Factions & Villains – 3 Reader GM Ideas

Roleplaying Ideas E-newsletter #1143

Hitting too Near Residence

Let’s dive in with this remark from RPT GM Maja who brings up an attention-grabbing level about favorite villain sorts that mirrors my very own expertise. Let’s name it the Seinfeld Impact.


When you ask me what villain sort will get essentially the most consideration, it’s the private sort.

My gamers work together in excessive methods if an NPC shares a weak point with one of many gamers or flirts with an NPC the PCs shield.

If that character seems to be overtly evil, they completely go for it.

I discovered this out after I wished to create sympathetic NPCs my gamers would instinctively belief as a result of they might be similar to them.

The plan was for them to immediately acknowledge the NPCs as folks like them after which let the NPCs do one thing neither black nor white and so create a battle of conscience.

As a substitute I obtained super-villain stuff.

They instinctively hated these guys.

Possibly it’s the spirit of ambition or that they see them as rivals?

After all, overtly disgusting lunatics work properly too. And betrayal. However I wished to share this with you as a result of it simply got here as a shock to me and I need to know if I’m onto one thing or if perhaps it’s simply me.

West Marches Utilizing Faction Pyramids

RPT GM Martin has wonderful concepts on West Marches faction play:

Hey Johnn,

Thanks for the publication, a pleasant learn.

Whereas pyramid diagrams are widespread instruments in mapping out factions and intrigue-oriented situations, there’s one sport to my data that bakes them into the system: the GUMSHOE sport Evening’s Black Brokers, with the ideas of Conspyramids and Vampyramids.

The Conspyramid is strictly what you name a Villain Faction Pyramid. On the prime you’ll discover vampiric overlords pulling the strings; on the backside, their many unwitting pawns, resembling smuggler rings, corrupt cops taking kickbacks to look the opposite manner, and so forth.

The Vampyramid is a extra modern addition: it informs the kind of measures the vampiric conspiracy will reply with as PCs begin unraveling it. Naturally, these measures improve in depth as PCs transfer up the pyramid, from merely monitoring them whereas they nonetheless examine the bottom layer, to full-force assaults after they get near the height.

In a manner, what these ideas do is push the dungeon metaphor even additional. The Conspyramid is the map of the dungeon (room 1 resulting in room 2 resulting in room 3 or 4 main one degree beneath, and so forth.), and the Vampyramid is the encounter desk for every degree of the dungeon.

Apparently, these instruments permit operating investigation-oriented campaigns with a “floating” roaster of gamers, as in a kind of open desk, West March type, by providing a community of modular sub-investigations.

For instance, one week gamers examine one “brick” of the pyramid, and in doing in order that they discover clues resulting in different bricks, both on the identical layer or on the one above. They replace their tentative map of the conspiracy accordingly.

Then, when gamers declare their availability to the following sport, they inform the GM what brick they’d like to research subsequent so you possibly can focus your prep.

I like intrigue situations, however I’ve discovered them closely depending on a dedicated participant staff with loads of widespread accessible time slots to play – a uncommon luxurious, sadly.

So, right here we now have a promising workaround.

Anyway, these are simply my ideas after studying your publication.

Martin and I then conversed additional over e mail and the subject of GMing one participant versus group play in Gumshoe system video games got here up, which you would possibly discover of curiosity.


To begin with, [for one player games] as an alternative of a staff of specialised brokers you’ve obtained one versatile badass PC, à la Jason Bourne (or Bruce Wayne, in a manner), in a position to deal with most conditions from sifting by means of obscure stories to interrogating underworld fixers to mingling in higher class occasions to automotive chases to gunfights to shut fight.

Then there’s a Contacts system: NPCs who might help you out while you’re lacking that one helpful talent.

The final main distinction is the Problem system, which I’ve written an in depth discussion board evaluate of.

In a nutshell: you don’t get a devoted fight mode separate from talent checks.

There’s as an alternative an encompassing decision mechanic each time the PC is making an attempt one thing the place failure is as attention-grabbing (which means, story-driving) as success.

The GM defines a core talent for the Problem with three potential outcomes:

  • Setback (may very well be success at a critical price, or failure with problems)
  • Maintain (PC succeeds)
  • Advance (PC succeeds and will get a boon within the course of)

And a bunch of helpful ancillary expertise.

On the finish of the day, fight is nothing however a Taking pictures or Preventing problem, supplemented by different expertise relying on circumstances (resembling Athletics).

Identical to a automotive chase can be a Driving problem the place Taking pictures may very well be of use.

This technique provides a lot flexibility and ease of improvisation.

I believed Martin had a number of attention-grabbing concepts there for single participant video games.

First, make an uber character who might be competent in quite a lot of dangerous and harmful conditions.

Second, use your NPCs. Introduce a brand new NPC at the least each session. Then use NPCs to shore up PC weaknesses.

Third, focus much less on lethality and extra on problems, setbacks, and story developments.

Nice recommendation, thanks Martin!

Add Areas to Your Faction Maps

RPT GM Michael Christensen has an excellent enhancement to Faction Pyramids:


I attempted to work with [Faction Pyramids] on my present marketing campaign faction – the Pink Hand – closely impressed by the Pink Hand of Doom.

It feels good to truly put it to make use of. I’ve appeared on the pyramid in Evening’s Black Brokers quite a bit, however I do really feel it lacks places in some way, or at the least it has hassle to face alone with out a companion textual content explaining such issues.

I attempted my hand at one thing comparable in the present day earlier than I learn your mail.

Bear in mind these many letters I handed out together with the annotated invasion map? I’ve created a Trello board for my group the place I initially created a card for each bit of knowledge that may very well be gleaned from the letters and what that they had been advised.

NPCs, Areas, Factions, defeated NPCs and such. Then in the present day I attempted to place all these issues right into a relationship map for them, pondering it would present them a greater overview, additionally telling them that this won’t be the reality, but it surely’s essentially the most logical constellation given the knowledge they’ve now.

I believed this was a cool thought from Michael.

Group clusters in your pyramid to use one other layer of knowledge, resembling location. Maybe add one other dimension by way of shading type.

Thanks for the attention-grabbing ideas, Roleplaying Ideas Recreation Masters! We’re bettered by your enjoyable concepts.

Johnn 4


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