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Here's where my group is currently at:

  • We are reaching the end of a campaign and we are going to be switching GM's.
  • I have been playing a (secretly) evil Psion who has plans to betray the party before I bring in a new character.
  • The new GM will be retiring his character.

The new GM and I have been coming up with a plan to make all of this happen:

  • The plot hook for the new adventure will be the new GM's current PC getting kidnapped.
  • My character's betrayal will be organizing the kidnapping and attempting to kill the rest of the party

My question is how to pull it off. I have some time to work with (both IRL and in game). My psion has access to the Faulty Memory power, a ridiculously high bluff skill, and a Hat of Disguise.

Here's what I've done so far. During rest periods I've been having 1-on-1 conversations with the various party members disguised as a recently deceased authority figure. Afterwards I use Faulty Memory to convince them that they actually saw a vision of the authority figure, and not my disguised PC. (Whether that is a valid use of the power or not is debatable, but the DM allows it for the purpose of the story). These visions are seeds I am planting in order to influence the PC's future actions during a pre-planned "betrayal encounter."

I'm having trouble planning the betrayal encounter. What can I do using the strategies I've already employed to kidnap the PC? I'd rather not just say "Bob gets kidnapped," but have it be the result of a fun, engaging encounter during which a trusted friend (my psion) turns the tables on the party.

If anyone wants to include specifics, the game is 4e. But I'm really just looking for a good strategy to accomplish the betrayal. I will worry about the mechanics once I have a solid concept in mind.

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4  
Urk. I'd... throw a big "ARE YOU SURE" dialogue up... cause that's what I do for my players when they have questionable ideas. As someone who's occasionally (heh) played Red Team ... be prepared for this to haunt every single character you ever make from now own. Real answers after coffee... –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 24 '11 at 1:03
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Pace @Brian, I think this is a great way to handle a betrayal. The suspicion of your characters need only occur at GM switch time, if you handle it rightly. –  Alticamelus May 24 '11 at 7:08
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Edited to include 4e tag (but system still downplayed) since Psion and Power are system-specific and the links don't work unless you're registered @ WotC. –  ExTSR May 24 '11 at 22:18

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In a campaign I recently ran, a rogue/assassin run by one of my players betrayed the party. He only partially disguised the fact that he was an assassin, so the party was always a little wary of him. However, he had always participated in combats and done little (that they ever spotted or knew about) to betray their trust. Secretly, he stole a couple of critical artifacts from party members while they slept in camp and it was his watch. His betrayal also waited for the party to enter into a major combat (3.5e rules btw).

During the first couple of rounds of combat the party's main fighter was slain (taken to something like -25 HP). When the fighter went down, the assassin passed me a note that he was holding his action for the cleric's attempt to raise him. The party's cleric was about to cast Revenance to restore him to life when the assassin let loose his sneak attack. The cleric's spell was wasted, the fighter remained dead and the cleric had no other spell prepared to help that day. The bard was about to use the artifact (a Zagyg's token which would have provided a limited wish) to revive the fallen fighter or restore the cleric's spell, only to discover that he could not find it any longer (having been stolen by the assassin in the previous night's camp). The rest of the party fled, pausing only long enough to kill the betrayer.

A couple other ideas he had were to secretly replace the party's magical weapons with non-magical replicas. I ruled the in-game story & timeline wouldn't allow him enough time to carry out that plan, but it might be an idea for you. He also got the party's fighter to accept an intelligent, magical weapon as his main weapon. The weapon did not reveal itself and later (long after the assassin's death) took control of the fighter to carry out its own agenda, thus slipping the betrayal even further into the party and story.

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Don't turn until it's too late.

The time to stab a fellow characters in the back is after they are incapable of doing anything about it. While this has to be something discussed and allowed explicitly by player agreement (make sure you discuss it now, note what you're trying to do in general, and make sure they're absolutely positively OK with it... no really, there are few things that will corrupt a group more than this kind of blue-on-blue.)

Arrange a hard encounter, then pull your punches.

The way to betray the party is to never let them suspect, in character, that you're betraying the party. Arrange for a difficult but believable fight against already established foes. As part of this fight, the GM has to be aware that your contribution to the fight will be fake. While it will look as if you're using your normal things, no HP damage should ever be applied as a course of your spells, unless you "accidentally" drop a spell that includes a friendly. As you're aware of your party tactics, you can arrange for appropriate bait that draws players away from the person you're planning on kidnapping. When they've been pulled away, have a second wave of "antagonists" appear and appear to drop both you and the person your kidnapping (and make them wound you realistically). Then, this second group simply needs to take both bodies, put them into specially prepared travelling containers (bags of holding in a magical world, sacks in a non-magical world) and run away while the first group is maintaining the interest of the rest of the party. Have a reserve hidden away in case of unexpected success.

This way, you never perform any actions in the other players view that are ever "suspicious." And you arrange to be seen as a victim of fate yourself. Combined with you established work, you can hire the party and the antagonists, acting as your own "Mr Johnson" (To borrow a term from shadowrun) and manoeuvre everyone into places of your choosing. It is critical to insure that every choice the players can make leads them deeper into your trap.

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If you have any stealth ability at all this is trivial.

Assuming the party trusts you, you can simply slit their throats while they sleep. Start with the elf (or any other member with natural bonuses to listen) or others who don't sleep. Leave those who can't threaten you in melee for last.

Don't do this, however, it's entirely too likely to lead to a TPK.

Firstly, if you have a crazy-good bluff check, and an evil bend, you can lead each member of the group away, individually. Concoct a trap for each, and lead them into it. Structure things so that they are weakest and you are strongest. You are now a villian, play to it. You KNOW your foes inside and out. Get the heavily armored ones to follow you into marshy ground, so they take severe movement penalties (and can't charge). Get in close to the ranged fighters. Disguise yourself as the one closest to your wizard, and get him to cast his higher level spells at nonexistent threats (or the doppelganger who is obviously impersonating the other party member).

If you can pick up 'Glibness' from somewhere (or the equivalent, in a non-D&D setting) bluff can be one of the most overpowered skills in the game (just short of Diplomacy).

Save one of them for last, and deal with that character and your kidnapping victim at the same time, giving the last standing member of the party a final shot at you as you flee, triumphant. It's a very villain thing to do.

(My POV defaults to the 3.x ruleset, but I've tried to keep it general to fantasy games)

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Given the amount of trust you can betray here, you should be able to render the PCs ineffective by the time the confrontation occurs. Some possibilities:

  1. Spiked drinks: a known associate of the traitor claims to have a lead, but only feels safe making proper contact with the PCs at a notorious tavern. Cheesy, but the associate is a flexible tool for maneouvreing PCs.
  2. Curse: perhaps the traitor leaves a powerful spirit bound to a party item that wears down the characters nightmare after nightmare until they are ineffective. Possibly you can drop hints that the traitor had been interested in the item recently, perhaps even suggesting that dreaming with the item in proximity will help decode the traitor's secret. This is what I'd do in Glorantha, but I'm not sure this kind of thing works in modern d&d.
  3. Sprung trap: Use the faulty memory to completely mislead the party about the whereabouts and appearance of a crucial ally's home. The confrontation can then take place in a building that neutralises the party's strengths, after you have encouraged the PCs that they need help.
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I don't really have any suggestions for the mechanics of it, since a lot of it depends on the composition of the party, the equipment, skills, and spells available, and where you are in your campaign. I really only have one bit of advice, and that's from a character standpoint.

Do not have your character do anything incriminating in view of the party (or players!) unless your character is sure he's safe from harm. If he's working for someone else (which presumably he is), have him resist against this person or his agents until and unless he's got an overwhelming superiority against the party and is going to take you away with him. That part's important. It's all well and good to be working for someone against the party, but if they find out about it and the evil party lets you just twist in the wind, you're screwed. If you hold your obvious betrayal until the last possible second before you run for it, then you'll live to taunt another day. Note that this is just your obvious betrayal. Screw with the party all you like as long as they can't catch you at it.

Since you're bringing in a new character, you probably expect the psion to get whacked. And to be frank, once the party figures out what you've done to them, that's pretty much inevitable. So go all out into taunting villian mode. They'll hunt the psion down, and it will be very satisfying when they finally catch him.

Also, be aware that pre-planned or not, there are several things the party could do to throw a monkey wrench in the works. If they take out the kidnapping party before they get away, or if they miss the betrayal part and go chasing off after a red herring, some fairly major reconstruction will be necessary.

And as OK said, this sort of plotline, while appropriately dramatic, is likely to breed all manner of distrust. There's a certain element of meta-gaming you can't avoid in these situations. The players themselves are going to be leery of trusting you because you could be secretly evil yet again and plotting to screw them over again. The characters wouldn't have any idea about this, naturally, but after having their trust so thoroughly abused, they're likely to be mistrustful of any new person after this. And if anything does go wrong, or even smells the faintest bit of treachery, you'll be the first one they'll be suspicious of, because you've already done it once. Which could be fun, as long as you're prepared for it.

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Try to use your cool spell to make the PC you are trying to kidnap think that you and the rest of the party betrayed him to the enemy—then he'll "betray" them and you can pretend to run after him to kill him.

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Assuming everyone is friends, kidnapping is ridiculously easy. Spiked drink/food and taken in their sleep. Its so cliche though... theres a lot of ways to accomplish it without having to resort of rehashing a cliche method. The motivations really fall into play here - is it for money, revenge and ultimately death, just to teach a lesson? Use the femme fatale if needed, but its pretty overused.

One thing i would add is the motivation for kidnapping. I've done this (both kidnapping, and betrayal/death) in the past and it creates distrust that does not go away easily. If you can come up with some more immediate reason for betraying the party, other than simply "i'm evil and did it for money", it might go over better. Being threatened by more powerful groups - some political, religious, or social mis-step from the party's past can make it seem more like a good plot device than simply you having fun while retiring the character out of reach. Plus, with a larger group behind the plot, it gives your primary betrayer more access to materials to accomplish the kidnapping. All the way up to kidnapping the soul ("imprisonment") and leaving the body. Leaving the PC's to have to deal with the body can be very disconcerting, draws unwanted attention (hey - its pretty creepy), and is a resource drain on groups that have too much money.

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