Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

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Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby Havard » Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:51 pm

One of the secrets of my campaign worlds: A kingdom well known for its Noble Houses, Powerful Knights and Wise Kings is actually controlled by the Guilds.

In character explanation: Over the centuries, the Nobles houses have become completely subservient to wealthy Kings. The role of the nobles is mainly to supply military forces to the king and to lead his armies as officers and generals. The reason why the kings have been wealthy however, is due to taxes paid by the guilds. Both the guilds and the king are aware of this and kings who play nice with the Guilds usually fare much better than those who try to pick fights with them. This is pretty much basic mercantilism, although most fantasy settings lean towards a more feudal society.

OoC explanation: I wanted to create something different from the most common fantasy tropes of focusing on feuds between noble families. Sure the nobles still have their feuds and intrigues, but in the end they do not determine the fate of the kingdom. The Guilds do.

Note that the Thieves Guilds are also included among the Guilds.

Do you spend alot of time thinking about Campaign Politics in your games? :)

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Re: Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby Sturm » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:21 pm

I used politics a lot in my game, maybe guilds less than the others, as in the past I did not know enough about them or underestimated their importance during medieval and renaissance times..

BTW the Specularum material by Allan and Agathokles has a lot on guilds (Fantasy Cities: Specularum: http://pandius.com/fc_spclm.html) and Agathokles also wrote the adventure Guild Wars in Threshold issue #1 (here in html: http://pandius.com/gildwars.html)
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Re: Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby Big Mac » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:03 pm

Havard wrote:Do you spend alot of time thinking about Campaign Politics in your games? :)


Not really. Not yet anyway. But I have been looking at the setup on the Rock of Bral (in Spelljammer). That has a prince, a bunch of noble houses, guilds and other organisations. The Rock is governed by three councils and the one I've been looking at most recently is the Council of the City, which has life-appointed Councilmen representing each "Barrio" (district) of Bral. There is also a Nobel Council and the Council of Captains (where anyone with enough ships gets a seat).

On Bral, Prince Andru has set up the various councils, so that they keep him in power. But given how his brother died in mysterious circumstances, I can imagine that there are some people on Bral who would not be disapointed to see Prince Andru replaced by his nephew.
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Re: Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby Lord Sheriff Takari » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:27 pm

in my world I have the various Lords, Nobles, Guilds and Royalty tiered out but political maneuvering is not always a major factor depending on the scenario

as always, there will be differences between Noble houses or planetary lords, and of course the Guilds have their own wars as they secure their stranglehold
on their product line and fight off challengers.
but unless the PC's wish to get into the political scene, their interaction with politics is typically limited to the adventure scenario
<someone hires the PCs' to "Do this task" only to find there's more to the story their not being told
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Re: Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby timemrick » Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:41 pm

My first Freeport campaign was mostly the Freeport trilogy, so the Captain's Council and its internal politics played some part in the campaign, but my later campaigns pretty much steered clear of political intrigue. In that setting, the city is ruled by a Sea Lord and a Captain's Council, who pretty much have to work together to get anything done. The Council was originally chosen from the prominent pirate captains of the city, but has since come to better represent a cross-section of the city as a whole, including the head of the Jeweler's Guild (a gnome representing both the craft guilds and nonhumans in general), at least one high-ranking merchant, the head of the Wizard's Guild (a very recent addition), a priestess of the sea god, and a very vocal smith who tries to represent the common people.
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Re: Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby Illuminatus » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:58 pm

My last Karameikos-based campaign was headed in the direction of political intrigue. The players positioned themselves as a secret cabal in competition for control of the Grand Duchy (vs. the Karameikos Family, Iron Ring, Veiled Society, and others). The difficulty of DMing this campaign was too much for me. Several problems:

(1) Boredom. D&D is designed for heroic adventure, not intrigue. Lots of talk and recordkeeping can get kind of dull for a bunch of adventurers.

(2) Details. Who in society is controlled by whom? How much does each organizataion know about the others? How much does each see the others as a threat, and actively try to destroy them? Who has spies where, and who are they? In addition to any machinations against the PCs, what are the other conspirators doing against each other? You basically have to consider the actions and plots and priorities of every conspirator in the land against every other conspirator in the land!

(3) Arbitrariness. How often do I have the PCs attacked, and how harshly? If I engineer a masterstroke of, say, the Iron Ring against the PCs, is it really the Iron Ring or is it the DM who destroyed them? The game is designed for PCs to be actors and NPCs/DMs to be reactors, it is not designed for a world full of NPCs (the DM) to be actively and constantly plotting against the PCs. As DM, it felt too much like I was imposing my arbitrary whims…”OK, today I think I’ll have someone try to assassinate you.” Not much fun.

Ultimately I made a whole new intrigue-themed game that we could run “in the background,” and the results would inform what was happening in the D&D game.

The game is based on the old Steve Jackson collectible card game “Illuminati: New World Order.” (And yes, that’s why I have this screen name.) Each player controls a conspiratorial cabal (Illuminati). As the game proceeds they gain control of other lesser Groups (the people, places, and organizations of Karameikos) and continually screw each other over with a variety of insidious attacks and Plots. Alliances and betrayals are encouraged. There is no DM arbitrarily making up the plot…the plot is an emergent phenomenon.

So for instance, in a recent game I played the Iron Ring. A rival Illuminati controlled Gunther Schoenberg, the Ambassador of Ierendi. I conspired with a third player to have Gunther assassinated. So in the D&D world Gunther was also assassinated…but the PCs have no idea why or by whom because their Illuminati was not involved in that card game.

As these card games unfold, some Illuminati are eliminated, some are strengthened. The last survivor will control the Grand Duchy (we are only about half way there at present, after four years or so). Meanwhile, the actual D&D game can focus on adventures, and any setbacks the PC conspiracy suffers are determined through the fortunes of the card game, not by DM decisions.
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Re: Campaign Politics: Kings, Nobles and Guilds

Postby zontoxira » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:19 pm

Illuminatus wrote:Ultimately I made a whole new intrigue-themed game that we could run “in the background,” and the results would inform what was happening in the D&D game.

The game is based on the old Steve Jackson collectible card game “Illuminati: New World Order.” (And yes, that’s why I have this screen name.) Each player controls a conspiratorial cabal (Illuminati). As the game proceeds they gain control of other lesser Groups (the people, places, and organizations of Karameikos) and continually screw each other over with a variety of insidious attacks and Plots. Alliances and betrayals are encouraged. There is no DM arbitrarily making up the plot…the plot is an emergent phenomenon.

So for instance, in a recent game I played the Iron Ring. A rival Illuminati controlled Gunther Schoenberg, the Ambassador of Ierendi. I conspired with a third player to have Gunther assassinated. So in the D&D world Gunther was also assassinated…but the PCs have no idea why or by whom because their Illuminati was not involved in that card game.

As these card games unfold, some Illuminati are eliminated, some are strengthened. The last survivor will control the Grand Duchy (we are only about half way there at present, after four years or so). Meanwhile, the actual D&D game can focus on adventures, and any setbacks the PC conspiracy suffers are determined through the fortunes of the card game, not by DM decisions.


Whoa, that adds a whole new level to D&D gaming :O I might pick that style of gaming for my possible Planescape campaign. The factions in Sigil can pretty much fill that role of intrigue and conspiracy.

On topic now, most of my games have some sort of political intrigue between the major players in a community, be it a frontier town, a mercantile city, an expanse of wilderness, or whole nations. Last time I had my players get involved into politics was in Lost Mines of Phandelver; the group's rogue (who was also an assassin) had made a contract with the Zhentarim to somehow get rid of the ineffective townmaster, so they could gather the remaining (defeated) Redbrands, recast them as town watch and install their member, who happened to run the office of administration, as the new townmistress.
There was the more recent campaign to overthrow Hillsfar's First Lord as well; his seat of power was to be taken by an ambitious noble woman, aided by an elven lord, and old-time friend of her noble family, who ran the rebellion. But this one was kinda railroaded, as the characters couldn't do much other than follow their instructions. In the end, the group was split between those who wanted to assassinate the local ruler and those who wanted to leave him alive. That was some intense session, if I may say.
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