D&D 5E A good method to prevent Murder Hobos

Asisreo

Patron Badass
You get a group of new players, they're all excited to play their character and have agency. They want to bash skulls and make their enemies fear them, but they're bred from videogames and only know one way to solve conflicts: Violence! So, they see a shopkeeper that isn't selling them that special sword at a discount and...they attack!

You, as a DM that wasn't expecting the "lawful good" player to lunge at the shopkeeper with the explanation that them not cooperating is essentially an act of evil, fear that they just might get their way! They don't kill him, but still.

Well, you get some guards set up and ready to lock them up, that'll show them! But alas, its too late. Them being locked up has completely thrown off the adventure and the BBEG had completed their plan 2 hours later. Why did they do this and how could it have been prevented?

Responsibilities.​


Many players always think about who their characters are and where they come from but they never give their characters responsibilities. Their characters are always just existent in the world but without a call to adventure, they don't do anything truly productive.

But responsibilities are what keeps us, as real people, in check. The reason we don't start picking fights with everyone that antagonizes us is because we can't afford the consequences due to our responsibilities.

Giving players a house, a family, an important job or title, or even land right off the gate is a perfect way to make the players think twice about whether they want to jeopardize their character's foundational assets.

Don't overdo it.​

While the advice can help players, trying to force them into responsibilities too important to ignore can derail the adventure in its own rights. A character with a family may not want to risk their family losing the only provider and may bow out of a particularly dangerous dungeon crawl.

Try to make sure their responsibilities don't rely on them being safe and alive, just not being overly reckless especially to the law. A house can be revoked if the PCs have a 20,000gp bounty on their heads but the house itself will be perfectly fine if a PC dies.

So, when working with new players, it could help to provide a reasonable responsibility to avoid players turning into the dreaded murder hobo.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This is possibly asking for more trouble. The issue I actually see here is that there's a mismatch between the game the GM is running and the game the players are playing. Your solution is for the GM to essentially require players to have things they aren't asking for and thinking this will solve the problem. I've tried it, and it usually results in the players ignoring these things -- because that's not what they want and/or they believe it's just a trap from the GM to force situations on them by threatening these things. There's a lot of players that look at RPGs as an escape mechanism -- a power fantasy -- and forcing these things on them will not solve the problem, it will make it worse.

Effectively, what's happening here is that you're trying to run a society simulation, and the players don't want to play-act social responsibility and positions, they want to kill things and take their stuff. The solution here isn't to force more society, it's to better align player goals with the game -- and often the game needs to move some here as well. A frank discussion with players is, by far, the best solution here -- you're trying to fix an out-of-game mismatch in play goals with an in-game solution, and that never works.
 

Oofta

Legend
How do I fix it? Much like @Ovinomancer, I just set expectations up front. Before we ever sit down I make it clear what type of game I run. I reinforce it in the session 0.

I also explain that there are consequences to actions, being an adventurer doesn't give you immunity to the law.
 

There's a pretty good reason you rarely see adventurers over 35 or so. Most people would consider it pretty irresponsible for a parent to risk their lives and possibly leave their children as orphans for the sake of adventure. Amelia Earhart and Sir Francis Burton would have been seen as downright immature rather than romantic figures of exploration if they'd had kids.

It's probably more realistic to just send the town watch after them. I would imagine any reasonably-sized city in a D&D world has problems with murderhobos with greatswords+1 and fireball spells, and probably has squads of fighters, clerics, and mages to deal with the problem. Knock over a store in Waterdeep, you'll have to deal with the City Watch, just as if you rob a store in Times Square, the NYPD is right there.

Also, as far back as the 1988 CRPG Pool of Radiance, picking fights with the watch meant the shops and temples wouldn't deal with you. Good luck getting raised or depetrified...
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
How do I fix it? Much like @Ovinomancer, I just set expectations up front. Before we ever sit down I make it clear what type of game I run. I reinforce it in the session 0.

I also explain that there are consequences to actions, being an adventurer doesn't give you immunity to the law.
That's not quite what I was saying, though. This is just demanding players buy-in to your concept. It doesn't prevent mismatches, it just gives you a stick. Instead, I'm speaking to finding out what the player goals for the table actually are, and then running that game, if it's something that can be agreed to.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
This is possibly asking for more trouble. The issue I actually see here is that there's a mismatch between the game the GM is running and the game the players are playing. Your solution is for the GM to essentially require players to have things they aren't asking for and thinking this will solve the problem.
Well, the purpose certainly isn't to pull a magic routine on them and have them not know what's going on. I'm upfront about nearly everything at session 0, so that may help.

"We're going to be running 'So-and-so' adventure next session. This is a session where you'll be rescuing the princess from the evil clutches of Mr. Yugdab. Think about what your character was doing before becoming an adventurer. Where are your parents? Where do you live? How do you get by? I want to know because I want you to feel an attachment to your character and the world so that you have proper motivations and guidelines."

This advice is mostly for a DM running with new players who have no idea what they're looking for. They rolled up a soldier but they don't know how important their background is, if at all.

You can explain the type of adventure you want to run in full detail and players might be eager to agree to that, but they may not exactly realize the breadth of expectations which is difficult to maintain throughout the adventure/campaign.

Giving them responsibilities that aren't crucial to their health is great because if players do want to engage, they get to and they get to choose how, where, and why. If player's don't want to engage, no big deal. A DM can just pull back from having those responsibilities being in that character's face.

Its much harder, however, to give a player a responsibility mid-adventure since the player will feel like they've been pushed into a responsibility rather than feel like they wanted one themselves.
 

Oofta

Legend
That's not quite what I was saying, though. This is just demanding players buy-in to your concept. It doesn't prevent mismatches, it just gives you a stick. Instead, I'm speaking to finding out what the player goals for the table actually are, and then running that game, if it's something that can be agreed to.
Well for all practical purposes I can afford to filter out players that don't want the style of play I prefer. I've been doing this kind of filtering for years, and always have a full table.

I do it because A) I'm a player too and I won't have as much fun DMing a murder hobo campaign and B) my wife plays and she gets a majority vote on general style.

I understand this may be different if you have a preexisting group of friends, but even then players have to realize there are consequences to their PC's actions. There may not be effective law enforcement in your campaign, there is in mine depending on where the PCs are. If nothing else, word gets around and nobody wants to deal with you.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well for all practical purposes I can afford to filter out players that don't want the style of play I prefer. I've been doing this kind of filtering for years, and always have a full table.

I do it because A) I'm a player too and I won't have as much fun DMing a murder hobo campaign and B) my wife plays and she gets a majority vote on general style.

I understand this may be different if you have a preexisting group of friends, but even then players have to realize there are consequences to their PC's actions. There may not be effective law enforcement in your campaign, there is in mine depending on where the PCs are. If nothing else, word gets around and nobody wants to deal with you.
Great, glad to hear it, my point was that claiming you do what I do wasn't correct -- I was talking to a different thing. I find the "GM's way or the highway" to be not at all what I want out of games, or out of the social contract at the tables where I play. YMMV, glad you're consistently able to find players that are perfectly fine with this. But, my recommendations are not to put the GM foot down, but to find a consensus as to what game everyone wants to play.
 

Being lock down in jail while the BBEG unleash a plague on the city, I applause on such a good starting scenario! Could be even better, if the BBEG take on the jail and recruit the party for his next mad plot.
 

Oofta

Legend
Great, glad to hear it, my point was that claiming you do what I do wasn't correct -- I was talking to a different thing. I find the "GM's way or the highway" to be not at all what I want out of games, or out of the social contract at the tables where I play. YMMV, glad you're consistently able to find players that are perfectly fine with this. But, my recommendations are not to put the GM foot down, but to find a consensus as to what game everyone wants to play.
Which is why I clarified "much like".

I don't use in-game reasons to stop players from running murder hobos, I discuss the topic outside of game.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Personally, I just like to point out any obvious flaws in the plan, and then give them a chance to reconsider.

So, if they attacked a merchant I'd probably say something like, "You realize that there are people on the street who'll see you attack him. You can do it, but the guard will probably be called in no time. Are you sure you want to attack him?"

If they still insisted on that course, I'd probably talk to the players and ask them if they'd rather end the campaign and come up with a concept for an evil campaign.
 

The original discussion was assuming new players, so I'm keeping with that for now. The best solution for new players is to keep it simple, cut-screening the setup (which as CRPG users, they're familiar with), and just starting once things get going. This should keep them from starting with the possibility of murder-hoboing right off the bat. If you introduce captives during the adventure, they can help sympathize NPCs beforehand, and you can even have them be relatives of the people who you think they're most likely to murder-hobo. Giving them a taste of heroism to start should set them on the right path before they get kill happy. Oh, and if necessary you should point out that unlike the idiot AI NPCs in CRPGs, people don't just let you walk into their house and take their stuff...
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Which is why I clarified "much like".

I don't use in-game reasons to stop players from running murder hobos, I discuss the topic outside of game.
Sure. I mean, I'm saying that I think there's quite a lot of daylight between my position and yours because I'm advocating discussion and consensus and you're advocating "GM's way or the highway," but you tell me, nope, I'm wrong because both occur outside the game so they are pretty much alike. Very interesting approach you have there, good talk!
 


Oofta

Legend
Sure. I mean, I'm saying that I think there's quite a lot of daylight between my position and yours because I'm advocating discussion and consensus and you're advocating "GM's way or the highway," but you tell me, nope, I'm wrong because both occur outside the game so they are pretty much alike. Very interesting approach you have there, good talk!
Either way it's a discussion. You seem to imply that a DM discussing house rules and expectations is a bad thing.

I disagree. As long as the DM is clear on what type and style of game they're running before joining, it's simply letting telling people what I want out of the game to be certain we're on the same page before a single character is created.

It's not "my way or the highway", it's "this is the highway were talking, if that sounds fun, let's head down the road and see where it takes us "
 
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You're DM. You can just make more shopkeepers, right? Let them murder them if they want.

They are enjoying being murder hobos. If you are not enjoying RUNNING a game where they are murderhobos, stop. Let one of them run the game.

You can't - and shouldn't try to - control other peoples behaviour in a hobby game. You can only control your own.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Either way it's a discussion. You seem to imply that a DM discussing house rules and expectations is a bad thing.
I do not. I'm very specific, it's not hard to tell what I'm saying. I'm saying that when you invoked my as support and then said you put your GM foot down at tell the players what's what, that this is not what I was saying, so you shouldn't use me for support on that.

This isn't rocket science, and I have no idea why you feel the need to make this me saying something entirely different that you can then strawman.
I disagree. As long as the DM is clear on what type and style of game they're running before joining, it's simply letting telling people what I want out of the game to be certain we're on the same page before a single character is created.
And here's the strawman, arguing with a stuffed dummy of your own invention. Beat it up! Kapow! Nicely done, that one's down for the count!
It's not "my way or the highway", it's "this is the highway were talking, if that sounds fun, let's head down the road and see where it takes us "
No, you were clear that it's very easy for you to find players that agree to play the game you pitch, so you do not have to find consensus. You even noted that I might be in a different situation where I have to adapt my games for my friends, which is another interesting statement that assumes facts not needed for my position so as to bin it neatly.

Look, the simple fact is that I'm suggesting seeking consensus and finding out what game everyone wants to play. This doesn't privilege the GM in any way as having a superior voice or more input than the players. You're not there, but you invoked me as support for your position, which I am not advocating. I've pointed this out, politely at first, to clear the air, but you keep doubling down that you were correct to invoke me as supporting your position, and, if not, then I must be suggesting any number of things I haven't said at all so that I can be very wrong indeed. You've cast me as wrong, either way. I either don't understand and am supporting your positions, so invoking me was correct on your part, or I am wrong in that I'm actually, nefariously, suggesting some other things, so your mistake was one of my bad faith in this discussion. I'm really not interested in either -- you are in error that I support your position (past the rather generic deal with out of game things out of game), and in error that I am saying what you've intimated here. It's okay being wrong on this, I don't understand why you're being so defensive. We do not agree on approach, here. Do you think we have to? And, if not, why are you fighting so hard, here, to insist that we do or I'm advocating some wild and wrong ideas?
 


Family and allies who want vengeance, but also the victims could become undeads asking justice. Or create a story about other group who did that same action and they suffered the consequences, for example investigation about murders by a "revenant" (do you remember "the crow"?).

thecrowbrandonlee-e1580315560539.jpg


Or they are pursued by bounty-hunters who want the reward.
 


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