Political TTRPGs

Reynard

Legend
NOTE: This is about politics in play, like court intrigue and diplomacy and so on, not "politics" please and thank you.

I am interested in what games exist for focusing on politics and political maneuvering in TTRPG play, including subsystems that can be used with games that themselves are not overtly political in design. I am also interested in the general discussion of whether political games need dedicated political mechanics or subsystems.

For example, imagine a game where the PCs are all influential members of different noble houses and play centers primarily around court. The PCs engage in political maneuvering both amongst one another and with various NPCs. Everyone is jockeying for advantage (not the extra d20 kind).

What games are good for this sort of play? What games don't bring anything to the table? How would you engage with such a premise? Would you want the game system to support it, or get out of the way?
 

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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
The War for the Crown adventure path by Paizo is an entire political intrigue system added to PF1. I am playing in it right now and its pretty good. If you ever wanted a much more role play focused fantasy RPG campaign, this is a good option. Paizo also put out a book called Ultimate Intrigue which adds many of these elements to the game in case you want to spice up your own homebrew.

That said, political intrigue is my jam. Its to the point I am very bored if the GM, adventure, and rule set doesn't allow for it. Most don't, so I have largely taken it on myself to add it in as GM. I typically do this with faction play, social mechanics, ally/enemy subsystems etc..
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
What games are good for this sort of play? What games don't bring anything to the table? How would you engage with such a premise? Would you want the game system to support it, or get out of the way?

Good question! Looking at my bookshelf, I don't have many games that have particularly deep politics mechanics. It isn't something that, over the years, my players have wanted to engage in mechanics around.

So, I can think of games I know that have space to do them in:

First comes to mind is Fate. Older editions of Fate had various forms of Stress a character could take - Physical, Mental, and Social. That last stress track is where Politics can sit. While physical Conflicts play out over the course of seconds, one can imagine a Social/Political conflict that plays out over days or weeks.

You could imagine, say, an Election - players take actions intended to put Social Stress on the opponent. If the Opponent Concedes, or is taken out, the will lose the election.

Once you've that in mind, then all the usual Aspect and Stunt mechanics of Fate can be applied, with items that are intended to have impact on the Social Stress track.

You can then blend the action-adventure side of the game with the Political - the PCs can go out and do the usual action-adventure play, with the goal of the end of getting/creating an Advantage in the Political conflict. F'rex, in that election, if you sneak into a corporate headquarters and steal damning financial information, you come back with a social Aspect: "Got the Goods on Senator Marcus" or whatever it might be.
 

NOTE: This is about politics in play, like court intrigue and diplomacy and so on, not "politics" please and thank you.

I am interested in what games exist for focusing on politics and political maneuvering in TTRPG play, including subsystems that can be used with games that themselves are not overtly political in design. I am also interested in the general discussion of whether political games need dedicated political mechanics or subsystems.
The most political game and the game most centered around PC politics I'm aware of is Monsterhearts, even though the stakes are often very low (as it's high school politics). Next up would be Smallville, again a game with high school theming for the default setting although it takes adult characters well. What they both have in common is that relationships between characters have significant weight and characters although allied are encouraged to clash and to act in (and even against) their own best interests, and that a significant amount of the world is built in character creation, grounding the characters with NPCs and a setting they value. Partly also because they are all hormonal teenagers. And the fact that both are success-with-consequences systems where you make a mess as you play and need allies to help clean it up also helps.
 


WHFRP wants to play with politics, whether small local stuff or grander things. At least three of the Enemy Within books are significantly political in nature.

The rules support it from the career selection on up with various reaction modifiers, suggested trappings (which if played as mandatory for the game in a more social/ political direction), various talents and so on.
 

innerdude

Legend
There's an excellent Blades in the Dark hack called Court of Blades that I kickstarted back in 2021. Highly recommended. It takes the core Blades' "heist" sequences, but sets it up to be much more focused on courtly intrigue.

Your "scores" are carried out at fancy ballroom galas, in the secret chambers of unwitting "marks". Your "crew" is supplanted into a "Great House", with its position, prestige, and influence changing over time.

Link
 

There's an excellent Blades in the Dark hack called Court of Blades that I kickstarted back in 2021. Highly recommended. It takes the core Blades' "heist" sequences, but sets it up to be much more focused on courtly intrigue.

Your "scores" are carried out at fancy ballroom galas, in the secret chambers of unwitting "marks". Your "crew" is supplanted into a "Great House", with its position, prestige, and influence changing over time.

Link
I backed this on KS. I’ve never gotten it or Blades to the table but it looks fantastic if you can wrap your head around FitD games.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I have a Cortex Prime project on my back burner that takes place in a faux fantasy Renaissance Italian setting. You have “means” as your approaches/stats and you also had resources. The idea was that if you spent your resources as a sorcerer, banker, noble with a mercenary company, or whatever, you had to negotiate to get that resource back. You would probably get it back but at what cost? What would you owe that magical spirit or faction? But as I said, it’s on the back burner and you get no bonus points for unfinished projects.
 

aramis erak

Legend
What games are good for this sort of play? What games don't bring anything to the table? How would you engage with such a premise? Would you want the game system to support it, or get out of the way?
DUNE 2d20 is built specifically around the political nature of the setting. Social conflict, extended conflicts... warfare... it's already robust.

Burning Wheel: Jyhad is a supplement for Burning Wheel Revised, that, with a very flimsy rename a few things wink-and-nod, that is an unlicensed dune, and has a structure later expanded into Burning Empires, a standalone corebook. The overall mechanic for the political/military status is to take the exquisite Duel of Wits mechanican, and make a similar one for the overall phases of the politics.
 

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