From time to time I revisit my Witchcraft universe, which has provided several interrelated campaigns. For those unfamiliar with the game, it’s essentially contemporary urban fantasy set in a world recognizably our own. I’ve also been giving it a superheroic spin  of late.
Last session we went back to it after a long hiatus. I reintroduced an NPC, an old college friend, that neither the players nor their characters had seen in almost a decade. He’d since become a local congressman and he was meeting one of the PCs to ask if he could use the PC’s restaurant to hold a primary results party.
Since the campaign takes place ostensibly in the real world and America in particular, I knew what question was coming. It did come, albeit a little later than I’d thought. The question, of course, is what political party this NPC belonged to.
My answer would certainly have an impact. Certain members of my group have pretty strong feelings where politics are concerned. This NPC was a well-liked old friend but if I made him a member of a particular party then he’d have been either enthusiastically embraced or dismissed out of hand. I have no desire to debate politics at the gaming table (especially since it’s never really a debate) and I didn’t want this scene to be dragged into it.
I answered the question with a dodge; I told the players that the NPC’s political affiliation isn’t important to the campaign. All that matters is that he genuinely tries to help his constituents and has a pretty clean record. My players seemed satisfied with that and moved on. We’ll see how it goes.
In other campaigns, I borrowed the “Junior Achievement” model of “Federalist” and “Nationalist” parties taking the place of the usual suspects without defining either of them further. I’ve also dipped into the waters of real-life politics now and again, but usually only where I knew the impact would be minimal at the table.
So how about you? If you’re running a game in a more-or-less contemporary setting, do you allow real-world politics to invade? Do you shy away from it? Do you allow it but limit its impact?