Take something like Paranoia -- where each player has separate missions from their secret society, but also wants to accomplish the mission, but ALSO wants to kill the fellow players as much as possible. However, this game is just silly. It's fun and thoughtless.

I want to GM a game where different players have drastically different objectives and each player really has to decide for themselves who is worth trusting and who isn't. Take something like this:

  1. Player 1 is told he is going to work with 2, 3, and 4 to accomplish X.
  2. Player 2, 3, and 4 are told they are to help Player 1 do Y, which is SLIGHTLY different from X, and in fact violates X.
  3. Player 4 is told that he is really working with Player 1 to accomplish X, but he shouldn't let this on to 2 and 3.

The main themes here are deception, trust, and paranoia. Does anything spring to mind or would I have to write my own tabletop setting like someone with talent or something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The first game that comes to my mind is a well roll-played version of Diplomacy :) But it's not -really- an rpg. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Aug 15 '11 at 10:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just about any game could be adapted for this. This sounds alot like our Ravenloft campaign where we knew at some point we were going to have to kill each other off but we needed each other until we got to that point. \$\endgroup\$ – user2015 Aug 15 '11 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are MANY games designed to play like this. Start by looking at the big indie games outside of traditional publishing—that's where this kind of play is the norm, not the exception. Aramis' answer is a good place to start. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '11 at 18:06

Several settings come to mind... for a variety of different games... but, fundamentally, it's about party dynamic, NOT rules.

Several systems that provide mechanical support for such games include:

  • Burning Wheel
    (European Dark Ages through early Renaissance Fantasy; supplements for pre-shogunate Japanese, Dune, post-holocaust, and Vikings)
  • Burning Empires
    (Iron Empires setting - shattered big empire setting with wide variety of tech levels. Has been used for fantasy by some.)
  • Mouse Guard
    (Roughly early middle ages tech, but used by semi-antrhopomorphic mice in an almost realistic setting)
  • Fiasco
    (Modern things going bad during a crisis)
  • Houses of the Blooded
    (Fantasy; Supposedly pre-roman culture with late medieval tech.)
  • Blood and Honor
    (Fantasy shogunate Japan, but readily adaptable to historical Japan.)
  • Sorcerer
    (Modern occult, but supplements for fantasy and post-holocaust.)
  • Fate system games
    Diaspora, Spirit of the Century, Legends of Anglierre, Starblazer Adventures
    (Various settings. Weak recommend.)

It's a play-style issue, tho', so keep in mind that the above list are games with enforced play-styles. Mouse Guard is special, in that it highly rewards cooperation, but each character has explicit player-written goals for the mission, which need not match up. This has created in-party friction often, for good drama.

Burning Wheel and Burning Empires have multiple beliefs per character, and those can bring players into in-party conflict. Moreover, BE is strongly themed for two-sides at each other play from the get go, and over 4 players, some can be on the "GM's team"... especially since the GM has very little power in Burning Empires.

Most military games would provide a means as well - hidden orders from higher command need not be the same for all individuals; one might be a CID informer, one might have dual chains, like the S3 (Intelligence) officer might have conflicting hidden orders from G3, and the S4 (Supply) from G4... but in such a setting such orders must be low-key to not break the setting.

FATE is a special case. The system can, if the characters are set up right, support this strongly. It doesn't enforce it in setup, only once established in the outset. With the caveat that it only supports it in play if characters are built for it, it's a choice that can and does have mechanics which support and can encourage playing it that way.

Many point based games (GURPS, HERO, CORPS, EABA) have disads which can, if handled right by the GM, enforce this style of play, but they require that the players opt to take them AND the GM remember to reward them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me this a great list -- which, if any of them, are applicable to modern day plots? \$\endgroup\$ – Jeremy Aug 16 '11 at 2:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jeremy Fiasco and Sorcerer are both modern intended but extensible to non-modern; Houses of the Blooded is quasi-european medieval, while it's sister B&H is Feudal Japan. BW is Medieval, but can do a wide variety with reworked lifepaths; BE is almost the same system, but for sci-fi, tho it can be tech limited to moderns or even preindustrial fairly easily. Mouse Guard is mice with dark ages tech, but easily rethemed to a wide variety. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 16 '11 at 5:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and MG is related to both BW & BE, and probably fairly close to next year's Dark Crystal RPG. But be warned: MG isn't BW-lite... it's a system using the same approach to beliefs, the same dice mechanics, and the same rough meaning of given skill levels... but a lot differs, and catches players of both flat-footed from time to time. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 17 '11 at 6:31

First of Amber RPG based on Roger Joseph Zelazny series of books of the same title springs to mind. The "Thrown War" game is one of those where the ending is clear is sight but the way to get there is obfuscated. Many different plots can be made and the characters will themselves get their own plots going.

Secondly, the Toon RPG has many adventures were the characters are actively fighting against each other for comical effects.

Thirdly, Dune (Frank Herbert) has a d20 incarnation as an RPG. There are other fan created versions like this GURPS one for example. It could easily contain many different goals for each characters -- just have them from different houses, or branches of family, or Bene Gesserit and you are done.

Finally, any game featuring conspiracies can be adapted with ease to your requirements.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Dune has only a single official edition as an RPG. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 15 '11 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aramis, my bad, I thought there were more official ones than the d20. Post edited. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Aug 15 '11 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ The official one is LUG's Icon system; they never released the d20 version. The one clear knock-off is Jyhad, by Burning Wheel Headquarters. There were unofficial GURPS and CORPS settings dating back to the early 90's, but their quality was debatable. Fading Suns borrows a strong Dune vibe, but isn't Dune. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 16 '11 at 5:23

World of Darkness

You don't even have to go to indie games to find this. In mainstream games, pretty much any World of Darkness game would fit the bill. I'm not sure about New World of Darkness, but intra-party goal friction was one of the big deals of games like Vampire: The Masquerade.

Oh, and Cyberpunk games have this sort of thing all the time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree the settings are rife for it, the rules neither enforce nor particularly encourage in-party frictions. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 16 '11 at 5:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aramis - True, but the question was about settings. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Aug 16 '11 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ but in general, players play them as enforced by rules, not as written. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 16 '11 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aramis - a thousand times yes. System does matter! I love systems that reinforce or even dictate fictional elements. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Aug 16 '11 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Whenever we play WoD it is just like that … either the characters have concurrent motivation built in or it develops rather quickly. Same happens with Arcane Codex, Shadowrun, Cthulhu, Space Gothic, DSA and D&D. But Paranoia and all Fate (and some indies) adventures with builtin conflicts we tried never worked. Paranoia is always a lot of fun, but the intra-party friction never works. So, if one wants to have these elements a lot depends on the playstyles and dynamics of the group in question. \$\endgroup\$ – Valryne Mar 1 '14 at 14:51

Hot War and Cold City both would fit the ticket. Cold City takes place in 1950s Berlin with an Inter-Allied agency looking into all the "things" the Nazis left behind. Players work for the American, British, French, or Soviet governments so the differing allegiances is obvious. Hot War is nominally a sequel to Cold City taking place in a 1963 post-apocalyptic UK (London I think) after the cold war went hot. It uses a similar system to Cold City.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was just able to get a look at the PDF of Cold City. +1 is not enough! \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Aug 24 '11 at 0:50

I can't believe no one has mentioned Paranoia yet! It's fun and challenging: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoia_(role-playing_game)

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    \$\begingroup\$ The original question mentions Paranoia. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '11 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I see that now. Not sure how I missed it... :( \$\endgroup\$ – patrickgamer Sep 6 '11 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've done that before too! It's easy enough to get partway through the question, be struck by the perfect answer, and start composing an answer; easy enough that I knew I had to soften the comment with a smiley. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 6 '11 at 21:46

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