View Full Version : DM Help Two rival organizations manipulating the party against the opposing faction

2019-04-04, 04:18 PM
Hello there!

I'm starting an Eberron campaign, and find the idea of involving the player characters in the hidden war between the dragons of the Chamber and fiends (and specifically Rakshasas) of the Lords of Dust. The idea is that both factions will subtly try to manipulate player actions against the opposition, after becoming aware of their deeds or if they unknowingly get involved in one of their conflicts.

Could you fellow DMs give me some ideas on how to pull off such a scenario? Or maybe suggest some media where such a scenario happens, so I can research and draw inspiration from it?

Thank you in advance! :smallbiggrin:

2019-04-04, 05:32 PM
Right place, wrong time: Faction A's Agent: "I'm willing to pay you 100g to go here and pick something up. I just need discretion. Last time I tried to save money, and it cost me more than I saved. Won't make that mistake again". Players get there, just when Faction B happens to be robbing some of Faction A's merchants. Now the players attack Faction B, save the Faction A's caravan, and Faction A only had to spend money for an expensive courier job instead of paying for a, much more costly, mercenary one.

Use the Players as bait: Faction A convinces Faction B that the Players are working for Faction A by giving the players a gift in broad daylight. Faction B captures the players, thinking that they're spies, agents, mercenaries, or whatever, and Faction A scries on the enchanted "gift" they gave the players to raid Faction B's hideout while they're busy interrogating the players.

Wrong Bad Guy: Faction A does bad things looking like Faction B. Players find the bad guy and blames Faction B. Now Faction A can do their bad deeds in broad daylight, and doing so will actually get them free help against Faction B.

2019-04-04, 05:43 PM
I did something similar in my campaign, so while I can't direct you to any media I can give some advice:

1.) Conspiracy is hard! It's a challenging balance trying to present enough information so that astute players can detect something afoot, but not so much that it becomes contrived. Be aware of the risks.

2.) How important is this for you? Do you expect players to be capable of discovering this? Do you feel they need be capable? I swung too far in the opposite direction, and made my factions' schemes too airtight for players to "really" find without some intervention, meddling or contrivance.

3.) What is so important about the party that these factions need orient the party against their rivals, rather than dedicating personal resources? My answer always came to "they don't need the party," and so I eventually settled on a simpler Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend angle. I find this makes their rivalry more digestible and plausible, but keeps players in the thick of it.

4.) As for what happens when you do try this: prep for improvisation, and plan for discovery at every stage. Generally, players won't pick up a mystery like this right away (especially if you want it subtle), but you'll need to be ready in case they do. The last thing you want to do is "need" them to discover when you say so. I had a Rakshasa of my own, and his first encounter with the party--coincidentally--was his last. He was important, and in letting the dice fall his scheme deflated. It was cool in the moment, but it meant that any depth to be had with the scheme was pointless--the guy who could give them any info on it bit the dust!

5.) Are both sides aware that their rivals are doing the same thing? Is this a Game Theory situation, or what? Does one faction have the upper hand, or a public arm manipulating the party? Or are they both shadowy councils? One flaw in mine was that, despite superficially being very different, they were ultimately faceless threats (and therefore toothless).

6.) Is there a "planned" outcome, and by "planned" I mean is there an endgame to this scheme which will happen if the players don't fully intervene? Or do you intend this to remain up in the air, to be dictated by the party's awareness of it? I would highly recommend having some kind of advantage for one side over the other; it makes the game world feel more "real" when things can (and will) happen without players' full awareness.

King of Nowhere
2019-04-05, 07:28 PM
hire the party to go on a quest that, unknown to them, will hit the other organization's interests.

try to implicate the other guild in something bad. Notice, for this you should not use fake evidence; it's likely to be discovered. You can eithe ruse honest truth (those guilds probably are plotting something, after all), or you can disseminate rumors.

Try to win the truust of the party by giving them useful informations. Use those informations to steer them in the direction you want. Again, don't lie, as that can be discovered. Use half truth and omissions, and if the party figures it out, feign innocence and be all "i didn't tell you that because I didn't knew it"

I had two villains subtly manipulating the party, and it worked wonderfully because they had the same goals (the villains were unrelated, but they mostly didn't want the party to stir too much trouble, as that would interfere with carefully laid plans), but with two rival organizations it's going to be harder, because they are going to expose each other eventually. Which is exactly what happened in my campaign: the moment the two villains goals came at odds, they both denounced the other villain to the party, hoping to put the party against their rival, and it ended the game.
So you either come up with some reason why the guild who is losing influence won't just tell them "the other guy are manipulating you by doing x and y and z, and here are the proof", or you have to accept that it won't last for much.

2019-04-05, 11:26 PM
I would suggest making a list of possible factors that could make the party favor each side, whenever the party seems to be favoring a side, introduce or emphasize a factor that would make them favor the other side. You don't have to decide ahead of time which factors will be on which side unless they only make sense for that side.

Mark Hall
2019-04-06, 10:03 AM
Simple method? They get hired for jobs.

They strike at A, on a job. A learns who they are, and says "Hey, you hurt us bad, here. We won't kill you if you do this job for us. We'll even pay."

They strike at B on that job. B comes back and says "Hey, we won't kill you if you do this job for us. We'll even pay."

This can go on for a while, with each side trying to secure their loyalty.

2019-04-08, 08:32 AM
Great suggestions, all of them. It'll help a lot with my planning. Thanks everyone :smallbiggrin: