The Influence Game: Running a Meeting of the Moot
This article originally appeared on 31 Jan 2018 on the author’s blog, and was reprinted in this form in the March/April 2018 issue. References to Narmada subsector and Baronet Atopia pertain to the author’s ongoing campaign.
If you would like to try a politics session or three with your players, here are some guidelines on how to set up and run a Subsector Moot scenario.
It Starts With an Agenda
A typical Imperial Subsector Moot will run ten to twenty standard days, depending on the number of agenda items that are expected. Total the population digits from the UWPs for the worlds of the subsector (Narmada’s total is 248) and divide it by 12, dropping any fraction. This produces the total number of agenda items for the Moot. (In Narmada’s case the total is 20, so I fudged a bit.) Schedule 1D/2 items per day. For every five to seven days allow for an open day so that any agenda items that have to be tabled can be completed without disrupting the schedule too much.
So what items could be on an agenda? Anything the characters have been involved with recently—directly or indirectly—along with any subplots that have been percolating. If there are planetary issues that are outlined in a world’s description, the Moot might be forced to intervene. Assessments and reviews of the military branches of the Imperium—Army, Marines and Navy—are needed as well, along with “nobles only” briefings from the intelligence gathering units of the Navy and Scouts.
There should also be a day or two for items being brought up by the nobles themselves—ranging from requests by planetary governments forwarded to the Moot through the Imperial Liaisons, to more personal items such as recommendations to the Subsector Duke/Duchess on policy, enfeoffment and acclamation requests, Ducal pardons and/or clemency for private citizens, etc.—basically, anything a noble thinks should be brought to the Moot’s and/or the Duke’s/Duchess’ attention—as long as a noble can get at least 10% (rounding up) of the Moot in attendance to agree it needs a vote (and therefore an ad hoc committee to work on it).
Finally, there should be pomp and circumstance—these are nobles, after all. The first day of the Moot should be ceremonial. The Narmada Moot starts with The Grand Promenade where each noble in attendance is formally announced to the media and onlookers. Then the Duke addresses the Moot with a “State of the Subsector” speech. After a break, the nobles then have the opportunity to address the Moot, airing whatever personal observations, statements of support, motions they intend to make during the Moot, etc. The last day of the Moot should also be mostly ceremonial.
How Many Nobles Attend?
I go with the guideline that there is approximately one noble for every population digit in the subsector’s world—the higher population worlds tend to have more to make up the slack for lower population worlds. Since it is unlikely all of them will show for a Moot, throw [(1D/2)+5] × 10% for the total number. Narmada has a pop digit total of 248 and I threw 4 on the die for 70%, or 173.6. The actual total for the 1107 Moot was 181, though only 179 actually were voting—the subsector Duke/Duchess doesn’t vote in the Moot. Their spouse is generally tasked with being the chairperson of the Moot and cast a tie breaker vote if one occurs.
To determine the makeup of the Moot, you can either throw 2D on the
table below for each noble, or you can go with the rough percentages
|Moot Composition by Rank
|1 Influence Point
|4 Influence Points
|9 Influence Points
|16 Influence Points
|25 Influence Points
For comparison, the 1107 Narmada Moot had 138 Knights, 27 Barons (one of whom was Baroness Selene, Duke Darius’ wife, who chaired the Moot and would only vote to break a tie), 10 Marquis, 5 Counts and Duke Darius (though he doesn’t vote, he’s still a factor).
PCs’ Voting Bloc
The nobles among the players will automatically have themselves in their voting block, plus any good noble friends their characters have made during the period since the last Moot (two Imperial years IMTU). Characters should also note which nobles are favorable to them, though not in their bloc, as the characters arrive for the Moot—preferably a week or so before it starts.
Baronet Atopia had 14 nobles in her bloc when she arrived on Narmada—five knights/dames, eight barons/baronesses/baronets (including herself) and a marquis. She also had nine nobles who were favorably disposed toward her that were not in her bloc—a knight, three barons/baronesses/baronets, a marquis, two counts/countesses/contessas and Duke Darius.
The characters and their friends will have total influence equal to the sum of the squares of ten less than their Social Standing characteristic (as indicated on the table above). The influence from favorable nobles is totaled and divided by four, rounding up. Atopia got 49 Influence Points from her bloc and 20 more from those favorably disposed for a total of 69 Influence Points to start.
Influence Points are used to increase the total of dice throws made during attempts to influence or sway nobles to join one’s voting bloc. Expending one point gives a +1 to the throw, three points gives a +2, six points gives a +3, and ten points gives a +4.
Increasing the Voting Bloc
Characters wishing to bring nobles into their voting bloc have to meet with them. For game purposes, there are six time periods during the day to meet with people—morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening, night, and late night. The Moot normally meets during the morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon. Characters can meet with 1D/3 random nobles when the Moot is in session, 1D/2 random nobles in the evening, and 1D random nobles during each of the night and late night periods.
For random nobles, throw 2D to determine their rank on the table
above and another 2D for their initial disposition, as indicated on the
|Noble Disposition on Approach
|Negative: The noble doesn’t like the character at all.
|Unfavorable: The noble is cool and stand-offish toward the character.
|Neutral: The noble has no opinion of the character one way or the other.
|Favorable: The noble likes the character or admires the character is some way.
|In Bloc: The noble is a friend and agrees to vote with the character.
The character then engages in a discussion with the noble, represented by each throwing 2D and adding +1 if a knight, +2 if a baron, +3 if a marquis, or +4 if a count. If the character’s total is greater, he/she may attempt to sway the noble. If the noble’s total is equal or greater, then the character is unable to sway the noble. Note that Influence Points may be expended to alter the character’s total.
To sway a noble, the character throws 2D, adding his/her Social Standing characteristic modifier (+1 for 9 or A; +2 for B or C; and +3 for D, E or F). If the total is 8+, the noble moves one level of disposition closer to being in the character’s bloc; if the total is 12+, the noble moves two levels of disposition closer to being in the character’s bloc. Note that influence points may be expended to alter the character’s total. In general, if a noble starts with a negative disposition, the characters may be advised to simply exchange pleasantries and move on.
If the noble is of favorable disposition, the character may add one fourth of that noble’s influence points to his/her pool immediately—in the case of knights, the character will need to have four favorable before gaining an influence point. If the noble moves into the character’s block, the character adds the noble’s influence points to his/her pool. Once a noble is in the character’s block, there is no risk another noble will woo him or her away. So, some of the higher ranking nobles are well worth the effort of courting heavily, though there will be other blocs angling for them as well!
There are a number of social events that coincide with the Moot, providing opportunities the nobles to mix and mingle, and possibly blow off some of the stress of a demanding schedule and weighing important moral and social issues. Events are typically held during every evening and nighttime time block, with the nighttime blocks often running into the late night block as well.
Some of the events are traditionally hosted by the Subsector Duke/Duchess. Typically, there are formal dinners for The Upper House (Counts and Marquis), The Lower House (Barons and Knights with hereditary titles), and The Honors (Baronets and Knights who aren’t hereditary—that is, cannot pass their title on to their offspring). There is also a Mixer or Ball which is a large cocktail party or formal dance held for all nobles regardless of rank.
Most of the events are not hosted by the Duke/Duchess, however. They are slightly more private affairs hosted by nobles looking to increase their presence, status and influence. On top of all that are the acclamations—the bestowing of a noble title upon someone, or bestowing a higher ranking title upon a noble. Such events are typically hosted by the Subsector Duke/Duchess.
An event adds a number of potential nobles to meet based on the ranking noble hosting it: knight +1, baron +2, marquis +3, count +4, duke +5. Events also add the possibility of a random event occurring.
To spice things up, you can create the possibility of something
unusual coming up. For each event a character attends, throw 2D—if the
result is 8+, throw d66 on the table below and reference the result.
Note that a particular event (with the exception of an “X” result) only
occurs once, so cross it off the table once it happens, and reroll if
the same result is thrown later on. This throw should be made once the
character has completed all attempts at swaying nobles at an event.
- Nothing Special: No random event after all. Proceed as normal.
- Duel: One member of the Peerage calls out another for bloody satisfaction – one of those affected is somebody the character tried to influence (select randomly). The duel will be resolved during the following morning’s time block. Throw 2D for the result of the duel; a result of 5- means the noble was slain and is removed from the bloc (along with an appropriate number of influence tokens for him/her); 6, 7 or 8 indicates the noble was wounded but survives, with the character losing one-half (rounding up) of the influence points that noble provided; and 9+ indicates the noble won the duel, gaining the character an influence point bonus of one-quarter (rounding up) of the noble’s normal amount.
- Confrontation: Two nobles have a small scuffle over a difference of opinion – and one of those affected is somebody the character tried to influence at the event. While nothing comes of it, all attempts to influence either noble will be unsuccessful for 1D-3 days. All influence points expended in the attempt are lost.
- Personal Affairs: A noble the character tried to influence has some matter that is more pressing. The noble will be unavailable to sway for 1D-3 days, and all influence points expended on that noble are lost.
- Crossed Up: A noble the character tried to influence misses the meeting/event. The noble will be apologetic and arrange a personal meeting after the Moot is recessed the next day.
- Belongs to Somebody Else: A noble the character tried to influence is already part of an opposing bloc (select randomly). All attempts to sway this noble will automatically fail, but all influence points expended on the noble are lost.
- Favorable: A noble the character tried to influence at the event wants to meet him/her for personal reasons. The character may shift a noble that was formerly favorable or neutral into his/her voting bloc.
- Heard Good Things: The character’s reputation has preceded him/her. A favorable noble the character tried to influence at the event may be shifted into to the character’s voting block.
- Veteran: If the character has former military service (Army, Marines or Navy), a noble who was formerly favorable turns out to be a veteran of that service as well and is shifted into the character’s voting bloc.
- Upstart: The character’s reputation has preceded him/her, not in a good way. Shift a noble who is favorable at this event to neutral; any influence points gained from that noble are lost.
- Unfavorable: A noble the character attempted to sway has a very negative impression of him/her. Shift a favorable noble from this event to unfavorable, losing the influence points gained from that noble as well.
- Flat Refusal: A noble the character attempted to sway refuses to meet with her or flatly rejects her attempts. Select a favorable noble and move him or her to negative, losing any influence points gained from the noble. All further attempts to influence this noble will automatically fail.
- Holding Court: A noble the character attempted to sway, actually used the encounter as a means to embarrass the character. The character must make a Social Standing task throw of 8+ or lose 1D influence points. On 12+, the character turns the tables on the noble and gains 1D influence points instead. Select a random favorable noble and move him/her to unfavorable, but the character keeps any influence points initially gained.
- Whispering Campaign: A favorable noble is actually a plant by another voting bloc who attempts to discredit the character and nobles in his/her block before the character or one of the nobles in his/her block discovers it. Throw 2D-7; if the result is positive, throw that many dice and reduce the character’s influence pool by the total thrown. Move this noble from favorable to negative. The character is also within his/her rights to call this person out for a duel of honor.
- Just Happy To Be Here: A favorable noble is just here for the good times, not to do any actual work. This noble cannot be placed into the character’s voting bloc.
- Head of a Bloc: A favorable noble the character attempted to sway controls a block of 2D other nobles. Successfully bringing this noble into the character’s voting bloc will bring all of the others into the block as well! However, all further attempts to sway this noble require three times the normal amount of influence points to alter dice throws.
- Head of a Small Bloc: A favorable noble the character attempted to sway controls a block of 1D other nobles. Successfully bringing this noble into the character’s voting block will bring all of the others into the block as well! However, all further attempts to sway this noble require two times the normal amount of influence points to alter dice throws.
- Party Invitation: The character gets an invitation to a social gathering the next night. If the character accepts, he/she will get the opportunity to influence 1D nobles above the normal amount.
- French Politics: A favorable noble is interested in a little more personal one-on-one during the late night time block. If the character agrees, the noble will automatically be the character’s voting bloc the next morning. If the character refuses, all other attempts at swaying this noble will automatically fail.
How Things Are Done In The Moot
For major agenda items, the nobles most directly affected or those nobles representing the planet(s) directly affected will make a presentation to the Moot. Nobles are permitted to query the presenter(s) after the initial presentation. Usually, this isn’t the first anyone has heard of the item, and any noble who stands in opposition to it may present his/her case to the Moot as well. The floor is typically opened for questions from the nobles not on one side or the other. Finally, when all questions have been answered, it takes a simply majority vote to close debate, and then a motion to vote on the measure is made. A simple majority vote determines if the measure passes or fails.
For assessment/review items, which are typically reports and budgetary requests from the major parts of the Imperium that operate in the subsector, the Moot first hears the report (usually lasting no more than one hour) and then accepts nominations from the nobles present to form a committee to review and make a recommendation to the Moot on discretionary budgeting items. These committees consist of five members of the Moot and typically meet for part of each of three days. At the end of that time, a full resolution is formulated for presentation to the Moot, which takes a simple majority to pass. If the resolution doesn’t pass, the matter is left to the Duke’s/Duchess’ discretion.
For submissions items, which are submitted by members of the Moot, the procedure is slightly different. Initially, the noble makes a ten-minute presentation of the item to the Moot. Then, there is a call for support. If at least ten percent of the Moot shows support, the item then goes to a committee. Again, there are five people on the committee, and they must come from the nobles who indicated they support the item. After meeting to draft an official resolution, the committee issues the resolution, giving it time to circulate among the Moot. When it is time for a vote, a simple majority decides if the items passes or fails.
Conducting a Vote
Each vote in which the characters’ voting bloc participates, starts with determining how much of the Moot is represented by the character’s voting bloc. Divide the total number of voting nobles present in the Moot by twenty, rounding any fractions up. This represents 5% of the total votes in the moot. In Narmada’s 1107 Moot, 5% of 179 is 9 votes. To determine the influence of the character’s bloc on voting, divide the total number of nobles in the bloc by the 5% figure, dropping any fraction. The result is the modifier to add to the voting results roll (detailed below) when determining the total number of votes in the character’s favor. At the start of the moot, Atopia’s bloc had 14 votes, giving her bloc a +1 to voting rolls. As soon as she acquired another four votes, it increased to +2.
Before the Moot begins, determine the overall disposition of the Moot
toward each item on the agenda by throwing 2D and referencing the result
on the table below.
|Moot Disposition for Agenda Items
Votes of the Moot will be measured to the position of the characters’ voting bloc. The roll determines how many voted the same way as the characters’ bloc. Throw 3D-3, factoring in the Moot’s Disposition Modifier and the modifier for the characters’ bloc. The result is steps of 5% of the vote that went the characters’ way. The result must be 55% or greater for the vote to go the characters’ way.
- By the time it came around to vote on whether the Moot should recommend the Imperium help Teleajen investigate three murders there, Baronet Atopia’s bloc numbered 51 (!) votes, giving her block a total modifier of +5. For the vote, Atopia’s bloc was against the resolution. The Moot had started out Unfavorable, but enough blocs supported the measure to move it to a Favorable position. (Teleajen’s influence, perhaps?). Since Atopia was against the measure, the modifier for the roll is -1, dragging her modifier down to a total of +4. The vote throw of 3D-3 was 7; so the total was 11 with Atopia’s bloc modifier. That becomes (11 × 5% =) 55% of the vote against the resolution. The measure is not adopted and Atopia manages to avoid putting more suspicion on Marquis Toyama (who by that time was part of her bloc).
Any vote of less than 10% becomes 10%—it is assumed there was at least that much support to bring to the Moot for a vote in the first place. Any vote of more than 100% becomes 100%.
What Do the Rest of the Non-Nobles Do?
There’s always intrigue going on at a Moot. The non-noble characters can be checking up on the blocs opposing theirs, getting dirt that can leverage the higher ranking nobles who are still uncommitted, running interference for the nobles in the bloc, making media releases for the bloc to influence public opinion, etc. Who knows, maybe one of the characters might even rub shoulders with some of the elite under the right conditions…