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Looking for advice, how to run political intrigue in CTL?

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  • Looking for advice, how to run political intrigue in CTL?

    I’m starting a campaign soon and I want to setup a good political intrigue story without delving into the common tropes.

    For instance, I don’t want a Court Monarch that is trying to hold onto power indefinitely or is working for the True Fae.

    One idea I have is that the Winter Court has been rigging Groundhog Day in the town to get 6 more weeks of Winter. Leading to a Winter/Spring capture the groundhog contest every February 2nd.

    I’m looking for ways the court rivalries exist without resorting to X wants to kill Y. These Changelings In their Freehold have come together because of hardship and I don’t want to take that away from my players.

  • #2
    You can also have groups that go beyond the limits of Court. Like a group composed of individuals of each Court that want to get in power by helping one another become the leaders of their Courts so they can then essentially pass rule to one another year-round but decide everything in council... this means a lot of lobbying and manoeuvring in every Court. In one of my Freeholds I also have a Freehold-wide organisation that essentially stands apart from the Court-system, and there are conflicts of interest there. The city your campaign is in could also have multiple Freeholds, or it could have one Freehold and one loose alliance of Courtless, and perhaps these two groups have an arrangement where they sit in Council together to make decisions on a city-wide level. It might seem like the Courtless would have the disadvantage there, but I don't think they do; after all, the various Courts trying to push their own agenda and ideas during the Council would compete with one another to gain the votes of the Courtless, as that will prove a significant advantage/tie-breaker.

    So lots of ways you can go with it. The write-up of how a Freehold works in the book is a minimum, you can add your own twists to it.

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    • #3
      Here are a few plot ideas I’ve had for political stories, if it helps you with your own ideas.

      One of the most basic is inter-court conflicts as one ruler’s policies (or lifestyle) conflicts with another’s, resulting in petty acts that the courtiers carry out and cause a whole chain of ruckus over. Salt in someone’s coffee, as a prank, could trigger someone’s medical condition or their Bane by accident and be seen as an assassination attempt, for an example.

      Another idea that I have toyed with is that the freehold is being slammed in old weak points that have since been covered up, showing someone who used to really know the freehold was taken and has been pumped for knowledge. Some investigating turns up that these attacks have been starting on and off ever since a particular monarch came into power after the previous one vanished... and it turns out the new monarch sold out the old one to the gentry after the old one was discovered selling Changelings out to the Gentry, making it one large series of betrayals. What does one do to deal with the monarch that did their best to stop the betrayals at their source?

      A relatively simple one is Changeling comes in from a Keeper who is known to make sleeper agents of their Changelings (you can replace Keeper with Freehold, or have both at once for double the fun). Even if you learn 100% that this Changeling is not at all a danger to themselves or the Freehold, how can you prove it to the rest of your fellow Lost? This one was borrowed from Malibu Dream House.

      A Monarch, in their bid to protect the Freehold, is doing terrible things to new Changelings who are found out to have been eager loyalists. Now they are all but new, loyal people... but does that really excuse the Monarch’s actions, particularly since this kind of thing is exactly the kind of thing the Gentry do? This one is also borrowed from Malibu Dream House (spoilers there).

      A monarch is wanting to abdicate the throne and feels one of the player characters would be an appropriate replacement... but the monarch has been dealing with some really heavy stuff, and while they can’t get into it without the abdication they hint it’s really, really not something to go into lightly. Yet again, borrowed from Malibu Dream House.

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      • #4
        i think your groundhog's day chicanery is a really great example of seasonal politics as played out by changelings and it having concrete examples in the real world. having the seasonal courts more tangibly connected to the seasons, with the strength of their rule reflected in the general temperament of the people living in their freehold and more broadly in the weather. maybe you can have an intrigue involving Summer looking to extend their rule long into what should be autumn by having a motley of summer thugs inflame the passions of local Sporting Fans of the Hometown Team. the ensuing sportsball fervor leads to plenty of wrathful acts, maybe even a sportsball riot or something. is it a coincidence that the weather still feels like the height of august in october and the summer king's iron crown still burns hot on their brow? rumor is that the summer cliques are looking to interfere with the "PSL" supply, looking to enrage the "witchy" demographic that is usually solidly providing glamour to the court of ashes ...

        i mean, if the summer king cancels halloween could christmas be next?

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        • #5
          If you want to have your monarchs all be at least somewhat decent people genuinely trying to uphold their oaths there are a few helpful points to keep in mind.

          1: Differences of perspective. The Courts have very different ways of approaching their shared goal of rebuilding a life free of the Fae. Winter might be strongly opposed to Summer forays into the Hedge on the grounds that pacifying trods isn't worth the increased risk of drawing attention. Conversely, Summer might be enraged to discover Winter has been keeping information on hobgoblin slavers secret because they're afraid an assassination would start a turf war. Spring courtiers might be worried about Autumn's researchers losing themselves to Fae magic and forgetting why they came home in the first place, and Autumn might be frustrated with Spring's "head in the sand" attitude.

          2: Resources. Changelings come together partly to have access to resources none of them could obtain individually. Whoever controls access to any given resource can wield a lot of power, and consequently wear a big target. It could be goblin fruit orchards, contacts in the goblin market, mortal investment capital, ownership of the apartment complex where most of the local Lost live, whatever.

          3: Safety. Even the most well intentioned people can find themselves excusing pretty heinous behavior if their loved ones are threatened. "What would you do to avoid going back?" is a big Changeling theme, and that can easily be expanded to "What would you do to keep your followers from being taken back?" for monarchs.

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          • #6
            Another idea I've had to make this easier to accomplish is diminishing the role the ruling season plays in the overall management of the Freehold.

            For instance, decisions the Freehold makes could be executed by a vote between the four Courts, with a simple majority being needed for most decisions, and changing Freehold laws (with Changelings swearing to uphold the laws when they join) needing an unanimous decision, or perhaps at most 1 dissenting Court. Each Court can arrange internally how their vote is cast, so maybe Summer lets their ruler decide on their own, while Autumn has a Council and Spring a democratic process, etc... any arrangement that suits you.

            The benefit of being the ruling court is two-fold then:
            First, they receive certain ceremonial rights, to organize events and rituals for the honouring of their season, as agreed to in the Bargain, to perpetuate it.
            Second, they cast 2 votes rather than 1 in any topic. There are thus always 5 votes, and it's impossible to stall out the process by having 2 courts vs 2. It'd only stall out if the ruling court votes for one thing, 2 other courts vote against it, and 1 court abstains (or votes for a third option), which is an excellent source of drama and gives players a clear goal (convince the abstaining court!).

            This gives you a whole host of fun politics:
            1) Internal politics in every Court to change the stance of the Court on certain topics, or change the way that Court uses to decide what to vote in the first place.
            2) Lots of fun Inter-Court politics, naturally. It's Spring now, and the Winter-Spring alliance has been holding off the (what they see as) overly aggressive plan of Summer (backed by Autumn) to assemble a force to strike deep into the Hedge at a Hollow of a suspected group of Privateers 3 votes to 2 for almost half a year... but Summer is fast approaching, and once it does they'll be the ones 1 vote short. Can they convince Autumn to abandon this folly and vote with them against Summer when the time comes?

            Going with the idea that the Ruling Court is essentially all-powerful for that season stifles a lot of politics, especially if you assume the leader of that Court is also free of internal rivals. You need both internal and inter-Courtial politics to really make a believable and engaging political game, and I really believe that involves stepping away slightly from that portrayal.

            Note: I'm talking about the way a particular Freehold could organize itself, not saying this is how they should all do it. ^^
            Last edited by Unahim; 08-23-2020, 10:34 AM.

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            • #7
              Looking over everyone's advice I added a lot of these ideas into my notebook. Thank you so much!

              But also I came up with this idea to have a few friends who don't have time to play to run the NPCs through email/messengers.
              Last edited by DontEatRawHagis; 08-26-2020, 10:18 PM. Reason: Added thank you

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Unahim View Post
                Another idea I've had to make this easier to accomplish is diminishing the role the ruling season plays in the overall management of the Freehold.

                For instance, decisions the Freehold makes could be executed by a vote between the four Courts, with a simple majority being needed for most decisions, and changing Freehold laws (with Changelings swearing to uphold the laws when they join) needing an unanimous decision, or perhaps at most 1 dissenting Court. Each Court can arrange internally how their vote is cast, so maybe Summer lets their ruler decide on their own, while Autumn has a Council and Spring a democratic process, etc... any arrangement that suits you.

                The benefit of being the ruling court is two-fold then:
                First, they receive certain ceremonial rights, to organize events and rituals for the honouring of their season, as agreed to in the Bargain, to perpetuate it.
                Second, they cast 2 votes rather than 1 in any topic. There are thus always 5 votes, and it's impossible to stall out the process by having 2 courts vs 2. It'd only stall out if the ruling court votes for one thing, 2 other courts vote against it, and 1 court abstains (or votes for a third option), which is an excellent source of drama and gives players a clear goal (convince the abstaining court!).

                This gives you a whole host of fun politics:
                1) Internal politics in every Court to change the stance of the Court on certain topics, or change the way that Court uses to decide what to vote in the first place.
                2) Lots of fun Inter-Court politics, naturally. It's Spring now, and the Winter-Spring alliance has been holding off the (what they see as) overly aggressive plan of Summer (backed by Autumn) to assemble a force to strike deep into the Hedge at a Hollow of a suspected group of Privateers 3 votes to 2 for almost half a year... but Summer is fast approaching, and once it does they'll be the ones 1 vote short. Can they convince Autumn to abandon this folly and vote with them against Summer when the time comes?

                Going with the idea that the Ruling Court is essentially all-powerful for that season stifles a lot of politics, especially if you assume the leader of that Court is also free of internal rivals. You need both internal and inter-Courtial politics to really make a believable and engaging political game, and I really believe that involves stepping away slightly from that portrayal.

                Note: I'm talking about the way a particular Freehold could organize itself, not saying this is how they should all do it. ^^

                I second this. I came up with almost the same idea some time ago. Basically, you have a seasonal ruling monarch, but also a Council made up by the three other Court leaders. For extra intrigue, I also give more political relevance to Princes and Princesses, which are the appointed Heirs to each Court.

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