Since the fight between the Redeemed and the Unredeemed in the Shadowlands has been raging on for aeons, it makes sense that everybody knows where they stand, and if you do something to hurt or help somebody, everybody will know about it pretty quickly. In terms of game mechanics, this is the gain and loss of faction points with various factions, but it affects gameplay directly also, with the behaviour of faction mobs varying with faction standing.
All factions have a positive and negative score of their faction points, which corresponds directly to a positive or negative sentiment about the character by the faction. Doing a quest for a specific faction will nearly always just garner you positive faction points for the factions involved, while killing members of other factions will result in a gain of faction points for the opposing faction, and a loss of points for the factions of the member you killed.
Faction points influence four things in the Shadowlands:
First, they determine the behavior of a mob of a specific faction around you. Having positive faction will make them leave you alone in combat, and having extremely high faction related to that character may even make them come to your aid in combat if they see you fighting, though not against members of their own faction. Having negative faction points for a given faction will cause the members of that faction to avoid talking to you, or if your faction is low enough, attack you on sight.
The second use of faction points is to gain access to gardens and portals. To use Ergo's portal in each zone of the Shadowlands, you must have enough faction points with the Guardian of Shadows, and to use the garden statues in each zone you must have enough faction with the Redeemed or Unredeemed.
The third use of faction is to gain access to quests, some quests are only available to characters if they have enough faction points with a given group.
The final use of faction is used in gaining Shadowknowledge (SK). Once a character starts gaining shadow levels, past level 200, their amount of faction relating to their governing faction for their side determines how much SK will be gained for each quest or each monster kill.
There are three main faction groups in the Shadowlands.
The first is the Guardian of Shadows (GoS), which is represented by the robotic Ergo and his Yuttos followers, and is the supporting faction of the Neutrals in the Shadowlands. Ergo makes it possible to move between the the different areas of the Shadowlands and often gives out important information about the nature of the challenges ahead. Faction can be gained with GoS by killing Brink or void based monsters such as Hecklers, Cripplers, or Croakers.
The second faction group is the Redeemed, or the Faithful, which supports the Clans, and is really three related groups: The Devoted, The Conservers, and the Redeemed. This group seeks to bring all species together in harmony and heal the rift in the world the ancient Xan created by accessing the Source. Faction points are gained for the Redeemed by doing quests for them or killing Unredeemed related monsters.
The last faction group is the Unredeemed, or the Chosen, which support Omni-Tek, and are divided into The Followers, The Operators, and the Unredeemed. The Unredeemed seek further mastery over the Source and believe in power through deeds and example.
To see how much faction you have accrued with various groups, you can type '/open faction' in your command bar and a window will open. You can click on the bars to switch between the number rating and the love/hate title you have with each faction.
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