Political intrigue done easy

edited March 2010 in Play Advice
So there was this thread not long ago that happened. Its got lots of good suggestions of what games have a system that successfully models political intrigue type situations. Some examples given of "intrigue-able" system elements are social combat, multitudinous factions, negotiation mechanics, and NPCs that have their own goals.

I guess I'm not looking for a game system in particular that would help with running political intrigue type stories, but rather a GM technique that people use to create these types of situations. Where do you start? Do you utilize other thought processes besides these simple ingredients noted above?

The way I usually do this is kinda with DITV and IAWA in mind. Create a town with a bunch of characters. Create conflicts (at least 3 opposing ones). Figure out what the NPCs want from the characters. Create conflicting best interests. Go! But I'm finding this to be somewhat lacking sometimes... I go off on tangents about issues people don't care about, or create NPCs that are weird in play, or create fairly unoriginal set-ups that are obvious in the themes they're discussing.

Is there a technique that you use that you find uber simple and easy? How do you create situations like this that revolve around the themes of the game you're running? How do you get the PCs to shine? Do you make charts, maps, sketches, improvise, create index cards, use secrets as a mechanic?

I know "political intrigue" is a bit of a vague definition. I'm thinking of Rome, The Tudors, even Battlestar Galactica to a certain extent... political intrigue that involves the use of politicking and political maneuvering in some kind of government, organization, or court, overheard conversations, breaking and entering, social manipulation, backstabbing, romance, action and adventure.

If you can link me, please do! I searched for this topic, and didn't really find any discussions. Thanks!

Comments

  • I think the best summary of a guiding principle for intrigue-based games appeared in White Wolf's Dragon-Blooded splatbook: "Intrigue is what happens when actors have a different agenda in fact than the one they publicly espouse." That's a paraphrase, but I think it works really, really well as a baseline for establishing an intrigue-focused setting. Establish your camps or factions with layered agendas and then put them in opposition based in part on what each group's goals and stakes are, and what they know or think they know of each other's agendas.

    The second thing I do is set up secrets within each faction. These may or may not be completely secret (some other factions or agents may know some of them), but it gives each faction something fictionally tangible to protect, and may also make for a great plot motivator depending on events.

    Not all the factions need be visible to the players at the start of the game.

    Actions or moves within an intrigue-based conflict can include obtaining intelligence of what other groups are (really) up to, exerting influence in the political arena, securing resources, putting out (false) signals, subverting enemy assets, assassination, blackmail, protecting your faction from subversion or undermining, etc. Add spicers with agents who are less reliable but important, double agents, or beloved but disposable. Think about means. How far is each faction willing to go to achieve its true agenda? What resources does each faction have to call on?

    As far as tools, relationship maps work the best for me as a central piece.
  • edited March 2010
    This is how I would do it in Dogs in the Vineyard using easy GM techniques…

    1. Have the players create characters first but do not choose relationships.

    2. Ask the players to introduce their characters to each other. Note what aspects of their characters excite them (like if they emphasize a specific trait).

    3. Make a list of all the characters traits. Order the list by what sounds interesting to you or what the players seem excited about. You don’t have to copy the trait word for word. Simplify traits to their basics. Short phrases work best.

    4. Look through your trait list and make a new NPC trait list. Do so by taking PC traits and write down their opposite (“hopeful” becomes “pessimist”) or write down the same trait but twist it to the extreme (“words before violence” becomes “never fight”).

    5. Make NPCs out of these traits. 2-3 traits per NPC. I like to have at least 2 NPCs for every 1 PC.

    6. Create your town using these NPCs.

    7. Whatever’s wrong with the town, make it so solving it with violence is undesirable (at least at first). Don’t outlaw violence. But if violence comes into it, the town explodes and tears itself apart (which is still fun to play but the stakes should be very high). Don’t be subtle about this. Make it very clear to everyone before you start playing.

    8. Present the list of NPCs to the players (I like to include pictures so they know what the NPCs look like but this isn’t necessary).

    9. Each player chooses relationships with 2 different NPCs. 1 of these relationships must be shared with another player. Encourage the nature of this shared relationship to be different from each other. I often find that if I walk out of the room while the players choose relationships, they make even bolder and crazier connections. I make it very clear that anything goes.

    10. Play! Make enemies into potential allies. Make friends antagonistic. Have everyone gossip about each other. Put everyone in situations where outright assault would be deemed impolite (have brutal enemies sit down to eat together in front of everyone’s families). Have NPCs make promises, threats, lie and hide secrets. Have important NPCs turn to the players to make their decisions for them. Have players inherit the responsibilities of dead NPCs. Make it clear that every moment the players waste, the NPCs are spending making allies and fortifying their power. Do everything you can to split the players up. Tie them to the town’s fate as much as possible (their family lives here, they went to school here, this is where they plan to retire or settle down).

    Prepare for insanity!
  • Posted By: anansigirlI know "political intrigue" is a bit of a vague definition. I'm thinking of Rome, The Tudors, even Battlestar Galactica to a certain extent... political intrigue that involves the use of politicking and political maneuvering in some kind of government, organization, or court, overheard conversations, breaking and entering, social manipulation, backstabbing, romance, action and adventure.
    In order to get this paragraph right here, you have to make sure that all major goals the PCs have, and NPCs, cannot be achieved by them alone. Can NOT. So you want to get X thing done, so you want to take X dude down a peg, so you want X office for yourself. Well, you can't have it, unless you get somebody to support you. As the GM, you need to make sure all the NPCs have agendas. Then, when the PCs go to them to ask for help, you know what the NPCs want, or will bring to the alliance. Also, you can have NPCs go to the PCs with their agendas looking for help -- and this is crucial. When you want something, and you want others to support you, you have to give them stuff, so often you end up paying out more than you get. But if they want something from you, you can push your agenda along while doing them a favour, and coming out of it with a bonus.

    When you have characters that operate within institutions, there are two levels of motivation going on. The institution has a motivation, and every individual has a motivation as well, but is also guided by the institution's motivation. The Wire illustrates this perfectly, but you can see it in Battlestar Galactica as well.

    Conflict between the individual's motivation and his or her institution's motivation creates intrigue. Carcetti wants a political career, so he goes after Police Chief Burrell, starts making him look bad. Burrell's personal motivation is to back the mayor so he can keep his job. His institutional motivation is to get more money for the police force, and the mayor is holding back on funds. Then Carcetti gives him a way out: go behind the mayor and give me information, I'll get you what you need, we'll both look good. Now Burrell is betraying the mayor by getting into bed with Carcetti. This satisfies his institution, but puts his personal safety at risk (of being fired).

    This is not just good fodder for intrigue between Carcetti, Burrell, and the mayor -- it's also great stuff for anybody else who finds out. Valchek set up the meeting between them -- what happens if he tells somebody about it? Shit gets around. You hear about it, you get in on it, or you get a favour by telling somebody who isn't supposed to know.
  • In JDCorley's giant "How to Play Vampire" thread from a while back, he detailed a relationship map thing he did. Not much different than setting up DITV and whatnot, and he got it straight out of old Vampire books, which all had relationship webs in them.

    When the PCs interacted with one NPC on the web, trace the connections, and ask yourself: so, what does this other guy think about that? She hates this guy, what does she think about the PCs doing this thing for him? Then the PCs get some dirt on her -- what would the first guy give for that info? Who else would be interested, given the connections on that web? Each time there is a major event, check the relationship web and decide what each NPC would do about it.
  • edited March 2010
    Posted By: anansigirlI guess I'm not looking for a game system in particular that would help with running political intrigue type stories, but rather a GM technique that people use to create these types of situations. Where do you start? Do you utilize other thought processes besides these simple ingredients noted above?
    If it was out, I would point to the City Creation chapter in the Dresden Files RPG. There's a bit of advice I wrote in there about making a more intrigue-oriented game regarding the motivations of key characters (regardless of PCs or NPCs). But I guess I will have to point to that in Origins. That said, I can boil down the advice to two questions I ask of each character:

    * What does he or she want? (That could be to change something or to maintain the status quo. Don't fight for change 100% of the time.)
    * Why can they not just have that? (That could be adversity, incomplete needs, a bit of both.)
    And point to another character when answering these questions (either or both of them). If both answers exist outside of the relationship dynamic you're making, that character is largely irrelevant.

    This is what largely what Johnstone is saying above, only I make it a touch procedural (because I'm a procedure-wonk).

    - Ryan
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinI ask of each character:

    * What does he or she want? (That could be to change something or to maintain the status quo. Don't fight for change 100% of the time.)
    * Why can they not just have that? (That could be adversity, incomplete needs, a bit of both.)
    And point to another character when answering these questions (either or both of them). If both answers exist outside of the relationship dynamic you're making, that character is largely irrelevant.
    Yes. This is the abstract formula of what I was rambling about. Do this.
  • Hey! I forgot to say thanks for the thoughts everyone! You gave me a bunch of techniques and questions I can employ. I think I'm gonna take a bit of what Ryan's saying here, and throw it in with Jenskots insane NPC creation for DitV, mix it up a bit and see what I get. I'm pretty excited for a more interactive politicking session next week!
  • Fantastic! Please let us know how it goes!
  • I guess this is self-evident, but political intrigue is always about favor -about favor of masses of nonimportant people or of one king, or anything in between. Otherwise it's not politics, it's just physical force, and by that I really mean your own physical force, not of the people you command.

    You win favor by creating (or someone else creating) promises that you can do something for the people who back you up for the position (not necessary an official position): for general public this could be something like clearing up the ghetto. Often, many people give the same promises, and in this case it's up to who has the best perceived record of honesty (willing to do the things she promises) or capability (able to do the things she promises). I feel the structure is essentially the same whether it's up to a whole city or an assembly of three who gives you the command.

    One thing that has always perplexed me, is that how dictatorships work. I get democracies, but when it comes to bosses most people hate, I'm a bit lost. Basically it's that the dictator has the monopoly of organized violence, but how the monopoly stays with the dictator's side? The first answer is capability, that the army/police folks think the dictator knows how to keep them folks in power: in this case it's actually a democracy within a dictatorship. But what if nobody really digs the fella, and thinks he's an incapable prick? Fear is one answer. You can't be sure if the others are really thinking the dictator is a right man for the job. And even if they didn't, they might think others think so, and act out in fear. It's a self-preserving structure, which is kind of scary. You have to have the violence monopoly's favor to get the power, but you don't have to have their favor it to STAY in power.

    Institutions are a funny thing: in The Wire they act the role of Greek gods. That's a bit of an overstatement considering the reality, but formal structures do have some kind of power too.

    If I'd make a game about political intrigue (again), I'd do it about favor of the other players. It'd be a game about power struggle, essentially. I guess I'd make some players kingmakers, with no chance of getting the power themselves, but there could be changing conditions and such...
  • edited March 2010
    I've been experimenting with using Diaspora-style clusters to create certain kinds of relationship complexity, which I think make nice clear intrigue scenarios.

    image

    Click through for detailed discussion.
  • edited March 2010
    Hah! Wow, Halfjack, simple! (sarcasm)

    But thanks for sharing! I've been meaning to look more into Diaspora, since I'm using Spirit of the Century to run my Farscape game. Seems like an obvious fit to look into the fate space systems more. That and Starblazer, of course, but that book is daunt-ing. Yes, this thread is for Farscape politics. What. Well, for future endeavors with political intrigue inspired games as well, but currently space muppets.
  • Update! Ran the 1st half of the intrigue session last night. It was a success, partly due to the thinking in this thread, so thanks!

    I wanted to share my planning notes. It's funny, cause often I'll go into a game wanting some kind of solid technique, tried and true, that GMs use to run certain kinds of games. And then I just end up doing what I always do... making some random notes, going toward what I know, and winging it! My husband had some good critique for me afterwards (we ran both our games yesterday, and after we do this kinda cool down talking period to get the adrenaline out, and talk about what was successful and if we have any suggestions from both sides), but he prepares for games so vastly different than I do. Where he writes out text blocks and figures out if>then situations, I tend to just get to know my NPCs really well and play to that.

    So despite some of the more technical relationship map advice in this thread that he would probably love (halfjack I'm lookin at you), I kinda go for the touchy feely route of motivations, desires, and personalities of the characters. I stayed true to that technique, and came up with a plan that looked, in my word document, like this: (something else that wasn't made clear, I've probably run about... 8 sessions of this so far, so this is just a story I wanted to run inside of the game that was more political intrigue oriented)

    First, I detailed the NPCs that are already on the ship to flesh them out a bit more. They would have important parts in integrating some of the PCs, and getting them involved.

    Amari – Katanaan - a space hippie just looking for fun.
    • Will try to instigate Rozen Tor into doing more drugs
    • Will “cheat” on him with someone else on the ship
    • Will bug him to buy her things, keeping an optomistic mind about her home planet. At least she got out.


    Jillovekkia – Scarren – can’t remember who he is. Sleeper cell.
    • Feels uncomfortable about the shared dream because he feels guilty about how the Scarrens once forced the Kalish into slaves
    • Has been stressing out about the state of his people
    • Goes into cold fits, starts to have the shivers and shakes, really needs more of the flower

    Pa’u Xoriander – Delvian - a priest trying to help Xolkhar find his faith
    • Is recovering from his chest wound, spends a lot of time in the kitchen herberarium under ultraviolet light
    • Will lecture Xolkhar about life and death, and that to be at peace one needs only to accept peace in to the heart. Will focus on the fact that he needs to forgive.


    Abudan the red iguana
    • Hangs out with Lyksani. Is constantly hungry, and often farts.

    Raylen and Nibon – Tse Sunika - workers who are engineers on the ship


    Simzee - Zenetan pirate – hangs about the ship
    • Becomes interested romantically in C’s character. It is the female of it’s species.


    Chalana Ukemi Lahoka Yumetu – Kalish – headstrong, untrustworthy, dislikes Xolkhar but has taken a liking to Kazugezi because she finds Jillovekkia on board with him. She’s a bounty hunter.
    • Will confront Kazugezi about the Scarren
    • Has not seen her home world in some time… she prefers to work freelance. Was an infiltrator during the first days of scarren resistance.
    • Was looking for work on Belthansa, figured there’d be some unsavory types there where she could grab some business. Turns out she was right.
    • Wants to know why they saved her life.


    Then, I set up the situation on the planet that tied in directly with the overarching plot, and the PCs Issues/Links (borrowed from Shock, it lets me direct personal PC character development stories around certain themes the players want to deal with)

    * What does he or she want? The Yamadi syndicate back, to discover the truth about the Kalish and Scarren relations, to find own way, to not be betrayed again, to make money
    * Why can they not just have that? Soiled reputation, secret government plots, spiritual upbringing, romantic, harsh world out there

    landing on a planet with water
    something to do with the yamadi syndicate is happening here
    violence is not the frst course of action
    some kind of weapons deal reveals the deals of marden rew
    There is some kind of organization that they need to deal with – local undergound weapons dealers? There is some kind of social intrigue…

    Power, betrayal, and money
    Girls gold and guns

    Land on the planet near a giant lake, the other shores of which cannot be seen. The Tse Sunika together with Simzee the Zenetan pirate rig up a funnel system that can fill the water bladders without the ship actually being submerged. “Yea, actually, the ship suggested it to us. The schematics for manuevering the tubes through the adjacent engine tunnels just showed up on a screen before we landed. It’s brilliant, really.”

    Not far in the opposite direction the spires of a city are visible. Its going to take a few solar days for the bladders to fill, leaving them on the planet for at least that long. The city is an unremarkable urban center, with everything from trade centers to technology malls to areas of worship. The place is called Kwaa city and is run by a compitant Sebacean named Mia Kross. She’s a fair and pratical ruler, but understaffed, and the city can be a bit out of her control. This allows a thriving underground, well known for its ease of trafficking. Ships and criminals can easily fly under the radar due to the low level of security here.

    NPC’s and actions involving them:
    • One of Mardan Rew’s people - a completely clothed female, overseeing the organization of a shipment of weapons and drugs
    • An old friend of Beron’s, Lorian – an informant that knows too much, is actually an undercover rock star named The Korkorian Odyssey. He’s got someone on his trail. He’s a lot like David Bowie. The info is on the Tarken freedom fighters and their plan to make a hit on a Nebari moon base. If the strike is successful, it could take out one of the most formidable Nebari research plants. He also knows that Mardan has been working with the Nebari, because he’s seen some shipments move through town. He also knows Mia’s brother, a socialite heavily in debt to Mardan’s people, is currently angling for her position so he can pay his debt off. If he gets it, Mardan will be able to move anything he wants through here.
    • Mia’s security – crooked, getting paid to keep the movements quiet. Can be overheard at a bar, because they’re too drunk when they’re discussing it.
    • Mia Kross- is always looking for help on the sly, she’s willing to hire thugs to get rid of her thugs. This is often done anonymously through a contact of hers, Tragla.
    • Enoben Kross – Mia’s brother. Owes money to the local casino for having too much of a habit for games.
    • Lamhair Lyhrz Barsec – a Lamhair trader who has his fingers in everything, he is a collector
    • Kalish Diplomats Ganeki Zula Pulapee Sheekah - travelling through, their intentions are to meet with Mia and negotiate a fair trade agreement to allow some of their technology to move through this place unseen by the eyes of the local Nebari

    Setting flair:
    • Kwaa is well known for having one of the galaxies most famous musicians, The Korkorian Odyssey, located in the city. Performances are transmitted from a secret location and broadcast, most of the songs have a very obvious political agenda, speaking out against the atrocities committed by the Nebari government. Nobody knows his true identity. The music is an electro rock sound.
    • The city is rich with life. Lots of people come here for the music scene, there’s new shows happening in clubs and bars all over the city spontaneously. Light Street is known for it’s seedy element, bars, clubs, casinos, boutiques, and brothels that offer all manner of unusual delights.
    • The popular fashion in the city is very decorative in nature. An iconic fashion in the music scene is to wear draperies of thin gold strands that hang off the shoulders like shawls, high heels, and brightly colored makeup, male and female.
    • There is a local race of squat, light hided creatures that look somewhat like feathered armadillos. They have an elaborate mating display that can last for hours, and is often performed out in public before they steal away to have their private time. It involves dancing in circles, raising all their feathers, and never losing eye contact with their mate to be. They are called Lamhairs.
    • A popular drink is the Icy Moon, has a tingling sensation that emulates frost.

    And then I kinda just set up situations for the PCs to explore the city and get involved! It went great. If I were to do anything different, it would be to organize my notes a bit more, highlight the information each NPC has so its easier to find and cross if off once they've shared that bit with the PCs. It was complicated at times to keep all those characters juggled up in the air... I think if anything I need a better juggling tool.
  • edited July 2010
    Posted By: anansigirlSo there was this thread not long ago that happened. Its got lots of good suggestions of what games have a system that successfully models political intrigue type situations. Some examples given of "intrigue-able" system elements are social combat, multitudinous factions, negotiation mechanics, and NPCs that have their own goals.

    I guess I'm not looking for a game system in particular that would help with running political intrigue type stories, but rather a GM technique that people use to create these types of situations. Where do you start? Do you utilize other thought processes besides these simple ingredients noted above?
    Your question interested me, so I put together a Google Spreadsheet that randomly generates villainous motivations. Is this the kind of thing you were looking for?

    (Hm. It appears that unless I give the public "Edit" privileges the random feature does not work for you. But you can still pick one item from each column.)

    UPDATE: I decided to blog about this, to share it with friends and provide an example of its use.
  • Here's that vampire post people were talking about

    Intrigue should have:

    * Goals nobody can achieve alone
    * Goals that contradict each other - i.e. nobody can get everything they want, and/or everyone can't get everything they want
    * Concrete things that can happen to get people closer or further away from their goals
    * At least three sides
  • I love me some intrigue! My guiding principles are:

    a) Make the intrigue come from the PCs, not the NPCs. Otherwise the PCs end up as pawns, and the real puppet masters are out of reach. However, I always have NPCs aplenty to facilitate proxy wars between PCs.

    b) Ensure that what a PC wants is different than what a PC needs.

    p.
  • Oh wow, that's pretty cool David. I like that it's starting the threads of some interesting villain motivations, which is awesome cause it's simultaneously making them more dimensional. I'd love to see all these tools and ideas... visually. Or compiled. Or in a system. Actually, I think the city creation in Dresden starts to do this really well, as far as the faction interaction.
  • edited July 2010
    Okay, I've elaborated from a spreadsheet to prose.
    http://davidvs.net/games/dvreem.shtml#Themes-Intrigue

    Enjoy!
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: HexabolicI think the best summary of a guiding principle for intrigue-based games appeared in White Wolf's Dragon-Blooded splatbook: "Intrigue is what happens when actors have a different agenda in fact than the one they publicly espouse." That's a paraphrase, but I think it works really, really well as a baseline for establishing an intrigue-focused setting. Establish your camps or factions with layered agendas and then put them in opposition based in part on what each group's goals and stakes are, and what they know or think they know of each other's agendas.
    I've been thinking about this great advice lately, and found it unexpectedly difficult to put into practice. Can anyone help me?

    Here's my specific problem: too many conflicts that would acceptably be called "intrigue" fail Hexabolic's definition, and too many hushed whispers fit that definition without being intrigue.

    Example A: Prince Richard is a scoundrel who would love to kill his older brother and become the heir. Everyone knows this, even if they are too polite to say so to his face. No one trusts him. Richard hires assassins a few times per year, and his older brother and father have strict security and faithfully efficient palace guards.

    Example B: Princess Melinda is normally of sweet disposition, but her servants whisper that it is best to stay out of sight, if possible, if she returns from an afternoon of falconry without any successful kills.

    So, please help me brainstorm situations of Genuine Hexabolical Intrigue!

    To be fair, I'll start.

    1. The king is worried a duke has become too ambitious. He gives the duke a task to clear out bandits from a small forest, but then secretly equips and funds these bandits (through a third party, of course) hoping to cause the duke a loss of honor or perhaps even a death during a combat. [Generalization: I sabotage the job I assign you.]

    2. A woman pretends to be in love with a prince, but really only wants to marry into the royal family. Her current kindness, generosity, and other visible virtues are all an act. [Generalization: I pretend to care to get something.]

    3. A noble joins the annual Kingdom fox hunt, not to actually compete, but to arrange for his rival to have an "accidental" death in the forest. [Generalization: I pretend to participate to get something.]

    4. The guards at the city gates are not only watching for exiles and other known criminals, but have been bribed by a merchant family to report the caravan schedules of their financial competitors. [Generalization: I do my job, but a job benefit is being positioned to do shady tasks on the side.]

    5. The leader of a corrupt merchants' guild keeps a list of what goods each member merchant sells. Several items on this list are actually code words for black market activity (for example "mantleplace knicknacks" means that store will buy stolen jewelry). Thieves needing a fence can buy information from the guild leadership. The thieves' fee is split between the guild and the fence, and only the more reputable thieves would be provided with information about the better fences. [Generalization: Official information has unofficial additions.]
  • I'm looking back at this thread, which I really enjoyed.

    I wonder if anyone has some good advice or answers for David, above?

    Or any other clever methods and ideas that have emerged in the last 8 years?
  • Oh yeah. I tried to do a political intrigue campaign (with lots of simulation of institutional and personal authority) in Burning Wheel once and the book-keeping drove me nuts. I think we only made it through three sessions.

    Then, years later, I took all the setting stuff I had created and ported it over to All Men Must Die. We played a two-session run of that and it was an incredibly dense nugget of player-driven intrigue. All Men Must Die does just the one thing, Character-driven intrigue. It's all about oaths, obligations, and the rise and fall of fortunes. I LOVE it.

    If anyone wants to check out my notes, they are here.
  • DavidVS doesn't appear to have a real problem, only a slight misunderstanding of what an "agenda" is in the context of the discussed definition of intrigue.
    In example A prince Richard has only one agenda and it's overt, there's only a bubble of submissive deference protecting him; in example B the servants aren't trying to do anything except maintaining a shell of hypocrisy.
  • edited December 2018
    Anyone wanting to do "Intrigue" in any fiction format, the recipe is in "Curse of the golden flower". Until the royal assassins swing all over the place, that is.
  • My problem with intrigue is that unfortunately I had some experience of it from both sides and 'real' intrigue (usually) does not contain murder or high action, only 'softer' (sic!) moves. Murder could be a sign that intrigue did not work out.

    From a game experience POV, when you try to do intrigue properly, the groundwork is not spectacular in any way, it needs established connections and power hierarchies, also it is slower and less reliable then e.g. killing someone thus intrigue is 'boring' for most of the people and is definitely bad in adventure gaming.

    Of course it is not a real problem because people have no idea what a real skirmish with real swords feels like, intrigue does not need to be 'real' to be fun. On the contrary, I guess it is a bad sign tght someone tries to do it properly! Maybe it should be unrealistic to be fun!!!
  • Wow, major thread necromancy here!
  • Wow, major thread necromancy here!
    Oops, accidentally posted too early! I was going to say that there are a lot more new intrigue related games around now.

    My game (Starguild: space opera noir) uses social conflict and character secrets to support this kind of play.

    Uncharted Worlds (PbtA) makes much of a web of debts between organisations and characters

    The forthcoming Swords of the Serpentine by Kevin Kulp for Pelgrane Press is coming out next year and the design goal is very much around intrigue and skulduggery so will probably be worth a watch
  • In a way, if Intrigue is colour, then whispers are fine. If it's more than that, it's maybe : strategy without war ? This means high interactions but with long term planning.
    As this is abstract, I try to translate in image : Weaving an imbroglio with various factions. The impossibility of open war is a condition, least any friction detonates the mixture. Constant diplomacy allows enemies to share interests and engage in alliances. These alliances are feeble, but personal promises are made, hostages taken. Only those sincere enough can practice diplomacy efficiently. Only those who can see "longer term" will get their neck out when the rope is pulled. Oh my, this is not intrigue, it is espionnage !
  • edited December 2018
    Or this scenario perspective : the players are telepath alienbugs flying inside an imperial castle in a time of succession crisis.
    A relationship map and a floor map. No action, not even a letter sent, only an ongoing exposition of the various NPCs plans and the imperial scenery. All ears and whispers. Milieu exploration. When the situation is saturated, send the letters : begin act 2. Each act the means rank up, the strikes become nastier. Making a scale of possible actions at each stage, with some delayed effects, can be fun. Balancing them would require more tests.
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