There are many central features of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign that have changed little if at all over the better part of a decade since it began. The amount earned by a Day Job and the item value threshold unlocked by having a certain amount of Fame remain the same, and I don't believe a single word has changed in the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play's entries about alignment and how to calculate one's hit point total (with the exception of adding new classes to the list). Perhaps the most dramatic change over the years beyond the extraordinary growth in the list of venture-captains and venture-lieutenants is how the campaign has treated factions.
For a long time, five factions vied for control of Absalom and sent their respective agents one or two tasks to accomplish during each scenario. It was certainly nice to hear from one's faction leader regularly, and many found it reassuring that they could try to contribute in some small way to the faction's fortunes no matter where adventure took them. Things started getting pretty tricky when another five factions joined the scene at the start of Season 3. Not only was it unrealistic to provide a faction goal for every scenario for every faction (e.g. Does the Lantern Lodge really have an interest in this Azlanti observatory or Qadiran shipwreck?), but faction missions were becoming more of a burden at the table as GMs printed and distributed ten handouts. It became increasingly apparent that one could just complete his faction mission(s), fail the main task the Society had assigned, and get away with most of the rewards, which did not sit well with many. Were there some great faction missions? Absolutely. Without a doubt, though, many faction missions proved forgettable and inconsequential but for the reward they gave. I think many who participated in the campaign a few years ago remember the all-too-common chorus of "I search this room for a [minor MacGuffin]. Is there one in here? I take 20."
Something needed to change, and beginning in Season 5, faction leaders stopped distributing faction missions during every scenario. Faction leaders began sending letters several times over the course of the season to inform their agents what the faction's short-term goals were and if there were any special opportunities coming up. Each faction then had special opportunities—usually more involved than a typical faction mission from past seasons—in a handful of scenarios for that season, and accomplishing one of these earned the PC a special boon. Of course, this encountered its own problems. Distributing the letters in a way that was both reliable and not a burden on GMs was difficult. Introducing faction ties in some scenarios inadvertently pushed some players to play only members of that faction in those adventures, making it harder to muster tables. Not having something to do more often than not made factions feel less important. What's more, juggling which faction appeared how often, in what level ranges, and doing suitably flashy things made outlining and developing scenarios more difficult.
Every campaign change upsets players' expectations and forces participants to adapt to something new, and certainly after the fairly substantial changes that occurred at the beginning of Season 5, the Pathfinder Society team is cognizant of the effects of announcing another revision to operating procedure. On the other hand there are numerous issues that have developed gradually that need our attention, and we first announced those in a blog several months ago. If you have not taken the opportunity to read the Factions part of that blog, I encourage you to take a few minutes to do so.
All caught up? Let's take a look at a few of the Faction Journal card entries in the works, starting with several of the goals for the Silver Crusade. This faction is the iconic good-guy faction, so my aim is to ensure that the faction journal rewards the PC for doing things that make a lot of good-guy sense. Even where there are faction goals that might be a little strange, each card has a paragraph or two describing the faction's aims in more detail to provide the necessary context.
▢▢ Defeat an outsider that has the evil subtype and whose Challenge Rating is at least equal to your character level.
▢▢ Defeat an undead creature whose Challenge Rating is at least equal to your character level.
I think it's safe to say that both of these fit the good-guy trope, and both of these are common enough that many scenarios should give a Silver Crusade faction PC a fair opportunity to fulfill one or both of these. Of course, it's important to be aware that with few exceptions, a PC can only check one box per adventure—our way of stretching out the accomplishments over multiple scenarios and preventing someone from earning the maximum rewards before reaching 2nd-level. So why do these each have two checkboxes? Well, some faction goals are more common or easier to accomplish than others, and your faction is not suitably impressed by or improved by one such achievement. After all, killing your first demon might have been incidental or a fluke; killing a second one in a later adventure proves that you take fiend slaying seriously. Let's look at something without multiple checkboxes.
▢ Spend an amount of gold equal to at least 100 times your character level on spellcasting services used on spells with the healing descriptor for another PC. You may instead purchase and expend material components or a single-use magic item that costs the same amount for that PC.
Ah, now this is a little tougher in part because it requires the faction PC to pay out of pocket—for a good cause, admittedly. You shouldn't have to do that more than once in the name of boons, but giving your friend a potion of cure serious wounds in a time of need is something that makes Ollysta Zadrian smile. Of course there are bound to be occasional goals that don't come up often enough or that you'd rather not complete. For that, we have one special opportunity.
▢▢▢▢▢ When you are the GM for any event that grants 1 or more XP, you may check one of this boon's boxes. If you have multiple faction cards, you may only check a box on one of them each time you are the GM. Once all five boxes are checked, you receive faction rewards on this card as though you had completed two additional faction goals.
Aha, flexibility and a GM reward all rolled into one! So why are we doing this? What's the payoff? There are three tiers of reward, acquired when one completes two, five, and eight goals respectively. As I'm writing these, I'm aiming to have each reward reflect the flavor of the faction and make somebody from that faction feel that she's reaping the benefits of her affiliation—ideally during every scenario. For example, the Exchange faction's rewards make it easier to make money and easier to receive discounts on equipment; honestly, shouldn't the PCs belonging to the "money faction" have felt a little more wealthy all along? What's more, each top-tier reward grants benefits to the whole table, allowing a truly successful faction PC to flaunt her accomplishments and share the wealth. Let's see what the Silver Crusade has to offer.
Soldier of Peace (two goals): You reduce the penalty on attack rolls to deal nonlethal damage with lethal weapons by 2; if you already suffer no penalty on such an attack, you instead deal 1 additional point of nonlethal damage. Once per adventure before casting a spell, you may choose to replace half of the lethal damage dealt with an equal amount of nonlethal damage.
Anointed (five goals): You gain a +2 sacred bonus on Charisma-based checks made against good creatures and saving throws against spells and effects with the evil descriptor. Once per scenario as a swift action, you may grant a weapon you wield the benefits of bless weapon for one round.
Paragon (eight goals): When you or an ally spends Prestige Points to purchase the spellcasting service raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection, reduce the Prestige Point cost by 25% (rounded up). When you cast any of these spells, you may reduce the cost of the material component by 25%. When activating either the Soldier of Peace or Anointed boon, you may choose to grant the benefit to one ally you can see instead of receiving it yourself.
Looking at these, the more Silver Crusade PCs act like good guys and vanquishers of evil, the better they become at being good guys and vanquishing evil. Most of the benefits are ones a PC might use in a typical adventure, and many of the goals are likely to appear even when randomly selecting which adventure to play next (even a module). Nice! The boons and goals above are still in the works and may have to change to fit on the Faction Journal card, but hopefully this gives you a good sense of where this project is going. We're aiming to have these out in the wild in early February.
Are there themes that you would like to see appear among your favorite faction's goals or rewards? Tell me about it here!