Hi all, a quick, final post for this month's RPG Blog Carnival theme: Rethinking Encounters.
Within potential encounters in a larger area of action, one element that must be considered is encounters with different groups or factions within a setting, as well as their relationship to one another.
And to perhaps consider the benefits or liabilities of both positive or negative interactions with the various groups.
So here is a brief scenario, as well as a reference matrix, for tracking several groups in an area:
A - A bunch of cultists who have occupied an abandoned hill-fort on the edge of civilization. They are recent immigrants, fleeing a more restrictive environment.
B - A settlement of orcs near the confluence of two rivers. They moved in long enough ago to build a rough palisade and establish rock and wattle structures. While they mostly hunt in the forests, they are certainly not above a good raid now and then.
C - A band of raider orcs, attempting to expand their tribe's influence and territory into the region. They have been preying on travelers on the Border Road, as well as isolated farmsteads.
D - A goblin clan that lives in a series of sandstone caves along the river banks. They have been here longer than any of the groups, and have weathered the ebb and flow of 'civilization' in the area.
E - Corrupt soldiery tasked with peacekeeping in on the border, but more focused on looking the other way if a share of bribes and loot pass in their direction.
These groups have relationships with one another- either as Allies (A), Enemies (E), or Neutral (N). Tracking these relationships might be busy, so a quick matrix to highlight who's who and where they stand with respect to one another is helpful:
Ok. So now our erstwhile adventurers need to retrieve an artifact, the Scepter of Harambe-kamen.
Trouble is, it got broken in two pieces while being used as a nutcracker a few years back, and its respective components are now in the hands of two groups: the cultists (Group A), and the raider orcs (Group C).
Provided our team can't physically defeat one of both of these groups, they are going to have to use some diplomacy. Of course, these two groups are at odds, so utilizing and intelligence of the relationships (and territories) of the various faction may be useful.
For instance, the soldiers and cultists tolerate one another, but the soldiers have also come to team with the raider orcs, who have proven to be quite lucrative. Conversely, getting on the cultists' good side may also gain influence with the local orc tribe, who hate the interlopers horning in on their territory, and may be happy to have an excuse (and temporary allies) to help push them out of the area.
Now, if the team wiped out the cultists in pursuit of part of the scepter, and the local orcs learned of it, then not only will they not assist, but now they are another belligerent faction to deal with.
Conversely, getting on the soldier's good side may make headway (or at least hopefully a 'safe' introduction) with the raider orcs, although once the two groups understood that something of value was to be found, the chances of double-crossing goes up significantly. And the soldiers would likely not get in the way if those pesky cultists got ousted from the old fort. Provided their tithing boxes got dropped along the roadway as the players made their way out of the area.
The goblins would just rather be left alone.
Since these relationships aren't necessarily linear to one another, there is ample potential for negotiation, subterfuge, and double-crossing (on both plate and NPC sides). Anyway, as I said, a brief approach for building and tracking relationships in an area to give both color and complications to an area, and quite likely, the party's goals. Enjoy.