Collaborative Conflict MappingSeptember 10, 2009
The GM comes up with a barebones idea of a situation, “Struggle for the Throne”, whatever. The GM takes some index cards, and writes down a few factions, and maybe a few NPCs, and a MacGuffin or two.
Each faction/NPC should have a stake in the overall idea, and you can make more simply by thinking who would oppose one of the faction/NPCs you already have in play.
No more than 8 cards. Factions/NPCs, write down a goal or motivation.
Players come up with their character concepts based on allying with, or against various Factions/NPCs- they should pass around the cards, make suggestions for modifications/additions (“No, but what if the Prince is really my half-brother?” “Yeah!”). The players can also suggest new Factions/NPCs if they would make sense (“Oh, we got to have a heretic splinter group from the Church!”)
If the game has explicit Flag mechanics, use this stage to set them up.
Now, you have a basic outline of the Factions, and an idea of where the PCs sit in all of this, now you add a few more cards. Come up with NPCs who dissent with their faction, or at least, have goals that differ in ways that create drama.
For longer term play, I generally like to take any given leader/representative of a faction in a scenario and give them two voices- one who leans one way on an issue, another who leans the opposite way (The ol’ Kirk-Spock-McCoy triangle) and you get some interesting stuff out of that.
Now, if there’s specific relationship mechanics, the players should tie their characters in after this is complete.
Now, all you have to do is pick a group or faction, and have them do something in opposition to another, with one or more PC’s present. You know where the players stand, the players know where the NPCs stand (mostly) and everyone has context of what’s going on.