Contacts provide an important narrative and mechanical core to the game. Factions are used primarily by the GM, and serve as adversaries for the PCs. The first half of this chapter will review the components of a Contact, how PCs can use them for contact and coalition rolls, and the GM can use grudges to intensify the danger for PCs. The second half will provide an overview of factions and how to play out faction goals.
Each Contact has five basic features: Town role, traits, special abilities, bonds, and grudges.
At the start of the game, Contacts are mostly blank. Even the GM does not know much about them. The group will add details to the Contact’s history during town creation by answering questions about their relationship. They will continue to add to this history during entanglements. Each town phase, a relationship will complicate the situation. By exploring those entanglements, you dynamically shape these NPCs.
The GM may decide on each Contact’s traits early in the game, but until the team learns a trait nothing is definite, and the GM can always adapt their ideas to the direction the group narrative develops.
The players can use bonds to make a contact roll, while the GM will use grudges.
When you make a contact roll, the dice pool is made up of d6 equal to the bond/grudge rating.
1-3, the intended effect does not happen and tracker reduces by 1
4/5, the intended effect happens but the tracker reduces by 1
6, the intended effect happens and the tracker is unchanged
crit, the intended effect happens and the tracker increases by 1
PCs can choose to resist the penalty of a contact roll that is less than 6. After the GM explains how the operation put the Contact in a bad spot, the PCs can describe how they cover for them or make it up to them. Whoever wants to resist the loss of a bond would roll the most appropriate attribute and take 6 stress minus the highest result.
The GM cannot resist losing a grudge during a contact roll.
You can use bonds in 3 ways:
The GM will use Contact and faction grudges to complicate the lives of the PCs. These rolls play out the same as any contact roll. Often, rolling a grudge means the grudge tracker will decrease—the person feels less resentful after a little revenge.
The GM can use grudges in three ways.
Factions primarily serve a narrative purpose in the game. They represent the status quo and seek to maintain its oppressive structure. Mechanically, the GM can use faction grudges (as described above) to add complications to the PCs’ lives. The GM will also use faction goals to drive dynamic competition in the world, which will affect the PCs’ town.
Each faction has five components:
No matter how powerful a faction has become, its leaders are never satisfied. If they have reached the top 1% of influence, they want to become the top 0.5%. Factions view success in this world as a zero-sum game: if they are not increasing their power and resources, they are losing.
A tier-I faction is in a precarious position. They have scrapped together enough resources to achieve some stability in the world, but they are one scandal, one hostile move, away from collapse. These factions are often targeted for takeovers by more powerful factions that want to absorb the faction’s specialty while also eliminating a competitor.
These factions have two overarching goals:
Gaining a New Faction Trait
A faction increases its tier by gaining one of the four faction traits:
While most factions likely have each trait to a degree, to increase their global standing they need to dominate in these four areas. A faction will not vault themselves into notoriety with one or two operations; they will need to complete a long-term project, maybe even a series of linked projects. The faction’s current goal will be focused on the next step in that longer project.
The AI Decommission Agency (ADA) is in charge of locating and deactivating any artificial intelligence devices in the region. Despite their status as a government agency, their restrictions are often ignored by corporate powers who find AI useful for maintaining quick production schedules. The ADA, currently a tier-I faction, wants proper respect and the power to go after factions that ignore the AI laws.
As the GM, you have several options. The faction could focus on becoming trendsetting: they would make it extremely unpopular to use AI, so even the megacorps are shamed into giving up the practice. The faction could focus on becoming protective: they would focus on protecting their interests by any means necessary, maybe through the acquisition of new weapons...or changing the laws so even the megacorps fear the punishment. They could focus on becoming consuming: they would arrange for many other agencies—including ones that affect commerce—to be placed under their jurisdiction.
I decide for the start of the campaign working on the trendsetting trait would be interesting. Even when the PCs aren’t interacting with the ADA faction, it would be in the news and rumors with increasing intensity. The team will start to form their own opinion about AI, and if they should be destroyed, used, or protected.
I decide to make the first goal of the faction, “Fund popular movie about evil AI.” Weaving in hints of a major entertainment production coming to town will be fun.
If you are having trouble deciding on a trait a faction wants to focus on, or how to connect that goal to the campaign, you can always fall back on the goal of building alliances. There are two ways to focus this overarching goal. First, you could have the faction adopt the current goal of another faction as a means to gaining an ally. This can be a good way to highlight a faction or faction goal that interests you, while also making the fictional world feel more connected, as the PCs find themselves dealing with multiple factions trying to achieve the same thing.
Second, you can identify a more powerful faction (tier-II or higher) that would make a useful ally. Look at the faction’s traits. Your low level faction can set a goal around helping that faction maintain its dominance in that area. By helping to protect that faction’s position, they may get support in return.
I need a goal for the military force in the team’s town. None of the main faction qualities seem to make sense with a localized military team...at least, not yet. Instead I decide they are going to work towards an alliance with a more powerful faction.
As I look at the options, I decide it would be interesting if the military built up a positive relationship with a gang faction. I decide the military base is going to try and get in good with the gang known for smuggling. The gang’s current goal is remove the current town mayor from power, because she ran on a tough-on-crime campaign. The local military adopts that goal as their own; now they’re gunning for the mayor from the PCs’ town faction too.
Tier-II and III Factions
The midrange factions are equally obsessed with gaining power as they are terrified of losing it. Many of them will focus on gaining a new faction trait or building alliances like the tier-I factions, but they may also focus on eliminating competitors.
While the long-term goal is to eliminate a faction completely, it cannot be erased until it has been lowered to tier-I. If the targeted faction is still at tier-II or higher, the faction must first cut down its power. Essentially, you need to reverse the process a faction uses for gaining power. Pick a trait the faction has (e.g. trendsetting, pervasive, protective, consuming) to target first. The faction will need to complete a progress clock or series of linked progress clocks to take that trait away from a faction.
Once a faction has been reduced to tier-I, it becomes vulnerable to elimination. A faction only needs to complete one more faction goal to break them apart. The faction could take advantage of their enemy’s reduced state to try and take over their operation, through either negotiation or force, or they could seek to reduce them to NPC status, no longer a unified faction. If they take that angle, the former leader of the destroyed faction might make an interesting new Contact for the PCs.
The Ten-50 gang wants to destroy the local military faction, because the military has been stealing their weapons. Currently the military is tier-III, with the protective and pervasive traits. Ten-50 lacks the firepower to challenge the military’s protective trait, so I decide they will go after the faction’s pervasive trait.
Ten-50 decides it’s time the military had a competitor in the security field. Their first goal is to convince a powerful security firm from the metropolis to open an R&D lab in their town. Recruiting a new faction to town will be there first goal. I go ahead and make a note of a possible second goal, for once they achieve the first: start a war between the military and private security firm.
Tier-IV factions have one concern: eliminating competitors so they retain their dominant status. They can either target a specific faction to work against until they are reduced to tier-I and are ready to be consumed, or they can target any faction trying to rival them in a particular trait. Maybe the faction wants to be the only one in your campaign with the consuming trait so other factions cannot absorb small factions for their benefit, or they want to be the only faction with the pervasive trait so no one else rivals their control of the region.
Either way, use the process described above to set a goal around eliminating competitors.
Creating New Factions
Ruralpunk focuses on a smaller number of factions by design. By making the same eight factions attack and ally with each other, it emphasizes the closed-in nature of the PCs’ rural community. The town sheet has space for two additional factions. One should be reserved for the PCs and the town faction they create. The other can be used when a current faction brings in someone from the outside to suit their own goals. Beyond that, a faction will need to be destroyed before more factions can step into their space.