In the first part of this post, I laid out the six things you need to know about a faction:
- Faction Type
- Name (faction and leader)
- Current Actions
In that post, we defined the faction's basic type and leader, and named them. Time to finish it up!
The Faction's Goals
Your game world is full of factions. What separates a background faction from an antagonistic one? A faction isn't particularly useful unless it's doing something that the PCs want to stop. If it's not doing anything relevant, it's a background detail.
What is the faction trying to accomplish, both in the short term and the long term?
You don't have to get detailed here. Recovering a particular artifact, increasing worship of a god, fighting injustice, and defeating an enemy faction are all perfectly good goals and are about as specific as you need to get.
But there's one important element here:
The faction's goal(s) must get in the way of the PCs.
Now, this doesn't have to be direct. You can make up plot hooks and adventures such that this faction just happen to be the one group causing trouble in this area.
So, just make sure your faction has a chance of overlapping with the PCs. A reclusive religious order that studies magical texts in a remote monastery is unlikely to cross paths with the PCs, so perhaps create a large network of unsavory secret agents who steal those texts for the monastery.
For our example, we've already started to define the goal: the goblins (Vargon's Feet) want to increase their territory. Let's say they envy the nearest villages' consistent food output, so the goblins' goal is to take over a dozen nearby farms.
The Faction's Resources
This step is invaluable in double-checking the utility of the faction's goal.
List the resources at the faction's disposal. It can be anything, and you can stay high-level: people, land, wealth, magical artifacts, influence, secret knowledge, etc.
Then look at this list and ask yourself if the factions have enough resources to be a credible threat. They don't need to be sitting pretty with lots of resources to hand, but they need to have some kind of means to move towards their goal.
For our example, we already have a goblin tribe led by a shaman, but that doesn't feel like quite enough to aid them. Let's up the stakes by taking a page from Raiders of the Lost Ark: Vargon led the shaman Kogo to construct a magical artifact that slightly improves the goblins' strength and wisdom as long as they pray to it each day. We'll say it's a large crystal that they put on top of a rock in the middle of their camp.
- 20 adult goblins and 40 young goblins (the latter cannot attack and have 1 Hit Point each)
- Shaman leader
- Crystal Shrine to Vargon
The Crystal Shrine now serves as a convenient focus point for the end of the adventure: destroy the shrine to defeat the goblins.
The Faction's Current Actions
Okay, now we have a good idea of the faction's resources and plans, and here's where the rubber meets the road:
What is the faction doing right now?
See, it's easy to create a faction that has all sorts of big plans, without actually tying it concretely to the current campaign.
So, knowing what the faction's members are trying to accomplish and what resources they do (and don't!) have, what are they actually doing? Are there scouting parties about? Research being done? Who's doing what?
You can get as detailed as you want here, as it can be useful to know that Brother Taran is currently visiting with Monks of the Weirding Way to read an ancient book they keep in their Tower of Secrets, and that he'll report back in 7 days. But only write down that which comes to you easily. You can always fill in details later.
For our example, let's say the goblins have taken over two small outlying farms, recently enough that nobody's checked up on them yet. Let's further say that a neighboring farmer is about to check in on one of the families, and will rush back to town to warn the townsfolk upon discovering several dozen goblins running around the farm. Just to up the ante, we'll say that the goblins are now preparing to attack a large nearby farm, and have been stealing one or two grazing animals as they scout it out.
And our faction's complete! Let's review:
- Figure out what type of organization it is (religious order, bandits, savage tribe, etc.). Our example: a group of goblins.
- Decide on the faction's leader in very broad strokes. Our example: a shaman contacted by a minor god.
- Name key characters in the faction, and the faction itself. Our example: the god's named Vargon, the shaman is Kogo, and the tribe is named Vargon's Feet.
- Decide on the faction's short-term and long-term goals (defeat an enemy, overturn a government, summon a god, etc.). What's it trying to accomplish? Our example: Take over a dozen nearby farms.
- Determine the resources at the faction's disposal (people, land, influence, magical artifacts, money, etc.). Our example: 20 adult goblins, the shaman leader, and a crystal shrine that buffs the goblins' strength and cunning.
- Figure out what the faction is currently doing. What's it working on right now, and who's doing it? Our example: the goblins have taken over 2 farms and are sorting through the equipment there for tools to attack a third.