Welcome to The Handbook of Heroes #666. The occasion seemed like an auspicious time to bring Demon Queen back into the game. While it’s nice to see our voluptuous villainess back in play, certain pressing questions arise. For example, what ever became of the real Magus? Is she trapped in there with Demon Queen, or has our beloved catgirl left her soul in Albuquerque? And what exactly is Demon Queen’s plan here? Did she mean for this to happen, or is she just making the best of a weird situation? Will Antipaladin notice that peculiar red light? Will someone cast speak with animals on Patches the Unkicked? And what are The Evil Party going to do now that they’re down a frontline fighter? No doubt these questions will be answered many times over down in the comments. (Y’all do love some wild speculation.)

While we wait for these plot developments to develop, let’s take the opportunity to talk about traitor-in-our-midst scenarios. The Handbook offered one possible solution way back when, and we’ve also covered the old “what to do when you’re dominated” shtick. Today is a little different though. And to illustrate why, I’d like to return to our old pal Unassuming Drifter With A Mysterious Past.

As you may recall from UDWAMP’s last adventure, the character was an Alliance sleeper agent in a Firefly gameHis arc culminated spectacularly when his brainwashing got activated by his blue-handed handlers. Our ship nearly got exploded thanks to this sabotage, and so began our climactic confrontation-with-the-true-enemy phase of the campaign.

While the result was a slam-dunk session and a satisfying reveal, I think the more instructive piece was the buildup. You see, UDWAMP was not subtle. Dude would evade questions about his past, display knowledge of secrets he could not have known, and then do a theatrical turn-to-audience with a knowing smile whenever he successfully changed the subject. That last bit is particularly important, because we let him change the subject.

You see, when you’ve got a boat full of shady characters with unsavory pasts, it doesn’t do to go prying. All manner of war crimes, secret vendettas, and bounties on your head that you forgot to mention might fall out. And that includes your own. While the instinct to dig deeper is natural (If your past hurts me, then it is too my business!) I want to encourage restraint. Constant suspicion of fellow PCs, Insight-checking them, and poking them with the investigation stick might save you a little trouble, but it can also cost you a lot of interesting drama. No doubt Patches will spend the next few session barking at Magus. But if I’m Antipaladin in that situation, I’ll probably chalk it up to cat/dog tensions and let the problem go. That might not be a smart move from the character’s perspective, but this is one moment of metagaming where I’m happy to let the player’s priorities take the lead. And ‘create cool story moments’ is right at the top of my priority list.

What about you other denizens of Handbook-World? Have you ever left PC-with-an-obvious-secret alone so that their thing could pay off? Or conversely, have you ever found yourself hinting at a mysterious past only to be frustrated by your self-absorbed fellow party members ignoring your obvious hook? When does a PC’s interest in survival trump your interest in creating a cool moment? Let’s hear all about your own traitor-in-our-midst, Magus-is-sus moments down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Thrice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.