Critical Failures: So, You Had a Twin Sister

This is just a story about something that a player did--or rather, did not do--during one of my campaigns that we still bring up from time to time.

About a year ago I had started running a campaign set in Eberron's Shadow Marches, which relied heavily on aberrant cults gradually weakening Gatekeeper seals, raising sunken cities, summoning aberrant stars, etc. When planning a campaign I like to get input from my players on their character's history, motivation, and goals so I can fine tune the campaign (similar to how it is done in Dresden Files). My philosophy is if i can get the players to step up and willingly do something without having to be prodded, I am good. The only real stipulation was that the characters had to have a reason for heading out to a remote mining town deep in the Marches.

Well, one of the characters wanted to play a changling rogue named Moxie, so we worked out a background where her sister had joined up with a guild in Zarash'ak when they were young in order to make some quick cash to pay for her illness (the character had a Con of 8). Her sister stopped coming home at some point, and after discovering the guild she joined Moxie signed up because they were not exactly going to give anyone a roster (not that looking for a changling exactly helped). So she toughs it out, does some menial jobs, and eventually gets signed up to do quite a bit of dragonshard smuggling from a remote mining town called Shardpit to the tune of 3,000 gps.

Fast forward six levels and a couple star-worshipping hellholes, and the characters are finally back at Zarash'ak with only a couple thousand gps worth of dragonshards to their name. Mind you, two characters went to Shardpit due to terrible visions (and belonged to the Cerulean Sign), and the other was a guide. Moxie's player divulged any information about who she was or what she was doing, and in fact in character they were not even aware that she was a changling.

They head to the Tharashk enclave in order to be debriefed, explaining what happened in Shardpit and Greyshore, and hand over their pittance of shards after learning about the shortages (other mining towns are being raided by orcs) before hitting the town to sell their loot, buy new stuff, and catch up with key NPCs.

Once they were sufficiently split up they run into some hired muscle, who threatens to kill Moxie unless she can come up with the dragonshards within a very short time frame. The party is now surprised to learn that she is part of the local thieves guild and that she was supposed to smuggle dragonshards. They ask her if she has anything else she'd like to share. You know, like her motivation (or at least her race). She tells them no, and decide to take the offensive and attack the guild. They ask around, beat up some people, find an entrance, and proceed to cut and blast their way through their ranks.

Once they are almost done, they run into something a bit different.

In the midst of the usual suspects of brutish thugs they run into a cloaked figure who is dashing and flipping about, wielding sword and dagger, dealing sneak attack damage with a flank, and faking them out like a changling would. Since Moxie's player was not getting the hint I even described the opponent's fighting style as "very similar to Moxie's".

It didn't work.

Eventually, everyone is dead and I describe how the cloaked figure reverts to its true form in changling fashion, and basically have to spell it out that she is Moxie's sister, the player evidently having completely forgotten what she was doing the whole time. Everyone at the table is surprised to learn that A) she is a changling, and B) that she even had a sister. Moxie's player is also surprised at this, despite knowing that this was the guild her sister joined and that she fought in an almost identical manner, tricks and all.

So...yeah. It was just one of those things that probably would have had an impact at all if the player had actually divulged any information to anyone and/or paid attention.


  1. Have to love players.

    "So you go to meet Bob ..."
    "Who's Bob?"
    "You are. Bob is your character."
    "I didn't know that."

    There is nothing much you can do about that one.

  2. Keeping secrets from the rest of the party is an interesting dilemma. I know some players are really into it, but I've found that it's better if everyone at the table knows your secret, and just role-plays as if their character didn't know. It leads to a lot more awesome moments at the table, since everyone is in on the joke and knows what's going on.

    The people who like to keep secrets often feel that there's going to be a bigger payoff, a sort of "A-HA" moment when the secret is finally revealed to the group. However, in my experience, what usually happens is similar to your experience. Everyone is confused or has forgotten what's going on.

  3. some years ago I had a character with a few secrets (Kirar, a swordsage from far away). After he died (note: minotaur barbarians are very, very bad for your prolonged well-begin if you lack ranged attacks) my new character, Telwas (wizard) was reading his diary. Which led to Kirar's cremation and the return of the remains to his family... the ruling family of a distant land.

    It was pretty cool, I got to roll out all the stuff that we never got around to 'discovering' in the party, after my character's death.

    Also, the whole "he was a *prince*?" "according to this, fourth son of the sixth wife, he wasn't really all that close to the throne" "he was a *PRINCE*?!" amused me no end.

  4. Keeping secrets isn't bad, but it becomes a problem when you keep them from anyone and then just kind of forget about them yourself. :-P


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