I have been trying to get this idea out of my head.
A few days after I picked up Fallout Shelter, I cracked something in faction development. But I haven’t been able to articulate it. I’ve been going around in circles ever since — almost a week — and I’m bound to go mad at this rate.
Let me see if I can break this down.
First, I figured out how to scale factions. That was the start.
In truth, factions scale just like characters do, but because they’re groups of people rather than individuals, they not only survive the death of their founder (like… a corporation?), they can wield a lot more power than an individual.
Which is not to say that a small group of dedicated PCs couldn’t eradicate a “faction” of orcs, goblins, or kobolds. Just that it would take some effort.
Second, I figured out what the auxiliary benefits of factions are: they “enable” individual characters to acquire features like race and class.
This blew me away. It technically enabled my first discovery.
At the lowest level, factions enable PCs to take classes — whether the PC belongs to the faction or not. This becomes a chicken-egg conundrum: did PCs found factions to train PCs, or did factions train PCs to found factions?
Character classes are here defined as a “martial philosophy.” No two practitioners of one class are exactly the same. You might even call it a “personal” martial philosophy, except for the fact that it’s a template applied to a character.
Moving up the ladder, factions then enable Trades — which are a feature I designed to replace the skill system. They provide an intangible benefit to PCs that enables certain social interactions. It’s straightforward enough, but I’ve explained it elsewhere. It’s kind of like a “social class.”
Continuing on up, larger factions enable races.
This goes beyond the typical RPG definition of races (physiology) and incorporates elements of culture. You can have more than one human race, for example. There will likewise be multiple elf and dwarf races. I think I’ve discussed how that will work elsewhere as well. I don’t have time for it now.
The next tier of factions enables the Masks.
I’ve talked about Masks before. They’re the secular Powers That Be, and include archetypal characters superficially similar to the Icons of 13th Age.
The next tier of factions — where we start getting truly fantastic — enables the powers. Powers include things that the PCs do, and are ultimately derived from The Seven States of Magic. These are always the same, but sentiments change.
The next tier of factions enable the gods.
When I build my setting — which uses this system — I’ll have just five gods. And I’ll recommend that anyone else who uses the system uses 3-6 gods. It may be possible to break from that mold, by reorganizing the power structure.
But that would be getting pretty abstract.
If you were to extend the tiers of factions one more step, beyond the highest tier, they would enable alignment. My setting has two: Destiny and Agency. As previously suggested, it may be possible to expand through reorganization.
What I realized while writing, was this: practically speaking, most PC organizations will only occupy the bottom-two tiers. It’s unlikely most will ever reach the third tier (race), and while I intend to make sure the rules function across all tiers, priority should be give to the first 2-3 tiers.
There’s still more to do, but I’ll have to come back to it.