– Et tu, Brute?
The outcome of the betrayal was surprising for all involved, including myself. I am fairly certain the character defecting was a known quantity due to overly curious players from other tables and not so subtle hints between my players. How things played out was the surprising part.
The player was given a choice before hand of playing out his character’s betrayal or having the encounter occur with his character as a hostile NPC (and he could make a new character to bring in). He chose to play out the betrayal himself, which although was more work to coordinate, was more entertaining for all involved. As he stuck with his character, I gave the party a means to save the character and return him to the party.
Neither the character nor the situation warranted a solo encounter, so I worked the betrayal into the siege that was already underway.
The players were holed up in a thieves’ guild’s den of ill-repute and were awaiting the guild’s response to the brazen incursion on their territory.
The result of the skill challenge to secure the area allowed in two groups. The first group was mostly lackeys busting in the back door. They were a decent distraction. The second group came in from the sewer passageway disguised as allies. Our betrayer brazenly entered in the midst of the ensuing chaos as if to lend aid.
Much to their credit, the players stayed in character and played it straight. The enemies in the encounter weren’t overly vicious or aggressive, they were just dangerous enough to keep the party occupied, and that’s when the tables turned and the jaws dropped.
The betrayer, being a rogue, had been waiting for the ideal moment to strike, and when he had a shot at the back of the paladin leading the group, he struck with impunity. The betrayer levied his might into a single killing blow to the back! The bastion of iron and faith that was the paladin crumpled like an aluminum can in a single shot (daily attack power with sneak attack damage plus a weapon daily bonus) and the confidence of the characters’ survival went with it.
The shock of the paladin being felled in a single shot took the fight out of the party. They continued the encounter and fought against their former comrade to no avail. After the next character fell to a combination of bad luck and bad positioning, the outcome had been decided.
The party never had a chance to employ the device for redeeming their former comrade. The rogue and his fellow thieves burned the building behind them. The chapter closed suddenly and with finality.
Although a TPK (total party kill) occurred, the conclusion was appropriately dramatic, we didn’t have any player incidents, and we have an intriguing plot thread to revisit later. It is something the players are still talking about.
Should you decide to use a betrayal event in your game, I would offer the following advice:
Make certain the players understand the difference between character and player actions.
If possible, set up an “out” and make certain the options available are clearly understood.
If you want a fair fight, evaluate player resources and character composition thoroughly beforehand.