One of the new elements in the upcoming 5th Edition D&D rules are factions. Specifically, there are rules for factions in the Forgotten Realms as part of the D&D Adventurers League, which is the new organized play thing (is it replacing the RPGA? I’ve not seen anything one way or the other). They are, quite coincidentally, much like I had envisioned factions in my own Adventures Great and Glorious; player characters can belong to a faction and gain levels within that faction, and there are certain benefits from doing so. Basically, each time you do something that benefits your faction, you get one or two “renown points” that eventually take you up the ladder within the faction.
In the Forgotten Realms, the factions are the Harpers, the Order of the Gauntlet, the Emerald Enclave, the Lords’ Alliance, and the Zhentarim. As far as I know, only the Harpers and the Zhentarim were present in the Realms before the latest incarnation, but I could very well be wrong as I’ve not kept up with it.
Now, naturally, my thoughts turn to the Greyhawk setting when I see something like this. First and foremost, I don’t see any reason the faction mechanism can’t work outside of organized play. In a home campaign, there are going to be shadowy and out-in-the-open groups, and having a nice set of mechanics to regulate how the PCs interact with these organizations could be beneficial to a lot of DMs.
Factions are of course optional, and not every member of a party need belong to a faction (or the same one!). A PC might go through an entire campaign without ever even encountering a faction, although another PC might find their interactions with a given faction to be central to their experience. It all depends on how the DM has set up the game.
Greyhawk is replete with such factions, that could be used to both support and oppose the activities of the PCs over the years. The Scarlet Brotherhood is an obvious choice, as is the Circle of Eight. I’d throw in Iuz, as he has agents across the Flanaess in various guises and positions. A campaign set in and around the City of Greyhawk might include the Rangers of the Gnarley Forest, and perhaps the Greyhawk Thieves’ Guild. I’m not sure if the Old Faith would count as a faction in this sense of the word, but there’s definitely some group of Druids in the Flanaess operating in a coherent fashion (the “Oaken Concatenation” perhaps?).
There are still some details yet to come about the mechanics of the various levels work (mentoring at level 2/4, downtime at level 3), but there’s enough there to at least get an idea. Let’s see how this works.
The Scarlet Brotherhood
The Scarlet Brotherhood (also known as the Brothers of the Scarlet Sign) can trace its lineage all the way back to the vanished Suel Imperium. Although the hierarchy of the Brotherhood places its highly trained monks at the top, followed by assassins and thieves, it has agents and operatives of all sorts pursing its subtle and dangerous ends. Those who operate openly offer sage counsel and seemingly wise advice; those who are less open about their ties to the Brotherhood are ruthless in their obedience to the orders of their superiors, to further the end of one day seeing the Suel dominate the Flanaess, as is their destiny owing to the innate superiority.
- The Suel race is inherently superior to all others, and the Suel are the natural rulers of the world
- Evil is the only philosophy that will achieve our goals
- Influence is preferable to control, control is preferable to force, force is preferable to failure
- Protect the purity of the Suel race
- Infiltrate the centers of power in the Flanaess
- Establish a new order with the Suel people at its apex
Members of the Scarlet Brotherhood can be of any class, but must be of evil alignment. Most agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood will have been raised in the Tilvanot Peninsula itself and sent out into the world, but some few people of pure Suel blood are recruited from outside. All believe in the inherent superiority of the Suel race and its destiny to rule the world, although they are wise enough to hide that belief from outsiders, who might misinterpret it (or interfere with the Brotherhood’s plan to see that destiny come to pass).
- Friend (rank 1) – faction insignia is a tattoo bearing the Scarlet Sign
- Cousin (rank 2)
- Nephew (rank 3)
- Brother (rank 4)
- Elder Brother (rank 5)