Sunday, August 4, 2013

Polities as NPCs

The next awesome tool in LS's Campaign Toolbox is the list of World NPCs, basically the few really important people whose actions and goals cause great changes in the nature of the campaign world. Of course, these can't all be individuals, since that would be hoary old Great Man History and poorly reflects the way societies drove and determined their fates. But it's been hard to quickly model sublimated social currents.

I thought, why not use ability scores, like we use for individuals? 3d6 in order, straight up. I got the idea from Europa Universalis III's policy sliders. The major difference from normal ability scores is that "polity ability score" is a continuum - no score is strictly "better" or "worse" - instead it shows what position the polity has on an axis.


  • Strength: Isolation versus interventionism. Low scores indicate an unwillingness to become involved in the political affairs of other polities, and high scores indicate eagerness to intervene.
  • Constitution: Pacifism versus militarism. The low end doesn't necessarily indicate complete pacifism, just an anemic army and thinking that doesn't lend itself to violent solutions. More militarized polities have conflict as their first choice.
  • Dexterity: Conservatism vs progressivism. This measures the polity's rhetoric and goals. Ignore the real-world connotations - Traditionalism means the polity wants what it wants because it believes that society is currently in a better state, progressive polities want to drive forward into that future state. Any desire for change - even "regressive" change - is modeled as "progressivism" here.
  • Intelligence: Social memory. Social memory indicates how much the polity retains a sense of its past. This doesn't imply any other positions - a group can have detailed knowledge and many connections to its past, and be determined to move past it, just as much as it can wish a return to a past it knows nothing about. I can think of many real-life examples.
  • Wisdom: Elitism versus populism. Fairly self-explanatory - high scores mean the polity fancies itself a champion of the people, and low scores mean they think the people are an ignorant rabble.
  • Charisma: Xenophobia vs cosmopolitanism. Again, fairly self-explanatory - and remember that a polity can be cosmopolitan and still isolationist. Differs from Strength in that Strength indicates a willingness to affect other societies, and Charisma indicates the society's willingness to be affected.

I think the biggest advantage with these ability scores is that they - realistically - depict all of the internal contradictions and complexities displayed by real-life polities. You might think that the Xenophobic Interventionist Conservatives with low Social Memory are just four contradictions piled right on top of each other, except for the fact that this group exists.