Faction Fever Workshop | Balancing Faction Prep and Play

By Kane Driscol

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What was this workshop about?

A last-minute change to our Workshop schedule, so instead of talking about Worldbuilding on a grand scale, we decided to dive into the topic of Factions.

Now, Factions can be a hot topic at times. A really popular buzzword that can mean a lot of things to different people. As I did my research I found that most of the time it was about making a more immersive world for our players to operate in. They could also be tools that GMs pull on to generate hooks, narrative ideas, and plot points. But as I looked around at all the advice around, I was overwhelmed with what people said I needed to prepare for in order for a faction to really work. It was just too much to prep names, history, goals, strategies, assets, locations, leadership, organization, identify features, culture, influence, connections… UGGGH!

But as we gathered together as Kiln Folk, I landed on three things that stood out to me as key principles to keep in mind. And they’re just principles because how they are applied will be different for each table or GM trying to implement a faction in their games.

Principle 1: Keep It Relevant

When it comes to factions, especially during prep, we should be keeping our focus on what is relevant to the players. That can be what’s literally relevant to them in the ongoing narrative or in the session, but it can also be what is interesting to them as players.

Principle 2: Prep What You Need to Riff

Some GMs can write three bullets and they’re golden. Some need 3 pages. Both are okay, but focus on what you need to riff off of and can provide guidance as you introduce your players to these factions. As time goes on, that living idea of what the faction is will develop alongside your players rather than just in your notebook away from the table. That’s going to make things feel more alive.

Principle 3: Find the Payoff

Every time your players interact with the faction there needs to be some kind of payoff. A new detail is discovered, or in some way, the factions impact the game. In every session the players need to feel like this faction is important and that it’s adding to their game. If there is no payoff and you’ve held all the interesting bits in reserve until some point down the line, your players may find a new shiny and never experience what you’ve prepared.

There were a ton of good comments in the workshop chat along with in the text chats on the Discord server (which I hope you come and join in on), but in the end, the general feeling is that Factions can be incredibly beneficial to our games, but we have to manage our expectations. We have to focus on what works and not get distracted by all the stuff we read about online or from other GMs. You have to find what works for you.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts about factions. Hearing about all the different methods, processes, or details that could be included has been really helpful to me in finding a good direction to head in. Drop those thoughts in the comments or come hang out in the Kiln!

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Kane’s Kiln

I'm a day-to-day Game Master and I'm here to play, have fun, and share anything I can to help others in this great hobby!

Let me know if you have any questions or need help with anything ICRPG-related. Always happy to assist another lumpy-head!