So, in one of the previous campaigns I played, I had a character whose own personal goals often ended up at odds with the rest of the party (who all agreed with each other). It was difficult to figure out how to try and complete those goals without everyone else wanting to beat my character senseless.

So I'm asking for ideas - what are some good ways for a character to achieve their goals when they run contrary to what the entire rest of the part wants?

Some examples of situations I'd like this to be applicable to:

  • A fighter is accepting payment/bribes from a third party, who wants the target of a rescue mission dead.
  • A druid who wants to stop the party from taking some action, due to prior experience. (Ex: We nearly set a forest on fire once. How would that druid discreetly prevent the group from taking similar actions, even though they all want to because it pays very well?)
  • A rogue who wants that universe's equivalent of the One Ring for themselves. (Yeah, I just saw The Hobbit. Shaddap.)

And so on...

EDIT: I figured that the alternative goal would pretty much always be known to the other players, but the methods used to achieve it would not be. I am generally against betrayal as well, and prefer the other players to at least know that this is a possibility. Failure out of left field is not fun.

My second example is pretty explicit in that even the characters know about this alternative goal, and would (presumably) assume that your character is just going along with them for the time being.

My original example that spawned this question was from DnD 3.5e, a Lawful Evil Cleric + Undetectable Alignment every single day + high Bluff, who rather failed in his subversive tactics, largely due to a lack of imagination on my part and general inexperience with RPGs. The other characters did not know his alignment, although out-of-character the players did.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You need to make it clear whether the other players know what's going on or not. It makes a big difference to the answer whether their ignorance is in-character-only or if it is intended to leave them ignorant both in and out of character. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JacobProffitt Added a note, but no, I don't imagine players being entirely ignorant \$\endgroup\$
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 4:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. That helps. I'd verify that beforehand, though, to be on the safe side. Party betrayal is serious ju-ju and not something you want to do without care. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 4:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also take a look at this question on in-party intrigue. It's from a GM point of view, but it's the same problem: how to have two different sets of goals in one party. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 17:43

4 Answers 4


First ensure group buy-in.

If anyone in the real-life group is unhappy about this, ditch the idea. Talk it out and see if there's something they're worried about that you can reassure them on, but this isn't worth a real-life schism.

Make sure you're in the right game.

D&D would have a hard time supporting this without eventually shafting someone. Paranoia is based on this concept. The Fate system could handle it nicely. Find a game system that will support your idea.

Have a goal.

Work with your GM (and your group) to come up with a coherent achievement that is your character's ulterior goal, so you have something to work toward. Otherwise you'll just be picking their pockets or licking their spoons or something.

Don't target another PC.

Your goal should encompass the entire group, or be unrelated to any of them and instead concerned with their actions. If you single out one character as the target of your secret life, either that PC's player will be unhappy or the rest of the group will be.

Be prepared for failure.

If the rest of the party legitimately catches you in-character, that's a great story: they rooted out the cause of their troubles and that's a win that you as a player helped make possible. Kudos all around, and when they discover your clandestine goal it'll probably bring in new story elements.

Celebrate with the group when they foil your plans: You're part of the group too.

Be prepared for success.

The party may be perceptive as a bag of rocks and your plan (sheer elegance in its simplicity) comes off without a hitch. Now what? Your goal shouldn't be a win condition like "kill the party." It should either be an ongoing thing (eg your druid example above; keeping the average party's collateral damage in check is a full-time job) or a means to an end (the fighter who wants the target of the rescue mission to die must have a reason, or his employer does; what happens after? Why was it important?).

Make the group happy you succeeded: Their story progresses! Interesting plots are afoot! They have things to do, places to go, people to shake down and villains to defeat!

Your next character helps the party.

To smooth over any potential hard feelings, I suggest that whatever the outcome, once your PC is no longer in the party (goal achieved, found out, etc), your next PC should be very much a team player who helps as they try to undo whatever damage your previous PC may have done.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for everything in this answer. Seriously, I can't pick out a single section of this that isn't very good advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 5:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 because I decided not to answer when I realised this already said almost everything I meant to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 17:42

This question has two different answers based on whether or not the other players are aware (out of character) of the betrayal (or the potential for such).

If they are aware and/or are explicitly okay with betrayal by party members, then I can't think of anything special you really need to do. Put your ducks in a row and work towards both goals (the party's goal and the secret, hidden goal) for as long as you can do so. When the time comes for you to betray them, pull the trigger and move on. Chances are that the setup for it will be spread over a number of sessions and you can pull the GM aside and set things up with his help at any time before the final act.

If the other players aren't aware of and/or explicitly okay with betrayal, then I'd say your best bet is not to do it at all. It's kind of a dick move, frankly—you're directly controverting the fundamental social contract of playing together. A party comes together much like any other team of disparate individuals who want to accomplish some greater goal. And that goes for both the PCs and the players. The players are there to have a good time. If that doesn't explicitly include the possibility of betrayal then you are looking to get your kicks at the expense of the others by robbing them of the victory their characters have worked so hard towards.


Note cards are your best friend. The subversive PC will have to make arrangements forthings to happen after the party achieves their goal, or at least leaves it off as though they did. It (should) leave the rest of the party in the dark if everyone uses note cards for mundane purposes anyway, or maybe just tell the DM (if you're not it) what the end goal is and what sort of action you are waiting to take and negotiate the rolls as needbe.

Poison the dude while your character is on watch, so he dies after he reaches the castle. Talk to nature on the back-burner and make the woodland critters defend their home "instinctively".


I have to agree with the people that say give it up, mostly because when members do this it ruins it for all. It also makes the game extremely silly, good guys helping bad guys because the players don't want to upset anyone, or people get pissed off and don't want to play. The DM should be told straight up if you have plans like this so he can either bitchslap it out of you or support it so it doesn't ruin the game. The only way it works is if the DM is in on it, it doesn't matter if the players are so much as the DM is. Let the DM handle the situation because they can usually find a way to achieve all goals easily in one way or another

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Thanks for your input, but please note that Izkata is asking how to achieve the goals, not whether the premise is sound (and the edit says everyone would know about it out of character). Maybe you could edit your answer to better fit the question? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 23:50

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