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ThreeAM

Setting up a inter-party betrayal. Terrible Idea?

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I'd like to lean on other GM's more extensive experience on whether or not to set up an opportunity for inter-party betrayal.

If this were a case of simply the Big Villain trying to persuade the whole group of incorruptible NPCs to "turn to the dark side" I wouldn't think twice about it as I can almost guarantee the "hero PCs" would reject the offer out of hand.  But this is instead about trying to tempt one PC to turn on the other PCs. 

Details/backstory:

In the second session of this game Our PC Gand BH found a stash of credits, and then choose not to share with the group. As a player they apologized and indicated that is was their character would do. The other Players seemed a little bummed they missed the credits, but didn't see it as a serious problem. No other selfish acts have yet to occur from that PC (however no real opportunities have come up either).  Now the PCs have just met a NPC Gand Bounty hunter and the PC Gand BH is enamored (their words) with the NPC BH, like role model status .  Next session the NPC is about to is about to find about the bounty on the PCs and try to turn them in.  So here's the offer: The NPC BH could try to persuade the PC Gand BH to turn on the other PCs and try to collect the bounty. Obviously the NPC BH would then almost immediately turn on them in-kind and then all the PCs would have to reconcile and escape together.   *side note: The players and I are all IRL best friends and have gamed together for probably about 10 years, so I am not too concerned about lasting animosity, but one can never be sure. 

I think there is a 50/50 chance the Player would take this deal, as they are pretty decent about role playing their character's motivations (though truthfully I can't say for certain what those motivations are).

But ultimately I have to ask myself what would be the benefit of the potential outcomes. From a narrative point of view this could create an amazing narrative, either the Character realization that they care for their allies and would not turn on them, or about betrayal and redemption...But I am fully aware that this isn't a novel with characters i control.  I have to consider that its first and foremost about the Player's characters, and I am not looking to intentionally create animosity or hurt feelings for the sake of story.

Honestly as I type this all out I'm realizing this is sounding more and more like a terrible idea; there's just too much that could go wrong.  PCs fight each other and someone dies, Players feelings hurt etc.  Not to mention i'm actually feeding in to driving a divide between the players....Yeah this is a terrible idea. I think if I really wanted betrayal I will stick with having a trusted NPC betray the PCs.

 

Now that I have thought this over I feel like the only way it could possibly work is if I talk to the PC ahead of time and "script it out", so that they are "in on it"  in order to avoid disaster.

Whelp, thanks for coming along with me on that journey of failed thought. I guess let me know if you have successfully/unsuccessfully done this or have insights.

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Welp, my job here is done

*BUT YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING

*Swishes cape*

In all seriousness that would be the best conclusion. Talk about what would make for dramatic story telling but keep in mind that if it isn't telling a story, it's a bit of a duck move, you catch my lingo?

Edited by LordBritish

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If it can be resolved within a single session, and the weakness assigned to infatuate but the PC learned who their real friends are that sounds cool. But if it lingers for more than a session then it could cause tension within the group.

it’s a risky move.

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I've had a couple of inter-party betrayals happen in my game. It's worked super well, but it needs the right kind of party dynamic. I think realistically the player doing the betrayal has to walk into it with the full understanding that it could mean they need to roll a new character and start again, depending on how the other PCs react.

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very dangerous this path can be.

Had my fair chair of PC that were already build with the so called "Secret-Betrayel/ Judas-/ Backstabbing"- Backgrounds in different systems, because there is always one player who thinks it is cool to be the "man behind the curtain"... it never ended well, it always rised up to the moment where the character got unbearable for the rest and most likely was killed off by the rest of the group.

(only one time it worked well where the player was able to convince the others to switch sides in a major conflict)

The main trouble is that if this "betrayings" went off on more than one occasion or more than one sessions, well the other Players start to feel batrayed by the guy that plays the backstabber and the tenssion on the table can rise more than it is good.

 

long story short: If you plan to use the backstabbing make sure the charackter can (and will!!) redeem himself with in the same or the next session, or make sure he pays the ultimate price for his deeds in the same amount of time!

 

Edited by Nightone

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My worry is what you said about their reaction to the credits they missed. If they were bummed about fake money then being betrayed by one of their own will likely piss them off. Also your scenario may go way different than the contingencies you listed, they may decide to go on a killing spree, they may decide to use their fellow PC as bait, they may kill the NPC outright if they suspect anything. PCs are chaos machines. 

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My experience with inter-party betrayal generally doesn't end well for players or characters.  But by the same token, the betrayers were actively screwing the party, and weren't well liked to begin with.  Mostly I allowed things to take their natural course, and try to limit the amount of damage (to the party/other players) as I could.  I haven't seen much of it in Star Wars, though.  Most Star Wars players buy into the party concept, at least if you make it clear you aren't planning on running a dark side game.

On the other hand, the party betrayals I GM'd through generated most of my plots for 3+ years of weekly D&D sessions.  2 members of the party managed to start a major war that I had not forseen.  Then escalated the war.  Then escalated it again.  

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In my party it has happened twice. It ended with a need for a zero session and the retirement of the character in both cases (we did a session for that in both instances). It needs a strong taking in any case, since it can end very badly. The fact that we are long term friends has helped a lot about this, but I know of cases where the group (and even the players!!!) ended up splitting because of that situation. Careful there. 

I would say that the second case worked better for us. In the session zero of the campaign the PLAYER told the party members that he might do that. Everybody agreed, and even if there was some grumbling when he did traitorous things (I was one of the grumbling players at the time) it was OK because we were aware of what was happening. there were internal jokes about that. It removed some of the "suprise!" effect of the treason, but it worked better for us. 

 

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I've dealt with inter-party betrayal . . . wow, a lot of times, on both sides of the GM's screen. There's a lot of factors involved (the actual people at the table, the genre/tone of game you're playing, what role within the player group/party the betraying player/character holds, etc.).

Most of the time it's actually worked out, in that there were no hard feelings and a cool story to tell afterwards. Many of these instances were in games/genres that breed that sort of character behavior, though (Shadowrun, Cyberpunk). Only one was in Star Wars, an Age of Rebellion game where our Commando fell to the Dark Side and turned on us, and the Dark Side trying to corrupt the sensitive members of the party was an ongoing threat we had to deal with.

So aside from tone, all of those 'successful' betrayals have one thing in common: they happened at the end of the campaign. And then we're on to the next one, new characters, safely removed from the events of last time. Granted a player can gain a reputation for being a chronic backstabber, but we cured that with making them the GM for a turn.

This example sounds much more like it's happening in the middle of things, and that's truly dangerous territory. It's worked for me when I'm running Dark Heresy, because falling to corruption or madness is A Thing there. Every other time? The campaigns went on, but the heart of the game was wounded, and it eventually petered out. Not the worst result, but not the one we wanted either.

 

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How about you openly do it. Take ALL players into it (also, let they decide it that is done, make it sure, if one objects, it won't be done). I.e. Every PLAYER knows that that one character is betraying them, but their characters don't know it. Doing this might give good roleplaying possibilities, but will probably only work with experienced players. 

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In almost all cases, situations like this one simply result in hurt feelings and the end of a campaign. The mere fact that players were bummed about missing out on credits the other player stole I think tells you enough that this idea will not work for your campaign. I can tell you that nothing would upset me more in a campaign than to find out another player and the GM conspired to work against me and my PC.

Further, I've never accepted the answer of "it is in character" as justification for a player taking actions at a gaming table that are hurtful to feelings of other players. For every reason a player can have their character make decisions that are harmful to other PCs (or the actual player themselves), there are 10 reasons why they can make a decision that isn't harmful to other PCs.

Edited by Magnus Arcanus

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4 hours ago, Magnus Arcanus said:

Further, I've never accepted the answer of "it is in character" as justification for a player taking actions at a gaming table that are hurtful to feelings of other players.

I like to remind people that if an odious player pulls the "that's what my character would do" defense, they should keep in mind that their own character are free to do what they would do as well; whether that be ditching the offending PC from the party, turning them over to the authorities, or just flat-out murdering them in their sleep.  They often seem to think that just "being a PC" should preclude them from such treatment, yet they see no problem in screwing the other players over on the regular.  Now I'm all for PC's stretching things to coexist in spite of conflicting ideology or whatever, but there are lines which you shouldn't cross (unless of course that's the kind of campaign you're running and everyone is cool with that). 

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My game group used to cry, "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" about once per campaign when my character shot the psyker (Dark Heresy). It was well-established that other players played super power hungry psykers, and that I tended to make characters that tried to be the group's moral backbone (or totally lacked a backbone), and when all else failed, I generally wound up shooting the psyker for various reasons, good or bad.

The table was totally cool with it, and regularly joked about it, even to the point of me asking the GM if there might be a more dramatic moment for the betrayal in the future.

That's a really hard thing to judge about a table though. I might suggest that you make the offer to the player at the table towards the end of a session (cliffhanger!), and then look to the whole group on how to proceed. Be open about it, and if they're OK with the player turning on them, go for it. PvP action can be fun, and having a new character ready to go for the betrayer could be wise. If not, maybe establish some narrative about the character being conflicted and agreeing to it, with the promise that they won't actually start shooting the other PCs because his conscience will get the better of him.

Secrecy will hurt feelings. Openness and conversation breed great stories and laughter.

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Again, I would specify that a betrayal may be fine, but only if it is something that makes for banter around the table. Being a betraying guy just because the player personally finds it fun is annoying, I have had many a campaign end just because players had no loyalty to one another beyond the fact "we are a party." 

Having an Agenda along side the group though is usually pretty cool as long as the interest can be mural, passing on information, having something they want kept concealed .e.c.t.

Edited by LordBritish

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I'm surprised nobody mentioned this already, but.... Lando.

You have a canonical example of how you can use inter-party betrayal in a way that furthers the narrative, however it basically has to go the same way for the PC as it did for Mr Calrissian - compliance at gunpoint, double crossed himself, and returning the PCs at some personal cost. Otherwise trust is broken.

 

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17 minutes ago, Endersai said:

I'm surprised nobody mentioned this already, but.... Lando.

You have a canonical example of how you can use inter-party betrayal in a way that furthers the narrative, however it basically has to go the same way for the PC as it did for Mr Calrissian - compliance at gunpoint, double crossed himself, and returning the PCs at some personal cost. Otherwise trust is broken.

In the potential example I gave above that was essentially my thinking  when I was working out possibilities. Betrayal and redemption Arc. However, when you are the author/writer/creator it's much easier to screw over anyone you want because they are YOUR characters; but when you are a GM they are not your characters, so you have to tread lightly. It could work but I think i would need some player buy in first.

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I wish I could remember where I read the following analogy so I could give them credit, but anyway here goes... The example of Lando in RPG terms is basically thus:

Player H. is playing a PC (Han). A NPC(Lando) screws the party over resulting in Player H. having their character(Han) taken away. The GM then gives player H. the NPC (Lando) who now becomes Player H's PC until they get their original Character (Han) back.

Edited by ThreeAM

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2 hours ago, ThreeAM said:

In the potential example I gave above that was essentially my thinking  when I was working out possibilities. Betrayal and redemption Arc. However, when you are the author/writer/creator it's much easier to screw over anyone you want because they are YOUR characters; but when you are a GM they are not your characters, so you have to tread lightly. It could work but I think i would need some player buy in first.

 

100% - the "Lando" here needs to be in on the plot hook. 

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On ‎10‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 9:46 AM, Magnus Arcanus said:

In almost all cases, situations like this one simply result in hurt feelings and the end of a campaign. The mere fact that players were bummed about missing out on credits the other player stole I think tells you enough that this idea will not work for your campaign. I can tell you that nothing would upset me more in a campaign than to find out another player and the GM conspired to work against me and my PC.

Further, I've never accepted the answer of "it is in character" as justification for a player taking actions at a gaming table that are hurtful to feelings of other players. For every reason a player can have their character make decisions that are harmful to other PCs (or the actual player themselves), there are 10 reasons why they can make a decision that isn't harmful to other PCs.

This is an interesting thing because to me "in character" is the only justification for most behaviors of the characters, but if I am understanding you are talking about the player wanting to do something anti-social and using the character's nature (usually designed by the player for that occurrence, sometimes moments before) as the reason why the situation is occurring, when in actuality it is just what the player gets off on. I think this is another one of those Session 0 issues, and one that can be hard to tackle. I have seen players essentially try to stealth evil or anti-social characters into groups by being vague or downplaying just how bad the PC is until the character actually hits play and is sufficiently trusted or put in a situation in which they can become the predator. 

GM: Wait, so your character is a thief and you were in prison for murder. Is he different now? Did he learn humanity in prison by finding God or something?

Player: Mmm yeah sort of. Well he still will steal things, but he won't murder unless someone makes him mad. 

(record needle scratching off sound) That is a big red flag. The player is likely not looking to play up the group-centric hardened ex-con, but actually wants an active criminal to use the group as victims or unwitting accomplices. More questions need to be asked and guidelines need to be set up by the GM if you want to avoid PvP situations. If you don't mind the group having real conflict then it's not a concern, but that usually goes bad as you said Magnus. 

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I appreciate the feedback and have given this some thought and I think I have an idea that accomplishes most of what I want without any inter-party betrayal.

The NPC Bounty hunter privately approaches the PC BH with a proposition. "Listen kid, because I like you, I just want you to know this is business, but i'm going to have to collect the bounty on you and your friends. Unless of course I developed a sudden case of amnesia, caused by a sudden influx of credits. wink wink" Hopefully the PC will agree to pay off the NPC to forget they ever saw them.  Then obviously the NPC will take their money and betray them by trying to collect the bounty anyway.  

I think this idea hits on many of the points I was interested in.

  • I have preyed upon the character's hero worship of the NPC BH. (Not the player's worship, This is not a "whoa Bobba Fett is so awesome!" thing. This is a case of a novice Gand BH thinking "this guy is what I aspire to be".)
  • I have caused a betrayal (that wasn't player vs player)
  • I have reinforced the seedy-ness vibe I am shooting for in my Fringe game.  "The world is a dangerous place kid"

The potential downsides I could foresee are.

  • Setting a precedent that a non-combat solution to a problem (bribe) ultimately was useless. Why not just solve everything with combat? 
    • One thought I had was to have the bribe "work" but it only delays the Bounty hunter...perhaps he just catches up with them later. Or perhaps he personally does not try to collect, but when another BH catches up to them I let it slip that he sold them out.  I think the delayed betrayal will help lessen the idea that the Non-combat solution was useless.
    • *One caveat here is that if the Player comes up with the idea to bribe him on their own, I think I will allow it to succeed without betrayal to reinforce the non-combat solution; besides the galaxy is full of Bounty Hunters ;)
  • Never trusting an NPC again.
    • I am less worried about this as they already have 1-2 strong NPC allies.

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Inter-party conflict, other than light hearted banter aka Rebels style with Chopper and such (though even this can get old fast), is great in media but is pretty much the kiss of death in an RPG.

The thing to keep in mind is that unlike a book or film etc. Players are unpredictable and have these things called feelings, which get in the way of scripting an adventure or situation involving a winner/loser inter-party conflict. There's already going to be naturally occurring disagreements between Players, best not to poke'em with a stick as well.

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On ‎10‎/‎26‎/‎2017 at 9:03 AM, ThreeAM said:

I appreciate the feedback and have given this some thought and I think I have an idea that accomplishes most of what I want without any inter-party betrayal.

The NPC Bounty hunter privately approaches the PC BH with a proposition. "Listen kid, because I like you, I just want you to know this is business, but i'm going to have to collect the bounty on you and your friends. Unless of course I developed a sudden case of amnesia, caused by a sudden influx of credits. wink wink" Hopefully the PC will agree to pay off the NPC to forget they ever saw them.  Then obviously the NPC will take their money and betray them by trying to collect the bounty anyway.  

I think this idea hits on many of the points I was interested in.

  • I have preyed upon the character's hero worship of the NPC BH. (Not the player's worship, This is not a "whoa Bobba Fett is so awesome!" thing. This is a case of a novice Gand BH thinking "this guy is what I aspire to be".)
  • I have caused a betrayal (that wasn't player vs player)
  • I have reinforced the seedy-ness vibe I am shooting for in my Fringe game.  "The world is a dangerous place kid"

The potential downsides I could foresee are.

  • Setting a precedent that a non-combat solution to a problem (bribe) ultimately was useless. Why not just solve everything with combat? 
    • One thought I had was to have the bribe "work" but it only delays the Bounty hunter...perhaps he just catches up with them later. Or perhaps he personally does not try to collect, but when another BH catches up to them I let it slip that he sold them out.  I think the delayed betrayal will help lessen the idea that the Non-combat solution was useless.
    • *One caveat here is that if the Player comes up with the idea to bribe him on their own, I think I will allow it to succeed without betrayal to reinforce the non-combat solution; besides the galaxy is full of Bounty Hunters ;)
  • Never trusting an NPC again.
    • I am less worried about this as they already have 1-2 strong NPC allies.

So go with this...

and then the problem goes away for a little bit. Let them wrap up a mini story arc, and then... out of nowhere, bam... the BH swoops in with overwhelming firepower and catches them all.

"you didn't think buying me off was going to work with a bounty this big, did ya, kid?"

This accomplishes a few things -

  • the players now know where that money went.
  • the characters now have conflict (why didn't you tell us?) and a bond (you paid him off for us?)
  • it really twists the knife for the BH character, making it 'personal'
  • they now have a nemesis to escape from, and some upgraded something or other as a 'reward' if they do it well enough, or a re-occurring villain to hassle them if they just barely manage to escape... or... you have a perfect intro into the FFG adventure Debts to Pay, cuz evil BH sells the party to a Hutt if he beats them.
  • You have really drilled into them the seedy aspect of an Edge adventure

Either way, this is all good.

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So here is an update for those interested:

I had the NPC bounty Hunter get the PC Gand into a private cantina booth, pulled a gun, and asked for a bribe to give them a week's head start. The PC was super excited, to paraphrase the PC "This one would be honored to bribe you". (FYI the PC Gand role plays as though they haven't earned their True name yet so talks in the third person).  The PC then nonchalantly tells the other PCs that they bribed the BH. Reasonably so, the other PC's were shocked and somewhat incredulous. Highly skeptical they were "on edge".

As they were getting ready to leave the NPC BH ambushed them anyway. During the fight I made sure to have the BH throw some taunts their way "you'll never make it in this business kid!" and the like.  After a decent fight, and a downed PC, they Crit the BH's arm off, and I decided he should leave.  Now I've got myself a re-occurring villain that the Gand PC has now indicated them as their personal "Nemesis" and has vowed "to hunt them to the ends of the galaxy".  

It actually ended up being a much more comical situation than anticipated because of the PC's infatuation role-playing. Everyone had a good chuckle, so no inter-party harm was done. Overall it ended up being a smashing success! 

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