Disinformation is a fancy term for lying via a network for the purpose of achieving some form of gain. Need an example? Just look to the recent U.S. election campaigns and you will be sure to find plenty of them.
In the real world disinformation sucks, but in the gameworld it is merely an annoyance. Just follow this simple formula to introduce disinformation to the PCs in your game, and to have it develop from there into a nice plot point.
First Step: Disinform the PCs.
The general details will be up to you and should be influenced by your game’s setting. The only specific objectives that you must have with this step is to make sure that the PCs have incentive to act on the disinformation, and that the PCs know who the source of the disinformation is.
Example: The local militia tells the PCs that their leader has proof that the nomadic traders are kidnapping local children as part of a slave trade operation.
Second Step: The PCs learn the truth.
The PCs have acted on the disinformation, but as with any good plot there is a twist when the PCs realize that they have been deceived. The revelation does not need to be groundbreaking, but it does need to prove that the disinformation is a lie.
Example: The PCs confront the nomadic traders in a number of encounters, but eventually the PCs are victorious. Unfortunately the final confrontation takes place at a temple of a good god, and the temple elder explains to the PCs that he was paying the traders to purchase slave children to bring back to the temple. The temple’s order then rehabilitated the children and raised them to be free people. The traders were defending themselves believing that the PCs were members of the militia.
Third Step: Leave it in the PCs’ hands.
You have planted the seed, and now the PCs can take over. Let the players decide how they wish to proceed. Will they attempt to reveal the disinformation as a lie to the public, or will they just put their being duped behind them? Either result is fine. The important thing is not how this plot point is resolved, but that you use it to reveal what the players want from the game.
If the players seek revenge against those who deceived them you now know what your next session should focus on. If the players just want to write off the experience as their being duped, well then shelve this plot but keep the deceivers in your back pocket for a future session. A future appearance by the deceivers will most likely spark a reaction in the PCs, but with this second encounter the PCs will have the advantage of knowing who they are really dealing with.
Example: The PCs work out a deal with the temple and the traders to repair any damage that they have done. They forego any pursuit of the militia leader for spreading the false information about the traders, but a few sessions later when they hear that the militia leader insists that all villagers stay away from the recently discovered shrine in the woods the PCs know to be wary.
Not a Complete Plot
The way to use disinformation in your game is to seed potential plots, and not to try and develop a complete plot from the start with it. This way you are setting the stage of the game to be reactive to the input of the players. Plots that develop from player input tend to be more fun than plots manufactured by the GM, so try to provide starting points from which the players can develop the plot even further.
How have you used disinformation in a campaign? Leave a comment below and share how you have used this technique with all of our readers.