This isn’t anything original — just a cool idea I had for a tool to map factional conflicts in an RPG. Specifically it came to mind thinking about urban fantasy settings (whether that’s modern or large cities in fantastic campaigns, like Sharn in Eberron.) I feel like the best opportunities for adventure and role-playing occur whenever multiple factions with no clear alliances struggle among themselves.
I wanted a way to quickly map out who’s with who, and whom are they fighting. I also wanted an element of allies that are caught in the feuds. I sat down and began drawing circles and connecting lines, and a shape popped out at me:
Hey why not? I believe AD&D 2nd edition had a similar approach to opposing schools of Magic:
So my thinking is: each point has two lines connecting it to its rivals (the red lines on the star below). Then I imagined a cycle running clockwise to emphasize a connection of loose alliances — the faction to the right of a point has something of value or interest the base point really wants access to. The faction to the left is exploited by the point.
So For Example…
- Faction #1 is a rival to Factions #3 and #4
- Faction #2 has something of value (an asset, status, control etc) that #1 wants from them, and thus they kiss-ass and allow themselves to be exploited in exchange of being allowed access to it.
- Faction #5 meanwhile is exploited by #1.
I should probably state that on this map, the rivalries aren’t equal — whatever faction isn’t allied with their ally is the main rival. So Faction #1’s nemesis would be #4, with #3 being their lackey that occasionally causes obstacles (especially by exploiting their allies in Faction #2).
Again, I just want to iterate this is just a quick, stupid tool for establishing some gridlocked rivalries in a setting. These aren’t in a permanent fixture — factions may swap places, or with the players meddling the whole map can be ripped to shreds and just be chaos.
I should also state that I just rant with this to map a particular conflict/struggle with its base players, not to assume there’s just 5 “factions” entirely at play. But I guess if you wanted to map every gang, cult, or clique involved you could expand the map…
Seriously if I prepped this much, I’d only get a single session out of it and we’d be right back to playing Lost Mines of Phandelver AGAIN. Never jinx yourself.