How To Roleplay A Political Figure In DnD

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Highlights

  • When creating a political NPC, start by thinking about their backstory, personality, and motivations to make them more believable and help shape their political decisions.
  • The power of a political NPC lies in their influence, not their combat abilities. Use their influence as a weapon, manipulating and threatening consequences to challenge players and justify their actions.
  • Show the impact of a political character by roleplaying other characters and factions affected by their decisions. Create factions and relationships to further develop the character and allow players to have their own input in the world’s politics.

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Politics is usually a big deal in Dungeons & Dragons, even when we don’t realize it. Fights between nations and their people, evil kings misusing their influence for personal gain, and broken societies created by these situations revolve around politics, one way or another.

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However, how do you roleplay said evil king? Nothing stops you from just being a jerk ordering things around. Still, a proper political NPC, whether friend or foe, can add a lot to the game, especially if your players are intrigued with the story or if you wish to challenge them in other areas instead of simply combat.

5 Think Of The Character First

Dungeons & Dragons Light Of Xaryxis Art Ekaterina BurmakWizards of the Coast
Light Of Xaryxis by Ekaterina Burmak

You can ignore this part if you’re improvising a minor politician, but if your goal is for the character to be important, you should always think about their basics first. It’ll make your character more believable and help you adjust them in your scenario. Thus, backstory, personality, and motivations are always a big part here.

Say you want to have an evil king as the BBEG, waging war on other countries and using his people like pawns in chess. Well, why is he like that? Was he raised thinking he was a god, and that went over his head? Or is he usurping the throne and doing everything in his power to keep it?

Regardless, many answers can fit our question, but thinking of the character’s behavior and life will help you roleplay their political decisions.

4 Use Their Influence As A Weapon

D&D A noble with green hair being parades by a pink marching band.
The March of Vice by Ejiwa ‘Edge’ Ebenebe

The fun part of these characters is that direct combat isn’t the best choice. For all you care, a villain, politician NPC could have the stats of a commoner, and his influence could be enough to challenge a high-level party. That is because attacking such an important figure will have dire consequences, arresting players or forcing them to be constantly on the run.

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You can tease and manipulate the characters, threatening consequences beyond a fight. A corrupt figure could turn the party into public enemies or threaten the arrest of loved ones and use their freedom as a bargaining chip. This influence is also an easy way to justify armed goons and resources to do whatever they are doing.

Alternatively, a political ally can offer all kinds of help, from money to gear and influence, without helping at big boss fights since they are not fighters themselves. Such a character could even be the first step in having your players have their own input in the world’s politics. If that is a big part of your story, they should have a say in it.

3 Show Their Influence Through Other Characters

D&D Strahd Sitting On His Throne while holding a glass and a card in his hand while a crow caws off to his left side
Curse of Strahd Cover by Ben Oliver

You can also show how powerful the character is even when they’re not present. By roleplaying other characters, such as the city’s commoners, you can show how much the NPC politician affects their lives, for better or worse.

By having a city in misery, you’ll raise the bar on how important it is to take your baddie down – similar to how people are portrayed in Curse of Strahd, making the enemy more dangerous even when he isn’t in the scene. War stories can have refugees showing how good or bad a politician is, too, showing the players who they should avoid or who can help them in future fights.

The more influential the character is within the government, the more they affect the world around them, building them up significantly for the next time they show up to the party.

2 Create Factions And Their Relationships

Imp devil with top hat makes deal between adventurers tiefling and tabaxi in DND.
Candlekeep by Sidharth Chaturvedi 

Politics come from a government or at least some organization in charge of keeping a place running. That means you also have to figure out the city where your political character holds influence. What is their role exactly? Who is on their side, and who is against them?

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Creating factions, either political or others – such as criminal groups who have political power – and how your character dances around these relationships – they could be a pawn in someone else’s game or a great mastermind, for example – will help you sort your character out, too, making their behavior and motivation shine even more.

This is also an excellent way to have your players influence the story and the character. They are a potential faction, after all. Though it’s not entirely up to you, analyze the characters your players created and think of how your politician character would be around people like them. Do they share common goals? Are they easy to manipulate? This type of NPC is great for plot twists, betraying the party due to unforeseen motives, so take advantage of that.

1 Use References

The city of Baldur's Gate spans on near a great lake
Baldur’s Gate via Wizards of the Coast

Before doing this, we’d advise you to be aware of your friends’ political views or at least be mindful if they’re comfortable with references or even parodies of specific political figures, depending on what you want to do with the character, so talk to them beforehand. That said, you could use real-life politics as a reference.

Say there’s a war in your world, and there are refugees in the city. This is a situation that has happened in real life numerous times. You can research countries that had similar experiences, see what their government did at the time, and what happened after the decision was made. There’s no better reference than actual human behavior.

For reference, you can analyze history for many things, even how some wars started in the first place. And by analyzing the decisions people made during these times, you can make your character make similar decisions and how their choices made things better – or worse – in your world.

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