Deceptive Disciple
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He that hath a Gospel
Whereby Heaven is won
(Carpenter, or cameleer,
Or Maya's dreaming son),
Many swords shall pierce Him,
Mingling blood with gall;
But His Own Disciple
Shall wound Him worst of all!

(from) The Disciple Rudyard Kipling

Basic Information

A Deceptive Disciple is an apparently devoted follower and subordinate of a leader of a religion, school, or other organization - but secretly he has his own agenda and plans to betray the leader. Perhaps he tries to usurp them, or perhaps merely steal their secrets. Killing the leader in the process is optional, but common.

Of course, in some cases, this may be expected of a disciple - in the Star Wars universe a Sith apprentice is expected, in the fullness of time, to kill and replace his master and, in ancient Rome, the Priest responsible for the Shrine to Diana at Lake Nemi had to be an escaped slave who had won his position by killing his predecessor.

More prosaically, there will also be those disciples that water down and adulterate the master's message, for whatever reasons or who obfuscate what was meant to be plain, pile unnecessary cruft onto what was meant to be simple and place what was meant to be freely given behind a paywall. Add to these the stupid, the wanderers into blind alleys and the purveyors of fanfic and even non-malicious betrayal becomes pretty pervasive.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • A Deceptive Disciple who studied at the same school as one of the PCs makes for a good villain, since he is likely to be quite familiar with the capabilities of the PC - and vice versa.
  • If the PCs are dealing with a hierarchical organization, then discovering that there is a Deceptive Disciple among them and identifying him makes for a good investigative adventure - and the PCs might have a hard time because they are not trusted by the other members of the group if they are outsiders.
    • Alternatively, they might have to deal with the aftermath when a Deceptive Disciple has finally revealed himself and is running away with the secrets of the group - now it's a race against time to stop him before he can use those secrets for evil!
  • One of these in a Religion of Evil, on the other hand, can be a useful ally for PCs, or a Deus Ex Machina to save them from the consequences of a screw-up.
    • As noted, the fantasy religion of evil might well expect its followers to actively plot against one another … especially the "chaotic evil" variety.
  • Note that the deceptive disciple need not necessarily be malicious or disruptive - the David Gemmell novel Hero in the Shadows includes a priest who lost his faith long ago and is at best an agnostic, but still acts as though he were a committed believer, delivering sermons and pastoral care based on the teachings of his religion. His motivations are partly selfish - in that he discovered that he could make a reasonable living as a priest, but was unfit for any other form of work and partly because he recognises that, even if he doesn't believe he can convey any supernatural benefit, he can still give people aid and comfort by using the form of religion.
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