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Help me grok politics and intrigue!

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  • Help me grok politics and intrigue!

    One thing I've always had an interest in but haven't been confident implementing is political machinations and other administrative plots; it could just be that I'm overthinking the amount of actual detail and moving parts at work (what little media I can recall with a high level of intrigue usually had it spaced out over a long narrative distance), but given that about a third of the lines have structures in place that allow for such maneuvering (spirit courts, etc) I figured I'd ask the forums:

    What are some tips and recommended media to get a feel for developing political dynamics and schemes therein?

    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e

  • #2
    I would suggest constructing a few handfulls of fully fleshed NPC's, and then figureing out which of those NPC's knows of each other. Then it would be a straight forward matter of determining how those groups would interact, since you can just weight their beliefs and opinions against each other organically.
    That also makes improving whatever alot easier.


    • #3
      I have a couple general pieces of advice, which may be helpful to you. They tend to be a little more helpful in Sandboxy games.

      For Political factions or individuals, I lay out what their agenda is. In theory, I try to have several with mutually exclusive agendas. Depending on the game, some may line up into, say, two factions, but even within the factions I try to have some mutually exclusive agendas. I also try to not decide "PCs will back X, oppose Y" unless I am running a linear plot where, well, Y is the bad guy (or good guy who seems like the bad guy, or whatever). A fellow GM coined the term "Agenda'd" and it is something I use inside and outside political games. There is of course horrific evil being sewn the PCs need to deal with. But there are also a lot of NPCs pushing an agenda the PCs can help, ignore, or oppose. I sometimes have expectations they will do one of those, but I leave that to them.

      Depending on the group and setting, it is often helpful to give the PCs a reason not to horribly murder an NPC. This tends to be fairly easy in WoD with enemies who have an identity and could be reported missing, but sometimes individuals, especially ones like Changelings or Vampires, can live off the grid. This is not usually a big problem with most groups.

      A third thing, and this used to be a big problem for me, is in big sandboxy games with plots within plots and wheels within wheels, remember the PCs. An NPC with a perfect plot the PCs can never detect is...not interesting for a game unless the PCs detect it somehow, or a rival does who may need the PCs help. Back before the turn of the century, I had all sorts of political games and schemes in motion and the PCs never had any idea what was going on. I thought I was a genius, but no, my games were just boring as hell. Once you have a way for the PCs to know, they need a reason to care. Both aspects of this part means that it really helps to know the PCs motivations before you build too much. They may not care that Lord Wychnyght is skimming from the freehold treasury if they are also skimming from the treasury, for instance.

      Hope that helps.

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      [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


      • #4
        Baron Samedi's advice is all really key and great. I think what always deserves particular emphasis is "how do I make the PCs care?" Chances are you'll have at least one player if not one character who either despises or eschews politics, and if that's the case, you have to think about what ways you could get them involved. If they have some kind of personal story, entangle that in the plot where you can. Don't hesitate to work with the players to figure out why their character might get involved if the character wouldn't be initially receptive.

        I am no longer participating in the community. Please do not contact me about my previous work.


        • #5
          A visual guide so you and your players can keep track of characters and agendas can help as well. Having images for NPCs can really help to keep them straight, and for myself I've found coterie charts helpful ever since Chicago By Night included them, with annotated lines connecting the different NPCs so I know the Prince thinks the Hierophant is a traitor at a glance.

          Be sure to include petty schemes as well as grand conspiracies. Some can be connected ways in to the bigger secrets, some are just what they seem - but even they can have knock-on effects. Inform an elder vampire that a younger one is behind an unsubtle attempt to muscle in on her business, and the elder will be grateful and the upstart resentful... and the upstart's sire will want a favour to help smooth things over...

          Craig Oxbrow
          The Trinity Continuum freelancer