by Delos

Secrecy at the Table

Something that I’ve gone back and forth about is secrets at the table. I’ve read these fantastic stories about players that have kept the con going for months of play time. Either these people are liars or they can play it straight better than I ever could. It probably doesn’t help that most of my games run out of steam after a few weeks. Getting busy and growing up will do hell to your free time. So the idea of running the same game for months on end is challenging enough let alone running a game without revealing the big secret early.

Due to the nature of my shorter games I’ve adopted the policy that all secrets are common knowledge to the players. The appropriate characters are still in the dark but their players will know what is coming. Keep in mind I’m talking about secrets PCs are keeping from other PCs. GM secrets are still kept on the other side of the GM screen. So what’s the differences to making PC plans and secrets open to actually keeping them hidden?

Play it close to the chest…

If the players keep their plans and secrets from their fellow players

  • The reveal will surprise the other players (and possibly the GM)
  • The other players won’t have to deal with out of character knowledge
  • There is a chance that the secret will be taken personal by other players
  • This happened at games I’ve played in
  • It could possibly end the game if the secret is big enough

Show your hand…

If the players share with the group what their character is planning

  • No player will be surprised when the reveal happens
  • Everyone will have to deal with out of character knowledge
  • Everyone can help contribute to the secret
  • Any problems with the secret could be discussed before it becomes an issue

So what’s better?

I guess it depends on what you are looking for when it comes to keeping your secrets from your fellow player (once again I’d like to reiterate that a player should not keep his plans secret from the GM). If your group decides that backstabbing is cool in your game, or within your group, and players want a surprise, then go ahead and keep it to yourself. Just be sure that your group will be ok with something like this. If it’s iffy then maybe it’s not the best idea. If your group is really big into shared world building and likes tension then maybe keeping your secrets open to all might make your game more fun.

That’s the biggest point I can make. If everyone at the table is having fun then you’re doing it right.

Why is the GM so special?

I keep saying no secrets from player to GM. Why? The person running the game deserves to know. That person is probably putting more into this game than everyone else, and if you are planning to pull the rug out from under them then you need to have a talk even more. When your RPGs turn into GM vs player, you’ve probably hit a wall and need a sit down (unless of course that is the nature of the game in which case, game on). If your secret is going to really add to the game then get your GM on your side. If they are worth their salt the least they can do is keep your secret or talk to you about how this will affect the group and the game.


So what great secrets have you kept from other characters? Tell me in the comments below and as usual thanks for reading.

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