Inter-Party Conflict

2007 August 17
by Stupid Ranger

As you seek to save the world from the Big Bad, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the people with whom you are adventuring. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will like them all or that everyone will always get along. Inter-party conflict is very easy to spot but difficult to manage. There can be any number of reasons; the best advice I can offer is to try to determine the source of the conflict, then work to remove or reduce the effects of that source. Here are a few scenarios:

#1: Too many leaders. Sometimes conflict arises when there are two or more decision makers making the tough decisions, completely in opposite directions. Do you stay to help the poor family rebuilt their tiny little shack, or do you need to press on to make your appointment with the King? It’s a difficult call, and if your party is getting two different leaders pulling you in multiple directions, it can be even more difficult. Depending on the frequency of this issue, your party has a few options: take a group vote (by secret ballot if necessary) if it’s a once-in-a-while thing or elect an official leader if it’s happening all the time. Some groups can function with multiple leaders if they all work together, but if your self-elected leaders are not working as a team, they can bring an additional level of chaos that can take some of the enjoyment out of the game.

#2: Odd man out. When you have one character that just doesn’t fit well with the rest of the party, you are bound to have some conflict. This may stem from differences in alignment, race, or religion; a paladin traveling with a group of rogues, for instance, is likely to see a lot of conflict. I played a character once that was the only character not worshiping the same god as everyone else; not the easiest situation, but I managed to work with the rest of the party, and they were wise enough to understand that there are many religions and left it alone. It could have been much worse: they could have tried to convert my character to their god. If you are in a situation where your character is suffering because you different from the rest of the party, try spending some in-game time talking out your problems with your comrades. Maybe you can reach a compromise: the rogues may agree to stop picking pockets if you’re within 10 feet of of them if you stop trying to run them over with your paladin’s mount. If you’re still stuck, involve the DM; most DM’s will be happy to help find a solution so that everyone has an enjoyable experience.

#3: Bad information. If one character receives bad information and is sure that it is reliable, that character may do something to the detriment of the party. For instance, if the Big Bad disguised as a helpful merchant tells a character of riches beyond believe if another character is sacrificed at sundown on the mesa outside of town, you can be sure that this bad information will make life difficult not only for the sacrificial character, but for the entire party. Bad information will make even good characters do bad things, and depending on the level of conviction, this may be one of the most difficult conflicts to overcome. Because this can be so difficult to spot in-game (no metagaming, my friends), it can be difficult for your characters to understand what is happening. Try to get everyone talking; if you can identify the bad information, the whole party can work to discredit it. If the party can’t identify this bad information or discredit its source, you may still be able to temporarily reduce its effects by sticking together and sharing watches… just make sure no one leaves the intended victim alone with the potential executioner.

Inter-party conflict will never the be same for two groups because no two groups are exactly the same. The source of the conflict may be so obscure or so crazy that identifying it may be difficult. Avoid metagaming; just because you as a person knows doesn’t mean your character would know. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your character investigate; starting those conversations with the rest of the party are one of your best tools in the path toward resolution.

One Response leave one →
  1. Michael Phillips permalink
    April 14, 2008

    I know this is way in the past, but I just wanted to mention, Intra-party conflict is not always a bad thing. Depending on your players and your campaign type, intra-party conflict can be the hallmark of well realized characters. Some of the best games I’ve played and run had parties where there were substantial conflicts between party members (which did not stem from conflicts between players, that is key)

    It really does depend on the players though. If you hear factions of players plotting how to thwart another character or faction’s action, that’s probably good. If they are discussing how to make sure said character goes down in the first round of the inevitable PvP? Bad. Very bad.

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