The new campaign kicked off Friday. All in all, it was a success. Lots of fun character moments, plenty of antics, and fairly neat ending, with the lower level group all packaged up into a team and kicked out the door to go do some quest-type things. So next time won't have as much "which character am I playing right now?" type confusion; we'll be able to cut between the two groups rather than managing the whole gang all in one place.
It also had three private, out-of-the-room conversations between me and one or two players, lots of note passing, and a bit of attempted blackmail. Which is pretty much par for course for a new game of mine. The last two major campaigns I've run all started out with a lot of intra-party intrigue. Secret agendas, spying for outside (and possibly hostile) powers, and sneaking off for one's own mysterious purposes is typical behavior in the first few sessions, and while it tends to calm down once everyone gets settled, sometimes it comes back to explode later down the line.
It's partly my fault. Even when I don't start the campaign by handing each player a secret piece of information, as I did in this game, I sometimes start up the note passing, and I'll suggest the private conversations. Although I'm sure that at some point this kind of thing will go terribly wrong, in a player-vs-player kind of way, for the most part I think it's a good way to get a new party used to each other, it gets players thinking about their characters backgrounds, and it encourages PC-on-PC roleplaying. (Though I'm usually careful to apply a bit of outside pressure; a dangerous common enemy works well to keep even characters who don't like each other together.) And this campaign has a lot of political considerations going on, so I'm quite pleased at the level of player involvement and interest in that aspect of the game.
But it strikes me as peculiar that this always happens. While I intended for Is This Foul? to have a conspiratorial tone, the intrigue that's infected the Traveller game was largely my players doing. Certainly I've encouraged it, since they seem to enjoy the note-passing and discovering each others secrets, but I wasn't the one who said "I want my character to work for the people Duke Burris is trying to overthrow, because they've captured her fiancé."
It could be just the kind of players I attract. But it also occurs to me that, if given the opportunity, players have some pretty powerful incentives to give their characters a bit of secret agenda. It gets them more one-on-one attention from me, and it gets them more attention from the other players, both in the "what's that person up to?" stage, and when they finally orchestrate their big reveal. Once one person starts doing it, everyone wants to do it, because they see that other player getting more spotlight.
So is a certain amount of secrecy a fairly common attribute in player-dom? Does anyone else have these note-passing kinds of early games? And has anyone ever had secrecy go horribly, terribly wrong?