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Libra

Politics Checklist

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Curator

A recent post requested help in setting up a politically-oriented Requiem game. I have been wondering about that, and I came up with a rough checklist of the sort of things I would look for in setting up a game of intrigue.

This list is aimed at Requiem players and Storytellers, but I'm sure it can be modified to run with any of the other game lines.

1. Draw up your NPCs. At the start, you just need names, and (as this is Requiem being discussed) minor details such as age, BP, Clan, Covenant and whatever Status each NPC has in Clan, Covenant and City.

2. Begin filling in some of the details of the important NPCs. Start with gender, appearance, distinctive features (grating voice, one eye, ginger, permanent scowl, strong but dim, slim and whipsmart or whatever).

If you wish, throw in a useful dice pool, e.g. Politics - 5 dice, Herd - 3 dice, Occult - 6 dice, etc. Flesh out the more important ones with Attributes, Skills, Merits and other stats - but leave most of the bit players just as is, filling out the details if they become important.

3. For each NPC, write down their perceived reputation. "Fair dealer," "cruel and vindictive," "treacherous and spiteful," "honourable warrior," "troubled and moody," "cunning politician" and so on. No more than a three word description. Then work out secretly whether or not that public reputation is deserved or unwarranted.

4. The NPCs may or may not have useful agents to do their bidding or useful resources they can draw upon. These pawns could be Allies and Contacts, a Retainer, a bunch of trained ghouls, a cult of worshipful mortals, a hacker with a really fast internet connection and killer software, or some hidden resource such as a garden of ghouled Mandragora plants which generates a regular monthly harvest of sweet, addictive lacrima. Work out the agents and resources for each NPC that has them.

5. NPCs all have secrets. Each NPC has at least one of each of the following:-

- A secret.

- A person, place or thing they desire.

- A person, place or thing they hate.

- A person, place or thing they fear.

6. Work out a relationship graph of the players. Sketch them, put icons or images together on a sheet of paper to represent each NPC player. Draw arrows between these icons and a brief description of the relationship between individual players, e.g. "Hates her guts," "Would gladly diablerise him," "would move mountains for her" etc.

Don't make it too complicated.

7. The NPCs will all have at least one, if not several, favours they owe. Duty and obligation are currency to the Kindred, more even than blood. The fewer debts owed, the more favours they own and can call in, the better.

Debts and favours can be bought, traded and bartered in Elysium: these places are where most of the serious Kindred horse trading goes on. If the player characters want to get into this, they need to acquire some favours or debts - for a debt is as much currency as a favour, since one Kindred's debt is another's favour to be called in.

8. Work out, for each NPC, how they would react to the players:-

[a] Will they ally with them?

Will they side with the players' enemies?

[c] Will they betray the players - or the players' enemies?

[d] What debts, favours or secrets will they be willing to trade with the players - assuming the players have something to bargain with?

[e] What is their price? What will it take to get them to switch sides, or will the NPC stay bought?

9. Finally, work out for each NPC what they have that the player characters are likely to want. Do they want the NPC's vast network of social contacts or to take her Herd from her? Does she have the Prince's ear, and a willingness to speak on their behalf if they will do one small favour for her? Work this out. Give the player characters some motivation for approaching the NPC.

10. When running this kind of game, always let the players seize the initiative. If the players feel that the best approach to gain power is to run to the Prince's enemies and ally themselves to their cause, for instance, let them make that decision. Don't have the Prince's enemies come to them.

None of the NPCs may approach the player characters and offer them favours in exchange for doing something for the NPCs, no matter how much they want the thing done. It's up to the players to make the approaches, ensuring that whatever happens is a direct result of the player characters' interventions.

Edited by Libra

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This is good stuff!

I find that when planning games as a GM, relationship maps are extremely helpful. Wether you want to go all classical and prepare lots of scenes in advance, or you opt for a more progressive route and rely on improvisation through tools (such as the r-map), these kinds of tools really help set up a flow of story.

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Curator
This is good stuff!

Thanks.

Not everybody's like me, with copies of Machiavelli's The Prince, Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power, Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Frank Herbert's Dune sitting on their bookshelves within easy reach at any time. So I figured I'd put something together to help out newcomers - since this is the biggest question novitiate Storytellers ask when they start running Requiem.

The biggest lesson any Requiem ST can learn is that duties and obligations are more than a currency - like any currency, they are a trap too subtle to notice, hence avoid. It could be all too easy to believe that the give and take horse trading is all that the Danse Macabre is, and then they fail a Rotschreck roll or an anger frenzy and all bets are off.

Let's not forget that the Beast is still there, and it's not patient. It'd be far worse for the Kindred if it was.

Edited by Libra

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Sorry to invade this topic. I think I am finally understanding politics now. I already mentioned George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire as a great example of how to do politics. But isn't the tv show "Nikita" a good example of politics?

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The debts and favors is really useful. Turns it into the Godfather. I scratch your back, you scratch my back.

But one really important thing is missing. It is focused on relationships between vampires. What they think of the other vampires. But this doesn't set a political setting in motion.

What I think is missing is what each vampire NPC wants to acquire and what he doesn't want to lose. Can be a position, title, territory, herd, ghoul or haven. Or more. But this is what drives vampires. If you do this for every vampire the setting will play itself. You only need to drop the players in the middle of it. Because all these motivations will be conflicting the setting will be more dynamic than a setting based on mostly fixed relationships.

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The Requiem Chronicler's Guide has a chapter about politics. But the one book that makes it all clear is Damnation City. It details feudal society which leads to a lot of depts and favors all over territory. This depts and favors will lead to politics and the bordering domains or districts may lead to turf war. Most of the time there will be even more politics, because the factions don't want war in the open. They want to play sneaky.

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Curator
The debts and favors is really useful. Turns it into the Godfather. I scratch your back, you scratch my back.

But one really important thing is missing. It is focused on relationships between vampires. What they think of the other vampires. But this doesn't set a political setting in motion.

What I think is missing is what each vampire NPC wants to acquire and what he doesn't want to lose. Can be a position, title, territory, herd, ghoul or haven. Or more. But this is what drives vampires. If you do this for every vampire the setting will play itself. You only need to drop the players in the middle of it. Because all these motivations will be conflicting the setting will be more dynamic than a setting based on mostly fixed relationships.

The Requiem Chronicler's Guide has a chapter about politics. But the one book that makes it all clear is Damnation City. It details feudal society which leads to a lot of debts and favors all over territory. This debts and favors will lead to politics and the bordering domains or districts may lead to turf war. Most of the time there will be even more politics, because the factions don't want war in the open. They want to play sneaky.

Damnation City definitely covers the physical and geographical aspects of city - level politics, but Danse Macabre goes into details about the connections and relationships the Kindred maintain - with one another, and with mortals.

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It does detail the Prince=>Regent=>Vassal=>Tenant relationships. And a domain or a haven on someone's domain don't come for free. It needs payment. You can tie in all other types of relationships (clan, covenant, sire-childe) in this framework. There is a picture on page 223 that does that.

Ultimately vampire is all about domain, because domain means access to blood. And blood is one of the most important resources for vampire.

Edited by Red Devil

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It does detail the Prince=>Regent=>Vassal=>Tenant relationships. And a domain or a haven on someone's domain don't come for free. It needs payment. You can tie in all other types of relationships (clan, covenant, sire-childe) in this framework. There is a picture on page 223 that does that.

Ultimately vampire is all about domain, because domain means access to blood. And blood is one of the most important resources for vampire.

Fair point but for some vampires, their domain and blood are so secure(or so they think) that they turn their attention elsewhere. Also don't forget that some vampires might be obsessed with something that they may be willing to use all their political might to achieve it. For example a vampire who's illegal childe has been executed by the Prince will be obsessed with killing the Prince instead of trying to protect her domain.

I find this sort of characters useful to adding flavor in a political game. Sure the main struggles are for domain but an obsessed vampire with nothing to lose and no way to be threatened, can turn the tide of events towards a different outcome.

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I loved Damnation City. It was the first book to really tackle how the overarching Vampire game was meant to be run. Beforehand, my fave book was the Ordo Dracul one because it so clearly documented what it might be like to be an Ordo Dracul and the sorts of things an Ordo Dracul vampire might do. The only drawback was the fact that a lot of these things were secret and therefore couldn't be done in a mixed coterie.

Thanks for the checklist on preparing for a political game! I truly wish I had access to this back when I was running Vampire.

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