Content of the article: "A PC committed some crimes against the party’s wishes. I made the whole session about the consequences, and it wasn’t fun. What could I have done differently?"
Hello! This post is a bit of a story, but my goal is to know what I could have done better, because this was a session that wasn't really fun for anyone in the end. TL;DR at the bottom.
This is the third campaign I've run, and the first that any of my four players have played in. We're about ten sessions in, and as part of a larger quest the party was accompanying a PC's family member to a sanctuary for protection. The intro to the session was a quick description of what they saw on the road on the seven-day journey there. I described it as a safe, well-kept road with guards occasionally seen walking along it to keep the peace. They also spotted an especially nice carriage headed in the opposite direction. I was thinking they could either ignore it, or have a quick chat and get a bit of info on a political subplot.
One PC, a LN Cleric, decided that he wanted to rob the carriage. This was basically the first illegal activity that had been suggested in the campaign so far, and the other players strongly opposed the idea, but the CG Rogue eventually decided that she'd rather a successful robbery than a failed one and tried to help. Cleric tried to get the carriage to stop with some deception, but was unconvincing while Rogue failed her stealth check. The carriage wound up continuing on its way and the players pursued it no further.
Other PCs were annoyed at the Cleric for trying this in the first place. I decided that since I had mentioned this was a well-guarded road, the carriage driver would report the attempted theft when he next saw a guard, so a few hours later four guards caught up to the party. Spotting the Goliath Cleric from his description, the lead knight accused him of the attempted robbery. Cleric immediately admitted to it, and the guard asked the party to come with him to the nearest city for trial. The party, however, managed to convince the knight that it was all the Cleric's doing and that they were happy for the guards to just take him.
At this point, the Cleric asked me OOC what it would mean for his character if he went with the guards. I said that he'd definitely be allowed chances to escape, to fight his way out or to plead his case at trial, but if he wanted he could also just roll up a new character. This was made a bit more difficult, though, by the fact that the other PCs didn't seem to want anything to do with this Cleric anymore.
The Cleric decided he'd try to escape, and galloped into the bushes on his horse. The guards were mounted, too, and the Cleric rolled poorly on Animal Handling and decided to turn and fight. He'd just reached level 5 as a Light Cleric and began slinging Fireballs. The rest of the party had no interest in helping either side in the fight, and actually just started to leave with their carriage. The combat took a surprisingly long time, and in the end the Cleric had used all of his nine spell slots and defeated a Knight and three Thugs (adapted a bit to seem more like guards).
During all of this the party was just annoyed at the Cleric and weren't really involved in the action (actually two of the players are artists and doodled some angry fan art, which they posted in the Discord). The Cleric seemed a bit sheepish and a bit annoyed at me for how much fuss this had caused. When he caught up to the party, they just asked his character to leave. I decided to end the session there (after about three hours), apologized for how unfun the session had been, told them we could have a make-up session in the week to get to the action I had planned, and that maybe they should sleep on the decision of what to do with the Cleric.
In the end I felt pretty disappointed in the session. I think I was making decisions to preserve what I thought was the realistic result of the situation, but the session wasn't fun for anyone and I wish I had done something differently. So, where do you think I went wrong? What could I have done to make the session more fun? And is there anything you think I should say to my players about this to make things better going forward?
Cleric tried and failed at some minor crimes while the party told him not to. I made the session about the consequences and without the party on his side things got worse and worse for him. At the end of an unfun session the rest of the party asked his character to leave. I'm wondering what I could have done differently and what to do now.
- How to encourage a new player to roleplay?
- Did i handle this right? PC dying without it’s player being there.
- My Experience with a DM
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