Mole: n. A spy who achieves over a long period an important position within the security defenses of a country. =Sabatour

One of my friend saw me playing solo D&D on school (on my computer :p) and suddenly 4 people asking me to host a session of D&D and teach them. How cute.

I said that I don't have any campaign available to play. (I only play on internet), and then one of my friend (who turns out nice at D&D!) tells me to make one.

So I start making the concept of the campaign (single session), and I remember that my friends who asked me to host one is actually people who like "to stab in your back" in real life. (Name any high school betrayal that you can think), so I started to make my concept of the campaign.

I decided to loosely based on the TV Show "The Mole", but kinda twist it. In the show, people tries to get the money (or treasure on campaign), but the mole is trying to sabotage them so they failed and consequently, the money goes on the mole. I decided that in the climax, each of this PC will fight the PC who they think is the mole. I decided that the mole wins if he is the last PC standing, consequently, if the mole is killed in the climax, the survivor wins.

But there is something that I concern.

1 How do I pick the mole?

Should I tell them in advance that "My friend, you are the mole" or tell them to pick cards on D-Day, and find out their role.

2 Should I tell the campaign in advance?

In the TV Show Mole, the mole is tell in advance the "things" they will face in their game. Should I do the same? (Assuming in scenario 1 the answer is I tell them in advance? )

3 The climax doesn't feel right!

Really? They start gathering treasure and suddenly in the climax, they start killing each other? It just doesn't feel right? Any suggestion?

4 How my mole PC will sabotage the game?

Causing other PC to death is of course a fair game, but in what scenario, my mole will sabotage the game. I need to give my mole a motive, that while he still sabotage the game, but also on other hand, making sure that other PC still make it to the climax battle royale with the mole itself.

And finally, the most important question of all....

5 Who is the mole? Does anybody has experience playing in this game style?

Any advice will be precious, thank you.

Note: I told them I will do their best and If I can't host one, at least my other friend can host it using the campaign I write...


3 Answers 3


Don't do this. Especially not in 4e. Especially not with new players.

From a pedagogic (problem based learning) point of view, this is a horribly bad idea: you want your students to be focused on a single suite of tasks that they can slowly master into a single, unified, "playing D&D" task. By saying "oh, and someone's a traitor" the game will descend into paranoia: fine if that's your intention, but it will actively sabotage your learning goals.

I've tried running games and campaigns in this style. With good role players, working at slight odds to each other, I merely failed badly. It's quite possible to have the idea of treason be central to the theme of the game, especially if you're playing a political game with mechanics that support intra-party conflict. In 4e, there are no rules for PC versus PC conflict, and therefore, this is seriously unwise.

I in fact, played a "mole" (character turning NPC for reasons) in a 4e game. The deception managed to last half a session. Then we hauled out the solo NPC stats we had developed for him in the fight, and he was neatly trounced as one of the culminating battles of the chapter.

Your goal should be intentionally developed complexity, not accidental complexity. Learning the mechanics and basics of role playing is hard, especially when students aren't particularly motivated to read the huge variety of books and rely on personal instruction. Unless you have extremely well developed system mastery, just chunking the rules down to specific, masterable, tasks and providing feedback on those tasks will tax your skills quite heavily.

I urge you instead to have the group chip in for the red box and play through it a few times, with everyone alternating roles. Once you have some system mastery, then you can figure out what game it is that you want to experiment with next. Another useful route is to run that solo D&D game as a collaborative brainstorm. "What do we do next, what our our options?" While this deemphasisies the role-playing aspects, it does allow collaboration and explicit externalisation of ideas for how the mechanics of the game actually work. It's also a great lunchtime activity. (Treat it much like a chess puzzle.) You can then build on that framework by treating character building as homework, and running built characters through this known gauntlet.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I had a feeling that this idea was much better on paper than in real play. But if not even Brian, who I suppose is an accomplished GM, can't do it with experienced players, it's still far more difficult to pull off than I had thought. Listen to him. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will listen :) Just curiosity. If I "somehow" insisted to make a molish campaign, which system should I use? You said that due to the environment of the rule, executing this is simply horrible in e4. \$\endgroup\$
    – Realdeo
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 15:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for not in 4e. This could absolutely work in a different system, but even then new players might be a problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 16:39
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ @Realdeo: The "obvious" system choice would be Paranoia. Although it isn't really designed for campaigns with just one mole... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Realdeo I second Paranoia as the system of choice for this sort of thing. Note that it has mechanics designed to make betrayal hilarious instead of frustrating: It makes the pain of being betrayed limited and temporary; And the primary PvP challenge is trying to discover the secrets of other players that would allow you to justify backstabbing them to the authorities while keeping your own set of secrets hidden, instead of a round of who-has-the-better-dice-rolls. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 6:02
  1. Be Explicit. This concept does not work without mistrust and suspicion. People should be aware that there is a mole in their ranks. In this case, I would actually advise something I don't normally - make it artificial. This is a game show (or the planar equivalent), or the new entertainment for a powerful wizard - stock a dungeon with low level threats, and get weak adventurers to fight through it with one of them backstabbing the others, and Resurrections all-round (or not, to make it a bit darker) after the 'show' is 'finished'.
  2. Do not use in-game dice rolls to allow people to identify the Mole. It will both allow people to metagame about who is rolling dice, and a bad roll might identify the mole in the first instance to everyone. That is a terrible outcome for this game which hinges on the mole screwing the party. Instead, take a page from games like 'heads down thumbs up' or 'mafia' and have EVERYONE write you a note before each encounter, with whatever they like on it. The Mole will write you a note detailing how they screw over the party in that fight (announce what the fights are beforehand, think 'game show'), and you can roll secretly for how well they do. Allow non-moles to put in their actions who they watch and try to screw up, hoping to screw up the anti-group actions of the Mole (but don't allow such actions to reveal the Mole, rather use them to sow dissent and suspicion - Jim says he screwed up Molly's spell because he thought she was the Mole, but she thinks HE is the mole now).
  3. Combine real dungeon-crawling with the actions of the Mole. So things like traps, avoiding terrain features (lava flows, chasms, sneaking past monsters) should very much be a feature (and watching the mole twist them to the mole's advantage will be wonderful) so you show off the best parts of DnD alongside your Mole idea.
  4. At the end, make it a fight not between individuals, but the group as a whole. They have to kill the mole at the end, or no-one gets any treasure. The mole needs them all to be dead, or the mole gets no treasure. So they can only progress to the end if they are sure the mole is dead. Otherwise it might be 'last man standing'.
  5. Pick the person to be the Mole well. Choose someone devious and intelligent, the kind of person who stands out of the group, to be the mole. Give no sign, in thought or deed, that that person is the mole. Your ability to give no clue by your demeanour will be paramount.
  6. Afterwards, have the mole explain the stuff they did. This will become an Epic Storytime if done right.

Note: This stuff is for a single session gameshow like game. For a long term mole in a realistic campaign, it is very different and more like a real spy thriller.


I once hosted kind of reverse theme: The PCs were from different warring factions. Resulting conflict was all too obvious. However, I didn't want the single most experienced player to smash all the inexperienced in the first setting of the campaign.

So I made

  • all PCs "moles",
  • told each of them in-game that they are all moles
  • and "should make use of each other as long as they are useful",
  • and set them up against another faction they had all infiltrated.

You get what you asked for by removing the reason they were useful to each other at the end of the campaign.

In-game details for my campaign can be summed up:

  • The PCs worked for a minor noble in a corrupted kingdom, entered his service, were hired by one of his subordinates (each individually by another subordinate, who had different responsibilities; e.g. the noble's personal guard, personal mage, ...)
  • A medium noble called for service from his subordinates (including the minor noble) to claim a legendary magical item for presenting it to the king (he wanted to endear himself to make progress in the ever-changing hierarchy)
  • The minor noble planned to thwart the attempt by repacing the magical item with a cheap duplicate (endearing himself when revealing the medium noble as a fraud)
  • The PCs were ordered by the minor noble to do the dirty work (indirectly through their supervisors)
  • The minor noble was well aware of all the PCs having their own reasons for wanting to thwart the attempt at claiming the legendary item for the king of the corrupted land (as they were all moles, which he indirectly made known to each of them to keep them from ganging up against himself)

Note the complicated hierarchy that can be used to balance the players against each other. If a player wants to kill any of the others ahead of time, he would be called off by his direct superior, but could be ordered to do what he originally intended by the noble when the time is right.

The players could also try to leverage the hierarchy by telling the noble of too ambitious plans from any of their supervisors. Whether those plans and potential evidence is made up or real does not matter in this set up. This is particularly great for PCs with the social skills required to fool even the perceptive (and confident about this) minor noble. If you can successfully lie to him, it's as good as evidence. If you fail lying, he may still choose to act in your favor only to leverage your secret known to him.

As I said, I used this set up to keep the players from each others throat. But it can also be used to turn them against each other. My advice is playing openly with the players pretending that everything goes according to the greater plan of minor noble:

The players want to sack him? Great, but he has (produced) evidence that they were fooled by medium noble.

The players insist on sacking him? Ok, but in the meantime he has found that they produced evidence of them being fooled by medium noble, which in turn is evidence that they are moles and need to be disposed off.

The players fail and are detected at sabotage? What a pity but you do know that they were hired and ordered by mere subordinates? Obviously their supervisors acted on their own accord. They might've even tricked the PCs to discredit the minor noble! Isn't it? (Hand over produced evidence to PCs secretly) See? The PCs agree they were tricked. They even did not fail at all but were loyal to the country. They are rewarded by not only letting them escape punishment but keeping them in service. Their supervisors? Oh guess what, minor noble has leverage to have them confess of tricking the PCs (on behalf of medium noble).

Of course this only works because minor noble is more resourceful than medium noble and thus useful to the king. If he wouldn't be, such blatant lies would not be tolerated.


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