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Game Design: Step by Step, Redux

War Without Bloodshed: Guilds and Factions

by Gareth-Michael Skarka
Jun 21,2002


Game Design: Step by Step

War Without Bloodshed: Guilds and Factions

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.
--Mao Zedong "On Protracted War," Selected Works, vol. 2 (1965)

In the May 31st installment of his weblog, Gareth Hanrahan wrote:

The Larp Paradox
Live action games are, by and large, dominated by characters standing around talking, and have very little actual "live action". They are about saying stuff...
Tabletop games have less interpersonal interaction, and are dominated by characters going somewhere and doing stuff.

Which, in many ways, is true. Which means that any game (like UnderWorld) that professes its use for both tabletop and live action play had better be able to provide things for the LARPers to do. Most games handle this through politics. Vampire Clans and Primogen courts are probably the archetype of this, responsible for changing the LARP dynamic from "bopping each other with foam swords" to "standing around and plotting," for better or worse.

UnderWorld provided rudimentary political divisions in both the structure of the various Domains and in the social structure of the Guilds. However, many players have contacted me since the release of the first edition and asked for more detail regarding the politics between those bodies. To that end, we're adding a new concept to UnderWorld: Factions.

Factions are subdivisions of Guilds, for the most part. Within the Bravos Guild, for example, there is a wide difference between the Assassins' Crewe and the Knights of the Lesser Boulevards. Members of both factions are Bravos, but their philosophies, attitudes, approach to work and role within the UnderWorld are vastly different. This sort of difference wasn't really possible to delineate under the first edition Guild-only designations. The creation of factions adds much more depth to character creation...and also opens the possibility of intra-Guild factional politics. Do the Assassins and the Knights get along, or are they at each other's throats? How do they feel about the Check Set Squad?

Additionally, some factions cross Guild lines. Some are Breed-based, like the Tracers, comprised of Homeless from many different Guilds who search out and investigate Radiance Eruptions in the UpWorld. (more on those later), or the Society for Creative Martyrdom, filled with bored, immortal Nomads, willing to die for any cause. Some are location-based. Some act as proto-Guilds, eventually blossoming into full Guild status.

The point here is that we're adding another level of character detail to the game...a further definition of allegiance and attitude...and yes, factions will bestow certain benefits (and in some cases drawbacks) to a character. Some factions tell their members Secrets (more on these later as well...).

It also gives some more basis for interaction between players. You've got three Bravos in a party, for example. Under first edition, there wasn't a lot to go on there...you could assume that because they were all of the same Guild, they would back each other for the most part. However, say that two of those Bravos are from the Beat-down Boyz (thugs from WashDeep who use their skills for extortion) and the other one is a Knight, and you've suddenly got some interesting dynamics working there.

Naturally, we'll also be presenting guidelines for the players to create their own Factions as well. In addition, we're going to be adding some more detail to the Guilds. We're going to be going into more depth regarding their roles within the society of the UnderWorld, as well as their histories, and some of their more famous members. We're going to detail the current political situation between the various Factions and their Guilds, between the Guilds themselves, and between the Guilds and the various Domains. (This will be of most use to people using the book setting, but can also serve as a tutorial for those who are creating their own UnderWorld beneath any other city.)

We're adding rules governing Skill Mastery (a level above the guild-level proficiency with skills) and rules for moving from one Guild to another, and in rare cases, multiple Guild memberships. You will be able to see what happens when a character is excommunicated from the Taggers Guild and petitions for entry into the Navigators Guild, for example.

We'll also be adding at least one new Guild: The Buskersthe bards of the UnderWorld, who, like the bards of the past, act not only as entertainment, but as news services and messengers between Domains. They can take information they are given and magically encode it within a piece of music, a song, a rap, a dance, etc. The message can be passed along via other Buskers (who are unaware of its content) until its designated recipient is in the audience...at which point the recipient receives the information. This makes Buskers very valuable to the Lords of the various Domains, who use Buskers for all secure communications. They're sort of a urban-fantasy/magical/hip-hop version of Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic, with all of the run plot possibilities that such a concept entails. (F'rinstance, one that just occurred to me: Player-character Busker picks up an new song or what-not, unaware of what might be encoded within it. Bad people show up and try to kill said Busker. Other Buskers are also being whacked. What is encoded within the song? Who doesn't want it delivered, and who is it supposed to be the intended recipient? Mayhem ensues.).

That's it for this week. Hopefully, what I've presented here can help you see the level of expansion we're undertaking for the second edition. The idea is not to arbitrarily change things, invalidating the first edition, but rather to go deeper and provide more detail.

Next week, T.S. Luikart steps in for an installment, and tells you a little something about Secrets. See you then.

Gareth-Michael Skarka TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

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