TSWoD – The secrets of the secret societies

Yeah, try saying that ten times! Anyway, welcome to another installment of The Secret World of Darkness. Today, we’ll take a look at the factions of the secret world and how to represent them best with the World of Darkness rules. We’ll be adding another WoD book to the material used, so if you want to find out what you’ll need to get from your library to bring Funcom’s world to your table, read on!

Three plus two
In TSW, players ally their character with one of three factions. The Templars are the “righteous” monster hunters, the Illuminati draw their power from influencing the media and politics, and the Dragon is a semi-terrorist group that embraces chaos. Of course, there’s more to each faction, but you can read all about them on the official site. The three “main” societies are actually not the only world-spanning factions that fight or ally themselves with the creatures and powers of the secret world. As the player progresses through the game, he will meet two other factions that play an important role in supernatural politics: the Council of Venice, who keep peace and balance between the three main factions, and the Phoenicians, treasure hunters and scavengers that show up at the most unsuitable of times.

My first intent was to focus only on the main factions, the three that are also playable in the MMORPG. Players can find lots of information about them, and it’s not hard to identify with them. However, why not take the chance and offer players the option to play as a member of the other two factions? What would a chronicle about the Council of Venice look like, or what kind of characters would participate in a tale that focuses on the Phoenicians? This leads us to the next question of this article.

One or all
Is it better to have every character on the same team, or are mixed groups no problem? In other WoD games, it’s normal to have characters from different “factions”. For example, it’s no problem to have a vampire of the Invictus in the same coterie as a Carthian. It works in the setting of Vampire: the Requiem, but would mixed group work that well in TSWoD? Well, mixing members of the main factions is no problem. The “Big Three” work together when necessary, and the Council of Venice sometimes even forces them to cooperate. However, things get complicated when you throw in the Phoenicians. As they are portrayed in the game, no one wants to be associated with them. They are labelled as smugglers at best, and it’s hard for me to see one of them playing nice with the other factions. Of course, that’s where tabletop role-playing shines: it makes it possible to tell the stories the limits of a digital game won’t allow.

Personally, I would advise groups to restrict themselves to one faction, or just the Big Three. However, I also encourage every group to try a story about the Council or the Phoenicians. If you do so, please tell me afterwards how it went!

Putting it into action
So, how would the societies work rules-wise? Actually, I think that they should mostly be flavour. Maybe they could offer Endowment-like benefits similar to those offered by Conspiracies in Hunter: the Vigil. It actually surprises me that I haven’t mentioned Hunter earlier during this project. One of my friends actually called TSW “the first MMO that made him feel like he was playing Hunter”, and it’s somewhat true. Feel free to give the societies some of the benefits the Conspiracies offer, but I would be careful with that. Make sure to not have one society offer cooler or more powerful benefits than the other. What all societies should offer is Anima training, guaranteeing that every character is trained in the use of their cosmic power (unless someone wants to play the weak mortal with the Awakened Anima Merit).

That’s actually all I would do concerning societies. I’m currently starting to put together everything I have into a better-looking PDF, but in the mean time, you can find a collection of all the TSWoD articles so far on its separate page on this blog. Check them all out, and don’t be afraid to hit me with some feedback. Happy gaming!

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