Examples of good faction (information) design?

I’m looking for good ways to present factions. They’re supposed to be active entities in game, not just flavour that someone has read up on or a backdrop for the PCs. So the GM or player (in a GMless game) that controls them needs info: Where are they located? What do they do and how? Clues pertaining to their actions/organisation? Who are the people in a faction? Who are they connected to and how - both on- and offline? What are their goals and plans? How would they react to different situations? …

What games or modules manage to present this stuff in a concise and usable form? What games or modules have the best factions and why?


The most common approach is walls of text. From a few paragraphs to whole sourcebooks. Eclipse Phase for example has a 23 page supplement on the Argonauts, a faction in the setting. Except for ~2 pages it’s all wall of text. And it’s not like they couldn’t present useful information in an accessible way:


But for the most part, they chose not to.

If a faction isn’t a wall of text, it’s likely treated as a character. In Stars without Number a faction could look like this for example:

Which is certainly more usable, but the game nevertheless expects me to “sort out the details” myself beyond the format it presents. Looking at Polychrome to see how Crawford actually does that: Walls of text again. A thing I like here is this table for an informational landscape that would be useful for figuring out how a faction is set up online:


An interesting way to show how a faction actually maintains itself are the (exploitable) Systems of Control in Misspent Youth (for a dystopia, of course).



Factions are about Goals and Relationships.

3 Goals, different in scope or arena, eg national/planetary/universe or economy/religion/research

Ally and an enemy, so one of the goals aligns (in some way) with one other faction and a different goal clashes with one other faction.

This way no matter the PC’s direction or motivation, they should have 1-2 potential allies/enemies.


oh one other thing, factions influence but not dominate.

a city/nation dominated by house tremere/vecna cult/cylons gives way less room for negotiation, investigation and intrigue, than a city/nation that is influenced by those fiends.


I like the way factions are presented in Scum & Villainy. Here’s an example:


Typically, this is all the information you get on a given faction, but for the most part it’s all you need: The basic idea, where they hang out, who the most important members are (which also tells you what their members are like), how powerful they are (that’s the Roman II in the top right), what resources they have, what they’re trying to achieve, and who their friends and enemies are.


I’d recommend taking a look at Blades in the Dark factions.

It works pretty well and is suited for long games.
S & V factions are very similar, of course.


I particularly like the (system-neutral) way they are represented in the Krevborna setting book and other work by Jack Shear. Location, leadership, motto, beliefs, example quests. See for example his recent post on The New Progress.


Krevborna is like a master class in setting supplement design with a focus on the playable elements of a setting rather than a dry history text filled with minutia that will never come up.


I have previously described Krevborna as approaching the Platonic ideal of a setting book. There are minor things that could be improved, but I’m in my second campaign using this book and find it incredibly helpful at the table. Interestingly, even though it’s system-neutral, much of the language and advice directly reflects PbtA principles for factions and major NPCs, with small doses of D&D 5e mixed in.


Give factions a main goal, but let current short-term goals be defined by the GM or a random table. It gives a bit more of surprise to never know what can those be right now. I ended making a table for my games with variables like:
-Human resources
Next I rolled a die and that one decided what that faction was low in/looking out for/had problems with. Tie that with a particular modus operandi and you get events/missions quite easily. However one thing you can’t get enough of is color linked to a theme for the faction. Like, their main base can be anthing, anywhere, but how does it look like? How do the members of the group dress, look and talk? What do they think of other groups? That was one of the best things I got from Vampire the Masquerade.