Anyone who has ever wanted to poison a guest, hatch a plot to usurp the throne, or fund rebellions to destabilize rival nations (in an RPG campaign) has several excellent options. Tabletop RPG like The king is dead or Dune: Adventures in the Imperium will satisfy the inner Machiavelli of any playgroup. Unlike RPGs that focus on combat and exploration, such as Dungeons & Dragons, the settings of these RPGs – archaic and quasi-feudal lands full of scheming nobles – mesh well with the rules of the social game, creating a sandbox where players can go wild with Game of thrones-esque nonsense.
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Niccolò Machiavelli, the 15th-century Florentine historian, writer and diplomat whose last name is now synonymous with “ruthless and amoral political conspiracy”, has gained an unfair reputation over the years. Certainly his most famous political treatise, The prince, encouraged aristocratic rulers to conquer other nations, foster fear in their subjects, and behave like the player of a Paradox Interactive strategy game in general; that said, his other books (Speech on Livy being the most famous) express a love for freedom and the Republican systems of government that hold their leaders to account. Some historians believe that the ruthless policies recommended by Machiavelli The prince, although pragmatic in his tone, also served to criticize the corrupt and war-torn politics of early Renaissance Italy, showing the depths into which an absolute ruler must sink to reach the top of such system.
Real-world “realpolitik” may well poison the soul, but the imaginary genre in a tabletop RPG allows players to be manipulative, treacherous, and cunning in a safe environment (and, perhaps, practice spotting. such schemers in the real world). Classic fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons may be perfectly compatible with political scenarios, but the feudal rules and settings of the game systems below are particularly suited to Machiavellian scenarios.
Dune: Adventures in the Imperium
Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, an upcoming RPG released by Modiphius Entertainment, immerses players in a game-ready version of the Dune universe originally created by science fiction author Frank Herbert. It’s an archaic future ruled by aristocratic nobles, Gap Guild Navigators, and the reclusive brotherhood Bene Gesserit, bound by the prescience-inducing spices harvested from the desert planet Arrakis. Built from the same 2d20 system that Modiphius used for his Star Trek Adventures RPG, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium allows players to take on the role of all manner of minions and assassins working for (or against) the Great Houses that rule the Star Imperium. Besides the classic RPG mechanics such as attributes, skills and abilities, the success or failure of players’ actions is also influenced by their “Drives” – the loyalties, hatreds, virtues and vices that drive one. character to leave his mark on the universe.
The king is dead
The king is dead is a narrative party RPG designed by Meguey and Vincent Baker that draws inspiration from the “Playbooks” and “Moves” rules of the previous Baker RPG World of the Apocalypse to tell stories about empty thrones and the controversial and often violent debate over who should fill them. The default setting of The king is dead (available on itch.io) is the medieval kingdom of Banteave, of which the king, Eyvard III, has passed away; the default players are the Banteave Warrior Princes and Princesses with a potential claim to the throne. By engaging in various mini-games using card-based solving mechanics, players can duel, wage war, hold food conversations, and have secret dates of a sinister or romantic nature. .
Vampire: The Masquerade
Yes, Vampire: The Masquerade (and his spiritual successor Vampire: The Requiem) is primarily an RPG about playing bloodsucking creatures of the night – sometimes wild, sometimes grotesque, often sexy vampires who try to maintain some semblance of humanity in the face of an eternal thirst for blood. Vampire: The Masquerade, however, is also a play on feudal political maneuvering. The dominant vampire faction, the Camarilla, retains the political structures inherited from the Middle Ages, creating fertile ground for Machiavellian plots where players conspire for or against a city’s vampire prince, engaging in games of blackmail, favors and secrets between various Vampire: The Masquerade Clans. Traditional vampire powers such as mind control, transfiguration into animals, or becoming incredibly charismatic are especially useful for such ruthless power brokerage games.
By default, the Heist RPG board game Fiasco is designed to recreate the plot of the Coen brothers films as Burn after reading or Simple Blood; a bunch of modern day thugs come together to set up a ploy to prepare for life, only to then be sabotaged by their greed, stupidity, paranoia, or just plain bad luck. Special play sets for Fiasco, however, let players define their games in fantasy, futuristic, or historical settings. Bravazzo! by Pete Douglas and From ‘Medici by Guilia Barbano and Renato Ramonda are two play sets set in medieval or early Renaissance Italy, allowing players to engage in games of power and deception in the exact same setting that Machiavelli wrote its political treatises.
Exalted: 3rd edition
Exalted 3rd Edition is a mythical fantasy RPG published by Onyx Path about portraying larger-than-life heroes – deadly paragons with the power of gods to change the world – straight out of national epics like the Illiade, Journey to the West, or the Mahabharata. Unlockable play abilities called “Charms” allow Exalted player characters perform impossible martial feats, such as cutting a mountain in half with a sword, battling giants, or forging swords capable of slaying gods. But there are also a large number of charms that enhance intellectual and social skills, allowing players to sing songs capable of making demons cry or overthrowing a government bureaucracy by using their supernatural talent to fill out papers. The setting of Exalted 3rd Edition – a vast and flat world of mortals, gods and elementals, suspended on a sea of chaos – full of conflicting kingdoms, empires and republics with which players can mingle at their leisure, recreating inspired storylines of Game of Thrones, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and other nation-building epics past and present.
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