Paladin just committed murder - what should happen next?

jasper

Rotten DM
Oath of the Ancients

Kindle the Light. Through your acts of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness, kindle the light of hope in the world, beating back despair.
Shelter the Light. Where there is good, beauty, love, and laughter in the world, stand against the wickedness that would swallow it. Where life flourishes, stand against the forces that would render it barren.
Preserve Your Own Light. Delight in song and laughter, in beauty and art. If you allow the light to die in your own heart, you can't preserve it in the world.
Be the Light. Be a glorious beacon for all who live in despair. Let the light of your joy and courage shine forth in all your deeds.
And die stupid. At least some people here are saying this. Others are saying NO WIN NO WAY BAD DM.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
During our session tonight, the party's paladin got in trouble. He was carrying an injured NPC to safety. Unfortunately, an adult dragon cornered him.
"Give me that man, and you can live. I hunger" it said. I had hoped he would stare it down with a bit of god-fuelled determination.
"OK" Said the paladin, and the dragon flew off with the screaming man.
The player admitted, 'I wanted to live'. He figured he should live to fight another day (and continue on the world-saving adventure the party are part way through).
I don't want to punish the player so much that he drops out of the game, but I think there have to be repercussions (ours is not a slapstick murderhobo game).
He is 7th level with a level of warlock (! I know...)
How would you handle this. If he becomes an oathbreaker, does that replace his previous paladin levels, so he becomes a 7th level oathbreaker?
Is that too punishing?
If he becomes an oathbreaker, I plan to talk to him about taking a vow to find a way back into his gods good graces, such as by returning to slay the dragon AND find resurrection for the dead man.
This seems like a pretty open and shut case of losing powers until atonement is made. I have found most players get that, and welcome the atonement adventure, so unless this player is particularly picky about things, I would not be too concerned about the player leaving the group. I mean if you are going to play a Paladin, that is kind of the arrangement. Definitely "I wanted to live to fight another day" does not seem like it would cut it with the Paladin's deity.

One option if you don't want to be too punishing is consider using Ravenloft as a way of creating a punishment that doesn't strip the player of abilities. This is definitely a situation where the mists could come and take the player and the group and drop them in Ravenloft for an Adventure or two.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Depends on which movie universe. Old Kirk talked about getting a commendation and almost thrown out with order to never talk about it. IIRC (and I may not since I didn't like the movie) new Kirk got a commendation and a command right out of school. Who gets that? No one! No one gets that!
DM'S Snuggle bunny. Or DM's favorite.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Ok, Level 7 PC vs. Adult Dragon (CR 13 – CR 17) with a NPC in the middle. Oath of the Ancients (PHB). Be a shining light of goodness and hope. Protect life. Be happy. Let your light Shine.

The OP DM gave the player a no win situation. Did you talk with your player about the code of conduct and how you view it? Does his gawd demand suicide charges? Is this a set up for a new adventure? A setup for a side quest for the pc? Did you communicate well with the player?

I would have the gawd talk to the pc in the dream state. (And DM and player need a conference). At best I would pull his second level spell slots for a week. As the paladin, I am finding the nearest sending stone, message bird, message, candygram, telegram, tell a woman, smoke signals, or internet café and calling for help. HEY YOU PALADINS ANCIENT OATH OF GAWD XYZ STOP. DRAGON DONE ATE MY NPC STOP. SEND HELP STOP. SENT COD STOP.

If I was home brewing, I would have a generic set of a code of conduct for each oath. Then I and the player would adjust it a little for his gawd, and his view point. I would never set up a NO WIN situation unless two conditions exist. One. I am pulling a fast one pay no attention to the rabbit ears sitting out the hat. Two I had made very plain the pass couple of actions by the pcs and paladin have put the paladin on the highway to hell and he has forgotten the toll booth change.

I do agree with @Celebrim the paladin violated his oath. BUT I know we are missing what exactly happen at the table. I don’t believe that BOOM Dragon appear. Dragon “gives us our snackage!” Paladin, “Here you go!” I think the dragon appeared. Dragon “Gives us our snackage!” And more conversation took place with the result being here you go.

Snark. If the dragon ate the paladin would be considered a light meal? Light in calories? A religious diet?

Snark. TWEEET. Two flags on the play. 1 DM not communicating possible win condition. Penalty one slice of pizza and one mountain dew. 2. Player giving up NPC with no fight. Penalty One slice of pizza and one mountain dew. These being offsetting penalties we go to the box for an IC solution and OCC solution. OOC (took me a minute to figure out what OOC meant). All the gamers have discussion before next game about DM version of paladin CoC. IC depending if “Story” matters to group, paladin is denied some paladin abilities for x game days. Suggestion all players decide to hunt dragon down for a good flossing. Or dragon is handled off scene by bigger badder paladins.
 

Celebrim

Legend
So, basically, all paladins MUST be suicidal. They can never, ever surrender, nor can they retreat. Ever. Because to do so would be to violate how you interpret this oath.
No, I didn't say that at all.

What I am saying is that the argument being advanced here, that if he resists evil demands he would die to no purpose, because the forces of evil are too powerful, and therefore he doesn't violate his morality to acquiesce to them since in doing so he saves his life and surely that is better than if he died, is precisely the sort of thing that has the Paladin up in a guard tower at Buchenwald, arguing how he's not violating his oath, because the forces of evil are too powerful, and if he resists their demands he'd just die too.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Why does a paladin even have an oath if you're not going to do anything with it? I think it is great to give a player two bad choices. That is not to say that there aren't other options btw. But as a moral dliemma, I love it.

I've played a character that was in a similar situation. An undead dragon was about to kill several party members, and my barbarian had very few hitpoints left. So does he flee and live to fight another day, or does he die heroically?

He decided to throw off his armor and charge the dragon in the nude. He would gladly die to protect his friends, it would have been a heroic way to die.
Big difference though. You were sacrificing yourself to save others. As presented, the OP's paladin had no option to save the NPC.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
No, I didn't say that at all.

What I am saying is that the argument being advanced here, that if he resists evil demands he would die to no purpose, because the forces of evil are too powerful, and therefore he doesn't violate his morality to acquiesce to them since in doing so he saves his life and surely that is better than if he died, is precisely the sort of thing that has the Paladin up in a guard tower at Buchenwald, arguing how he's not violating his oath, because the forces of evil are too powerful, and if he resists their demands he'd just die too.
Like with my other response, the guard on the tower has a chance to do good. The OP's scenario is a no-win situation. He cannot save the NPC. Either they both die or the paladin lives to fight another day. Maybe he needs to do something to atone, maybe the player and DM can make a fun story out of it. But I wouldn't blame the player, they were the victim just as much as the NPC.

If the NPC had fallen off a cliff would the paladin have been required to jump off the cliff with the NPC to try to catch him? Even though they both would have plunged to their deaths?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Let's take a different scenario. Long ago in a campaign far, far away I had someone who wanted to be a paladin (the one that temporarily lost all her powers later on). So I set up a scenario where she was a first level warrior - basically a fighter with no fighter specific options - who went to a temple to pledge her loyalty to Tyr*.

As part of her pledge she had to meditate overnight. While meditating, the temple came under attack and there were a few scenes of her moderately risking herself to save others. Typical paladin stuff.

Then the ancient dracolich showed up. She had a choice, face the dracolich knowing that she could not stop it but could distract it long enough for others to get to safety. That she would die, but it would be a heroic death saving others. She chose to sacrifice herself.

In the end it was all a vision, but the point is that there was a benefit to throwing herself in front of the dracolich. She wasn't just committing suicide by dragon dracolich, by her actions she was saving innocent lives. But I also told her what it meant, made it clear what her options were. Had there been an option to talk to the dracolich [in 5E] I would have asked for an insight or nature check if she didn't think of it. I would not have expected her to read my mind.


*Norse god of courage and sacrifice, who also happens to be LG in my campaign.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Big difference though. You were sacrificing yourself to save others. As presented, the OP's paladin had no option to save the NPC.
It's questions like these that almost become logic puzzles, of the type, "Can a Deity Create a Rock so Heavy She Cannot Lift It?" or "I always lie."

Can a Paladin kill himself? Because Paladins, by their nature, are terrible, terrible beings; yet, by killing a Paladin, hasn't that Paladin done the world a solid, and therefore become not-Paladin?

....it hurts the brain.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
It's questions like these that almost become logic puzzles, of the type, "Can a Deity Create a Rock so Heavy She Cannot Lift It?" or "I always lie."

Can a Paladin kill himself? Because Paladins, by their nature, are terrible, terrible beings; yet, by killing a Paladin, hasn't that Paladin done the world a solid, and therefore become not-Paladin?

....it hurts the brain.
Anything can be justified with the greater good argument.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
Big difference though. You were sacrificing yourself to save others. As presented, the OP's paladin had no option to save the NPC.
The paladin could have sacrificed himself to save the npc.

Of course, if he lost the dragon could still eat them both. But that was the exact same case for my barbarian. It's pretty similar.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The paladin could have sacrificed himself to save the npc.

Of course, if he lost the dragon could still eat them both. But that was the exact same case for my barbarian.
It's pretty similar.
I don't see it at all the same. The NPC is not able to get away under their own power. The paladin says no, the dragon breaths killing the NPC whether they make their save or not. Even if the PC is not dead the first round, it won't take the dragon more than a round or two to mop up.

That's how I would have interpreted the situation.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
It's not an act of mercy if the party taking it is punished for taking. It's an act of cruelty then.
When I throw a dragon at my players, the dragon doesn't usually offer a way out. It is a battle to the death and if the players lose, they die. So in that respect, the dragon offering a way for the paladin to escape with his life is merciful (although a cruel act on the part of the dragon).

I don't see it at all the same. The NPC is not able to get away under their own power. The paladin says no, the dragon breaths killing the NPC whether they make their save or not. Even if the PC is not dead the first round, it won't take the dragon more than a round or two to mop up.
My party members were not able to escape either, so it is pretty similar. If my character would have been killed, then my party members would have died all the same. But the paladin was given an option to either save himself or die heroically... he decided to live. My character decided to die bravely without being given an ultimatum.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
When I throw a dragon at my players, the dragon doesn't usually offer a way out. It is a battle to the death and if the players lose, they die. So in that respect, the dragon offering a way for the paladin to escape with his life is merciful (although a cruel act on the part of the dragon).



My party members were not able to escape either, so it is pretty similar. If my character would have been killed, then my party members would have died all the same. But the paladin was given an option to either save himself or die heroically... he decided to live. My character decided to die bravely without being given an ultimatum.
This wasn't a party situation. It was a PC against an adult dragon -- none of whom have a CR as low as the PC's level.

Killing a character is quick and by 7th level, recoverable. Forcing a fall is neither. It sets up the player to make a choice to retire or live with something he didn't intend to play and may not enjoy.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
This wasn't a party situation. It was a PC against an adult dragon -- none of whom have a CR as low as the PC's level.
That is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if it's one dragon against one player, or one dragon against a whole party.

When I run a dragon encounter, that dragon will try to kill the player(s), and it will be a fight to the death. The dragon doesn't offer an ultimatum for the player(s) to escape with their life when they're losing... but maybe I should, because it is a pretty cool idea, and fitting of an intelligent and cruel creature like a dragon.

Fights in D&D don't always have to be fair. Sometimes the CR of a monster will not be a fair challenge for the players, like with a dragon. A fight with a dragon should be deadly. The game isn't called Dungeons and Dragons for nothing.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Like with my other response, the guard on the tower has a chance to do good.
sigh I have just been flagged with a 5 yard penalty for unnecessary Godwin, which I had considered fair since I feared it would be when I made the play.

But now I would like to ask for a review of the call, because it can't possibly be unnecessary argument ad absurdum, if in response someone takes up your Godwin and says, "That's actually not even absurd."

All I can say is that if you find yourself in a guard tower at Buchenwald arguing to yourself that it's OK because you have a chance to do some small good while you perform your duties, and at least you are keeping yourself alive, you've fallen so far from the expectations of morality that if morality was a planet you would no longer be in the same galaxy.

This argument that keeping yourself alive is the greater good is in my opinion actually the core reason that the world is so evil. Very few people in the real world are so broken as to have the morality of the dragon. The vast majority of the evil in the world occurs because of the moral calculus that in D&D could be called neutrality. When confronted by evil, people think to themselves, "If I do something, there will be a cost to me. But there will be almost no chance that I can do any good. So the best thing to do here is just do nothing. Stand aside. Walk by. Say nothing. The greater good is keeping myself alive."

But a Paladin is not the greater mass of humanity. And the calculations of the Paladin are entirely different.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
The paladin could have sacrificed himself to save the npc.

Of course, if he lost the dragon could still eat them both. But that was the exact same case for my barbarian. It's pretty similar.
The wounded NPC is very likely to die BEFORE the paladin loses. Breath weapons are like that.
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
That is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if it's one dragon against one player, or one dragon against a whole party.

When I run a dragon encounter, that dragon will try to kill the player(s), and it will be a fight to the death. The dragon doesn't offer an ultimatum for the player(s) to escape with their life when they're losing... but maybe I should, because it is a pretty cool idea, and fitting of an intelligent and cruel creature like a dragon.

Fights in D&D don't always have to be fair. Sometimes the CR of a monster will not be a fair challenge for the players, like with a dragon. A fight with a dragon should be deadly. The game isn't called Dungeons and Dragons for nothing.
Mangling a character rather than cleanly killing it is a cruel thing for a DM to do. Death is recoverable pretty simply and quick even when not recovered from. Having your levels stripped and replaced by others is not.

Presenting the sequence of "Here's a way out. Oh, you took it? The cost is the PC is mangled. Didn't I tell you that in advance? I thought it was obvious." is cruel, not merciful.

ETA

If I toss a dragon or high CR anything really, the critter is likely to work to the ruin of its opponents too. If a dragon thinks it wants to mug a guy with a sword and a wounded buddy, it's going to take a lot more than a stern look to make it change its mind. It's going to eat them both if the unwounded one puts up a protest.

Which means one of 2 things:
Either I use this situation because the environment is right for it and the PCs did a lot of things necessary to set it up (like leave two people alone inside an adult dragon's hunting ground) and it really is a no-win situation

OR

I screwed up badly expecting the single player involved to pull a rabbit out of his hat and his mind-reading powers failed him. Me fixing that screw up should cost me not the player.
 
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FrogReaver

Adventurer
Mangling a character rather than cleanly killing it is a cruel thing for a DM to do. Death is recoverable pretty simply and quick even when not recovered from. Having your levels stripped and replaced by others is not.

Presenting the sequence of "Here's a way out. Oh, you took it? The cost is the PC is mangled. Didn't I tell you that in advance? I thought it was obvious." is cruel, not merciful.

ETA

If I toss a dragon or high CR anything really, the critter is likely to work to the ruin of its opponents too. If a dragon thinks it wants to mug a guy with a sword and a wounded buddy, it's going to take a lot more than a stern look to make it change its mind. It's going to eat them both if the unwounded one puts up a protest.

Which means one of 2 things:
Either I use this situation because the environment is right for it and the PCs did a lot of things necessary to set it up (like leave two people alone inside an adult dragon's hunting ground) and it really is a no-win situation

OR

I screwed up badly expecting the single player involved to pull a rabbit out of his hat and his mind-reading powers failed him. Me fixing that screw up should cost me not the player.
Just for the record, I agree with equating the staredown solution to pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It wasn't an obvious solution. It wasn't a solution that could have been figured out through good play or probing the situation. It was also a solution that could have easily escalated the situation and easily voided the dragon's previous offer.

That's a big part of why the OP's scenario was a big gotcha type setup.
 

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