So, last week, I posted this about my young players straight up murdering a couple innocent civilians, and how I planned to teach them a rather serious lesson about not going to the dark side. It got a lot of comments, and a bunch of people asked for a followup, so here it is.
First: To the little edgelords complaining that I “called their parents to tattle on them”, fuck off. I’m an adult, whom they entrusted with their children. If I’m about to do something that’s gonna get the kid upset or involve any kind of behavior correction, you’re goddamned right I’m going to tell the parents about it. Grow up.
Also, I’m kind of in awe of how many responses were equally split between “Deciding on the consequences for player’s actions robs them of their agency” and “If you don’t want them doing that, just tell them no, they’re not allowed to do that.” Honestly, it’s kind of fascinating the discrepancy between people viewing the DM as having total power over everything, versus just being there to facilitate whatever the players want to do. Personally, I put story first, and have a very
. Actions always have predictable reactions.
Anyway, here’s how I decided to handle the situation, and how it turned out.
Setup: It is the next morning. A bucket brigade spent several hours getting the fire out, but were able to keep it from spreading. First thing people noticed was that the entire shop had been cleaned out, down to the tools. Even before they saw the bodies. The wife in bed with the crushed skull was obvious even with the smoke and burning damage, but they noticed soon enough after that the husband’s throat had been cut.
Again, the empty shop is a glowing neon sign that there’s foul play, and the bodies are pretty obvious. The two perpetrators are a 7’ tall minotaur
Townsfolk are talking: The bowyer was well connected, by virtue of being really good at his job, and by just being a good guy. The guy who both assassins and the police go to for equipment needs. Gave money to widows and orphans. EVERYBODY was on good terms with this guy- the city watch/administration, the underworld, locals, adventurers, AND ship captains.
“These guys are screwed. They better pray the city watch finds them first- Then they’re just looking at prison. I shudder to think of what the thieves’ guild would do to them. Hell, there’s plenty of regular townfolk that would tear them limb from limb if they get to em before anyone else.”
The city watch is questioning everybody in the neighborhood. A bunch of citizens- and a couple ship captains- are setting up roadblocks. Who knows what the thieves’ guild is doing, but it’s bound to be efficient.
So the noose is tightening. The players will know at this point that they done fucked up, and it’s going to have consequences. I’ve decided on a couple possible outcomes:
- Redemption- If they try to make things right, the Druid that OUR Druid met with last week might be able to intercede on their behalf. “I healed this land, I can heal them”. The two characters will end up staying there for an unspecified period of time- They’d be iceboxed, and maybe at some point in the future, we can bring them back, multiclassed with a couple levels in either cleric, druid, or monk, with some pretty solid alignment conditions. That would bring them up to roughly the same level as the other 3 party members who go on without them.
- Fight- If they try to get out of this by killing more civilians and law enforcement, it will end very badly for them, and likely for the other 3 party members who *didn’t* take part in the murders. This has the potential for a TPK, but those two at minimum.
- Deny- If they try to pretend they didn’t do it, They will get caught and face trial.
If they do well, they might be sentenced to life at hard labor. If they do poorly, then it’s banishment/execution by putting the bag of holding into the portable hole…. Because they’ve been asking what happens when you do that. Characters are in prison or *gone* to some other dimension. Either way, this ends up with 2, possibly all 5 getting iceboxed with potential for returning someday.
- Run- This option really ends up going the crunchy stats and rolls route. They might evade everybody, escape to safety, and keep going, or maybe get caught and bring us back to one of the other options. In this case, they lose their patron, a deposit one had made with a local artisan for a commission, and any benefits from the folk hero background since they’re going to need to go far, far away. It also burns the adventure they were about to undertake because they told people about it, and some character and plot stuff because we’ll be looking at a brand new location. But they’d keep their characters, and given that the biggest losses would hit the *other* three players, this is likely to have some major repercussions later.
- Something else- Honestly, they could surprise me. They’ve absolutely done it before.
My BIGGEST concern is the 3 players who *didn’t* participate in the murders. They’re very likely going to be put in a position of having to turn on the other two, or go down with them. My perfect solution would be for them to be instrumental in the other characters’ redemption. The one who is the party’s link to the druid is also the one that has the most “follow the rules to WIN” mindset, and the best with puzzles- So I have a real good chance to nudge him in that direction.
The youngest player (9, Sorcerer) missed the last session. He’s the most kind and sensitive of the group, and often acts as their moral compass. I mentioned to his mom that this one might get kind of intense and it’s up to her whether he joins us for it. In game explanation is that he spent his day off shopping for other stuff in the port, and is kind of blindsided by the next morning’s events- Which works in and out of game. I’m pretty sure his reaction is going to be WHYYYYYY DID YOU DOOOOOO THAT?!? And I really see him as hammering in the “actions have consequences” angle, even though he’s the youngest and least mature in other ways.
Rogue and Fighter have elected not to tell the others what they did last night. So, we awoke to much talk about town over what happened, and how the city watch was closing off the roads and questioning people. I ask the Druid to make a wisdom check during this conversation, and he rolls a 19 plus his mod. Yeah, you know they did it. You don’t *KNOW*, but yeah, you “know”.
They decide to run.
So, they head off towards their original objective for this session, which was to obtain a green dragon egg to sell to a collector and dealer in rare animals. Before they get too far down the road, they meet a citizen roadblock. They handle that encounter awkwardly and decide to turn around and sneak through the woods.
I railroaded them a *little* bit by saying there’s nowhere good to sneak away without being seen, to direct them back to town and down the other road- The one that puts them in the same general vicinity as the good Druid, because I want to give them that option. They see the roadblock there, and backtrack just enough to sneak into the woods and head off in the direction they planned on going.
3 successful stealth rolls out of 5. “Okay, you make it to the woods.
An hour or so through the woods, and they hit a big open grassland. About halfway across, they hear horses. Small party of 6 people on horseback- Guard officer, guardsman, four civilians. They’re riding from the direction of town and waving at them. Players stop and wait for them to catch up.
“Just for clarification: All the loot you guys took- Where is it? Still in the portable hole? Or are you carrying anything on you?”
Rogue: “I have the best bow that we got, and the rest is in the hole”.
Fighter: “I have the crossbow.”
Riders come up, “You hear about last night? We’d like you to come back and answer some questions.”
This gets real awkward real fast. A couple rolls to decide whether the posse recognizes the bow and crossbow. They do. One goes over, speaks to the officer, then pulls something out of his pocket and rides a few paces away. Four of them circle with crossbows. One dismounts and pulls out manacles.
They decide to fight- except the Rogue who makes a break for the woods, and the Sorcerer who basically puts his hands up and plays dead. The allegedly lawful good Druid goes invisible, takes two crossbow bolts before he can move, and proceeds to try to take down the officer from behind. STUFF HAPPENS.
They manage to kill the whole posse (four WERE untrained civilians), and find that one did indeed have a sending stone on him, and clearly got out a message before they took him down.
This is where we ended…..
So, people in town KNEW they were headed towards the green dragon’s territory. If they go there, there’s a lynch mob going to be looking for them, or the thieves’ guild will send someone terrifyingly capable. If they change course and keep running…. Well, we’ll see where that leads.
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- 2 fo 5 new players dead in 2nd session, felt like a letdown
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "PART II, because you asked for it- “Killing PCs Next Week”" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- Gave my characters a McGuffin that was supposed to deliver them to the next big arc of the story. They now think it is a grenade. HELP.
- The Social Aspect of TTRPGs: DM Investment and Hiatus Guilt
- Transitioning from individual to party format–suggestions?
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