Game Pile: Playing Factions in City of Heroes

Over on City of Heroes Homecoming, we got given a new way to personalise your character, and that means more ways to represent different ideas. These new costumes, Prismatic Shards, let you transform your character wholesale into a character that looks like a member of an enemy faction, which you could collect to represent a shapeshifting character who picks a lot of forms and disguises. What you can do, what I want to do instead, is use these character transformations to represent different types of character concept where they distinctly transform into a single form that represents a form they use in combat.

For me, one of the most interesting things in a roleplaying space is something in that world to be connected to. It’s like a faction or a house or an organisation, things that you can point to and say ‘you know that?’ as a starting place to tell your story. That’s how these tools excite me, particularly, and I thought I’d do a quick rundown of some of the major factions to give you an idea of the kinds of vibes, and also, take a chance to talk about the lore of this game that occupies a lot of my brain. You like long lore videos? Let’s see.

First up, I’m going to skip over some of the factions where a transformation costume is probably slightly less interesting than the costumes you can make yourself with the existing character creator, powers and auras. That means we’re flying past

  • Cage Consortium
  • The Cabal
  • Knives of Artemis
  • Legacy Chain
  • Malta Operatives
  • Praetorian Resistance
  • Scrapyarders
  • Syndicate
  • Warriors
  • Wyvern

I’m also skipping over the Fifth Column, because the Fifth Column are actual Nazis following the Reichsman. The Council get covered by that too, even though they, modelled on Italian Fascists, are the Nazis you get on wish. And I mean there’s a whole conversation about the gangs like the Hellions, Outcast, Skulls, and the Trolls, about how you can reinterpret them in different ways to make them more about the interesting narratives of what it means to belong to a gang in a superheroine setting. On the other hand, more than one of these gangs requires you to eat a human corpse, or worse, so it’s not as simple as ‘maybe the gangs are good, actually.’

There are also some characters I’m simplifying in terms of being monsters, who you can use for general, not-necessarily-the-same-faction style. That covers Arachnoids, Banished Pantheon, the Circle of Thorn’s Succubus, Hellfrost and Demon, and the Cimeroran Cyclops and Minotaurs. Hydra also kinda belong here because you just look like a great big oozy monster.

Also, finally, there are a bunch of costumes that let you turn into some kind of kinda-generic robot, with different degrees of complexity. This includes the Arachnos BCU, Clockworks, Longbow Mender, Warworks BCU, and the Sky Raider Jumpbot. These all let you slot into their factions but it also could be useful for making a character who’s meant to be a hijacked or reprogrammed or rogue robot.

Plus, I’m skipping factions I personally find a bit boring.


We have a bunch of information already about what it means to belong to Arachnos. What the experience is like. The Arachnos Veteran Archetypes (Spiders and Widows) have plots about how this organisation has some big principles, but literally none of them stick to it. It’s a lot more like a dysfunctional corporate government, where people can get periodically shot. Going rogue is so likely there’s a faction of them.

Carnival of Shadows

We have some idea of what it’s like to be a Carnie, and what the Carnies can do. This is great! For a start, there’s a vision of the Carnies as a member of a single, telepathic network of hive-minded partygoers, but also we see some signs that that hive mind breaks apart and has rogue elements in it. Also, Carnies seem to just do things for fun.

As far as powers you can represent, they can wield weapons, they have an association with throwing fire, and the mistresses can wield psychic powers, dark powers, and illusion powers. Lots of range there.

Circle of Thorns

Setting aside the monsters (above), the Circle of Thorns characters are essentially a kind of soul parasite; the most low-tier member of this faction, the newest and most fresh-faced one, is someone who was still recruited a millenium ago. If you’re playing one of these, you probably want to have a good handle on the lore because you’re essentially representing an ancient asshole who eats people. There’s an element of a kind of plant vampire vibe here. The Thorns as exist tend to have dark powers or elemental powers, so there’s a lot of options there across all archetypes.

I wouldn’t, they have stupid hats.


The Coralax are a sort of parallel of atlanteans and deep ones. They have some cool powers in game, but if you play with thorns or spines or psychic powers, you’ll probably have something that looks good with them.


Crey are a business, which means that you probably don’t have true believers working for it, for the most part. The whole point of Crey is that it’s an amoral company and the greater evils of what they’re doing are being done by people who make decisions and most of the people in the way are just people who are doing a job.

Devouring Earth

The devouring earth are cool looking nature monsters; big crystals, big rocks, big mushrooms and my favourite, the devoured, which are stompy tentacle monsters. They’re symbiotic, they transform humans to make their horrible forms, and there’s a lot of concern about them from the perspective of the Praetorian culture.


I think given that they’re basically Dr Who Ghost Cops, the Drudges are probably something your character is, and the non-Drudge looks are probably them in disguise, rather than the other way around.


The freakshow are a gang of self-augmenting gangsters who use a drug called Excelsior that messes with your brain and keeps your from rejecting gungy mecha parts. Look, you kind of live the Freakshow life.


The goldbrickers are a gang of thieves and heisters operating out of Cap Au Diable in the Etoile, whose whole business functions out of a chocolate factory. They’re developed more in Homecoming content, but the basic idea is a techy gang that uses super-science to steal from super-scientists and Arachnos.


The Lost are a group of transformed humans who develop psychic powers and have access to chunky Rikti weapons. They tend to rely on homeless people to recruit, hence their trashy aesthetic. I particularly like the Prelate as a vibe for a threatening kind of monster-person, since we know they can disguise themselves as humans.


The Nemesis army is a group of clockwork soldiers (and possible actual humans? It’s never made explicitly clear in a trustworthy way). This is rich for rogue agents, because we know their programming gets glitchy and weird. Also, the warhulk is a cool big chunky suit that you could play as a character having stolen or hijacked one.

Paragon Police

ACAB, but also the hardsuit is a special mention. You have to dial your height and skin tone in pretty carefully because there’s a visible chin here, but the hardsuit is a sweet mecha look. These hardsuits in the conventional setup use energy melee attacks and blasts, so they tend to look good doing those moves.


Spoiler note, but the Rikti here are a sort of humanlike alien. If you’ve played through the story arc you’ll know more, but you are, odds are good, going to see and deal with the Rikti and learn what they are. Rikti have a distinct manner of speech and wind up being, in part, allied with us, so there’s room to play a cool Rikti using these costumes. If you like the Riki axe or swords for the weapon-wielder characters, this is a way to play with them. If you want the gun-and-sword mix, you might have to go for a type of blaster. There is also a bunch of psionic powers here, if you want to build off that.


This is just a crash course on what these factions are and how you could integrate into them with your heroic or villainous characters. Is it super important? is it an indepth vision of the factions? Is it going to matter to the audience at large?

Hell if I know.

But I had fun making it~!

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