So my party tried to murder a cleric...

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In front of a city guard.  They tried to kill the guard, too.  The backstory was that they tried to ask this lawful good cleric NPC how much they could get for an obviously evil magic item on the black market, and the cleric destroying it by throwing it in a fire. 

Half the party walked out, the others tried to murder the cleric.  The guard was in the room because the party's bard decided to troll them by letting a random guard know that he might want to check out what was going on in the room. 

The party was getting their buts handed to them, so they decided to surrender midway through the fight.  Now half the party is sitting in a Fallcrest prison cell, and I have to come up with something for our next session which is this Friday.

I imediatly thought of doing a trial as a complexity 5 skill challenge, but I'm not sure what the best way to do it.  I'm thinking of doing Diplomacy and Bluff as primary, with Intimidate and History as secondary skills. The high complexity is to try and balance things out, since the bard has decided to step up and be their defence, and he obviously has a really good diplomacy skill, and the Dragonborn blackguard has a really decent intimidate skill.  I don't want him to just astro-glide the party through the challenge.  I'm going to give them a chance to collect information on the jururs before the trial, maybe try and buy them off or intimidat them to give them some advantages before the trial. 

My main problem is with succes or failure.  Asault and attempted murder of an innocent cleric and a city guard is a serious offence.  Realistacly, I can't imagine them getting any less then a death penalty, or at the very least life in prison.  Their isn't a good deal of comroderie in the party, so the people who weren't involved in the incident probably aren't going to attempt a jail brake or anything. How can I set this up so that the campaign doesn't come to a grinding halt because of this incident?
You probably can't.

Frankly, your party did something unfathomably stupid, and they're going to pay the price for it.  The trial seems superfluous ... it looks like an open-and-shut case (at least two counts of attempted murder, with witnesses).  At best, succeeding in the skill challenge might mean life in prison instead of a public execution ...

You should probably contact the players of the PCs who left and ask what their plans are, before the game ... even if the murderous PCs do beat the system or escape, the odds of them being willing to hook back up with the folks who walked out on them (even if they deserved it) seem slim.  I can easily see the murderous PC's attacking the rest of the group for their 'betrayal' (even if the murderous PCs really did have it coming).

This might be a good time to re-evaluate the campaign, anyway; the lack of comraderie you mention seems like it would have been a potential stumbling block at one point or another, even if it hadn't turned out to be something so severe, to say nothing of discussing appropriate PC behavior and motivations.  Murdering innocents tends to be one of those things that can divide a game in general.
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see, this is one of the tricky things I find about being a DM - when someone in the party wants to do something unbelievably stupid, do you let him, knowing he will get himself and likely a good portion of the party killed, do you warn him off ("yeah, that's going to be... a really high DC), or do you just say no?  Usually, this has to do with the damn rogue.
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I have some creative ideas for how the party may get off the hook. They are far fetched and ignore the real problem, which is that your players need to see what they did wrong and understand they can't just get away with things.

Now, I can share my ideas, with hopes that actual lessons may be learned outside of the game through other ideas discussed. Your question was regarding methods of continuing the story, not specifically how to punish your players, so that's what my first reaction is to explore.

A third party intervenes, pleading to the courth that:
A) The party was cursed by the obviously evil magic item, and must join forces to destroy it. (Actually curse the players)
B) The party should be punished not by death, but a life time of servitude. (Establish some physical manacles or magical binds that limit their actions like a geas)

This can be directly linked to a story, if that idea fits in at all.

Otherwise...

The party uses a skill challenge to defend themselvs, convincing the judge they were not acting out of their own will. The cursed evil relic bewitched them, and they are innocent.
A) Arcane check to explain the relic.
B) Religion check to explain the malicious dieties involved, and the hatred towards good.
C) Bluff check to BS.
D) History check to tie it in to the setting.

OR...

The judge, vexed by the presence of an evil cursed relic, decides the players were not truly guilty by their actions. He senteces the players to life in prison. Then a skill challenge ensues to break out of the prison by:
A) Bluffing/Bribing guards (look the other way, carry messages to non-imprisoned party members)
B) Diplomacy on the inmates to help (cause distraction, kill non-bribed guards, cause a riot)
C) Stealth (sneak out through chaos)

Failures mean the players intiate an combat during a prison transfer, where they only use improvised weapons and bare fists to subdue their guards. With luck, they can figure out where to go from there.

Those are some ideas to work with.
But really, talk to your players. They're not helping anyone out here by acting like idiots. 
Since you have faith in your ability to set up a trial challenge, that's probably going to work out for the best. Regardless of the results though, don't sentence them to death/prison. There are much more interesting possibilities here. 

This evil artifact (background would be helpful) can be tied to a bigger story. At some point during/right after the trial, some bad guys who are connected to it are going to show up and wreck the town. Now, the players get a chance to redeem themselves, maybe even tell the townsfolk that this would never have happened if the cleric hadn't burned the item (absolving themselves a little). 

Basically, give them the chance to salvage their reputation by doing a heroic deed that saves the town. However, reading the description of your party members, they're probably not good-aligned and thus not prone to heroics. If that is the case, and they refuse to help out the town/better their lives, by all means kill them for their stupidity and let them make new characters. You have to draw a line somewhere. 

(alternatively you could let them join up with the bad guys that attack the town for another interesting story angle)
Time for the prison break scene.

Players are inches away from the gallows when the rest of the party swoop in and save them. 
Ant Farm
lawful good cleric eh?

tried to kill him and failed and got caught?

this is EASY!

trial happens, the PCs are getting slammed, when the cleric walks in (if he wasn't alreay inside) and wishes to talk with the party.  The cleric agrees to "drop all charges" and even convince the city and the almost murdered guard to let that matter drop as well.....IF:

"insert next BIG plot point here"

The murderous party members are on probation and are watched inside fallcrest until they PROVE their act has cleaned up.  The party is no longer split.  The ones who did the RIGHT thing are able to say "we told you so" to the others.  The next plot point is not only introduced, but the party has a STRONG vested interest in seeing it through properly. 

TLDR; the cleric shows up and gets them off the hook if they agree to do [insert plot point here] in return.


as a side note, this really gives them "one more chance" to continue doing the right thing.  If they screw this up and willfully cross the authorities or try to murder the cleric (or theirparty members) again, then i'd suggest either transitioning the campaign into an "evil" campaign against the tyrannical Fallcrest, or (if thats really not the kind of campaign you want to run - i don't blame you) just end the campaign and encourage a little bit better of a group direction with morality the next time.  


TLDR; the cleric shows up and gets them off the hook if they agree to do [insert plot point here] in return.

 



I was going to suggest the same, or maybe an evil high ranking city official has some work for some adventures with their special talents.  Either way I would make it something that they can't get out of and somewhat difficult for them. You could make a good sized session out of it with placing bodies int their cells and having an "accident" occur in the jail.

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I'm going to play devil's advocate here, just to give you an alternative point of view and something to think about-not saying this is how I actually feel or think, just a few points that could be taken into consideration.


1.  You said the Cleric is Lawful good, his behavior says otherwise.  Lawful Good characters have honor, integrity and honesty.  A LG character is highly unlikely to take something that belongs to someone else, even if it is an evil artifact, and destroy it.  Thats hardly honorable or honest.  Destruction of someone else's property is a crime, and hence, unlawful.  Just something to think about when you roleplay LG characters.  Only Paladins or Clerics of fanatical Gods such as Torm will generally destroy evil on the spot, others follow a rather rigid code involving honor. 


This kind of oversight allows the PC's to get off the hook, they weren't trying to 'murder' the Cleric, they were defending their property-whatever it may be.  Most kingdoms and cities allow for people to defend their property, even with lethal force.


2.  If this is the way that Clerics behave in this city, and if the PC's actions were indeed unlawful don't let them off the hook.  Its not your job as a DM to keep the PC's from doing stupid or foolish things.  It is however your role to realistically portray what would happen in such cases.  People charged with murder (or attempted murder-especially of city officials) are often executed.  The other PC's should also be aware that attempting to save someone from an execution will not be looked upon kindly and they could well end up hanging from the gallows if they are captured.  From here the decision is up to the PC's.  If this happened in one of my games a few players would be rolling up new characters in short order.  When a player gains to much infamy eventually someone who has been slighted will hire a bounty hunter or an assassin, this individual will be of an appropriate level but quite often PC's don't expect someone to try hunting them down and killing them, but it happens.


I have detailed two basic choices, option 1 allows you to roleplay a judge siding with the PC's and exonerating them-possibly even charging the Cleric with a crime.  Option 2 allows you to demonstrate your seriousness as a DM and drives the point home to the players that there are consequences to their actions and that you won't just give them a free pass.  


Personally I would probably go with option 2, my players enjoy my games because they know there is an inherent risk to their actions, and they know that while I create fair and overcomable challenges I will try to kill them should the opportunity and reasoning present themselves.  -and I often do.  Just last week two of my party's PC's were killed by a level 2 Scout (3.5) who had been hired to hunt them down by the Sgt of the Guard after the PC's killed his wife.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
While I like the idea of a trial skill challenge, I've seen it done before and I've done it once. Both times, different groups, different DMs - it fell flat. It's one of those ideas that sounds good in theory and looks good on paper. I don't think it's your best option.

Instead, I'd recommend the following: You spend some time building up the trial. Show the PCs how the jurors being selected are all faithful, god-fearing individuals. The prosecutor and/or judge is a fire-and-brimstone strict interpreter of the law and a friend to the church. The attorney of the PC has political aspirations and has no desire to see obvious killers get off. Paint a picture that things look grim for the accused PCs. Done right, the imprisoned PCs should feel pretty desperate and low. Everything is stacked against them.

Moments before the trial is set to begin, something big happens. An orcish warband attacks the city. A comet falls from the sky and wipes out a quarter of the population. A horrible curse is unleashed and demons begin rampaging through the streets. Something - anything that will take the focus off this trial and give the PCs an opportunity to redeem themselves by coming to the aid of the city, possibly standing side by side with the cleric they tried to murder. When all is said and done (however it plays out), the PCs are either exhonerated by their good deeds or those who would stand as their judge and executioner are all dead. Don't be afraid to go really big with this scene.

Then get these PCs away from the city or any city for that matter for a while. Focus on heroic adventuring elsewhere so they are less inclined to commit acts that generally aren't very fun to play out. And for the love of the gods, don't bring up alignment when judging the consequences of how they act. It's totally subjective and discussing it will get you absolutely nowhere fast. Ignore that and lead with whatever fiction will allow the campaign to continue on the right foot in the most interesting way.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Time for the prison break scene.

Players are inches away from the gallows when the rest of the party swoop in and save them. 



Except, from the sounds of things, the rest of the party won't be doing any swooping.
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I like Iserith's answer to the problem of half the party being jailed for trying to slaughter a pillar of the community and man of the cloth, but I think that's the least of the group's problems.  The greatest is that the party has dissolved to the point of PvP.


The heroes are supposed to be able to trust one another in life-or-death situations, but the would-be killers betrayed the rest of the group's trust by implicating them in a high profile murder, and the bard has betrayed the trust of the would-be killers by tipping the cops off to the situation.  I could see them burying the hatchet if the bard had put himself between them and the priest, but he ran, leaving the cleric to his fate, and set the guards on his companions, leaving them to face the consequences of the murder.  


Getting the party off the hook for the attack seems like a waste of time unless you can figure out how to get the party back together.      


It might be most productive at this point to let your players know that you want to run a game of heroic fantasy (if that's true,) and to start over with new heroes.  Before you do, maybe sit down with everyone and have a "zero session" where everybody talks about what kind of game they want to play.  

"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
I like Iserith's answer to the problem of half the party being jailed for trying to slaughter a pillar of the community and man of the cloth, but I think that's the least of the group's problems.  The greatest is that the party has dissolved to the point of PvP.


The heroes are supposed to be able to trust one another in life-or-death situations, but the would-be killers betrayed the rest of the group's trust by implicating them in a high profile murder, and the bard has betrayed the trust of the would-be killers by tipping the cops off to the situation.  I could see them burying the hatchet if the bard had put himself between them and the priest, but he ran, leaving the cleric to his fate, and set the guards on his companions, leaving them to face the consequences of the murder.  


Getting the party off the hook for the attack seems like a waste of time unless you can figure out how to get the party back together.      


It might be most productive at this point to let your players know that you want to run a game of heroic fantasy (if that's true,) and to start over with new heroes.  Before you do, maybe sit down with everyone and have a "zero session" where everybody talks about what kind of game they want to play.  




That's a very good point. Excellent, in fact. There is that element at play here. And for this reason, I also think the external threat meme is the way to go. Shared adversity has a way of bringing people together in fiction (and in real life for that matter though I dislike it when people try to use real life examples to justify things in D&D). It will get everyone's attention off the problem at hand, provide a reason for people to start working together again, and provide impetus for further adventure. Done properly - by upping the cool factor to Awesome Level or higher - it'll even seem like it was supposed to happen all along and any appearance of heavy-handedness will be muted.

In the end, it sounds like everyone did what they thought was logical for their PCs to do at the time given the events that were transpiring. Unfortunately, this is folly and almost always leads to these kinds of results. The DM then feels constrained to come up with logical results. Also folly. The best course of action in these scenarios is to rely on the established fiction and the fantasy world to allow you to go against what logic would suggest so that the game can continue focusing on fun, as opposed to "unfun," consequences.

This also sounds like a problem that could have been resolved before it ever came up with a solid Session Zero, as Kaganfindel mentions.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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The heroes



I'm not sure that word applies to anybody involved, much less the PCs under arrest ... but I agree with the rest of the post.
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One perspective on this is that you can have the trial, but consider that just because the cleric in question is Lawful Good that doesn't necessarily mean the justice of Fallcrest is also.  If fact, most fantasy justice swings closer to Unaligned.

Let the story come out at the trial and have the skill challenge.  If they fail they could be given the chance to perform a service to the cleric's temple as a second chance (as was suggested earlier).  But if they succeed, the PCs have offerred another side to this and swayed justice a little their way.  In this case the PCs are still required to do service, but the LG Cleric is also ordered to pay the party the value of the destroyed item.  Of course, the cleric out and out refuses to "buy" an evil relic leaving the judge no choice but to also release the PCs from service.

The party walks away, having made a new enemy as they are now "watched" by the cleric and the temple in question.  Campaign continues...
In reply to one post I think the LG would destroy it, if its an evil artifact hes not going to let some random people just have it to do who knows what with, he would however more then likely pay them in gold or goods and preach to them the need to destroy it, but then again alingment is so many shades of grey everyone has their own view.

The PCs did something retarded, nothing new there really, people often view d&d as a hack and slash video game with no cause/effect. A prison break works of course but you can be sure there will be alot of wanted posters and bounty hunters after them now and the other PCs will more then likely not even want to be around them after they did such an act, I know if I was a player in that quest I wouldnt trust them to watch my back in a dungeon with alot of loot.

A sort of similar event happened in one of my old quest, how I dealt with it is the king/judge/etc found out they were adventurers, they had a choice to be put to death or go one a nearly sucidial quest for the king, the catch being they had to wear slave collars that were highly magical and nearly impossable to remove, if they tried to remove them or took to long getting to locations the collars kill the PC, the collar wouls teleport back on them if they tried various tricks like "Killing myself and removing collar then havin other PC casting raise dead." You could even add other geas to it like "Cant kill guards" or "Can not kill humans" etc etc. Granted you could let them find some clever way to remove them, but remember its suppose to be a punishment for being stupid so let them be punished.
New PCs.

The collar thing sucks because it's just another way magic solves everything convienantly. There is no real consequence to it. They go out and kill more stuff, get loot and xp and return better off than when they left.
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Oh I agree it isnt that great, and in general I would be more on the line of "You murdered in town, got caught and unless the other PCs make up some crazy plan to help you, your dead make new chars." But some Dms dont want their PCs to die so its kinda a punishment without punishment and a great way to force the PCs into a direction. I for one dont let simple "Skill checks" save the day either "Grats you roll high you avoid any punishment" Is equally stupid to me.
Ideally, every choice made by everyone involved in the game is an interesting one that moves the game forward.

Reality can be interesting, but it often gets in the way of a more interesting outcome.

Imprisonment and death can be interesting, but it can be tricky to make them so.

So, while it's not all that easy, particularly in this case, I think the DM should have picked a more interesting outcome than a fight as a response to the PCs assaulting the cleric. That doesn't mean that nothing bad happens to them, but there's "interesting bad" and "boring bad." No one wins when the outcome is "boring bad." With "interesting bad" there might still be a downside for the characters, but the game goes on for all concerned and even those experiencing the downside might be interested in how it plays out.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Ideally, every choice made by everyone involved in the game is an interesting one that moves the game forward.

Reality can be interesting, but it often gets in the way of a more interesting outcome.

Imprisonment and death can be interesting, but it can be tricky to make them so.

So, while it's not all that easy, particularly in this case, I think the DM should have picked a more interesting outcome than a fight as a response to the PCs assaulting the cleric. That doesn't mean that nothing bad happens to them, but there's "interesting bad" and "boring bad." No one wins when the outcome is "boring bad." With "interesting bad" there might still be a downside for the characters, but the game goes on for all concerned and even those experiencing the downside might be interested in how it plays out.



Could we get a f'rinstance?  Because I'm really having trouble coming up with any outcomes from this scenario that don't say 'half you guys make new characters, and please don't make them sociopathic homicidal idiots this time'.

Yes, ideally, it would be possible to find a way to move the game forward and all that, but this is 'how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Sphere of Annihilation' levels of stupid.
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Could we get a f'rinstance?  Because I'm really having trouble coming up with any outcomes from this scenario that don't say 'half you guys make new characters, and please don't make them sociopathic homicidal idiots this time'.

The fire releases or summons and evil creature who whisks away the PCs (including those who walked out) as a favor for releasing him.

Have the story jump to a point at which the PCs, all of them, are being run out of town by a crazed mob who aren't interested in which one of them started the attack. That city is now off limits, which is all to the good since these characters clearly need not to be put in front of friendly NPCs.

Have the artifact blow up, leveling the town with only the PCs managing to survive.

Any of those are more interesting than, "Whelp, make new characters!" or "You're now in a fight you can't win, with death or prison as the outcome."

Granted, I'm not sitting at the table, under pressure to decide what to do next, but I go in with death and imprisonment or other boring outcomes essentially off the table, unless I have an interesting idea for them. So, I'd pause, maybe get a snack, and take some time to figure out what, other than those, I could have happen.

Yes, ideally, it would be possible to find a way to move the game forward and all that, but this is 'how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Sphere of Annihilation' levels of stupid.

Hardly. In any case, punishing them (and, potentially, the rest of the table, if the punishment is dull enough) is a proven way to cause more problems. Better to roll with their choices and get them away from situations in which their preferred response is non-viable.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

You don't need to turn this into an interesting situation in order to keep an interesting game.


Not every situation is going to be fascinating or fun.

Only if you don't want them to be.

 To me it appears the PCs need a lesson in common sense, even if that lesson is the headman's axe. 

Counterproductive. But so were the cleric's actions in the first place.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

It can be a useful device.

Yes, as you note, it's useful when you have a specific place for the PCs to go.

I recommend against having a specific place for the PCs to go and having a problem if they don't go there.

I don't recommend a full-on sandbox and all the prep that supposedly entails. I'm just talking about letting the PCs drive a little. They wanted to steer it down Attack the Cleric Road. Cool, but that turns into You Own an Ancient Evil A Favor Avenue. Or whatever.

I would disagree that executing the PC's would be counterproductive.  Sometimes it can be very productive to remove problem characters from a game by demonstrating that D&D isn't a fantasy world where 'anything goes'-that the cities and locations within them have laws and customs, violating them have consequences and that there is real danger because the DM isn't going to spend hours every week figuring out how to get your dumb butt out of another tricky entanglement, surviving is up to you.

But it tends to do next to nothing to the players of those characters.

It's not hours spent getting them out of a tricky entanglement. It's at most minutes figuring out how to make the entanglement interesting instead of stone boring.

And D&D is a fantasy world where 'anything goes.' The "expected" outcome doesn't always need to be the one that occurs.

If the players don't think the DM will ever kill or punish them they get bolder.  Bolder and bolder until the DM is either forced to take severe action or the game world is broken.  I've seen it happen to kind, well meaning DM's multiple times, it ruins the game for everyone else.

I'm not saying don't punish them. I'm saying that, whatever you do, make it interesting. Death and imprisonment CAN be interesting. They're just usually not, especially if the DM is deliberately making them boring out of some perceived need, right, or responsibility to punish the players for doing what they thought made sense.

This is a reality that must be dealt with, my preference is to avoid that slippery slope in the first place.  You get to far out of line and someone or something is eventually going to attempt to put you down.           

That's only one of a limited number of realities, popular because so many of us wish that approach worked in our favor in the real world. But there are so many other ways it could go that would be interesting and just as plausible in the game world. It may require a bit of thought, a bit of behind-the-scenes adjustment, but it can be done.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

My group has a combined total of more than 120 years of D&D experience with the most inexperienced player having more than 10 years.  My players are risk takers and boundary pushers.  If I give them an inch they will take a mile.  We pass around the DM responsibilities a bit, but I know that my players actively engage in a game we actually call "F*** the DM"...


Yeah, I would not get along with such a group and my normal advice for dealing with situations would likely not apply to your group. I mean, I'm even shifting to letting the players have control over how the battlefield looks, which means there's a basic agreement that they don't engineer it to their advantage, or take advantage of their own glaring design flaws (Hey guys, look over here, we can go around this entire encounter!).

But all things being equal, I'm in agreement with Centauri here. It would be much more interesting if the attempted murder of the cleric forced them to deal with the cleric's order or turned them into promising recruits for a dark power that will eventually betray them.

However, it seems the main issue is going to be party unity, and because of that, it's likely half the group will have to roll up new characters regardless, with clearer direction as to what the campaign will entail. The OP should discuss this with the group, and see how they want to continue.
Not all games need to be heroic fantasy.

If the PCs knew they were getting into a game of heroic fantasy where they're supposed to be goody-two shoes, sure, punish them if you like.

If the terms weren't so clearly described, then I think it's wrong to punish them for not playing like you thought they would. "Guess what the DM is thinking" is wrong. You should either give them a chance to escape this, then tell them all what you want the game to be like so that they cana void repeating the situation, or you should just roll with it.

There have been a lot of interesting points. Centauri as usual has thrown out some fun possible outcomes.

But I have to emphatically disagree with Detoxifier's concept of "punishing players." The DM doesn't have the role of disciplinarian. The DM is the abdicator of the situation. Yes, there should be plausible consequences to a PC’s actions and those consequences could very well inconvenience the PCs significantly. But, punishment? I just feel that’s the wrong attitude.


Also, you stated that not every situation has to be interesting. Perhaps. But the GOAL should be to make every situation interesting. Whether or not we succeed as a DM at this is another matter. We should never allow ourselves to thing that it’s OK to make this next bit boring because we have a lesson to teach.

Thanks to CrowScape and FlatFoot.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

The DM doesn't have to be a disciplinarian, the world can do that well enough.

I mean, I would happily punish any brute who feels that violence is the correct way for absolutely everything. A lesson like that is utterly priceless, easpically if they had built up the expectation that their characters were completely immune to the world around it. My previous DM taught the value of life to all of us and it was because of that I created lasting, well throught out characters that didn't do crazy crap in the first place, but rather approched things carefully.

In this case, do what the natural situation dictates. Let them defend themselves in court by providing a leftwinger who gives them hooks to do. Whatever you do, keep it short and tell them to prepare themselves for the possiblity of a new character incase they fail and end up getting excuted, unless you can justify them doing something else.
Have the judge ask for a bribe.  He lets them off with a stern warning on a techincality or else gives them probation with them being indebted to him or the city.  If they were willing to kill a cleric, they should be willing to pay a bribe to get out of jail.

That won't directly solve the party conflict issue but will set up some lots of other potential plot points.
What about the Ghostbusters 2 gambit?

The would-be murderers are put on trial.  The priest is the plaintiff, and the judge is a close friend of the priest, a real hangin' judge.  The trial begins, it's a slam dunk, and as the priest stands before the judge, raining righteous spittle down on the accused, the creature who created the "evil item" in the first place blasts its way into the audience hall to claim the soul of the dogoodery mortal fool who busted his favorite toy. 

   The attack interrupts the trial and puts the cleric in peril.  The cleric begs for help while the creature makes the venue for the trial into an open air abbatoir, and the PCs get a choice: escape in the confusion and find a new town for their home base, or throw in on the side of the cleric, save his life, earn the grudging respect of the townsfolk and a pardon from the judge, and a lifelong enemy in the form of the cleric (who will hate them for escaping justice, and hate them doubly for owing his life to them for the deed that allowed them to escape justice).   The cleric is punished for destroying private property simply because "it's evil," and the party still suffers the loss of the cleric as a resource for attacking him.


That would give the players who turned them in one more chance to jump in on their side, and might help get you past the breakdown of trust between members of the party.  At worst, it's an excuse to shelf the issue of the betrayal until after one more blockbuster game session.  
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
I want to reply to this-hopefully just this last time to clarify some statements.


Either I'm doing a poor job communicating or some of you are doing a poor job of reading critically-I tend to think its a bit of both.


I never said the DM should be a disciplinarian, I cannot stand DM's who are and would never advocate for that.  What I was saying was that while its not the DM's job to punish, its also not the DM's job to fret over ways to get the PC's out of hot water they got into by making stupid decisions.  My reasoning for this is that it can embolden the PC's-consciously or subconsciously they may come to believe they are not going to be harmed because the DM will intervene on their behalf, and that sometimes suffering the consequences of their actions-in the game world, the way it would naturally play out-is more important than the lives of those particular PC's. 


Suffering the consequences of poor decisions can reinforce the concept that the game is a challenge, risky, and dangerous, and increase the fun your players gain from overcoming those challenges-knowing that they just as easily could have failed.


Lastly, if you believe every situation needs to be interesting I would say you haven't analyzed to many games very carefully.  This really is a topic for another thread so I will be very brief on this.  Sometimes it can be a useful device.  An exhausted group of run ragged PC's stumble into a rather mundane looking forest clearing.."have we lost them?  is it safe to rest now?"  Scanning anxiously they determine this place looks to be of insignificance, noone travels here, doesn't look like any monsters dwell here and the air doesn't reek of dark magic.  "I think we are ok, this place looks about as normal as my back yard."

Sometimes normal is exactly what the PC's need, to rest, plan, or recover and regroup.  If the DM injects some kind of fascinating story hook into every scenario the PC's would never be able to focus on completing any of them.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Either I'm doing a poor job communicating or some of you are doing a poor jobing or reading critically-I tend to think its a bit of both.

That was unnecessary.

I never said the DM should be a disciplinarian, I cannot stand DM's who are and would never advocate for that.  What I was saying was that while its not the DM's job to punish, its also not the DM's job to fret over ways to get the PC's out of hot water they got into by making stupid decisions.

The use of the term "stupid" is a red flag for me in these conversations.

My reasoning for this is that it can embolden the PC's-consciously or subconsciously they may come to believe they are not going to be harmed because the DM will intervene on their behalf,

It's not about not harming them. Bad things should certainly happen to them, and their choices should, at least in part, dictate which bad things those are. But if the choice is between bad things that are interesting and exciting, and bad things that are boring, why not pick the bad things that are exciting?

I think I know the answer. I think it's because the players disrupted the DM's interesting plans with their "stupid" decisions and therefore don't deserve an interesting game. I mean, why bother since they're just going to disrupt any interesting plans the DM devises, right? So, the DM comes up with a boring game, since that's obviously what the players want.

I'm saying, if you're going to run a boring game, why run the game at all.

and that sometimes suffering the consequences of their actions-in the game world, the way it would naturally play out-is more important than the lives of those particular PC's.

There is no single "way it would naturally play out" in the game world. Heck, there are lots of plausible ways it could go in the real world which is why crime dramas are so riveting, but in a fantasy world the sky isn't even the limit. It's not hard to come up with bad consequences for player decisions that are not only plausible but interesting as all get out. But I realize that doesn't matter. People aren't looking to have an enjoyable, interesting game. They're looking to teach a lesson.

Suffering the consequences of poor decisions can reinforce the concept that the game is a challenge, risky, and dangerous, and increase the fun your players gain from overcoming those challenges-knowing that they just as easily could have failed.

Absolutely. And if done in an interesting way, the whole table can enjoy failure just as much (if not more) than success.

Look, it doesn't even have to be that interesting. The key lesson in 4th Edition, after "Yes, and..." is hidden away in the chapter on skill challenges. To paraphrase, it says that failure should not be the end of the story or the game. This was meant to apply to skill challenges, but there's no reason that philosophy shouldn't or can't be applied to every choice or encounter in the game.

Lastly, if you believe every situation needs to be interesting I would say you haven't analyzed to many games very carefully.  This really is a topic for another thread so I will be very brief on this.  Sometimes it can be a useful device.  An exhausted group of run ragged PC's stumble into a rather mundane looking forest clearing.."have we lost them?  is it safe to rest now?"  Scanning anxiously they determine this place looks to be of insignificance, noone travels here, doesn't look like any monsters dwell here and the air doesn't reek of dark magic.  "I think we are ok, this place looks about as normal as my back yard."

Sometimes normal is exactly what the PC's need, to rest, plan, or recover and regroup.  If the DM injects some kind of fascinating story hook into every scenario the PC's would never be able to focus on completing any of them.

I'm contrasting "interesting" with being executed or tossed into a prison cell. Those tend not to be interesting because, I believe, they're meant as disciplinary actions or lessons. Your example above hints at PCs on the run from something (perhaps the posse that chased them and their pugnacious friends out of town?) which is already more interesting than having been slaughtered or captured. Even though they've been "harmed" they can still make choices and make plans. Not so much if they've been executed or imprisoned.

Maybe what I mean by "interesting" is "offers possibilities." There can be possibilities stemming from execution or imprisonment, but why not give yourself more possibilities by working out a different outcome.

Let's just not pretend that imprisonment or execution are the only viable options in these situations. That's simply not true.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm just going to leave this alone.  Almost every response you've given demonstrates a clear lack of understanding-either I'm doing a poor job communicating or you are doing a poor job reading with depth-thats not an insult, just an observation that black and white text is an inadequate medium for the depth the communication we are trying to achieve.  I don't want to turn this into a argument or flame fest and I'm beginning to sense a bit of incendiary language.

I don't believe anything you have said is unreasonable, but I don't think you fully understand what I'm saying or why-which is likely at least partially my own fault.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
I don't think you fully understand what I'm saying or why-which is likely at least partially my own fault.

I can say the same thing. Happy trails.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

What about the Ghostbusters 2 gambit?  



+1 to this idea.
Hi all.  Firstly, thank you everyone for your advice.  Our game got moved from Friday to tonight, and this thread has given me lots of advice, and I feel I have a good idea on what I'm going to be doing.  I'll get back to you all later tonight or tomorrow to let you all know how things turned out. 

I'd like to take a moment to address some comments I've read, and try to further explain the current situation, and the events leading up to it. 

Firstly, in responce to people asking what kind of adventure I'm running or what kind of adventure my players want, etcetera.  Before we started the campaign, I asked my players what kind of game they wanted, weather they wanted just a straight up dungeon crawl type of deal, or if they wanted a more story driven game.  The consensous was that they mainly wanted to do a dungeon crawl style game, but that they wouldn't mind a bit of story as well.  I suggested a mercenary style game, where I'd simply run pre-made modules for them, and they all liked the idea, so that's what we've been running.  At the time of the incident, they were basically wrapping up The Dungeon of the Ghost Tower, a level two adventure from Dungeon 182, which is supposed to be a continuation of The Twisting Halls adventure from the Red Box.  I realize that this might not sound like an ideal adventure, but most of my player's are still relatively new to D&D, and this kind of campaign seems to suit them just fine. 

As to the lack of comradery in the party, please keep in mind that the party is only level 3 right now.  When we first started the Twisting Halls adventure, I asked the players at the very begining weather or not their characters knew each other beforhand.  Two of them, my human Berserker and Barbarian, decided that their characters were brothers.  The person playing the dragonboard Blackguard isn't really all that into roleplaying, and the barbarians tried to work him in by saying he was a former rival-turned-hesitant-ally from their gladiator days.  The Satyr Skald and Human Hunter just happaned to have been hitching a ride from the same dwarf as the others, and the Hamadryad Sentinal came during a transitionary session between the two adventures, so they just randomly met her in Fallcrest.  I know this isn't great, but I've had games start off with less, and by about level 5, the party had formed a tighnit group that would fight and die for each other.  It was my hope that the party would eventually come together as the campaign progressed, and I could already see it happening in while they were playing the second adventure.  How the current incident will affect this, only time will tell. 

As for the skald "betraying" the party by sending the guard in, I want to point out that when the skald, sentinel, and blackguard had left the room, combat had not yet broken out yet, and the three humans were just yelling at the cleric for burning the artifact.  When the guard came in, asking what was going on, the Hunter informed him that the dwarf had destroyed their item.  The dwarf didn't deny it, and said he did it because the item was evil.  It was at this point that the Berserker decided to drop a Life Ending Strike on the cleric, without even waiting to see how the guard would have reacted.  Had he just held his **** for another 30 seconds, the guard would have halled the whole group to the lord of Fallcrest to have the whole thing sorted out.  Hell, based on the circumstances, the Lord could have easily sided with either party depending on how well they presented their argument.  

And for the record, I asked the Berserker several times if he was sure that this was what he wanted to do before I actually let him go through with the action, in a way that implied that things would go very badly for them if they did this. I had already given the party one mulligan that night after his "brother" had done something else increadibly stupid. 
That clears up a lot!

For the record, I think both pre-made adventures in a mercenary style and characters who initially don't have that much reason to stay together are fine. I've had one or two campaigns like that in my time, worked out great.

If you do decide to punish anyone, it probably should only be the player who actually started the fight. The rest could be bailed out by reasoning they acted in self-defense once the guard and Cleric retaliated, or something.
Well I certainly can't wait to see how it turns out.

Frankly, I would have arrested the Berserker on the spot. Break to cinematics (no more rolling dice), Berserker gets arrested for murdering the cleric, player rolls new character. Done. 

"Not only are you wrong, but I even created an Excel spreadsheet to show you how wrong you are." --James Wyatt, May 2006

Dilige, et quod vis fac

Heh, Life Ending Strike on a cleric sounds bad indeed ^__^ 

If the players indicated that they prefer dungeon crawls, this would be an ideal opportunity to banish them from Fallcrest and let them strike out on their own for a while, exploring the myriad of dungeons the land has to offer. 

I'd be opposed to executing the Berserker, since the player has obviously put some thought in his character's background. It'd be a shame to let that go to waste. 

Let us know how it turned out! 
So it could be argued, since the fight hadn't started yet, that the skald was trying to bring an arbiter on the scene to restore order, rather than turning his own gang in for assaulting a man of the cloth.  That's a lot less underhanded and a lot more repairable.


And I can see the berserker's response being in keeping with his character.  It might not have been the most appropriate response to the situation, but when you consider that he's been trained from a young age to lapse into uncontrollable violent fits in times of stress, the most appropriate response to the situation might be too much to expect.  It could be that in his version of the story, some inhuman little man took his hard-won plunder and flung it into a fire, and then when he challenged the little monster it started jabbering about its false gods demanding the thing be sacrificed, and then another armed stranger rushed in and a shouting match erupted.  His chest tightens up, his field of vision narrows, he wets himself and people start to bleed and die.


I definitely think having the cleric's destruction of the item cause a crisis in town that they have to resolve could bring things back into a manageable space.  Maybe the cleric resents them getting off the hook, but because they saved the town they have the gratitude of the smallfolk (and all the perks that come with the love of the common people). . . for now.  Once they go back out into the wilderness, the cleric can start bringing people back around to his side, telling them how those so-called "heroes" were the ones who brought the evil into their peaceful town to begin with, and how one of them is an uncontrollable godless savage who can't tell friend from foe, the bard speaks only lies and lays with their wives and daughters, and so on, so that when they get back to town they're getting the stinkeye until they manage to win the love of the people again.

If they're into it, you could use this to make that ongoing popularity contest into a separate "adventure" that runs between dungeon crawls.  The stakes are lower, but the reward could be renown and immortality in the game world, which appeals to some players.
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
Hey everyone, sorry it took so long for me to get back to all of you.  Been a bit of a hectic weekend, and I really wanted to use today to just unwind. 

Before we get into how my session went, I'd like to address a certain point that someone made earlier: 

1.  You said the Cleric is Lawful good, his behavior says otherwise.  Lawful Good characters have honor, integrity and honesty.  A LG character is highly unlikely to take something that belongs to someone else, even if it is an evil artifact, and destroy it.  Thats hardly honorable or honest.  Destruction of someone else's property is a crime, and hence, unlawful.  Just something to think about when you roleplay LG characters.  Only Paladins or Clerics of fanatical Gods such as Torm will generally destroy evil on the spot, others follow a rather rigid code involving honor. 


In the actual adventure, the cleric (who's actually a priest as it turned out.  I didn't find out until a little while ago that there's actually a difference, fluff wise.  Not gonna retcon it all of a sudden though.) didn't have any alignment listed.  For all intents and purposes, he seemed to be just a generic quest giver NPC.  It didn't say what god he worshiped, but being a dwarf, I guessed Moradin, and since Clerics are required to be the same alignment as their deity.  As it turns out, Grundlemar, the dwarf in question, actually mentioned in the Dungeon Master's Guide and Book in the section on Fallcrest.  He apparently originally came from Hammerfast, is a priest of Pelor, and is trying to reestablish the House of the Sun, an abandoned temple of Pelor, that also contains shrines of Kord and Bahamut.  He's also described as being a bit of a zealot, and a real fire breather that's constantly spouting off about needing to stamp out evil and the like.  While I'm obviously going to change a bit of his history and change him to a priest cleric of Moradin, to account for what I made up for him before I found all of this out, seems like I nailed his character pretty well. 

Now, onto the meat and bones of things.  iserith mentioned that he had seen trial skill challenges done a couple of times before, and they had always fallen flat.  To be honest, that was my biggest concern going into this.  Trials are a long and tedious ordeal, and I can only imagine that roleplaying one would be even more so, especially when you're dealing with people who's only knowledge of the legal system comes from movies and television.  I could always get around it by making it just a purely check-based skill challenge with little to no RP, but really, who want's that? 

Kaganfindel suggested using the "Ghostbusters 2 Gambit," which I liked, but was fundamentally flawed in this case.  The person who created this particular magic item was already dead, and his vengeful ghost served as the final boss of the final encounter in the last adventure, which the PCs had already dealt with by helping him avenge his own death, finally laying him to rest.   However, while I couldn't use this particular solution, it did get me looking to movies as a source of inspiration.  I eventually decided on adapting one of the more iconic scenes from the first Pirates of the Carribean movie.

The set up was simple enough.  My players were expecting a trial for tonights session, so I told the players that the date had been set for one week, and had them describe what they were doing during that week.  The satyr skald spent the first few days researching Fallcrest law, then tried to find out some details on the judge and prosecution, as well as advising the other party members on how they should behave in the days leading up to the trial. 

The dragonborn blackguard mainly just hung out, but he did try and visit his party members in prison, and spent one of his days helping a little girl get her cat out of a tree to try and help improve the group's image.  (I will admit, I fully expected him to try and get the cat down by burning the tree down with a gout of dragon breath.) 

My human barbarian brothers spent their week trying to figure out the best way to break out of their cells, or otherwise just spent it shooting the breeze. 

As for my human hunter...Well, the player just really didn't like the fact that the longbow he had spent a pretty bit of money to get enchanted got confiscated upon his arrest.  He threw a bit of a tantrum at the end of that session and just decided to leave the game.  His character had a wife and kid, so I had him kind of freaking out and sobbing and being depressed in his cell.  My players thought I was trying to make fun of the player and had a good laugh at that.

As far as my hamadryad sentinal goes, that player was out of town last night, so she didn't really do enough.  I'll probably just say that her character was out appreciating the Nentir Vale countryside. 

During the fifth day, a group of guards brought a bloody and beaten dwarf to the jail and inserted him in an empty cell across from the barbarian brothers.  Their captain asked the dwarf what had happened.  All the dwarf could say were that the dead had come out of nowhere and killed everyone.  The guards didn't lock him in, and the captain said that they would work on getting him better accomidations. 

On the sixth day, the characters spent it mostly the same as the others.  When nightfall rolled around, Fallcrest was struck by a heavy rain.  While the satyr and dragonborn were sitting in the Silver Unicorn, planning out what they would do the next day at the trial, they heard a woman's scream and the sound of an explosion.  When they stepped outside to investigate, they walked into bedlam.  The Yellow Skulls had invaded Fallcrest, and were laying waste to the city.

While the satyr and dragonborn were defending themselves from Yellow Skull goons, the Barbarian Brothers saw the commotion from their cells.  Fearing what would happen if the bad guys decided to try and take the prison, they decided to try and arm themselves by attempting to rip the chains that were supporting their beds from the wall.  As soon as he heard the commotion outside, the Dwarf sealed himself in his cell, muttering that "they" had found him. 

Eventually, some Yellow Skulls did make it to the prison, and headed for the dwarf's cell, and even killed the human hunter when they grew annoyed by his pleas for mercy.  Unfortunately, the barbarian brothers decided to use this moment to mouth off at the Goons (Go figure, right?), so they were knocked unconcious via poison daggers, and didn't get to hear the dialogue. 

One of my players had to wake up early, so we decided to call it there.  We left off with them being uncouncious in their cells while the dragonborn blackguard was heading through town to the prison to check on his allies.  (The satyr skald had left all of his gear up in his room, since he had spent some time trying to meet with the judge and prosecutor for the case.  He actually ended up having to fight his combat encounter in some Fine Clothes and use a club that he had taken off the body of one of the Goons the Dragonborn had felled.)

All in all, I think it was a success.  I've managed to set things up so I could transition into the next adventure pretty easily, and my players really seemed to like how things ended up playing out.  Mission accomplished, I'd say.