When participating in the Game of Thrones, there are players, and then there are . The latter takes a backseat in the conflict, quietly planting the seeds so no one notices them moving the pieces on the board. The two players that conspired at their own free will the most were Lord Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger) and 's Lord Otto Hightower.
Behind the scenes, these were the guys that made everything happen. By the Stark children began to uncover Littlefinger's scheme, concluding that he was responsible for almost every conflict from the start. In , Otto Hightower used his position as Hand of the King to put his own blood on the throne, and that's only in the first season. But there can only be one master manipulator that goes down in the history books.
Before Littlefinger was using his small status for big connections, Otto Hightower was taking matters into his own hands. In the history of Westeros, he was known as an ambitious man , although he's also remembered as an example of why knowledge isn't everything. As the second most powerful man in Westeros, he instilled the fear of Daemon Targaryen becoming the next king, believing he'd be a second Maegor the Cruel. Through his steady reminders of Daemon's recklessness and unsuitability for the crown, Otto convinced King Viserys I to name his daughter Rhaenyra as the heir to the Iron Throne.
Otto's next act in his personal game of supremacy proved that he didn't suggest this out of respect for Rhaenyra or the realm, but out of the Hightower legacy. Soon after the death of Viserys' wife Aemma, Otto ordered his teenage daughter Alicent to comfort the king in his personal bedchambers. Alicent and Viserys' secret meetings eventually led to their marriage that produced four children: Aegon II, Helaena, Aemond and Daeron. Throughout the years, to other lords of Westeros, to usurp the throne when the time came.
Once Aegon II was successfully crowned king, the Hightowers were one with the royal family, but at the cost of a civil war that killed thousands. Otto is, in many ways, held responsible for the Dance of the Dragons. the majority of the dragons, inciting the end of the dragon era and House Targaryen never truly recovered after the civil war.
Almost 200 years after the Dance of the Dragons, another puller of strings would rise above the ranks to . He comes from a newer noble family, with his father being a hedge knight with no lands and his father among the smallest of lords. The only reason he came to power was through his connections to House Tully as a friend to Lysa, Catelyn and Edmure.
When Lysa's husband Jon Arryn was named Hand of the King, he brought Littlefinger onto the small council where he'd eventually become Master of Coin. The act that started the entire War of the Five Kings was Littlefinger providing Lysa poison to kill Jon Arryn. He then convinces her to tell Catelyn that the Lannisters were behind it, sparking a bloody animosity between the two houses that erupted into a war.
With Jon Arryn dead, Ned Stark is called upon as Hand of the King, and Littlefinger's betrayal of . As everyone knows, the death of Ned leads to Robb Stark rebelling against Joffrey, who is also dealing with three other kings: Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy. The show also confirms Littlefinger sent the catspaw dagger to assassinate Bran, causing even more hostility between the Lannisters and Starks by placing the blame on Tyrion Lannister. As it happens in any war, thousands die and houses are disintegrated, all because of a man called Littlefinger.
There's a reason why fans are so eager to compare Otto Hightower to Littlefinger after every sneaky transgression. Littlefinger was the man behind the curtain, operating in plain sight as multiple houses fall under the pressures of war. He gained the trust of numerous nobles in several powerful houses as only a second-generation noble himself. By the end of , multiple houses were broken -- some completely died out. Although House Stark, Baratheon, Arryn and Tully picked themselves back up, there were only a few surviving members left in each. House Frey and Tyrell were wiped out altogether because of the War of the Five Kings.
By contrast, Otto only caused the downfall of one house that wouldn't die out for nearly 200 years, and even then Daenerys is still alive and regaining power in the books. It's still impressive how Otto essentially began the death of the dragons all on his own, but most other houses in Westeros still prospered after the Dance of the Dragons, including House Hightower. In Littlefinger's case, however, it'll take years for most of these houses to recover from their losses. Westeros itself will likely rest in a period of destabilization for .
With the North proclaimed an independent kingdom (an accomplishment stemming back to Littlefinger sending Knights of the Vale at the Battle of the Bastards), Dorne and the Iron Islands will surely also rebel to become independent again. In the long run, Littlefinger's plan divided Westeros in the most devastating way possible, leaving the remaining survivors to clean up his mess.