Dungeons & Dragons

Dynamic Affiliations

PHBIIThe affiliation rules in Player’s Handbook II for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 allow characters to both gain benefits from maintaining good standing within an organization and also use that organization to further their own goals. I’ve been taking a hard look at these rules in order to mine them for ideas that could be used to focus on leadership during the paragon tier of D&D 4E.

What is an Affiliation?

An affiliation can be any organization in your game world that adventurers deal with either as members, allies, or enemies. An affiliation must belong to one of 10 different types presented in the rules: businesses, cabals, colleges, druid circles, fighting companies, governments, spy rings, temples, thieves’ guilds, and tribes. Each affiliation is also either social or racial in nature, with racial affiliations providing slightly more benefits to members.

In addition to a type, affiliations have a scale score that determines their scope of influence in the world. The scale score can range from 1 to 20 with a higher score representing larger and more powerful groups.

Membership Benefits and Duties

A character’s rank within an affiliation is determined by an affiliation score. This score has a baseline of ½ the character’s level, but can be modified by numerous criteria specific to the organization. For example, a citizen of Castle Mairo can gain a +4 bonus to his or her score by helping to defend the fort against raiders. Penalties to the score are also possible, and committing a crime within the lands controlled by Castle Mairo cost you 10 points. An affiliation score of 3 or less indicates that a character is not recognized as a member, while a 30 or higher earns the highest rank and most benefits. The range from 4 to 30 is divided into 4 or 5 categories which each represent a rank in the organization. Each rank has a small benefit granted to characters who have attained it and some ranks also have duties that require the character to serve the organization.

Using Affiliations In Play

During a game, players can gain help from their affiliations in ways other than the static benefits provided by their rank. An organization can lend help with tasks such as guarding a location, researching ancient lore, or rooting out enemy agents. These actions are resolved using one of three types of checks: espionage, negotiation, or violence. Each check is a d20 + the affiliation’s modifier which is based on the scale and type of the organization. For example, fighting companies use ½ their scale for violence checks but only ¼ of it for espionage or negotiation.

Executive Powers

If characters reach the highest rank of their affiliation, then they become its leaders and are able to use special abilities called executive powers. Each affiliation has access to a few powers and 1 power may be used per month of game time. There are 20 executive powers described in the rules ranging from harvest to war. Most of the powers affect the organization’s resources by changing its capital score. By default, a capital score is equal to an affiliation’s scale, but it is decreased when an affiliation spends resources and increases if the organization turns a profit or if the player characters give it gifts. Affiliations can grow by maintaining a high capital score, but a low score causes their scale to reduce.

Converting to Fourth Edition

I’m not really interested in the rank-based benefits provided by affiliations. For the most part, I’d rather handle a character’s standing in the organization without trying to figure out a mathematical formula for it. At the same time, I think an affiliation-themed paragon path could easily fill the role of providing characters with a few appropriately themed bonuses and powers.

On the other hand, I think affiliation checks would be a nice addition to paragon tier play. These mechanics open a new dimension of play by allowing characters to approach problems from a leadership point-of-view as well as their standard heroic approach. I think I would be tempted to give characters command of a portion of an affiliation with a scale rating capped by character level in order to keep all of the player-controlled affiliations at a similar power level. The math for the affiliation checks could also be modified to better match 4E by always using ½ scale as the baseline and then giving different types of organizations fixed modifiers to specific check types. For example, a fighting company might get +4 to violence checks while a government could get +2 to violence and negotiation checks.

Executive powers could become part of the ritual subsystem. The time required to issue orders and far-reaching effects of an action like declaring war or sending agents to assassinate a target seems to match the basic constraints of the ritual system. I don’t think the month-based scale would need to be kept for all of the powers, but for wider reaching powers such as harvests and wars it would still make sense. One thing that would make the executive powers different from other rituals is that any checks for them would be made using the affiliation’s espionage, negotiation, or violence checks rather than the character’s skills.

Now that I have a basic approach, I just need to find some time to figure out the math for affiliation checks and write updated versions of the executive powers. Luckily, my players are still a couple levels from paragon tier.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

3 replies on “Dynamic Affiliations”

Sounds cool. I gave my players a new artifact last night, so Concordance scores are on my mind. As I was reading your description of the 3.5 affiliations I was picturing it in 4e terms as artifacts, where higher concordance offer benefits and powers (or executive ritual powers as you’ve described) while low concordance offer penalties (possibly like being wanted, disrespected, or mistrusted).

I wonder if writing organizations as a artifacts with type in place of item type scale instead of enhancement bonus, Violence, Espionage, Negotiation modifiers in place of Properties, and Executive powers in place of Encounter/Daily powers.

So instead of the following artifact with increasing or decreasing effect per Concordance, you’d have the affiliation below.
FrostBlight is treated as a +4 longsword
Crit: 4d10
Property: +2 to Nature and Endurance
Property: Gain Resist 10 Cold and Necrotic
At-will (minor): All damage dealt with Frostblight is either Cold or Necrotic
Daily (daily): Level+7 vs. Fortitude – Target is frozen solid and easily shattered (Petrified and vulnerable 15 all damage save ends). If the target takes fire damage the target makes a saving throw with a +2 bonus

The Dragon’s Eye is treated as a Level 16 (or +4) Spy Ring
Property: +6 to Espionage
Property: +2 Negotiation
Property: -2 to Violence
Executive Powers (Rituals): I don’t have good examples right now. 🙂

Another alternative would be treating them as artifact creatures, where Fort/Ref/Will is equal to Violence/Espionage/Negotiation. This might mean an affiliation has defense and ‘attack’ options, where the offenseive use of each action uses an ‘attack bonus’ of the Violence/Espionage/Negotiation score -10.

I’m not sure how the artifact creature format would change with various PC concordance though. I’m just spitballing at this point.

Concordance would be a pretty good model for updating affiliation scores and could work nicely as a starting point for a port of affiliation scores and rank benefits. Personally, I prefer to be more free form with a character’s standing in an organization just because it is really hard to establish modifiers for all of the actions a character can take that would affect how other members of the organization view him or her.

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