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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Designing a Power Struggle

    New DM here looking for plot and world building advice. All responses are appreciated, I'll respond as soon as I can.

    I'm currently putting together a play by post campaign, and the main focus of the story is a coup taking place in the local city. I need advice for how I am going to put this together and make sure all struggling parties or "factions" fit in just right.

    Before we go any further, The struggling factions:

    Faction #1 has deep roots in the city's history, and values tradition. The current ruler is the first to rule the city that is not of their blood, and they see this as unacceptable. They are working to overthrow the leader and establish one of their own to take his place. They do this to continue their bloodline's rule over the city.

    Faction #2 is a new presence in the city, and has little ties to the city's history or care for it's traditional values. They have been in a silent war with Faction #1 for a few weeks now, as that marks the time the current ruler's power began to sway. Their war with Faction #1 is about to become much more open, and much more bloody. They do this to break the traditional values of the city.

    The players will be given a choice in which faction they side with, if they choose to side at all.

    My questions are:

    -How should I write these factions and their power struggle? Not just with each other, but also with the PCs, current leader and any other forces?

    -How should I present opportunities for the PCs to side with these factions? What happens when they side with a faction? What happens if they choose not to side with either?

    -Anything I should avoid while writing these factions?

    Thank you in advance to all who answer! I'll respond as soon as I can!

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Designing a Power Struggle

    Quick question first: Is the current leader a member of either party, or is he just the focus of it? If yes, then which one?

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Designing a Power Struggle

    Quote Originally Posted by Kallimakus View Post
    Quick question first: Is the current leader a member of either party, or is he just the focus of it? If yes, then which one?
    The current leader has no ties to either faction. He simply exploited a power grab and took the power from the previous leader, who was a member of Faction #1.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Designing a Power Struggle

    Quote Originally Posted by Slay33 View Post
    Faction #1 has deep roots in the city's history, and values tradition. The current ruler is the first to rule the city that is not of their blood, and they see this as unacceptable. They are working to overthrow the leader and establish one of their own to take his place. They do this to continue their bloodline's rule over the city.

    Faction #2 is a new presence in the city, and has little ties to the city's history or care for it's traditional values. They have been in a silent war with Faction #1 for a few weeks now, as that marks the time the current ruler's power began to sway. Their war with Faction #1 is about to become much more open, and much more bloody. They do this to break the traditional values of the city.

    The players will be given a choice in which faction they side with, if they choose to side at all.

    My questions are:

    -How should I write these factions and their power struggle? Not just with each other, but also with the PCs, current leader and any other forces?
    Faction 1 has been in power for a while. They are probably the stronger faction, and might have their representatives in high offices, whether that be city council, city watch and so on. Since they value bloodline, it might make sense for them to be related. And if popular culture has taught me anything, it's that families usually have people that hate each other vehemently.
    Their goal would be to replace the current ruler with one of the bloodline. If they represent the bloodline themselves, there are probably plenty of volunteers to step into office. Their power might be from the traditionalist people and the offices they hold. They are seen as representatives of order, and paint themselves as such. Their claim is that whatever traditions they represents is better than alternatives, or the power vacuum their removal would create. They might also have their own hidden bases of operation, or organizations in the city.

    Faction 2 seems like an outsider faction (though this might not be the case). Their priority right now is to thwart faction 1's plans of rebuilding the old order. That means, for now, potentially supporting the current ruler. Ultimately, it means refilling all the offices with new blood and uprooting whatever traditions they dislike. This means engineering the popular opinion. They might expose or fake corruption. More extremist types might provoke riots, assault city watch or assassinate officials they might like.

    As for the current ruler, he presumably doesn't want to be replaced, so he will oppose Faction 1. If Faction 2 are generally popular, they might make allies of convenience even openly. If not openly, perhaps supplying equipment or people or a base of operations is possible. Even if faction 2 wants to replace the current leader, they might still be tools for disposing of faction 1, after which there will be an inevitable betrayal. (Naturally, in that case, faction 2 plans a betrayal of their own)

    Usually, when I run a game, places, factions and so on tend to have a 'face', or a character that PC's often interact with when dealing with the group/faction/place/whatever. Whether that be a shopkeeper, some watchman they know doesn't matter. If the dactions are large, they might have several 'faces', like a reasonable guy, hardline guy, suspicious guy, or something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slay33 View Post
    -How should I present opportunities for the PCs to side with these factions? What happens when they side with a faction? What happens if they choose not to side with either?
    The way I approach something like this is to consider the progression of events as they would go without PC involvement. Essentially, one side will eventually win if things carry out naturally. Then I'll mark out potential branching points where the PC's can intervene. It doesn't matter if they don't take the first one (or really any of them), and things will carry out accordingly. I wouldn't go too much into details, since players tend to manage to think outside the box.

    Potential avenues for getting entangled in the action are chance (they run into an existing conflict), rumours (allowing them to seek out one faction or another) or recruitment (one faction wants to use them against the other). Indeed, the PC's might end up switching sides, or taking no side.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slay33 View Post
    -Anything I should avoid while writing these factions?
    I'd avoid too detailed a progression of events. Equally, writing one or both factions as omniscient is probably bad. They should be consistent with a core ideal.

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    TheYell's Avatar

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    Default Re: Designing a Power Struggle

    -How should I present opportunities for the PCs to side with these factions? What happens when they side with a faction? What happens if they choose not to side with either?
    In large part this will depend on the party. How aggressive are they? Are they mercenary or idealistic? Can they be hired to intervene against a mob or can they be motivated by their best instincts - like ending a lynching or a jailbreak? An aggressive party might be motivated to take a bounty to arrest a faction VIP, or a more peaceful party might defend a VIP during a public parade that seems likely to turn violent.

    I think of starting their involvement with some simple acts of mook mobs so you don't really have to have deep intrigue until they feel some connection to the conflict, even if it's just to profit off the turmoil.

    The political argument can taint everything if you let it. For example, if they don't want any part of the town conflict and want to go hunt a monster, have the tradititionalists pay $ for its head and the new kids pay double for a live capture. Their choice would draw NPC complaints either way, and that can embroil them against a faction.
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Designing a Power Struggle

    Quote Originally Posted by Slay33 View Post
    -How should I write these factions and their power struggle? Not just with each other, but also with the PCs, current leader and any other forces?
    Well since D&D (and other roleplaying games) are largely organic, writing about exactly what happens is, as other posters have commented, a difficult proposition at best. So I would aim instead for outlining what events you intend to have happen and how each faction will react to a potential series of events. Particularly pay to events triggered by the PCs. If the PC's seem to be siding with one or the other faction how will they respond?

    I mean with the Conservative Faction of nobles (or as I assume that they are), you have a lot of issues, they're trying to return to a status quo that's been disrupted. But they're less likely to "go outside the system" as it were, on principle. So they're more likely to try legal shenanigans to remove the king from office or try and establish some sort of legal pretext to do so. Remember that their power comes from what people believe about their legitimacy. Since in this world you're stating that bloodlines are important, they would definitely be trying to focus on that over other issues. Possibly they would be looking for backing from religious groups and organizations who might benefit from the status quo and be able to galvanize the peasantry into backing them.

    The Conservative Faction is also less likely to contain as many radical elements. They've been around for a long time, so radicalization will be something that was generally negative for them as they established a status quo. They'll become more and increasingly radicalized if they don't regain their position of authority and power quickly.

    The other faction is more likely to be radical. Politically they're going to attack the legitimacy of the Oligarchy. Possibly by throwing shade or doubt on their bloodlines. Definitely by saying that their previous rule was not good. They're going to try to bring as many of the oligarchs onto their side of thinking as possible. They're going to try to infiltrate or recruit powerful individuals and organizations to aid them.

    They have a lot to gain from destabilization, so they're the side that you would see terrorist attacks and propaganda of that nature from. If they're so inclined.

    A lot of information is missing though. Who controls the military, the police, the judicial system? You need to work that out before you can go too much further (and don't just assume that it's the conservative oligarchy, because it may not be).

    Quote Originally Posted by Slay33 View Post
    -How should I present opportunities for the PCs to side with these factions? What happens when they side with a faction? What happens if they choose not to side with either?
    Well it depends on the power level and prestige of the PCs, if they're powerful both factions will send emissaries or envoys to approach them. If they're not powerful, both factions are trying to recruit people to their cause anyways and they may do so. I would aim for having at least one PC be of the bloodline of the conservative faction, since that will make associating them much easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slay33 View Post
    -Anything I should avoid while writing these factions?
    Don't forget that factions are groups of individuals. Not monolithic groups. That's the most key thing.
    My Avatar is Glimtwizzle, a Gnomish Fighter/Illusionist by Cuthalion.

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