So in my current homebrew campaign the party have ventured to a coastal city in search of a person from one of my players backstories.
This city survives primarily on its trade from ships coming and going in the large large harbour along the coast. This is the largest and only harbour on this side of the continent. The impact this harbour has on the rest of the world is also quite impactful, creating jobs and industry on other continents.
Upon arriving there they found the city had been taken over by a criminal syndicate. The Margrave locked up in the prison and the guards none the wiser. To cut a long story short, the surveyed the city for possible leads and found one at the harbour. A boat that had been ferrying/transporting someone/something too and from the city to an abandoned lighthouse.
Fast forward to the evening and the party is down at the harbour keeping an eye on activity of the boat. It had just come in from a trip, the Criminal Syndicate leader was there to greet the person coming off the boat…an old enemy from waay back at the start of our campaign.
Once the two baddies had left the harbour, the boat was still docked, with its crew still on. Our Cleric decided to cast Control Water at 4th level. Creating a tidal wave that destroyed up a large large part of the harbour and eventually crashed into the ship. Then turning it into a whirlpool to "seal the deal" on the crew of the boat.
They were then chased through the city, narrowly escaping and being forced to act quickly and free the city from the Criminal Syndicate.
They succeeded and now I'm faced with a tough choice. The party have obviously done a great thing by helping the city out, restoring the Margrave to his seat of power and ridding the city of the criminal syndicate. But they also destroyed a large portion of the very thing that keeps this city functioning and stable. With the loss of the harbour thousands of traders jobs will be lost not just in this city, but abroad as well. The cost of repairing the harbour and buildings surrounding the harbour will be pretty sizeable.
My question is, would it be too harsh to give the players no "physical" reward for this? I am thinking, when they go to speak with the Margrave to collect their reward, they will instead be told of the damages and ramifications of the actions they took at the harbour. They will be banished from the city, being imprisoned should they return before their sentence has been served. They have done the city a great service but have also severely damaged the infrastructure of the city that will take many years to recover from. Thanks in advance for all the help! And sorry for the long post!
Edit: Maybe should have mentioned that there were 30 innocent lives on the boat that was sunk. The Captain and her First Mate were bad eggs, but the rest of her crew were simply along because she paid very well. Some of the party knew this, sadly not the Cleric who cast the spell.
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