The organizational influence system provides the GM with tools to track the PCs’ social cachet within organizations. Small organizations seeking to make their mark on society may allow the PCs a great deal of clout within them, but are limited in what they can offer. Large organizations, on the other hand, are typically more difficult to influence, but can bring much more power to bear on an area at large.
The organizational influence system uses influence points to track the opinion of an organization concerning the PCs. When the PCs first interact with an organization, they typically start with 0 influence points, and hold no control over the organization’s actions. If the PCs demonstrate their value to the organization, they can gain influence points, representing their growing ability to call in favors. If the PCs repeatedly fail or work against an organization, they lose influence points. The PCs’ influence point total with an organization can be a negative number—the lower the total, the more resources the organization is willing to commit to actively oppose the PCs.
The PCs’ influence points help determine the number of resources an organization is willing to commit to help or hinder them, but it is not the only component of that calculation. If the PCs seek to build a positive relationship with an organization, they may find themselves limited in what benefits they can gain until they perform certain tasks. For example, most organizations limit the number of resources they commit to nonmembers, so PCs may need to officially join to gain access. On the other hand, an organization at odds with the PCs should not provide the same response to minor insults from the PCs as it does to the PCs crippling one of its major operations. The nine influence ranks presented below take into account tasks that the PCs may accomplish to pass to fundamentally alter their relationship with an organization. To reach a new influence rank, the PCs must accumulate (or lose) a certain number of influence points, as decided by the GM, and perform any required tasks that the GM sets. See the section Influence Thresholds for guidelines on setting the required number of influence points for each rank. The possible influence ranks, and their meanings, are presented below.
At these ranks, an organization either doesn’t care about the PCs or considers them allies. Unknown (Rank 0): The organization either doesn’t know who the PCs are, or does not believe they are relevant.
Known Ally (Rank 1): The PCs’ actions have proven that they are aligned with the organization’s goals. One or more PCs may be low-ranking members.
Respected (Rank 2): The PCs have performed significant services for the organization. Some low-ranking members of the organization look up to the PCs. One or more PCs are members of the organization in good standing.
Admired (Rank 3): Average organization members admire the PCs. Some low-ranking members may have strong loyalties to the PCs. The PCs have notable positions within the organization.
Revered (Rank 4): While the PCs are not the official leaders of the organization, they are key members. The PCs can direct and shape policy.
At these ranks, an organization actively opposes the PCs.
Known Opponent (Rank –1): The organization’s opinion of the PCs is unfavorable. It may act against the PCs if they are interfering in its affairs, but the organization mostly focuses on its own goals.
Disliked (Rank –2): The organization commits some resources to targeting the PCs even when the PCs are not actively interfering with its goals, and retaliates when the PCs acts against it.
Hated (Rank –3): The organization seeks to discredit, humiliate, or kill the PCs, and commits substantial resources to doing so. However, the organization ultimately prioritizes its long-term power and stability over harming the PCs.
Hunted (Rank –4): The organization seeks to discredit, humiliate, or kill the PCs, and is willing to sacrifice enough time, resources, and lives to markedly weaken itself in the pursuit of this goal. Even the organization’s leaders may risk their lives in pursuit of the PCs’ downfall.
As the PCs perform tasks that benefit an organization, they gain influence points. Performing favors requested by an organization is the most effective way for the PCs to accrue influence points with that organization. A typical favor earns the PCs from 2 to 5 influence points, depending upon how difficult and dangerous the favor is to complete. See the Favors section for more details. The PCs can also accrue influence points with an organization by taking actions that coincidentally further the organization’s interests. Such actions typically earn the PCs 1 or 2 influence points. For example, if the PCs apprehend a notorious jewel thief who has been stealing from their own coffers (as well as those of local nobles), they may gain an influence point with the local nobility. The PCs can also gain influence points by building trust with a member of the organization. The personal influence system is one good way to create an encounter based around improving this NPC’s opinion of the PCs, while the verbal dueling system is another. The number of organizational influence points that the PCs can earn from gaining the approval of a single NPC within the organization typically ranges from 1 to 5. Backing a rank-and-file member of the organization is worth at most 1 influence point, while the backing of one of an organization’s leaders is worth 5 influence points, and may be worth more in extraordinary circumstances, at the GM’s discretion.
The PCs generally won’t actively seek to lose influence points with an organization. However, the PCs’ actions over the course of a campaign are likely to put them at odds with one or more organizations, and the PCs may inadvertently harm organizations that they do not wish to antagonize. Whenever the PCs actively sabotage an organization’s interests, they lose from 2 to 5 influence points with the organization. If the PCs take actions that coincidentally work against the organization’s interests, they instead lose 1 or 2 influence points. If the PCs horribly botch an attempt to perform a favor for an organization, they may similarly lose 1 or 2 influence points. If the PCs damage a prominent member’s reputation or finances, they lose from 1 to 3 influence points, depending on the extent of the damage and the power that member wields within the organization. The PCs also lose influence points if they harm a prominent member of the organization. Killing members of any organization is a particularly effective way to lose influence. For most organizations, any time the PCs kill one or more members of an organization, they lose at least 5 influence points per incident. If the organization is a primary antagonist of the campaign or story arc, the GM may consider using the nemesis system to complement the organization influence rules, particularly if the organization is led by a single individual.
The most crippling blow to the PCs’ reputation with organization is betrayal. To be considered traitors to the organization, the PCs must violate the organization’s fundamental tenets while using the organization’s own resources against it. If an organization that favors the PCs becomes convinced of the PCs’ betrayal, the PCs immediately lose a number of influence points equal to twice their current total, essentially reversing their standing with the group. In general, the higher the PCs’ influence rank, the more evidence the organization requires before it considers any accusations of treachery credible. If an organization declares the PCs traitors, it is possible (though difficult) for them to redeem their reputation. In general, this process requires the PCs to track down and discredit the source of the slanderous evidence. Doing so restores the PCs’ original influence point total, and likely earns them additional rewards from the organization for unmasking the true threat against it. If they only partially exonerate themselves, they may regain some but not all of their influence points.
The number of influence points required to shift from one influence rank to the next sets the pace for how quickly the PCs’ power in organizations can change. The three main factors that play into setting influence thresholds are the length of the campaign, the interest level of the players in exploring their interactions with organizations, and the power and personality of the organization itself. Short story arcs generally require lower thresholds than long campaigns. Some groups of players would rather slowly earn influence within a difficult organization, while others would rather see how quickly their PCs can become powerful in multiple organizations. Finally, within a campaign, weaker organizations typically allow the PCs to gain influence ranks more quickly than prominent ones.
With all of these factors in mind, the following ranges provide guidelines for determining the number of total influence points a character must gain to reach positive ranks, or lose to reach negative ranks. These thresholds are for a weak organization. For a moderately prominent organization, multiply the numbers by 2. For a strong organization, multiply by 3, and for a preeminent organization, multiply by 4.
Rank 1 or –1: From 1 to 5 total influence points.
Rank 2 or –2: From 3 to 8 total influence points.
Rank 3 or –3: From 7 to 12 total influence points.
Rank 4 or –4: From 13 to 18 total influence points.
The PCs’ interactions with organizations are often only a piece of a larger political tapestry. Alliances and rivalries between organizations shape how each organization reacts to the PCs’ actions. If two organizations are rivals, they typically require the PCs to choose a side. The PCs may automatically lose influence points with one for supporting the other. For example, if the PCs perform a favor for one faction during a war and gain influence points with that faction, they lose an equal number of influence points with that faction’s rivals. In less extreme circumstances, the PCs may lose half as many influence points as they gain.
While rivalries between organizations make holding split loyalties difficult, allegiances between multiple organizations can help the PCs accrue influence faster than they could otherwise, and provide the PCs with access to additional resources. If the PCs help or harm one of two allied organizations, treat them as coincidentally working for or against the second organization’s interests for the purposes of the number of influence points the PCs gain or lose.
As the campaign unfolds, the web of alliances and rivalries between organizations may shift. A sudden shift in allegiances does not retroactively adjust the PCs’ influence point total.
An organization’s prominence represents the political and social power of that organization in its home community or area of influence. The categories of prominence are weak, moderate, strong, and preeminent. In general, a weak organization can provide only simple assistance within its limited area of concern. Most weak organizations are eager to recruit new members to increase their prominence, though some appreciate the lack of attention they draw from outside forces. A gang of pickpockets is an example of a weak organization. In comparison, a moderate organization holds an established place in the power structure of its local area, and has some connections and contacts with other local organizations. A thieves’ guild is likely to be a moderate organization. A strong organization, on the other hand, may be at the top of the power structure for its area of concern, or it may be one of several organizations that hold power on a regional or national scale. The cathedral of a major deity in a state with multiple religious traditions is likely to be a strong organization. Finally, a preeminent organization is the undisputed head of the power structure in its sizable area of concern—the ruling body of a nation is an example of a preeminent organization, as is a merchants’ guild that effectively controls trade in a large region.
Favors lie at the heart of the organizational influence system. When the PCs perform a favor for an organization, they can either gain influence points, or they can earn a favor from the organization in return. The PCs can spend favors that they have earned to gain benefits from the organization.
The PCs can slowly earn favors over time, after a certain number of sessions or amount of in-game time that is appropriate for the campaign. This rate also provides a guideline for modeling the behavior of organizations. Typically, this rate is an appropriate benchmark for how often allied organizations approach the PCs with requests, as well as how often opposed organizations act against them. In general, if an organization is willing to grant a benefit to the PCs when they have a positive rank with that organization, it is willing to grant that same benefit to someone acting against the PCs should they attain the corresponding negative rank.
Favors: Sometimes, tasks for the PCs to complete as favors to an organization arise naturally out of the events of the campaign. However, at other times, the PCs may actively seek to assist an organization at a time when such tasks are not so forthcoming. The 28 favors on the following table are generic enough to apply to almost any organization. Some of the tasks near the top of the chart are too inconsequential for established members, while the tasks at the bottom of the chart are too significant for initiates. To use this chart, roll a d20, and add twice the PCs’ influence rank to the result.
|1||Deliver a message to a member of the organization.|
|2||Perform a disgusting or unpleasant chore for the organization.|
|3||Assist the organization in gathering information in preparation for an upcoming mission.|
|4||Purchase and deliver supplies to a member of the organization.|
|5||Carry out the duties of a specific low-ranking member of the organization for 1 week.|
|6||Produce verbal or written propaganda in favor of the organization.|
|7||Mediate a disagreement between members of the organization.|
|8||Provide spellcasting services or other specialized tasks to the organization for several days.|
|9||Credit the organization for your own publicly popular actions.|
|10||Collect money for the organization.|
|11||Assist in the construction or renovation of a building for the organization’s use.|
|12||Investigate the disappearance of an ally of the organization.|
|13||Donate a substantial amount of money to the organization.|
|14||Recruit a new member to the organization.|
|15||Obtain a significant item for the organization.|
|16||Defeat a challenging foe of the organization (CR equal to or greater than the party’s APL + 2).|
|17||Help a member of the organization escape a dangerous situation.|
|18||Collect valuable information for the organization.|
|19||Mentor a new member of the organization.|
|20||Convince a powerful individual to cooperate with the organization.|
|21||Cover up evidence of an indiscretion tied to the organization.|
|22||Plan and execute a dangerous operation to achieve a difficult goal.|
|23||Sabotage an organization with opposing goals.|
|24||Repay the organization’s debts by performing a challenging task for another organization.|
|25||Investigate a possible traitor within the organization.|
|26||Establish a branch of the organization in a new district or city.|
|27||Represent the organization in a meeting with extraordinary stakes.|
|28||Carry out the duties of a key member of the organization for 1 week.|
Benefits: Each organization provides its own unique set of possible benefits to the PCs based on their influence rank. The PCs can spend a favor that they have earned to gain one of the benefits that they have unlocked. Some benefits become free once the PCs become sufficiently influential in an organization, allowing the PCs to make use of them without expending a favor.
The base organizational influence system assumes that the PCs act as a unified group and do not take extraordinary effort to conceal their identities and activities. In some campaigns, these assumptions are not always accurate. The simplest type of clandestine operation to adjudicate is a single secret favor. If the PCs perform a favor for an organization and conceal their actions, do not decrease the PCs’ influence points with that organization’s enemies. The PCs can use secret identities to perform more complicated maneuvers, such as playing multiple sides of a conflict, or perhaps even infiltrating an organization as spies. As long as an organization knows that the PCs are infiltrating its rivals, that organization’s members continue to believe that they have the PCs’ loyalty; they typically overlook minor actions that the PCs take against the organization, so long as the PCs provide a plausible justification for their misdeeds.
If the PCs use secret identities, track their influence under each set of identities separately as long as they maintain the ruse. Maintaining two distinct sets of identities over a long period of time should be challenging, but not impossible if the PCs are careful. Common features between the identities—anything from physical features or mannerisms to equipment, fighting style, or associates—present the threat of exposure. If the PCs rise to high influence ranks in two opposing organizations, their risk of being caught increases significantly. The vigilante class is particularly well suited to the challenge of maintaining multiple identities.
If an organization figures out that the PCs are maintaining two separate identities, the PCs’ influence point total for that organization may change drastically. If both sets of the PCs’ identities are aligned with an organization, the PCs’ influence point total may go as high as the sum of the points they earned under both identities. Conversely, if both sets of the PCs’ identities are aligned against an organization, the PCs’ influence point total may go as low as a negative number equal to the sum of the two. Adding the two values sometimes allows a single action to count twice—this reflects that the organization may either respect the PCs’ dedication to their cause, or revile the PCs for their dedication to opposing it. In most cases, however, the resulting change in influence should be less extreme than a direct sum, even if the organization has a favorable opinion of both identities. If the PCs are working for two opposed organizations, see the last paragraph of Losing Influence for details on how an organization responds to being betrayed.
An organization’s stat block is arranged as follows.
Name: The organization’s name.
Alignment and Prominence: An organization’s alignment is the alignment that most closely represents its policies and actions. While individual members of an organization may be of any alignment, an organization’s key NPCs are typically within one step of the organization’s overall alignment. An organization’s prominence may be weak, moderate, strong, or preeminent.
Size: An organization’s size is an approximation of its number of active members.
Key Members: Key members of an organization are both visible leaders and shadowy schemers who have significant pull.
Values: An organization may value any number of traits in its members, such as creativity, generosity, dependability, skill at particular tasks, or social station.
Public Goals: All but the most clandestine organizations share some of their goals with the general public.
Private Goals: These are the private goals both of the organization as a whole and of key members. Sometimes, the private goal of a key member might conflict with the private goal of the organization.
Allies and Enemies: Organizations do not exist in a vacuum. An organization’s prominent allies and enemies are noted here. PCs can gain or lose influence with an organization based on their interactions with its allied or opposed organizations.
Membership Requirements: Most organizations have a procedure for officially joining them, and expect their members to satisfy ongoing commitments (like paying dues).
Influence Limitations: Often, the PCs need to perform a specific task for an organization before they can raise their influence past a certain threshold. The most common requirement is for the PCs to join an organization, but organizations may require more complicated tasks or favors before counting the PCs among their most trusted allies.
Benefits: This section lists favors that the PCs can call in based on their influence rank with the organization. The PCs can always choose benefits on the available list for their current rank or a lower rank within the organization, and, at the GM’s discretion, the PCs might be able to access the benefits for lower ranks for a decreased number of favors, or even for free, if the PCs request the benefit a reasonable number of times. To approximate the benefits that the PCs can gain from an organization outside of its base of operations, the GM should decrease the PCs’ effective influence rank appropriately, to a minimum of Rank 0 if the PCs are entirely beyond the organization’s reach.
New Benefits: This section details the benefits the PCs can earn from the organization beyond those listed in the Common Benefits section.
The following benefits appear in many organizations’ stat blocks, and are defined below.
Borrow Resources: Many organizations allow members in good standing to borrow money or items for short periods of time. PCs can borrow money or items worth a total amount listed in parentheses. If the PCs do not repay the loan in a timely manner, they risk losing influence points. Typically, the PCs cannot borrow resources from an organization if they have outstanding debts, and some organizations require collateral. Organizations are more likely to have items that are relevant to their own interests—a mercenary group might loan weapons and armor, but not holy symbols or arcane books, for example.
Command Team: When the PCs reach a high influence rank within an organization, the organization typically allows the PCs to lead a team of its members on a mission. The PCs are expected to protect this team and bring the members back alive. PCs can lead groups of the size and strength listed in each favor’s entry.
Gather Information: The PCs can ask several members of the organization to assist them in gathering information about a particular subject, and gain a +4 circumstance bonus on all Diplomacy checks to gather such information.
Put in a Good Word: The organization promotes the PCs’ reputation among its allies. The PCs gain a number of influence points equal to their rank with the organization with one of the group’s allied organizations.
Reciprocal Benefits: The organization leverages its ties to one of its closest allies for the PCs’ gain. The PCs can purchase a benefit from the benefits list of a closely allied organization by expending two favors. Treat the PCs’ influence rank with the allied organization as 1 lower than their rank with the initial organization.
The sample organizations in this section span all possible levels of influence. The organizations that are relevant to each GM depend upon the campaign.
Other ideas for organizations that are not detailed below include an assassin’s guild, a bardic college, a merchant’s guild, a museum, a secret society, and a university.
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