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Being a Neutral Faction - Advantages and Challenges

Ashin Varanin

Professional Enabler
I've been talking with the leaders of other Neutral factions, and this is a subject that's been on my mind a lot recently. A lot of you know that I'm a grad student in international relations, so the 'major factions' game is one of the things that's always interested me most about this board and the board where I started RP'ing. I like watching patterns take shape, governments define themselves by their actions, treaty relationships rise and fall, non-state actors mold events. It's fascinating.

One of the most compelling elements, to me, is that struggles don't have to be polarized to be dynamic. If you look at the map right now, nine factions hold power. Of those nine, if you go look in the faction directory, seven are labelled as Neutral and two are labelled as Light Side - the Republic and the Fel Imperium. An eighth, also labelled Neutral, is about to be added. With the fall of the Sith Empire, and those two ostensibly Light Side factions excepted, every faction on the board identifies as neutral.

Why is that? At least five potential reasons come to mind.

  • A desire to be uninvolved in the great struggles, at least for now; to write stories in remote areas. Arguably, this could also be labelled fear of whatever great power is closest. But this can also be subdivided into cowardice and survival, or simply waiting for a great power to wane.
  • Recruitment. Anyone who watches American politics can tell you about the race to the middle, the attempt to capture the moderate vote. I'm currently one of three faction admins and nine High Council members in the Fringe. The other two faction admins have neutral rank tags, and more than one of the High Council members fall into similar categories. These are members we wouldn't have as a blatantly Dark Side faction.
  • Political flexibility. Treaties are made and broken every couple of weeks. Your ally could become your enemy overnight. That's realistic, in a setting with unclaimed territory, numerous powerful actors, and hegemonic pressures -- I'm sure @[member="Siobhan Kerrigan"] could give you some more precise examples from European history. If you're the kind of faction who can befriend or fight nearly anyone -- the CIS, for example, has signed a treaty with nearly every faction on the board at one point or another -- you're in a good position in a lot of ways.
  • Storytelling flexibility. In a neutral faction, more often than not, a range of characters means a range of potential stories. I've led polarized factions, here and elsewhere, and I've led neutral factions, here and elsewhere. The strictly light or dark ones
  • Realism and political realist thought. Some claim there are no good governments or bad governments, and every government that claims righteousness winds up disproving itself sooner or later. Most just fall into the camp of a political school of thought called realism, to which nearly every faction leader on the board ascribes whether they know it or not: You do what's best for your people and leave other people up to their own leaders.

Why do I, and others, have an issue with seven out of nine factions being Neutral and none being Dark Side? What implications does this have for the board's hard, soft, structural, and projected power dynamics? Is this a problem for the board as a whole and, if so, why?

  • Too many neutral factions, too few hard lines, or too many stagnant polarized factions, and we get what the inimitable Sio has termed 'Star Peace.' A large portion of the board enjoys individual-level RPs more than the 'grand game,' but another large portion spends its time considering the ebb and flow of power like stock prices, and Star Peace is boring for them.
  • The consequence is a pushback effect in which the whole board, for shorter or longer periods, is focused on the great struggles and even the more petty examples of expansion and conquest. That's great for a good chunk of the board, but leaves others feeling delegitimized or even unwelcome.
  • Too many neutral factions, in a Star Wars setting, lead to false assumptions based on personal biases, distance from various situations, or poor understanding of politics. When states don't act in accordance with our expectations of them, many people get uncomfortable and angry. If I discussed human rights and humanitarianism in Iran in the same breath as I discussed American atrocities -- see what I mean? Get a shallow idea of a country, listen to the wrong people, and you'll always be off.
  • And that breeds drama, because people expect most factions on a Star Wars board to lean one way or the other. They expect factions to stand for something, but only in terms of a single variable - Light or Dark. All other principles are often delegitimized. For example, Moross stands for the will of its gods, OP stands for safe spacelanes and free trade, Fringe stands for individual freedoms and safety at any cost, but all these principles wind up being reduced to some point on a one-dimensional scale from Light to Dark.

Let's transition back to the Star Peace thing. Does having so many neutral factions cause stagnation? One indicator might be invasions.
  • There have been 23 roleplays with the 'Invasion' tag in board history (24 counting Roche). Of those, a staggering 18 took place in 2014. Of those 24 invasions, 10 were against a faction labelled Neutral, and 9 were started by a faction labelled Neutral. 5 involved one Neutral faction invading another Neutral faction. 10 involved one polarized (Light Side or Dark Side) faction invading another polarized faction.
  • This is a really small sample size with a lot of variables unaccounted for. Just on the surface, though, it looks like the Neutral factions are somewhat less willing to invade. If the Republic's recent blitzkrieg of the Sith Empire is removed, the numbers are more equal. Some might argue that, before said blitzkrieg, both the Republic and the Empire were acting in ways that others associated with Neutral factions -- specifically, not doing anything. But the numbers don't suggest that Neutral factions accomplish nothing.
  • One interesting example is going on right now, as it happens. The three-way dance between OP, TGE, and Fringe has its roots 'way back in the Treaty of Ithor, when OP was a superpower and TGE and Fringe were upstarts banding together to avoid getting dragged into the big wars. At various points, these three governments have invaded each other, struck new treaties, made common cause, and otherwise jockeyed for position. I'm not the decision maker in Fringe anymore - we operate by consensus, and I've been outvoted a time or two. That means I've been able to sit back a bit and watch this really interesting situation unfold, knowing it could go in any direction depending on any number of factors. And by the end of this three-way mess between these three Neutral factions, the map will look very, very different and probably a whole lot less colorful. Aside from three or four Republic helpers at the Fondor invasion, this whole war has been Neutral factions and only Neutral factions.
  • However, there's no question that the most dynamic changes have to do with polarized (Light or Dark) factions.

Does this mean that, when the balance of Light vs Dark shifts immensely, a Neutral faction needs to step up, change itself, and fill the gap?
  • I tend not to think so. Certainly I don't see a reason to change my characters to suit someone else's needs. And ultimately, that'd be my choice, not some definition imposed on me. But that's a personal view, not a professional one.
  • I think I've established that most factions in search of something to do will find someone to attack -- or even, as with the OP invasion of Kayri, invite someone to attack them. Alignment makes it easier to pick enemies, but ideology is far from the most common cause of war. Resources (SE vs Mandos over stygium). Territory (Fringe vs AE). Tension on common borders (OP vs Fringe). One power falling while another rises (Republic vs SE). Old grudges (Mandos vs SE). Fringe and OP have had a little war for months now - an invasion, neutral zone skirmishes, everything - even though they're structurally identical and ideologically pretty close as well. Ideology, whatever you learned as a kid in the last gasps of the Cold War, doesn't sum up the reasons for all wars, or even most wars.
  • Is a Light vs Dark war necessary? Probably, yes -- but that can take various forms. Imagine a Republic controlling the bulk of the map, but fighting a shadow war against the One Sith, a non-state actor. To me, that's just as interesting a situation as Republic vs Empire. Who knows -- Republic rules all, One Sith corrupt it, rebellion rules could happen. Fun ensues.

So why do we have neutral factions at all?
  • Han Solo. Qui-Gon Jinn. Even Dooku to some extent. Not all heroes are paragons, not all villains are pure malevolence. Fundamentally, Star Wars is about motion from bad to good or good to bad, and transitory stages matter. Some people express those transitory stages by being a Sith with some good in him, or a Jedi with some bad, or a Forcer or non-Forcer who can't be troubled about Light versus Dark. Those people need a place, and factions are created.

Is this a call for more neutral factions?
  • We already have seven.

Is this a call for some of those neutral factions to commit permanently to Light or Dark?
  • Draw your own conclusions; I've rambled long enough, and I have a few hundred pages of essays to grade. Personally, I say, why impose something that I wouldn't want imposed on me? CIS, Mandos, Fringe and others all have Lightsiders and Darksiders working together for common purpose. As far as I can tell, they still go to war same as anyone.
  • Write what you want to write. Your faction is defined by only one thing: Your actions.

What needs to happen?
  • All factions have been built with thousands of posts and months of work. People fear to lose what they value -- ships, territory, reputation, followers. They fear to look stupid or make a mistake. When nothing happens, that's why. So grab a friend, even if you've had your differences, and go to war with him or her. Take hits, take losses, make mistakes, go for the jugular. Be ferocious IC. OOC, follow Wheaton's Law.
  • Don't drive people off the board with a 'toughen up' attitude. It's easy to say 'you shouldn't take it personally' when you're winning.
  • OOC, invite another faction to invade you, like Fringe did with OP at Kayri. Maybe it's strategically sound, maybe not, depends on your circumstances. What it will do is make for a good war that has far less drama.
  • Now if you'll excuse me, I have a couple of invasions to plan.
I've been waiting for someone to say this. Since I came to this board a year ago I couldn't help but notice how many neutral factions there were compared to the two actually aligned factions. I don't want to ramble, mainly because I'm super tired and have some work to still finish. But I want to say this quick thing about why, I think, the Empire should be reformed.

I think, and I speak on a personal level and this is my opinion, the coolest things the board has produced are the events that include everyone. I love it. I love the large scale RPs. And yes, there are many of us here who prefer the lower level, as Ashin said. However I feel, when it comes to major factions, we should put some larger scaled effort into it. I can't explain how epic it would be for a New Sith Empire to emerge from a rebellion within the Republic. However it can't happen that way.

It can't happen because it's up to the factions. I know we all enjoy story telling and we all love some good plot twists. Clockwork Rebellion was proof of our love of stories and large scale events. However there are a lot of people on the site, I'll say decent amount because I could be wrong, that don't like the Empire period. I for one think the Empire is the best, considering Star Wars wouldn't be Star Wars without them because all of the major stories within Star Wars are based around Republic vs Empire. So I feel like it would need to happen. However, as I said, not many people like the dark side and the Empire faction. So trying to bring it back, after it was majority voted to be wiped off the board, would be sorta pointless.

Unless it worked out nicely. As someone who has devoted a lot of his life to studying the lore of Star Wars, #NoLife #StarWarsNerd, I can say that the Empire will rise again. There is no doubt that someone, maybe even me, will attempt to reform it and rebuild it. I said, again quoting myself, that the board voted the Empire off so why should they return? Well it's like Ashin had said, what if it was The One Sith and it happened? We are all story tellers. We all love story and we all love writing. So why can't we do that? Why can't we have someone, or a group of people, start their own movement? Their own rebellion? I think it would be dope, personally.

I don't know. I just think that the Empire should come back, one way or another. I find it odd that so many people on the board would want it gone, especially since it was one of the most popular factions. But hey, just my thoughts.

Darth Vazela

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
| @[member="Ashin Varanin"] |

I consider the current climate in Chaos as rather interesting. Here, the Republic and Jedi have once again defeated the Sith Empire, which imploded through it's internal strife and lack of foresight. I think the nail in the Empire's coffin was when @[member="Mikhail Shorn"] usurped @[member="Gerion Ardik"] for Emperor. I know from experience that our Shambles was in the complex stages of manipulating the CIS into instigating a shadow war against the Mandalorians to cripple them for territory, which was an agreeable and smart Sith plot. But as Josh once told me, the Empire always loses in the end and it was a good story of how, eventually, it all collapsed, despite @[member="Darth Vornskr"] and his best efforts to stop it otherwise.

I think the Republic is the major player now. I also think the One Sith serve as the best candidates to create tension between them and the other factions you mentioned, in order to force the Republic into a fight with them. There are still some mainstream villains that are planning their way up. For example, I am creating my Dark Order, which I intend to become the main protagonists in Chaos in a short time, if I get the people that Vilox is attempting to recruit to join him.

I think a good storyline would be the Jedi continuing their job. Tensions between the Omega Protectorate, Fringe and Galactic Empire cause the Jedi to come involved as peace keepers, to settle their disputes. Out of all of the factions, I could see the GE becoming upset by this, which only draws the Republic in.


Velaeri Mortaine
I find the most interesting thing about Moross is that, with any change of leadership via the rise of a new God, depending upon who that "God" is the faction's outlook [good/neutral/evil] can take a major turn. Moross was created with this intent. Right now we have one good and two neutral leaders, which puts us in a time of relative peace, expansion, and progression. If Jacen Cavill was still sitting as the "God of War" Ithari, our peace talks with Fringe would not have taken place. At least I doubt they would. Likely we might've gone to war with someone.

On the other thread, a handful of these neutral factions are also fairly new, still sort of getting their legs beneath them. It's understandable that someone small, like Moross, wouldn't jump at the opportunity to make enemies with an entity like OP or the Republic (yet...) due to the obvious advantage they hold over us in size. It makes sense both ICly and OOCly for us to gain numbers and strength before we take the bull by the horns.

With the fall of the Empire and the complaints I hear about it, I'm left to wonder ...why are people complaining? They have the power to progress this absolutely awesome story forward. If you want another Empire, then get out there and do it! This is the natural way of story telling and this story is ripe for hte picking. If big things, like the fall of the Sith, didn't happen because OOCly we didn't want it to, then what the heck are we working towards IC? If we can't influence the flow of the forum with our story, then what are we doing here? I've been here long enough to see The Sith Empire rise to such a significance under the regime of Moridin and then Ashin, that people were saying "Art would never let the Empire take half the map," or "What happened to the Republic? We have no opposition!" because the Sith had effectively beaten back the Jedi to a point that the Republic (on top of other internal issues) faltered.

So now we have the opposite. The Sith are done (for now.) What is the natural flow then but for the Republic to take over and make new enemies out of old allies? Natural progression. From this I believe we will see a rise in new polarized groups. Maybe not new major factions, but this is all perfect kindling for the fire you're seeking.
Vilox Pazela said:
I intend to become the main protagonists in Chaos
Ehem. That's my job. >.<

However I find one major flaw in the system here on Chaos. Now I don't know the rules inside and out, since they aren't really that strict when compared to other site, however I do know the rules regarding Invasions. Only one invasion at a time, per faction, and no one can interfere (unless I'm wrong in which case I apologize). This makes things hard, I feel. Imagine it like a real war.

Here is an example. We have the CIS, who I consider to be the best naval faction, and OP. Say they are working together. You think they will, one by one, take a planet from the Republic? No, they'd attack from both sides at the same time. Now why not make it so multiple attacks on a planet are required, that way you can run several invasions at the same time.

Amorella Mae said:
If you want another Empire, then get out there and do it!
I think people don't do this because it is ruined by the way the board is. You can't just randomly attack a major faction out of nowhere and say, "Oh yea, Sith Empire is back." Mainly because you have to actually create the faction, which allows everyone to see it. So it becomes less fun, I think. Now, I am totally for this idea because I myself have considered it.


Velaeri Mortaine
The Burned Man said:
I think people don't do this because it is ruined by the way the board is. You can't just randomly attack a major faction out of nowhere and say, "Oh yea, Sith Empire is back." Mainly because you have to actually create the faction, which allows everyone to see it. So it becomes less fun, I think. Now, I am totally for this idea because I myself have considered it.
The One Sith proves you wrong. It has every potential to become the new Sith Empire, even in it's diminutive start as a minor faction. You, as a writer, have the ability to make it so.

Getting out there and doing it involves work. Effort. Time. The three maladies of the lazy writer who just wants it done.
You are so right. I honestly couldn't agree more. Now I could argue that some people can't do it, because of past stories that might interfere or the relations between each other ICly however I, and I'm sure you'd agree, that this actually makes for a epic story because it's multiple sith trying to rebuild all the while fighting for ultimate control...

You have really opened my eyes. LUL. I've always thought of stuff but never followed through and now, after seeing what everyone thinks, I just might do it for them more then for me. LUL. Thank you.

@[member="Amorella Mae"]
Amorella Mae said:
With the fall of the Empire and the complaints I hear about it, I'm left to wonder ...why are people complaining? They have the power to progress this absolutely awesome story forward. If you want another Empire, then get out there and do it!
Because people don't want to get back together and unify under a single major faction's banner. I know a significant amount of people have joined the One Sith, as well as the Graug Hegemony, Magrath Barony(or whatever it's called), and in some cases, the Pentastar Alignment. If you have a suggestion as to how we can reconstitute the Empire before the Republic(God have mercy on them when the Dark Side strikes back), Fel, and Mandos swallow all of its territory, I and plenty of others would greatly appreciate your insight.
Circe Savan said:
If you have a suggestion as to how we can reconstitute the Empire before the Republic(God have mercy on them when the Dark Side strikes back), Fel, and Mandos swallow all of its territory, I and plenty of others would greatly appreciate your insight.
The same why the Empire did in the past. Appoint the strongest to lead. And then, after gaining some more numbers, you slowly regain your territory. It will take time, but it can work if everyone is willing to work together. The problem is always the same with the Empire; no one likes being under control. How many Emperors have there been? How many of them were overthrown? The problem is that there isn't a leader dedicated enough to lead and that there are people who can't stand it.

I for one will never give up on the Sith Empire, regardless of what people say. I'll always fight to keep it alive. Onyx has had his doubts about the Empire in the past, sure. However I know how to keep it alive and I know how to lead it. If people would shut up and put aside their differences, both OOC and ICly, then we could easily rebuild and regain lost territory within a few weeks. However some people can't do it and that's there problem.

@[member="Circe Savan"]


Velaeri Mortaine
If you've got a great idea then put it out there. Maybe it won't catch on right away, but that's the thing about writing forums - you have all these fellow authors with ideas that can help shape yours into something awesome. Grab some friends, brain-game, and then roll with it. That's how The One Sith and all those other new minor groups came to be, just a bunch of friends shooting around ideas, wanting to start something new.

My first suggestion for you, @[member="Circe Savan"], is to stop thinking in the negative. You won't build anything worthwhile if all you can think of is "woe are we, this can't be done!"

So what if the Republic or the Mandos or the Fels grab up all the land? There's still space to work with. There's still ways to grow. Moross is a testament to this. @[member="Valik"] just today mentioned to me that he was surprised we were still around. I'm still a bit surprised myself, but we're trucking along, having fun, writing our stories.

A solid idea, a good story, and the desire to follow through and make it happen are what will bring us the next big thing. I don't know which group will accomplish this, but I do know that The One Sith is well on its way. How do I know? Because they have a plan and they're sticking to it, and they're actually getting things done. Because they're here to play a game and have fun, not complain about the little things that might get in the way.