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D&D 5E 'Justice' in 5E

akr71

Adventurer
TL/DR; the party subdued the BBEG & freed a good NPC cleric. What would the cleric suggest doing with the BBEG?

The long version.
The party made a deal with a Night Hag -> info on the BBEG's whereabouts and in exchange they would leave her chained in a specific location for the Night Hag to trap soul in the hag's soul bag. The party doesn't seem to have any moral qualms about doing this, but they also aren't too concerned about reneging on their deal with the hag. They are powerful enough now that the hag doesn't pose much of a threat.

The BBEG is a priestess of Loviatar who was subverting the local Temple of Ilmater and the villagers to her cult. Along the way the party rescued an NPC cleric - a friend of the party who disappeared while investigating troubling portents the cleric received. Now freed, the cleric of Ilmater is suggesting that the BBEG be brought before the villagers and be held accountable for her actions - more to prove to the villagers what was up and how they were duped more than anything else.

What then? I think the villagers would demand blood - the BBEG was responsible for much suffering including the demise of their protector, a brave paladin of Ilmater. Would a cleric of Ilmater care if the BBEG's soul is captured by a night hag? Would the cleric be ok with the mob killing the BBEG? As a LG cleric of a LG deity, I'm leaning towards no. But what then? There's no jail, no town guard - its a village with a temple in the middle of farmland. The cleric could ask the party to escort the BBEG to the nearest city to stand trial, but that is waaay out of the party's way. They have interests there - and some influence - but I'm not sure how much they want to be delayed after the current diversion.
 

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Would a cleric of Ilmater care if the BBEG's soul is captured by a night hag?

Yes, they (a LG Cleric of Illmater) the most definitely would have problems with that.

Ilmater was the incarnation of compassion, and the eternal foe of suffering. He sought to offer aid and relief and words of comfort to those in pain, who were oppressed, or otherwise in great need...

Ilmater was the most forgiving of beings; it was thought he could even forgive Loviatar, Maiden of Pain, if she repented of her cruel deeds. Though he knew full well the atrocious and horrific acts that wicked creatures could do, he remained forever hopeful that evil beings could one day be turned to good, or destroyed, and so he stayed firm in his goals


https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Ilmater

Night Hags basically destroy souls, and that's a cardinal sin.


No to mob justice.

A lawful execution maybe (and very reluctantly, and after seeking to persuade the authorities to show clemency via commutation to a life sentence with hard labour) with an offer to accept a conversion and repentance before-hand.

He would try and win the Priest of Lovitar over with mercy and compassion, and try and show them the pain wrought by their actions, and seek their repentance, and conversion to Illmater.

Thats one less soul for Lovitar, and one more soul for Illmater.
 

Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
This sounds to me like a great set-up for players to work through, you don't as DM need to have concrete answers already mapped out - this is the players' scenario to puzzle out and you need to adapt accordingly.

As DM simply adjudicate the consequences of what your players choose to do without infusing personal judgment. The NPCs will have their own motives and ideas and you can speak through them. There will be those who want immediate vengeance, those who want justice, those who might plot to help the BBEG... etc. Lots to mine here, don't worry about writing it out in advance, let the scenario develop organically.
 

jgsugden

Legend
There is no absolute right answer. I'd look for the answers to these questions that 1.) Are most consistent with the personality for the established NPCs, and 2.) Create the most interesting story.

Ilmater is about relief and support, and taking on the burdens of others. He is the eternal foe of suffering - and allowing anyone to have their soul taken by the Night Hag (to be delivered to Hades) would generally be against the faith, but I imagine an individual might not agree with all the tenets of their faith, especially if the Hag destroyed someone they cared about.

Make it a good story.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
TL/DR; the party subdued the BBEG & freed a good NPC cleric. What would the cleric suggest doing with the BBEG?

The long version.
The party made a deal with a Night Hag -> info on the BBEG's whereabouts and in exchange they would leave her chained in a specific location for the Night Hag to trap soul in the hag's soul bag. The party doesn't seem to have any moral qualms about doing this, but they also aren't too concerned about reneging on their deal with the hag. They are powerful enough now that the hag doesn't pose much of a threat.

The BBEG is a priestess of Loviatar who was subverting the local Temple of Ilmater and the villagers to her cult. Along the way the party rescued an NPC cleric - a friend of the party who disappeared while investigating troubling portents the cleric received. Now freed, the cleric of Ilmater is suggesting that the BBEG be brought before the villagers and be held accountable for her actions - more to prove to the villagers what was up and how they were duped more than anything else.

What then? I think the villagers would demand blood - the BBEG was responsible for much suffering including the demise of their protector, a brave paladin of Ilmater. Would a cleric of Ilmater care if the BBEG's soul is captured by a night hag? Would the cleric be ok with the mob killing the BBEG? As a LG cleric of a LG deity, I'm leaning towards no. But what then? There's no jail, no town guard - its a village with a temple in the middle of farmland. The cleric could ask the party to escort the BBEG to the nearest city to stand trial, but that is waaay out of the party's way. They have interests there - and some influence - but I'm not sure how much they want to be delayed after the current diversion.
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There are quite a few great historical examples. For example...
Lingchi if you want blood & gore. Cangue with the cage that forces the person being punished to stand until death from gravity or without that pretty much results in death by thirst or starvation if there is no-one willing to care for the punished individual.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In my world? LG doesn't mean always forgiving. If there are no prisons, no way to effectively punish the BBEG you only have a few options. Trial and execution is right up there on the list of options. That may not sit well with our modern sensibilities, but we have options they simply do not have.

This doesn't mean there can't be a trial of course and if there's anything like a magistrate they should preside. But if the identity and acts of the BBEG can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? No way to guarantee a change of heart? Off with his head.
 

MarkB

Legend
The party made a deal with a Night Hag -> info on the BBEG's whereabouts and in exchange they would leave her chained in a specific location for the Night Hag to trap soul in the hag's soul bag. The party doesn't seem to have any moral qualms about doing this, but they also aren't too concerned about reneging on their deal with the hag. They are powerful enough now that the hag doesn't pose much of a threat.
That part, at least, seems foolish. The party may be high enough level that she can't effectively hurt them directly, but how many of their friends and family are immune to having their souls gradually sucked out over a few restless nights?
 

In my world? LG doesn't mean always forgiving.
Forgiveness and compassion are central to his Gods Dogma, in addition to being both a law abiding (lawful) and merciful and kind (good) person.

If the law of the land was execution, and the Priest lacked the legal authority to override that, then so be it (but he would certainly advocate strongly for a commutation of the sentence, in order to allow the evil priest time to repent thus providing an extra soul for Illmater, and one less soul for Lovitar).

He certainly aint handing the Priest over to a Night Hag to have his soul annhilated.
 

That part, at least, seems foolish. The party may be high enough level that she can't effectively hurt them directly, but how many of their friends and family are immune to having their souls gradually sucked out over a few restless nights?

Yeah, that party seems pretty evilish to me. Definitely not good.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Forgiveness and compassion are central to his Gods Dogma, in addition to being both a law abiding (lawful) and merciful and kind (good) person.

If the law of the land was execution, and the Priest lacked the legal authority to override that, then so be it (but he would certainly advocate strongly for a commutation of the sentence, in order to allow the evil priest time to repent thus providing an extra soul for Illmater, and one less soul for Lovitar).

He certainly aint handing the Priest over to a Night Hag to have his soul annhilated.
I agree on the night hag front, forgot to mention that.

I also agree that he would likely try to get the BBEG to see the error of their ways. But if that's not happening? Or if there's no way to tell if the BBEG has truly had a change of heart, or will not just go back to their evil ways as soon as released? The only way to stop him from killing more innocents and shedding more blood will likely be execution.

Assuming of course that there's no option to realistic option to imprison or reform the BBEG. Or at least that's how I would run it. Give BBEG one last chance to truly repent, cast zone of truth to see if it's true, strip them of everything and ship them off to some monastery where they can be closely watched. If that doesn't work it's to the gallows. If you let him go, you are accepting at least in part responsibility for the BBEG's actions.
 

akr71

Adventurer
@Flamestrike I needed some confirmation from my gut feeling that the cleric of Ilmater would petition for mercy, but now the village is now basically in a power vacuum. The remaining acolytes at the temple will readily accept the cleric as their new leader to quickly restore order and help the village through the difficult times ahead.

The party escorting the BBEG back to the nearest city for trial may be the best option, regardless of the delay to their 'real' mission. It will also provide them with a chance to check in on their interests there.

@MarkB The deal with the hag is as much my fault as theirs. When they encountered her, she wanted them to take care of the BBEG, but they were waffling and had missed clues. They took me by surprise by asking what they could do for her and what was in it for them. I wasn't very good at thinking on my feet at that moment.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
In a world where Clerics have proof of an afterlife, capital punishment might be considered a kinder form of justice. It is like the argument that even if justice is flawed and an innocent man is killed, he'll be rewarded in the afterlife. But also, capital punishment can be seen as kinder than other forms of punishment. It can be seen as curing an illness in society and in the individual wrong doer. A lot of smart, good people have defended the justice of capital punishment throughout history. It took time to evolve our thinking and develop the institutions to the point where many countries got rid of it.

Plato considered that death was not the most severe punishment and in fact, was the least of evils. It clears out the most heinous criminals when they are incurable. He saw the death penalty as a civil cleansing. It was also seen as a way to cleanse the unjust man of his injustice. It was not thought to be revenge. Plato was against retributive punishment. Judgment was to be a scientifically designed measure to cure vice, from both the individual and in society.
 

I agree on the night hag front, forgot to mention that.

I also agree that he would likely try to get the BBEG to see the error of their ways. But if that's not happening? Or if there's no way to tell if the BBEG has truly had a change of heart, or will not just go back to their evil ways as soon as released? The only way to stop him from killing more innocents and shedding more blood will likely be execution.
Thats' your view. A LG Priest of a God of mercy and compassion wouldn't see it that way.

If the law of the land was for the evil priest to be executed, the good priest would try and seek to have that sentence commented to life imprisonment (via advocacy and non violence of course). If he was unsuccessful he would have no choice but to grudgingly accept (while still offering the condemned evil priest an opportunity to repent and atone before his death).
 

In a world where Clerics have proof of an afterlife, capital punishment might be considered a kinder form of justice.

Quite the opposite.

Followers of evil gods dying strengthens gods of evil. It's one more petitioner for the Evil God in the afterlife.

Showing them the error of their ways, with compassion, kindness and mercy means the evil God loses that soul, and the Good Gods gain one.
 

@Flamestrike I needed some confirmation from my gut feeling that the cleric of Ilmater would petition for mercy, but now the village is now basically in a power vacuum.

What's the law of the land though? Under whose legal jurisdiction (and protection) does the village fall under?

Is it the law, that upon the death of the headsman/ mayor/ thane or whatever, that the Cleric becomes the head of the town, unelected and unopposed?

You could maybe have the town break into two factions; those faithful to Illmater seeking to have the evildoer spared (and the Priest of Illmater appointed the new chief of the villiage in accordance with the local law in the event of a sudden death of the mayor and his deputy) and those who want to execute the man (unlawfully, via lynching) in revenge.

The lynching party outnumber the good guys.
 

aco175

Legend
One could argue that the PCs struck a lawful deal with the hag for the information. Then the question becomes, would a LG person stick to the deal struck or violate that deal thinking it will kill someone. Some would argue that is more CG over LG. There are many ways to view this and all would be partially right.

The bigger question is what makes the best plot and moves the story. Maybe the PCs turn the BBEG over to the hag and then the LG priest hires them to get her back from the hag.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Thats' your view. A LG Priest of a God of mercy and compassion wouldn't see it that way.

If the law of the land was for the evil priest to be executed, the good priest would try and seek to have that sentence commented to life imprisonment (via advocacy and non violence of course). If he was unsuccessful he would have no choice but to grudgingly accept (while still offering the condemned evil priest an opportunity to repent and atone before his death).

I'm just relaying how I would run it. Is it mercy to the families and victims who's lives the BBEG will destroy if you let them go? Is it good to set free someone who you know will commit more evil acts? Where's the compassion for the future victims?

There is no prison. There is no way to stop future violence from the BBEG. He has not repented, there's no indication he ever will. If you can stop him and do not, you share responsibility for the blood he will shed.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on this. 🤷‍♂️
 

I'm just relaying how I would run it. Is it mercy to the families and victims who's lives the BBEG will destroy if you let them go? Is it good to set free someone who you know will commit more evil acts? Where's the compassion for the future victims?
That's your reasoning. You're not a LG priest of a god of mercy and compassion.

You cant tell me that a [merciful, kind, compassionate, altruistic] and [honourable, law abiding] priest of [a God of mercy and compassion] agrees to kill the criminal with the above reasoning.

The villagers on the other hand (mainly N with a few E, a few G, a few C and a few L) would certainly use your reasoning (mostly) and many (all the ones that lack a 'G' in their alignment) would want the man put to death.

The Evil villagers (and many neutral ones) would want the man lynched there and then.

The Lawful Neutral villagers would want the full force of the law brought to bear, after a fair trial. The LE ones would want the man executed in a particularly gruesome way, as an example to the others, after a kangaroo court. The LG ones, would be in agreement with the Priest that the mans life should be spared (but he should still suffer the force of the law).

There is no prison. 🤷‍♂️
Put him in chains, and get him to build one. In the meantime he can be locked up in a room somwhere.

Illmater isnt exactly opposed to a bit of hard work.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
  • Lawful means keeping your word.
  • Good includes punishing Evil
  • Goddess of suffering might be ok with the soul being tortured
  • What does the night hag get out of this? More power? Risky.

To do some prep, have a bunch of conflicting positions that the priest could take. Let the players influence (with claims and checks) which of those is dominate. Have plans for how the priest might react if the players don't go along with her (complications) wishes.

Have plausible complications happen regardless of which path the players take.
 

akr71

Adventurer
Also, the BBEG had been properly protecting themselves from the night hag's Nightmare Haunting ability. Now captured, the BBEG can't do so. Unless someone is going to cast Protection from Evil or Magic Circle on the BBEG, the hag can visit anytime and eventually use the soul bag to capture the BBEG's soul. Chaining them up in the evil shrine below the temple of Ilmater was for so that the hag had easy access to them.

Execution might be the most compassionate course of action.
 

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