Evil GM Tricks #43: The Second Party


If you are not a Game Master, Storyteller, or Dungeon Master then read no further. If you do your dice will be horribly cursed, and you will critically fail at anything you ever attempt from this day forward... Of course, knowing players like I do I know all of you are still reading. That's fine. It won't save you.

If you are not a Game Master, Storyteller, or Dungeon Master then read no further. If you do your dice will be horribly cursed, and you will critically fail at anything you ever attempt from this day forward.

Of course, knowing players like I do I know all of you are still reading. That's fine. It won't save you. That being said: on to the topic at hand. If your group is anything like mine, then your players enjoy a constant challenge. They like knowing adventures can be lethal, and you are always able to stay one step ahead of them. It's something all of us strive to do, and when we succeed our players love us for it.

However, at times all of us run a little short on inspiration. Real life carries its own demands, and that can leave us little time to work on our campaigns. To combat this problem hundreds of columns, articles, modules and guides have been created. Some of them are genre specific, some of them general. I have used many of them over the years, but recently I realized there was a niche not being filled.

Evil GMs are just not being adequately represented, and I am here to change that.

During the next several weeks I will reveal some of the nastier surprises I have used on my players over the years. Some of them clawed their own eyes out, and others had to be locked up permanently. But all of them enjoyed the games, and many are still talked about years later.

This week's tip is one of my favorites, and can be used in just about any setting. I first used it to great effect in a Shadowrun game, and later in White-Wolf's Exalted. It involves a fair amount of planning, but if you pull it off it should be well worth it.

In a nutshell the technique works like this: The players make new characters, and run them for one session. Unbeknownst to the players this new group is being hired to hunt down their original party.

Below I have broken this technique down into steps:

Step 1: Throwing the Players Off The Scent
The first thing you will need to do is snow your players. Tell them you need a break from the main campaign, and are going to be running a single session set in the same game universe. Your goal here is to get them interested in their new characters, but make sure they understand this is a one shot adventure. Afterwards they will be going back to their old characters.

Step 2: Building the Second Party
Before you have your players start making new characters you are going to need a theme. The type of game you run will really dictate how things work, but there are some commonalities that bridge most campaigns. You will need the new group to have both the means and the motivation to hunt the main group.

In my case I decided the second group would be an Aztechnology black ops team. This gave them all a reason to be together, and allowed me to give them an assignment they couldn't turn down. In your own game I would suggest allowing the players to take characters working for some organization or government that has a reason to be after the main characters. Better yet, have them work as henchmen for an already established nemesis.

Step 3: Build the Tension
If you do things right, your players should have no idea what the true goal of the adventure is. When they start playing the new characters, build things up slowly. Don't just tell them "You have been hired to hunt down your other party".

In my own game the leader of the black ops team was an NPC. He doled out information on a need to know basis, and the players didn't need to know who they were hunting until they began setting the ambush. Of course, by then the players had a strong suspicion as to what I was up to. This, however, is a good thing.

Let them figure out who they are hunting down on their own, and then let them speculate as to what is going to happen. Tension will build up, and the players will begin worrying about their original characters. If your group begins playing out of character, then let them know that you will NPC their new characters if necessary.

Once they have figured out exactly who their targets are, start the chase. Have the new party go to areas your original party visited in the recent past. Have them ask questions about their prey, and have them gradually get closer to the PCs current location.

Then, once they are close enough, have the new party arrange an ambush for their original characters. Make the ambush seem foolproof, and feel free to play things up. The party should believe that their real characters are about to die� and messily. Set the ambush up, and take the new group right up to the point where they get into position.

Then its time to switch gears on them.

Step 4: Resolution
Break out the character sheets for the original party, and hand them out. Pick up the game not long before the ambush is going to occur, but don't let your party walk into it. Instead, have one of the NPCs who heard the new group asking after the PCs show up. He will warn the party about their hunters, and the party can then either flee or arrange an ambush of their own.

If they arrange an ambush try to give it a very reasonable chance for success. After all, the old party is far more important than the new. Of course, don't give the players any idea of this. You still want them thinking that their established characters have every chance of dying in the next encounter.

Where you go from here depends entirely on your game and your group. The new group of PCs could hunt the party for months if they chose not to face them immediately. They could become NPCs bent on the destruction of the group. At the very least they will provide a challenging fight, and the players will have no right to bitch at how hard it is. After all, this time they created their own enemies.

Clap clap clap!

Wow that is amazing, especially for Shadowrun... wow!

Thank you I'll use it and tell every one it was your idea.

My GM has done a similar thing. He has two groups of players playing the same quest on opposite sides. Good vs Evil.

Both parties don't know each other yet, well not too much. Eventually we'll interact indirectly and will build anomosity up to a point where when we truly hate each other's guts we'll meet, Arno will just kick back and play referee while we kill each other.

I've had to switch from the bad guys to the good guys recently (schedule problems) and I really hated letting my character go. As it turns out though it made for a nice plot twist, one that was bound to happen eventually. The high priest of the main church for which all the other players worked started seeing my character as too influencial. Basically I was upstaging the other cleric. The high priest gave orders for my elimination after the next mission (which was supposed to be my last since I was leaving the table). I won't go into the details but the players conspired against me and I finally got away to plot my revenge on the bastards.

I'll miss those back stabbing soulless bastards.

Chaos be with you

That *IS* a delightful idea. I think I'm going to have to try and adapt it to my D&D campaign. The PCs have plenty of enemies gunning for them.

This might be the best gaming article I've read in the past 12 months. ....Got more?



I do have more. This is the first in a series of Evil GM articles. >=)

Truly a delightful idea. A slight twist I've tried is to single out a player and tell them I need a one-to-one session with them, to get to know them a little better, and have them use a new temporary pc to hunt down another player of the group (hopefully unknowing to them). Freeze the game there and in the next session start by saying: "OK, Mike, your playing your new char, and please describe yourself to Adam, who sees you posed above you with an axe..."
Excelent article Arkelias. Keep 'em coming

One of my players is going overseas for a few weeks.. now I've got something for the others to do while he's away. Thanks!

I'm currently designing a rather large campaign, and a new world to set it in, with some rather different dynamics. Anyway, I'm setting it up so that it's an actual live world, and the PC's can do whatever the hell they want, and depending on when they get somewhere, they may be, say, asked to put down a rebellion, or, later, asked to help enforce the new king's rule after the rebels win. Anyway, since I'm not requiring a specific cast, and I game with two different groups, I'm considering actually having both groups play, each affecting the world in their own way.

Here's one that worked real good for me.

Instead, of having your party play the bad guys, have them waiting for them.

I'm telling you when you make battles that involve characters the same level as they are and of equal number, with equally equipped items (in favor of your players). Man, they always shit on themselves when all hell breaks loose, because they make some assumptions and these are far from being correct.

Remember to entirely flesh out your enemy party, with tactics, prepared spells, names, reputations and some bits your players might have learned. Then when it all breaks out, you can be sure that at least one or two of your players will be dead, or really suffering.


This becomes necessary when you want to let your players know that you can kick some major ass, and don't worry, they'll thank you for it.

See ya guys & gals,