Trial by Judge and Jury, aka, the results of an adventure gone wrong


Everything went great, for the first hour. Afterwards, it fell apart quick. Now, four of the six party members are in the custody of the Flaming Fist, and of those four, two have been caught with either stolen goods or with poison used in conjunction with the previous level.

So, I've never run anything like this before. Anybody have any previous experience with trials, or ideas they think would help me run a fun RP side level? Thanks for any advice!


Have them thrown into a dungeon. You know, prisoners in the pit, if they can escape, they're good. If they wipe out some evil creatures lurking in there... great.

Otherwise, hard labor. Have them sent to a quarry/mine, do a narrative about a week or so (maybe some light RP with some NPC prisoners), then the new tunnel section breaks into a monster burrow. Some prisoners get dragged off or fall into a lower cavern. Some PCs might want to use the opportunity to escape, others might want to try and save the missing prisoners. They start out with shovels, pickaxes, maybe swinging chains...

By all means, yes, one option will end with them Going to the mines. But before that, I plan on having a trial, and it'll test the player, with the other players outside helping as they can, in a way that either ends with them free and happy, in lockdown, or possibly forced into hard labor.

How about trial ideas? Anybody run a courtroom trial that went We'll? What worked and what didn't?

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I did one in another d20 game (Star Wars Saga Edition) and ran it as a skill challenge where the PCs had to make enough successful Diplomacy checks while on the witness stand vs. the NPC prosecutor to sway the jury/judge.

Write up the exact charges and have the evidence the prosocuter will present as well as any witnesses. Then let the pcs decide who will present the defense. Let the party do group roleplay as they plan how to present the defence and maybe call them to the stands as witnesses. For resolving the trial have the character who was picked to represent the defense roll either bluff against the judges sense motive to misslead on the nature of actualy incrimidating evidence. Roll diplomacy against the prosocutions diplomacy for circomstantual or untrue evidence that may be presented. And bluff diplomacy or intimidate during cross examination of an uncooperative witness. If the players roleplay it well consider giving them a bonus on the roll as a reward.

I haven't run one but a trial need not be a judge and jury. Consider:

1. Dunking - the PC is thrown into a body of water bound; if they float they're innocent, if they sink they're guilty because their sin drags them down

2. Fire - if the PC burns they're guilty because their sin makes them hollow, wooden; if they don't they're innocent

There were a bunch of these "trials" listed in a Dungeon magazine, I think back in 2006 or '07. They were in the back, among the articles of things you could add to your games for interesting flavor.

They hearken to the old witch trials. Any sort of physical or metaphysical challenge might do in place of an actual spoken word defense. Resisting some form of torture, achieving some legendary task, or even something as mundane as weighing them against an "innocent" of roughly the same build.

Of course, you can also go to the other extreme. There are several spells, from Zone of Truth to Detect Thoughts and so on that can accurately determine if the PCs are guilty of something. In the face of these there's little reason for a trial by jury. If the offense is grave or the PCs are of moderately threatening power levels, their accusers might just bring out a 12th level NPC divine caster, have them whip off a few spells, look over the party and go "ok, they did it. Throw them in a pit of lava. Next!" and call it a day.

Finally... if you're really bound and determined to do a courtroom scene, then just do it. Spend an entire game session and roleplay the process. The PCs can use Profession: Barrister, Diplomacy, or Bluff versus their accusers' Sense Motive to gain bonuses to their defense, favorable conditions in their cells, or even win their case outright.

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The two remaining PCs should say the following at the trial;
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman who fell into some ice and was later thawed by some of your spell casters. Your world frightens and confuses me. Sometimes, traffic makes me want to get off my flying carpet and run into the hills, or wherever. When I receive magic messages I wonder, did angels or demons send these messages? I don't know! My primitive mind can not understand such concepts. What I do know, is that when murderhobos wander into an area and don't know the laws they are entitled to a simple warning and should be let go. Thank you."

Or you could check out Trial of the Beast by Paizo. should be some good ideas to mine there id imagine.

Silver Crusade

Are they actually guilty of what they're charged with?

Both legally guilty and (for lack of a better term) ethically guilty?

Ie, were they being "reasonable"?

Because that is pretty key to what happens. They WILL learn from what happens. Either they'll learn to toe the line a bit, or that actions don't have consequences.

The second book of Carrion Crown has rules for a trial that I think are pretty good. It's not perfectly analogous (the PCs are not the ones on trial, but are instead out running around gathering evidence), but it has good rules for how evidence is authenticated, how magic is treated, and focuses on a court that wants fair and truthful evidence.

It would help to know how "modern" you want this court to be (that is, is it based on courts from the 20th or 21st century, or is it based on more summary medieval and renaissance trials).

Several things to consider:

(1) The PCs could use diplomacy, Profession (lawyer/advocate/oratory), or bluff to make opening or closing statements.

(2) The PCs could use diplomacy or bluff checks to cross-examine witnesses. Roleplaying examination and cross-examination of witnesses is pretty time-consuming and not usually that much fun.

(3) Depending on their results, the PCs could be sentenced to a lesser charge (including forfeit of the illegal items, payment of a fine, probation, etc.).

Very cool, some great ideas here. Here's what I've decided on, up to a point:

The trial is going to be mostly a show. This is the first EVER train robbery (steampunk campaign, brand new invention), and everybody wants to know everything. The court plans to draw it out, in order to increase tourism and fame. What this means is, the case will be done in the public square.

  • Day One will be mild, but present all the charges.
  • Day Two, a gigantic scales shall be brought it, in which they'll weigh the accused against various "innocents."
  • Day Three, the accusers will attempt a dunking, but instead, the court will be thrown into turmoil as a representative from the Kingdom of Cormyr shows up to legitimately defend the accused. Suddenly evidence becomes important, which the defense is not prepared for.
  • Day Four, as everything is coming near to a close, another representative, this one from the Kingdom of Many Arrows, appears, and places a claim that the accused, along with the rest of the party, are property of the North, escaped slaves that are branded and must be returned.
  • Day Five, a sentence needs to be carried out. I'll have the accused do rolls, in Diplomacy, Bluff, or another if they decide creatively, to see how the judge lands on the charges. As an example, maybe 1-10, guilty, thrown in jail, 11-18, given to the Kingdom of Many Arrows, 19-30, released to the custody of Cormyr, 31+ cleared of charges.

Now, while this happens, the other players are going to try and sway the court, the witnesses, and various others in favor of the party members. Success means bonuses for the accused come judgement time.

Also, for flavor, there are going to be newspaper boys for 1000 miles around selling printings of what's going on ("Extra extra, trial of the century"), so some other party members that are currently oblivious are going to have to book it south to attempt to meet up with everyone else. They were the ones thrown from the train.

How does that sound? Any other thoughts or ideas everyone thinks will add good flavor, tastiness, or just silly ancient court drama? Thanks again for all the great ideas so far!


Flaming Fist... that's Baldurs Gate, isn't it? If so, why would they get any kind of jury trial? The dukes call the shots, not the citizens.

VRMH wrote:
Flaming Fist... that's Baldurs Gate, isn't it? If so, why would they get any kind of jury trial? The dukes call the shots, not the citizens.

I'm leaning away from a jury, more for a show trial now. And yes, this all takes place in Baldur's Gate.

VRMH wrote:
Flaming Fist... that's Baldurs Gate, isn't it? If so, why would they get any kind of jury trial? The dukes call the shots, not the citizens.

I wouldn't know, I've only seen the speedrun (itself a wonderful example of C/MD)

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And they said Profession (barrister) would be useless.

Alright, here's the final product, so ya'll know how your contributions helped out:

The "trial" is nothing more than a show the government puts on. Everyone is guilty once caught. Oh, and I'm running the entire trial in real-time, using a messaging service. Each day, there is a Morning story, and an Evening story, altered by the player's actions.

  • Day one, they're dragged out before the townsfolk and accused crimes, though not stated. Pelted by rotted fruit and vegetables, they have no representation, and no say. By evening, the charges are laid out, and the public is shocked by news of the impenetrable train having been robbed.
  • Day two, they're dragged out to the town square, and a gigantic scales have been set up. This is the beginning of the show, and the "hangman" operating it has a foot pedal to be sure that the "guilty" really are guilty. By evening, the crowd has swelled enormously. Also,in the evening, they've added dunk tanks to the scales, and, again, the guilty are weighed down by their "guilt." Floor pedal.
  • Day three, a pyre has been built up in the center. The guilty are placed on it, as a goodly heart will repel Kossuth's flames. Before it's lit, though, a Cormyrian ambassador shows up and puts a stop to it, claiming these are Cormyrian citizens and cannot be tried thusly. By nightfall, he's actually presented some evidence for a legitimate trial.
  • Day four, the players get to actually speak, and a real trial happens, with skills and the like. This is the player's shining chance to do some high rolls. They'll help out day five. By nightfall of day four, the Duke, in charge of the show, is sad that nothing else exciting has happened. Just then, an orc army marches into the city, and an ambassador from their kingdom shows up, claiming that they are escaped slaves of the Kingdom of Many Arrows. The Duke is thrilled.
  • Day five is the conclusion. The accused Player's will make three rolls, with all bonuses from the events. One will determine the fate of Player 1, one, the fate of Player 2, and the third is to whom will assume custody of these players. I'm hopeful for a moderate roll, which lands them in the realm of the orcs.

And that's the trial! Also, there are two other groups of players (the party was split into three groups of two) whom will also get day by day, real-time stories. They're actions will provide bonuses for the accused, as well and adding some needed backstory to some more blank characters.

Thanks again for all the help!


What level are the PCs? I'm wondering if you even need to interrupt the burning if you can make DC 15 Ref saves while bound and don't care about the 1d6 for being on fire. Also, teiflings are 5/6 pure and innocent since they have resist 5.

PC's are level 4. Not sure there was much they could have done, they'd be Helpless, not just bound, and the flames would have grown exponentially. And no teiflings in the group. Besides, they weight and water tested, possibly they've had that teifling issue before.

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I've roleplayed a few trials in my time. What works really well, if you've got a friend who's not a member of the group but is available to guest-star for a session, is to have someone else play the prosecution. The players represent themselves and you play the judge and jury.

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