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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

Comments

rgoodbb

Explorer
Was um'ing and ahh'ing about this one, but secrets ruined the last campaign for the whole party. Not a fan of those at all. Doesn't now feel like my kind of D&D. Hope I'm wrong and that others experience a great game though.
 

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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.
I think it should be obvious that I'm not discussing the right tone*, pacing, interparty dynamics, or anything like that. I'm talking about picking up a module and working with it to create fun and engaging quests, encounters, interactions, and rewards for my players. CoS doesn't need a lot of help for that, DiA will drown and die a horrible death if left to swim alone. Now, if you have also run the module and believe my judgment is not fair, we can discuss that.

*As a side note, though, the advice on running horror genre stories at the beginning of CoS is also superior to the advice on running a campaign in Hell at the beginning of DiA, in my opinion. So, not even in that aspect.
 

I think it should be obvious that I'm not discussing the right tone*, pacing, interparty dynamics, or anything like that. I'm talking about picking up a module and working with it to create fun and engaging quests, encounters, interactions, and rewards for my players. CoS doesn't need a lot of help for that, DiA will drown and die a horrible death if left to swim alone. Now, if you have also run the module and believe my judgment is not fair, we can discuss that.

*As a side note, though, the advice on running horror genre stories at the beginning of CoS is also superior to the advice on running a campaign in Hell at the beginning of DiA, in my opinion. So, not even in that aspect.
No, it's not at all obvious that you are not discussing "creating the right tone". The whole point of this mechanic is to "create the right tone". The right tone being paranoia of course.

And yes, I have run CoS. It takes quite a lot of work both to keep the plot moving forward and to stop it turning into a parody. I haven't run DiA, storyline didn't appeal to me.
 

Coroc

Hero
Not sure I like that.
If it is just like twists (minor/major) nuisances, mainly a RP thing eventually, which does not break up the party and can be resolved in some way by party cooperation to "help" the afflicted, then why not.

If it is something along the lines of a growing "curse" which makes you go full traitor somewhere between levels 8-11 of a 12 level campaign, then nope.
Because if you think the latter scenario to all its consequences then it means game over either for one of the characters or the rest of the party or all of them, and that is no fun. There are better campaign topics for such a playstyle than "you are to fight the big baddie but only n-x of you will make it to the endfight / climax of the adventure"
 

MarkB

Legend
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.

AD
If the theme of the adventure is learning to work together in order to overcome the odds, then it makes sense that there has to be something in the adventure which makes "working together" not the automatic, default option.

I would guess that these secrets are intended to provide the players with motivations for their characters to not be entirely honest with each other, and that the solution to the adventure will involve people having to find a way to trust each other even after having been lied to.
 


aco175

Hero
It sounds like pulling the 'old maid' card and everyone waiting for you to drop it. I would also thing it may run better in home games where your group has played together longer than say, at a store with AL games.

I would like to think they thought some of this through and have a cool idea, I know horror/paranoia is hard to pull off for many DMs.
 

No, it's not at all obvious that you are not discussing "creating the right tone". The whole point of this mechanic is to "create the right tone". The right tone being paranoia of course.
As we have yet to learn how the mechanic will work, I don't think you can describe it in this way (or any other, for that matter).

And yes, I have run CoS. It takes quite a lot of work both to keep the plot moving forward and to stop it turning into a parody.
YMMV, of course, but this does not describe our experience with CoS at all. I don't know. Maybe our group being huge fans of RL and doing a lot of gaming on that setting makes the "create the right tone" part less relevant for us.

I haven't run DiA, storyline didn't appeal to me.
Well, the way you talked about it made it seem like you had your own experience running the module and using the dark secret mechanic. When I first read it, it seemed like a great addition. I had to run the module to perceive its lack of relevance. Once the party arrives in Elturel, it seems the designer forgets that there was ever something "dark" about the PCs.
 

As we have yet to learn how the mechanic will work, I don't think you can describe it in this way (or any other, for that matter).
Regardless of the mechanic (and apart from the cards I don't believe there is any mechanic), the intent of the mechanic is quite clear. It's to create an atmosphere where the PCs don't know if they can trust each other. The whole thrust of The Thing, which has been cited as the main inspiration, is that the monster could be hiding inside anyone, so the protagonists don't know who to trust.

Creating a situation where the players don't trust each other isn't easy, but it's pretty much essential that they don't or "everyone working together" is just too easy.
Well, the way you talked about it made it seem like you had your own experience running the module and using the dark secret mechanic. When I first read it, it seemed like a great addition. I had to run the module to perceive its lack of relevance. Once the party arrives in Elturel, it seems the designer forgets that there was ever something "dark" about the PCs.
I've run, and played in, a number of games with dark secrets. Just not that one.
 

This is all to the good, IMO. I've long been of the opinion that these storylines, in addition to "orc and pie" need to offer some sort of side-dish to elevate them. Whether that's kingdom management as in "Kingmaker", the temptations of the Dark Powers in "Ravenloft", or whatever. PC secrets seems a fine addition - and provided the opt-out is suitably easy (which I'm sure it will be), groups who don't want it can just ignore it.

Funnily enough, my current campaign is using PC secrets as it's side-dish. At the start of the campaign each player was asked to define a secret about his character, something the character doesn't want to be revealed. But I've also informed them that as and when those secrets do come out, everyone in the group gains an XP bonus. And so while the character's want to keep their secrets, the players are motivated to reveal them. Which has made for quite a bit of fun game play.

Of course, that only works with the right group. But, conceptually at least, I like this.
 

univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
There was that part with the Wendigo in Rise of the Runelords that reminded me of The Thing. Great Movie and good video game for PS2 and PC as well.
 

Retreater

Legend
If they are drawing inspiration from the Thing, which has the equivalent of PCs being replaced by a murderous monster, I don't see how "character secrets" can be anything other than PvP. I'm hesitantly open to see what they do - and maybe their inspiration is just "horror in a cold place" - but my interest level just dropped.
 

If they are drawing inspiration from the Thing, which has the equivalent of PCs being replaced by a murderous monster, I don't see how "character secrets" can be anything other than PvP. I'm hesitantly open to see what they do - and maybe their inspiration is just "horror in a cold place" - but my interest level just dropped.
But that is clearly not what they are doing, if you read the article.

"Drawing inspiration from The Thing" does not mean "literally making it like the Thing". Characters have secrets that tie them to the plot, not pvp, just plot ties.
 

Lem23

Adventurer
I'm fine with dark secrets and betrayal in a one-off or very short campaign, but I tend to run and prefer long cmpaigns of the year to several years variety, and they don;t tend to work as well in those cases. If there's a traitor mechanic built in to this campaign and it's otherwise a good campaign and requires a sense of paranoia from the characters, what I plan to do is tell the players that one of them is a betrayer, have them draw cards from a deck that contains the aces and 2 kings (since I have 6 players - if someone drops out or joins us, I'll reduce or add to that number), and tell them that whoever draws the ace of spades is the traitor, and that I'll discuss that with them later via email.

Of course, the deck won't have the ace of spades in it.
 

dave2008

Legend
Regardless of the mechanic (and apart from the cards I don't believe there is any mechanic), the intent of the mechanic is quite clear. It's to create an atmosphere where the PCs don't know if they can trust each other.
Actually it is not clear. Crawford even said the player with the secret is free to tell the other players. So it seems the purpose is a bit different.
 

dave2008

Legend
If they are drawing inspiration from the Thing, which has the equivalent of PCs being replaced by a murderous monster, I don't see how "character secrets" can be anything other than PvP. I'm hesitantly open to see what they do - and maybe their inspiration is just "horror in a cold place" - but my interest level just dropped.
Crawford specifically mentioned that the PC's can tell the secret to other PCs. So it seems a little different. But I could literally be the PC turning into a monster and waiting for that to happen. But I am currently interested in this adventure with or without the "secret" mechanic
 

If your Elven Bladesinger isn't giving the human Bladesinger hell for knowing Bladesinging, your Elves needs to question themselves.
 



MarkB

Legend
If they are drawing inspiration from the Thing, which has the equivalent of PCs being replaced by a murderous monster, I don't see how "character secrets" can be anything other than PvP.
They could be the opposite. If something is posing as the PCs but doesn't have access to their memories, then secrets shared between them can become a means of identity-verification.
 

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