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Subject: Members of Role Playing Group Betrays rest of group. What do you do? rss

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Jerbear
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SPOILERS ABOUT CURSE OF STRAHD D&D Campiagn. I try to keep it vague, but as you will see I can't completely.

So I have been the DM of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for the last year. This has less to do with D&D and more about group dynamics which is why I am posting here.


We started a new campaign set in Ravenloft and running through the Curse of Strahd module. The group consisted of 3 players that have been gaming together for 10 years. This is me, my wife (Mazakeen) and a friend (Tourqemada). We were joined by two newer players. (Gardon and Paeleus). About 2 months ago we had one more player join us. (Zihiv)

At the outset of the campaign there was a discussion about Tourqumada playing as an evil character. It was decided that it wouldn't work very well.

Through out the campaign things went very well. The group dynamics were really good, everyone worked together and everybody seemed to have a lot of fun. A few months ago as a DM I made a mistake of pushing the characters to do something that went against their characters. They ran into a group of Undead, but the Undead tried to talk to them and convinced all but Paeleus to leave them alone. He passionately explained how what we were doing didn't make any sense. As a DM I was pushed them that way because they could destroy them, but the storyline is cooler if they take some actions later on that save the undead instead of killing them. Paeleus also took issue with Gardons character. He is playing a Paladin, but often acted more like a straight fighter without much regard for justice and holiness. The guy playing him has never played Dnd before and I figured it didn't matter that much.

After that the characters got involved in
Spoiler (click to reveal)
a place that allows characters to gain significant powers without knowing what the drawback with be. In addition for gaining something good they gained something bad along with it. One character gain super human strength, but gained a flaw that turned into a bully. Another got +30 Hit points, but their whole body grew thick oily hair. In addition to that they had to make saving through that if failed made the characters evil.


After that we had a party as follows:

Paeleus never tried to gain powers doesn't know about the other characters evil or possibility of that.

Gordon gain some powers. Made saves doesn't know about evil.

Zihiv never tried to gain powers doesn't know about the other characters evil or possibility of that.

Torquemada - Now evil and super strength.

Mazakeen - Now evil and + hit points.

The module gives the players/dm a choice. Continue playing with the evil characters or NPC them and make new ones. The three of us (who also happen to be the ones that have played together for a very long time.) decide to allow the characters keep playing. We discussed why would the Evil characters continue to stay with the party. What are their motivations. Both decide that They are trapped in Ravenloft the only way to get out is to kill Stradh. The best chance of making that happen is stay with the party and take him down as a group. Tourqumada wants to set himself up as ruler of Ravenloft after removing Stradh. Mazakeen wants to take the valuable items the party has gained and try to return to her home world.

That was three months ago and since then we never really discussed it.

Last week we came to the end of the campaign. We have already decided that Paeleus is going to run the next campaign. We have all made new characters and we plan on ending Ravenloft and starting then new campaign tonight.

The party hunted down Strahd and killed him. The party is at the end of their limits. They used their spells many are at low hit points. As the party attempts to leave Castle Ravenloft, Tourqemada sneaks behind Zihiv and backstabs him. HE ends up doing almost no damage and Zihiv dimension doors away. Mazakeen attacks Paeleus and drops him in one attack. Gardon tries to stop them but is overpowered by the two players.


Now I imagine you can see where this is going:
At this point the player playing Paeleus gets really upset. This is stupid. Why are you doing this? I say ok lets call the campaign there and describe why you are doing what you did? We explain that they have been evil and are now trying to set themselves up as leaders of Barovia and the party is a problem that could stop them.

He gets really Mad raises voice and goes down a list of how it is stupid, that we are all mean, we have plotted behind his back, we (the actual people playing not characters) have betrayed him. He would never do something like that and we have hurt him and he doesn't want to play with us anymore. He packs up his stuff. We try to explain to him our reasonings and he won't listen to us. He leaves. I text him later that evening and he responds that he has felt an outsider in the group and that now he knows why. We have been plotting against him for months and were willing to hurt him to get some entertainment. That we are supposed to be telling a story as a group and instead it was all about one character. I tried to explain that something happened in game we tried to roll with it and play it out as is. It was never intended as a slight on any one player (and it wasn't, they attacked everyone not just him.) The other two Betrayed players said they didn't really like it, but understood it and didn't think it was that big of a deal.

Paeleus said we ruined the last year of role playing took his ability to enjoy and participate in the ending and we didn't take a moment to consider his feelings. I personally did think that, of all our players he would be the one that wouldn't like it, but I never considered how much he would be upset. To me there is in game and out of game and those things aren't related, but in retrospect I see that isn't the case for him.

If I could go back and not do it I would. But I can't.

It feels like he overreacted, but maybe I am being callous.

I am posting this to put myself out there and see if I can get some other people reactions maybe have a better understanding of Paeleus' side of things. Maybe I am looking for vindication on my part.

What do you think? Are we assholes? Is he overreacting? Were we unfair? I see now the best thing would have been kill off those characters when they turned evil, but I really never thought anyone would react like this.


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Llyranor Ilfarath
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It's a roleplaying game, you roleplayed. Seems like the players had different expectations of what it entailed and Paeleus wanted it only as a coop RPG (which is fair enough). Taking it personally seems a bit much, though.
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Scott Johanson
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Some gamers are unable to or do not want to separate what happens in the game with real life. Those players will not handle an in game betrayal well, under nearly any circumstances.

If you want to run campaigns that include potentially deadly intra-party dynamics, you need to:

1) Make sure that all players know and understand this ahead of time
2) Make sure that despite 1) above, you are playing with players that can actually handle a party split/betrayal.

As an example, I've got a player that enjoys playing evil - as long as evil is only applied to NPC's. The player does not handle in game roleplay betrayal well at all; when playing an Evil group, the player gets upset when PC's roleplay and act their alignment to other members of the group.

I tend to run a sandbox world (whether or not there is a plot for a particular campaign), so this kind of metagaming is not my favorite - we don't do evil parties anymore, because, to me, an evil party that doesn't betray each other is just a good party able to exploit NPCs as game objects, which isn't really roleplaying in my eyes.
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Per Glöde
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Not only wrong forum, not only wrong subdomain, but wrong altogether. See "RPGs".
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Bill Cook
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My first thought: Don't invite Paeleus to a game of Diplomacy.

Rollplaying always risks getting outside the game. It's a shame this happened, but trying to take sides or assign blame is pointless. It happened. Move on.
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Dustin Taylor
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sounds like someone needs a diaper change
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PJ Cunningham
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My gut says your friend overreacted, particularly since this was the final session of the campaign. However, I get a sense from your description that there had been interpersonal problems between players for some time, and this just happened to be the tipping point.

PvP is one of those hot button issues that should be discussed and decided on as a group. Any player who feels it is a red line should make this clear at the outset. (Paeleus may have believed that the decision at the start of the game not to have an Evil PC in the group had settled the issue, but clearly it hadn't.)

Other issues that merit discussion before play include depiction of graphic content (torture, sexual assault, excessive gore, slavery, etc), how much control players have over their characters' fate, how serious/silly the game will be, etc.

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Quantum Jack
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This is a difficult problem. There are many discussions of a game's magic circle. That is the implicit agreement about the scope and goals of the game.

Sometimes if is worth it to have an explicit agreement instead. Because what I assume is included in the magic circle may include things you think are outside of it.

Personally, I like the possibility of betrayal in the context of a RPG. It makes the group dynamics more interesting.

But if you entered a group thinking that the goal is to build a cooperative heroic story, a betrayal in game can feel like a betrayal in the real world.

If you value this person's friendship I would suggest sitting down and discussing this concept and how the situation came about because of a fundamental assumption that each person brings to the table. If you continue to game with them, make sure you agree on where the line is.

But communication via text leaves out a ton of subtlety and can come across cold and dismissive. Has to be in person.
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John Burt
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It's obvious that you did not sufficiently talk through the implications of keeping the evil characters, especially with new players in the group. That is on the more experienced core players: never assume that outsiders will understand or agree with your groupthink.

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Shawn Harriman
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You blew it as a DM. It is the toughest role to have. I have been there. Role playing is a psychological meta game while attempting to create a story by actions. Running multiple players is not easy.

You as the DM need to be on top of all your players personalities before you start playing players against each other.

I have played with the same role playing group for 20+ years and through many kinds of games. Over those years I have learned what you attempted is one of the riskiest for the group of players. Betrayal in game is tricky to not have emotional bleed over into the players heads.

I have also been the guy the party is plotting against, it sucks. The DM in my situation kept me informed enough I knew the players really had no choice and I was not singled out, I just happened to be the honest merchant (thief) of the party. One of the party members working against my character was a paladin with a thief slayer holy swordsurprise. We are still friends and play together still. It can work but the strength of our friendship and experience of the DM is really what made it work.

I thought your post was going to be about players betraying the party (and the game) by killing the campaign.

I had a player in a traveler campaign decide he didn't want to play with our group any more. He devised a plan to strand the party on a primitive planet, take the parties ship and end the game. Luckily the engineer quietly stayed on board when the rest of the party went out to the surface. When the pilot tried to get the engines up and take off the engineer dropped the power to the engines, grabbed his shotgun and took out the pilot.
There was some tension after that firefight.
"why did you do that?"
"I am kinda sick of you guys and decided it would be a fun exit."

When you allow people to express themselves in a no consequence scenario sometimes you can be surprised.

Good luck, take it as a lesson and move on.
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B C Z
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Syvanis wrote:
At the outset of the campaign there was a discussion about Tourqumada playing as an evil character. It was decided that it wouldn't work very well.


You made a group decision with all of the PLAYERS.

Quote:

Stuff happens...

Torquemada - Now evil and super strength.

Mazakeen - Now evil and + hit points.


Which then changed due to in-game events.

Quote:
The module gives the players/dm a choice. Continue playing with the evil characters or NPC them and make new ones. The three of us (who also happen to be the ones that have played together for a very long time.) decide to allow the characters keep playing.


And then a SUBSET of the group went against the original decision and chose poorly.

Quote:
We discussed why would the Evil characters continue to stay with the party. What are their motivations. Both decide that They are trapped in Ravenloft the only way to get out is to kill Stradh. The best chance of making that happen is stay with the party and take him down as a group. Tourqumada wants to set himself up as ruler of Ravenloft after removing Stradh. Mazakeen wants to take the valuable items the party has gained and try to return to her home world.


Again, a SUBSET of the group went against the full group's decision and expectation.

Quote:
That was three months ago and since then we never really discussed it.


Why would you, it was a secret cabal decision that was against the decision of the group.

Quote:
We explain that they have been evil and are now trying to set themselves up as leaders of Barovia and the party is a problem that could stop them.


Too late. Those characters should have been NPC'd.

Quote:
we have plotted behind his back, we (the actual people playing not characters) have betrayed him.


Yes, you did.

Quote:
he doesn't want to play with us anymore.


I wouldn't either.

Quote:
We have been plotting against him for months and were willing to hurt him to get some entertainment. That we are supposed to be telling a story as a group and instead it was all about one character.


By your admission, yes, you plotted months ago.

Quote:
Paeleus said we ruined the last year of role playing took his ability to enjoy and participate in the ending and we didn't take a moment to consider his feelings.


You did ruin his expected fun, and you didn't consider him or his feelings.

Quote:
To me there is in game and out of game and those things aren't related, but in retrospect I see that isn't the case for him.


A line crossed when 3 PLAYERS made a decision about their CHARACTERS.

Quote:
It feels like he overreacted, but maybe I am being callous.


You are being selfish.

Quote:
Maybe I am looking for vindication on my part.


You are.

Quote:
What do you think? Are we assholes?


Yes.

Quote:
Is he overreacting?


No.

Quote:
Were we unfair?


Yes.

Quote:
I see now the best thing would have been kill off those characters when they turned evil, but I really never thought anyone would react like this.


Hindsight is 20/20.
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Yeah, I'd say you didn’t do anything really wrong. Paeleus definitely overreacted and is being a big damn baby about it.

If anything he’s the one being the asshole here and owes you and the group an apology for his behavior. If he can't put on his big boy pants and admit he's wrong then you're better off without him.
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Ryan Feathers
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I think you made a mistake. The guy is overreacting a little bit, but if I'm having to lay blame for how this situation arouse, it's mostly on you(being the DM).

Reasoning being largely what others are pointing out above--it would seem you all agreed at the start of the campaign that evil characters wouldn't be allowed. Personally when I play DnD I prefer things to be that way--largely playing it as a cooperative game of the players versus the challenges that are coming up.

Changing that so it can be something else would be jarring to me, and I'd be pretty upset at knowing I had been playing a game for months where the other players were planning to attack me. For what it's worth I do play and love Diplomacy and have no issue with that type of set up there--because I go in knowing full well where things are headed. It's almost a guarantee I'd be betrayed.

Ultimately in this scenario it sounds like one player was very surprised not only that those character did what they did, but that they could at all--given the group and campaign seemed to have made an agreement that you wouldn't play that way. Without knowing exactly how much you discussed and laid out those ground rules I don't know, and that's why I say there may be a bit of an overreaction going on here too--but if I was at your table I'd probably be fairly annoyed and be voicing my displeasure over the situation.

Which is in the end a great lesson--make sure to lay these things out ahead of time. ironregime's comment above is right on with how you should set ground rules around certain things.
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Pete
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If you want people to roleplay, they're going to do some strange things.

I was playing an RPGA event once in which a player (whom he did not know) basically tried to turn the rest of the party in to the main enemy in exchange for sparing his own character's neck. The GM naturally turned that into a total party kill. What are you going to do?

Pete (made up a new character)
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Joe Preiser
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spunXtain wrote:
sounds like someone needs a diaper change


Yup.
It's a game folks. This kind of thing keeps it fresh. Been done to me and I've done it to others.
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Wim van Gruisen
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I think that you are dicks.

RPGs are shared storytelling. To me one of the requisits of a successful session is that everyone has fun. And IMHO making sure that this is so is not only the responsibility of the GM, but of everyone at the table.

Given that, how did you guys ever think that killing off one PC, and attacking a couple of others, would ever accomplish the goal of everyone having fun?
What makes it worse, IMHO, is that it was the original cabal of players (including the GM) who conspired to attack the people who were new in the group. That at least suggests that this action goes beyond the PCs and into the realm of the players.

And an aside, this is why I consider the morality model in D&D flawed. If you are evil, it is OK to randomly attack fellow PCs, just for the ‘fun’ of it - I find it a ridiculous idea that is totally devoid of reality.

Edit: added ‘original’.
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Reiji Kobayashi
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Syvanis wrote:
After that we had a party as follows:

Paeleus never tried to gain powers; doesn't know about the other characters' evil or possibility of that.

Gordon gained some powers. Made saves; doesn't know about evil.

Zihiv never tried to gain powers; doesn't know about the other characters' evil or possibility of that.

Torquemada - Now evil and super strength.

Mazakeen - Now evil and + hit points.
(The parts I find problematic italicized)

I would say you as the DM made the mistake of not separating player knowledge and character knowledge. At the very least, you should have hinted that people who went "there" sometimes changed for the worse.
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Rich M
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I think the guy needs more interests outside of gaming. He is taking this way to serious.
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David Sumner
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To me the fault lies with the DM. If there was agreement beforehand not to allow evil characters, to allow them later on without notice to those who weren't changed was a significant change in rules. I would be upset at not being able to at least vote on the issue mid campaign let alone not even know and then to be the victim of a party attack.

If I knew that one or more of the party members could be evil, I would potentially play much differently.

I think an apology is warranted. This player may not ever game with you which is what it is but as a DM I think it is a great lesson. Being a DM is a very difficult job and sometimes mistakes happen.
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Ren
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He reacted poorly but I find it telling that the only people who knew about some characters turning evil were the original trio of the DM and his wife and friend. Personally I like the possibility of betrayal in a RPG because it keeps the story more dynamic but it needs to be clear to all players from the beginning. It doesn't seem as if that was the case.

The DM fucked up by not allowing evil characters in the beginning and then introducing an event that had the potential to turn some characters evil without the other players knowing that the status quo had changed. An RPG is based on shared ruleset and shared assumptions, if you change the rules mid-game without informing all players you shouldn't be surprised if they feel betrayed.
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Quantum Jack
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Can't the paladin always detect evil? Or did that change through the addition.
 
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Whymme wrote:
What makes it worse, IMHO, is that it was the cabal of players (including the GM) who conspired to attack the people who were new in the group.


Please quote to me the section where OP said DM conspired with some players to attack other players. OP says that evil PCs attacked non-evil PCs, that doesn't require DM conspiring, that's players just declaring an attack, probably with surprise. It's not even fair to call it conspiring to attack if DM did know about it since it sounds more like one player's plan that other agreed to and then DM got informed. DM's only other option once the characters are evil is saying "no" but if they're not allowed to act evil, what's the point of having them evil?

Syvanis wrote:
snip


I think you did fine. Evil players did fine. Allowing the evilness to arise, part of the module (might not have been playtested, evidently a lot of modules weren't in the past, don't know if that's true still), still fine. Lovely twist ending, more personal than the The Mist film, and a little more personal than Diablo since I played that game and the sequel a couple of years ago. A tragedy for the good PCs that probably does taste bitter but Paeleus's reaction looks OTT and disproportionate to the events as described which are really look to be in the best spirit of gothic horror. The big bad evil guy is killed by a few little peons who rose to power, a couple of whom had the ambition to replace him. That's classical story telling. Why didn't the designers include a note like this: if this is your whole campaign have one PC be secretly evil with aims to replace Strahd.

Randomly, two PCs turned evil and were then played in accord with that. That's not them betraying the players, that's them having their PCs betray the rest of the party. The dice were rolled and people followed the results, like I believe you attempted to explain. If Paeleus can't see that, ouch, poor guy, sorry he's upset but it's not your fault.

To save hurt feelings I think if more than one player turned evil and I didn't think they could all play evil well I'd dump all the evil guys. But even in light of learning about this unexpected over-reaction, were I running the campaign I'd allow the evil characters to stay because the behaviour described here comes out of left field.
 
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Quantum_Jack wrote:
Can't the paladin always detect evil? Or did that change through the addition.


In 5e there is no paladin detect evil, there's divine sense which detects celestials/fiends, undead and consecrated/desecrated things.
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When I first started playing D&D, my character has betrayed members of the party before in ways that affected other players' ability to enjoy the game. It may have been the right choice narratively, but in retrospect it was a poor choice for me to make as a player.
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devilsadvoc8 wrote:
To me the fault lies with the DM. If there was agreement beforehand not to allow evil characters, to allow them later on without notice to those who weren't changed was a significant change in rules.


DM: Uh guys, you remember that no evil PCs rule--it no longer applies.

PCs instantly: Which one of you meatheads is now playing evil?

Ruins the surprise the module set up.

devilsadvoc8 wrote:
I think an apology is warranted.


Indeed, the player should apologise to the DM and the other players for his outburst and his irrational accusations of betrayal, that's rather a hurtful thing to have done which is why OP is here trying to understand what happened.
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