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Ideas for a Game of Thrones-style campaign


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This idea has been stuck in my head lately, so I figured I'd share - any thoughts or feedback would be appreciated.
 
I say "Game of Thrones-style" because this game would involve plenty of political maneuvering, but the plot would focus more on the common people... ya know, the folks who actually do the heavy lifting.
 
The central idea involves a land-grab; a group of uninhabited and resource-rich islands are discovered, and naturally, everyone wants a piece of 'em. So a bunch of different noble houses, etc., send their scouts and laborers and such to set things up for future expansion. Most of these folks would be under minimal supervision, since very few nobles would want to take the risk of catching malaria or something. The commoners would still be expected to take orders from their 'superiors', but the running theme of the story would be 'who really wields power here?'
 
Anyway, does this sound interesting to anyone? And what system do you think would be suitable for a game like this? I know there is a Song of Ice and Fire RPG, but it seems to focus more on noble houses, so it might not be the best choice in this situation.
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It's an interesting idea. Seems to be a heavy sandbox with the PCs driving the story (although distant nobles sending instructions via supply ship can certainly serve to drive the plot forward if needed). I think one of the keys to a successful sandbox is building as much of the world as possible before starting, so that puts a lot of work on your shoulders.

The ASOIAF RPG is great for low or no magic fantasy and intrigue, but as you've noted, focuses more on the noble house than ordinary people. The system is very built around the noble house, so I don't know how well it would play if you removed it. If you could find a way to replace the noble house with something else that could function in its place, you might be able to make it work. For instance, if the players are all part of one faction, you could replace the noble house with a settlement that functions in a similar fashion, with each PC having a different role in the settlement.

For a more high-fantasy magic system, D&D or Pathfinder may be the direction to go. PF1 has rules for social combat, and PF2 at least has rules for an Influence subsystem for NPCs, if you wanted existing rulesets.

For something more rules-lite, you could with something like Dungeon World or another Powered by the Apocalypse fantasy system, or maybe FATE. That would allow you to build out your own system for politicking, with the flexibility to make changes as needed for functionality in play.

What would the PCs' objective in this game be? Would they be more responsible for exploring islands and ensuring they are safe for settlement/exploitation, administering a settlement, convincing various NPCs to work together, or all of the above?

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Posted (edited)

I'm thinking "Act I" would focus on building settlements, and the subsequent acts would deal with alliances/rivalries and power dynamics. I imagine the ultimate goal would be to gain independence from the "old world" while also dealing with internal conflicts.

Edited by Eagleheart (see edit history)
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You might look into Greg Stolze's Reign. It moves the action up from the individual to things like guilds/kingdoms/other power blocs. It's fairly easy to bolt onto something else if you still wanted a more traditional system for Act I.

You might also take a look at Pathfinder's Kingmaker Adventure Path. It doesn't really have the us vs them/new blocs vs old blocs element, but it's all about establishing a new settlement/kingdom and has built-in management rules.

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Having quickly read a bit about Reign, that looks like it would be a fairly good system for this. The One Roll Engine is also one of the specialized dice systems that's already built into MW, so you would easily be able to do dice rolls with it, as well.

Defining the mechanical impact of a settlement on thegame is going to be important. If they are largely just set dressing, then you don't really need a system to deal with them, apart from determining the availability of equipment/magic items/spellcasting. Maybe have some quests where the PCs can influence what resources are available (e.g. there's a source of gold 2 days journey away, but at an equal distance is a source of iron, and you can only get one before another settlement claims the other).

For a more mechanical impact, the PF1/PF2 Kingdom Building/Settlement Building rules would be a good option. They also have the benefit of being available online via Archives of Nethys. Fair warning, the PF2 rules are kind of clunky, and the Settlement rules can't be easily separated from the Kingdom rules. The PF1 rules are a little less clunky, and you can do settlements separately from the Kingdom rules, but they are also easier to game/optimize.

I'm not sure what other systems might be out there that are designed to mechanically simulate this kind of settlement building. I'm sure there's something, though.

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Something that I think gets overlooked in political-intrigue heavy games is that there are inevitably far fewer winners than is in the player pool. That's a tough pill to swallow for someone coming into a commitment of a game where they may be invested for a year+, only to see their PC beheaded for strictly political reasons while his children watch from the castle steps. That plot works in a piece of literature, but rarely is it a satisfying ending to a ttrpg.

The other aspect of Game of Thrones that doesn't get mentioned much is that many of the character rarely spend time around other major characters. So interaction between potential PCs is done through other means, but makes for a weaker 'game'. I'm wondering if the commoner-angle of your initial suggestion helps alleviate that though.

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