Paladin just committed murder - what should happen next?

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
"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."

Two things tho about this case and dragons...

This was a dragon vs one, not a dragon vs party challenge as far as we can tell.

Second, while your dragons may be that simplistic, 5e gives them a bit more. Two of the bad ones, maybe green and black, get off on corruption - one of high class individuals, the other of institutions. They are not just engines of destruction but also of corruption and decay.

Now since (may have missed a post) this dragon color is not known, its entirely possible this was a green or black wanting to cause that paladin longer term internal conflict.

Or being intelligent and long term cunning, it could have bigger plans.

Point being the offer simply indicates there is more going 9n with this dragon than the casual rampage and kill, hopefully, so ascribing mercy to its motivations and actions is questionable.

It vould just be a black green type acting as the MM portrays

If I have the colors switched up, that's fine point still stands.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
"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."

To me the point is that in 5e MM some dragons have a lot more going on than the engine of destruction thing- some specifically aim for corruption and decay. So, while your dragons may go the one way, there are plenty of other ways.



"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)"

First one, depends on the definition of "throw". If it's out of the blue cornered without more going on to make it anything more than a death scene? Nope. But there are a lot of cases where too powerful to fight and win fit fine in rpg games.

Second, I see nothing wrong with that ultimatum. It says "more story to come" and as GM I would expect it's likely to motivate the pc to come back. Especially once he sees the NPC being carried off, not eaten immediately on the spot.

Third, GM should never punish the player in any rpg I am in. Not my mama. What consequences the NPCs in the world and the PCs in the world have for the character after this is a whole other question. That includes this PC as one of the ones giving consequences BTW.

So, the answer to that will likely be mixed and varied. Depending on oath and divine, I cannot see any consequence there in my games. Especially if they atone. Its likely if they spread the truth some of the now missing NPC p friends or family have negative reactions but not all. Most likely see it in a variety of ways.

To me, it comes down bigly to how does the paladin feel about it going forward and what do they do, especially in the midst of the quest to save the world. If it were me, as that quest went on, I would use every opportunity to solicit favors and boons to call in to go after the dragon later and rezz the guy.
 
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MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
"Give me that man, and you can live. I hunger"

The paladin was cornered by a creature far more powerful than them.
No mention or hint of any sign of vulnerability is given.
The player said he did not want the character to die and wanted to continue the world saving quest.
The post said the GM expected a stare down but no indication that it would succeed or that anything made it likely to succeed in the eyes of the player - no established aversion or fear of staring contests by dragons.

So, yeah, this scene seems to be a agree or die proposition - especially to the player in the moment.

BTW, that to me is key.

The player in the moment, right as the scene resolved, after the actual play, descriptions etc were presents saw it as an "or die" offer as it was stated.

So, while we can imagine all sorts of other things, that is how it came across in the moment to the player.

The player failing to see whatever other possibility we might imagine and taking what seemed the best option is not the character failing his oath.
But die fighting is the way here. There's this idea of living to fight other day, or because "The fate of the world is more important". But I counter with "How can I save the world if I can't save this one life?" If I am playing a paladin, I have to be heroic to the bitter end, no question.

Now, If I was put in this kind of no win scenario by the DM, I wouldn't waste time telling the DM I am owed something nice for the loss of the character, as the loss was no fault of my own. Specially as we both understand that giving up the innocent was never on the table.

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.
Being a Paladin requires you being willing to throw your life for the cause. There's no surrender, nor retreat while innocent lives are on the line.
 

Hussar

Legend
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.
Meh, to me, choosing to live IS the tough decision.

Player chooses to fight and character dies. Character comes up before the pearly gates and his diety of choice:

Gawd: So, you died.
Paladin: Yes, it was a glorious death. I died as a shining beacon of hope.
Gawd: So, the man escaped?
Paladin: No. He died immediately.
Gawd: So, you took the gawd given gifts you had, abandoned your quest to save to world, and threw them away on a pointless gesture that achieved nothing other than to assuage your own ego? We certainly never told you death before dishonor.
Paladin: But, but, it was the moral thing to do!
Gawd: Pointlessly killing yourself in a meaningless gesture was the moral thing to do? When you knew that your gesture could achieve nothing? THAT was the moral thing to do?
Paladin: But, but, I have it on good authority that that was the moral thing to do and that the true evil in the world is when we don't oppose evil.
Gawd: Well, sorta. Yes, oppose evil is good. Pointlessly killing yourself to achieve nothing is just pointless and stupid.

I don't support the notion that paladins have to make pointless and stupid gestures just to satisfy some DM's sense of morality. Makes me REALLY glad for the group I have.
 

GameOgre

Explorer
Meh, to me, choosing to live IS the tough decision.

Player chooses to fight and character dies. Character comes up before the pearly gates and his diety of choice:

Gawd: So, you died.
Paladin: Yes, it was a glorious death. I died as a shining beacon of hope.
Gawd: So, the man escaped?
Paladin: No. He died immediately.
Gawd: So, you took the gawd given gifts you had, abandoned your quest to save to world, and threw them away on a pointless gesture that achieved nothing other than to assuage your own ego? We certainly never told you death before dishonor.
Paladin: But, but, it was the moral thing to do!
Gawd: Pointlessly killing yourself in a meaningless gesture was the moral thing to do? When you knew that your gesture could achieve nothing? THAT was the moral thing to do?
Paladin: But, but, I have it on good authority that that was the moral thing to do and that the true evil in the world is when we don't oppose evil.
Gawd: Well, sorta. Yes, oppose evil is good. Pointlessly killing yourself to achieve nothing is just pointless and stupid.

I don't support the notion that paladins have to make pointless and stupid gestures just to satisfy some DM's sense of morality. Makes me REALLY glad for the group I have.

I mean that is one way out of many to look at it. You are choosing to see what you want to see,because it's easy. There are just as many ways he could have saved the man as there are ways they both would have died.

I agree that most of those ways are not readily apparent but to say it is certain is stretching things a bit.

Be careful though because a lot of real word Evil acts were actually done with that kind of mindset. We do smaller evil acts for the greater good is a road many many infamous people have gone down, to truly horrible ends.

For instance I take it in your game the Paladin wouldn't have faced any repercussions?
What if the person with him had been a women? A Child?
What if it demanded HE kill the man instead?
Isn't it semantics who does the actual killing? Same life ended at the same time. Why does weapon or who did it make a difference?

What if it was a dozen children? The Paladin could perhaps save millions by saving the world ...he is going to let them all die to save 12 children?


it's food for thought anyway.

My issue with Paladins in 5E is the lack of a strict moral code. I agree it's confusing.

This LG Paladin has this strict code..this Chaotic God one has this ethos. This N.G. one follows these guidelines and this one does not.

I do like Paladins but it's just too much work for one class. Clerics and Warlocks are bad enough but the friggin Paladin is a headache!
 
If he's LG, part of his power comes from his deity. If the dragon sews the seeds of cowardice, and it spreads where everyone knows what he did, including his god - the god withholds his spells until he redeems himself. There is not a deity around that's going to spare their power just to have it used by someone who does not promote their ideals. That is the point of a paladin.

From a story standpoint it could be fun too. Don't let the player know it's happening. He tries to use lay on hands, and it fizzles. He feels the warmth of his god leaving him. He has dreams about being forsaken. Maybe even tempted by an alternate god, or the dragon himself promising something better?
 
PS - Could also be a really fun world building activity for the other players. Watching him go from temple to temple, solving the temple's problems, finding certain herbs to burn, talking to ghostly paladins that try to uplift the player out of the place he's in.
 
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.
Just a minor quibble here. You are the DM, I assume he started at 1st level or so and has played up to 7th level. At this point you should have some idea how the player will act in most situations and the player should have some idea of how you play as DM.

You assumed he would stand tall and back down a hungry dragon.

He assumed you would have the dragon attack and eat him.


So either your campaign does not have much roleplay in it (ie mostly straight up combat) so neither of you really knew what the other was expecting here or, at least one of you completely misread the other based on the campaign up to this point.

Also, in game question. Why did the dragon want the man? Did he know the player was a paladin and he was trying to mess with him? Was the man quite fat and tasty looking? What caused this situation?

Final point, the Paladin did NOT commit murder. The dragon committed murder. All the Paladin did, in his players eyes, was chose to NOT commit suicide.
 

PsyzhranV2

Explorer
If he's LG, part of his power comes from his deity. If the dragon sews the seeds of cowardice, and it spreads where everyone knows what he did, including his god - the god withholds his spells until he redeems himself. There is not a deity around that's going to spare their power just to have it used by someone who does not promote their ideals. That is the point of a paladin.

From a story standpoint it could be fun too. Don't let the player know it's happening. He tries to use lay on hands, and it fizzles. He feels the warmth of his god leaving him. He has dreams about being forsaken. Maybe even tempted by an alternate god, or the dragon himself promising something better?
After collecting myself, I will (hopefully more coherently) say that what you propose by making that one player the butt of the joke and getting the other players to laugh and throw tomatoes ranks among the top 5 most dickish things that the DM could possibly do in this situation.
 

Mort

Community Supporter
If he's LG, part of his power comes from his deity. If the dragon sews the seeds of cowardice, and it spreads where everyone knows what he did, including his god - the god withholds his spells until he redeems himself. There is not a deity around that's going to spare their power just to have it used by someone who does not promote their ideals. That is the point of a paladin.

From a story standpoint it could be fun too. Don't let the player know it's happening. He tries to use lay on hands, and it fizzles. He feels the warmth of his god leaving him. He has dreams about being forsaken. Maybe even tempted by an alternate god, or the dragon himself promising something better?
So compound the initial lack of communication where the DM expected the player to read his mind by adding further lack of communication so the DM can have "fun" by tormenting the character and the player?

Sorry, but that's the kind of "fun" that leads to hurt feelings and fractured groups.

If the DM wants to impose consequences he needs to man up and say why.

Having "fun" at the expense of a player or character is the same as laughing at someone as opposed to with them - it's not a good idea.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
But die fighting is the way here. There's this idea of living to fight other day, or because "The fate of the world is more important". But I counter with "How can I save the world if I can't save this one life?" If I am playing a paladin, I have to be heroic to the bitter end, no question.

Now, If I was put in this kind of no win scenario by the DM, I wouldn't waste time telling the DM I am owed something nice for the loss of the character, as the loss was no fault of my own. Specially as we both understand that giving up the innocent was never on the table.


Being a Paladin requires you being willing to throw your life for the cause. There's no surrender, nor retreat while innocent lives are on the line.
"But die fighting is the way here. There's this idea of living to fight other day, or because "The fate of the world is more important". But I counter with "How can I save the world if I can't save this one life?" If I am playing a paladin, I have to be heroic to the bitter end, no question."

I can certainly agree that that might be the case when you run a paladin.

For me, it's about the charscter, his oath and the tenets of his beliefs.

I know of no belief setup that a divine presented in 5e or most any edition where literally saving everyone, no failures, ever, is the measure.

How did this guy survive then with paladin in good standing the first time bad guys attacked a town and someone died? He couldn't save everyone in town so "he couldn't save" one life then too.

Letting the chance the world dies go up because you cannot accept even one defeat is self-indulgent hubris, not heroism.

But, more to the point, where was this judgemental quick to punish divine on the moments before this situation? Where was his inspiration? His guidance? His lighting the way to see this true path?

Two die or one dies - last I checked it was the "less death" option that's generally viewed as good.
 

Hussar

Legend
I mean that is one way out of many to look at it. You are choosing to see what you want to see,because it's easy. There are just as many ways he could have saved the man as there are ways they both would have died.
Really? Name 2. Name 2 ways that could reasonably be expected to work when a 7th level paladin is faced with an adult (CR13+) dragon.
snip]

For instance I take it in your game the Paladin wouldn't have faced any repercussions?
What if the person with him had been a women? A Child?
What if it demanded HE kill the man instead?
Isn't it semantics who does the actual killing? Same life ended at the same time. Why does weapon or who did it make a difference?

What if it was a dozen children? The Paladin could perhaps save millions by saving the world ...he is going to let them all die to save 12 children?
I already posted twice what my ruling would be here. Ask the player. Does the player think he violated the oath? Why or why not. Use the player's definition of the Oath in the future to build scenarios.

Not really going to play whataboutits. This issue is complicated enough without heading down that rabbit hole.

it's food for thought anyway.

My issue with Paladins in 5E is the lack of a strict moral code. I agree it's confusing.

This LG Paladin has this strict code..this Chaotic God one has this ethos. This N.G. one follows these guidelines and this one does not.

I do like Paladins but it's just too much work for one class. Clerics and Warlocks are bad enough but the friggin Paladin is a headache!
There is a very, VERY good reason why Paladins in 5e lack a strict moral code. This thread and some of the responses in it are exemplary examples of that reason.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen... Be nice plz n_n
Meh, to me, choosing to live IS the tough decision.

Player chooses to fight and character dies. Character comes up before the pearly gates and his diety of choice:

Gawd: So, you died.
Paladin: Yes, it was a glorious death. I died as a shining beacon of hope.
Gawd: So, the man escaped?
Paladin: No. He died immediately.
Gawd: So, you took the gawd given gifts you had, abandoned your quest to save to world, and threw them away on a pointless gesture that achieved nothing other than to assuage your own ego? We certainly never told you death before dishonor.
Paladin: But, but, it was the moral thing to do!
Gawd: Pointlessly killing yourself in a meaningless gesture was the moral thing to do? When you knew that your gesture could achieve nothing? THAT was the moral thing to do?
Paladin: But, but, I have it on good authority that that was the moral thing to do and that the true evil in the world is when we don't oppose evil.
Gawd: Well, sorta. Yes, oppose evil is good. Pointlessly killing yourself to achieve nothing is just pointless and stupid.

I don't support the notion that paladins have to make pointless and stupid gestures just to satisfy some DM's sense of morality. Makes me REALLY glad for the group I have.
"Gawd: So, you died.
Paladin: Yes, it was a glorious death. I died as a shining beacon of hope.
Gawd: So, the man escaped?
Paladin: No. He died immediately.
Gawd: So, you took the gawd given gifts you had, abandoned your quest to save to world, and threw them away on a pointless gesture that achieved nothing other than to assuage your own ego? We certainly never told you death before dishonor."

Paladin: If I couldn't prevent a dragon from killing an innocent, how exactly was I to save the world from an even bigger menace? And you tell me about ego? Ego would be to value my own life over the others! And what do you know about it? you didn't do anything! If you reduce life to a cold calculation I don't see how you can call yourself a good deity. I regret nothing, except trusting an uncaring gawd like you. Now if excuse me, there's a spot in the wall with my name on it...

"But die fighting is the way here. There's this idea of living to fight other day, or because "The fate of the world is more important". But I counter with "How can I save the world if I can't save this one life?" If I am playing a paladin, I have to be heroic to the bitter end, no question."

I can certainly agree that that might be the case when you run a paladin.

For me, it's about the charscter, his oath and the tenets of his beliefs.

I know of no belief setup that a divine presented in 5e or most any edition where literally saving everyone, no failures, ever, is the measure.

How did this guy survive then with paladin in good standing the first time bad guys attacked a town and someone died? He couldn't save everyone in town so "he couldn't save" one life then too.

Letting the chance the world dies go up because you cannot accept even one defeat is self-indulgent hubris, not heroism.

But, more to the point, where was this judgemental quick to punish divine on the moments before this situation? Where was his inspiration? His guidance? His lighting the way to see this true path?

Two die or one dies - last I checked it was the "less death" option that's generally viewed as good.
IMO, If you are not trying to be heroic, then you are a paladin in name only. Obviously, you cannot save everyone, but you still have to try, especially if they are under your direct protection. It is ok to fail because you got defeated, because you cant be everywhere or because you got outmaneuvered. It is not ok to outright sell the innocent you are protecting to save your own fleece.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
"Gawd: So, you died.
Paladin: Yes, it was a glorious death. I died as a shining beacon of hope.
Gawd: So, the man escaped?
Paladin: No. He died immediately.
Gawd: So, you took the gawd given gifts you had, abandoned your quest to save to world, and threw them away on a pointless gesture that achieved nothing other than to assuage your own ego? We certainly never told you death before dishonor."

Paladin: If I couldn't prevent a dragon from killing an innocent, how exactly was I to save the world from an even bigger menace? And you tell me about ego? Ego would be to value my own life over the others! And what do you know about it? you didn't do anything! If you reduce life to a cold calculation I don't see how you can call yourself a good deity. I regret nothing, except trusting an uncaring gawd like you. Now if excuse me, there's a spot in the wall with my name on it...


IMO, If you are not trying to be heroic, then you are a paladin in name only. Obviously, you cannot save everyone, but you still have to try, especially if they are under your direct protection. It is ok to fail because you got defeated, because you cant be everywhere or because you got outmaneuvered. It is not ok to outright sell the innocent you are protecting to save your own fleece.
Fortunately, this paladin did try to be heroic, just not suicidally so when that effort failed.

Heroic and suicidal are not synonyms.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
In the general case it appears we are all in closer agreement than it would seem. On both the moral issue and the playstyle issue.

The points of disagreement are more about which cases this specific dragon encounter example falls under. It seems to me that there are a lot of details that could easily move it from one realm to the other.

For example, if the scenario isn't viewed as a no win scenario then just immediately acquiescing to the dragons request is very problematic. However if it is a no-win scenario where the only choices are either acquiesce to the request or you both die then the paladin chose the moral action.

With that said, there's one principle that hasn't really been discussed much in relation to the moral / not moral question. Moral decisions are always based on impartial knowledge. So the most important part of determining the morality of the paladins action isn't to look at it from the knowledge we have of the whole situation. Instead it's to look at the knowledge he had of the situation and what actions he could have taken to get more knowledge of the situation.

So in our example, the paladin is confronted with a dragon much to strong for him to fight and survive. The dragon gives him a verbal choice, "i'll kill you both unless you give me the NPC." At this point in the scene how can the paladin know that it's a no-win scenario? Is there any reasonable actions a person could do in this scenario to attempt to validate that it's a no-win scenario. Is it okay to give the NPC to the Dragon without attempting to validate it's a no win scenario first?

That to me is ultimate root cause of the paladins moral failure in this example, no attempt to validate that his situation really was a no win scenario before he gave the NPC to the dragon. It's also important to note that this moral failure exists whether it actually was a no win scenario or not and regardless of whether the paladin or his player believed it was a no-win scenario.
 
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There do seem to be a lot of people who haven't grasped that in 5e paladins are no longer required to be lawful stupid...

The OP, who appears to have run away themselves, has said nothing to indicate the paladin had an oath that required them to "defend the weak" or was of lawful good alignment. Unless both of these are true, the whole thread is a non-issue.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
There do seem to be a lot of people who haven't grasped that in 5e paladins are no longer required to be lawful stupid...

The OP, who appears to have run away themselves, has said nothing to indicate the paladin had an oath that required them to "defend the weak" or was of lawful good alignment. Unless both of these are true, the whole thread is a non-issue.
iirc somewhere later on the Op may have stated it was an oath of the ancients paladin and took the beacon of hope as the key bits... but i may be mistaken.
 

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