There is a distinctive and recurring pattern to state formation in civil war contexts today which none of the models of state building can adequately explain as a “whole national transition.” To see that pattern, we must make it intelligible both as a particular national phenomenon which has a defining character and a unity of meaning and normative effect for a given territorial context, and as a significant comparative practice across different country contexts. Correspondingly, we must also avoid simplifying and reducing that experience to a deviation from a predetermined, ideal, abstract conception of what the state is, what it does, and how it should be built. We will therefore require a new heuristic and a recalibrated set of concepts with which to unfold, open up, and connect together the important historical and normative dimensions of this open and dynamic field of experience. We will want a frame that transcends the limitations of the prescriptive, reductive, fragmented, and national-centric thinking found in the state building models, but that does not discard valuable ideas about design and human agency. I call that heuristic “state formation in national peace transitions” (or NPT, for short), and in this chapter we will explore its main elements. There are four analytical components to the NPT: three will be discussed here, and the fourth only in the next chapter.