Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rewriting the WOTC Factions

I had an interesting discussion with Josh via email and gchat about the factions in Wizards of the Coast DnD products.  Although I love factions, these ones never really grabbed me, and I think it is because they seem too monolithic and straightforward.  Like the Order of the Gauntlet is pretty obviously Martial Lawful Good.  Harpers are Sneaky Chaotic Good.  It seems too straightforward and also unrealistic. Organizations are founded for a variety of reasons, usually have subfactions and competing visions of their goals, and often end up involved in a variety of causes and things unrelated to their original goals.  Usually they don't perfectly embody a particular point in the 9 way DnD alignment system.

Side note: This is also an issue with deities.  The difference between a lot of DnD gods and polytheistic deities  that existed in world religions is stark.  DnD gods tend to have portfolios that are kind of a tidy package.  Like you know their alignment or one fact about them and you pretty much know it all.  This guy is Lawful Good and about justice, this guy is a druid god, etc.  Compare this to Odin, whose portfolio included poetry, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, frenzy, and the runic alphabet.  Even just that he is the god of knowledge and the gallows is fascinating. Overall Odin was a really interesting head of the gods, especially in that he was interested in sorcery, which in Norse culture was seen as feminizing.  What does it say about masculinity in that culture if your head god is transgressing against your gender norms?  

Anyway, Josh had a great idea, which I will just quote here

"Rather than treating the Order of the Gauntlet as a codified organization with rankings and meeting places, you can instead view it as a network of fairly like minded groups and individuals who are likely to know each other as part of a common cause. "

I think that's very smart, because it breaks the factions up into pieces, and allows you to claim any related philosophy or organization that you're a part of is affiliated.  This brings in a lot of disparate character concepts back into the main story, but doesn't flatten the difference between a member of the Order of Astor and a Knight Mendicant.  You can have inner tensions between the member organizations, and it opens up the door for regional difference.  The people who decide to affiliate themselves with the Order of the Gauntlet might be very different if you're in a boggy backwater, compared to the preening order of knights in the capital city. 

So I might come up with some groups that would identify with these networks and not just be your typical knights or druids or whoever. 

Local 210 (Order of the Gauntlet affiliated)

In the High Moor, men and women who work for the United Mining Company break their backs moving coal and iron through the boggy fen.  Their reed boats sit low in the water, straining to hold the cargo as teams of workers push through the stagnant water with poles.  It's hard work, and dangerous too.  Beasts, will-o-the-wisps, and all manner of boggle lurk just beyond the lantern's light, waiting for an opportunity to seize a meal.  Some years back, after Ugly Rudy was ripped off a boat and drowned by who knows what, his friends, family and work team gathered together to demand UMC hire additional protection.  Their demand was refused, and the most vociferous were fired. 

Those folks, with their newly freed time, started to train with polearms and axes.  Their fellows pooled their wages and hired on their friends as protection on jobs.  After a long period of organizing and discussion, they formed a union of workers, and demanded that the UMC hire the "knights" (mockingly called by the bosses and appropriated by the union).  After many negotiations and a crippling general strike, the union was recognized.  Throughout the High Moor you can see the Gauntlet standing proud in union halls and the windows.

Members of Local 210 travel outside their swamps to encourage other laborers to unionize, and are sometimes sent out on secret missions to reinforce the union.  They need to be wary of the agents of the UMC, which seek to discredit them.  They tend to wear hide or leather, and are usually proficient with polearms.   

1 comment:

  1. Nick,
    Love the post. It really got my thinking about the factions and deities in the WotC Ferun setting, and I think what you have done here illustrates exactly the way that the "monolithic" nature of them is constructive. With something like DnD, I think that WotC has had to ride to line of setting up a rich universe (which I think they have), and also leaving room for players and DMs to expand upon the ideas and stories in their own ways, to fit with their characters and individual campaigns.

    And while I agree that many of the deities can be summed up in one note or packed into a tiny package, I would argue that it is entirely necessary given the shear quantity of gods and how complex something like a religion can be. I could imagine an enormous tome of Deities and Demigods that casual payers would never sift through, though we might love a new release of such a tome.

    Anyway, great post!