Within every organization there is disagreement, both inconsequential and monumental. Sometimes the people who have these disagreements come together to form sub groups within their organization and begin working towards their own agenda, while still acting as part of the whole. These splinter groups are called factions, and they can take the form of anything from crazy cults to feuding families. Whatever the origin, here’s a few reasons to include them in your world.
Factions Add Interest
What does a government with no internal disagreements, a church without different sects, and a coalition of wizards who all practice the same school of magic have in common? They are simple and boring. Inventing factions for stale organizations will make them feel more unique.
This is especially useful when you’re using a borrowed setting, from Earth or elsewhere. How do you make your wizard school different from every other wizard school out there? Give it one faction that wears feathers and whispers to doves, and another that wears scales and keeps lizards under their shirts.
Factions are easily integrated into stories, adding interest to your plot and characters as well. They create opportunities for characters to explore the inner workings of the society, make new friends, or find side quests.
Factions Create Conflict
A faction within a stable organization is bound to create opportunities for conflict. Within a fighter’s guild, the shield fighters and two-handed fighters might have a friendly competition going, or maybe they both hate the flail fighters. Or perhaps the architects in charge of building a new apartment complex are infringing on the small business organization’s interest in building a mall. Whatever the case, whether factions are at each other’s throats or they team up and combine resources, there’s bound to be scandal and opportunity.
Characters can grab the reins of these conflicts and direct them to their own ends. They can use them to spin webs of lies, break alliances, or create allies and friends! They can be associated with these factions and may have obligations within them. When that happens, a promise made to a faction can easily be at odds with a character’s current goal, forcing them into making choices of loyalty. This conflict gives you a chance to show what the character cares about in the world, which is always a good thing.
When the story slows down, use factions to add a little action. Maybe your protagonist is at a stalemate with the big bad, or they’ve taken a wrong turn and don’t know where to go. Suddenly, the Arcturus faction from the local Astrologers Association shows up with a plot for a hostile takeover! This can be a useful tactic to get over those bumps. Sure, it may seem a bit contrived, but it doesn’t have to be. If used properly, adding a faction can provide a unique solution to unique problems. Just don’t throw them in every time your character is stuck.
Factions Improve Worlds
If you’re a “world half empty” kind of person, using factions can explain how obscure problems are handled. Who maintains the gardens at the palace? It just so happens that there’s a guild of druid gardeners nearby who takes care of them. How do the interstellar traders navigate the nearby asteroid field? The Scout Club provides experienced pilots for such purposes. Even if no one in your story asks questions about these things directly, using factions can help the world feel filled out, and when it does come up, a faction is an interesting response.
It will also make your world more realistic. We know from experience many organizations are already broken into factions. The HR department of a business, the philosophy club at a school, and familial loyalty groups in a government are all examples of factions. By adding factions to your world, you mirror real world society in a way readers or players can easily relate.
No matter what setting or genre you use, factions can add interest and color to your world. With the addition of factions that your characters can join or create, you open a door not just for your characters and their relationships, but for your story as a whole.
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