Nov 17

Nov ‘17 Carnival: Betrayal Revisited


The travelling RPG Blog Carnival continues to jump from one blog to another. I try to contribute every month, although a topic can catch my imagination and lead to a long series, such as the 2017 February topic.


In November, the traditional Carnival host is Mike Bourke at Campaign Mastery. The chosen topic for the month is the past revisited. The Campaign Mastery site outlines the topic like this:

[The} topic this time around is “The Past Revisited: Pick a post (your own or someone else’s) and write a sequel. Should include a link to the original article if it is still online.” Extra points if the original is more than a year old!

A sequel article could be a partial or complete rebuttal; it could extend or update the original; it might explore a side-tangent branching off from the original article; or it could be similar in theme to the original but completely divorced from the inspirational content.


Read more about the November Carnival at Campaign Mastery




Choosing Betrayal

Picking an essay to revisit after writing over 200 long articles for the blog should be an easy task. However, this is exactly the process I work through to produce guest posts over at Ennead Games. It seems cheating to simply post a reprint as a contribution to the Blog Carnival. Thus, I was very pleased to find an old essay which I had not already updated.


I chose to revisit Betrayal in the Throne Room? This article was originally posted on 15th November 2013. The essay is listed as my 15th long blog post, but the numbering in the early days of the blog was not precise. Even better, this essay was also my contribution to the November Blog Carnival in 2013. The host for that month was Mike and Liz at Nearly Enough Dice who chose the seasonal theme of plots and treason.




Original Betrayal

The essay had the sub-heading of “How my Campaign Imploded”. It relates the dramatic events in my Eastern Isles story arc. As with any RPG plot, the background to events is a little complex. Basically, a tense negotiation was derailed by one Player who appeared to sell out the group in pursuit of a personal agenda. The bulk of the Heroes then tried to kill the “traitor”, while the sneaky mage Hero remained neutral. The fighting Heroes were then captured.


For a longer description of events, see the original post.



Personal Betrayal

The original article analysed the personal betrayal between the Players and the story implication from these events. The session after the one where these dramatic events played out proved to be the last of the story arc, as the Players fell to destructive arguing and the social bonds fell apart. By revisiting the article, I see how both the campaign and our gaming group has developed.


Our current group benefits from a far more robust social contract, which we revisit at the start of every story arc. We also have the tale of this betrayal to share as a warning to the Players of how relationships can spiral towards destruction. Gaming within the boundaries of the social contract is a far safer environment. Of course, the composition of the group is different and this too may have an impact.


Read more about my Social Contract here



Story Betrayal

The other thread of the essay looked at the impact on the story. This area of the game has also benefited from the clear boundaries laid out in the social contract. Managing Player expectations are one of the areas I address in the discussion we hold around the terms of the contract. I make it clear we are building a story as a group and that there may be twists and turns which do not appeal to every Player.


Once again, our improved experiences in this area could be down to the social contract or the amazing group of Players we have gathered. These two aspects seem to reinforce each other, resulting in a much more open style of play. Teasing apart the exact causes for the more welcoming environment is not a simple task.


Similar issues of betrayal have arisen in later story arcs, yet none have lead to the implosion of the group. So far, every similar instance of betrayal has been viewed as a story development. As far as I know, nobody has felt personally betrayed and the atmosphere in the game remains positive.




My main contribution to solving the problem of betrayal was to insist on the regular social contract updates. Even if this has not directly improved the quality of play, the general discussion around this issue helps set clear guidelines and expectations. I believe the story-focused style of the group has helped everyone play in a more relaxed style. All of this combined to ensure we have not had a second breakdown in the gaming group.


Do you have a social contract? Have events in your game ever spilt over into the social dynamics of your group? How would you have dealt with accusations of betrayal between Players? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.



Happy Gaming



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3 pings

    • David on November 17, 2017 at 2:23 pm
    • Reply

    I find as a player the social contract has made the sessions a lot more relaxed and helps my role-playing in that I don’t have to feel too concerned about the real-world relationships as there are more safeguards and understanding between the players over the game/real life divide.

      • Phil on November 17, 2017 at 2:35 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Dave,

      Wow, quick response time!

      Yeah, “safeguards and understanding” sums up exactly what the social contract brings to our game. I am not sure we have really used the Red Card seriously in the game, but knowing I can reference it lightly helps keep us away from those dangerous topics.

      Thanks for sharing a Player’s perspective

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