Betrayal: Player vs Player

Devious plans abound in the city.
A fly barrels headlong into the web.
Daggers strike the back they once protected.

I am gearing up for my game this week wherein one character has aligned himself with an organization directly against the interests of the party. Whether his intentions were malicious or merely naive, he is soon to be a significant obstacle of the malicious variety.
The situation in question deals with a fairly powerful thieves guild that has alliances with supernatural entities. The guild uses mental compulsion and mental blocks to protect it’s interests even from those that could be physically or magically compelled to betray them. The party has been battling with the guild directly and indirectly for a few sessions now, so the ramifications of the guild’s ‘insurance policy’ are clearly known by now. So I was surprised when a player decided not just to join them, but to submit himself to their initiation rituals and enchantments.
I took the player aside and we discussed his options. He is bent on challenging the party now, even if he only gets one shot in the dark.
There is still a chance to save the player from this fate, but they are slim and the outcome will see likely end in at least one funeral.
I am well aware that this can go a number of different ways, with disaster being a possible outcome, but betrayal rears its ugly head as often as it does because it is a compelling narrative theme. The question becomes how, not why.

How have you handled betrayal at your table?

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2 Responses to Betrayal: Player vs Player

  1. This is tricky but it can also be fun. If the betrayer understands that his character is most likely going to die (and if he doesn’t will surely be retired or become an NPC) and is OK with that, its a good starting point. The next is to make sure that when the betrayal takes place that the player emphasizes that its his character doing it (not the player) and that its completely OK for the rest of the party to act accordingly and that there’s no hard feelings.
    Finally as the DM you need to make sure that the betrayal won’t lead to any other PC deaths, even if it would be realistic. If someone loses a character due to another players actions that’s the sort of thing that can cause a ton of friction at the table and strain friendships.
    But like I said if you handle it well it can be really fun. Sudden betrayals are such a part of fantasy literature, video games, and movies that once people get over the sudden shock (and realize they have permission to take revenge) they’ll go along with the familiar narrative element.

  2. 4649matt says:

    Thanks for the comment!
    In our case the player was effectively already dead and it lead to a TPK.
    Fortunately, they understand it is just a game (with no save or load function).

    No disaster, and we had fun (once the shock passed).

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