Dungeon Master

Running the Double Cross on Your D&D Adventuring Party

Exploring D&D Party Roles with the Healer
Kickstarter Korner for April 2018, Week 4

It can be a lot of fun for the Dungeon Master and a player in a D&D adventuring party to run a long con on the rest of the players, whether this is something planned out from the very beginning of a campaign or something that evolves out of the ongoing story line.

D&D adventuring party

Murder, mystery and mayhem are baked right into Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. A D&D adventuring party can easily include the same kind of tension and conflict when one of the party secret works to subvert the others… [Art courtesy Avalon Hill]

This has come up in several of my D&D campaigns over the years. On two of the occasions a player had different goals than those of the rest of the D&D adventuring party. In one of those games as the Dungeon Master I worked with the player to come up with a story where they were working with a crime boss and feeding them information. They never moved directly against the rest of the gaming group, but they weren’t ever really honest with them either.

Another case the player was an arms smuggler dealing with both sides of the conflict, which the rest of the party was on one side of. That player even went as far as to manipulate members of the group into helping him with his intentions.

D&D player tips for betraying your friends

The biggest challenge is pulling this off without having your friends hate you outside of the game. To this end the Dungeon Master and players alike have to know who can handle what in the game. This an out of game issue to be addressed.

Some considerations:

  • Are you going to add to the story?
  • Will the reveal be exciting?
  • Can the long con run through the entirety of the campaign?

If you can’t answer “yes” to all of these than this style of play might not be for you. The other thing from a roleplaying standpoint is to create a character like a real person who is conflicted. Just because you have been turned to the other side, or have been working against the party most of the campaign, doesn’t guarantee you necessarily dislike them or even wish them ill will. Or maybe your motive for doing what you’re doing comes from a good place and you don’t feel you have any other choices.

These are just somethings to think about when running the traitor in the group.

From the Nerditor’s desk

To approach the concept of potential conflict or tension in another direction, what if every member of the party maintains their own secret agendas? It’s common enough in a modern day D&D adventuring party for each character to have their own goals, desires, plots and personal interests. But more often than not these personal character goals are known among the party members.

What is every character in the group had their own hidden objectives? These secret goals can be worked out between the player and Dungeon Master, adding complex new levels of intrigue to even mundane adventure. In a campaign I ran a few years ago, one of the characters, a monk, got petrified by a medusa crime boss deep within its lair at the end of a game session. Before we played next, one of the other players, playing a warlock, asked me if he could beseech his patron for help somehow. The next time we got together, the warlock told his companions he might be able to restore their friend, but needed to be alone. The others waited outside, leaving the warlock and monk alone. He offered to do anything his patron desired, and the entity responded. It would restore the fallen friend, if the two of them would ensure the destruction of an important artifact. They took the bargain.

Much later, the party reclaimed the artifact after a heck of a lot of trouble. Making an escape with it, the party was pursued by enemies. The warlock and monk caused the artifact to be destroyed, making it look like there was no other choice. The rest of the party never found out, and in fact the other players didn’t discover this for quite a while either. They were taken aback, but thought it made for a really dynamic campaign. That event caused a lot of problems down the road. I knew all the players well enough to correctly guess no one would be genuinely upset on a personal level – something to keep in mind if you want to try adding a little betrayal in your game. If you’re not sure how your fellow players will handle it, make sure to talk about it beforehand like Nerdarchist Dave mentions above.

The point is, there’s lots of different ways to layer deceit, betrayal and discord among characters in an adventuring party. The core of any great story is tension and conflict, and exploring these avenues between players and Dungeon Master can create some of the most exciting, tense stories of all.

How about you? Have any of your RPG campaigns including players playing traitors in the the midst, or characters with secret agendas and conflicting goals? We’d love to hear about your tales of treachery in the comments below.

Playing the Traitor in a D&D Adventuring Party- D&D Player Tips

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Follow Dave Friant:
My name is Dave Friant I've been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it's always been a part of my life I've kept secret and hidden away. I've always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth. Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I'm gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life. Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG's.

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