Today I'm going to conclude my talking about Politics with this last bit. We talked on Tuesday about the NPCs and doing prep on it, with some great additional bits of advice in the comments. Yesterday we talked about games and distractions. Today I want to talk about the meat and potatoes of the political world, or at least my perception of that, which is favors and compromise. So, without any further ado, let's begin.
Much of politics is done with favors. Favors will help trade allegiances, or gain support where you otherwise wouldn't have one. There is a strong feeling in knowing that someone 'owes you one,' and also in the feeling of obligation that you owe someone For this reason, politicians - particularly in fantasy or RP settings - will often do work in order to incur favors. More to the point, it is often possible for a PC to help an NPC in exchange for a favor or just help from the courts - whether or not the PC is a court based PC.
Why You Don't Squelch
With favors being such an important part of the court game, it is important to realize why you don't just squelch on your debts. To do that, you need to understand that we're not talking about friendly favors you give to your friends or other acquaintances. Favors in politics is a business transaction. In a lot of ways it is like money. You owe someone money, you don't pay them back, then why would anyone else loan you money in the future? And don't make the mistake of thinking people won't know. Court settings are nothing if not rife with rumors, and even enemies may talk to share the fact that you don't pay your debts back.
Even worse, if it goes long enough - or the debt is large enough and deliberately called off - then things can very easily be made worse for you. Maybe it is something overt, like legal or political trouble. Maybe it is a bit slower, like no help coming at a key moment. Finally, maybe it is just truly dangerous, like an actual attempt at a back stab at a key moment when you need things to go your way. Bottom line, you don't want to squelch on your debts.
With the importance of favors gone over, you can see where compromise comes in. Simple human nature - which always seems to be exemplified in court settings - means that people are almost always serving their own interests as well as what they maybe should be doing. Sure, maybe everyone is for "the defense of the realm" but who is to say that defending the realm doesn't also mean I can help myself out too?
All of this selfishness basically means that you need to play a game of priorities when dealing with politicians. What do you need, what do you only want, and what are you willing to give up to get either/both? Knowing the answers to these is good, because it lets you know where you can give and where you need to make a hard stand. And trust me, as you work around in politics you're going to have to give and make a few hard stands. Especially if you're GM is doing it right.
Put It Together
When you put it all together, you get an interesting flow between what you owe, what you need, what you want, and what is wanted/needed of you. Do you give up on that orphanage to help the person who saved you last week get ahead? Do you call in that favor the local daimyo owes you to keep it on the books? How you handle these resources is going to determine how you get along.
Which brings me to the last bit of advice I have for both myself and everyone else looking to get into politics in their game. As you run the game, take notes. Take very good notes. Record names, record deeds, and record who owes what.
How About You?
How about you? Do you have any last minute advice for gamers going into political games? Sound off in the comments.