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Punishing the players for stealing?


Advice

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Last session the PCs apprehended a fugitive and returned him to the seeking authorities. However they also took the fugitive's magic items. I implied to them that's theft (which they more or less acknowledged) but didn't do anything more than that. I'm thinking of having the authorities question them and if necessary apprehend the PCs but I don't want to make it seem like I'm just doing it to be a jerk. Would asking them (in game via an NPC) to return the fugitive's gear be out of line?


Maybe it needs to be confiscated for evidence?

Qadira

If they beat the guy or capture him and turn him in they should get some kind of loot. Unless the guy they apprehended had stolen items on him that the party was supposed to recover. Just chalk this one up as a learning tool for yourself.


Xexyz wrote:
Last session the PCs apprehended a fugitive and returned him to the seeking authorities. However they also took the fugitive's magic items. I implied to them that's theft (which they more or less acknowledged) but didn't do anything more than that. I'm thinking of having the authorities question them and if necessary apprehend the PCs but I don't want to make it seem like I'm just doing it to be a jerk. Would asking them (in game via an NPC) to return the fugitive's gear be out of line?

Isn't that how PCs normally get their magic items? So I wouldn't do anything about it.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Do the authorities know what the fugitive carried? If not, how can they prove what is and isn't the PCs gear?


Depends on the law of the land. If the fugitive is an outlaw, he's probably forfeited his property as well.

Otherwise, yes, they are stealing.

If the authorities assert they have the right to confiscate his property, and then grant it to the PCs as part of their reward (a wise approach for them, since it costs them nothing...they wouldn't have the guy's property in the first place, if not for the PCs.0

What do the PCs do when the guy's starving children show up, saying they need to sell his armor to eat?


If you want to make a narrative out of it, the NPC could have stolen those magic items, and the rightful owners may want them back. If the owners are allies or affiliates of the party, it could make for an interesting roleplaying story if the party is good. It the party is evil, then I guess there would be a fight about it.


Nephril wrote:
If they beat the guy or capture him and turn him in they should get some kind of loot. Unless the guy they apprehended had stolen items on him that the party was supposed to recover. Just chalk this one up as a learning tool for yourself.

There was a reward for his capture, which they received. There was an additional reward for recovering the item he (the fugitive) stole, but he already had fenced it. The PCs did recover most of the money he got for fencing the item and kept it. I'm willing to let the money slide (maybe) but not the magic items.

havoc xiii wrote:
Isn't that how PCs normally get their magic items? So I wouldn't do anything about it.

Not in these circumstances, no.


It's pretty standard in PF to loot their enemies. Perhaps they're wondering why it's worse to leave them alive but take their stuff than it is to kill them and take their stuff?

IOW, if you're going to try to override the "loot" mentality, you need to make it very clear when and why you're going to do so. In and/or out of character. Don't just imply it's stealing, tell them it is and make it clear what circumstances make it so. Especially if you're going to apply game consequences, alignment shifts and the like.

In game, did the authorities make it clear they expected this guys possessions intact? Did they question the PCs about it?
Is there reason to think this guy will be released and come after the PCs? Or others? That makes it harder to justify handing his weapons back to him.

Edit: Ninja'd by many. I wrote too much.
But I think the point of making expectations clear wasn't stressed and should be.

Shadow Lodge

Chobemaster wrote:


What do the PCs do when the guy's starving children show up, saying they need to sell his armor to eat?

Adopt them, duh.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

"Operating expenses."

Most of my characters would laugh at you for suggesting that they give up the loot.


So hypothetical situation ask you something, A group of upstanding individuals return a wanted man to town.
The fugitive complains of theft of his items, the group closes ranks and declares that the man is lying. This is now a case of Heresay as no one other than the two groups saw what happened. Which of these two groups would a law enforcement group be better off offending, a well armed band of mercenaries or a single tied up fugitive?


TOZ wrote:
Chobemaster wrote:


What do the PCs do when the guy's starving children show up, saying they need to sell his armor to eat?
Adopt them, duh.

Kill them and take their stuff.

</snark> Wouldn't the same question apply whenever the party kills someone and takes their stuff?

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Xexyz wrote:
I'm willing to let the money slide (maybe) but not the magic items.

Unless the authorities can prove that the guy had magic items and that the PCs took them, they have no case against the party. They can suspect, and become hostile, and harass the party, but unless they are corrupt or a vigilante group themselves, subduing and capturing the party will be a pretty out of character action. You'd be using DM knowledge to metagame the NPCs reactions.

Taldor

Xexyz wrote:
Nephril wrote:
If they beat the guy or capture him and turn him in they should get some kind of loot. Unless the guy they apprehended had stolen items on him that the party was supposed to recover. Just chalk this one up as a learning tool for yourself.

There was a reward for his capture, which they received. There was an additional reward for recovering the item he (the fugitive) stole, but he already had fenced it. The PCs did recover most of the money he got for fencing the item and kept it. I'm willing to let the money slide (maybe) but not the magic items.

havoc xiii wrote:
Isn't that how PCs normally get their magic items? So I wouldn't do anything about it.

Not in these circumstances, no.

As long as you don't mind setting the precedant that loot from intelligent creatures cannot be kept by the party, go with it. But, make sure your players are aware of the state of affairs in your particular game world.

In most fantasy settings, criminals wanted by the law are fair game for having their belongings taken by the bounty hunters/agents. I believe this was also the case for most of the history of the western world. The concept of criminals/outlaws having a right to keep property after arrest is a relatively new concept.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jarl wrote:

"Operating expenses."

Most of my characters would laugh at you for suggesting that they give up the loot.

That doesn't mean it isn't theft, it just means they have a sense of entitlement.

Seriously though, it does depend upon the law. If they were sent to retrieve somebody just so they they could be talked to, or a criminal to face trial that is found innocent, then they could be in deep trouble if that person is released and they don't return the goods in question.


Chobemaster wrote:

Depends on the law of the land. If the fugitive is an outlaw, he's probably forfeited his property as well.

Otherwise, yes, they are stealing.

If the authorities assert they have the right to confiscate his property, and then grant it to the PCs as part of their reward (a wise approach for them, since it costs them nothing...they wouldn't have the guy's property in the first place, if not for the PCs.0

What do the PCs do when the guy's starving children show up, saying they need to sell his armor to eat?

The law of the land is that theft is theft. Just because someone is wanted for a crime doesn't mean anyone can just take their stuff. He still has to stand trial for his crimes so he could possibly be found innocent. And if he's found guilty he's going to be required to make restitution which he can't very well do if all of his valuables have been taken from him.


thejeff wrote:
TOZ wrote:
Chobemaster wrote:


What do the PCs do when the guy's starving children show up, saying they need to sell his armor to eat?
Adopt them, duh.

Kill them and take their stuff.

</snark> Wouldn't the same question apply whenever the party kills someone and takes their stuff?

It does IMC from time to time, yes.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Then he should be informing the authorities exactly what he had when captured, so they can properly process him.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Chobemaster wrote:
What do the PCs do when the guy's starving children show up, saying they need to sell his armor to eat?

We don't eat children :-)

It rather depends on the prevailing social norms. In some parts of the world the party may be well advised to make some form of retribution. In other regions fugitives may well be outlaws, with no property rights.

Shadow Lodge

  • If the NPC is powerful enough that he would be expected to have some items, the government might be expecting them to be turned in with him. The party might be gently reminded of this, and then prosecuted for corruption (rather than straight-up theft) if they refuse.
  • If he is going on trial, it might be appropriate that the items be held and returned to him if he is found innocent.
  • If he is an escaped prisoner, the loot might have been stolen from the government. On the the other hand, he might have found a cache of his own somewhere nearby, in which case it might be appropriate for the PCs to claim it.
  • A corrupt government official might just want it all for himself, which could result in him becoming a villain (from the party's perspective), sending people after them, etc.
  • A super-duper lawful good nation might have laws on the books mandating that all items of value confiscated from miscreants be donated to the church and/or auctioned off for the purpose of feeding nuns and orphans.

Seriously, though, you might just have to swallow this as a learning moment and keep in mind that the dispensation of magical items should be declared during the assignment of the task in the future. Or retcon anything you can get away with retconning to make one of the above conditions apply. It's your world.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Then he should be informing the authorities exactly what he had when captured, so they can properly process him.

Yes, which is why I was going to let the money slide but not the magic items. The fugitive did in fact tell the authorities that the PCs took his magic items, but didn't tell them about the money since that would just be confiscated since it was gained by his sale of the stolen sword.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Xexyz wrote:
I'm willing to let the money slide (maybe) but not the magic items.
Unless the authorities can prove that the guy had magic items and that the PCs took them, they have no case against the party. They can suspect, and become hostile, and harass the party, but unless they are corrupt or a vigilante group themselves, subduing and capturing the party will be a pretty out of character action. You'd be using DM knowledge to metagame the NPCs reactions.

Of course, w/ various divinations, which would reasonably be at the disposal of law enforcement in a medium-to-high magic world, they would have such a case, if they check.

They probably have someone with high sense motive, (especially since I'm led to understand that having a high sense motive trumps good and evil) so the PC's answers may not be compelling.


What if he is wanted dead or at least still breathing, and the PCs bring him in under option A? How does that go?


Seems that in the eyes of the law, if the court can order his property sold to make restitution or otherwise confiscated, the PCs may have essentially stolen from the town/lord/whatever is the appropriate source of authority.


This is pretty normal in just about any game, and also IRL medieval society. Often that’s how “thief-takers’ made their profits.

Now, sure, if you don’t want that in your game, then you just have to tell the PLAYERS, OOC that you don’t want them playing like that.

But to have any IC repercussions -before you have had that chat- is wrong.


Movin wrote:

So hypothetical situation ask you something, A group of upstanding individuals return a wanted man to town.

The fugitive complains of theft of his items, the group closes ranks and declares that the man is lying. This is now a case of Heresay as no one other than the two groups saw what happened. Which of these two groups would a law enforcement group be better off offending, a well armed band of mercenaries or a single tied up fugitive?

enter a midlevel cleric to the local god of justice, who consults w/ the cops as part of his holy mission....

Taldor

DrDeth wrote:

This is pretty normal in just about any game, and also IRL medieval society. Often that’s how “thief-takers’ made their profits.

Now, sure, if you don’t want that in your game, then you just have to tell the PLAYERS, OOC that you don’t want them playing like that.

But to have any IC repercussions -before you have had that chat- is wrong.

As I alluded to in my earlier post, make sure you talk with your players before you do this. Or at least have them make a simple Knowledge Local check to realize that they gov will come after them if they don't also turn in the magic items.

Osirion

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Other than "they took some guys stuff", which you find morally wrong, why do you want them to give it back?

Is it too powerful? Did he have an artefact? Do they have too much money/stuff?

As many people have said (here and before), Pathfinder and DnD is basically a game where you fight the "monster" and steal it's stuff. Getting "stuff" is part of the game for a lot of players, and taking that part of the game away by guilt tripping players is like taking away combat from the game without telling anyone.

For the future: If you don't want the PCs to have a NPCs stuff, then you shouldn't give him it, or you shouldn't have the PCs to apprehend him, and you should have the authorities request his valuables along with him and given the PCs incentive to do so (such as a customizable reward).

If you're really worried (and unless you gave them a lot of stuff, don't be), I'd honestly talk to your players, explain you screwed up, and ask if you can Retcon the situation so that the authorities request his valuables and offer the players a reward to do so. Then if they try to lie to get his stuff, you can RP the whole thing and see if they bluff their way out of the situation.


Dabbler wrote:
Jarl wrote:

"Operating expenses."

Most of my characters would laugh at you for suggesting that they give up the loot.

That doesn't mean it isn't theft, it just means they have a sense of entitlement.

Seriously though, it does depend upon the law. If they were sent to retrieve somebody just so they they could be talked to, or a criminal to face trial that is found innocent, then they could be in deep trouble if that person is released and they don't return the goods in question.

True. It IS however, the standard assumption in most PF/DnD games that I have played. If the law is such that criminals have rights, the GM needs to let me know in advance...as opposed to after the fact.


I think it depends on if your players feel they are playing in the "wild west" or working within the rules of a civilized society in which they currently inhabit.

Their involvement in the culture of your setting will most likely make all the difference between upstanding PCs and outlaw PCs.

In short, the game rewards murder and theft... you have to actively work to counteract that behavior if you don't want it to occur.


A piece of advice; if you are going to involve legal systems, drop most modern think about technical evidence.
In older courts it is all about witnesses and to a lesser extent reputation and less then that any physical evidence. Especially a defence witness would talk more about the character of the accused and say that the crime is not in his or her nature, and if no one speaks on their behalf it speaks against them big time. Also being a foreigner in the region/city speaks against them as they then have no family or friends to stand up for them.

So I would say do nothing this time, but let word get out that they are dishonest and lest it come back to bit them later if they do not care about their reputation.
These later legal problems do not have to be something they have done, if they got a reputation as thiefs and something get stolen, they can get accused and put on trial.


DrDeth wrote:

This is pretty normal in just about any game, and also IRL medieval society. Often that’s how “thief-takers’ made their profits.

Now, sure, if you don’t want that in your game, then you just have to tell the PLAYERS, OOC that you don’t want them playing like that.

But to have any IC repercussions -before you have had that chat- is wrong.

Yes, this is pretty much the crux of the issue. But it's not as simple as simply telling them OOC what the expectations are because they're only running into this issue because of where they are and what the circumstances of the situation. The country they're in is peaceful, civilized, lawful good nation. When they travel to other countries the laws and customs may be different so claiming a fugitive's property might be perfectly acceptable.

I've tried to give them in game hints about the culture of where they are: when they went to ask the authorities questions about the fugitive and expressed interest in pursuing him they were told to make sure they got a writ of arrest before they left so there wouldn't be any legal problems apprehending him. They're also sometimes asked to turn over their weapons to the bartender of a tavern before they're served any alcohol.

I would've called for a Knowledge: Local roll to remind the PCs of the law in this case, but none of them have Knowledge: Local. Now, this may have been an error on my part because I've always thought that for Knowledge checks you had to at least have 1 point in order to be allowed to make a roll.

However I did more or less tell them that taking the fugitive's gear was stealing and they all reminded me that none of their characters' alignments were lawful (except for one, and he justified it to himself) so that says to me that they know what they're doing is stealing and don't care. Yet, I get the impression that if the authorities actually came after the PCs to recover the fugitive's gear there might be some player resentment, hence my problem. I don't want the players to think I'm punishing them - and I don't want to punish the players - but their in game actions have repercussions. I'm trying to figure out the best way to enact those repercussions without the players thinking that they're being punished for making an incorrect assumption about how a typical game works.


This is in reply to Korpens post “So I would say do nothing this time, but let word get out that they are dishonest and lest it come back to bit them later if they do not care about their reputation.
These later legal problems do not have to be something they have done, if they got a reputation as thiefs and something get stolen, they can get accused and put on trial”

No. This is a bad idea. The players have no idea until now this was wrong in the DMs rather different world.

The DM should not punish the PC’s for what is normally a reasonable act until he has warned them OOC.


You need to make it very clear what is, and is not legal. In many communities, the law code is publicly posted. You don't need knowledge local to read.

That's your problem. You have an idea in your head about what's legal, and the players have a different idea about what is legal. As long as you don't speak to each other, that's where you will remain.

So, make the laws clear first.

THEN, you have have a customs agent appear, or something like that, and ask for the items back. PCs can choose to keep it, and try to sneak out of the law, or comply, or a number of reactions. Sounds like fun, though.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Do the authorities know what the fugitive carried? If not, how can they prove what is and isn't the PCs gear?

It's a fantasy game. They cast Zone of Truth, or they do a divination. They could even cast speak with dead on the bandit, or get a divination cast. Lots of options.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Xexyz wrote:
DrDeth wrote:

This is pretty normal in just about any game, and also IRL medieval society. Often that’s how “thief-takers’ made their profits.

Now, sure, if you don’t want that in your game, then you just have to tell the PLAYERS, OOC that you don’t want them playing like that.

But to have any IC repercussions -before you have had that chat- is wrong.

Yes, this is pretty much the crux of the issue. But it's not as simple as simply telling them OOC what the expectations are because they're only running into this issue because of where they are and what the circumstances of the situation. The country they're in is peaceful, civilized, lawful good nation. When they travel to other countries the laws and customs may be different so claiming a fugitive's property might be perfectly acceptable. However I did more or less tell them that taking the fugitive's gear was stealing and they all reminded me that none of their characters' alignments were lawful (except for one, and he justified it to himself) so that says to me that they know what they're doing is stealing and don't care. Yet, I get the impression that if the authorities actually came after the PCs to recover the fugitive's gear there might be some player resentment, hence my problem. I don't want the...

Again, you have to tell them OOC, and then yes, in this case also IC. One of the Constables should just say “Hey gentlemen, thank you for your help. Look, I know that where you come from in the Land of Nod, it’s traditional for thief-takers to avail themselves of the criminals gear too. But not here. Instead we post a larger reward, and we confiscate his goods, maybe some of them may be stolen and we can return them. Or if not, we sell them and it goes to pay those larger rewards. So, no hard feelings, but please had his gear over, OK? Just a word to the wise. <wink>”.

Lantern Lodge

why complain about the PCs taking a fugitives magical bling? the fugitive broke a law, making him an outlaw, and by virtue of being an outlaw, he automatically has to forfeit the rights to his equipment, the PCs just took it as additional side payment.

if we can loot the dead, why the hell can't we loot live fugitives?


DrDeth wrote:
Xexyz wrote:
DrDeth wrote:

This is pretty normal in just about any game, and also IRL medieval society. Often that’s how “thief-takers’ made their profits.

Now, sure, if you don’t want that in your game, then you just have to tell the PLAYERS, OOC that you don’t want them playing like that.

But to have any IC repercussions -before you have had that chat- is wrong.

Yes, this is pretty much the crux of the issue. But it's not as simple as simply telling them OOC what the expectations are because they're only running into this issue because of where they are and what the circumstances of the situation. The country they're in is peaceful, civilized, lawful good nation. When they travel to other countries the laws and customs may be different so claiming a fugitive's property might be perfectly acceptable. However I did more or less tell them that taking the fugitive's gear was stealing and they all reminded me that none of their characters' alignments were lawful (except for one, and he justified it to himself) so that says to me that they know what they're doing is stealing and don't care. Yet, I get the impression that if the authorities actually came after the PCs to recover the fugitive's gear there might be some player resentment, hence my problem. I don't want the...
Again, you have to tell them OOC, and then yes, in this case also IC. One of the Constables should just say “Hey gentlemen, thank you for your help. Look, I know that where you come from in the Land of Nod, it’s traditional for thief-takers to avail themselves of the criminals gear too. But not here. Instead we post a larger reward, and we confiscate his goods, maybe some of them may be stolen and we can return them. Or if not, we sell them and it goes to pay those larger rewards. So, no hard feelings, but please had his gear over, OK? Just a word to the wise. <wink>”.

Yes, I think DrDeth's right on here---but you should also consider---would the PC's have taken the job if they were operating under the presumption that the only loot would be the reward? That clash of assumptions leading to the feeling that they were tricked (or worse, railroaded) into the mission can rankle.


Just my opinion, but it seems to me divesting a fugitive of magic items is part of the process for capturing them. No one would leave a fugitive armed and armored, so treating magic items the same is reasonable.

When the fugitive was turned over to the authorities, did the authorities ask for the gear the fugitive had, including magic items? If not, the assumption could be that the magic items were legitimate spoils, such as a knight losing armor and warhorse when losing a joust, or having to pay ransom when captured in battle.


DrDeth wrote:

This is in reply to Korpens post “So I would say do nothing this time, but let word get out that they are dishonest and lest it come back to bit them later if they do not care about their reputation.

These later legal problems do not have to be something they have done, if they got a reputation as thiefs and something get stolen, they can get accused and put on trial”

No. This is a bad idea. The players have no idea until now this was wrong in the DMs rather different world.

The DM should not punish the PC’s for what is normally a reasonable act until he has warned them OOC.

It is not arbitrary punishment if the PCs get word of it before it has any major effect. That allows the characters to do damage control and speak with people to change their opinions of them.

It is basically a shot across the bow informing them that further such act could come with serious social cost, and at the same time motivate the players to seek out such information in the future (and force the GM to come up with it).


I think the core of this is mixxing a modernish legal system with typical rpg behavior. Kill monsters/enemies and take their stuff is really common practice. If the players start to feel punished for taking prisoners alive, you will lose a rather large amount of npcs you may or may not have hoped to use again.

You have to recognize that in game, loot == power. It is VERY difficult to divorce this mentality from your players. You wont do this by subtle means. You wont do it with hints or recommendations. You have to come out and say 'It will go badly for you if you always take everything that isn't nailed down. I dont want that behavior in my game'. AND you have to make it clear you are going to compensate for that lack of looting. Because if your players think they have to choose between following the customs of the world and gaining their cool magic gear.

My own view is that if you want to make this change, you need to change the game, and change character dependence on magic items as well as the relationship between wealth and power in game.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
rkraus2 wrote:
It's a fantasy game. They cast Zone of Truth, or they do a divination. They could even cast speak with dead on the bandit, or get a divination cast. Lots of options.

Provided there is a caster able and willing to do so. We do not know what the setting is like and cannot determine it as such. I'm not sure speak with dead is currently an option.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jarl wrote:
True. It IS however, the standard assumption in most PF/DnD games that I have played. If the law is such that criminals have rights, the GM needs to let me know in advance...as opposed to after the fact.

Oh yes, the basic definition of 'outlaw' from the medieval/dark ages term is 'ouside the law' - as in, outside the law's protection. An outlaw's goods, possessions, and life are all forfeit to anyone that can take them.

Even to a non-outlaw, in a fair contest of arms the goods of the vanquished are forfeit to the victor.

It all depends on the legal system of the realm, but in most fantasy pseudo-medieval settings this would be the case. I strongly recommend the Brother Cadfeal series of books/TV films for more information on how this was practically implemented.


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So they are further punished by not just whacking the guy wherever they found him, by not even getting to keep the loot?

The dude is a criminal. Even if he claims the PC's stole his stuff- the guards would just laugh their butts off at him. Charge the PC's? not likely!
Just what do you think the guards will do with his gear if they turned it in?

I'll tell ya what- they'll loot it.

This isn't modern day (insert country where you live here). Dude is lucky to be turned in at all, cept in a body bag.

The #1 precedent you are going to set by harrassing them about this, is that its bad to take someone prisoner. It'll be "do we take him prisoner?" "naah then he gets to keep his stuff" "oh yeah!" *Thwack!* Even if they don't say it IC they'll all be thinking it OOC. You win one little battle, they win the war. No more prisoners taken, ever. (which should largely be the case anyway, IMO, but I understand that varies campaign to campaign and circumstance to circumstance).

-S


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber
Xexyz wrote:
I would've called for a Knowledge: Local roll to remind the PCs of the law in this case, but none of them have Knowledge: Local. Now, this may have been an error on my part because I've always thought that for Knowledge checks you had to at least have 1 point in order to be allowed to make a roll.

One quick note, if it is something that you want your players to know... Make it a DC 10 check. You don't need to be trained in a knowledge to make a DC 10 check, per the rules.

Pathfinder PRD, Knowledge Skills wrote:
Untrained: You cannot make an untrained Knowledge check with a DC higher than 10. If you have access to an extensive library that covers a specific skill, this limit is removed. The time to make checks using a library, however, increases to 1d4 hours. Particularly complete libraries might even grant a bonus on Knowledge checks in the fields that they cover.

... And then remind them that they can take-10 on skills when not threatened :)


Dabbler wrote:

Oh yes, the basic definition of 'outlaw' from the medieval/dark ages term is 'ouside the law' - as in, outside the law's protection. An outlaw's goods, possessions, and life are all forfeit to anyone that can take them.

Even to a non-outlaw, in a fair contest of arms the goods of the vanquished are forfeit to the victor.

It all depends on the legal system of the realm, but in most fantasy pseudo-medieval settings this would be the case. I strongly recommend the Brother Cadfeal series of books/TV films for more information on how this was practically implemented.

The legal system of Galos (the country they're in and where 3 of the PCs are from) gives its citizens accused of crimes the right to a trial, and the fugitive the PCs retrieved is a citizen. It's pretty much certain he will be found guilty, and he will be required to make restitution to the man he robbed as well as pay a fine to the local baron for his crimes.

On the other hand, in the previous session the PCs killed/captured some bandits who had killed a local boy for finding their hideout. The bandits also were not citizens, so in this case the authorities didn't have any concern for the disposition of the bandits' possessions. The PCs were free to keep the spoils.

Selgard wrote:

So they are further punished by not just whacking the guy wherever they found him, by not even getting to keep the loot?

The dude is a criminal. Even if he claims the PC's stole his stuff- the guards would just laugh their butts off at him. Charge the PC's? not likely!
Just what do you think the guards will do with his gear if they turned it in?

I'll tell ya what- they'll loot it.

This isn't modern day (insert country where you live here). Dude is lucky to be turned in at all, cept in a body bag.

The #1 precedent you are going to set by harrassing them about this, is that its bad to take someone prisoner. It'll be "do we take him prisoner?" "naah then he gets to keep his stuff" "oh yeah!" *Thwack!* Even if they don't say it IC they'll all be thinking it OOC. You win one little battle, they win the war. No more prisoners taken, ever. (which should largely be the case anyway, IMO, but I understand that varies campaign to campaign and circumstance to circumstance).

If the PCs would've killed the fugitive they would not have been paid for the bounty. Furthermore, they still would've been expected to hand over the fugitive possessions to the authorities. (Which is the mistake I made; I didn't make this clear to them.) Now, the PCs of course can kill fugitives in cases like these, take their stuff, and lie to the authorities, but if it becomes a recurring thing they won't be allowed to hunt fugitives any longer. And if the authorities catch wind that the PCs were taking the fugitives/victims' possessions, then the PCs will be considered criminals in the eyes of the law.


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So the PCs basically have stolen if he is innocent, and have the spoils of bounty if he isn't?


Why would they want to continue collecting the bounties? Is the bounty bigger than the worth of the items?

Just posing the question...


There was a reward for his capture, which they received. There was an additional reward for recovering the item he (the fugitive) stole, but he already had fenced it. The PCs did recover most of the money he got for fencing the item and kept it. I'm willing to let the money slide (maybe) but not the magic items.

If there was a reward for the return of the item, but they got the money he made for fencing it, they should pony up the gold he made as evidence. There's nothing in your description of the mission that says they had to deliver the thief PLUS all the thief's possessions.

Unless the thief says they stole his stuff AND has bills of sale to prove it...it's the thief's cost of doing business and the price of failure.

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