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Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells 2nd Edition - Factions in Action

Due to their importance and influence on the sword and sorcery adventures, Factions can effectively be treated as characters and, as such, can influence the events of the campaign in a myriad of ways. But how do we resolve the outcome of their actions in a fair and neutral way?

This system proposes assigning them scores in 4 main Attributes similar to those of the PCs: Warfare, Subterfuge, Machinations, and Influence. These scores will normally vary from 0 (meaning complete inaptitude in that particular area) to 5 (meaning a very strong focus on that particular area).


This faction Attribute will determine how well a faction perform in battles, such as wars or even small skirmishes in the narrow alleys of a corrupt City-State.


This governs how competent a faction is in more underground activities such as thievery, smuggling, assassinations and other actions normally related to criminals and other underbelly actors.


This Attribute determines how skillful a faction is in the arts of political intrigue, manipulation, espionage, courtship, backstabbing and all sorts of intellectual interactions to gain advantage or hinder rivals or enemies.


This defines the social aptitude of a faction and their capacity to influence outside organizations and individuals. With a high enough influence, a faction can convince another group to fight their battles for them.

Resolving Actions

When a faction is trying to accomplish something (usually in the background, between adventures), they make and Faction Roll, rolling a d6 and trying to get a result equal to or below than their appropriate faction Attribute.


If they succeed in obtaining a result equal to or below than the appropriate score, they either accomplish their deed or get a step closer to doing that.

Simple actions that do not require a lot of work and preparation are simply considered done. More complex actions, those that require a lot of steps and preparations are done in Steps. Mildly complex task requires 4 steps, highly complex tasks require 8, and extremely complex acts can require from 12 to 16 steps. Each success grants one step, unless the Faction Roll was made with a Positive Die and both dice were successes.


Failure not only means the faction did not accomplish what they were trying to accomplish but they suffered some losses in the attempt. The faction Attribute used for the task becomes Taxed, and if they fail another action using the same Attribute before a month has passed, the score is reduced by one.

Positive and Negative Dice

If a faction is attempting a task on which one of their traits, assets or themes are relevant and would significantly improve their chances of success, the roll is made with a Positive Die, rolling 2d6 and using the one with the more favorable result. On the other hand, if any of these characteristics, or their problem would affect negatively their attempts, the roll is made with a Negative Die, rolling 2d6 and forcing the use of the least favorable one.

Investing Treasure

Player characters can improve the chances of the factions they are allied with investing some of their Treasure Points to temporarily increase the faction’s Attributes. For each 10 Treasure Points invested, the respective Attribute is increased by one for the purpose of the Faction Roll. Permanently increasing a faction’s Attribute is a task in itself, and should be treated as a complex action and resolved as outlined above.

Opposed Actions

When the action being attempted is in opposition with another faction, the resolution mechanic changes slightly. The factions involved roll a d6 (or more if they have Positive or Negative Die) and add their relevant Attribute scores to the result. PCs can still invest Treasure Points in these circumstances and the factions characteristics can give Positive dice or impose Negative die accordingly.

Increasing Attributes

Factions start small and with little resources but can grow bigger with time and investment of their members and allies. A faction can increase one of their Attribute scores by accomplishing a complex task (usually of 8 steps). This requires time and most likely the investment of Treasure Points. No faction can increase one of their Attributes above 5, but they can do the same thing to acquire new traits and assets.

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