Mundus Novit: The Flick Got Switched

Do I need to use spoiler tags? I don’t think so. I don’t think talking about anything that happens in Dark Horizons requires spoiler tags. Why would you be reading this if you haven’t been reading that?

When last we left our heroes, they were being betrayed. One of the special operations team in Kathmandu betrayed the team. How bad is that betrayal? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Betrayal is another aspect of action/thriller adventures that don’t play so well in an actual game. Here’s the thing, either the betrayer or the betrayed will pretty much lose their characters–at least for the purposes of the game if those characters have not been outright killed. How fun is that? And this is on the assumption that everyone at the table is cool with the betrayal, something you might want to souse out before going down that road.

In a group in which the players are very comfortable with each other, real friends that have been playing together for years and may even see each other outside of the game, betrayal might be fine. With a new group, though, the GM may run into some troubles with a literal sense of betrayal among the players, even though the betrayal was virtual. Well, perhaps there was another betrayal.

Anyone who listens to me on the Accidental Survivors has heard the refrain: talk to your players. This is very important when courting the concept of internal betrayal. An important part of being a GM is retaining player trust. A lot of the conflict over rules and rulings at a table can be avoided when there is mutual trust and respect among the players and GM. If one is building that trust, and then does something to harm the players’ characters, in a way that the players may consider unfair, the players may consider the betrayal one of a literal nature by their GM as well as the virtual one.

So if you intend to run a game with a betrayal, maybe broach the subject with your players to make sure it won’t cause problems. Granted, the impact may be lessened if the crew are waiting for it, but it might foster a bit of paranoia that could have an interesting impact on the game, if you are careful to stop it from being too destructive. Paranoia in a thriller or espionage style game is healthy. One would expect the characters would be at least somewhat paranoid–excuse me, careful.

And then there is the who of the betrayal. It’s really only going to carry dramatic weight if it is someone unexpected, and that almost always means a player character . . . unless your players are all bastards, in which case the NPC might be the least suspected factor. And that means that either one player character is favoured–being the one to survive the betrayal and therefore becoming something of the centre of the following story–or hindered–the betraying character is removed from the game. In either case, the game cannot go on as before.

There is one type of game in which this is to be expected–the one-shot. Having a betrayal as the climax of a one-shot works great. In the case of pre-generated characters, it’s even easier to swallow since no one’s favourite character gets effected by the situation. This is a place in which the betrayal can best be savoured. Done well, it can be exceptionally memorable.

And, again, if you have a group that is comfortable with turns in the campaign like that, and don’t mind rolling up new characters, have at it.

But be careful. As one can expect, betrayal can bite one in the ass.

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