View Full Version : DM Help Building a Heavy Roleplay Political Plot

2015-10-30, 08:56 PM
I am trying to put together a game that will have a heavy focus on roleplaying rather than roll-playing. I haven't decided what system I'm going to use yet, though it will likely be one of the D&D editions.

The main plot idea I'm trying to flesh out is that the PCs will all be members of the Seelie Court. I am possibly going to restrict races to fey [On a side note does anyone know of an PC built fairy race? Not pixie or eladrin or some sub-species but true, pure-blood fairy?]

Anyway, the game will begin during a festival/party in the fairy lands which the PCs will be attending along with a number of fairy nobles. During the festivities, a murder will take place and it will be up to the PCs to figure out who committed the murder and why.

My initial thoughts on this are that the murder will be an attempt by one noble house to rid themselves of a rival, or to prevent two rivals from joining forces, possibly by framing one of them. For the sake of this discussion we'll call them House Rose, House Thorn, and House Pearl. In this example, House Rose and House Thorn are planning to unite by marrying the heirs of their respective houses. House Pearl wants to stop this, so they murder the prince(ess) of House Rose and frame the Prince(ess) of House Thorn for the murder.

My troubles are two fold at this point. One, I am not sure how to structure this adventure in a way that lets the PCs investigate and discover the truth without making it blatantly obvious from the start, or to convoluted as to be unsolvable. Two, why is House Pearl so determined to prevent the union? Obviously they likely wouldn't want the two houses to gain more power by uniting, but I would like there to be a bigger plot behind motive. My thought is that the union would somehow interfere with House Pearls plans, but what those plans might be and how the union might pose a threat I am unclear on.

Can anyone please offer some advice or ideas on how to put this adventure together in a cohesive way, and help to expand the motivations into a larger plot that can carry beyond a simple 'Who dun it' mystery?

2015-10-30, 11:03 PM
The most important thing to know is what part the players will have in this story. You need to ensure the characters have motivations appropriate for your game. Why do they care who is resonsible for the murder, and why are they the ones that need to solve the mystery? What will motivate the players to want to engage in your story?
What sort of activities do you want the players to be engaging in during this thing? Will the system you choose help engage them, or will they have a character sheet full of abilities and skills that are mostly useless for your game?

These are all things that should help form your plans. Additionally, there needs to be consequences for the PCs if they fail at their tasks or can't solve the mystery. There should be a time limit on their investigation: they have a set number of hours or days before the framed guilty party is executed, or a war starts, or something else irreversible that has real consequences for the characters and the world. This will help with where to go with the game after yor initial adventure, it should be directed by the players actions. Who did they ally with? Who did they upset or make enemies of? Who is fighting who and what side are the PCs on?

2015-10-31, 05:39 AM
Thrudd has made a lot of good points.

I would like to add one more thing: Follow the Three Clue Rule (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1118/roleplaying-games/three-clue-rule)!

2015-10-31, 07:02 AM

Do you know the Gumshoe System (Trail of Cthulhu, ..)? It's all about solving mysteries and investigative play. One of the core design principles resolves around how "core clues" work and that can be transferred to any other system without a hassle.

In a nutshell: The base assumption is that characters are professionals at what they do and they will solves the mystery, no checks or rolls necessary.

Coming from a D&D perspective, this sounds stupid, right? Bear with me on this one. Every scene should contain a core clue that is given out for free, allowing the transition to the next scene and leading up to the solution of the mystery. Its your players job to actually dig deeper into it and find the hidden details and darker truths/motivations. That is the challenging and rewarding part.

If you want, you can compare this method with the old tv show "Colombo". We all know who did it and how, the interesting part is discovering the why and how the actuall investigation plays out.

2015-11-02, 02:26 PM
What you absolutely, positively must do (in my opinion) is create a sociogram (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociogram) featuring all the major figures/factions/etc. in the setting, and ensuring that you know how each group feels about each other group. This information doesn't all have to be put forward to the players at the start, but they should have a general impression of it if they have actually been exposed to the court for any amount of time. Also ensure you know what makes each of the parties different, and which choices/actions/beliefs they have each made that either draw them towards or push them from others.