Withholding Information At The Table

There is a seductive delight in knowning something someone else does not and wishes to. As studies of behavior on the internet have taught us, most people’s motivation for engaging with people on the internet outside of their social circles is to feel superior to other people. Is it any wonder that some people find it difficult to share information that they alone lay claim to? Is it any wonder that some people fall prey to the delight of withholding information someone else wants in order to drive some tension and drama into what might otherwise be a calm, peaceful moment? Even I am not immune to the allure of gently taunting someone with knowledge I have the power to share or withhold.

Which is why I’ve embraced dramatic irony and let my fellow players in the one D&D game I play in know what is going on with my character’s background. It was fun to hold onto that secret for a while, fun to hint and tease and slowly reveal piece after piece of information. But we’ve been playing for over six months and it is difficult to move forward in roleplaying when you’re focused entirely on avoiding revealing a secret to the other players. Better to let the secret out eventually and see where you can grow from there.

Of course, the players’ character still have to earn the reveal. What played out was in a one-shot alternate-universe dream-sequence combat racing session where my character revealed their true form, name, and hinted at their motivations (a player needs to keep SOME secrets after all), so technically the versions of our characters in the main-story universe don’t have anything to remember or forget. I’m sure the secret will be fully revealed in time, especially since now the players know and I’ve given the DM permission to pull that ripcord any time he likes, and that will be where the real fun begins. Getting to explore learning to trust as this character I’ve made and written about extensively, examining their motivations and the worthiness of their goals, and learning to connect with other people. All great fun.

Which also means I can share the short story I wrote about them! Or, more accurately, about the identity they assumed when trying to hide their true nature. I’ll probably post it for the Friday following this post, give my fellow players plenty of time to read it since I shared it privately already, so get ready for a longer post! It’s been a while since I shared any kind of short story here, so I hope you all enjoy it.

The long and the short of it is that D&D, like all Tabletop Roleplaying Games, is supposed to be fun. As long as everyone is enjoying the teasing, the mystery, and the verbal sparring, feel free to indulge yourself in withholding whatever you like. Once it stops being fun, once it starts to feel odious, dull, or unpleasant, just share it. It’s not like anything bad will happen if a player acts on information their character doesn’t have. Most people are open to POLITE corrections if something like that comes up in a way that is important to you, and most people aren’t going to maliciously try to use that information in the game to hurt you or your character. And if they do, that’s generally a good sign that they’re not engaging in roleplaying games in a healthy manner, so you’re probably better off finding a group that doesn’t tolerate that behavior.

So have fun and indulge yourself, but make sure that you’re not having fun at someone else’s expense.

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