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The campaign just reached a turning point: an NPC we believed to be an ally betrayed us PCs and gained the power of a god. My PC and another PC were put into a stasis for 3 years while the former ally razed most of the continent. After we were freed, we met up with our former party.

Now I'm considering having my PC pretend to join the former ally's side so that my PC can betray him like he betrayed us.

Should I tell the DM that's my PC's plan or should I surprise the DM with my PC's plan the same way the NPC surprised us with his?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Is the group's playstyle collaborative that sees everyone (including the DM) working together to tell a good story or is the group's playstyle adversarial that sees everyone (especially the DM) keeping things to themselves and scheming against each other or somewhere in between? Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 27 '17 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Our playstyle fits somewhere in between. Our DM seems unable to really make up his mind whether he wants to tell a wonderful story, versus wanting to crush us into the ground. I think it leans a bit more towards adversarial, considering we have a player who is plotting to raise an army of demons. (I barely managed to drag that answer out of him, at that.) \$\endgroup\$ – GrimLegate Aug 27 '17 at 7:41
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It is important to note that while the DM does portray your enemies and adversaries, that is not his only job. It also falls on him to enforce the rules of the fantasy world and to present a good story for all. There are two consequences of this:

  1. The DM has to be able to judge situations

There are rules for tricking characters. The DM has to enforce those rules. If he is unaware that you are lying he cannot do that. Also, most likely when you profess your desire to work for the villain to him (the character) or sometime soon after in a similar situation the DM will outright ask you whether you are deceiving him or not. For the above reasons not telling him (the DM) that you are is cheating.

  1. The DM is not your adversary

How the DM and the players play characters and how they care about them is different. You want to see your hero rise up to challenges and be victorious. While for this to be meaningful there has to be something in your way, the DM knows that the fate of most antagonists is to fall. You can do everything in your power to save your character because there is something limiting you. The DM cannot do that without breaking the game as he is not limited. If your DM understands this, there is no need to trick him to trick a villain.

Thus you should discuss your plans with the DM.

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These are tricky situations. If you completely surprise your DM, thare’s a possibility you may short-circuit the plot arc, or torpedo the whole campaign. On the other had, if you tip your DM off, your opportunity to spring an effective ambush might be lost. A little ambiguity might be best.

It depends on whether the DM needs to know

There are valid reasons to keep a thing or two from the DM. It’s very hard to ignore information once it’s in your head. If you tell the DM that you are planning on betraying an NPC, that will certainly affect how they run the game, subtly, or not so subtly.

Be congizant of your DM’s storytelling

While some DM’s would be totally OK with a big player-initiated plot twists, for others it won’t be a lot of fun tearing up their planned encounters, maps, and lovingly-invented NPC’s. In your case, it sounds like this NPC is a pretty central character to the campaign, so use some care.

If your DM has a high-preparation style, it may be better to let him know you want to go down the “Let’s prepare to betray this guy” plot line.

You know your DM better than we do, so let that inform your actions.

If you’re unsure how much your betrayal might disrupt (or improve) the game, you can casually ask how it would go if “somebody” betrayed the NPC instead of going along with his plans. It’s hard to tell, though, how much a DM will pick up on your intentions. Just like PC’s confronted with a mystery, they might catch on the subtlest hint, or remain oblivious to the most obvious tip-offs.

A Shocking Reveal is Great Fun

I once had a PC who got captured, and agreed with his captor to try to take the rest of the party prisoner too. Everybody at the table was fooled. Even when I said, “I draw my sword and step behind [my captor],” nobody suspected I was doing anything other than seeking his protection.

If you want folks to gasp and drop their jaws when you spring your ambush, then keep your plans to yourself.

Since the DM is revealing a big plot here, it would be best to do this at the thrilling climax, instead of trying to blow up the story half-way through.

A Need-to-Know Basis

On the other hand, your treachery may be of the sort that requires preparation that you can’t hide from your DM. If you need a certain item, etc., to turn the tide on your adversary, then of course you’ll need to talk to your DM about your plans to acquire it.

But you can be cagey about your reasons. You might profess that you are looking to take possession of the dangerous artifact to keep it out of the hands of troublesome do-gooders.

Final Answer: Tell the DM what they need to know

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