Rival Searchers: Alliances

One of the things I find most fascinating about having multiple rival searchers in a search plotline is the strange bedfellows it creates. If you’ve got more than three or four different parties trying to get the same thing, there are bound to be alliances, people working together—at least for now—to increase their chances. What sorts of things might bring two sides of a rival searchers plotline together? What might tear them apart? There are a lot of questions you can ask yourself.

  1. How well do their intentions for the search object overlap? It’s pretty easy to tell that if one person is trying to protect the objective, and the other is trying to destroy it, that they’re not too likely to work together unless other factors come into play. On the other hand, if you’ve got two different people who are both in it to protect the search object and just have different ideas on how this should be done, there’s a greater chance that they’ll work together now and work out the details when they get there. Sometimes, there isn’t even that level of commonality—someone choosing to work with someone else because they’re the lesser of two evils and the job can’t be done alone. And, of course, it’s easy for a clever character to get around this factor by lying about her intentions—as long as she can maintain her story, anyway.
  2. What will they, and what won’t they, do to get it? Part of what this is going to tell you is how likely they are to make partnership-style alliances rather than just take advantage of other people: nobody’s going to team up with someone they can’t expect not to manipulate them unless they’re already manipulating the teammate, and even the most optimistic of characters is likely to learn that you have to make sure someone will stay bought once bought. On the other hand, moral code can provide a way for rivals who aren’t completely at cross purposes to find commonality and decide that maybe they’re worth working with, particularly if both unlikely allies are aware that their rivals are far worse (needless to say, this works better with at least three sides participating in the search, preferably more).
  3. How well do they know each other? If one of a character’s rivals is someone she knows and trusts, and another is someone she dislikes, she might ignore (or just not notice) motivations in favor of working with the person she trusts, and might resist chances to work with the one she doesn’t like. Imagine how that would go if the one she dislikes is actually closer to matching her goals than the one she trusts—and moreso, what happens if the former realizes this and tries to convince her to ditch the latter?
  4. What kind of impression did they make on each other? If the characters can’t have a history together, first impressions are the next best thing. Consider both their image and their behavior: some characters will reject someone just for appearing to be the enemy, while some might work with someone they’ve been taught is dangerous because of how that character behaves himself when approaching them.
  5. How much do they need each other? Sometimes, nobody (or almost nobody) in the gaggle of searchers has all the skills they need to actually get to the objective. In cases like this, even bitter enemies might work together—at least, until the point where the temporary ally is no longer necessary.
  6. Is there a common enemy? Sometimes, what matters isn’t how well people would work together, or how well people need each other—it’s the fact that these two sides completely agree that heck with it, this person/these people can’t win, and it’s more important to take care of that than to waste their efforts on each other. If there isn’t anything else keeping them together, though, it’ll probably last only until the common enemy is out of the picture.

Whether it’s offering potential allies for PCs, or just putting together a complex situation and writing your way through it, considering all the factors that might create alliances between rival searchers will make for a much more compelling result.

Leave a Reply