Stories are made out of conflict. Sometimes these conflicts are baked right into a setting, with whole nations or entire peoples at each others’ throats. Just look at all the dwarf vs. orc conflicts filling the pages of fantasy literature. Perhaps your demons and devils are locked in a self-destructive war of evil vs. evil. Maybe your vampires hate your werewolves. It might even be something as small-scale as a petty gang squabble. These sorts of conflicts make for big, sweeping  power struggles, but for me they aren’t the most interesting.

Whenever I find myself sitting around the tavern table at the start of a new campaign, I make a game of waiting for the first insult. It might come in the form of a little casual racism directed at a half-orc PC. (“Nobody told me I’d have to work with no greenskin.”) It might happen because some unlucky sod makes the game’s first unlucky roll. (“Is this your first tavern brawl?”) It might even come from an NPC looking to remind the players that they’re low-level scrubs (“Don’t cause no trouble. I’ve tossed out bigger and meaner than you sorry lot.”) In every case, I think that these jabs are more than mere pettiness. They’re an effort to generate conflict. And by that I mean that they’re a shortcut to interesting story.

Just because the bunch of disparate weirdos who showed up at the inn this time around are destined to save the world together, it by no means follows that you have to like each other. In fact, I think that it’s good policy to have a range of relationships within the group. Admire the clever thief. Despise the pedantic wizard. Fear the half-mad barbarian. It’s from this web of relationships that interesting intra-party conflict emerges.

What do you think? Have you ever had a frenemy in your party? How’d it work out? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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