In RPGs is it ever good to act to the detriment of the group?

Tabletop RPGs, that is. I was playing Fiasco, and one of the things I find novel is that there’s no real goal to the game, no trying to win. You’re supposed to continue the story, making things go badly or well for your character as it serves the story. If the entire game doesn’t end up with everyone or almost everyone dead or in a horrid state, you probably did it wrong.

This got me thinking about D&D (and similar). Everybody seems to have a story where Jesse the Thief stole Wanda the Mage’s staff at the wrong time, or the evil party member wished to a genie they found for the rest of the party to die. A lot of time it’s people being stupid, but is it ever good to act against the group?

Generally the games are co-op, so it seems out of place. The only way I can see making it work is if all or most of the players are on board with a party member potentially dying due to chronic backstabbing disorder. But I’m not sure, what do you guys think?

This is, of course, a question about games like D&D, not games like Paranoia where everybody is kind of supposed to be trying to kill everyone else.

It’s good if it’s interesting or if it makes a good story. It’s bad if it makes the players less willing to play with each other.

One of my RPG-pals is an absolute jerk, but he had a character who was an amazing stroke of genius: a psychotic mage and a sadistic warrior (both of them were also the kind of guy who won’t sell his mother into slavery if he can get more out of renting her by the quarter hour) had been merged by a curse and they needed to “behave” for the curse to break. The mage didn’t want it to break; the warrior was dominant most of the time - most.

The group didn’t know about the merger, they thought this was a “basic warrior” type; not even one with a good grasp of tactics or anything like that, just the kind of guy who gets to wear chainmail, hoist a sword and run errands for the people in robes and/or fancier armor.

Between the occasional zap of magic which nobody could see where the hell it had come from; the times when he/they were sent on an errand which got completely mangled but in a way attributable to bad luck and/or incompetence on the part of others… having him around gave the GMs more mileage than any other three of us together.

Well, *Paranoia *is of course entirely focused on the party screwing each other from the get go (and it’s a game with nuclear grenades, so… :)) ; but on a more “serious” front White Wolf’s games set in their World of Darkness can, if the DM so desires, be run more as featuring a number of individuals, each with their own (and sometimes mutually exclusive) goals banding together for a given purpose or set of purposes and not a second further. Well, I lie - *Werewolf *and *Changeling *are generally pretty cooperative. But I’ve rarely played a game of Vampire or *Mage *that didn’t quickly descend into a flurry of little notes passed discreetly to the DM :slight_smile:

I’d say the best way to run something like this would be to give the party an outside reason that makes outright killing each other a huge no-no. Maybe the death of any one of them will resurrect some ancient murdergod. Maybe the local authority is extremely death-penalty happy and watching them keenly. Maybe they absolutely, positively *need *a skill or property possessed by the others to accomplish their own personal, overarching goals. Or maybe (and this is pretty common among the kind of people who play Vampire) they’re only in it to prove to the others just how much *better, *smarter, craftier, deviouser, more gracious and more cunning they are - and if the others aren’t alive to bear the ignominy, what’s the point ? :stuck_out_tongue:

Basically, the idea would be to let them be at each other’s throats and competing on everything, but without an “easy” way out that’d end the fun prematurely.

Anecdotally, I fondly remember one campaign of *Vampire *where, during a raid on some elder vamp’s abandoned lair early on, one of the players conspicuously snatched a big dusty grimoire, quickly leafed through it then put it in his pack without a word. The adventure went on and most everybody forgot about it. As it turns out, it was a perfectly mundane medieval tome on heraldry. But one of the other players was convinced it was super important, secret knowledge and whatnot. After all, if player1 did not deign sharing his infos with the party, something must have been afoot !

For much of the next… maybe six months of play, he tried everything in his power to get his hands on that fucking book. He tried stealing it ; he tried trading for it ; he offered services in return for the right to read it ; he often suggested that player1 solve the group’s problems using his “secret book” ; he even once conspired with an enemy of the party to secure his help getting the book. Nothing worked ! Until the first player, probably to spite him, gave it as a gift to a *third *player :slight_smile:

I don’t remember how player2 finally got his hands on the book… but he simply would not believe it was *just *a book on heraldry. He went on to spend another gazillion resources in his attempts to “crack the code”, to the mirth of everyone at the table - by then they were all in on it except for him :smiley:

It can be entertaining, but I think intra-party conflict is a topic that should be discussed with the rest of the group ahead of time.

The answer is obvious.

Good question.

I’ve been part of an ongoing Forgotten Realms 3.5 campaign for a few years now. My character came in later in the campaign, so the party formed before I was around.

My character is a Cleric of Tyr who became a Church Inquisitor of Tyr in the middle of the campaign. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more stick-up-your-butt Lawful type. The problem is, he sort of found himself with a motley crew consisting of a sorcerer (the son of an infamous and feared pirate), a Drunken Master, a Rogue, and a Rogue/Outlaw (who has a rap sheet a mile long in Cormyr). This isn’t the kind of group a Church Inquisitor of Tyr would usually work with, but my character knows that deep down, they’re good people with flawed methods.

The point is, there’s a few times that I had to look the other way or even walk away from an action my party was about to take that I know is unlawful. He walked away when the others in my group picked a barfight with some Purple Dragons (who are being used as a tool for subjugation and imperialism by Lord Skatterhawk).

This inconsistency in my group has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s created a very interesting dynamic in both the party and the storyline and forced our characters to grow and make hard decisions. On the other hand, I’ve had to talk out-of-character to the others and tell them that their actions have been making it increasingly difficult to justify my presence in their party.

Ultimately, our wonderful DM (I don’t mean that sarcastically) had Tyr punish my character by temporarily stripping him of all spells over 3rd level. Why? It wasn’t because he ran with a group of outlaws. It was because he was flip-flopping and refusing to take a stance on anything. It worked. My character started refusing to participate in some of the party’s ideas, and in turn, the others in the party started thinking of ways to accomplish our goals within the law.

Bottom line of this long diatribe is that yes, it’s sometimes necessary to act in opposition of your group. If you have a good DM, it should work out most of the time.

In the defunct White Wolf game Wraith: the Oblivion, each character (you played a ghost) had an alter-ego called their Shadow. The Shadow represented the part of the ghost which craved oblivion, both as an end to the ghost and as an end to everything. It was each player’s job to act as another player’s Shadow, varying between taunting them and tempting them with additional powers when things got tough at the cost of increased control for the Shadow. When the Shadow became dominant enough it could drag the wraith into a mind-fuck minigame called a Harrowing and, if the wraith lost, it could mean the end of the character as the Shadow became ascendant and dragged the wraith into the Void.

So, essentially, each player was both playing a character trying to advance the plot and succeed and simultaneously trying to dick over the group by corrupting it from the inside (and even removing characters from it). A great idea in theory but in practice it was near impossible to strike a good balance and made the game very difficult to play without people getting pissed or feeling picked on. The other option was for the GM to play everyone’s Shadow but that had its own host of problems (time, energy, favoritism, etc).

For an opposing view, I recommend looking into the research of Professor L. Jenkins.

Pretty much this; There’s nothing INHERENTLY wrong with intraparty conflict (Unless you’re in one of those groups that can’t play Diplomacy without ruining friendships.) The problems happen when 5 of the players are expecting to all work together and crawl a dungeon, and one of the players is expecting to backstab, lie, cheat, steal, and try to get the rest of them killed. It’s the conflict of expectations that creates the problem. Well, that and the fact that the people who are inclined to be “that guy” also don’t tend to disrupt the story in ways that are narratively interesting. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think intraparty conflict makes things fun! I’m DMing a game for a bunch of Dopers at the moment, and it’s looking pretty likely that things might come to blows soon. The Necromancer is just really, really Evil, while the rest of the party is at least somewhere North of Neutral.

An evil, backstabbing character worked well in one game I was in, but it wasn’t a typical situation. We had started a game that included someone who had never played before and who was having a bit of trouble both keeping his characters alive and letting his characters do something that he wouldn’t personally do. Since he was a quiet person, his characters wouldn’t boast or argue or haggle or . . .

Our DM took him aside and, without the rest of us knowing, helped him come up with an evil character who would undermine the group quietly, making it harder for us to achieve our goals. Since the character was meant to be temporary, and had an in-game purpose, New Player didn’t have to feel bad when he eventually died. In fact, he did a very good job of staying under our radar and made discovering his perfidy a significant task for the rest of us.

He was kind of worried that we’d be mad at him, but with the DM sharing his part in it, it was obvious who was the instigator. We complimented him on his skill in managing the character. He had fun with his next character, which lived longer and got to do more character-driven things.

The Johnny Bravo rule of DMing goes thusly:

Only one person gets to try and screw the characters over, and his name is Johnny Bravo.

Players are protagonists. Antagonists belong to the DM.

I recall a Vampire campaign in which my Malkavian took a great disliking to another player’s Ventrue character. I couldn’t kill him (only the Prince had the right to kill a vampire), but it was totally in character to screw with him. Using my obfuscate I staged angel sightings at the Ventrue’s palatial estate. I dominated the crowds that showed up to “believe”. This went on for a while until the primogen told me to stop. Since I had a high obfuscate and the Ventrue lacked auspex, I started hanging around his house invisibly. I would watch his big screen televisions, eat the food he kept around (he did that so servants wouldn’t wonder why their employer never bought food) and added requests to grocery and chore lists. Eventually, the Ventrue started having armed guards patrol the house. He gave them orders to open fire on any door that opened by itself and such. The guards thought they were working for a lunatic.

Then, there was the ‘secret note’ I gave to all kindred at the conclave. It informed the reader that they were now part of the Secret Order Of The Noose. The purpose of the Order was to kill the Ventrue character. A warning at the bottom of the note informed everybody that improper disposal of this paper was a violation of the masquerade. It was a funny and strange thing to do. It also brought attention to the Ventrue characters misdeeds (there were many), and the fact that the Ventrue primogen must have something on the prince-otherwise the Ventrue character would have been destroyed by now.

The guy playing the Ventrue wasn’t too happy about any of this. Everybody else thought it was great and made for a good story.

In general, I think it depends on the purpose of the campaign. One DM has tried putting us through the Labyrinth Of Madness several times. When we play that module (We never get too far, so no spoilers please), our stated goals are to solve the many puzzles and make it as far as we can. But, in most campaigns are goals are to have fun and tell a good story. If betraying the group makes for a good story and is in character, then do it.