Craig Judd’s Situation Based Scenarios

Hi all!  Mark from the Pathfinder Chronicles here to say today is the last day that my blog has been taken over by +Craig Judd.  He has supplied me with some of his material for his up and coming game called PowerFrame RPG after a discussion on one of my recent blogs.  If you want to find out more about the game after reading this or either of the two follow ups then join the community at Google+.  That link will take you straight there.

Craig Judd (who lives coincidentally about 60 Km’s from me)


Instead of just providing the PCs with a straightforward goal to achieve, you can create a dynamic situation in the game world by defining several influential or highly motivated NPCs. Each NPC will form the core of a faction, which may be as small as an individual or as large as a galaxy-spanning organisation.

Factions

To create a faction, answer the goal-based questions above in relation to each core NPC, as well as the following questions:

  • What resources are at their disposal?
  • What price are they willing to pay?

Some factions may have multiple goals, and some may contain splinter groups with their own agendas.

In some cases, a faction may not be centered on an NPC at all – it may be a creature, an event, or a force of nature. The PC group may be a faction in their own right with their own agenda, or they may be agents acting on behalf of a larger faction, or a combination of the two. The interactions of factions and their conflicting interests will create a living, dynamic world for the players to interact with.

If the players have suggestions for things they’d like to see in the game, or that they want their PCs to be involved with, try to accommodate them by coming up with appropriate factions. It’s OK if the material is largely centered on the PCs – regardless of their position in the world, they are after all the focus of the game.

Conflicts

Once you have several factions, it’s time to examine the situation for conflicts. Some obvious ones may already have suggested themselves while you were coming up with the factions. Consider drawing a relationship diagram showing the major factions and their goals, and identify areas where two or more factions are competing for the same goal, or where their desires clash or are mutually exclusive.

In many cases, two factions may be locked in a long-term conflict, and the PCs may be the decisive force that tips the balance of power one way or the other.

Involving the PCs

Conflicts are the source of adventure hooks. Use them to develop reasons that the PCs might want to engage with the situation. Try to have at least a few things on the go at any one time, so the players don’t feel like they only have one option to follow. Ideally, they should have three or four potential adventure hooks, plus any self-assigned goals they may wish to pursue.

The PCs may become involved in these situations in a number of ways – a conflict may affect them personally, or may affect an NPC they care about; they may be members of a faction that’s involved in the conflict, and thus be sent on missions by their superiors; they may witness or become embroiled in a dispute such as a skirmish, assassination attempt, coup, or declaration of martial law; or they may be approached by NPCs with a stake in the conflict who offer to hire them.

Tie some conflicts back to the PCs – make it personal! If factional conflicts don’t affect the PCs directly, they might affect family members, colleagues, or other important people in their lives. If they haven’t defined any important people at the beginning of the campaign, you can always wait until they make connections with NPCs during play.

Checklists

Using checklists becomes even more important when you have multiple competing factions in play. They are a vital tool for keeping track of the progress of various plans and events.

During and between sessions, you’ll want to keep your checklists up-to-date and use them to identify short-term goals for your factions.

Example Situation-Based Scenario

For a fantasy campaign set in a city-state, the GM begins by creating the following three Factions:

  • The Court of the Prince, ruled by Prince Alpert. 
  • The Mercantile Council, a group of Guildmasters led by Antonia Vespa.
  • The Order of Alabaster, a mysterious group of sorcerers led by an individual known only as The Pale.

Organisation

The Court
While Prince Alpert wields official political power and has the final word on laws and developments within the City, he must rely on trusted advisors and delegates to keep things running smoothly. The Court is structured like a pyramid, with the Prince at the top and authority being distributed downward.

The Court is made up of many groups and factions including the Prince’s household, the army, the civil service, several influential aristocratic families, and ambassadors from other States.

The Council
The Mercantile Council is a group formed from the heads of the City’s most influential artisan and specialist merchant Guilds. Every four years, one of their members is elected to Chair the Council and represent them at Court.

Each member of the Council is the head of their own specialist Guild, with an equal voice. Individually, their roles are to advocate for favourable trading conditions for their own Guild. As a group, the Council advocates for the benefit of all its members – although in practice, the Guild associated with the current Chair usually receives the most benefit.

The Order
The Order of Alabaster is little more than a loose collective of powerful but individual sorcerers. It functions as a network for magical research and philosophical discussion.

Members of the Order are all strong individuals, and it is rare that the entire group will agree on a course of action. Individual members often act on their own agendas without consulting the others.

The one known as The Pale has a position at Court, advising the Prince on mystical matters. Although not the leader as such, having a foot in both camps makes The Pale the most influential member of the Order.

Connections
Antonia Vespa represents the Mercantile Council at Court. Lesser Guilds have no direct connection to the Prince, but their services are often engaged by the Court at various levels – supplying materiel to the army, fulfilling craft contracts, providing transport, and so on. 

As mystical advisor to the Prince, The Pale is the only member of the Order welcome at Court. Individual Court members may engage the services of Order members, but usually in secret and to pursue personal agendas.

Most Guild members steer clear of the Order, preferring worldly concerns over the Order’s metaphysical pursuits. Order members may ignore or involve Guild members in their plans according to their personal whims.

Conflict

  • The various groups and representatives within the Court are constantly vying for the Prince’s favour.
  • The Prince wants what is best for the whole State, while the Council lobbies only for favourable trade conditions.
  • Members of the Order may come into conflict with anyone – including one another – while pursuing their own plans.
  • The Council cares only for the material world, and the Order cares only for the metaphysical.

Involving the PCs
The above is just a start; the GM needs to dig a little deeper, create and name various NPCs, and decide on their motivations and connections.

Involving the PCs depends a lot on how they relate to the rest of the setting. They may be members of one of the factions, or they may be free agents for hire.


If the PCs aren’t likely to be directly involved with the factions (if they are street-criminals or theatrical performers, for example), then these factions don’t need to be detailed thoroughly; they will instead form a backdrop and may occasionally become relevant to the game. If that’s the case, though, the GM should focus on developing some smaller factions that directly relate to the PCs and their lives (such as local gangs and crime-lords, or performance venues and actors).

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