Intrigue and Politics

Seeing how election season just ended, it’s only appropriate to talk about politics in our RPG games. Don’t fear, the real politics of this year will not be discussed!

For anyone who is a serious talker at the table or a web-spinning genius behind the GM screen, there’s endless potential for an interestingly complex game. Social warfare can very often be more interesting than combat. With combat, there’s a clear “good” and “bad” because the perspective is that of which you are in danger. In politics and social warfare, it’s much easier to create moral dilemmas, gray areas and internal conflict among your players. Seeing how I personally prefer an emotionally driven game, this is right up my alley.

Building up to a final confrontation, or combat, by using politics or social warfare as a vehicle is highly effective in getting your players invested. To let you in on a little secret, I alchemically condense the energy it creates and drink it in order to live forever. Good times, you should try it. You didn’t hear it from me, though. In my post about pacing, I addressed the fact that I enjoy a very slow game with a lot of bumbling around of sorts. Mainly this is testament to my play style of enjoying a lot of social interaction. Connecting characters to the world is a fine art that takes an immense amount of time but pays off in the end.

Thankfully, for the not-so forward thinking of us (like me), 13th Age has built a pseudo-political system for us to explore already. Tropes are fun, before some of you start groaning aloud, don’t lie to yourself. It’s very easy to build a game around the relationship of two Icons on opposite ends of the moral spectrum, on the same end of the spectrum with conflicting interests or in some gray areas that are forced to interact. Of course, throwing agents of such into the mix, rather than the Icons directly, creates even more confusion. It’s always good to iterate the fact that your NPC’s, although servants, are still people with goals, personal desires and a small bit of corruption. Depending on the affiliation of your player characters, this could create some really interesting role play.

Does the NPC’s interest endanger the Icon in question? Is the player character a strict devotee of said Icon? Well, there you go, some tension for you to exploit. This sort of idea also works the other way around, though makes things a bit more predictable. Withholding the NPC’s true intentions and dropping very subtle clues as the situation unfolds is way too fun as a GM, especially if the players don’t pick up on it right away.


As the perfect shaky relationship, the relationship of the Emperor and the Crusader can be immensely fun to explore. Such a story line would be littered with discreet aggression, betrayal and bold faced lies. A juicy political situation, for sure. Here are some hooks:

  • The Crusader’s forces recently conquered a hell hole near Axis. Th Emperor is grateful for his service, but much to his ignorance, it’s now a hub for The Crusader’s spies for after the Diabolist and Lich King have been dispatched.
  • Metallic dragons have long been allies in war to the Dragon Empire. The Crusader wants in on it, offering information on how to use The Echo to create elite strike forces (see 13th Age Monthly, Echo & Gauntlet). The Great Gold Wyrm has a little something to say about this…
  • The Diabolist has offered the Crusader a deal he can’t resist as a sort of truce; a way to kill the Emperor and usurp his throne.

The last one could lead to an insanely complicated story arc, but damn, would that be fun or what? Things that are hinted at throughout the 13th Age core book could also be explored on the political battlefield such as:

  • The Green being imprisoned by the Elf Queen.
  • The Black serving as the Blue’s spy-master.
  • Possible familial relations between the High Druid and Elf Queen.
  • The Great Gold Wyrm’s ultimate sacrifice leaving a power vacuum of sorts.
  • The Dwarf King’s claim on all magic items, using it as leverage to force other Icons to pay tribute, threatening to let orcs travel freely into the Empire.
  • The Archmage keeping everybody from infringing on his less than ethical magical studies under threat of repealing his magical wards.
  • The Prince of Shadows simply hecking up everybody’s day. All the time. No seriously, he’s a jerk.



Stay Metal \m/

One Comment on “Intrigue and Politics

  1. Pingback: Intriguing Play – Dread Unicorn Games

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