View Full Version : Player playing impersonator of his/her PC

2013-04-01, 12:27 PM
I have an idea for the next time i will be DMing and i'd like your thoughts on it and your expiriences with similar scenarios.

The scenario is imagined as following:

1) The PCs and allies burst into the villain's palace and advance to the throne room. A room or two before they reach it, the allies must stay behind and hold off enemy reinforcements.

2) As they burst into the throne room the villain(a spellcaster) has a brief chat with the intruders and then orders his (few and not very powerfull) ministers to attack them.

3) As the PCs deal with the ministers for a few rounds the villain cast a silence spell and then some sort of special magical darkness or fog spell. The entire room is now with no sound and visible only to him.

4) At this point the players would whisper their intentions during their rounds to me and i would whisper effects of their actions to them. They would not be aware of each other's position and situation(unless they find a different way of communication).

5) The villain would attack and (i hope) knock out one of them (one of those who spoke to him briefly) and take their form (with disguise self). I would whisper to the player to play the villain now, who is lifting the darkness/fog from the waist up(to conceal the knocked out PC) and maybe create an illusion of himself running avay.

6) If the PCs notice two same-looking people, the player keeps playing the villain and his/her PC untill they get rid of his disguise. They can't wait for the spell to expire as he's got reinforcements on the way.

2013-04-01, 12:43 PM
The more steps involved the more places it has to go wrong. I'd give it about a 50/50 shot of success.

Only one similar event that I can recall:
We had a game where a PC rogue decided to sneak off by himself. GM took him into another room and played out stuff for an hour and then brought the player back with him and described it as the PC having just run back to where we were with a horde of bad guys after him. Cue chase scene in which we eventually get away grumbling at the stupid rogue the whole way.

Queue 10 sessions later when we found out the rogue had actually been knocked out by a trap on a chest and an enemy rogue had taken his place and staged the whole chase thing to earn our trust.

2013-04-01, 02:42 PM
It sounds like a great idea, but I agree with Illyrus that there are a lot of places where player actions could ruin your plans by going a direction you didn't expect.

What do you do if the PCs split off from their allies and try to sneak in rather than "bursting into" the villain's palace?
What do you do if the PCs split off from their allies and try to sneak in rather than "bursting into" the villain's palace?
Likewise, what happens if the PCs attempt (and succeed) at sneaking into the villain's throne room, catching him off guard?
How would you be preventing the PCs from directly targeting the villain instead of his ministers?
What is your fallback plan if the PCs disable your villain's darkness/silence? Or find a way to communicate in that situation?
What if the PCs decide to retreat rather than fight blind and deaf?
You probably want to re-examine your knocking-out-a-PC step where you say "I hope." You wouldn't want to get that far into your plan and have it all fail due to dice rolls not being in your favor.
What happens to the unconscious PC's body after the villain replaces them? Is the villain just trying to catch them off guard and kill them quickly or is he trying to replace the PC long-term?

Depending on the level of your villain, a lot of these things could be handled, especially since the villain is a spellcaster. The villain could have a mental alarm when someone enters the throne room. He could have a trap waiting to close and bar the doors after the PCs enter (even if it's non-magical barring, it'd be difficult to open when you can't see or coordinate with others). The villain should definitely have an escape plan ready for if things don't go as planned.

Personally, I think you'd have a greater chance of success if you simplified the process, although it may not be as rewarding if it succeeds. You could use pit traps, or teleportation traps, to allow the villain to get a PC alone and replace them, or you could have the villain use Magic Jar to actually inhabit a PC's body.

No matter how you accomplish this, I think one of the most important things you can do is choose the PC-to-replace wisely. Make sure you feel the player would play the part of the impersonator without metagaming and spoiling it for the other players. I think the worst way this plan could fail would be for all the pieces to fit together in-game, and have the player blab "Hey guys, DM made me the villain! You're all gonna die!"

2013-04-01, 07:36 PM
What do you do if the PCs simply barge into the throne room and hold that door?

Or if they all stay behind to kill all the reinforcements before the mage?

Or if they cast True Seeing?

Or if they have Telepathy up?

Or if they send in more than two PCs to fight the villain?

Or if the PCs defeat the villain before any of them drop?

Or if they cast Detect Thoughts?

Of if they use a Wall of Stone to block the reinforcements' path?

Or if they can overcome the darkness?

Or if they defeat the villain's Bluff/Disguise checks?

2013-04-01, 10:57 PM
Short version: The plan does have a lot of holes in it.

PCs are remarkably resourceful, and if the PC you're now asking to play the villain decides to act even the slightest bit different from usual, in other words, RPing someone who is acting like the character, not the character, then at least one of your players will detect that something's up within a session or so. It's a good question on how long you're planning on maintaining this facade, though. This could potentially work in the short term, allowing you to get a quick backstab off before your PCs utterly destroy your villain.

I think it would be much more tricky if the villain throws up his conceal and silence and escapes the battlefield before the combat, ordering one of his ministers to disguise as the missing PC (if that happens to be possible) and one to disguise himself as the villain. Honestly, if you have a perfectly good cover of darkness in which to hide, why stick around to wait for when it wears off. This way, an obviously disposable minister can die while fooling the PCs into thinking they killed your villain, and your villain potentially has a man on the inside of the team. Orders will have been given to the minister to only spy on the team so the villain can counteract the PC's plans, and not to kill them. If you kill one of the PCs or someone close to them, there is a high chance that they will not rest until they find the killer, and in the end, they will discover that the villain's minister is disguised as one of the players and kill him. Even so, now the villain can order one of his minions to move the captured PC to a secure facility away from the main base and interrogate him (or just kill him and loot the body) while the PCs are uncovering his minister.

Assuming your villain is smart enough to craft a plan like this, this leaves the villain completely capable of gaining the information he would have gained from disguising as one of the PCs without the threat of death.

2013-04-01, 11:16 PM
If he downed a PC and huge numbers of reinforcements are coming anyway, why not cast a Wall spell (to trap them) or just lead them into a confrontation with the guards and backstab them?

2013-04-02, 07:15 AM
Yeah, i see the flaws you guys pointed out and your suggestions will certanly come in handy.

To force them to frontally attack the villain i was thinking that their goal should be a public victory because his regime is based on his charisma(by definitons of both Max Weber and the Player's Handbook) and that the design of the palace and the throne room should make sneaking in the less viable option.

His goal would be to trick the party and backstab them in front of his followers to show that he was in control all along and not to infiltrate them for a long period of time.

To make the chance of failure minimal he'll use magical items and possibly traps as per gomanfox's advice.

As for some possible counters to this strategy that Slipperychicken has brought up, i'll see what the PCs will have available and make adjustments accordingly.

I do like the idea of the ministers being more than just bumps on the road as i originally imagined and perhaps they could be used for some contingency plan using illusions.

All in all, it's certan that the fun will depend on the choice of the player to play him, she/he'll have to convince the other players to go fight the guards and not barricade in the throne room for example and also be able to play two people at once if the PC returns in time.

Jay R
2013-04-02, 08:30 AM
It's a fun plan. Sometimes villain plans work; sometimes they don't work.

That's OK. We roll dice to find out if the plans will work.

2013-04-02, 09:16 AM
If you want to limit player-to-player interaction for a time, I think passing notes is easier than whispering. One DM I gamed with kept a small whiteboard so he could write things out quickly and show it to whoever he wanted.

The other thing is, you know your group better than we do, but for something like getting the players involved on the DM-side of things, speaking with your intended target beforehand can be a big help. If you don't have some one specific in mind, talking individually with the whole group might help you gauge who would be the best and who wouldn't work at all, but some sort of forewarning would definitely help.
I appreciate a good surprise as much as the next person, but dumping something like this on a player all at once has so much potential to go wrong.

2013-04-03, 12:12 AM
As a player, I wouldn't be interested at all in playing a villian impersonating my character. And if you've discussed the idea in advance with your players in order to see who would be interested, then everybody is tipped off as to what's going to happen, so what's the point, then. It would end up being just one more situation where you'd have to worry about the separation of player knowledge and character knowledge.

Jay R
2013-04-03, 09:46 AM
As a player, I wouldn't be interested at all in playing a villian impersonating my character. And if you've discussed the idea in advance with your players in order to see who would be interested, then everybody is tipped off as to what's going to happen, so what's the point, then. It would end up being just one more situation where you'd have to worry about the separation of player knowledge and character knowledge.

Oh, I would. It sounds like a fun twist. The fun parts involve trying to figure out how the villain thinks my character would act, which is not how I would play the character himself.

I know a DM who did this once, and told the player that the character would be rewarded based on how well the player played the villain.

The biggest hurdle I saw in this plan is that the OP hasn't discussed this with the players in advance, so the player will have no time to re-set his thinking, and no opportunity to ask questions about it.

But based on your comment, I see another potential problem. Some players would enjoy doing, and do it well. Some would not enjoy it, and some would not do it well. I hope that I'm in the first group; dps declares he's in the second group.

For this to work, the player has to be from the first group, not the second or the third.