Malifaux is something new that we’re getting into here at the I:T offices and since we’re going on an adventure with the game we want to show it to as many gamers as we can. We’ve already gone over a somewhat lengthy introduction to the game in our intro guide, which is well worth the read. For this piece I wanted to focus on the history of each facton in Malifaux. There are five main factions in the game right now – The Guild, The Resurrectionists, The Arcanists, The Outcasts, and Ten Thunders (the Gremlins, to me, are more of a sub-faction of the Outcasts) – and they’ve each got their own rich background. Since Malifaux is a real character-driven game, I thought it would be a good idea to go over the factions a bit to help when it comes to crew selection. After all, it does make a difference!
“I don’t understand why people can’t see that fighting for Earthers’ domination of Malifaux is best for everyone. We do it all for the greater good. The people want us here; they’re just afraid to say out loud that they’re scared and need our protection.” – Abner Mathiesen, Prefect Monarch of The Guild
In an attempt to govern the use and production of the precious Soulstones, The Guild was formed. Though their members hide behind the façade of justice and peace, these are only the secondary means to their one true end: to obtain and control each and every Soulstone in Malifaux. Citizens of the city follow the laws set down by The Guild because it offers a bit of protection, but no one is in the dark about the force Guild laws hold over Malifaux.
The Guild was established by some of the most powerful mages, conjurers, and magicians. Their ultimate goal was to become a superpower with total control over Soulstones, ensuring that magic would thrive once again. They wanted to bring order to the chaos and under-doings of Malifaux. Atop all of this, The Guild sought to make it so the Breach would never close again. They oversaw the construction of a new city upon the old ruins of Malifaux.
Now The Guild exists in many different branches far away from the mages that created it. Their first protocol is to enforce the laws that make Soulstone production peak at its maximum level. Second they protect the members of Malifaux from numerous threats – especially the Neverborn. Necromancy is also a big issue for The Guild, as it’s the native magic of the new world. It’s been tough for The Guild to govern and combat its use. The practice allows criminals to act out their crimes through puppets, reanimated proxies that are bent to their master’s will. The Guild walks a fine line between protection and tyrannical oppression, and the citizens of Malifaux aren’t sitting in the dark.
“People say I hate the living; it’s not true. I just happen to see the potential inside all people, those great things anyone can do if they aren’t trapped in their own consciousness and morals. And when I unlock that potential, death is the side-effect, I can’t help that.” – Doctor Douglas McMourning
It’s true that The Resurrectionists reanimate the dead, but it’s not the kind of work you’d think it is. Instead of reanimating dead loved ones to forever live out their undeath in Malifaux by their family’s side, they instead resurrect lowlifes and crazies to become soulless puppets under their master’s gaze. The resurrectionist practice is macabre and disturbing to citizens of Malifaux, especially when they already have to face the Neverborn threat and countless dangers of the Soulstone mines. They’re constantly shaken by the thought that some of the most terrible monsters walking the streets (or sewers) of Malifaux are their friends or even family.
Since it’s been a custom of humankind to honor their dead, the death effect of Soulstones has raised questions among all of the peoples of the new world. The reanimated corpses only exist to serve their master’s selfish goals and lose everything that made them who they once were. Though many different factions of citizens exist in Malifaux, they all come together to hunt and capture The Resurrectionists and their minions.
The Governor General has received a ton of support in his campaign against The Resurrectionists. In fact, just after he took office several members of his staff suffered a grisly attack which left them for dead. A week later those same staff members were identified in a series of kidnappings, robberies, and murders. An investigation was set up right away, and it went deep into the series of events that had taken place. Through the investigation the Governor General was able to deduce that his staff had fallen under the wing of a Resurrectionist. A special task force, the Death Marshals, was organized to combat the Resurrectionist threat.
The constant pressure from the Death Marshals and the Governor’s investigation has seen The Resurrectionists taking refuge in the city’s abandoned quarantined areas. Once a Resurrectionist settles in, he reworks the area and populates it with undead guards to protect it from both the Neverborn and other Resurrectionists. Death Marshals have lead many raids on these outposts, and they’ve done so with quite some success. Through their raids they’ve unearthed many different libraries of books and journals that suggest some shared knowledge between each of the Resurrectionists. Also in these libraries exist old books from Malifaux’s past which give hints toward an overbearing spirit that tutors the necromantic arts, communicating through the mysteries of science and magic. Some become very powerful using this knowledge, but their minds are also warped to the grave mind’s will.
“I wouldn’t use the word extortion. Think of it as… insurance.” – Doctor Ramos, President of the Miners and Steamfitters Union
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the Arcanists. Malifaux runs wild with magical energies. When people arrive through the Breach some feel this magic in the air, and it can grant them awesome abilities. The powers that these people emanate present a threat to The Guild’s presence in Malifaux. These powerful individuals have been coined as The Arcanists, and The Guild puts a lot of resources into hunting these men and women in hopes of eliminating them.
The Arcanists represent the freedom and ambition of humanity in Malifaux. Their members are exceptionally skilled with magic, and seek to learn as much as they can about it while in this new world ripe with power. The Guild sends out their Witch Hunters to take out any member of The Arcanists that they can, and while many fall to the blade there are some who are able to drive the Hunters back. This usually ends up in plenty of newspaper recognition which gets the other citizens of Malifaux in a joyous uproar. You see, these individuals can do what no one else will – spit in the face of The Guild.
The Miners and Steamfitters Union is an organization that shows the core interests of the hard-working class in Malifaux. Their main concerns lie with those who are mining Soulstones, but they also devote attention to operating and maintaining the steam engines used to pump water into the mines and drive the heavy machinery necessary for efficient mining. The Union hosts many different offices around Malifaux, and they were all started by Doctor Ramos. These Union houses serve as safe havens for tons of runaway Arcanists.
Through these establishments Ramos and other Arcanists are free to recruit new blood into a highly-structured criminal organization. Because they are hunted so ruthlessly The Arcanists are looking for an uprising and they take every chance they can to get back at The Guild. Behind the stalwart image of the Union The Arcanists run a criminal organization that’s responsible for numerous high profile raids on Guild property. They also run a Soulstone smuggling operation in hopes to help get the stones out of the Guild’s hands.
Because of the Union’s large amount of support The Guild finds it troublesome to fight against these criminals. The Arcanists aren’t looking to back down, and the minute The Guild slips up they’ll be making their move. To the modern society The Arcanists are underground heroes, but to The Guild they’re nothing more than terrorists.
“Men come to me to learn their fate. What they don’t learn is that I’m the one pulling the strings.” – Zoriada
For as long as humanity has been able to harness the power of their imagination, they’ve been able to dream. As long as humanity has been able to dream, their dreams have been plagued by nightmares. Ghosts, goblins, horrific teddy bears, creepy little girls on tricycles – they’ve always existed just beyond our reach by a thin blockade that separates our world from another. The scary thing is that these nightmares are real. Humans have always had the ability to see these nighmares through our dreams, but since the opening of the Breach of the Great Barrier, humanity must now face these dangerous beings on their own turf.
The monsters that stalk the empty streets of Malifaux live to prey on the unsuspecting new arrivals that make their way through the Breach. The Neverborn take many different forms, from giant Nephilim to tiny Gremlins. Some even appear human, whether as a female to seduce men to their death or as other human-like creatures that will manipulate you at every turn. The human-like Neverborn wage constant raids upon human settlements, indulging in murder and delight.
Though these creatures have existed on Malifaux for a long time, their origin is quite unknown. Many believe The Neverborn were created by some dark force, and were called Neverborn to help explain their lack of human empathy and mercy. As the many relics and libraries of Malifaux are revealed, however, more and more have been able to take a glimpse into the past to see that the appearance of monsters has been linked to a great cataclysm that occurred centuries ago. This great event marked the death of a world, not unlike Earth with logic and reason, replacing it instead with one full of passion, death, madness, and greed. The Neverborn are the new race of this world, a people completely foreign and unknown to mankind.
The Guild has tried everything they can to wipe out The Neverborn, willing to deputize anyone into Neverborn hunters. Many of these new deputies lead forces against The Neverborn, though many don’t survive their first encounter. In a world where monsters like The Neverborn roam, society needs a glimmer of hope.
“BOOM…headshot!” – Rusty Alyce
In Malifaux, everyone fights for a reason. There are many different factions vying for power, land, and resources. Within the streets and alleyways of Malifaux there are many players, and while siding with a faction will grant you powerful allies, it will also make you enemies. Some decide to take up a banner for their own desires, and these people are known as The Outcasts.
Many times The Outcasts line out the lower caste in Malifaux. Some of these unaligned souls are able to make a meager living as a petty crook of hired sword. A small number of these roaming mercenaries demonstrate their exceptional skill and climb higher on the ladder, allowing them to lead groups themselves. They become masters in their own right, and other Outcasts come under their wing to create a force to be reckoned with.
After all, navigating the rough streets and dense thicket of corruption in Malifaux by oneself is no easy task. That’s why Outcasts often strike up alliances to further their agendas. Sometimes Outcasts will align themselves with another faction to help their gain, and any faction that is able to hire these deadly assassins will no doubt benefit from their help.
The Outcasts have a wide range of goals, which makes them sometimes hostile to deal with. Some seek to expand their criminal endeavors while others are in Malifaux to simply try and make a living. Some Outcasts even take up the protector role and help keep citizens safe from both the Resurrectionist and Neverborn threat. These people are at the very center of the city’s corruption, crime, and splendor. This gives them near limitless power and makes them a very dangerous group.
“Once we have our key agents in place, control of Malifaux will be ours.” – Baojun Katanaka, Oyabun
Though the factions fighting for control in Malifaux are somewhat secretive in their endeavors, none stick more to the shadows than the Ten Thunders. Newly arrived in Malifaux, the Ten Thunders prides itself on avoiding attention at all costs. Until most recently, their name didn’t mean anything to the people in powerful positions in Malifaux. Now, however, just a mere mention of the name Ten Thunders sends an ice-cold chill down one’s spine.
The Ten Thunders originated out of a place of mystery to the people of Malifaux. Their family held a distinct place of power within the Three Kingdoms back Earthside, where their origins are still unknown. Members of the Ten Thunders faction are mostly made of those from the Three Kingdoms, anyone who would lay down their lives for the family before revealing their secrets. Even those employed by the Ten Thunders locally know nothing of how the family came through the Breach. This has allowed the family to set up a successful crime network in Malifaux.
The Katanaka clan is in current control of the Ten Thunders. They were a prominent family back in the Three Kingdoms, though their name is shrouded in disgrace and failure. The family lost their place at the Emperor’s table centuries ago, which caused the family to choose to fight their new oppressors rather than bow to them. Through battles fought in secrecy and shadows, the Katanaka clan became victorious, though it forever caused a stain on the clan’s honor.
Baojun Katanaka learned of the Breach into Malifaux and swiftly sent his daughter, Misaki Katanaka, through to learn all she could of the land before the Ten Thunders came to her side. Back in the Three Kingdoms, a smaller Breach was discovered into Malifaux that allowed the Ten Thunders to pass through without making The Guild aware. The Guild had a long-standing turf war with the Ten Thunders which had their agents working around the clock to uncover the identities of this new criminal family.
Currently the Ten Thunders are working just as they did back in the Three Kingdoms to set up their agents in positions of power throughout the factions in Malifaux. Some agents are in high enough positions to have the ear of the Governor General himself, but that’s something the other factions are completely unaware of. For right now the Ten Thunders is happy to run their crime syndicate the way they have been, planting agents and running in the shadows. The family is waiting for just the right moment to strike and take complete control over Malifaux as a whole.
“Aww, damn pigs!” – Som’er Teeth Jones
Though majorly considered to be Outcasts, the Gremlins are adapting to life on the Bayous of Malifaux. At about half the size of humans, the Gremlins don’t really look like a threat to anyone. Of all the beings taking a claim in Malifaux, The Gremlins have been the most welcoming of humanity’s colonization of this world. Instead of viewing them as enemies, The Gremlins see humans as a resource to learn from, often copying their mannerisms and lifestyle. At first it started off as gestures, which was all fun and games, but it quickly led to them wearing clothes, often giving out directions or offering help for a shirt or pair of pants. The Gremlins quickly began to tell who was cunning among them just by observing if they wore clothes or not and they formed organizations to bolster their strength.
While out in the wild, The Gremlins and wild pigs shared a relationship: sometimes a Gremlin would get eaten, and sometimes he would bring home bacon. Since their adaptation to new ways of living thanks to the humans, some of The Gremlins have been able to domesticate these hogs. In fact, some hogs are so domesticated that they can be ridden into battle like a horse or be used to ward off intruders. Farming isn’t the only aspect of mimicry seen on the Bayou, though. The Gremlins soon learned how to mimic use of the humans’ weapons. They steal whatever they can from raids on Guild storehouses and have since learned the basic ways of shooting.
Of all The Gremlins, two specific characters stick out: Som’er Teeth Jones and Ophelia LaCroix. Each of these characters leads their own group of Gremlins, though for different reasons. Som’er’s group is quite powerful because they’re located close enough to the edge of the Bayou that they can raid almost any Guild operation that comes through. Ophelia, on the other hand, is much more strategic and spread out. She overcame the burden of being a female Gremlin (in that she didn’t have to chase 12 screaming kids all the time) and rose up against the other Gremlin leaders. She now resides in Latigo Ranch and has put each member of her family into a key role in their group. Because of this, Ophelia found herself in control of a skilled group that succeeds at nearly every raid they set out on. This means they don’t need to raid as often.
The Guild is learning not to underestimate these Gremlin folk, even if they may kill off a few of their own by their wild nature. There is a rumor, however, of a different type of Gremlin that comes from beyond the mountain. No one knows what these new Gremlins want and find themselves guessing. Only time will tell as these buggers make it down from the mountainous peaks.
Now I know that’s all a lot to take in, but hopefully it helps give a little bit of background on each of the factions in Malifaux. There’s a lot of great fluff to this game that makes each faction stand out as more than just models on the table. You can even find more detailed information on them, including these back stories, on the Malifaux website. What I really like about the factions is how they’re each tied together somehow. They really all can’t exist without each other, which creates a vicious circle of bad things happening all across Malifaux.
I currently play Resurrectionists (Yan Lo) and Outcasts (Victoria Sisters) and they’re a lot of fun. Each faction plays differently and brings their own strategy to the table. This article was just about the background on the factions, and hopefully it helps get you interested in looking at one to play as. When that time comes it’s time to get a rulebook and read up on how each faction plays. Down the road we’ll have faction overview guides that show how to use each faction to its strengths and it will flesh out a bit more on how to select the faction that will best fit your play style.
Until then, head through the Breach and check out the world that is Malifaux!