have Wealth Points that the spend to achieve their goals. And while kingdoms have Unrest, factions have Tension. The higher a faction's Tension gets, the more difficult it becomes for them to achieve their goals. Eventually they may fall apart entirely.

The initial size of a faction is determined by both their type and what sort of buildings your kingdom has. The faction's type also influences their stats. For instance, a civil faction is usually a large group of citizens working to a common goal, and they get a boost on Reputation. A Judicial faction is working for (or against) the kingdom leadership and gets a bonus on both Power and Reputation. Other kinds of factions include Academic, Foreign, Military, Religious, Social, and Trade. Factions can also have different levels of secrecy. Some are Open, some are Covert like thieves or the secret police, and some are Disguised, pretending to one sort of goal on the surface while seeking something else entirely.

They also have Goals – Major Goals that can drive adventures or even a while campaign and Minor Goals that are more the day-to-day efforts. Goals further divide into Aim – do they want to control, boost, reduce, or eliminate something or one, and they all list what effect this has on various Kingdom rolls – and Scale, for how large a group they want to affect. Everything from one single shopkeeper to all trade in the land to the rulers themselves is covered. Goals can also be Public or Secret, with the latter much harder to achieve but known only to the Faction leadership.

We also get a new 'Faction Turn' meant to be set after the Edict phase of the Kingdom turn. First they perform Upkeep to see how well they're doing, then they do Operations to see what they can accomplish and how many WP they can add. Many operations can affect the Kingdom stats, but they have to be paid for with WPs. This can get expensive, but the faction can accept a lower modifier if they pay less WPs.

Operations cover a lot of ground. Factions can abandon a goal or advance it, aid another Faction or their Kingdom, make allies, fight enemies, get more wealth, spy on other factions or subvert them, subvert the kingdom, go recruiting, or even just engage in lobbying for ruler support, do a publicity campaign, or let their members know how appreciated they are so they stay loyal. The latter can be very important to avoid the Faction splintering or even falling apart entirely.

You can do a lot with these rules. A Faction can channel support and cash to another group. If, say, the citizenry faction likes what the leaders are doing, they can support them. If not, they can balk them at every turn. We also get rules for how to use skills to learn about factions and guidelines on how to create factions for already existing kingdoms. There are also very simplified rules for people who don't want more bookkeeping, allowing for the faction that does best every turn to affect one single aspect of the Kingdom or to weaken other factions. The kingdom Ruler can do the same to weaken or strengthen any faction. There are also rules for how to use factions with the downtime organizations from Ultimate Campaign or the organization rules from Ultimate Intrigue. There's even a new Edict for kingdoms to use allowing them to support a loyal or suppress a troublesome faction, at the price of dinging your kingdom Loyalty.

We get some guidelines on how to use factions in play. The most interesting idea here is that you should allow some players to control some factions, including ones that are working against their role in kingdom leadership. I can see this working great for some groups.

A section on why factions matter lays out some more guidelines for why and how to use these rules. Basically, until now, the people of a kingdom had little opportunity to let their desires or complaints be heard while your PC rulers were building the kingdom. Not everyone is going to agree with the rulers and their 'brilliant' ideas or agree with how much or little they tax everyone or just what kind of an army or diplomatic deals they try to make. Using the rules in Ultimate Factions, now their support or lack of it becomes something PCs have to deal with. It opens up the door for intrigue and (hopefully) non-violent interactions between the rulers and the ruled. If some of those subjects support you on one point but oppose you on another, it all just gets even more exciting.

The PDF ends with a list of sample factions to give you some ideas on what you can accomplish with the rules.

For people who like role-playing and the intrigue rules from Ultimate Intrigue, this PDF is a delight. It can help anyone who ever wondered what the ordinary citizens were doing while the rulers were running the kingdom. Or those who just think that the current kingdom rules somehow make things 'too easy' for PCs and want to make their rule a little more exciting. There are one or two minor typos in the book but those aside I noticed nothing that would interfere with using this PDF. This is one of those PDFs that will make you wonder why you never knew you needed it before reading it. I give it five stars, and if you use the rest of Legendary Games' Ultimate line, my unreserved recommendation.


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