Paladin just committed murder - what should happen next?

FrogReaver

Adventurer
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.
Don't fall into the trap of believing all dragon's must behave the way you run them
 

Nagol

Unimportant
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.

I agree!

But don't get me wrong, either of the situations (no-win or screw-up) are possible at my table. The no-win part would involve (possibly unwitting) player cooperation to set up the scene (they'd have to be in an adult dragon's hunting range and then split up the party), and once the offer was made, I'd make it clear to the player of the paladin what accepting the offer entails in terms of consequence. "Give him to me. OK. Hold on! Your oath fills your mind; giving in shatters it. Are you sure?" Don't toss that in after the fact. If the stakes are changing make the player aware ("It's the dragon. Goodbye. Oh wait, he's offering you a deal: die or fall?").

If the situation is a screw up as the OP implies then the fact I let it get to the point of becoming a complete gotcha is on me and so the clean up should be on me. The fact the player did something completely unexpected in the heat of the scene is immaterial.
 

Imaculata

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.
I'm not talking about stripping levels here. As I stated earlier, I am against punishing the player for choosing one option or the other. What the paladin did was not very noble, but in my opinion, not punishable to the point of considering his oath as a paladin broken.

The dragon's CR is really not relevant to this particular situation.
What this boils down to, is a couple of questions:

-Should a DM throw his player into an unwinnable battle against such a tough opponent?
-Should the DM offer such a cruel ultimatum as a way to survive?
-Should the DM punish the player for choosing to live to fight another day? (but abandon the npc in the process)


In regards to the first question, I don't think every fight needs to be fair. Provided the risk is properly foreshadowed. As I have often mentioned in other threads, foreshadowing is what it is all about. I run a sandbox campaign in which the players can wander into a high level area. If the players decide to fight a dragon, they should expect that their death is a possibility. I would make sure the players are well aware of the danger they are putting themselves into.

In regards to the second question, I think a DM should play the creature in a way that is in line with its character. Dragons are characters too, and a cruel evil dragon would totally present such an ultimatum to the players. I think that is good roleplaying.

And finally, should the DM punish the player? I don't think so, but I do believe the choice should have consequences. Paladins are often expected to be noble and courageous. Sacrificing the npc to the evil dragon is wrong in my book. I understand why the player made his choice, but I think other characters would not agree with his action.

Don't fall into the trap of believing all dragon's must behave the way you run them
Dragons by their very definition are tough, deadly opponents. I don't believe a DM should shield his players when he introduces such a powerful opponent into his campaign. Whether the dragon is a right opponent for players of that level is a different matter.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I'm not talking about stripping levels here. As I stated earlier, I am against punishing the player for choosing one option or the other. What the paladin did was not very noble, but in my opinion, not punishable to the point of considering his oath as a paladin broken.

The dragon's CR is really not relevant to this particular situation.
What this boils down to, is a couple of questions:

-Should a DM throw his player into an unwinnable battle against such a tough opponent?
-Should the DM offer such a cruel ultimatum as a way to survive?
-Should the DM punish the player for choosing to live to fight another day? (but abandon the npc in the process)


In regards to the first question, I don't think every fight needs to be fair. Provided the risk is properly foreshadowed. As I have often mentioned in other threads, foreshadowing is what it is all about. I run a sandbox campaign in which the players can wander into a high level area. If the players decide to fight a dragon, they should expect that their death is a possibility. I would make sure the players are well aware of the danger they are putting themselves into.

In regards to the second question, I think a DM should play the creature in a way that is in line with its character. Dragons are characters too, and a cruel evil dragon would totally present such an ultimatum to the players. I think that is good roleplaying.

And finally, should the DM punish the player? I don't think so, but I do believe the choice should have consequences. Paladins are often expected to be noble and courageous. Sacrificing the npc to the evil dragon is wrong in my book. I understand why the player made his choice, but I think other characters would not agree with his action.



Dragons by their very definition are tough, deadly opponents. I don't believe a DM should shield his players when he introduces such a powerful opponent into his campaign. Whether the dragon is a right opponent for players of that level is a different matter.
The OP DM does think stripping levels is appropriate; that's in the OP. He came asking for advice on the mechanics and if others thought it was too harsh.

1) I agree.
2) Sure! If the situation warrants the encounter. but the player should know the stakes of his choices. You shouldn't assume that because you the DM obviously think this is a big enough deal to convert the PC into an Oathbreaker that the player sees it the same way.
3) The reason I disagree here is the DM admits to setting up the encounter expecting a rabbit pulled out of a hat. A righteous look would send the dragon away. Fundamentally it looks like the dragon was effectively set dressing for a Special Moment of Glory, but the player didn't get a copy of the script with his lines on it. The fact the player made a different choice is what he is being punished for.
 
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Paladin Oaths are designed to be impossible to live with. Meaning there is a high probability that the Paladin will either break the Oath or die trying to uphold it. Even the Oath of Conquest hits this mark with it's "Might Makes Right" mentality, which will ensure that the Paladin who swore it will die upholding it some day.

As for why? You could argue that is for the sake of drama, or maybe a dark social commentary on how to brainwash zealots by having them die for their beliefs or controlling the methods of their absolution. Either way, it's an important thing to realize when talking about Paladins.
Exactly this. Paladins are not ordinary people with ordinary beliefs, and they aren't just a different flavor of spellsword. They come with strings attached. I think it makes them more interesting and more challenging to play, but it also gives them a pretty clear expiration date...and I don't think that's a bad thing. On the other hand, some players do think this is a bad thing, that it's manipulative and abusive, and they will ask (or demand) their DMs to hand-wave some/all of that stuff. Either option is fine, either way is equally correct. The rules deliberately and explicitly leave all of that up to the DM, so there is no wrong way to do it.

If you don't like making tough decisions, taking huge risks, and sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others, you probably wouldn't like playing a paladin in my gaming group. And if paladins weren't held to a higher standard, don't have to uphold their oaths, and don't have to weigh their actions carefully, I wouldn't be playing one. (shrug) Others in this thread would flip all that around, and that's totally cool. To each their own, man.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
3) The reason I disagree here is the DM admits to setting up the encounter expecting a rabbit pulled out of a hat. A righteous look would send the dragon away. Fundamentally it looks like the dragon was effectively set dressing for a Special Moment of Glory, but the player didn't get a copy of the script with his lines on it. The fact the player made a different choice is what he is being punished for.
I think that whenever a DM sets up a situation like that, expecting the players to make a particular choice, he should also expect the other choices... and be prepared for choices that he didn't think of. I think we are in agreement that this sort of scripting of player actions just doesn't work in D&D. Players are their own free minded individuals. They will usually not do what the script dictates and will often surprise their DM. That in my book is what makes D&D so much fun. D&D isn't a movie. A DM should not try to script moments of cinematic glory, and instead allow such moments to flow from the game naturally.

So when the DM does try to script such a cinematic moment, and it doesn't work out as he intended, he can't then turn around and punish the players for not doing what he wanted.
 

Celebrim

Legend
-Should a DM throw his player into an unwinnable battle against such a tough opponent?
I would answer that in general, "No." Unwinnable battles generally aren't fun for either the player or the GM and are to be avoided, and that if you do construct such a scene there should be a way to opt out without a lot of cost by the players and you should have as a GM a back up plan to end the fight quickly with little cost should the players be stupidly valiant.

That said, there have been plenty of battles that my players have constructed through their actions that I never intended for them to get into, and I don't feel a notable impulse to protect the players from their own stupidity. For example, I had one near TPK occur because in the midst of a combat, one party member decided to start looking for treasure that he could filch while the other players were distracted, which resulted in him triggering a second encounter while the first was on going, and then - not content to wreck things for the group to that extent - he proceeded to thrust open a sepulcher looking for further treasure which triggered a third encounter simultaneous to the first two. That sort of thing isn't my fault, and while it sucks for the rest of the party that was engaged in intelligent non-selfish functional play, you can bet that the reckless chaotic stupid PC is going to be the first character plausibly torn apart as a result with no real fudging on my part. Those sort of problems tend to be self-correcting in the long run.

I'm not saying that the DM should never railroad a party in order to avoid an action derailing a campaign, but it really should be used sparingly and mostly with new and inexperienced players. Taking away player agency to keep the game going in the long run destroys the game anyway.

At this point we really don't know how this encounter came about, so while it is likely the DM constructed it (and should learn a lesson about assuming PC behavior) we can't really say for certain that the DM is acting badly in any fashion here.

Should the DM offer such a cruel ultimatum as a way to survive?
This question I consider to be highly flawed, because the DM is not the dragon. The first question was about the metagame and the sort of scenarios that the DM should design, and that is properly a question about the DM. But the DM did not offer such a cruel ultimatum: the dragon did. And if you can't keep that sort of distance between the NPC and the DM, it's.... worrisome. PC's aren't their players. DMs aren't the NPCs.

The real question is, "Should the dragon offer such a cruel ultimatum as a way to survive?"

And the answer is, "Well, it certainly seems reasonable for a dragon to do that." While my dragons are bit more incarnations of violent forces of nature, I do take a lot of inspiration from Tolkien and Tolkien's dragons are rather more explicitly diabolical in their nature and as such are tempters and deceivers that relish degrading and negating what is good. The sort of Faustian bargain that the dragon presents the PC in this scene is I think very much in keeping with the interaction between Glaurung and Turin in Tolkien's 'The Silmarillion', where the dragon is not interested in killing Turin but rather in ruining Turin. So it's entirely in keeping with the interests of a diabolic dragon to try to get a Paladin to break their oath, because a ruined paladin is more interesting than a dead one.

To the extent that the DM's preferences are involved in this, I can see this sort of thing being offered up as a sop to a character that has played themselves into a stupid corner and you are trying to let them get out of it in a way that can ultimately be repaired. There is some suggestion that the DM had planned for the PC to come out of this encounter alive no matter which way it went, and that's fairly strong DMing technique. And as I said, I don't think you should set up situations like this, but what the DM is doing here is a very strong technique for getting out of these sorts of situations.

-Should the DM punish the player for choosing to live to fight another day? (but abandon the npc in the process)
And again, this question is highly flawed. Nothing suggests that the DM is punishing the player, and if you think that is the case then... yeah how do you even manage to play an RPG with a social contract like that? "Bad things happen to my PC, therefore you are punishing me.", is such a dysfunctional table logic that I can't see how you manage to play a recreational RPG together. If bad things happen to your character do you take that as some sort of personal attack on you? I just don't get it.

The proper phrasing of this question is, "Should whatever powers that hold the Paladin's Oath cease to have a relationship with the Paladin, that is cease to grant him power to use on their behalf, in response to the characters action?" This is a question about what is going on in the game, and not a question about what is going on outside the game.

And again, if you look at this question from the perspective of what is happening in the game, it's entirely reasonable that whoever this Oath of the Ancients was made to consider this a deep violation of the sacred trust and just ends the relationship.

The real question that involves the preference of the GM and the player, is where do you see this going next? How do you want to take this character in the future? Do you want to abandon this character? Do you want to redeem this character? Do you want to take this opportunity to make an alignment change, or a change in character to make a character that is more like what you want to play? How is the PC going to react to this situation? What sort of story path should I be preparing for, and how I can help you mechanically deal with this loss of Paladin powers. Do you want replacement powers? Do you want to play out a more penitent role even if that means at least temporarily disempowering your character?

And as long as you stay focused on that, this isn't going to turn into a table argument with a bunch of hurt feelings and recrimination and shouting and so forth. The story might not have gone where everyone wanted it to go, but it's still a strong story and there is a lot of opportunity to do cool things with it going forward. And that's really the 'hat' the GM should be wearing once he takes off the referee hat here. Forcing the GM to put on his 'arbitration/judge/leader' hat and hear some sort of OOC argument here, which from what a lot of people are saying in this thread even removed from the situation is going to be quite emotional, is just not friendly mature play by the player.

A private discussion that you don't feel the situation was fair after the game might be in order, but a lot of what that discussion is going to sound like if I'm the GM is going to be, "I hear your pain. I've been in similar situations. But I'm not the dragon or your deity. I have to play those characters plausibly to the setting or there is really no point in playing the game because it won't produce anything worthwhile. I'm not punishing you. I've got no desire to stop this story, so the worst thing from my perspective is if you just feel you need to abandon the character or the game. But I'm not going to sacrifice the integrity of the game either, because we then might as well abandon it. If you feel you are being punished unfairly, direct that complaint to your deity in game. That's a great scene with a lot of literary value and allusions you can draw upon to create really meaningful RP. If you want revenge on the dragon, talk to the other characters in character about directing the game in that direction, and I will as GM facilitate that."
 
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Urriak Uruk

Explorer
So... I think the key component here is you, the DM, sent him into a position he could not possibly win.

If a single goblin made this offer and the Paladin accepted, I'd agree that sure, he made a choice that's pretty contradictory to a typical paladin, it may constitute a punishment.

But you sent an adult dragon after him. If he accepts he's contradicting his tenets, if he refuses he just dies. That's not fun at all, and it's the DM's fault for forcing him into a terrible unwinnable choice (without his consent as it sounds like).

So no, I don't think you give a punishment for this. Any normal god or patron would look at this and say, "Yeah you were f***ed, I'll let this go."
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think that whenever a DM sets up a situation like that, expecting the players to make a particular choice, he should also expect the other choices... and be prepared for choices that he didn't think of. I think we are in agreement that this sort of scripting of player actions just doesn't work in D&D. Players are their own free minded individuals. They will usually not do what the script dictates and will often surprise their DM. That in my book is what makes D&D so much fun. D&D isn't a movie. A DM should not try to script moments of cinematic glory, and instead allow such moments to flow from the game naturally.

So when the DM does try to script such a cinematic moment, and it doesn't work out as he intended, he can't then turn around and punish the players for not doing what he wanted.
I agree with all of that up until the last clause.

The lessons that a DM needs to draw from this are:

a) Make sure I have a story that goes forward in the event that I don't get players choosing how I expect them to choose.
b) Facilitate the story going forward whenever it hits a point that the player feels stuck.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Ok, I'm going to put on my "lecturer hat" here because I'm starting to think I know what is going on here.

Over the years I've been a DM I've had a lot of players whose primary aesthetic of play was self-validation or if you like affirmation. The aesthetic of play of self-validation involves enjoying the experience of approval, affirmation, and the illusion of success. In other words, they are playing because playing makes them feel good about themselves, particularly within a social setting where they can receive this approval and affirmation from others.

That's not a bad thing. There is nothing at all wrong with having self-validation as your primary aesthetic of play, and indeed everyone has self-validation as an aesthetic of play. It's one of the most universal reasons that humans play and enjoy playing, whether we are talking RPGs or anything other sort of game. It's I think a 'Good Thing'.

However, self-validation is also one of the most dangerous and potentially destructive aesthetics of play when applied to social gaming because it is so easy to get addicted to that pleasure and frustrated when you aren't getting your endorphin hits to adopt dysfunctional strategies for getting your self-validation. For example, every player that cheats is adopting a dysfunctional strategy for receiving self-validation. That need to experience affirmation and the illusion of success has become so strong that they are no longer able to accept delayed gratification, and they use cheating as a way to avoid the disappointment of failure, increase their spotlight in the game, and get that regular hit of self-validation by winning pretty much everything that they do.

And the problem with all of these dysfunctional strategies for getting self-validation from the game is that are self-defeating. Not only does for example cheating reduce the pleasure that you get from succeeding because you always no at some level it wasn't earned, but almost certainly everyone at the table soon knows you are a cheat because they observe that your dice rolls never fail, and at that point even if they don't speak up because they don't want the drama, they stop offering the affirmation and validation that you enjoy. You rolling a 20 is no longer cool. You winning big is no longer cool. And so you end up in a downward spiral where the cheating becomes pretty much all you do.

So what does that have to do with the thread?

Leaving aside the morality questions a lot of the focus on how to advance from this situation are based on dysfunctional techniques for achieving the self-validation aesthetic of play. I can tell a lot of you have that as your primary aesthetic of play by just what you are focusing on in this situation, how you describe what is important to you about the game, and how you word what you think is going on in the game. And again, I want to affirm that I think self-validation as an aesthetic of play is a 'Good Thing' and I don't discourage people with that aesthetic of play from playing at my table and pursuing it. But you have to pursue it with a functional strategy.

So many of the problem players I've had to deal with over the years have developed these dysfunctional strategies via play at other tables, where some combination of their own youthful immaturity and/or the DMs immaturity has meant that the only way available to them to achieve their aesthetic of self-validation was a dysfunctional one. Essentially, they are coming to me out of an abusive relationship where they have expectations that they are going to be abused, and I have to untrain them out of those expectations - if I can - before they are really going to enjoy the game.

So when you start talking about ways to go forward out of this that empower self-validation as an aesthetic of play, you can't start talking about 'take backs'. Because 'take backs' undermine self-validation, because - like cheating - at some level you know that they aren't earned. And don't ultimately get you that social approval and affirmation. Likewise, browbeating the DM into giving you your dose of self-validation is also a dysfunctional strategy. This is not about how the DM is trying to entertain himself at your expense, and you have to wring the fun out of the DM through some sort of act of dominance or emotional manipulation.

Ironically, I think the OP was trying to help a player fulfill an aesthetic of self-validation and just in his inexperience assumed that the OP would follow along with the cues and act like a cinematic hero and the player didn't go along with that. But the solution here is not to undermine the integrity of the game because if the game doesn't have integrity it can't really create that feeling of success. Even if everyone knows that the all successes in the game are illusionary, if you undermine that illusion of success enough there no self-validation aesthetic left in the game.

UPDATE: And that what I'm describing is exactly the central theme of 'The Gamers II: Dorkness Rising'. In the movie there are a bunch of players with Self-Validation as their primary aesthetic of play. And they've each adopted a dysfunctional strategy for getting that Self-Validation. Right now the whole party is stuck and frustrated and they can't see a way forward because approaching the problem through the same tired dysfunctional strategies and it's not working for them. And the GM can't seem to get them out of their comfort zone, however dysfunctional it is. They bring a new player into the game, which allows the social dynamics to change a bit, because the new player has a more mature approach to the game. One of the players though decides that the DM's scenario is screwing them, and that it is unwinnable and when his normal dysfunctional brow beating strategy fails to achieve the results he wants because the DM refuses to destroy the integrity of the game, he storms away from the group in a temper tantrum. The remaining players however push through and advance the story, and it is resolved with a Shiny Moment of Awesome that was what they all really wanted in the first place - but the one player who most wanted self-validation wasn't there to receive it because he'd left the game.
 
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"Winning" doesn't have to mean "defeat in combat." I put extremely dangerous monsters in my dungeons and on my random encounter tables all the time, and my players know it. Whenever I tell them to roll initiative, there is always a very real possibility they might have to run, surrender, negotiate, barter, sneak, etc. to avoid being killed. It's a big, dangerous world out there.

I try not to be a jerk about it--I always provide at least two ways out of every tight spot, and I give them the benefit of the doubt when they try some wacky antics to escape, and I give them half (or even full) XP for getting past the monster whether they slay it or not. And I'll drop some pretty obvious hints (or even break character) to warn them about foes that are beyond their ability to slay. But if they don't take those warnings seriously, and insist on combat as the only solution, well...they have to own that choice.

-----

Rewriting Tolkien as D&D is too much fun.

"A Balrog...a demon of the Ancient World," Gandalf says grimly. "This foe is beyond any of you...run!"

"Nah. John Tolkien is a good DM, he wouldn't give us any monsters that we couldn't defeat," Legolas says smugly, pulling an arrow from his quiver. "I ready my longbow. Who's got the initiative?"

"But--" Gandalf says incredulously.

"Don't be such a coward, Gandalf." Aragorn draws his swords, not even looking at the wizard. "You're just an NPC anyway. Why do you hate fun?"

"I can't wait to level up!" Gimli says, kissing his bicep. "You've got a copy of my magic item wishlist, right John?"

Frodo pats Gandalf on the arm. "It's okay," the hobbit says with a sigh. "I always suspected that Sam and I would have to make it to Mordor without them. Race you to the Bridge of Kazhad Dum?"
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
There are two moral questions the situation brings up:
1. What is the moral thing to do in a situation where it's nearly certainly going to be either you and another dies or just the other dies.


In this case the moral thing to do is for you to choose to live.

2. What is the moral thing to do in a situation where someone demands you choose to either give them the other person to kill or he will kill you both?

You probe the situation to see if there are other options first. After the probing if you realize that you are in situation 1 or if the situation becomes situation 1 then you know what to do. If you find another option that might save you both then you try that option.

There are also a number of gaming philosophy questions the scenario brings up
A. Should the DM who controls both what encounters you face and the nature of said opponents force a a situation like 1 above. What about 2.


It seems to me that 1 is off limits entirely. 2 is an interesting situation that I can see being played out in the game.

B. Is it the DM's fault if he places potential no-win situations in the world and the players charge headfirst into them even though they could have avoided them.

I don't think so. That's on the players..
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
"Winning" doesn't have to mean "defeat in combat." I put extremely dangerous monsters in my dungeons and on my random encounter tables all the time, and my players know it. Whenever I tell them to roll initiative, there is always a very real possibility they might have to run, surrender, negotiate, barter, sneak, etc. to avoid being killed. It's a big, dangerous world out there.

I try not to be a jerk about it--I always provide at least two ways out of every tight spot, and I give them the benefit of the doubt when they try some wacky antics to escape, and I give them half (or even full) XP for getting past the monster whether they slay it or not. And I'll drop some pretty obvious hints (or even break character) to warn them about foes that are beyond their ability to slay. But if they don't take those warnings seriously, and insist on combat as the only solution, well...they have to own that choice.

-----

Rewriting Tolkien as D&D is too much fun.

"A Balrog...a demon of the Ancient World," Gandalf says grimly. "This foe is beyond any of you...run!"

"Nah. John Tolkien is a good DM, he wouldn't give us any monsters that we couldn't defeat," Legolas says smugly, pulling an arrow from his quiver. "I ready my longbow. Who's got the initiative?"

"But--" Gandalf says incredulously.

"Don't be such a coward, Gandalf." Aragorn draws his swords, not even looking at the wizard. "You're just an NPC anyway. Why do you hate fun?"

"I can't wait to level up!" Gimli says, kissing his bicep. "You've got a copy of my magic item wishlist, right John?"

Frodo pats Gandalf on the arm. "It's okay," the hobbit says with a sigh. "I always suspected that Sam and I would have to make it to Mordor without them. Race you to the Bridge of Kazhad Dum?"
It's more like we are a bunch of level 1 pc's following around a much higher level npc. The npc tells us to run that we can't handle the foe that just appeared but that he will stay back and at least buy us time if not defeat the creature outright.

In that situation pretty much all my characters would be running away.
 
One aspect of this that hasn't received enough attention imo is that the GM didn't see this as a no-win situation. They had a clear 'win' in mind.
I had hoped he would stare it down with a bit of god-fuelled determination.
@CamHallulis who is also a player in this game offers a bit more insight into what the GM might have had planned.
The DM could have planned this as a test of faith for the paladin and if he had stood his ground gave him a huge reward or enlightenment have occurred. IMO the deity the paladin aligns with should have a “Come to (insert deity name here) moment” kind of a “Oh ye is little faith” sermon persay.
I'm not sure if this would also have applied if the paladin had attacked the dragon.
 

Celebrim

Legend
One aspect of this that hasn't received enough attention imo is that the GM didn't see this as a no-win situation. They had a clear 'win' in mind.
Ultimately, despite the force that everyone is arguing with, I don't think that there is actually a very wide range of opinions in the thread.

I actually think the GM saw this as a win-win situation, and planned to have the dragon flee if the Paladin stood his ground, or at least not kill the PC (through the bargain mechanic) if the Paladin did not. The problem that the OP now finds himself in is that he had not fully planned for what would happen if the Paladin acquiesced to the request, and now what's the boards advice/assurance on what the proper consequences to the Paladin should be.

And so there is really only two camps here:

a) Give him a slap on the wrist. The Paladin didn't really do anything wrong. He was in a no win scenario. Anything more than a slap on the wrist would be a direct insult to the player and is poor DMing.

b) The Paladin violated his Oath and acted in a manner very unbecoming a Paladin, and if you just give a slap on the wrist not only are you making the scene that was created involving the brutal death of an NPC while you stood back and let it happen meaningless, and not only are you making more meaningless any play that proceeds from this scene, but you are more or less endorsing the cowardly behavior and you should expect then to get more of the same with the player finding self-interested excuses for not behaving like a Paladin. And ultimately that makes the PC a weaker and less interesting protagonist, means that you have no real impetus toward having some sort of character arc here, since the player can just ignore this scene, and makes the game less satisfactory for all participants. Or as a general rule, emotionally powerful scenes should carry large game consequences.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
As others stated I think the biggest issue I have is a DM setting up a scenario along the lines of "when X happens the PC(s) will do Y, and if they don't I will punish them."

I've had players do something obviously stupid and put themselves into a bad situation. I've had combats go sideways where I'm rolling all 20s and their getting nothing but 1s. Bad things happen.

But I don't drop something like this on them and blame them when they don't do what I expect. I don't blame the victim for my bad DMing.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Ultimately, despite the force that everyone is arguing with, I don't think that there is actually a very wide range of opinions in the thread.

I actually think the GM saw this as a win-win situation, and planned to have the dragon flee if the Paladin stood his ground, or at least not kill the PC (through the bargain mechanic) if the Paladin did not. The problem that the OP now finds himself in is that he had not fully planned for what would happen if the Paladin acquiesced to the request, and now what's the boards advice/assurance on what the proper consequences to the Paladin should be.

And so there is really only two camps here:

a) Give him a slap on the wrist. The Paladin didn't really do anything wrong. He was in a no win scenario. Anything more than a slap on the wrist would be a direct insult to the player and is poor DMing.

b) The Paladin violated his Oath and acted in a manner very unbecoming a Paladin, and if you just give a slap on the wrist not only are you making the scene that was created involving the brutal death of an NPC while you stood back and let it happen meaningless, and not only are you making more meaningless any play that proceeds from this scene, but you are more or less endorsing the cowardly behavior and you should expect then to get more of the same with the player finding self-interested excuses for not behaving like a Paladin. And ultimately that makes the PC a weaker and less interesting protagonist, means that you have no real impetus toward having some sort of character arc here, since the player can just ignore this scene, and makes the game less satisfactory for all participants. Or as a general rule, emotionally powerful scenes should carry large game consequences.
Option 3. Violation of oath and slap on wristbands
 

Mort

Community Supporter
And so there is really only two camps here:

a) Give him a slap on the wrist. The Paladin didn't really do anything wrong. He was in a no win scenario. Anything more than a slap on the wrist would be a direct insult to the player and is poor DMing.

b) The Paladin violated his Oath and acted in a manner very unbecoming a Paladin, and if you just give a slap on the wrist not only are you making the scene that was created involving the brutal death of an NPC while you stood back and let it happen meaningless, and not only are you making more meaningless any play that proceeds from this scene, but you are more or less endorsing the cowardly behavior and you should expect then to get more of the same with the player finding self-interested excuses for not behaving like a Paladin. And ultimately that makes the PC a weaker and less interesting protagonist, means that you have no real impetus toward having some sort of character arc here, since the player can just ignore this scene, and makes the game less satisfactory for all participants. Or as a general rule, emotionally powerful scenes should carry large game consequences.
You are forgetting one of the most discussed options:

C) The paladin clearly violated his oath but because the scenario was so poorly telegraphed and expectations clear as mud maybe forego the nuclear option (strip all powers no more paladin for you) and instead have a discussion with the player on how the scenario can be improved on both ends.

Perhaps after this discussion, an arc where the player has to atone is decided on, or perhaps the DM realizes that they handled it badly and moves on. I just don't think a one sided DM declaration is warranted considering the badly telegraphed scenario.

[Edit: beaten to the punch, but I'm posting this anyway - having already typed it and all]
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
1. What is the moral thing to do in a situation where it's nearly certainly going to be either you and another dies or just the other dies.

In this case the moral thing to do is for you to choose to live.
Pragmatic? Sure. Moral? Depends on what fictional world you live in and what the the terms of living are. IMVHO.
 
I really love how people keep pulling out the Kobayashi Maru to justify why putting players and PCs into impossible situations is good gaming.

1) The Star Trek writers had full awareness and control of the scenario
2) The people "playing" Cadet Kirk were the same people who had full control and awareness of the scenario
3) At no point were either the audience or the writers ever required to come up with an actual solution
4) The Kobayashi Maru was explicitly a simulation; Cadet Kirk's solution would not have worked in "real life"

It's a colorful story, a wonderful moment of characterization for an even more colorful character in his backstory, but it only works in fiction for the same reasons it doesn't work in a multiplayer game, and the whole point of the exercise is to teach young, heroic Starfleet officers the exact opposite of the moral lesson Kirk took from it.

Those kinds of scenarios in gaming only work in systems where players have the kind of narrative control to invent their own "third options"; in a game like D&D, player characters only have the options that the DM either gives to them, or fails to account for, and it is ridiculously unfair and unfun for DMs to expect players to outwit them in an environment in which they have perfect control and players have imperfect awareness.

Also... basing any kind of real-world moral reasoning-- including imposing moral standards on other peoples' fictional characters-- on Mary Sue's First Noodle Incident is both ridiculous and terrifying.
 

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