Thursday, 19 September 2013

Law Breakers

What do you do with Law breakers?

My RPoL Players had trouble acknowledging that they "broke the law." They were certain that I was being an asshole. I was "mad" in real life and taking it out in the game.

I finally posted a thread detailing the laws of the City of Greyhawk that I use in the world at large. The City of Greyhawk boxed set – "Folk, Feuds and Factions," Chapter 2, page 11 (page 13 in PDF) – list the "Serious Crimes" for the City of Greyhawk, along with the prescribed Punishments. The Punishments vary, which is why I use it for the "whole world." Different places administer different Punishment for the various crimes. I feel that this Source also prevents my Players for thinking that I'm "making it up" as I go along.

Yet, in spite of this, my Players still felt that their characters had done nothing wrong. Here's what happened:

The townsfolk needed help. Citizens had gone missing in the Cemetery and there was talk of Undead. In this atmosphere – on the very first day – the Gnome Illusionist jumped up on the table after taking on the guise of a miniature Zombie. Panic ensued.

Townsfolk broke tables, chairs, windows and doors, in an effort to exit the Inn. The Inn happened to be owned by the Town Speaker (Mayor) and both he and the Town Council were present to witness all of this. They were outraged by the prank.

They threatened to arrest the persons responsible – the Gnome Illusionist – for Disturbing the Peace, Destruction of Private Property and Inciting a Riot. Each of these is a violation of the law in Greyhawk, thus in my world.

Two of the Players' characters then Threatened Government Officials, promising bodily harm in they dared try to arrest their friends. (A felony in the United States) The Town Guard was summoned and the Militia turned out. (These characters really suck at Diplomacy) I had to use an NPC to get the situation back under control. Once this was done, the Players sent their characters to see if there was anyone still alive in the Cemetery -- on with the mission!

After some adventure, they returned to town and – in their cups – they started joking about this and sort of "making fun" of the Town Speaker while back at the Inn. The Innkeeper (Town Speaker) was getting the idea that at least one – maybe two – of the characters were under the impression that they hadn't been arrested because the Town Council had been "cowed" by the PCs.

Needless to say, the Town Speaker wasn't about to let that slide . . . again. So, he was off to summon the Town Guard.

One of my Players wised up and asked me what could be done to prevent them having to go through all of this again. What was needed? Diplomacy.

I'm bending over backwards trying to keep the game going, instead of having it end in a fiasco. What do you do in these situations? Do you start throwing PCs into jail? Or do you pretend that they haven't broke the law, even though they have?

I'd be interested in hearing your take on this.


  1. One time a player ran down an NPC he did not like and murdered him in the street. He (the player) was basically acting out so I said, "Listen, I know that in an rpg you can pretty much do whatever you want, but you have to roleplay. You have to imagine your character as a citizen of the setting and act accordingly. If you want to go all Grand Theft Auto, that's great, but I am not going to facilitate that kind of activity. Go do it at another table."

    This has been a big change for me because I used to let the PCs run willy nilly. Playing in the Forgotten Realms once again has allowed me to be comfortable with saying, "You are heroes. People look up to you. Behave."

    In a way, I am telling the PCs what they can and cannot do, but I got sick of players pretty much crapping all over my prep. I am not saying your players have done this, of course. I;m just sharing what I had to contend with recently.

  2. Understood. As I've said in other posts, I like a little realism in the game.

    People forget that in the Old West, it was not like what we see on television, or in the movies. Most of those men fought in the Civil War, they were Indian fighters, etc. Gunfighters did not "rule the town." When the citizens had enough, they'd had enough . . . and "gunfighters" were run out on a rail.

    I'm thinking that if they get out of hand again, I'm going to lock them up. Of course, Threatening a Government Official carries the Death Penalty in Greyhawk, so . . .

    1. As a player I have been guilty of bad behavior. Years ago while running through "The Speaker in Dreams" module I got really fed up with the gov't officials. To the DM I said, "Why are we putting up with their garbage. Our characters could wreck this town if we wanted." His response was so classic, "You can break the law if you want and you will be hunted down and there will be a lot of fights, but I don't want to do that, so follow the rules of the town or the game is over."

      I admit, I was pretty heated, but he was right. Man, it bugged me that he was right! ;)

    2. Well, they claim to be "Good" and one is supposed to be "Lawful," so . . .

      One of the "complainers" has quite the game, so it should "settle down" now. Hopefully.

  3. You had asked me on my blog how I handle these sorts of situations. I haven't had to deal with it as a GM in quite a while. The only thing remotely close was when the PC party was accused of a murder they didn't commit. Being outsiders in a small village and wearing weapons created the suspicion, however. The players solved the crime, otherwise they would have had to leave.

    We had a couple of cases back in the 1970s where player characters were caught committing crimes. The one example I remember was a hafling thief getting stuck in a night deposit slot at a bank (they had gated to the late 20th century United States). There was a sensational trial with lots of press. The character used his psionic ability to sway the judge and jury. I had a very different style of GMing back then. Anyway, nothing like you describe has happened to me, but I think one of the fun challenges of playing in a settled region of the campaign world is the involvement of the rule of law in play.

    1. Thanks for the input, Ken, I appreciate it.

      The real problem stems from the fact that they refuse to believe they did anything "wrong." They freely admit that one of them blatantly threatened the "Mayor" with bodily harm, but "what's wrong with that?"

      Aside from the fact that such an act is illegal in the greatest Democracy of the Real World, what do they think such an action amounts to in an Absolute Monarchy?

      I tell you, these guys can really put me to the test. ROFL