The three factions (societies) were originally introduced by Ragnar Tornquist via Twitter at the end of his "viral marketing", Three Are Coming, event, revealing them as both player and NPC factions. A flash based quiz was later added to the front page of the Dark Days Are Coming website; interested visitors were asked to take the quiz and reveal their faction. A new quiz became available with the launch of the Secret war in August, 2011 and the original quiz is no longer available.
Factions are chosen during character creation and are permanent; there are no restrictions for race, ethnicity, or abilities. The three factions are designed to be equal and balanced in power and ability, but faction specific special abilities do exist. The goal in choosing a faction is for players to pick based on the ideals and mindsets of the group as a whole, rather than the one with the most powerful abilities.
Each joinable faction has a headquarters where players can gather, find vendors and trainers, and other facilities: the Dragon in Seoul, South Korea, the Illuminati in New York, United States, and the Templars in London, England.
In PvE, players of all factions are allowed to group together and finish missions. PvP will pit the factions against each other. Players will be distinctive by both faction and role as everyone will be wearing uniforms.
Furthermore, despite any similarities to real life, all factions in The Secret World are purely fictional. They are not tied to any religion or mindset in the real world.
- Main article: Dragon
"The Art of Chaos"
Manipulators and conspirators, the Dragon have survived for millennia by playing their enemies against each other. Since before the first empire, through the aggression of the Mongol Khans and the ebb and tide of the political change, a whisper in the right ear, a strategic assassination, alliance carefully crafted and broken - and the world eventually bends to the patient will of the immortal Dragon.
With a spiritual and philosophical approach to the secret crafts, as an acolyte of the Dragon you are taught to listen, shown how to teach others, and expected to respect the balance of the universe and to be humble in the face of fate. Yours is not the path of force, though force is often needed to clear the path.
Few know of the Dragon and their long history, and that is how the Dragon want it. You are invisible but pervasive, silent but all-knowing, and when the other secret societies have decimated each other, you will rebuild the world from the ruins of their arrogance.
The Dragon is too easily underestimated, but those who do so live to regret it - or die before they get the chance.
- Main article: Illuminati
"Sex, Drugs & Rockefeller"
Notorious bad boys and girls of the secret world, the Illuminati are also the most ambitious, cut-throat and furtive of the secret societies.
From the gilded halls of the ancient pharaohs to the private clubs and the decadent parties of the famously rich and egocentrically famous, from leaders of industry and Hollywood agents to presidents and popes, the Illuminati have weaved their intricate web with ruthless cunning and acute skill.
They rule their corporate pyramid with cold opportunism, and only the strongest members survive. Their secrets can make you rich and powerful beyond compare - or they may destroy your soul and sanity with it
The Illuminati seek to plunder heaven and hell by any means necessary, and god help those who stand in their way.
As a member of the Illuminati, you don't play by anybody's rules. There are no rules. There is no honour.
There is only victory.
- Main article: Templars
"Deliverance From Evil"
Crusaders. Judges. The Holy Terror. The Templars are the world's least secretive secret society. Their military-ideological machine has operated in plain sight since Babylon - a matter of pride, or moral superiority. Conspiracy theorists, obsessed with the minor 'Knights Templar' offshoot, underestimate the Templars' true European empire. Private armies. Members of parliaments. Royal families.
The Templars believe they will deliver the world from evil by force, and even their opponents - who call them zealots and warmongers - cannot deny that force. As an agent of the Templars you are not just fighting the war on darkness, you "are" the war on darkness. Suave and sophisticated, but brutal and uncompromising, you use history as a weapon to shape the future.
Few will stand in the way of the Templars' banner. Do you have the will to stand behind it?