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Wheels within wheels

”A game of intrigue and warfare between Minor Houses.”

I lack the time and creativity to create intriguing… well, intrigues. I’m planning to use the Blades in the Dark starting situation setup (two Houses in conflict, one or two Houses that can gain or lose from the conflict) but that’s fairly straight forward. I could use some inspiration regarding the nothing is ever what it seems-feeling that I want in my game.

I’d love some examples and ideas, if anyone has any.

John le Carré. Many Cold War settings with House 1 usa House 2 ussr.
Tom Clancy: Jack Ryan séries
For very complex intrigues: War of the 2 roses and “les rois maudits” direct inspiration of Game of Thrones
Will gladly accept any campaign

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You might also take a look at some of the Infinity adventures and/or Night’s Black Agents. Imagine Pirates of Drinax might have some utility, at least to lift some of the scenarios.

If you feel like doing a little podcast work, The History of Byzantium could probably provide some inspiration and/or The History of Rome. Both feature plenty of plots and hooks from empires past that could drive some noble conflict. Will definitely second Wars of the Roses and, if you feel like looking into the Holy Roman Empire, there should be plenty to keep you PCs busy.

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Let your players do it for you!

If you have the Cortex Prime (or Smallville RPG) book, use the Relationship Map process in that game as part of your session zero and your players will obligingly create a ton of intrigues and plots for you. Or, if you don’t have either book, there’s a product called Entanglements that’s pay-what-you-want on Drive Thru RPG that is a stripped down version of the same idea:

Basically, you go around in turns, and each player adds something to the map - an NPC, an organization, a location, etc, and also defines a relationship between them and it. After a few turns, you’ve got a web of connections and possibilities that will give you all the intrigue you could want. Especially because one of the principles of the map is that the definition of the relationship between two people does not have to match both ways. In Dune terms, Lady Jessica’s relationship with Dr. Yueh would be “I trust him with my son’s life” and his relationship with her would be rather different.


To do it without buying another product, try this. When you’re doing House Creation with your players:

When they decide what type of house (Nascent, Minor, Major, etc), have them name another house (if they picked Nascent or Minor, name the House they’re vassals to; if Major or Great, name one of their vassal Minor Houses or a peer Major House) and give a one-sentence definition of their house’s relationship to the newly-named house.

When you assign domains, name another House (or Faction) that’s somehow related to their House’s Primary Domain(s), and define that relationship as above. Then do the same for any Secondary Domains. This new House/Faction should have some relation to the Domain - they might be a major customer, a rival, or a supplier of something your House needs to be able to function in that Domain.

When you describe your House’s homeworld, name an additional House or Faction, and this time define that House’s relationship to the players’ house.

When you describe your house’s Banner and Arns, have each player in turn define a relationship between any two Houses/Factions on the map.

When you describe your House’s traits, again have each player in turn define a relationship between any two Houses/Factions on the map.

When you define your House’s Roles, each player in turn names an NPC who fulfills the same role for one of the other Houses/Factions on the map, and defines a relationship between that person and someone else on the map.

Finally, when you define your House’s enemies, either select a House/Faction already on the map, or create a new one and define a relationship between the Enemy and your House, and also between the Enemy and one other House/Faction on the map.

That ought to provide enough material for a ton of intrigues!


Thanks for the tips @starkllr. I supported the Entanglements folks with a download.