Faction Agent Background 5e: Get The Most of This Option

A trained thief moves silently along the roof of the governor’s mansion using the night as cover. She lowers a rope and climbs down, stopping before a window that she pries open with a crowbar.

She climbs into the governor’s study and locates his desk. Picking the lock, she opens the desk drawer and discovers a letter detailing the governor’s plan to betray the king.

As a faction agent, you’ll gain the benefits of working for a large organization. The bonds of the faction cross geographical and physical boundaries, but you’ll be expected to do your part as a member.

Players can find this background in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

Summary

Skill Proficiencies: Insight and one Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skill of your choice as appropriate to your faction.

Tool Proficiencies: None

Languages: Two of your choice

Equipment: A badge or emblem from your faction, a copy of a seminal faction text or code-book, a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 15gp

Faction:  Before you began your adventuring career you served as an agent for a particular faction. You have strong ties to this faction and may call upon it for assistance.

Safe Haven: Using your connections as a faction agent, you can identify the secrets and signs that lead to safe houses and contacts within your organization. 

Living A Double Life

While traveling the realms, adventurers will find many different groups competing for power. Religious sects, secret organizations, and conspirators especially flourish in lands lacking a central government.

Many of these organizations act outside the law, taking matters into their own hands when they see fit. Members of these groups may serve as political agents, smugglers, or mercenaries.

An organization is nothing without its members. At the end of the day, it’s the individual agents who are responsible for carrying out the group’s wishes. As a faction agent, you’re well aware of the small functions necessary to fulfil your role within the organization.

Personality

When it comes to creating a personality for your character, it’s best to choose traits that align with your faction.

For example, a loner who loathes society would have a difficult time as a member of the Lord’s Alliance. A boisterous paladin, however, would probably love the chance to serve the kingdom’s aristocracy.

If you’d rather let the dice decide your character’s personality, use the following tables. These are based on the Acolyte background which you can find in chapter 4 of the Player’s Handbook.

d8Personality Trait
1I’m constantly comparing everyone to a particular member of my faction, who I idolize. 
2I always look for the common ground between groups.
3I believe that if everyone thought as I did that world would be a better place.
4I am eternally optimistic.
5I love to quote my faction’s beliefs.
6I am tolerant of some factions but intolerant of others.
7I prefer the company of my superiors.
8I’ve spent too much time in service to my faction and now have little patience for outsiders.
d6Ideal
1Tradition: I must follow the code of my faction. (Lawful)
2Charity: I will always help those in need if I can. (Good)
3Change: We must work towards making the world a better place. (Chaotic)
4Power: One day I hope to lead my faction. (Lawful)
5Faith: If we all do our parts, things will work out for the best. (Lawful)
6Aspiration: I need to prove to everyone that I’m capable of doing my part for the organization. (Any)
d6Bond
1I would die to achieve my faction’s goals. 
2One day I will get revenge on a faction member who betrayed me.
3I owe my life to my faction.
4My paramour is out there waiting for me.
5I will protect other faction members with my life if need be. 
6I know the truth about a secret agent who was wrongfully declared a traitor. 
d6Flaw
1I am a harsh critic of everyone, especially myself.
2I never question the motives of the leaders of my faction.
3Those who praise my faction can easily gain my favor.
4I don’t like to change my mind about things.
5I am suspicious of outsiders. 
6I pursue my goals with a single-minded focus. 

How to Play a Faction Agent

As a faction agent, you’ll always have a double agenda. Whatever your quest, you’ll have to keep in mind the needs and desires of your faction. These factions ignore political boundaries, operating by their own codes. Each has its own agenda. As a member, you’ll be expected to help the faction achieve its goals. 

While there may not be any conflicts between your faction and the mission of your group, most players won’t be so lucky. Many factions are at odds with another.

As a result, it may be wise to keep your identity as a faction agent secret. Otherwise, you may attract unwanted attention.

Some factions are better suited to certain personality types and moral alignments. If your duties ever run counter to your beliefs, you’ll have to make a choice between the wisdom of the organization or your own convictions. 

Choosing a Faction

Players should choose a faction that works for their class and personality. For example, druids and rangers are master survivalists and perfect candidates for the Emerald Enclave.

Bards and paladins, on the other hand, are better suited for a faction that focuses on diplomatic objectives, such as the Lord’s Alliance.

Several factions exist throughout the Forgotten Realms. And not all are on good terms with each other. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing a faction.

Players and DMs are also free to create their own original organizations. You can find more about creating your own factions in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Best Classes for a Faction Agent

While any class is free to choose the faction agent background, some characters are more likely to join a faction than others. Large organizations rely on diplomacy and secrecy to achieve their ends. Only characters possessing these talents are likely to get recruited.

Ranger

As hermits, drifters, and masters of the wild, rangers make excellent faction agents. Sought after for their survival skills and wisdom, rangers will fit into almost any faction, but they are especially likely to be members of the Emerald Enclave or the Harpers.

Rogue

Expert thieves and masters of stealth, rogues make great spies. As such, they have a role to play in almost any faction. With their knowledge of thieves’ cant, rogues have ties to the vast criminal networks that operate behind the scenes.

They can rely on these connections to obtain value information for their faction.

Bard

Bards often make the perfect diplomats. With their silver tongues, quick wits, and endless stories, bards can find a home almost anywhere.

You’ll find bards among the ranks of every faction hunting for the next great adventure, entertaining their comrades with song, and inspiring all with their steadfast commitment to glory for its own sake. 

Paladin

The lawful and loyal paladin is a prime candidate for most factions. With their healing arts, charismatic personalities, and talent for the sword, paladins usually excel in organized life.

As natural leaders, paladins find giving orders as easy as receiving praise. Provided they aren’t asked to do anything illicit, these characters can quickly rise to the top of the social order.

Factions of Faerûn 

Every realm has its guilds, temples, secret societies, and hidden organizations. The power of these forces sometimes stretches across entire continents. At other times, these organizations can be so elusive most people don’t know they exist.

The Order of the Gauntlet

A powerful religious organization, the Order of the Gauntlet is opposed to villainy and evil. Devout worshipers of Torm, Helm, and Tyr, members of this faction are known for bravery and unflinching dedication. 

Primarily composed of paladins and clerics who see themselves as crusaders of justice and righteousness, the Order of the Gauntlet is known for fighting with a nearly unmatched zeal.

United by their common drive to defeat evil, members of the Order of the Gauntlet share a powerful bond and love of order. Rarely does a member act without the group’s consent.

The Harpers

A loose network of spies and spellcasters, the Harpers work covertly to oppose the abuse of power and magic. The organization has endured for a millennium due to its decentralized and secretive nature. 

Using grassroot strategies and secret alliances, the Harpers seek the overthrow of tyrants and oppressive governments. Members of the Harpers are experts on gathering information about powerful individuals. Adept spies and sleuths, the Harpers seek knowledge of the arcane believing knowledge to be the ultimate weapon. 

The Harpers claim a noble purpose: aiding the weak and opposing the strong. The organization uses a network of spies to share information about the state of the various kingdoms, city-states, and factions that coexist in the realm. 

The Emerald Enclave

Defenders of the natural world, members of the Emerald Enclave maintain the balance between civilization and the wild. Their mission is to defend the natural order. To this end, the faction only recruits those who know how to survive the harsh realities of nature. 

Druids, rangers, and barbarians make up the bulk of the Emerald Enclave, though you’ll find members from all walks of life among their ranks. When the faction isn’t working to preserve nature’s beauty, they often serve as guides and trackers.

A ranger might volunteer to hunt down a dangerous animal. A caravan might hire a druid to see them through a treacherous mountain pass.

Before you can join the Emerald Enclave, you’ll need to prove that you have what it takes to survive the elements. For some classes this won’t be a problem.

Rangers and druids are more at home in the wild than anywhere else. Other characters may need to elaborate how they came to be a member of this group of hardened survivalists. 

The Lord’s Alliance

To defeat powerful enemies, alliances must be formed. Members of the Lord’s Alliance seek to protect the realm by building coalitions between towns and cities. Backed by wealthy patrons, members of the Lord’s Alliance fight to defend the status quo and protect the people.

While free cities thrive in times of peace, members of the Lord’s Alliance know that war is never too far away. When the forces of evil appear, free cities will need to unite. Failing to do so will result in the mutual destruction of all.

This faction often recruits wizards, paladins and bards, relying on their intelligence and charisma to forge the ties necessary to keep harmony among the various lords. Members of the Lord’s Alliance value the health and stability of the realm over personal wealth or glory. 

The Zhentarim

Also known as the Black Network, the Zhentarim are a group of dedicated mercenaries. With some of the best fighters in the realm among its ranks, this faction puts wealth and power above all else.

As a member of the Zhentarim, you’re expected to protect the group. In exchange, the Zhentarim promised gold and glory. You take care of them and they will take care of you. For these mercenaries, everything has a price. 

Whether it’s serving as bodyguards or soldiers for hire, the Black Network will do nearly anything to secure its profits. Members of this organization don’t believe in bad luck. Those who join the Zhentarim are responsible for their own destinies. 

Variants and Faction Options

Custom factions serve as an excellent way to tie players to the game world. NPCs who serve as faction members can provide the players with goals and special rewards.

Any faction you create should be a natural extension of the game world. The organization and its members should fit into the campaign setting and its narrative.

Renown

As an optional rule, characters can earn rank and renown as members of a faction. By completing missions set by the faction, characters can increase their renown. As characters climb the faction ladder, they’ll gain access to additional resources and privy information. 

Each faction has its own renown levels and players can have renown in more than one faction. For example, a wizard can complete a quest for the Lord’s Alliance. In doing so they may be forced to find a magic item for the Harpers. This character will gain renown with both of these factions.

Spy vs. Spy

Serving in a vast organization has its price. Not only will you be expected to uphold the codes and rules of the faction, but you may be called upon to complete quests on behalf of your fellow members. 

The various factions don’t always play nice either. While some factions are focused on preventing war and conflict, others are working actively to stir up trouble. Because each faction has its own interests and alliances, relationships between parties can be extremely complex. 

Faction agents may be asked to join a rival faction as a double agent. Such spies can provide invaluable information crucial to the success or even survival of the faction. But turning spy can be a dangerous business. Only the most skilled players will be prepared for such a challenge.

Adventuring parties can have members of multiple factions. In these cases, players will have to decide for themselves when to work together. If a quest forces you to choose between your faction and your party, you’ll have to decide where your loyalty lies. 

Secret Endings

The life of a faction agent is rife with trouble. You might find yourself serving in a mercenary army, or tangled in a web of lies and conspiracy. Some factions work openly while others cling to the shadows like rogues.

How does life as a faction agent fit into your character’s backstory? Were you searching for glory and gold as a mercenary? Were you recruited by the Lord’s Alliance as a secret operative? Or maybe your uncle was a member of the Harpers before he was killed by an Ogre. 

As you explore the world of D&D, you’ll get the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits a faction has to offer. How well you make use of these perks is up to you, and the roll of the dice.