Monday, December 29, 2014

Fantasy Politics - What's The Point?

Everyone has their own motivations.  Knowing them is half
the battle.  (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
There are many competing motivations you can throw into the ring to make things a tangle of intrigue.  Remember, too, that they needn't be very big motives.  Not everyone needs to want to be prince but the gathering itself must be beset by petty insecurities, grudges and genuine concerns unless the soiree is meant to be a breather and a rest stop where the characters can rest and relax for a bit.  Without difficulty, there is no obstacles to overcome and outside of very particular social scenes there should always be obstacles.

Remember, too, that generally these obstacles are most believable and interesting when they involve other people as it allows greater complexity than simply relying on the PCs to form every entanglement.  However, you must involve the PCs to make it matter so you need to find ways of having them drawn in ... mistaken identity, requests for advice, and simply being told about the situation and given the chance to intervene.  You can also add extra complexity to a player-driven plot through NPC motives.  It's one thing for a PC to try to win a gentleman's heart, it's another to find themselves with a rival to contend with and a protective mother ushering him away.

The list below is full of little motives.  Nothing major, though they can be the inspiration for something immense.

  1. Gain an official position by impressing the right person.
  2. Gain the ear of a key official with a business proposition.
  3. Advertise a new venture to see if anyone's interested.
  4. Display a garb, weapon or armour available for sale.
  5. Discreetly inquire into an object for purchase (i.e. tomes).
  6. Solidify business interests with burgeoning "friendship".
  7. Show you are agreeable to another's business venture.
  8. Undermine a rival's actions by spreading rumour.
  9. Arrange a scandal that would damage a rival's interests.
  10. Prove the superiority of your product.
  1. Win the heart (or at least continue the seduction) of a beloved.
  2. Prevent someone from winning the heart of their beloved.
  3. Be aggrieved at someone preventing your efforts.
  4. Rival someone for winning that heart.
  5. Outright competition for someone's heart (i.e. dare or bet).
  6. Show off to the crowd in the hopes of catching a particular eye.
  7. Style yourself in such a way that you draw hopeful suitors.
  8. Crush another's attempts to draw such attempts.
  9. Ruin another's reputation through wit or scandal.
  10. Win a key marital alliance through dance and wit.
  1. Over indulge in the refreshments.
  2. Drink to excess for an excuse to complain.
  3. Drink to excess for an excuse to flirt.
  4. Drink to excess to forget an incident.
  5. Indulge in hallucinogenics and have a wild party.
  6. Make a purchase of drugs or drink at the party.
  7. Spike the soiree's punch with drugs or liquor.
  8. Impress your guests with the soiree's fare.
  9. Impress your guests with your own sobriety.
  10. Dance and flirt extensively with everyone you can.
  1. Ruin another's reputation over a perceived slight.
  2. Humiliate another using cruel wit.
  3. Drive a wedge between two or more people.
  4. Sabotage the soiree through mild poison or property damage.
  5. Prove that someone (or some group) is blameworthy.
  6. Gain revenge against a rival by destroying their successes.
  7. Publicly reveal a scandal that deeply affects others.
  8. Challenge someone to a duel to first cut.
  9. Cruelly mistreat a subordinate for an annoyance.
  10. Verbal tirade against a disliked cause or person.
  1. Humiliate your inferiors to prove your superiority.
  2. Find an excuse to make another grovel for forgiveness.
  3. Convince another to describe your virtues.
  4. Win people over to supremacist ideals.
  5. Gather allies over frank discussions of your inferiors qualities.
  6. Demand someone show obeisance to you or another person.
  7. Remind others of your rank frequently.
  8. Make frequent demands of a subordinate to do things for you.
  9. Give backhanded compliments to "inferior" people.
  10. Publicly treat "inferior people" as children or pets.
  1. Assist another's efforts in winning a heart / business contract.
  2. Defend another's actions - however rash.
  3. Protect a loved one from humiliation or manipulation.
  4. Quietly uncover a scandalous situation involving your friend.
  5. Uncover a plot against your friend.
  6. Hide a scandal.
  7. Distract others from your friend's poor actions.
  8. Smooth over ruffled feathers for your friend.
  9. Have a deep and meaningful conversation in a quiet spot.
  10. Reach out to someone who is clearly having a rough time.
  1. Subtly give signals that you plan to kill yourself.
  2. Ignore conversation in favour of silence.
  3. Sit quietly in the corner and refuse to dance.
  4. Tell everyone of the oncoming doom that will crush them all.
  5. Quietly tear up on the balcony as you thing of past tragedy.
  6. Reproachful glances at the person who did you harm.
  7. Cause a scandal involving yourself to harm another.
  8. Sneak away during the festivities for a quiet moment alone.
  9. Request assistance for someone to help you flee.
  10. Find something to live for.
  1. Ensure a ritual or prayer is included in the festivities.
  2. Make a speech that furthers / includes your cause.
  3. Turn conversation over to your faith.
  4. Publicly stand against atrocity on religious grounds.
  5. Encourage (or heal) a schism between two sides of your faith.
  6. Publicly reject any other path than your own.
  7. Encourage and invite others to attend your meetings.
  8. Humiliate or disgrace members of a rival faith.
  9. Convince others that atrocity is the righteous path.
  10. Ensure everyone knows where you stand on an issue.


  1. Oh, this is a nice list of motives. I'll definitely grab this next time I'm running a social scene.

    Thinking about it, reading genre novels is probably a good source too. Most of us don't go to many big parties, especially the society sort that games tend to feature. But glancing through historical fiction, for example, you can find ideas like:
    * parent seeking to marry their children (subtly or otherwise)
    * boost fragile self-esteem by public displays of piety, wealth or knowledge
    * use gossip and social networking to manipulate others by shaping a community's view of their project, engagement, or conduct
    * exploit your social position to lambast social inferiors forced to remain polite
    * avoid obligations or demands by exploiting your supposed poverty, illness, or other commitments
    I'm sure similar ideas would pop out of sci-fi as well.

  2. I am running a heavily modified Kingmaker path (using AD&D 1st/2nd.) Lot's more politics than fighting so far. This is good stuff.

    Shannon, your blog is one of my 3 favs. All three offer something quite a bit different, it's hard to say one is best, but your gives a lot of tips and really useful stuff for rpg games.

    I like it better than I like my own blog...

    Kudos and bravo!

    David S.

    1. You sure know how to flatter a girl!

      What do the other three offer?