My group is playing Curse of Strahd and believe there is a traitor among them when there isn't. What RaW mechanics are there for them to find out who (if anyone) is leaking secrets to the Dark Lord or other mechanics so they can move on from this self-imposed fear?

My goal is for my players to finally get rid of their suspicions and work cohesively in the final battle.

They want a way to wring the truth from one another, and I want to help them with that, RaW. There never was any traitor, it was just clever misdirection from the Dark Lord, and manipulation to turn them on one another. At the same time, I don't want to, as a DM, just tell them "Yeah, you guys are fine, no worries". I would love if they could have a way to handle this on their own.

Party composition: Illusion Wizard, Soulknife Rogue, Battle Smith Artificer, Wild Magic Barbarian, Aberrant Mind Sorcerer, and Battlemaster Fighter.

Zone of Truth is not learnable by party member. Party is at level 10 and won't get any more levels. PvP is an option. I'm the DM and they asked me for ideas (since maybe they can be forgetting some mechanic that will allow them to, in-game, trust one another again).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of the text here seems irrelevant to the question. But I think the actual question, "what mechanics exist for checking if someone is a traitor?", is very answerable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 14:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think @NautArch accidentally chopped a character off of that link; here's a corrected one: How can a DM introduce a traitor in the party without being outed by Zone of Truth? \$\endgroup\$
    – nben
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, great job on getting your players this far into their paranoia! \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 16:10

6 Answers 6


Get an NPC to cast zone of truth

The traditional solution to this problem is to cast zone of truth: the caster can confirm when someone makes their save, and then they can say things that are guaranteed not to be lies.

(This link purports to have advice for traitors evading a zone of truth, but it admits that there's really nothing you can do if they directly ask if you did the thing.)

I'm not super familiar with Curse of Strahd, but it seems like a decent chance the group could find an NPC to cast this spell.

Use enhance ability and make Insight checks

Your artificer can prepare enhance ability, giving someone advantage on their insight checks.  Just have everyone clearly declare that they're not some sort of spy and they genuinely want to destroy Strahd, and let everyone roll insight checks.

Your idea of using suggestion is a good one

I don't know what sort of time pressure your group is under, but if they can resolve their trust issues by spending a day and 100gp, that seems like a good deal to me. The detect thoughts spell seems like it would work almost as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you trust the NPC? How do you trust any of the results or the questioner? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how suggestion would help. Per the spell's description, "Asking the creature to [...] or do some other obviously harmful act ends the spell." If I'm a traitor, and I admit it, I'm putting myself if a very dangerous situation being around all these people with swords and spells. That might be enough to break the spell. And since no one will know if the spell is broken, they can lie or tell the truth however they see fit. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv "answer"isn't very clear, I don't think command would work. I'd answer '3' and end my turn ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 19:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv, nothing about "answer" says "tell the truth". Like NautArch said, someone can say whatever they want. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Accepting this answer (despite it not being the most upvoted one) because it's the one that gives some options to my players on how to find the traitor (which is what they asked me help for). I don't know whether they will try any of these, but at least, they are aware of them \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented May 1, 2022 at 22:22

You're too late to rebuild trust...but why do it at all?

This is probably an answer you don't want to hear, but you've spent the campaign up until now with Strahd turning the players against each other. That effort isn't going to be simply undone by a spell or so - the players are deeper in this than potentially their characters are.

And this is what being in Barovia should be like! You've more than succeeded at the goal of sowing this distrust - and it's pretty much been done specifically for this fight against Strahd. Don't undo the effort you've done! You and your players have embraced the feel of this campaign - don't let it go now!

But, this also makes you as the DM less than trustworthy as a source for how to 'fix' this - as you were the cause of it! As you've said, even a point-blank Meta-DM statement might not be the solution you think it will be because the players are already thinking you're trying to 'fool' them. The paranoia here is right and good - don't let it go!

But if you really think that the truth must be revealed, then it does shift what you can do to fix it - and it's mostly going to be listening to your players.

When the DM isn't trusted, let the players develop the action

Even more problematic with a lack of trust in the DM is that it will extend to any information the DM provides - whether direct or from a NPC.

Because you are now a 'untrustworthy narrator', your output is under question - which is a great outcome for a campaign like CoS. Leaving the players guessing makes for a very atmospheric Barovia - but as you've noticed it creates some problems, too.

In this case, I've found the solution to be in giving more control to the players in terms of figuring out 'what to do.'

As a DM, I have definitely turned my players around because of scenarios like this that I've developed - and I've learned the only way to fix it is to give the players control again. Let them come up with a reasonable plan, and then have it succeed. That way it is their idea that was used and they can trust in the outcome because they are invested in the idea itself. Heck, even when I'm ham-handed, they still generally miss things.

This has generally worked out for me, but you may need to be more obvious/heavy handed in your approach for resolving this. It is quite possible that this isn't resolved before the fight - and I'm not even sure that it should be. You've worked for this outcome, but now you want to undo it...why?

Leaning into the uncertainty

Let the players start off without trust in the final battle, and then maybe Strahd keeps laughing and mocking about the seeds of distrust he's sown. This is a pretty on-the-nose way to tell the players their paranoia was unjustified and that they were played. I honestly don't think there's a solution where your players will feel comfortable in the knowledge that they're all on the same side before you go into this fight.

And I don't think they should be. You've developed this situation, and wanting to undo it when it reaches the climax seems to be what's causing the strife here. Instead, lean into it and let the players go in without trust - then rebuild their trust as they fight and Strahd "tells his plans" in the way that all megalomaniacs do to their enemies :)

Or, as Guildsbounty said, you can let it play out all the way to the end - and I think this is a stellar solution. You and your players will talk about this for years about what Barovia did to the party and how they didn't know what was really going on until it was over.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or...just let the distrust linger. Strahd doesn't even have to blow the lid on the whole thing...let the 'trust' come about from the fact that nobody betrays the rest of the party--Strahd ends up dead--and they're left standing over his ashes. If you want extra chaos, have Strahd go down laughing at them, so now they're wondering if him dying was all part of some plan they got duped into. (This goes double if 'prior events' means Strahd is aware of the last 2 paragraphs in the Epilogue chapter) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty that's the goal of my final section. But I think you're right I can go further and just leave it all the way to the end like you have suggested. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like most of this answer, but at least at tables I am used to a direct statement from the DM is very different from in character NPC statements. NPCs lie. The DM shouldn't lie. OP says he doesn't want to directly tell the players that there is no traitor, but I think at most tables a blunt out of character statement like that would just be believed (though it is obviously less than desirable for other reasons). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 19:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer. When you say that fixing it is "mostly going to be listening to your players" you don't elaborate on what this means - unless that is connected to your suggestion further along of of having the players come up with their own plan and making sure it works. If this is the same idea, it could be more explicitly connected, and if it is a different idea, it could be developed further. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt Bingo - it's the latter bit of having them come up with the idea and running with it. Which is how I handle puzzles, too. My solution is just one possible - if the players come up with something that works, then it should work. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 19:49

They want a way to wring the truth from one another, and I want to help them with that, RaW.

Frame challenge: Why? I've never played this adventure, but it seems like sowing mistrust among the party may be intended. Let it play out! There's real adventure there!

There never was any traitor, it was just clever misdirection from the Dark Lord, and manipulation to turn them on one another. At the same time, I don't want to, as a DM, just tell them "Yeah, you guys are fine, no worries". I would love if they could have a way to handle this on their own.

Right. If your style is impartial arbiter (which I argue, most DMs should at least strive toward), the last thing you want to do is spell it out for them. They will figure it out eventually, and hopefully have fun on the way!


You are not going to break trust unless you bend the rules. Be fair at all times and don't break rules for or against the party. If you establish yourself as an impartial arbiter, it isn't you they won't trust, it's the enemies, which they should!

What's fun is fun.

In your group, maybe that's not fun and they need or want things spelled out. Cater to your group. However, it is most likely that, even if uncomfortable, figuring this out for themselves will be a greater reward. Good luck!


If they don't trust each other, maybe they can trust someone else.

You have successfully built a narrative of distrust among the PCs, which while fun and engaging, can make it very difficult to break them of this distrust without an outside source.

An NPC the party trusts

If there is an NPC that the party trusts, maybe with some magic of their own or resources to gain information about Strahd, they could be a mediator. Even if they don't trust each other, they trust this NPC and will continue to work together for their sake. If they can gain information about Strahd, maybe have the NPC gain a scroll detailing some of Strahd's spies. Or a journal of Strahd's, gloating about his recent accomplishment in fooling those troublesome adventurers.

Find out from an Enemy

Give the party the opportunity to capture one of Strahd's minions. Preferably one close to Strahd, like an assassin of Strahd's. If the party can capture the minion, then it would simply take the party using magic (such as purchasing a scroll of Zone of Truth, Detect Thoughts, etc.) or beating it out of them to discover that Strahd fooled them. Again, either by the minion knowing or overhearing Strahd gloat about fooling them.

At the end of the day, since they don't trust each other, they will need confirmation from another that they can. Otherwise, it will just take actions, such as them saving each other, but that can take a lot of time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Barovia isn't exactly filled with trustworthy NPCs. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 17:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the PC's don't have a Zone of Truth to cast on each other, how do they have the spell to cast on the captured minion? \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Other's answers address that, like finding scrolls or using other spells like Detect Thoughts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then it would be helpful to put that information in your answer, not just take it for granted that it exists in another answer \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 18:24

Rock and a hard place

Unfortunately, all the really good spells that would help, Zone of Truth, Commune, and so forth, are purely in the realm of Cleric. And for those that aren't, no one is gaining a level to swap out spells.

There is a long shot...

Drop a couple of Detect Thoughts scrolls somewhere the party will find it.

For the duration, you can read the thoughts of certain creatures. When you cast the spell and as your action on each turn until the spell ends, you can focus your mind on any one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature you choose has an Intelligence of 3 or lower or doesn't speak any language, the creature is unaffected.

You initially learn the surface thoughts of the creature--what is most on its mind in that moment. As an action, you can either shift your attention to another creature's thoughts or attempt to probe deeper into the same creature's mind. If you probe deeper, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw. If it fails, you gain insight into its reasoning (if any), its emotional state, and something that looms large in its mind (such as something it worries over, loves, or hates). If it succeeds, the spell ends. Either way, the target knows that you are probing into its mind, and unless you shift your attention to another creature's thoughts, the creature can use its action on its turn to make an Intelligence check contested by your Intelligence check; if it succeeds, the spell ends.

Questions verbally directed at the target creature naturally shape the course of its thoughts, so this spell is particularly effective as part of an interrogation.

The wizard can scribe the spell from one scroll overnight into their spell book. Next day, they can quiz all the other party members and learn the truth.

But what about the Wizard? How do we trust them?

Since the spell is also available to Sorcerers, your Sorcerer can use the extra scroll(s) to quiz the Wizard without issue.

Last hurdles

There are two potential problems:

  • There is a saving throw so it may take some time to get all the party questioned. There is no limit to the number of tries (you're not immune to the spell, just this casting), so if someone saves, try detecting the thoughts of another character. Then try the first character with the next casting.
  • Will the party trust the results? Or are they too far down the rabbit hole?
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this. It may however open up a new avenue of mistrust...maybe there are two traitors in the party! \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 1:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro there are 6 traitors and there had been 7. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Apr 29, 2022 at 6:48

Is This Actually Impeding The Game?

It's very important you clear up with your players that they do not have to resolve whether there is or isn't a traitor, that this isn't a prerequisite to continuing the adventure. If you are okay with it then it's important you are clear that a little bit of intrigue is part of the fun of the game. You have to go into combat and explore with the added tension of betrayal.

This is a perfect example of the social pillar in the game, lots of games depend on players developing strategies to cope with untrustworthy elements. All the interesting concepts in Game Theory is all about trust between players who cannot necessarily trust each other.

Primarily... You need to impress on them that the best way the group could find a traitor is on the adventure as the logic is the traitor is distinct from the faithful by working for Strahd's interests. Only when you put Strahd's interests on the line can you weed out any traitor.

This requires bravery, this requires a calculated risk for a reward. This requires meta-intelligence of thinking about how someone thinks will affect how they act and how the traitor will be devising their own tests to find accomplices.

Ultimately... the goal is NOT to find a traitor who may or may not be there, but to prove that your group is free of traitors. Just less than half the members of the group may be traitors, finding a traitor proves nothing, there may be more traitors. You need to devise a test that does not find traitors but finds the faithful. A test that only a faithful person will pass is more valuable than one that might trap a traitor or might not.


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