Things You Might Want To Know When Mediating a Feud

Two sides, both alike in… something, anyway… is an automatic recipe for drama: just ask Shakespeare! Between the inconveniences they cause and the general waste of life and potential they represent, blood feuds are a prime “problem” in a setting for protagonists to find themselves fixing. But there’s a lot to take into account when stepping between two sets of squabblers. What sorts of factors can complicate or facilitate mediating a feud?

First off, what is the feud over? You might not be able to find out; in fact, if you’re dealing with an old enough feud, it’s quite likely that neither side even remembers! Sometimes, both sides have a reason, but they don’t quite line up, requiring a little extra work to figure out what set them off. If you’re lucky, though, it’s an established reason, and if you have an established reason, it can serve as a jumping-off point for coming up with a resolution reasonable to both sides.

Second, who’s involved directly? The more you know about the individual participants, the more you can tailor your negotiations to their individual personalities. Figure out who they are, why they maintain the feud, what they themselves think about the feud: in short, where their interests lie. If you have that, knowing what to offer them and what buttons not to push in the process becomes much easier.

Is there anyone who wishes that the feud would just end? For a hopeful mediator, these are the most valuable allies in any serious mediation. They’ll help cover for your mistakes, lean heavily on both sides (at least, assuming they have the leverage; a participant who wants it over might not be too useful in dealing with the other side), slip you a few tips or suggestions you might not have thought of (due to the fallibility even of Voices of Reason, maybe they aren’t always good suggestions, but it’s a start): since they want the same thing you do, they’re likeliest to be on your side.

Conversely, who benefits in keeping the feud going? Someone with a vested interest in both sides fighting is likely to interfere at any available opportunity, whether you can catch them at it or not. Group members with personal grudges, moneymakers who benefit financially from the fight, enemies of both sides hoping they’ll destroy each other, and more–keep a close eye out, since these are likely to be as big a hurdle for you as the massed participants themselves. That isn’t to say they can’t be taken advantage of: if you can prove that a feud is being maintained because an outsider wants to make tools of both sides, there’s a decent chance that even the most bloodthirsty or the most wrapped up in the joy of the conflict might call a pause to deal with the troublemakers interfering in their sport.

Can and should it actually be resolved? Sometimes, you get groups that just aren’t going to put down their weapons. Other times, it’s just as well that they didn’t; many people have caused sorely divided groups to find common cause, only to discover that the common cause was coming together to start–and win–fights with pretty much everyone else. Look for unintended consequences before you make a serious effort to bring peace.

Are there other means by which the conflict can be carried out? Even in cases where the feud really shouldn’t be resolved, its collateral damage might pose enough of a threat to nearby innocents to make it worth trying to channel the energies of the conflict into something a little less… destructive. Think carefully about alternatives to suggest, though, and watch out for unintended consequences!

Knowing what you’re getting into doesn’t guarantee peace, but it can certainly decrease the odds of getting hurt in the process.

Stay tuned for more Things You Might Want To Know When!

4 comments

  1. dariel says:

    Thanks for this post! Blood feuds play a large role in my Hari Ragat setting, this post helped me define my compass points for describing them.

  2. Michael says:

    *grins*

    Very timely for me too, since all this is coming up in the next chapter of RTH I’ll be getting on with once Nano is over. Of course, it’s all going to go horribly wrong….

  3. Ravyn says:

    Thanks, both of you!

    Dariel: Compass points? I look forward to seeing that; you’ll be posting on it, right?

    Michael: Sounds intriguing.

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