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I'm running a Star Wars RPG campaign. One of the characters is a Force user who has recently acquired a mentor to teach her more about the Force. That mentor - an NPC - exists and is a physical character who has accompanied the party, but has a habit of making herself scarce for long periods of time.

The rest of the party will not, then, be surprised that I don't mention the mentor. As far as they're concerned, she's just disappeared as usual. However, her student will still see her - as far as the PC is concerned, she's there as normal.

I want the party to be working on different assumptions - the Force user believing her mentor is accompanying them as usual, the others wondering why she's talking to herself. I'll be handling the student/mentor conversation in a separate chat and simply not mentioning her to the other players, but how can I maximise the effect and spin it out for as long as possible before they twig?

I'm running the campaign over Skype and Roll20, if that makes a difference.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be easier to get an answer if you were to say, to us here, exactly how this is occurring. Is the mentor actually communicating, or is the PC hallucinating? Is the mentor a 'force-ghost'? \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Apr 8 '17 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, sometimes it's visible and interactive to all, and sometimes only to one PC, and it will switch occasionally? Or does it begin visible to all but then something happened and now it will only be visible to one? \$\endgroup\$ – Longspeak Apr 8 '17 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ The mentor is visible to the others when she's actually present - she is alive and well - but during this excursion she's absent and projecting herself into the student's mind. Similar to a Force Ghost, but not dead or glowing. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Perry Apr 8 '17 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewPerry It's relevant because there's multiple possible ways to tackle this, some of which might work counter to some goals. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 8 '17 at 22:54
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Obviously, If you do this the way you've described, the party will figure out what's going on in about five seconds. To prevent this, there's a number of different issues you need to tackle, so let's go through those before discussing solutions. (I'll assign your actors psudonyms for ease of reference: Your force user with the mentor is "Urist McPadawan," the other party members are "Johnny and the Castaways," and the absent, projecting mentor is "ForceMaster32." We good? Good.)

So, like I was saying, if you tell Johnny and the Castaways that Urist McPadawan is talking to himself, they'll start investigating immediately, because that's what players do when they spot an obvious plothook. They'll probably start by asking Urist who he's talking to, and Urist will waste no time asking ForceMaster32 why this is happening.

If you don't mention that Urist is talking to himself, your players will later want to know why; Players expect to be told about things that are blindingly obvious, unusual, and potentially relevant their survival. Also, the minute your players start planning or getting tactical, they'll start either incorporating or ignoring ForceMaster32 in their plans, and will discover the discrepancy in their perceptions anyway. On that note, if you use roll20's combat grid, the presence/absence of the mentor from the combat will tip your players off pretty quick. It won't be long before Johnny pops the obvious question, and the whole thing falls apart.

You'll need to come at this from a number of different angles. Here's some possibilities for you to mix and match:

  • Make Urist McPadawan's conversation with ForceMaster32 look less obvious than someone talking to himself on the subway. One easy way to do this would be to make Urist's half of the conversation also take place inside his head, but be prepared for your players wanting that force power eventually; Silent telepathic communication is one of those things players get a lot of use out of.
  • Come up with a reason why Johnny and the Castaways aren't able to see Urist McPadawan talking to himself. One option is to split the party, but this has well-documented downsides. Another would be to give Urist the Expanded Universe equivalent of a Bluetooth headset, but then you'll need to convince Urist to wear it without explaining why, which might be tricky.
  • Prevent or discourage Johnny and the Castaways from investigating why Urist is talking to himself. This is almost impossible if Johnny and the Castaways and Urist McPadawan can freely communicate, but constantly interrupting them or splitting the party could both potentially work.
  • Prevent Urist McPadawan from noticing ForceMaster32 isn't contributing much. If ForceMaster32 is in the habit of being useless already, this will be easy, but if she's normally throwing force powers around with aplomb, you'll need an excuse for why she isn't doing it today. (Alternatively, if you let her do things while remote projecting, you'll need an excuse for why she doesn't just work from home all the time.)
  • Prevent Johnny and the Castaways and Urist McPadawan from noticing the other keeps weirdly assuming that ForceMaster32 is/isn't present during planning and discussions. This is going to be hard, but splitting the party might work.
  • Prevent your player characters from simply asking ForceMaster32 what's going on when they're not all on the same page. This could allow you to maintain some of the mystery even after the discrepancy is discovered. If Forcemaster32 is in the habit of lying or being annoyingly cryptic, this might be easy; Otherwise, you'll need to manufacture some reason why ForceMaster32 can't tell the party right now... Such as being suddenly very busy trying not to die.

My recommended solution, though, is this one:

  • Let one or both sides into the ruse, either in or out of character. Honestly, your plan will be a lot easier if the player in control of Urist McPadawan knows his character is operating under a false assumption, or if Urist McPadawan knows that he should duck away from the party for a moment if he want to talk to ForceUser32 without seeming crazy. Alaternatively, you could just let both sides know there's a weird discrepancy in their perceptions of realiy, and let them have fun playing that out. (One of my favorite sessions ever involved an invisible demon telepathically talking to one party member at a time; The players had great fun discussing what was going on both in- and out-of-character.) I don't know if your table goes in for those styles of play, though.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Urist, unfortunately, has a habit of metagaming, so after a talking-to had little effect I've had to work on the principle that the player gets no more information than the character. FM32 tends to be there when it suits her purposes, so they're all used to her suddenly not being there - it also means Urist won't be surprised that her contributions are indirect rather than direct. Might use a variation on your first tip - partly making it less obvious (maybe making a joke of it - "Urist sits talking to herself in the corner again... what about the rest of you?" - using the player's usual \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Perry Apr 9 '17 at 23:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...erratic approach to downplay it) and blending that with silent telepathy. FM32 has been established as not being represented on the map anyway, so they won't expect to see her there. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Perry Apr 9 '17 at 23:06

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