Is this a bad idea?

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My PC's have just hit paragon tier and are beginning to have a major influence on the happenings of the Nentir Vale. Naturally, they've made some enemies along the way, including a powerful political figure in Fallcrest. She is crafty, although so far her attempts to squash them haven't worked. It would be in her nature to try and sow the seeds of discord within the group itself. To that end, I'm thinking of having her single out the paladin for rewards, including elevation to the peerage, while the rest of the party are treated merely as his minions. 

My hope is that they'll see through this ruse, play along with it in order to get the drop on her or hatch their own counterscheme. The risk is that it truly will sow the seeds of discord amongst my players, which is definitely not what I want to do.

Anybody tried anything like this before? Am I heading for a total backfire?

Thanks in advance! 
Different entities, when addressing the party, might speak to just one person and make assumptions about others.

If you have a rogue, and a ninja approaches, he can "read the shadow" in the rogue, and assume the other party members are henchmen, while the friar might think the paladin is party leader and the others are just his converts. Especially when this "entity" is the member of said faction that the players are working with/against, especially if the entity confronting the party is a member or advanced member of the "class type". A Barbarian Chieftain might not care what the Bard or Fighter or Cleric has to say. This Chieftain might only care what the Druid in the group has to say, maybe wonder why the druid would "dirty yourself by associating with these... fools!".

Don't do it all the time. Don't have the same player always be thought of as the leader. By the way, in these cases, the NPC/entity in question might more freely give information, or even a donation of some kind. This is because people might be willing to support, or fund "the group led by this great bard" than "this group".  Of course, if you really take anything away from this, most people in the world should view the players in this heroic light, for better or worse. They might falsely think the players can beat the baron in my town because you beat the baron over there, right? They might think the PC's have an evil motive, or a goal opposed to their own and take action.

You can have her perform the out of game greeting, then say "It seems she thinks he is the leader and you his comrades."

Within; Without.

My advice would be to not hope they'll see through the ruse. Tell them that, being skilled adventurers who have escaped all of this NPC's previous attempts to squash them, they very clearly do see through the ruse and "What are you going to do about it?" They may then opt to play along to be able to get back at this NPC.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Thanks for the feedback, Thadian. I think the difference here is that this evil villainess wouldn't just be addressing him as the leader, but would lavish material rewards upon him, bestow a title upon him, and probably grant him land. And of course, this would all be done very publicly. The villainess's plan is to make the other characters jealous and cause a rift in the party. I just don't want to cause a rift amonst my players if they don't see through her scheme. 
My PC's have just hit paragon tier and are beginning to have a major influence on the happenings of the Nentir Vale. Naturally, they've made some enemies along the way, including a powerful political figure in Fallcrest. She is crafty, although so far her attempts to squash them haven't worked. It would be in her nature to try and sow the seeds of discord within the group itself. To that end, I'm thinking of having her single out the paladin for rewards, including elevation to the peerage, while the rest of the party are treated merely as his minions. 

My hope is that they'll see through this ruse, play along with it in order to get the drop on her or hatch their own counterscheme. The risk is that it truly will sow the seeds of discord amongst my players, which is definitely not what I want to do.

Anybody tried anything like this before? Am I heading for a total backfire?

Thanks in advance! 

There's a risk of backfire.

I recommend telling the players what you have planned. They can then decide if they think they, as players, trust everyone enough to give it a try. The players can then decide for themselves whether their characters figure it out or not, and what they do about it. As long as the players are put first, and know that whatever happens is part of the game, there should be a much lower chance of backfire.

Plus, if the players are bought in and involved, they can come up with ways to help tailor the NPC's actions in ways that would particularly infuriate their characters, and what effect that has on the party.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

With respect to other advice given, you should definitely tell the party after she makes her offer that they definitely see through it. I like Centuari's idea of asking them if they want to try some espionage which keeps them a team. Maybe, the paladin might "pretend to go along with it" and discover a vulnerability? He pretends to accept her deal, the other players, in-character, pretend to be angry with the treason.

She moves her plot forward, tries to send the paladin with one of her minion leaders to perform a goal, and the paladin thwarts the goal, helps the party kill the minion, then goes back to her like "That minon leader screwed it up. I can only succeed with proper support" and have him "puppet her" into an ambush where the players take her by suprise.

Anyway, this is just hypothetical anyway. Present this as a scene in which the players have clear options. Call a food-break or something briefly to allow the players to discuss things. Then, when you resume the game, everyone should be on one page.

Within; Without.

My PC's have just hit paragon tier and are beginning to have a major influence on the happenings of the Nentir Vale. Naturally, they've made some enemies along the way, including a powerful political figure in Fallcrest. She is crafty, although so far her attempts to squash them haven't worked. It would be in her nature to try and sow the seeds of discord within the group itself. To that end, I'm thinking of having her single out the paladin for rewards, including elevation to the peerage, while the rest of the party are treated merely as his minions. 

My hope is that they'll see through this ruse, play along with it in order to get the drop on her or hatch their own counterscheme. The risk is that it truly will sow the seeds of discord amongst my players, which is definitely not what I want to do.

Anybody tried anything like this before? Am I heading for a total backfire?

Thanks in advance! 

There's a risk of backfire.

I recommend telling the players what you have planned. They can then decide if they think they, as players, trust everyone enough to give it a try. The players can then decide for themselves whether their characters figure it out or not, and what they do about it. As long as the players are put first, and know that whatever happens is part of the game, there should be a much lower chance of backfire.

Plus, if the players are bought in and involved, they can come up with ways to help tailor the NPC's actions in ways that would particularly infuriate their characters, and what effect that has on the party.


Not a flame, but I really don't understand this advice. How does revealing the motivations of your villain and the nature of her schemes to your players create a fun gaming experience? Just makes no sense to me. Do other DM's run games like this? To each his own, but I just don't get it at all.
Set that aside for a moment. You control your NPC, right? What if you just told your players that the NPC has tipped her hand, accidentally or otherwise, and they know with certainty that the paladin's reward is part of a larger scheme. You haven't revealed what that scheme might be, only that there is one. Part of that scheme, apparently, involves her treating the paladin well and the rest of the PCs like scrubs.

Do you suppose that means the PCs will be more likely or less likely to want to play along to see where this scheme goes, in hopes of foiling it?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Perhaps the Paladin, seeing the evil intentions of her gifts, publicly refuses her 'bribery', establishing he and his peers as respectable people. Failing in this, their enemy will resort to more drastic and violent measures, but will try to pin the blame on her future actions on some innocent third party.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Set that aside for a moment. You control your NPC, right? What if you just told your players that the NPC has tipped her hand, accidentally or otherwise, and they know with certainty that the paladin's reward is part of a larger scheme. You haven't revealed what that scheme might be, only that there is one. Part of that scheme, apparently, involves her treating the paladin well and the rest of the PCs like scrubs.

Do you suppose that means the PCs will be more likely or less likely to want to play along to see where this scheme goes, in hopes of foiling it?

Good idea. I think I'll keep that in my back pocket in case they don't see through the ploy. Thanks. 
If the players have a hand in helping construct the scene or direct the evolution of the scene, they will be more invested than if a scene is presented to them because they put a piece of their own creativity into it. Revealing this "scheme" doesn't ruin the game because even if the players know "her plan", they might develop their own plan in response. This also doesn't mean they know her entire hand, they only know one card.

The players will enjoy a scene they help create, just as much as one you give them.

Here is an article that I think sum's up Centuari's views.

tpkblog.com/home/yes-and/

Within; Without.

There's a risk of backfire.

I recommend telling the players what you have planned. They can then decide if they think they, as players, trust everyone enough to give it a try. The players can then decide for themselves whether their characters figure it out or not, and what they do about it. As long as the players are put first, and know that whatever happens is part of the game, there should be a much lower chance of backfire.

Plus, if the players are bought in and involved, they can come up with ways to help tailor the NPC's actions in ways that would particularly infuriate their characters, and what effect that has on the party. 

Not a flame, but I really don't understand this advice. How does revealing the motivations of your villain and the nature of her schemes to your players create a fun gaming experience? Just makes no sense to me. Do other DM's run games like this? To each his own, but I just don't get it at all.

The players can feel free to role-play their characters as not knowing something.

If you prefer thinking of the players as the audience in the story, then how many movies have you seen where the audience feels tension because they know things that the heroes don't? Alfred Hitchcock always said that the minute before a bomb explodes under a table and kills the people is scarier than the second when it does.

If you prefer thinking of the players as the actors in a story, how many times have you seen movies where the actors don't know what they were supposed to do? While specific scenes can be improvised at anytime (such as Heath Ledger playing with the detonators when the Dark Knight explosives messed up, or Viggo Mortenson deflecting the knife in LotR, or 50% of Tommy Lee Jones's career), you can't improvise an entire movie like Blair Witch Project or Iron Man unless the actors have a clear idea of what they're improvising towards.

If you prefer thinking of them as the writers, since the story shouldn't have a set ending that precludes the players from having new ideas for what to do and make happen, then they certainly shouldn't be kept out of the loop on the story that they are supposed to be involved in writing.

Since D&D puts the players in the unique position of being both the actors, audience, and the writers, then they have the right from all perspectives to know things that their characters don't.

EDIT: I got quoted before I could finish editing. Quote-ninja'd?

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

There's a risk of backfire.

I recommend telling the players what you have planned. They can then decide if they think they, as players, trust everyone enough to give it a try. The players can then decide for themselves whether their characters figure it out or not, and what they do about it. As long as the players are put first, and know that whatever happens is part of the game, there should be a much lower chance of backfire.

Plus, if the players are bought in and involved, they can come up with ways to help tailor the NPC's actions in ways that would particularly infuriate their characters, and what effect that has on the party. 

Not a flame, but I really don't understand this advice. How does revealing the motivations of your villain and the nature of her schemes to your players create a fun gaming experience? Just makes no sense to me. Do other DM's run games like this? To each his own, but I just don't get it at all.

The players can feel free to role-play their characters as not knowing something.

If you prefer thinking of the players as the audience in the story, then how many movies have you seen where the audience feels tension because they know things that the heroes don't? Alfred Hitchcock always said that the minute before a bomb explodes under a table and kills the people is scarier than the second when it does. If you prefer thinking of the players as the actors in a story, how many times have you seen movies where the actors don't know what their supposed to do? While specific scenes can be improvised at anytime (such as Heath Ledger playing with the detonators when the Dark Knight explosives messed up), you can't improvise an entire movie like Blair Witch Project or Iron Man unless the actors have a clear idea of what they're improvising towards.

Since D&D puts the players in the unique position of being both the actors and the audience, they have the right from both perspectives to know things that their characters don't, especially since the story is also unique in the sense of not being written yet, making them also the writers who shouldn't be kept out of the loop of the story that they're writing.

I understand your point but disagree. Players already have access to a great deal of information that their characters do not. I don't think adding the motivations of the villains should be thrown in on top of that.

Obviously two very different schools of thought here. If a totally open, collaborative environment works for you guys and your game, that's all that matters. My players don't want that. One of them saw me thumbing through an Underdark book and got mad that I'd dropped a spoiler on him. They don't have to be given a backstage tour and a writing credit to enjoy the show. Other players need that level of input, I guess. 

Interesting, and as I said, to each his own! 
Good idea. I think I'll keep that in my back pocket in case they don't see through the ploy. Thanks. 



You're welcome, but why wait? Your concern is that they won't see it as a ploy and the resulting interactions between the paladin's player and other players could cause discord. If that's a valid concern, then you should take steps to make sure it doesn't happen.

As well, doesn't it look kind of odd after however much play has passed to say the equivalent of, "Guys, you're just not getting it," and then tip your hand, possibly after the discord your hope to head off? That has the look of the DM bailing them out. Instead of bailing them out later if and when it goes awry, I recommend being proactive and making the challenge not about discovering the existence of the scheme, but doing something about it. This is all a matter of framing the challenge.

What you're doing is the equivalent of hiding vital content behind a skill check and then hoping they (1) take an action that provokes the skill check and (2) succeed at the roll. DMs shouldn't "hope." They should either plan for it or be ready to accept whatever happens. It doesn't sound like you're willing to let the players make the mistake of not catching onto this scheme, even if it means revealing it to them later when they "don't get it."

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Good idea. I think I'll keep that in my back pocket in case they don't see through the ploy. Thanks. 



You're welcome, but why wait? Your concern is that they won't see it as a ploy and the resulting interactions between the paladin's player and other players could cause discord. If that's a valid concern, then you should take steps to make sure it doesn't happen.

As well, doesn't it look kind of odd after however much play has passed to say the equivalent of, "Guys, you're just not getting it," and then tip your hand, possibly after the discord your hope to head off? That has the look of the DM bailing them out. Instead of bailing them out later if and when it goes awry, I recommend being proactive and making the challenge not about discovering the existence of the scheme, but doing something about it. This is all a matter of framing the challenge.

What you're doing is the equivalent of hiding vital content behind a skill check and then hoping they (1) take an action that provokes the skill check and (2) succeed at the roll. DMs shouldn't "hope." They should either plan for it or be ready to accept whatever happens. It doesn't sound like you're willing to let the players make the mistake of not catching onto this scheme, even if it means revealing it to them later when they "don't get it."

Because that feels like spoonfeeding to me. Not into that, and neither are my players. I'd rather have faith in them that they'll play well, but have a backup plan in case they blow it. 
Because that feels like spoonfeeding to me. Not into that, and neither are my players. I'd rather have faith in them that they'll play well, but have a backup plan in case they blow it. 



Good luck.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Obviously two very different schools of thought here. If a totally open, collaborative environment works for you guys and your game, that's all that matters. My players don't want that. One of them saw me thumbing through an Underdark book and got mad that I'd dropped a spoiler on him. They don't have to be given a backstage tour and a writing credit to enjoy the show. Other players need that level of input, I guess. 

Interesting, and as I said, to each his own! 

Exactly. All of the hundreds of pages of people arguing about more vs. less group involvement in world-building boils down to "different people want to play differently," and the focus of the discussions shouldn't be on "you're playing wrong, I'm playing right," it should be "if you're having a problem, is it possible that your group might benefit from trying something different?" If your group has a bigger problem with too much behind-the-scenes involvement instead of too little, then your game is already working.

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Obviously two very different schools of thought here. If a totally open, collaborative environment works for you guys and your game, that's all that matters. My players don't want that. One of them saw me thumbing through an Underdark book and got mad that I'd dropped a spoiler on him. They don't have to be given a backstage tour and a writing credit to enjoy the show. Other players need that level of input, I guess. 

Interesting, and as I said, to each his own! 

Exactly. All of the hundreds of pages of people arguing about more vs. less group involvement in world-building boils down to "different people want to play differently," and the focus of the discussions shouldn't be on "you're playing wrong, I'm playing right," it should be "if you're having a problem, is it possible that your group might benefit from trying something different?" If your group has a bigger problem with too much behind-the-scenes involvement instead of too little, then your game is already working.

The frustrating thing is that my question wasn't "Should I let my players peek backstage?"; it was "Has anyone tried having a powerful NPC sow discord amongst the party?" And if so, how did it go?

Unfortunately, no matter what you ask on this forum, you get the same answer: "Talk to your players. Ask them what they want. Involve them in all aspects of the campaign." And inevitably, the discussion devolves into the same old debate about DM-ing styles. 

Would be nice to ask a question and get a response along the lines of "Yeah, I tried that. Worked great." or "Yeah, I tried that. Nightmare." Instead, all you get is "Talk to your players."
I tried to help on page 1...

I hoped others would offer different perspectives on this. Enemies could have many reasons for wanting to perturb those who would hinder them. Personally, I enjoy reading what others do, and I fear you're right that sometimes a direct answer is hard to come by.

Within; Without.

Not a flame,

Sure it's not.

 but I really don't understand this advice. How does revealing the motivations of your villain and the nature of her schemes to your players create a fun gaming experience?

Because it makes it possible to have a conversation about what the players would actually enjoy, and how they can bring about scenes like yours that are difficult to bring about without causing actual discord between players. Because players are creative and can make a good idea great. Because players are smart and they know what's going on and go along with it anyway because it's fun. Because players are foolish and don't understand what's going on and ruin the plan entirely. Because you're not an author or a movie director, and they're not an audience.

Just makes no sense to me.

Thanks for asking, then. I'm happy to clarify.

Do other DM's run games like this?

Many of us do. Many others don't do it deliberately, but their players know what's going on and go along with it anyway.

 To each his own, but I just don't get it at all.

Try it sometime. Give it one session, in which the game doesn't depend on the players not knowing the villain's plan, and work out with them a cool plan for the villain to have. Let them determine whether or not their characters know about it, and why or why not.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Not a flame,

Sure it's not.

 but I really don't understand this advice. How does revealing the motivations of your villain and the nature of her schemes to your players create a fun gaming experience?

Because it makes it possible to have a conversation about what the players would actually enjoy, and how they can bring about scenes like yours that are difficult to bring about without causing actual discord between players. Because players are creative and can make a good idea great. Because players are smart and they know what's going on and go along with it anyway because it's fun. Because players are foolish and don't understand what's going on and ruin the plan entirely. Because you're not an author or a movie director, and they're not an audience.

Just makes no sense to me.

Thanks for asking, then. I'm happy to clarify.

Do other DM's run games like this?

Many of us do. Many others don't do it deliberately, but their players know what's going on and go along with it anyway.

 To each his own, but I just don't get it at all.

Try it sometime. Give it one session, in which the game doesn't depend on the players not knowing the villain's plan, and work out with them a cool plan for the villain to have. Let them determine whether or not their characters know about it, and why or why not.

Centauri, next time I ask a question, why don't you do us both a favor and sit that one out.  I already know what you're going to say, and I won't get anything out of it. So save us both a bit of time and move onto the next topic. You obviously know a lot about the game and have a lot of experience DMing, but you and I clearly have fundamentally different approaches to the game. 
Centauri, next time I ask a question, why don't you do us both a favor and sit that one out.  I already know what you're going to say, and I won't get anything out of it. So save us both a bit of time and move onto the next topic. You obviously know a lot about the game and have a lot of experience DMing, but you and I clearly have fundamentally different approaches to the game. 

If I think my advice applies to a question, I'll give it. If you don't think it applies, ignore it.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Have I tried to sow discord with an NPC? Yes.

What were the results? Discord and anger amongst the players at other players. (that isn't fun)



Do yourself a favor, talk to your players. The players can know things that the characters don't. 

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

Your players are not their characters.

Let us turn it around a bit:  your players give you as a DM some character backstories, and tell you how they know each other and what their motivations are before the adventure starts.  You work to set up the adventure hooks and set the scenes - and the players pull out completely different character sheets for a totally different style of game and then proceed to do something totally different than you planned for, exclaiming "Haha - our characters have tricked you!  That is just what they wanted you to think, and you fell for it!"

That it is, of course, a surreal situation:  you are not your NPCs, and you are (theoretically) working together with the players to create the shared game experience - the players tricking you will not add much fun to the game for you, unless you are the sort of masochist that enjoys having the rug pulled out from under you by wise-guys who justify it by saying "we are only having fun here, can't you take a joke?", or unless you have a lot of trust in the players' ability to support you through a lot of improv DMing.

I say that the players should be trusted and respected members of your creative team, and you are doing them no favors by tricking them as players, as friends, as family, as human beings worthy of your respect. 

By all means, trick the characters, and feel free to surprise the players by coming up with great ideas and obtaining their buy-in on them in the name of telling an awesome story together. 

But, I don't think you are going to get anything ultimately satisfying out of the game by tricking or lying to the players.

Try selling them out-of-character on their characters being tricked by an NPC, and see if they are willing to go along with it.  If they aren't willing to, then it's probably because they aren't going to find the storyline of their characters being made fools of very fun.  And, chances are, they probably won't be interested in volunteering to play with that sort of storyline, unless you have earned their trust before-hand (and I have been in groups with more than one DM that I would have been happy to volunteer for that sort of storyline in, if only the DM had asked me, so that's not as outlandish as it might sound to some DMs.)  If you don't think your players would trust you enough to volunteer for that sort of storyline, do not dispair:  I think the chances are good that you can start out a little less ambitiously with earning their trust, and work your way up to riskier story-lines.


Then again, perhaps I'm wrong.  I'm willing to accept that some gaming groups work fairly well on the foundation of deception and manipulation - just because it's not my "cup of tea", doesn't mean that other people cannot enjoy it thoroughly.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Good idea. I think I'll keep that in my back pocket in case they don't see through the ploy. Thanks. 



You're welcome, but why wait? Your concern is that they won't see it as a ploy and the resulting interactions between the paladin's player and other players could cause discord. If that's a valid concern, then you should take steps to make sure it doesn't happen.

As well, doesn't it look kind of odd after however much play has passed to say the equivalent of, "Guys, you're just not getting it," and then tip your hand, possibly after the discord your hope to head off? That has the look of the DM bailing them out. Instead of bailing them out later if and when it goes awry, I recommend being proactive and making the challenge not about discovering the existence of the scheme, but doing something about it. This is all a matter of framing the challenge.

What you're doing is the equivalent of hiding vital content behind a skill check and then hoping they (1) take an action that provokes the skill check and (2) succeed at the roll. DMs shouldn't "hope." They should either plan for it or be ready to accept whatever happens. It doesn't sound like you're willing to let the players make the mistake of not catching onto this scheme, even if it means revealing it to them later when they "don't get it."

Because that feels like spoonfeeding to me. Not into that, and neither are my players. I'd rather have faith in them that they'll play well, but have a backup plan in case they blow it. 

If the players blow it and then the NPC tips her hand then it will feel like spoon feeding. If she tips her hand early on, the players won't know what she's up to, only that she's up to something and can pour their full creative force and critical thinking skills to bear on the problem.
*eats popcorn* This thread is solid gold. Gotta love watching people wise up to certain repeated behaviors some of us regulars have noted long ago. Always fun.

Also, yes I have seen things like this occur. Even had a game where a particularly racist NPC treated the sole elven member of the party like the only one worth their time and efforts and rewarded only them in an attempt to also get that elf to side with them. The party stuck together (as they do through think & thin) and...well, things eventually went south for the NPC in question.

Some of this can depend on things like "group treasure" mentality...for instance, in my games, the players split treasure among the party regardless of who finds it (they don't call DIBS! just because they snatch something up because that is...well...silly) so one PC getting rewarded a lot of stuff just means some division comes into play after. No biggie.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I once had players fight each other under illusion that they were foes.. took them few turns before realizing they were fighting one another. You can only hide that for so long until they catch on. They did play along and fight to the death!... well till unconscious.
Plant the seed of discord! Pit your pc's against other pc's you masyer puppet master you. Did this work for you question is irrelevant. It may work wonderful for your group...or crash and burn! So? Still a good time laughing about it after how well it went, what master puppet master you were or how fuked up it got, what were you thinking as the dm moment. Still fun experience in my book.
Can somebody tell me why outright telling the players something fishy is going on bad from either side of the style discussion? It is a roleplaying game where PCs and NPCs are distinct entities from the players. Just because you as a DM have a perfect poker face and you know exactly what to say to get your players to act foolish, should not mean all your NPCs can. The players are entirely dependend on the DM in regards to what they perceive of the world. We are all human, and just because something appears obvious to the DM, experience has shown me that that is absolutely no guarantee it is obvious to the players. Sure, if you prefer a more traditional type of game, you might ask for Insight vs. Bluff, but even then you could conclude that the whole setup is obvious enough to automatically alert the highly experienced PCs. Obviously, realizing something fishy is going on does not mean that you reveal what exactly smells bad about it.

As for the basic question: it can go either way and depends highly on how well you and your players know one another and how they usually interact with one another. Personally I would not even be worried about resentment between the players. I would be more worried about you as a DM loosing the trust of your players or getting them to be angry at you. After all, you are the NPC in their eyes and it is the NPC who rewarding one player unfairly and not that player.

If I did something like you suggest with my regular group, my players would likely just shrug and redistribute the wealth. They wouldn't really care all that much about public recognition. After a while they might get a bit suspicious, but they know me well enough to realize it is not something I as a DM are doing wrong. They know I am careful about things such as favoratism, and will instantly realize the NPC is up to something. Mind you, the way how they treat wealth and public recognition, chances are I need to outright tell them something fishy is going if I want anything to happen with it at all ;)

On the other hand, if you are a new DM playing with relative strangers (and 10 levels of gaming might or might not be enough to still qualify as strangers) they don't have that trust yet. I have seen this go wrong quickly. It went badly because it has a tendency to creates silent resentment. The players wait too long before calling you out on it, creating a slowly building anger leading to a typical back breaking straw. If you are still in that new territory with players who are not yet comfortable enough to immediately react to what they perceive as an unfair situation, you definitely are better off to react according to Iserith's advice. Tell them now through IC mechanics before it becomes bad and you lost their trust.
*eats popcorn* This thread is solid gold. Gotta love watching people wise up to certain repeated behaviors some of us regulars have noted long ago. Always fun.

Also, yes I have seen things like this occur. Even had a game where a particularly racist NPC treated the sole elven member of the party like the only one worth their time and efforts and rewarded only them in an attempt to also get that elf to side with them. The party stuck together (as they do through think & thin) and...well, things eventually went south for the NPC in question.

Some of this can depend on things like "group treasure" mentality...for instance, in my games, the players split treasure among the party regardless of who finds it (they don't call DIBS! just because they snatch something up because that is...well...silly) so one PC getting rewarded a lot of stuff just means some division comes into play after. No biggie.

Good stuff. Thanks for the feedback. The example you give is encouraging. Think I'm going to go forward with it.
Good stuff. Thanks for the feedback. The example you give is encouraging. Think I'm going to go forward with it.

Good luck.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Set that aside for a moment. You control your NPC, right? What if you just told your players that the NPC has tipped her hand, accidentally or otherwise, and they know with certainty that the paladin's reward is part of a larger scheme. You haven't revealed what that scheme might be, only that there is one. Part of that scheme, apparently, involves her treating the paladin well and the rest of the PCs like scrubs.

Do you suppose that means the PCs will be more likely or less likely to want to play along to see where this scheme goes, in hopes of foiling it?

I like that compromise, and also suggest the early tip off. Unless, of course, you're planning for this to be a very slow thing that happens over several levels, then I'd tip it off once you get past the “set up” and into the actual interaction.


Unfortunately, no matter what you ask on this forum, you get the same answer: "Talk to your players. Ask them what they want. Involve them in all aspects of the campaign." And inevitably, the discussion devolves into the same old debate about DM-ing styles. 


I agree with you there! I tend to reserve a lot of the actual DnD questions I have because I know if I post them I'll get attacked by either one side or another telling me I'm playing wrong, instead of answering the question.



actual question


How I've had it as a player:


First time: Mysterious duegar helps us with our first fledgling dragon battle, takes large portion of loot (metagame loot balance) and then gives us a mysterious calling card. Later sidles up the rogue telling him to ditch us losers and help him. Rogue plays along, hoping to get more information. A second meet up is arranged in the future.


Verdict: So far so good. Without any of the players saying anythimg, we went 'yeah, let's see where this goes. We'll double-cross that duegar if he does anything sneaky!' It may have helped that we were able to hear the conversation both in and out of character. Part of the success was also the player choice. Our rogue is reliably cunning and forward thinking, without getting too bogged down in 'what's logical.'



Second time: Recurring villain (most of the time) gave us some slugs with the wizard's face (a session after turning into a fog, entering his ear and dazing him). Ingame DM tells us that our characters have an extreme fondness for these 2 slugs and selfishly want them for ourselves, but only until the slugs find a host then the phermones stop (or whatever). Ingame the villain also promised they would be what our hearts truly desire. Out of game told we choose a magic item. We have some PvP (until bloodied), 2 victors get the slugs.


Verdict: Worked mostly well, only sour note was the ranger bragging about how he won [because he burned all his dailies (and was a twin-strike ranger... against a bard, a defending fighter, a swordmage and a sneak-reliant rogue)] - but that's more an issue with bad sportsmanship than anything else.



How I've had it as a DM:


Dark Sun (main campaign world) is a fairly racist place. I don't tend to focus on this much, beyond certain NPCs making a comment here and there. For instance, nobles don't tend to talk to the slave-race character, or do with distain. Nobles don't tend to like talking to the (stereotype gypsy thief) elf either. When they do meet the bug thri-kreen people, they like to talk to the other thri-kreen, and diplomacy checks can be influenced based on race.


Verdict: As everyone gets pros and cons, they don't seem to mind. The characters take umbrage at times, but I've the players do not. It's also quite helped to set the various cultures in the player's heads quite well.



Oh, and if you don't tip the hand early, respect the passive insight bonus. It can ruin many a 'hohoho I am being sneaky NPC withholding information' moment, but makes the player feel special

Good stuff. Thanks for the feedback. The example you give is encouraging. Think I'm going to go forward with it.

Good luck.




He was talking to me. And he doesn't need luck. What he needs is skill and a good group of players.

Good on ya, bryinman. If you have any other issues or questions always feel free to hit me up with a PM. I know putting up threads isn't always the best way to get good answers since (some) people just want to tell you to change your entire game dynamic while repeating the same stuff everyone has already heard a hundred times.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

YF I truly am shocked that you get ORCed as often as you do...

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

YF I truly am shocked that you get ORCed as often as you do...



Comes with the territory.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Can somebody tell me why outright telling the players something fishy is going on bad from either side of the style discussion?



Good question. I'll have an answer for ya after work.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Thanks, zippy. The perspectives you offered are exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I posted the question. Appreciate the advice. 

And thanks again, YF. I definitely have a good group of players; here's hoping I have the requisite skill! 

Very encouraged to see useful advice at last! Just have to wade through the usual "talk to your your players" onslaught. Sometimes feel as though if I said "My 8-year-old nephew is really into Legos, already has most themed sets, but doesn't have any Ninjago stuff, and has a birthday coming up--anybody checked out Ninjago with their kids?", most of the advice I'd get from this board would be "Talk to your nephew, find out if he'd like to receive Ninjago for his birthday, take him with you when you go shopping for different Ninjago sets and see which ones he'd like to own, have him create a list of the top Ninjago sets he'd like for you to give him for his birthday, let him choose the wrapping paper and have him help you wrap the Ninjago set he has chosen..."

I'd just sit there and shake my head, thinking, "Dude, I didn't ask for advice on managing my relationship with my nephew. I asked if anybody else out there had a nephew that dug Ninjago."
Thanks, zippy. The perspectives you offered are exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I posted the question. Appreciate the advice. 

And thanks again, YF. I definitely have a good group of players; here's hoping I have the requisite skill! 

Very encouraged to see useful advice at last! Just have to wade through the usual "talk to your your players" onslaught. Sometimes feel as though if I said "My 8-year-old nephew is really into Legos, already has most themed sets, but doesn't have any Ninjago stuff, and has a birthday coming up--anybody checked out Ninjago with their kids?", most of the advice I'd get from this board would be "Talk to your nephew, find out if he'd like to receive Ninjago for his birthday, take him with you when you go shopping for different Ninjago sets and see which ones he'd like to own, have him create a list of the top Ninjago sets he'd like for you to give him for his birthday, let him choose the wrapping paper and have him help you wrap the Ninjago set he has chosen..."



LMFAO Indeed!

One thing I will definitely say is to not be afraid of roll results. If your NPC is lying, do not be afraid of the players Sensing Motive. Opposed rolls are not the enemy, they're a player tool towards discovery. If they beat the Bluff, feel free to indicate matters are amiss or the person is trying to deceive them. This gives them info that will inform their future agency. If they choose to take the person at face value, that is within their right as well. An NPCs attempts at things must be no more guaranteed than the players and in many cases less so because they lack the right to have some of their actions adjucated without a roll.

Remember, the skill you're looking for in yourself is not the skill to successfully deceive the players, it is the skill to successfully adjudicate and run the situation. If they uncover the deception, good on them! If not, that is okay too. Make sure you divorce yourself from how you feel about the given outcomes...that'll keep you honest. Keep a poker face when they guess wrong, right or whatever and don't nudge them in any given direction...because that begins to infringe on their agency and will color your decision making. It hurts your impartiality.

Also don't be afraid to let them discuss stuff OOC. NEVER put them on the spot and demand a resolution as if some in-game timer is ticking down. There's no point to it. Let them debate and discuss, because it means they are engaging the scenario and turning it over in their heads. That's good stuff.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Not a flame,

Sure it's not.

 but I really don't understand this advice. How does revealing the motivations of your villain and the nature of her schemes to your players create a fun gaming experience?

Because it makes it possible to have a conversation about what the players would actually enjoy, and how they can bring about scenes like yours that are difficult to bring about without causing actual discord between players. Because players are creative and can make a good idea great. Because players are smart and they know what's going on and go along with it anyway because it's fun. Because players are foolish and don't understand what's going on and ruin the plan entirely. Because you're not an author or a movie director, and they're not an audience.



I count on my players to turn the scene into something they enjoy as it happens, not discuss it ahead of time so we all know the outcome ahead of time.  It's more interesting if noone, including the DM, knows the outcome ahead of time.

Try selling them out-of-character on their characters being tricked by an NPC, and see if they are willing to go along with it.  If they aren't willing to, then it's probably because they aren't going to find the storyline of their characters being made fools of very fun.  And, chances are, they probably won't be interested in volunteering to play with that sort of storyline, unless you have earned their trust before-hand (and I have been in groups with more than one DM that I would have been happy to volunteer for that sort of storyline in, if only the DM had asked me, so that's not as outlandish as it might sound to some DMs.)  If you don't think your players would trust you enough to volunteer for that sort of storyline, do not dispair:  I think the chances are good that you can start out a little less ambitiously with earning their trust, and work your way up to riskier story-lines.


Then again, perhaps I'm wrong.  I'm willing to accept that some gaming groups work fairly well on the foundation of deception and manipulation - just because it's not my "cup of tea", doesn't mean that other people cannot enjoy it thoroughly.



If they know they are being tricked, how is it fun when you are tricked.  Some of the best movies are ones with a major plot twist you -didn't- see coming.  If you knew it was coming, even though you as the watcher of the movie are not the actor, the movie is ruined and not fun.

Try selling them out-of-character on their characters being tricked by an NPC, and see if they are willing to go along with it.  If they aren't willing to, then it's probably because they aren't going to find the storyline of their characters being made fools of very fun.  And, chances are, they probably won't be interested in volunteering to play with that sort of storyline, unless you have earned their trust before-hand (and I have been in groups with more than one DM that I would have been happy to volunteer for that sort of storyline in, if only the DM had asked me, so that's not as outlandish as it might sound to some DMs.)  If you don't think your players would trust you enough to volunteer for that sort of storyline, do not dispair:  I think the chances are good that you can start out a little less ambitiously with earning their trust, and work your way up to riskier story-lines.


Then again, perhaps I'm wrong.  I'm willing to accept that some gaming groups work fairly well on the foundation of deception and manipulation - just because it's not my "cup of tea", doesn't mean that other people cannot enjoy it thoroughly.



If they know they are being tricked, how is it fun when you are tricked.  Some of the best movies are ones with a major plot twist you -didn't- see coming.  If you knew it was coming, even though you as the watcher of the movie are not the actor, the movie is ruined and not fun.




M Night Shamalyan would probably agree with you... his audiences and critics would not.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

Thanks, zippy. The perspectives you offered are exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I posted the question. Appreciate the advice. 

And thanks again, YF. I definitely have a good group of players; here's hoping I have the requisite skill! 

Very encouraged to see useful advice at last! Just have to wade through the usual "talk to your your players" onslaught. Sometimes feel as though if I said "My 8-year-old nephew is really into Legos, already has most themed sets, but doesn't have any Ninjago stuff, and has a birthday coming up--anybody checked out Ninjago with their kids?", most of the advice I'd get from this board would be "Talk to your nephew, find out if he'd like to receive Ninjago for his birthday, take him with you when you go shopping for different Ninjago sets and see which ones he'd like to own, have him create a list of the top Ninjago sets he'd like for you to give him for his birthday, let him choose the wrapping paper and have him help you wrap the Ninjago set he has chosen..."

I'd just sit there and shake my head, thinking, "Dude, I didn't ask for advice on managing my relationship with my nephew. I asked if anybody else out there had a nephew that dug Ninjago."



Yeah, that sums up a lot of what I see.  The thing is, I actually like and reading some of thier other posts gotten some good advice on some things and re-enforced and improved other things I have done in my games.  Then other things are totally off-the-wall and make no sense.  I really want to understand, but apparently asking questions to understand just gets you either ignored or they just come back at you with political speak that does not really answer anything, so you couldn't understand it even if you wanted to.