View Full Version : Good way to tell a player something's up?

2009-05-07, 03:46 PM
Speaking from a DM's perspective, what's the best way to let a player know that he's been hit with Charm Person, Suggestion, or a similar subtle mind-affecting effect without making it ridiculously obvious to everyone? If I were starting a game from scratch, I'd try to get into the habit of passing notes to my players (both with sensitive information and with dummy notes to throw them off guard), but this game has been going for a while, so if I suddenly start passing notes, that'll be amazingly obvious that something's wrong. My players are passable roleplayers and I do trust them, but at the same time, if I can spare them the challenge of trying to divorce player knowledge and character knowledge with regard to trust or mistrust of an NPC, well, that's better. (There are some times when it's easy to keep player and character knowledge separate, but I don't like it when I don't trust an NPC but my character should.)

Here's the scenario, if specifics would help. (Spoilered just in case my players read this. I don't think they do, but...)

I'm considering having the party find an adorable kitten somewhere. (I'll put it somewhere where there's been a handful of animals, so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.) The kitten is actually a psion using Metamorphosis to take the form of an itty bitty kitty, using Psionic Charm and Psionic Suggestion to convince the party to take him along. He'll be in cahoots with a pack of bandits nearby, and he'll use Mindlink or some similar communicative power to let the bandits know the party is coming and help them set up an ambush. How can I make it clear that yes, you really DO want to take this kitty along with you (lookit 'im! Isn't he just so adorable? How can you say no to those eyes? You can't!) without setting up a huge red flag saying "WARNING: YOUR CHARACTER IS BEING HIT WITH MIND GAMES. REGARD WITH CAUTION." or something similar? Again, while I know that passing notes would be the best idea here if I had established a precedent for it, but since I haven't, passing a note would be almost as bad as saying "The kitten uses Suggestion on you. Make a will save." Ideas?

2009-05-07, 03:57 PM
I'm not a DM (or rather, I DMed for a grand total of 2 sessions), but might this work?
You roll their Will saves for them beforehand, and then inform the respective player(s) before the game of innocuous signs and what they mean.
Of course, this gets a lot more difficult if you want the psion to give more detailed instructions... and there's almost certainly a complication (or several) I overlooked.

Good luck!

2009-05-07, 04:02 PM
Ask the player(s?) to talk to you in the other room beforehand.

Thane of Fife
2009-05-07, 05:19 PM
Try to find a way to pass a note to all the players at the same time. Just make it so that most of the notes sound good but are meaningless.

For example, the PCs find the animals. You ask for Knowledge checks for something, and give notes describing what they know - except that one player's note also says that he's been charmed/suggested/whatever.

2009-05-07, 07:49 PM
What I would do is roll all their saves beforehand, and then vary the description of the kitten based on whether people succeeded or not. People who didn't feel that the kitten is inherently friendly or something, and people who don't feel no attraction to the kitten. Make it vague, so that if they catch on that they're being affected, they won't know who is.
And if they catch on, you can always tell them to shut up and stop metagaming. Also, you are the DM, and you can take over a player's actions if he metagames too much (it may be harsh, but that's life, when you don't play fair).

Master the way of rolling things for your players. They'll never see it coming.

2009-05-07, 10:50 PM
Pass everyone a note simultaneously. They'll still assume something's up, but they won't know who it's happening to.

2009-05-09, 07:30 AM
Use an npc with a fake quest. The kitten charms a little girl who accosts the pc's and says the kitten belongs to her grandmother who lives on the other side of the woods, and it has followed her home, but now it needs to go back and she can't take it because evening is approaching and there is a wolf who roams the forest at night. Her mother is allergic to kittens, will the nice people please please bring the kitten safely to grandma? Oh, and watch out for that nasty wolf. It is the good old magician tactic: use a big red flashing sign that says "quest hook here" to disguise the real trick you're playing on them.

2009-05-09, 08:17 AM
This may be because I'm a college student, but everyone I game with has a laptop and can have it on at the table. Sending someone an instant message is fairly discrete (omg, spelling fails me today) with a little practice. It's also a great resource for when a party member wants to do something without the rest of the party knowing so you can have somewhere like 5 different things happening at the same time, but the person rp'ing vocally doesn't get interrupted.

Edit: For example, ask almost everybody for a spot check but ask one person for a will save or two. Then just say they've been charmed and what the suggestion is. If the subject of the spells can't roleplay it correctly, then nothing can help you outside of training the player.

2009-05-09, 11:49 AM
Roll the saves before hand, then when they get to room ask for spot checks and then pass a note to everyone with the charmed people having a note about the charming inside theirs.

2009-05-09, 12:48 PM
Passing notes does tell player's something's up, but they don't know what. One way to deal with it is to pass a lot of extra notes that session. Write notes that say things like "The coast is clear." Basically, for each perception check that session, even after the cat, give each player a personalized response as a note.

In a party I'm in, ever since the Dwarf Fighter got this new axe (which my character's grandfather had protected in his own pocket dimension in his house which I inherited...), he's been getting notes from the GM. We don't know what's on the notes. We know it has to do with the axe, and we've figured out the axe changes shape to any type of axe he needs it to be, and he somehow knows Giant now... But those are things we WOULD notice. It only makes sense.

I plan to use note passing as well when I infect a player in my campaign with something particularly nasty. (It adds new racial traits which are fairly powerful, such as counting as a swarm, and shape shifting, as it removes his old racial traits, then has him try to isolate and kill his party members one by one if left untreated. Well, the nearest humanoid... So not necessarily his party members.)

As for the rolls... While not in combat, I do a lot of random rolling for no reason so the players won't know when I'm rolling real rolls. I keep a list of their passive skill values, and if I'm not letting them know something, I use that. Passive = If they rolled a 10... Though, perception, or spot & listen in your case, are easy enough to innocuously ask for. Or, if you have their modifiers, you can even roll their checks yourself. A GM I had did this for a dungeoneering check to identify a statue. He didn't want us knowing it was a statue of an aberrant beast unless I rolled well enough. I didn't, and we found out when it got up and started looking at us. (Beholder.)

2009-05-09, 01:01 PM
Maker sure the player understands that there's a spell at work and not just thinks that you're railroading him or her.

2009-05-09, 03:58 PM
Most of our group has their laptops on when playing, since we use excel inventory and pdf-books.
It's very easy to send an msn-messenge to ask something confidently, or for the dm to give individual information