So I was thinking about how to make a generic faction, like for any game at all, and around the time I was thinking about it Takuma Okada tweeted something similar and pointed at Apocalypse World style moves. This is very smart, obviously: moves are certainly a great way to generically encode what things do without having to address specific system mechanisms because the ref’s moves in AW are not really part of the mechanism, per se. They have only narrative structure, giving the ref permission to make a particular thing happen in the story. They don’t engage dice (though that can obviously cascade on from the move when a player reacts) or remove points or add points. They pivot the story. Well that’s as generic as you ca get, so here’s a faction template. My “methods” are moves.
This is a quick hack. What’s it missing?
Start with a description here of the faction. Get flowery. Add a little micro (really micro mind you) fiction maybe. Good place for your illustration. Anything in this spindly typeface should be replaced with your own text. Also the title, unless “Faction Name” is in fact the name of your faction.
This section outlines the things your campaign needs to provide to make this faction work: just because it’s generic doesn’t mean it actually fits anywhere. State these up front so that a potential user can quickly disqualify it if it’s inappropriate.
What terrain does the faction need to make work? Where are they headquartered? Robin Hood needs a forest. Rogue Armor Five needs a space station. Deepness Sentinels need a mine in a remote mountain.
Is there anyone that has to be on their side? Think in general terms — a leader with certain characteristics, a revolutionary organization?
Is there anyone that has to be opposed to them? Can the user just plug in any old opposition and it will make sense?
Are we assuming magic? Are we assuming certain kinds of magic?
Are we assuming technology? Are we assuming certain levels of technology?
What is the faction trying to accomplish? Keep it generic; the most specific you should get is to reference a “necessary ally” or “necessary enemy”.
What sort of organizations oppose this faction? Keep it generic; the most specific you should get is to reference a “necessary ally” or “necessary enemy”.
How tough is this faction? Can it field armies or only lone assassins? Estimate its membership and its influence.
What kind of strength can the faction bring to bear in a military context?
What kind of strength can the faction bring to bear in terms of bureaucracy, diplomacy, espionage?
What kind of strength can the faction draw from the common people?
How much money or local equivalent can this faction bring to bear on a problem?
Add methods if you need to but at least name and expand on the following ones so that they suit the specific ways and means of the faction. Take into account the Strength parameters to add detail: a militarily weak faction won’t act militarily — they will act to their strengths and protect and disguise their weaknesses. The ref can pull any faction method out and stuff it in the narrative whenever they feel that seems like a swell idea.
Wreck a plan
The faction ruins a player plan by doing something — inadvertantly or otherwise — that undermines their assumptions. Of course, the players won’t know the back entrance is full of Deepness Sentinels on their own mission until the players pry off the sewage grate.
The faction is interrupting a regular travel route, ideally one the players want to use or are expecting news or goods from. This must affect the party to be deployed. It’s not just a news story, it causes the players grief.
The faction tries to recruit the party.
Harm a faction you care about
The faction does some harm to a faction the players are allied with. Maybe the players themselves! Burn down the magic college. Call the cops on the oxygen hoarders.
Be the villain
In a surprise twist, this faction is the real enemy!