How did I find it? That's a long story, the short version of which is that I needed a base texture for some new Anvil of Crom graphics that were in the works. Some of the village buildings in Khitai have this nifty moss-covered stone look to them, and as I zoomed in to get a good screen cap, I saw a funky symbol on the wall. It was clickable, and doing so rewarded me with a pop-up window, a quest called Telltale Signs, and my first brush with one of Age of Conan's hidden factions.
I'd like to start by pointing out that this guide is a work-in-progress. Age of Conan apparently has two hidden factions, but I haven't found any internet guides as of yet (and even if I had, it was kind of fun to stumble across something cryptic in an era when wiki walkthroughs and YouTube how-tos dominate MMO gameplay). So I'll be updating this as I discover more about each faction.
If you're new to level 80 and the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, it's worth pointing out that there are 10 distinct factions (plus two hidden ones) that you can ally with as you travel through various parts of Khitai. Completing quests, most of them repeatable, makes up the bulk of the expansion content, and you'll find some nice rewards waiting for you when you attain the proper faction ranks (and acquire enough marks and rare tokens).
The 10 major factions are readily identifiable and easily accessible via various NPCs sprinkled throughout the game world. The Jiang Shi are different, though, and if you want a spoiler-free experience like I had, well, this isn't the guide for you. Basically, you'll want to travel to the village of Fengdu in Kara Korum and hunt around for some hard-to-find Jiang Shi symbols. If you want all the spoilerific details, keep reading.
Once you've entered Fengdu, the Shadows of Jade building will be directly in front of you. On the left side of the front face you'll find the clickable symbol that I described in the opening paragraphs. It should give you the Telltale Signs quest and your first taste of the Jiang Shi.
There are five additional symbols to be found on several of Fengdu's buildings. Search them out or use your map and the following general coordinates: 530X/110Y, 550X/120Y, 460X/123Y, 430X/100Y, 450X, 60Y. Note that if you're using the default UI, the map coordinates appear in the top right corner of the map (between the plus and X symbols) as you hover over a particular spot with your mouse.
The final click is an NPC named Fen-Dar. You won't be able to get his update until you've found the previous five symbols. Agree to help him and he'll eventually give you a couple of repeatable quests (Matters of Trust and Brethren of Bone). These can be done once daily to raise your Jiang Shi faction (rank four is the maximum level, and attaining it grants access to a faction vendor that I'll talk about in a moment).
You'll also want to do Fen-Dar's Obsidian Cult quest, after which he'll offer you an errand called The Passage North, which will send you to the main Jiang Shi quest hub.
I should point out here that Kara Korum is not a zone for fresh 80s. I've got a full set of Scarlet Circle faction gear and nearly a full set of tier one raid gear (as well as over half of all the Demonologist alternate advancement abilities), and still I find it challenging to solo in the zone. The mobs have a lot of resists, and they're almost always found in groups of two or more, so this Jiang Shi line is not something you'll want to attempt until you've developed your character through the Grasslands and Chosain zones at the very least.
The faction vendor also sells an epic level 80 ring and an ability called Path of the Enlightened, which allows the user to "consume souls." This makes more sense after you've experienced the quest chain and its associated story, but to be honest, I don't know exactly what the ability does because I can't afford it yet! Once again, save those Khitai tokens.
That's about all there is to this introductory look at Age of Conan's hidden factions. I suspect there's more to the Jiang Shi experience, though, and I'll either update this piece or add a new one in the near future.
Jef Reahard is an Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran as well as the creator of Massively's bi-weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via firstname.lastname@example.org.