I’ve been talking a lot this week about deception, and it’s shown up a lot in my game—but most of the times I’ve used it as a PC require a lot of context, and a lot of the times I’ve used it as a GM not only require context but haven’t actually been revealed in game yet.
Which brings us to one of my few clean (or at least, easily generalized) examples, a stunt I pulled as a GM. This one, as many of my favorite face to face deceptions so far are or were, was pulled by perennial antagonist and pro manipulator Jalil. This was when he was holed up in the mind of his next incarnation, and the group had decided he was too dangerous to allow to stay there, so they all hopped into the lad’s dreams, found Jalil’s corner, and proceeded to beat him into sufficient cohesiveness that he could be removed.
The deception came in the process. The group had brought two NPCs to this particular fight—Ruby, because she was the best combat backup they could find, and Kiara, because she and Jalil had a history and she wanted to see it through to the end. As they were entering the last part of his corner of the dreamscape, Jalil split the group up and attempted to sow confusion by adding a sort of copy of Kiara to them as they came back together.
Needless to say, the basic components were straightforward. To be hidden: That the real Kiara was, well, the real one. To be substituted: that the fake was the real one—or at the very least, that the real one might not be the real one.
To do this, he chose the PC he thought would be most easy to pull the deception on: resident shapeshifter Shadow, a combat monkey with a bit of a hero complex. After ensuring that the copy was unaware that she was not the original (at least temporarily; he’d need her on his side later), Jalil set things up so that Shadow would be rescuing the copy from one of the numerous fragmentary bits of him that were communicating with all the split parts of the group at the same time. Making the copy forget, of course, meant that she wouldn’t have to knowingly lie, and giving Shadow the chance to be a hero made him likelier to want to believe he was dealing with the original—a tendency that was then encouraged by the fact that “K-2”, as I referred to her after the fact for concision’s sake, was a bit less bristly about needing help than her original.
He further took advantage of the circumstances in which the group came back together, all arriving in a mental library in which he was taking tea with Geri and the real Kiara. For most of them (as I still had most of my old group at the time), this likely seemed a bit odd, as Kiara had spent a great deal of time utterly afraid of him. Then, to push the conclusion without actually stating it, as K-2 and Shadow walked in, he called to the former, “I told you they wouldn’t notice you were gone.” (This part was even true, at least in Shadow’s part of the dream.) And for further confusion—since the object of the game was as much a stall as anything—he provided a third not!Kiara just in case someone would assume that he was pulling a true shell game and that neither of the pair present were the real one.
It worked for a little while, before eventually being foiled by a combination of a well-known aspect of Kiara’s character and a piece of exceedingly obscure knowledge. Either way, it was fun to run, and that was the important part.