Crafting Intrigue Adventures — A Couple Of Quick Tips

When I asked RPT GM Alex M. via email about what his biggest GMing struggle is he had an interesting reply:

Right now we’re playing an evil campaign in a post apocalyptic setting.

My biggest struggle is making smart enough, non-linear / classic intrigue cases .

Like political rivalries, behind closed doors agreements and the like.

I emailed Alex back with some ideas for him, and I thought these notions might be decent tips for you if you are wanting to dig into intriguing gameplay as well.

Here was my reply:

Hi Alex,

Have you looked at TV Tropes? I keep that site close at hand while designing adventures.

What turns out to be predictable cliches in bad screenwriting are awesome gaming moments for players.

A quick search for intrigue comes up with some possible helpful documents if you scroll a bit.

Here’s one about a Decadent Court.

And a thread on political intrigue with some nuggets.

The approach I’m taking right now in my Duskfall campaigns is to use factions.

I give each faction a Quick Stat Block, which I created as part of a faction guide I’m writing for Patrons:

Quick Stat Block

  • Name, Power Level, Alignment, Stance
  • End Game: (Long term goal)
  • Members: (Leadership and member types and traits)
  • Misfortunes: (What hinders or blocks reaching End Game)
  • Moves: (Skills, resources, and types of actions typically used to achieve the End Game)
  • Mysteries: (Secrets and Plot Hooks)

(Patrons, you can read a full example and breakdown of this stat block here with the Watersellers Guild I’ve created for Duskfall.)

I combo this with the Faction Pyramid technique (part 1, part 2).

And so what I get is a bunch of factions with internal and external struggles.

Once set up this way, I only need to decide how two or more factions conflict over something the PCs are involved with to create intrigues, encounters, and complications.

Also helpful is the Mastery series by Robert Greene, Sun Tzu, and Machiavelli.

Each book has examples you could immediately lift out for adventure ideas.

And if you study the strategies, you can run factions, NPCs, and intrigue games from a deeper perspective.