Streets with Numbers: Faction Rules

I’ve long been a fan of the Stars Without Number game (written by Kevin Crawford), and am currently playing in an ongoing campaign run by Johannes Paavola, where I play Katherine O’Brien ship mechanic and recently awakened Artificial Intelligence. SWN uses an adapted and slightly more detailed version of the standard D&D/OSR ruleset with a skill system and all manner of other sci-fi gubbinz layered on top of it, skirting the line between crunchiness and simplicity. In my opinion it walks that tightrope well, without ever falling off.

One of the great thing about the game are the Faction Rules; in essence this series of rules allow the GM to create groups or factions within their setting–giving them loose stats and resources–and then run a sort of background mini-game where these factions plot, scheme and attempt to overcome each other. The game recommends that the GM do a faction turn every four games or so and that they drip-feed in rumours and news so that the players get hint of what is going on.

These rules create a really dynamic setting that feels like it is always in motion, it is never in suspended-animation or sleep-mode, waiting for the player characters to appear on the scene. I love this, but I don’t run a lot of sci-fi games to be honest, and most of the OSR-style games I run are a good deal simpler (rules-wise) than SWN, so I’ve turned my thoughts to adapting/creating a similar set of rules for a fantasy game.

I particularly want a set of rules that will work in my current Midderlands game, allowing me to represent the shifting tapestry of Guilds and organisations at work in Great Lunden.

What the rules need to include:

  • A method to generate HP for a faction.
  • A simplified set of stats for factions, which must include:
    • Physical force.
    • Cunning/Underhand dealings.
    • Wealth.
  • A method for judging the size of a faction.
  • Rules for adjudicating conflicts between factions and their effects.
  • A system for determining what resources a faction has at their disposal.
  • A system for dealing with wealth and purchasing new resources, this must be translatable into player-level wealth.

I’m planning to create a few posts dealing with this subject and then–assuming I get some rules that I’m happy with–I’ll probably collate them into a single page cheatsheet style dealio and post it on the podcast. All of the posts will be gathering under the heading Faction Rules.

2 thoughts on “Streets with Numbers: Faction Rules”

  1. Interesting ideas here.
    I guess that the most straightforward method for working out the size and HP of an organisation in an OSR game would be to give them ‘Hit Dice’.
    1 Hit Die is a small gang.
    3 Hit Die is a local trading company or large street gang.
    5 Hit Die is a regiment or a decent sized cult.

    Conflicts could be simplified combats. You attempt to roll under the appropriate stat for each organisation in the conflict. If the roll succeeds then the organisation inflicts damage on the other organisation. If one organisation succeeds and the other doesn’t then it wins the conflict. If both succeed then they both inflict damage and the one which succeeded by the most wins the conflict.

    Assets such as a sympathetic judge, a store of explosives, a band of mercenaries or guards could be used to gain bonuses or even to function as ‘weapons’ that increase the potential damage which can be inflicted in a conflict.

    1. Yes, that’s the sort of thing I’m thinking Richard, my current plan is to have a simple set of stats that are rolled for attacks, achieving faction goals earns treasure or xp for them, this can be used to further improve the faction.

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