D&D 5E Doppelganger Fun?

TheSword

Legend
So the last couple of sessions my party in an ongoing campaign have been fighting Doppelgangers. I know these foes are quite controversial - particularly around player agency - but I wanted to get as much fun out of them as possible. I won't spoil things by saying the module, just speaking in general terms.

The party have just arrived at a major city at level 7 after several adventures, they have a ton of gold to spend and their own agendas. In the city is a guild of doppelganger rogues that were given a contract by a third party to assassinate the PCs... ideally secretly, and even better discrediting them along the way if possible, to discourage further investigation.

I allowed the PCs a week of downtime in the city to persue various goals. During the downtime Doppelgangers in various guises interfered with their downtime. Not in major ways, but small annoyances to raise concern. The party wizard was thrown out of the temple of Oghma for being a purveyor of evil magic by someone who looked like a high priest for instance.

During that time out of session I approached the party's cleric and asked if he would be happy to play a doppelganger agent for the next few sessions. I made it clear that if he agreed his character would be safe in the Doppelganger's lair. If he didnt want to, he could fend off the kidnapping attempt and no-harm-no-foul. If he agreed, then I would adjust his character sheet to represent a 5th level doppelganger rogue, with three magic scrolls a magic wand, and the magic initiate feat. He agreed! His brief was to disrupt the party, sow suspicion and paranoia and do his best to put them in jeapardy - but under no circumstances take risks in getting caught. When the party found his character I would give him back.

One of the first scenes with them all together was in the common room of the inn they were staying in. I asked which PC would be the first to bed? Mae our party rogue went first. So I described how a few minutes later she came back down stairs walked up to the barman and then stabbed him in the chest - sneak attacking at the same time... before running upstairs. This was a second doppelganger agent who had been waiting for the first PC to head to bed (it was coincidence that they were both rogues). The same agent then changed form to that of an angry merchant and said he had seen a woman rush pass with a bloodied dagger. This agent then began to stir up he rest of the tavern into a mob. Several of the patrons (oblivious to the trickery) got angry and became threatening (they had just seen their barman friend get stabbed). Though the party paladin quickly healed the inkeep to try and defuse things. The cleric/agent PC however stoked the crowd by threatening and becoming overly defensive. Threatening bloodshed if they didnt back away and that they were innocent. When one of the townsfolk was pushed back physically by the PC the drunk patron swung a fist and the Cleric/Agent went at him with a sword. The merchant/agent then waded into the fight attacking Horris and threatening Mae who was coming down stairs. The party wised up to the fact that the merchant was far tougher, stronger and faster than a normal person and slew him, just in time for the watch to arrive - the doppelganger turned back into monstrosity form and the ruse was revealed (but not the cleric/agent). The watch took the PCs side and things calmed down. Though with admonishment towards the Cleric/agent for being hasty with the sword. The PC passed it off as defending their reputation and the honour of his friend Mae.

Following clues on the Doppleganger/merchants body the party were able to find the potential hide out of the Doppelganger guild. They fought past some traps and some very nasty mimics, to a corridor lined with cell doors. One occupent of the cells appeared unconcious, one was looking suspiciously at the party from the corned of the room, and two were labourers begging to be let out. The party were suspicious and worked their way around one by one. However when they got to the labourers I think they were beginning to relax a bit. The labourers were of course doppelgangers and as soon as the party rogue unlocked the cell they leapt on her and took her down in a surprise attack. For the record level 5 doppelganger rogues are nasty with two attacks each and advantage (and therefore 3d6 sneak) on the round they transform.

Beacause of the whisper function of online play, I was able to tell the cleric/agent where the various traps were and he had a lot of fun leading the party into them, without being obvious about it... so well handled.

The party reached the lower depths of the guild propper and found a room with four figures each unarmed and tied to a chair. Each the perfect replica of a PC. Each cried out that they were the real... PC and there was an imposter in the party. For the record we play online so it very easy to pass messaged back and forth and no one can really know what has been agreed. The cleric/agent pretended to check the ropes and said they were sound (they werent). Thats when the party wizard questioned just how many spells the cleric had cast in the last days and gave a healthy dose of suspicion. There was big argument discussion as the party clearly suspected the cleric and he got defensive, trying to sow as much doubt as possible... in the end the party agreed to free the tied unarmed cleric and see what happened on the basis that if he turned into a doppelganger they could intervene. The tied cleric (played by me) leapt for the cleric/agent (played by the player) and they wrestled for the cleric/agents holy symbol. The cleric/agent fough back with his weapons. I rolled really badly and failed the apposed athletics to grab the symbol four times. Though the PCs were getting more and more suspicious. The party wizard actually cast haste on the tied cleric and the paladin cast shield of faith to even the odds. Much to the Player/PC/Agents dismay - cursing the party for their disloyalty. On the fifth try I successfully snatched the holy symboll and cast spiritual weapon (the real PCs go to spell) I also gave the cleric/player his PC back. The doppelganger then revealed himself as did the other agents (along with their false bonds) with a great melee.

It was a great set of encounters, played brilliantly by the cleric PC. I asked the other players if they suspected before, and they said they didnt, but when they saw the four replicas, it all kinda clicked in place. Which is exactly how I wanted it to be. The doppelganger player had a blast.

The next session will invovle small groups of doppelgangers taking the forms of NPCs they have met earlier in the campaign. Which should be fun (Baldur's gate chapter six anyone?)

The BBEG is a greater doppelganger who can take the full abilities of the personalities he has consumed. With an extra ability to change shape as a reaction or a bonus action. He will switch between wizard and barbarian depending on how the fight is going... wizard spells to buff and then rage and barbarian attacks in combat. Possibly switching back to wizard if targeted by a spell that needs an appropriate save or to put buffs back up, or changing to barbarian to burst from an engtanglement or for the benefits of raging. Should be fun.

Anyway... doppelgangers can work and I'm very pleased with the results.

Has anybody else had doppelganger fun or a doppelganger nightmare and what happened?
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Remathilis

Legend
My last Ravenloft game took place in Dementileu (the new VRGR one) where a new socialite was making the rounds. She was a poor girl who was given an evil artifact mask that turned her into a doppelganger (a dread doppelganger from Minsc's and Boo's Guide, to be exact). The mask also protected her with a Mind Blank spell, so no divinations or mind reading possible. She would kill anyone who snooped into her past to keep her secret, including her own parents.

The group eventually gathered enough info to go to her parent's house, where she set it up like a "haunted" house with a few traps and used her amazing stealth and a few spell-like abilities (phantasmal killer primarily) to sow confusion in the group. The cleric, hit by the effect of PK, ran out of the house with 4 hp left and the doppelganger took him down in one blow. She then assumed the role of the cleric. She also targeted the artificer PC whose player is always paranoid with a PK, so when he started accusing the cleric of acting weird, nobody believed him because he too had just been acting weird.

At this point, I had given the cleric a few quick instructions: he was unconscious, the villain had replaced him, and his primary goal was to convince them to leave as this was a dead end. The player did a good job of that, even if the other players weren't exactly buying the "let's look elsewhere" line. Eventually, the group did the unsensible thing of splitting up (it was a small home, so part of the group went upstairs while the "cleric" and the wizard stayed on the first floor to watch for ambushes. The upstairs team found the corpses of the parents, who had become home to a colony of rot grubs. As soon as combat broke out, the doppelganger makes her move and downed the wizard in one hit (sneak attack/ambush). She then went upstairs and downed the artificer who wasn't fully healed yet (the PCs were 3rd level). The remaining PCs (a sorcerer, bloodhunter, and bard) did their best to bring up the wizard and artificer while fighting the "cleric" who used mirror image to avoid several attacks. Eventually cornered, she used her final SLA (mislead) to plead for her life while trying to invisibly escape. The artificer was angry and not buying it put a bullet in the image, and the group quickly found the escaping doppelganger and ended her.

Outside, they found their cleric alive but out cold and tied up. They also recovered the mask but decided not to put it on in case it (corretly) would turn them into a monster like her.

But up to the point she was nearly dead and pleading, the PCs had no idea who they were facing, and the cleric PC did an excellent job of keeping up the ruse until she attacked. Even then, the idea he possessed or similar was the running theory. One of them afterwards commented that it was the scariest doppelganger encounter they had faced.
 

TheSword

Legend
My last Ravenloft game took place in Dementileu (the new VRGR one) where a new socialite was making the rounds. She was a poor girl who was given an evil artifact mask that turned her into a doppelganger (a dread doppelganger from Minsc's and Boo's Guide, to be exact). The mask also protected her with a Mind Blank spell, so no divinations or mind reading possible. She would kill anyone who snooped into her past to keep her secret, including her own parents.

The group eventually gathered enough info to go to her parent's house, where she set it up like a "haunted" house with a few traps and used her amazing stealth and a few spell-like abilities (phantasmal killer primarily) to sow confusion in the group. The cleric, hit by the effect of PK, ran out of the house with 4 hp left and the doppelganger took him down in one blow. She then assumed the role of the cleric. She also targeted the artificer PC whose player is always paranoid with a PK, so when he started accusing the cleric of acting weird, nobody believed him because he too had just been acting weird.

At this point, I had given the cleric a few quick instructions: he was unconscious, the villain had replaced him, and his primary goal was to convince them to leave as this was a dead end. The player did a good job of that, even if the other players weren't exactly buying the "let's look elsewhere" line. Eventually, the group did the unsensible thing of splitting up (it was a small home, so part of the group went upstairs while the "cleric" and the wizard stayed on the first floor to watch for ambushes. The upstairs team found the corpses of the parents, who had become home to a colony of rot grubs. As soon as combat broke out, the doppelganger makes her move and downed the wizard in one hit (sneak attack/ambush). She then went upstairs and downed the artificer who wasn't fully healed yet (the PCs were 3rd level). The remaining PCs (a sorcerer, bloodhunter, and bard) did their best to bring up the wizard and artificer while fighting the "cleric" who used mirror image to avoid several attacks. Eventually cornered, she used her final SLA (mislead) to plead for her life while trying to invisibly escape. The artificer was angry and not buying it put a bullet in the image, and the group quickly found the escaping doppelganger and ended her.

Outside, they found their cleric alive but out cold and tied up. They also recovered the mask but decided not to put it on in case it (corretly) would turn them into a monster like her.

But up to the point she was nearly dead and pleading, the PCs had no idea who they were facing, and the cleric PC did an excellent job of keeping up the ruse until she attacked. Even then, the idea he possessed or similar was the running theory. One of them afterwards commented that it was the scariest doppelganger encounter they had faced.
The one round take downs sound brutal. But I can see how it would be scary!
 


TheSword

Legend
Here's my doppelganger story, from a 3.5 campaign several years ago: I Finally Found a Way to Implement the Doppelganger Gambit

Johnathan
That’s a great tale! Loved reading it. Kinda the reverse of mine because 75% of the party were replaced (in a very clever way might I add) leaving one real character.

I think you got the nail on the head with the challenge. What if the player says no and leaks it to the other party members? I was lucky that I game with some experienced and players who don’t mind some variety. The choice was easy as the wizard would have been hard to copy and the other two players live together. So the cleric was the obvious choice. That said if he had gone back to the others and said help I’ve been attacked by a doppelgänger then I would have just ran as is.
 


Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top