If I had a dollar for everytime a good GM told me they were crap with GMing political/social scenarios, I'd be a very rich person. Many of those GMs were even good at running the very thing they thought they were bad at. Some weren't, and that's no fault of theirs. Political situations - Court in L5R - can be very different from normal GMing, and today I want to talk about it, and some things to consider when doing your prep to have things work out better for you.
You Can't Just Kill Everyone
One of the things that makes Political scenarios harder to GM and prep for than social scenarios is the fact that you can't just kill everyone. This goes both ways. The NPCs can't just try to kill the PCs. And the PCs can't - well, shouldn't - just try to kill the NPCs. The idea is that all sides have something that makes violence and fighting not the ideal way to settle the matter. Otherwise, why not just cut to the chase?
In L5R this mostly comes down to the fact that killing ambassadors is a good way to start a war - and no one but the Lion wants that. In other situations, it's because everyone is ostensibly on the same side. Political plays between barons and dukes of the same kingdom can be bloody and vicious, but they can't have outward signs of major fighting or the whole realm looks weak, and the King won't stand for that.
This is also the first thing you need to figure out when you want to do a social or political scenario. Why can't the opposition to any side just kill them? You may find the answer is "they can" which is fine, but then you need to answer "why are the opponents not trying to kill them?"
Politics is Trade
When it comes down to it, there is very little different between Politics and Trade. When you are doing trade you are selling something to someone. Normally this is a physical object or direct service. When you are doing Politics you are selling something to people too - just now it is an idea, or a way of thinking. You see this in governments the world over. People will vote your way on X, provided you give your support on Y. or Bill Z can pass, but only if Bill A is also attached to go through with the same vote.
The only catch is that the more you try to force it with Politics, the worse you do look as a politician...at least, generally.
What Does The Faction Want?
This may actually be the first thing you figure out, not the bit about death and dying. But what does the faction want? And don't say 'nothing' because that makes things boring. It can be hard, but every faction needs to want something. The PCs can handle their own wants but otherwise, factions want things. Even if it's just to curry favor and good will for the future.
What Does Each Faction's Representative Want?
Individuals have wants to, and if you thought "wants nothing" was a bad answer before, it's even worse here. The individual has wants, desires, and needs. These can be major things - like a young prince who wants information on who killed his brother at the last Imperial Winter Court - or minor things - like the young ambassador that has a fondness for sleepipng with men/women of a certain appearance and to indulge other less than legal vices. But everyone wants something.
What Will They Give Up To Get What They Want?
You have what the factio wants and you have what the rep wants, now what are they willing to give up to get it? What type of shit deal is that Prince willing to accept for information on who killed his brother? Just how many 'small perks' can be slipped under the rug by sating the ambassador's desires?
When deciding what the group is willing to give up, try to branch out from the topic the want is at. It's rare a group is looking to acquire land, and willing to give up land. However, going to the outside can work great. Perhaps the Crane want a castle back they lost over the summer in a war, in exchange they're willing to pay 1/3 of the Lion clan's taxes and provide food for the army. or maybe they're willing to marry the lord of the castle into their clan - bringing the castle with it - and in return will give other marriages or broker other deals.
Side perks can also do a lot. "We get the castle back, but not for 2 years. In return, during the two years you will train X soldiers in Y skills."
Negotiation and what goes into it is fun when you dig in.
Once you have all this, you're mostly ready. Now you just need to be prepared to watch it all go up in flames when the PCs interact with your actions. :)