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5E 'The Thing' Inspired Rime of the Frostmaiden Has Player Secrets [Updated]

Made popular in boardgames, such as Battlestar Galactica, the idea of players with secrets can increase the tension of games. Rime of the Frostmaiden introduces 'character secrets'.

thing_poster.jpg

“I think the most interesting part [of Rime of the Frostmaiden] is the character secrets... characters can play it one of two ways. They can keep their secret close to their chest and not reveal it to the other players, fostering and breeding paranoia, or they can reveal it anytime they want to, and then wrestle with the consequences of it. That’s left entirely up to the players.”
- WotC's Chris Perkins​


It's not clear if it's a full-fledged traitor mechanic like in some other games, or just an extension of the traits/bonds/flaws guidelines.

UPDATE -- this post (below) has some more information from EN Worlder ikj. "It's a card you can draw at character creation. If you like it you keep it. If you don't you can take another. I don't get the impression it's a 'traitor mechanic' so much as a way to add some interesting twists to character interactions and add some tie-ins with the plot."

In other news, the adventure is very inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing.

The Thing is a story about an isolated group of people dealing with a monster in their midst, and much of the movie takes place at night. If you take that idea and apply it to a D&D campaign, there’s lot of potential there,” he said over email. “When your setting is a cold, dark, isolated place, the horror comes easily. I was struck by the fact that our previous excursions to Icewind Dale didn’t really lean in that direction, so here was a chance to show Icewind Dale in a different light.”


From Venturebeat.
 
Russ Morrissey

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've been using "character secrets" for years in my D&D games. That's what I even call them. I put a half-dozen of them into envelopes, seal them, and pass them out at random at the table when they roll up characters. They aren't necessarily "traitor" mechanics, though, and they aren't really geared toward creating conflict between the other characters...I feel like that would violate Rule Zero. They're more like extra background features that give you some interesting abilities, and give the players a reason to be interested in each other's characters. Something like:
  • You contracted lycanthropy several months ago. You knew that if your secret is discovered, you would be branded a menace to society--you'd be hunted down, captured, and likely killed. So you fled your village in the night, leaving your friends and family behind, and have been desperately looking for a cure ever since.
  • Your brother is wanted for murder, and he has gone into hiding. You are convinced that he is innocent, and you are desperately trying to find him and help clear his name before the authorities discover his whereabouts.
  • You and your family still worship the gods of the Old Faith, even though it is expressly forbidden by the church. If your secret is discovered, you will all be hanged for heresy.
Or whatever.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I don't see a problem with secrets if everyone knows that's what they're signing up for when they start the campaign. At that point it's not a normal 'campaign' anymore and the prospect of paranoia and PvP is expected, not something thrust upon an unwilling audience.
 

Birmy

Adventurer
If you have a clue / hint about how to defeat a common (in the module) enemy, like "The living cloaks fear the attention of the gods" (Darkmantles are weak vs Radiant attacks), that can be fun to figure out while the group is getting clobbered, and turn the tide of battle with the secret knowledge.
If your secret is along the line of "I am infested by an Intellect Devourer and now BBEG can use me as a spy on the party" that is not fun because the party has to figure it out then decide whether to exclude you, banish you, or murderhobo you.
...Those both sound like potentially fun options to me.
 

Jacqual

Explorer
It can lead to some good RP and as stated you don't have keep your secret a secret. Which just depends on how you feel about the other Players and the Characters they run like you might trust one of them, but not all of them. This all will get the players all wanting to know the little bit of maybe inside info and can be lots of fun.
 


You can make them very relevant with very little effort though.
Many things in Descent into Avernus can be made more interesting if I put in some of my own efforts, but that's not what they get paid for. See Curse of Strahd? Many interesting avenues of play, no one asking for my effort to make them happen. Heck, you can almost run that campaign as you read it. That's the standard I want to see.
 

lkj

Adventurer
Worth just watching this video if you are interested:


It's a card you can draw at character creation. If you like it you keep it. If you don't you can take another. I don't get the impression it's a 'traitor mechanic' so much as a way to add some interesting twists to character interactions and add some tie-ins with the plot. He also says in another video that one of the keys to this adventure is that working together as a party will be key to success.

In other words, I don't think the secrets are designed to cause the characters to turn on each other. But to add some twists and mystery.

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Sunsword

Adventurer
One of the authors described it as being about "climate change and the powerful magic of collective action". I'd be really surprised if it ends up with "more pvp" as a defining trait.
I think what concerns me is that they haven't released information about the climate change angle but have released info about this. Playing Betrayal At the House On the Hill or Betrayl at Baldur's Gate isn't something I really want in my D&D campaigns. We'll just have to see.
 

MichaelSomething

Adventurer
I don't see a problem with secrets if everyone knows that's what they're signing up for when they start the campaign. At that point it's not a normal 'campaign' anymore and the prospect of paranoia and PvP is expected, not something thrust upon an unwilling audience.
That's exactly what a person with a lot of SECRETS would say....
What are you trying to hide from us Fenris??
 

Emirikol Prime

Explorer
Made popular in boardgames, such as Battlestar Galactica, the idea of players with secrets can increase the tension of games. Rime of the Frostmaiden introduces 'character secrets'.


“I think the most interesting part [of Rime of the Frostmaiden] is the character secrets... characters can play it one of two ways. They can keep their secret close to their chest and not reveal it to the other players, fostering and breeding paranoia, or they can reveal it anytime they want to, and then wrestle with the consequences of it. That’s left entirely up to the players.”
- WotC's Chris Perkins​


It's not clear if it's a full-fledged traitor mechanic like in some other games, or just an extension of the traits/bonds/flaws guidelines.

In other news, the adventure is very inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing.

The Thing is a story about an isolated group of people dealing with a monster in their midst, and much of the movie takes place at night. If you take that idea and apply it to a D&D campaign, there’s lot of potential there,” he said over email. “When your setting is a cold, dark, isolated place, the horror comes easily. I was struck by the fact that our previous excursions to Icewind Dale didn’t really lean in that direction, so here was a chance to show Icewind Dale in a different light.”


From Venturebeat.
Venturebeat added the Traitor wording making this thread go horribly off kilter. It’s nothing like that.
 

In other words, I don't think the secrets are designed to cause the characters to turn on each other. But to add some twists and mystery.
I think the point is not to cause the PC's to turn on each other. It's to cause the PC's to fear that they might turn on each other. It's not what is on your card that matters - it's knowing that everyone else also has a card.

I suspect most of the cards assign the player a secret faction (Auril cultists, Arcane Brotherhood, etc). Which is similar to how Paranoia works.

It's a fairly common trope in RPGs. I've played as a spy myself in one game, and I frequently involve secrets from player's backstories in the game (e.g. one of the PCs grandmother may or may not be a hag).

If you ever saw the D&D inspired 1980s British TV show "The Adventure Game", in one of the series a contestant was a mole working against the others. Baldur's Gate 2 also had one. And in DOS2 every party member has a secret.
 

Many things in Descent into Avernus can be made more interesting if I put in some of my own efforts, but that's not what they get paid for. See Curse of Strahd? Many interesting avenues of play, no one asking for my effort to make them happen. Heck, you can almost run that campaign as you read it. That's the standard I want to see.
I can't see many people wanting play with someone with that attitude. And it's simply not true. It's very easy to kill the atmosphere of Curse of Strahd if a player or the DM doesn't put some effort into creating the right tone.
 


So far it sounds similar to a rule I used for my Call of Cthulhu campaign. All players get to pick a secret, which ties their character to the plot. They then try to keep this secret as best they can, thus fostering paranoia. They can reveal the secret at any time, but it has consequences (for their sanity). The goal is not to create inter party conflict, but to create tension and a feeling that not everyone is sharing all they know.

I don't get why there are a bunch of negative reactions to this. This sounds great.
 
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