Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
I first tried White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade live-action role-playing game through a student group at Northwestern University. I’d had a lot of experience both playing and running games of Dungeons & Dragons in high school, but I was told that Vampire was different. In D&D, your typical party is composed of heroic adventurers working together to vanquish evil monsters. In Vampire, you are an evil monster. While you might form alliances with other characters, you could just as easily try to kill or subvert them.
That difference fascinated me. By my fourth session with the game, I had united a group of fellow freshmen in a bid to have our characters kill the vampire that ruled our city. When that failed miserably, resulting in my character’s death, the storytellers running the game made me an offer: I could come back as a character that was secretly working for the villains, a group of especially evil vampires known as the Sabbat. I signed on, and before the year was over, I had recruited three more players to switch sides.
My knack for manipulation was noticed. For the next two years, I was asked to be the killer in an annual murder-mystery-themed Vampire game meant to introduce new players to the rules. A friend asked me to teach his players that they shouldn’t trust anyone by joining his pen-and-paper game as a secret bad guy. Another friend wanted a villain that could challenge her players and had me join in without them even knowing. I’d tell her how I was monitoring their characters, and she’d give me reports, one time even letting me listen in on their conversation over Skype. They’d assumed the game master had designed all the machinations they were facing and were shocked when I decided to reveal myself.
Last weekend, I finished playing a three-session LARP using the Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Rules, where I was again being used as a plant by the team running the game. I was there to apply pressure and stir conflict in a way that wouldn’t be as obvious as a non-player character doing the same thing. I disseminated secrets about one of my best friend’s characters to undermine him, and then told most of the others I didn’t think another friend’s character should have a position of power. I had a great time selling them out.
You’d think people would stop trusting me at this point, but I haven’t found that to be a problem. I think it’s for the same reason that game masters trust me with the role of their bad guys, something they usually handle themselves: I’m looking to have fun when I play, but I want everyone else to have fun too. Other people seem to also love getting a taste of villainy. They’ve proved all too eager to join my cause. If it doesn’t work out, at least there’s usually a good story to be told later.
What about you, my unsuspecting readers? Have you ever played a villain in a game like this? Do you enjoy keeping secrets from your fellow players? Let me know in the comments—or don’t, if you’re afraid of being found out.