View Full Version : Political/intrigue campaign, ideas or opinions welcome.

2017-02-06, 12:44 PM
So my friends thought a intrigue/subterfuge game would be interesting over the basic hack n slash save the world deal that we usually run in some form or another. Also they're gonna be evil and fighting against some traitors in their midst who work for another faction. This is the first campaign of two, the second is a good campaign where they see the aftermath of what happened in the first. Like if the traitors succeed there will be a United faction under a single ruler, facing off against their old PCs.

Basic plot is that the forces of good are winning. Much of the surface world has fallen to them. The last and strongest evil empire is the only one that remains. They call upon an alliance of evil Underdark races to form an accord, or peace treaty to work together against the forces of good that they couldn't defeat along. I'm not too familiar with the forgotten realms but I was gonna mix some wiki history, with some home brew. The three Underdark factions would be the Drow(lawful), darugr(chaotic evil), and deep gnomes(neutral evil). Unknown to the party at the start they've been tricked by their emissary, who is a part of this fifth faction to destabilize the Underdark alliance. He's got one ally, and they can get found out a couple ways so far.

The Drow are more or less similar to their forgotten realms counterparts but they've got sprinklings of the new Necrons(centuries long plots that play out, court intrigue is common place and if you don't play you'll probably end up dead or powerless.) and the imperial Knights(lots of rules and traditions that need to be followed, if you don't, you're liable to get killed if you don't follow the protocol on how to kill your rival.) both from 40k. They will be the hardest faction to subterfuge. They live and breathe back stabbing. They also love slaving still.

I was going to include the darugr as a more tribal/chaotic evil faction. More or less vikings who worship Khorne, but not so bloodlusting as to be totally stupid, they understand that they're faced with destruction if the forces of good aren't stopped. Their backstory of getting captured for centuries by mindflayers remain. Probably the second hardest faction to subterfuge thanks to their naturally suspicious attitude towards other races long as they aren't raging.

the deep gnomes are probably the least evil faction, but they don't like surface dwellers too much, and they know that they wouldn't escape a cleansing of the Underdark, since most people believe that all Underdark races are straight up evil. They're mostly greedy. They never do anything for free. They love gems of all kinds and are probably the easiest to manipulate.

This fifth faction can be found out a couple ways, the party could intercept messengers from their empire asking how the treaty negotiations are going(sowing confusion as they were told something else by the emissary.) Agents of this faction are identified by purple jewelry, and the two traitors will have some on them. They will have some outside of the game table rolls and depending how they do will affect if they're spotted by other players doing sneaky stuff. They also need to take as many corpses to turn to undead which would be characterized by eyes the corpse's eyes turning purple.

It's far from perfect but what do you guys think? Anyone have examples of political games I could browse through? What do you think of the secret faction of players?

2017-02-06, 05:51 PM
Now it may not be a huge long term idea, but use that purple jewelry!
The strongest magic items! Purple Jewelry!
Stuff from backstories! Jewelry colored purple!
Important quest objects! Jewelry colored mixed red and blue!
Try to make it so that the 5th faction members can flip the table if the PCs try to expose them,
"These men are spies!"
"Don't believe him, look at the color of that necklace!"

2017-02-06, 06:36 PM

2017-02-06, 08:15 PM
The most success I have had with intrigue is to make a couple NPCs from each faction who can readily give the players jobs.

Part of the trick is to make the jobs not in the players best interests, it is in that NPC's best interest for the job to finish and maybe the party benefits.

I had a vampire campaign where the players gravitated toward a seductress vampire who ran several gangs, working for her got her into the position of prince (leader of the city) but left the players where they started and made an enemy of one of the strongest vampires in the city.

I would also say, don't be afraid to capture your players. Put them into positions where they could easily lose and have the enemy take them prisoner (dead adventurers aren't very useful), to be freed upon helping them instead of their previous patron.

You have to rewrite a little bit of what you think of with D&d, usually its break into dungeon kill big bad, but with intrigue the big bad is going to run away the moment his hideout is compromised or barter with the invaders. The big bad can be significantly more powerful than the party, that doesn't mean he stays to fight, and now he knows who the party is.

I wouldn't focus too much on "the drow are like this" and the "duergar are like that" as you will feel you are writing yourself into a corner.

Ideally the players will find their own motivations out of having allies and enemies. The trick is to get them some people that they like/don't like.

I am not sure what you plan for each session, but having a 'big good' empire that everyone needs to unite against may not be the best idea for an intrigue campaign unless it's just to create more conflict between the united factions. I guess the players could infiltrate the big good to try and bring it down from the inside, but if that is where you were going you would have listed all the factions in the big good. Traitors in their midst is definitely a good starting point.

Random hooks that are good:

A big bad tries to assassinate them
A big bad pretends his enemy tried to assassinate them or blames it on the 'big good'
An ally makes a display of how much stronger than the party they are
The party gets a misdelivered message
The party needs to deliver something to their boss but the delivery is anti them
The party gets blamed for assassinating someone, making new allies and new enemies
The party witnesses an assassination
The party is robbed by a faction (could be pretending to be another faction)
The forces of good arrive and two factions help each other (preferably opposing ones the players are involved with/against)

Anyway, good luck.

Roland St. Jude
2017-02-06, 09:04 PM
Sheriff: Remember that real world politics and religion are inappropriate topics on this forum.

2017-02-06, 09:19 PM
I'd suggest that having a discrete "the forces of good" is a questionable choice here. Factions that are just rotten through are fine, but they tend to work best as the backdrop for the political and intruge based conflict between factions that have a lot of good and bad sides, that have good and bad people, and that form shifting alliances instead of being in permanent alliance or opposition. The rotten faction is more useful as a catalyst for a conflict between better factions about how to deal with them than as a source of intrigue.

2017-02-07, 01:38 AM
My advice would be to outline the main goals and main methods of all factions, including their secret agendas, if any.

Then just play them like normal characters, in action and counteraction.

I think the setting can work well if you can make the Good Guys into a device of impending doom, and focus on the factions' increasing desperation as they draw closer.

Another thing to be careful of is to not make the "evil" factions into caricatures. They still should have believable goals and characteristics while having a bit different perspectives.

2017-02-08, 01:49 PM
I'd suggest that having a discrete "the forces of good" is a questionable choice here. Factions that are just rotten through are fine, but they tend to work best as the backdrop for the political and intruge based conflict between factions that have a lot of good and bad sides, that have good and bad people, and that form shifting alliances instead of being in permanent alliance or opposition. The rotten faction is more useful as a catalyst for a conflict between better factions about how to deal with them than as a source of intrigue.

As knaight said, Intrigue comes from gray not black and white.

Its easier to blackmail a good king who committed an evil act (e.g. assassinate a rival), than to blackmail the drow queen because she did a good/evil act.

So how do you blackmail the drow queen? well who are her allies and enemies, say she secretly killed the matron of house celophaye 500 years ago; she used an assassin of house scenarium to do the deed and blamed it on house Kael. Look at all that blackmail. House kael and celophaye are mad in the first place, but you tell them scenarium assassinated the matron, or the queen paid for the service. Or the players decide to sell the blackmail to scenarium or the queen, or they take advantage of that secret passage in house celophaye to kill Vave celophaye who humiliated them last week. <Unaffected house> is not going to care what the queen did, but <honorable knights> is definitely going to care if their king assassinated someone.


Alright so I didn't just pull drow names out of a hat just barely. I once ran a short one player play-by-post drow game. Vave celophaye was the player's sister, militant and aggressive, she viewed the player as weak; so for a battle preparation vave invited the player to the meeting... and when talking about weakness smacked the player with a drow-bane morning star (intricately described) knocking the player right to 0 hit points, the player retaliated with a crit (not killing the level 14 drow priestess) and fell down; Vave stabilized the player and threw her off the stage to be taken back to her room. Long story short the player hated Vave with a passion and that was very motivating.

Vave had a male assistant that kept an eye on the player and Vave would occasionally disguise herself as that assistant. I made sure to introduce the player to as much of house Celophaye as I could by creating a very busy social calendar around the player being presented to drow society like a debutante.

How does this angry level 3-5 drow noble rogue take down the level 14 priestess who is aware of her general movement? Perhaps she needs the help of her matron or her other sister cecil, perhaps she goes to the duergar that house celophaye is battling. Their help isn't going to come free, in this case the player failed to impress the matron and instead sought the help of cecil (who really wanted to try having a kobold slave, but couldn't find one). As reward cecil gave the player a ring that would stop a fatal blow and summon several drider of house celophaye. Did that get the player any closer to beating vave? maybe.

The players goals are not the NPCs goals, cecil doesn't really want to fight vave and isn't going to start planning with the upstart player until they show potential.

You will always run into problems with campaigns like this, players have a hard time creating their own quest hooks from nothing so jobs need to be readily available; I always give them more than they could possibly do and they have to pick, its fun to see them get another quest hook and say, "NO! we are doing <other hook> instead." In one campaign I literally had every NPC ask for help, "can you escort my trade wagon to <city>?" , "can you kill the wyverns attacking my cows?" , "There is a bounty for warlord Corinn who was seen in the area" , "my father the lord of gidian has sent word that a vampire is attacking" , "we are having problems with the <bandit group> outside the city can you help?"

Other thoughts:

For intrigue the combat usually moves inward instead of outward, so it turns into traitors hiding in a warehouse instead of bandits; release a monster into house scenarium instead of kill a monster outside the city; explore the catacombs of our house instead of explore the catacombs of <ancient king>.

Plot info moves from hooded figures in taverns to mysterious symbols; kings to secret maps; saving a prisoner to interrogating a prisoner; finding artifacts behind secret doors to finding artifacts that open secret doors; gathering information to spreading misinformation.

NPCs need to have goals and you need those goals to be available in your notes at the table, so you can know how the NPC will respond.

More Plot Hooks:

Someone is spreading rumors about the players
the players find a mysterious amulet (it unlocks the <house> catacombs)
A good expedition has a note from their leader about watching out for ambush as they haven't established trust their drow informant.
the players are too useful to their boss and fears dependecy on them, so he decides to send them on a suicide mission
traitors attack a compound and dropped a map with 3 points that look like city landmarks and one is an unknown symbol
traitors attack <place> and drop an amulet that is needed to open the door to their hideout
one traitor accidentaly calls a fellow traitor by his actual name during combat
there is a troll in the dungeons
the players boss is running out of slaves and needs the player to acquire some more
The players find a series of clues hinting toward the queen's killing of matron celophaye, the clues lead them towards a secret entrance built in manor celophaye.