What Happens When You Murder A Good Cleric?


Advice

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I've had something come up in a game I am running that I could use some help with.

The party is in a conflict with a strong barbarian tribe. The barbarian chief has been corrupted and is now evil. He has had the tribe's warriors raiding every village and small town within 30 miles. If any of the warriors are reluctant to follow orders the chief gives them an attitude adjustment via blunt force trauma.

The chief's mother is the wise old woman of the tribe and a neutral good high level priestess of Eristil. She doesn't openly defy her son, but she refuses to do his dirty work. Her age, power and standing in the tribe keeps her safe. She can't stop her son, but sticks around to try to keep the other members of the tribe safe. She regularly attends her son, but generally just follows him around and stands quietly in the background.

The party doesn't know who she is. They have just seen an old woman that follows the chief around. They have decided she is the Real Big Bad Evil Guy. They made no effort to figure out who she really was. They ambushed the chief while he was alone with his mother and two bodyguards. They focused fire on the old woman and killed her before anyone else had a chance to act.

That is when we ran out of time and ended it for the session.

Should there be repercussions for this act?

Was the old woman guilty by association with her evil son?

Did she have this coming?

A number of characters are supposedly good and at least one gets divine spells from a lawful good God. The character that actually killed the woman aspires to be a paladin and the player was hoping to start taking Paladin levels.

Would this cause an alignment shift?

If the divine casters take a hit, do they lose their powers immediately?

Thanks for any feedback you can give.


By the rules, nothing happens.

I wouldn't have any mechanical penalties for the players actions.


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She clearly did not have it coming, so Eristil comes to them in dreams and smacks them around for being such d&!@~#*s. No mechanical effect, but the tribe all despises them once they find out about it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Although there are no exact mechanical consequences for this one act, there might be justification for changing alignments a step towards evil, or perhaps requiring an atonement, especially if the characters discover the woman was relatively innocent.

On the other hand...did the party actually commit an evil act there at all? They failed to investigate, but it sounds like they're acting for the greater good, just perhaps in a not very ethical manner.

Regardless, if they do change alignments, that may or may not have any concrete effect on their capabilities. Clerics can only worship deities within one alignment step, so if the character alignment changes, and moves further than one step away, this could have consequences of not receiving spells the next time they renew them.


OK. Seemed kinda shady, but I'll let it slide.

Thanks for the input.

Shadow Lodge

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I think you may want to have an out of character discussion with your players about expectations for how you will be communicating about who they are expected/supposed to fight.

On the one hand, the players have reason to be suspicious of the old woman. Good characters - especially good clerics of good deities - don't usually stand by quietly while evil characters "raid every village and small town within 30 miles." Even if she isn't capable of stopping her son, I would expect the cleric to make some attempt to mitigate the effects of his actions on the surrounding communities, or at least show some sign of displeasure. It may have made sense from your POV, but for the players the most likely assumption here is that the old woman was evil, and possibly an evil spellcaster.

On the other hand, she didn't deserve to die for her inaction. Going from "maybe the old woman is an evil spellcaster" to "the old woman is probably the real BBEG and we should immediately assassinate her" without any attempt to find actual evidence... that is not the kind of action I would expect from heroic characters in my games. And if you intend to have more not-evil NPCs associating with evil NPCs, this sort of situation is likely to repeat and maybe cause problems.

And as a player, if I felt that a GM had somehow misled me into killing a good-aligned cleric, I would be upset, even if there weren't mechanical impacts.

So really I think the most important thing you can do for your game is to figure out why your players felt confident enough that the old woman was a threat to justify a lethal ambush, and figure out if you need to adjust your GMing appropriately or reassure them that mysterious old women will not reveal themselves to be dangerous witches at the worst possible moment.


I'm trying to run a world that is not black and white. It's been a regular occurrence that good and bad people live in the same communities. That sometimes good people do bad things and sometimes bad people do good things.

It's also been a regular plot point that adversaries are not necessarily evil. A few months ago the party killed a bunch of lawful good pilgrims that were defending holy artifacts the party wanted.

The fallout from that was bad enough that they have been a bit better about who they kill. A couple session ago they did kill the girlfriends of the bad guys even though they were just 0 level commoners cowering in the background.

It's just been an ongoing pattern. After a while it seems like there should be a required alignment shift as well as all the consequences that go with that.

I mean, the guy wielding a good aligned weapon that bestows negative levels on evil characters probably shouldn't be killing unknown NPCs "just in case".

Shadow Lodge

So this is already a pattern. Have you had an actual conversation with the players about it, or just applied in-game consequences and hope they get the hint?


We've talked about it. Pretty much just shrugs and "oops".

Though I must say, they don't seem to have much insight into their actions. At the start of the last session one of the players tried to walk into the barbarian encampment. When he was stopped by guards at the edge of camp (they asked who he was and what he was doing there) he:

1. Insulted them
2. Declared himself as the emissary of one of their greatest enemies, an evil dragon that lived to the south. (this was only kinda a lie)
3. Attempted an intimidate check against the guards
4. Tried to push past the guard.

When he tried to push past the guard, an animal companion that had been hiding in the grass attacked him and tried to grapple him to keep the PC from pushing past the guards. In response the PC called down a lightning bolt that would have easily killed the animal companion if it hadn't made it's reflex save and had evasion.

At this point the guards attacked and subdued him and the player was shocked that they would do that.

He spent the next hour mumbling about "I guess we're not allowed to use diplomacy".


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In the original scenario, the death of the old woman isn't a problem in my opinion.

As a player, I wouldn't expect a cleric of a good deity to sit idly by and allow evil actions to repeatedly be performed. Regardless of whether or not she expected she could win. In fact, I personally would have been upset if you had said she was good cleric, because in my opinion a good cleric can't sit idly by and let this happen. At best she would have had to be lawful neutral, IMO.

Also, good characters don't get some kind of special protection for being good. Lawful good Archons have fought chaotic good Azatas. You can be good and still disagree with other good enough that your only answer is to fight each other. So it's not an immediate grounds for anything.

All that being said, you other posts paint a picture of other problems.

It sounds a lot like your players have different expectations and desires for the kind of game they want to play vs what you're giving them. It sounds like they want a hack and slash sort of dungeon crawl with mostly gratuitous violence.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

you are asking for plot advice.
I'd agree that there's no immediate mechanical effect for the players EXCEPT for clerics and paladins that rely on divine power. If there's a cleric of Erastil(or friendly deity) in the party then there will be consequences via that channel of power based on how the deity reacts to this event.

Plotwise the control on the Chief has been removed. The moderating force is gone. Perhaps the old cleric had an apprentice or two (which would make sense). They won't be in a position to challenge authority but they could seek justice and direct the chief specifically against the party (whom they view as murderers). They just need to frame it as a challenge to his authority and a threat to the tribe.
Either way the tribe just got more war like and violent.

You'll also have to figure out a way to inform the party of what they did. That way you increase tension and provide other avenues for plot divergence.
Should the local city find out the details, they aren't going to be happy with the party. They killed a moderate and caused a nearby tribe to go violent. It's a political faux pas.
Contrarily, the party could frame her as evil and after the tribe kills off more townfolk they could lead the war and kill off the tribe. Even if the truth comes out nobody will believe the few defeated tribe members.

I'm smirking as based on your description it seems your players are the usual sort of chaotic evil to chaotic neutral. They just do what they want and kill whom they want. Give them plenty of rope, that way it'll be a fun and ironic surprise when the good heroes come after them.

As a GM it is not your job to convince your players to act the way you want or to be Good. You are the world and just adjudicate consequences including saying "Is that really within your character's Alignment?". Be a mirror and let the players see who they are really playing. You can also be a teacher and try to show them how to be good via NPCs. If you don't want to run an evil campaign then just drop it when it goes too far.
For now you need character cards for each of them to track their actual alignment. Start with what it says on their character sheet and then list a summary of their acts with dates. Make a decision and write that after each event. That way you can track their moral and ethical behavior. Don't rely on your memory unless it is very good and you remember the details. You don't need to inform the players as to their actual character's alignment, that requires a spell such as Know Alignment.

Silver Crusade

I rarly make comments on other players game, but

The first issue was killed by mistake. If Person sees Evil but does nothing to stop it he/she is in it, even if shes neutral and doesn't like it.
There are no innocent in the first described issue, at least for me.

Like Claxon said the first Issue and the following are much more different.

They are Basically Murder Hobos but cant understand or comprehend Diplomacy or the definition of consequences.
If you have a Good Character Running around they are long past this alignment.
They maybe not be evil but in no way are they on the good site of the alignment.

IF the cast divine spells or have divine based powers. You should take away their powers and let them do a quest for atonement.
Or as an alternative give them a quest to seek a new master to retrain their classes


Thanks for the feedback. I have some specific questions.

1. Would it be reasonable to have characters detect as evil? Maybe just faintly?

2. Would it be possible that a Smite Evil would work on them?

3. Would a weapon that functions differently for an evil character start to show signs of functioning differently?


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The GM is the only conduit the players have for information. If your players are making bad choices due to a lack of information, you can be more forthcoming. You say they didn’t investigate but I’d recommend you take the initiative to give them the information you want them to have rather than waiting for them to ask the right questions. Hit them over the head, repeatedly, in a variety of ways with what you want them to know because they’re only going to absorb, remember, realize the significance of a small portion of whatever you shovel their way. I think sometimes GM’s, who have access to all the information all the time and fully understand how everything is related, don’t realize how much being a player is like the old five blind guys describing an elephant allegory.


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I have to agree with Claxon on this. I am not sure how the chief’s mother managed to keep her status of a cleric in the situation you described. By your description the Chief sounds to be chaotic evil and his actions are going directly against a lot of what Eristil teaches. While the Chief may be her son, his actions are something that her deity would strongly oppose. She should be speaking against him at every opportunity, not only to prevent the spread of evil, but also to save her own son. By allowing him to continue his evil ways she is allowing the soul of her own son to be damned. She is also putting her own (her son) needs above those of others.

You are wondering if a single action should s#~+ the alignment of your players, but are allowing her to maintain her alignment in a situation where she is going to be constantly faced with conflicts where she is making at best questionable choices. By her continued inaction I would say she is no longer good. Because she is not upholding the code of her deity she cannot be lawful. That would put her more than a single step away from her deities alignment so should be an ex-cleric.

It seems like you and your players have different ideas of what type of game they want to play. Some people enjoy nuanced social situations where the lines between good and evil are difficult to discern, while others just want to fight the bad guys. Both types of game are equally valid, but if you and your players have different expectation that needs to be addressed out of game.


born_of_fire wrote:

The GM is the only conduit the players have for information. If your players are making bad choices due to a lack of information, you can be more forthcoming. You say they didn’t investigate but I’d recommend you take the initiative to give them the information you want them to have rather than waiting for them to ask the right questions. Hit them over the head, repeatedly, in a variety of ways with what you want them to know because they’re only going to absorb, remember, realize the significance of a small portion of whatever you shovel their way. I think sometimes GM’s, who have access to all the information all the time and fully understand how everything is related, don’t realize how much being a player is like the old five blind guys describing an elephant allegory.

I think this is probably right. My general method is to put all the information out there but I mix it in with lots of other stuff. I give a lot of background info on places and NPCs. I have plenty of maps with important places labeled. I have a wall of mugshots for most of the important NPCs, complete with names and a few key pieces of information about each of them. The pictures are mostly grouped by their relationship to each other. The players have responded well to this and have stated they enjoy the extra details. But this may be information overload. Too much fluff info may be clouding the key bits that they really need to know and understand.

I will reassess how I get the information out and try to hammer home the info that is most important.


A few things. You need to enforce alignment. Both on NPCs and players. Good NPCs need to try and uphold their ideas, even if its only in a weak way.

Having the mother meekly following her evil child is out of character for a good aligned NPC. At a bare minimum she should banish herself to a temple and pray for him. More likely she would vocally oppose his actions to the point he does something about it. She could be forced to follow behind in shackles and gagged (obvious prisoner), or he could threaten to harm others to shut her up (and the players hear of the rumors), or she could be exiled.

Likewise if any of the players have 'good' on their character sheets...seriously they've been acting in such a way that the excuse that "they are evil so it doesn't matter if we slaughter cowering women" doesn't fly. At all. They've been taking multiple actions that are evil, step all of their alignments 1 towards evil. That should be a wake up call to them. Also step all of their alignments 1 towards chaotic, since they have only been thinking about themselves. Or have they been doing this to support the community? How are they about obeying laws and authority?

Tracking their actions of character cards is a good idea. Generally I rate 10 actions = 1 step. Certain actions count more than others. Helping out at an orphanage is 1 step toward good. Burning down an orphanage and making sure nobody escapes...that is instant evil. Earnestly trying to redeem opponents during a combat...that is the kind of 'good' that is a bit hard to believe.

Alignment shouldn't be a big issue in most campaigns, but it sounds like it needs to be or nothing will change.


Hmmmm..... for the most part, I don't really need it to change. I'm not posting this to get advice on changing the players. I just want to make sure I'm properly adjudicating the situation.

I am firmly in the camp that as the DM it's not my job to change the players. I'm here to create a fun platform for the players to play on. But, it most definitely is my job to try to figure out consequences for action.

I'm not making judgment calls on good roll playing and bad roll playing. I'm trying to decide if the characters have violated their alignment in a way that would warrant consequences in the game world. And if there should be consequences, what should they be.


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Kifaru wrote:
born_of_fire wrote:

The GM is the only conduit the players have for information. If your players are making bad choices due to a lack of information, you can be more forthcoming. You say they didn’t investigate but I’d recommend you take the initiative to give them the information you want them to have rather than waiting for them to ask the right questions. Hit them over the head, repeatedly, in a variety of ways with what you want them to know because they’re only going to absorb, remember, realize the significance of a small portion of whatever you shovel their way. I think sometimes GM’s, who have access to all the information all the time and fully understand how everything is related, don’t realize how much being a player is like the old five blind guys describing an elephant allegory.

I think this is probably right. My general method is to put all the information out there but I mix it in with lots of other stuff. I give a lot of background info on places and NPCs. I have plenty of maps with important places labeled. I have a wall of mugshots for most of the important NPCs, complete with names and a few key pieces of information about each of them. The pictures are mostly grouped by their relationship to each other. The players have responded well to this and have stated they enjoy the extra details. But this may be information overload. Too much fluff info may be clouding the key bits that they really need to know and understand.

I will reassess how I get the information out and try to hammer home the info that is most important.

I'm very happy that you took this in the spirit I intended. I was concerned that it could be interpreted to say that you are a bad DM. That's not what I was driving at in any way and you seem to recognize this. Phew!


Sounds like you're running an evil party. If their alignment isn't evil now, it will be soon. Other than that, they reap the in-world consequences (if any) of their actions. Sometimes the bad guys win--especially if it's bad guys vs. other bad guys.

In any case, it sounds like [1] your game doesn't have any particular notion that PCs have to behave a certain way (such as "no evil PCs") and [2] you aren't interested in forcing a change of behavior, so it sounds like you're doing everything right.


One consequence for killing good clerics can be the assignment of others to investigate - say, a church-friendly group of Paladins to track the party down and query them about their behavior.


blahpers wrote:

Sounds like you're running an evil party. If their alignment isn't evil now, it will be soon. Other than that, they reap the in-world consequences (if any) of their actions. Sometimes the bad guys win--especially if it's bad guys vs. other bad guys.

They aren't entirely evil. They do acts of good too. Those just weren't the things I was concerned about today.


If the PC you mentioned does try to take a paladin level, you could have it fail in a way that provides useful information about why.


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
If the PC you mentioned does try to take a paladin level, you could have it fail in a way that provides useful information about why.

That sounds about right.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

well - when he goes to take the Paladin level, just say his patron deity declines his service unless the deity believes in redemption and then have a simple NPC outline his quest for him (if you want to be direct). Ask him how he petitions to become a Paladin. Just saying you are one dosn't work, even for antiPaladins. lol. You can work out the details of the scene.
Letting him take the class and then fall is immature (at best).
A cruel trick would be to have a deity disguised as another and accept him into his "Paladin"(read Antipaladin)-hood with a quest to herald his coming into his power... hmmm... I can feel the squirming now. Just copy antipalidin and rewrite the class name as something like "Paladin of Audaciousness" and give him that class. See if he goes for it. Evil gods are, well, EVIL.

You should have a story & plot in mind but it'll have to adapt. One way to think of it is as a timeline and PCs express free will to change the course of events, otherwise your story arc will trundle on and the outcome is forgone (for you). Essentially the players do stuff and you weave those actions into a coherent variant of your master plot and story arc.

Don't give away too much info. Think about what their character's should know. When they want to know about something direct them to a knowledgeable NPC. You(the GM) are not their source of unending information. They need to make Diplomacy checks, talk to characters, discover things like normal.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

They murdered someone solely on the basis that they thought she was the BBEG?

This is not an alignment issue. This is a metagaming issue.

Shadow Lodge

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Well, the characters could easily be suspicious that an old woman standing quietly behind the violent barbarian leader is pulling strings behind the scenes, especially if the leader's "corruption" meant that he is behaving in a way that outsiders would recognize as out of character.

At this point I see three options:

1) If the players actually want to play in a more morally complex world with real consequences, and still want to be heroes, you need to help them be less clueless about their actions. In addition to dropping more obvious hints, consider pausing occasionally to ask them things like "Are you sure you want to insult the guards? How do you think they will react to that?" or "Why do you believe the old woman is a bigger threat than the barbarian chief? Would you like to investigate further?" You don't have to flat out tell them they are about to make a mistake, but some pointed questions can get players to reconsider hasty decisions.

2) If the players want to play in a morally complex world but don't care too much about being heroes, apply realistic consequences. This will probably include an alignment shift since characters who repeatedly perform evil acts should not be good-aligned, which may leave divine casters in need of atonement or conversion to a new deity. It will certainly require the player to give up on aspirations towards paladin-hood. Personally I think this is least likely to be the best solution given what you have said - the players seem to want to be heroic, they're just having a hard time following through on that.

3) If the players aren't particularly interested in a morally complex world and you really aren't interested in making them play in a more morally complex way, start running a more black and white world. At least stop introducing antagonistic NPCs (or even apparently antagonistic NPCs) who you don't want the players to kill


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Your initial description sounded like a great Shakespearean tragedy and a game well ran. But if the player response was 'meh', then that might not be the type of game they want to play.

Another thing to consider. Your story of a elderly goodly cleric working behind the scenes to undercut the evil warlord is interesting and compelling. But your players thought she was the BBEG. Could you have hinted that there was an ally in the barbarian camp? There is a saying in video game design; 'make sure it isn't the computer having the fun'. It means ask yourself: are all the interesting things happening behind the scenes?

Next thing for GMing; If the players don't know about it, it never happened. What changes for the players if the goodly cleric they just killed was actually evil, and the friendly force in camp was actually a ranger that is just returning from hunting? It might be too late now, but if they had no idea she was good, make her evil and make someone that lives good. Take their idea that she is the evil mastermind and make that the truth (they will feel so clever).

From the above you might find an answer to the alignment question; 1) they are not interested in alignment, 2) It was a tragedy and any in-character remorse is all the is required, or 3) it was 'actually' an 'evil' cleric they killed that was dominating the warchief and they are all heros.

Edit: Everything Weirdo said.

Silver Crusade

I agree that she was not good. In Erastilian terms, she was the diseased vine that needed to be plucked. She had drifted from his teachings, so was not a cleric of his.


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Val'bryn2 wrote:
I agree that she was not good. In Erastilian terms, she was the diseased vine that needed to be plucked. She had drifted from his teachings, so was not a cleric of his.

What.

Silver Crusade

She stood by while her son destroyed the tribe, destroyed the community she was charged with protecting and guiding by Erastil. By standing behind him, she, even tangentially, is lending her support as wise woman to his rule. As the quote says, "All it takes for Evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing". She did nothing, even lended an air of credibility to her son. They were metagaming, sure, but when you have as many beings able to bend a creature's will like a rope as there are on Golarion, is it that big a leap, in character?


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Val'bryn2 wrote:
She stood by while her son destroyed the tribe, destroyed the community she was charged with protecting and guiding by Erastil. By standing behind him, she, even tangentially, is lending her support as wise woman to his rule. As the quote says, "All it takes for Evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing". She did nothing, even lended an air of credibility to her son. They were metagaming, sure, but when you have as many beings able to bend a creature's will like a rope, is it that big a leap, in character?

I have heard the quote, but never heard it extended to "All it takes for Evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing, thereby ceasing to be good." Being Good, even being a Good cleric, doesn't require you to be a martyr. I disagree that she was one of the people with an alignment problem.

OP wrote:
She can't stop her son, but sticks around to try to keep the other members of the tribe safe.

If she couldn't stop him, refusing to help and doing her best to lessen the damage he caused is a perfectly reasonable and ethical strategy.

Silver Crusade

Except what has she done to minimize the damage?


It really depends on a lot of factors.

She could absolutely have still been a good cleric, especially of Erastil, if and only if she was actively trying to change things, to balance her son's influence. She apparently had enough power of her own to do so.
Erastil is attached to the ideals of community and family enough that he would, imo, understand her dilemma and accept a slower effort towards a change sooner than just a mother outright murdering her a%*+&@@ son or just giving up and exiling herself. Those options would have been much more problematic, to me.
And of course, if she was just along for the ride passively, being sad and dejected but still helping and therefore validating her chief's decisions, as a religious leader and the tribe's effective number two, just by her inaction and unwillingness to do anything ? She should have fallen. That god, like most really, probably much prefers when his clerics are being proactive in the face of a challenge.

Although, of course, the why and how of the pillaging matters, and we don't know those.
Gratuitous violence just because they could and it's fun is very different from "we're starving and broke, we have to take what we need - sorry, sincerely - but better you than us."

As to the PCs killing her being an evil act or not ... Assuming they were not aware, it would very much depend on how they react when learning of their terrible mistake, if they ever do (they should).
An old witch, whispering in the ear of a crazy warchief, is one thing. A force for good, maybe the only one or the strongest one in that tribe ? Something else entirely.
If they don't care, they're looking evil. Killing bad dudes does not make you good, killing good ones - mistake or not - and not feeling anything is pretty evil.

TLDR : I guess what I'm trying to say boils down to : Intent is what makes evil evil.

- Why did they kill her ? Because they thought she was the bad, baaad hand behind the throne or merely because she was an asset to their enemy ?
- How do they react upon learning she was what she was ? Do they dismiss it, not caring in the least, or are they shook by the revelation, wanting to atone or maybe try and make her unvoluntary sacrifice mean something ?
Accidents happen to good people.
Murder as a means to an end, with no regards to who pays the price, is no accident.


Val'bryn2 wrote:
Except what has she done to minimize the damage?

Well, according to the OP, she was keeping the other members of the tribe safe (as I quoted). If you want to know details you'll have to ask the OP.


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Kifaru wrote:

I've had something come up in a game I am running that I could use some help with.

The party is in a conflict with a strong barbarian tribe. The barbarian chief has been corrupted and is now evil. He has had the tribe's warriors raiding every village and small town within 30 miles. If any of the warriors are reluctant to follow orders the chief gives them an attitude adjustment via blunt force trauma.

The chief's mother is the wise old woman of the tribe and a neutral good high level priestess of Eristil. She doesn't openly defy her son, but she refuses to do his dirty work. Her age, power and standing in the tribe keeps her safe. She can't stop her son, but sticks around to try to keep the other members of the tribe safe. She regularly attends her son, but generally just follows him around and stands quietly in the background.

You've alluded to sufficient ambiguity to absolve the party from wantonly committing an evil act. This is a band of raiders; the PCs put them down.
Quote:
Should there be repercussions for this act?
Aside from the possibility that your players are all CE murder-hobos, their characters haven't done anything wrong except possibly spoil a lot of backstory and plot-hooks you had laid out.
Quote:
Was the old woman guilty by association with her evil son?
Well, she was associating with him...
Quote:
Did she have this coming?
I'm guessing the PCs saw her casting a spell when they burst in. Derp. Sucks to be the spellcaster when you're standing next to the BBEG, and are fresh out of potions of Invisibility.
Quote:
The character that actually killed the woman aspires to be a paladin and the player was hoping to start taking Paladin levels.

From your description, the old lady cleric, by not confronting her wayward son, stood a greater risk of falling.

~ ~ ~

born_of_fire wrote:
The GM is the only conduit the players have for information. If your players are making bad choices due to a lack of information, you can be more forthcoming. You say they didn’t investigate but I’d recommend you take the initiative to give them the information you want them to have rather than waiting for them to ask the right questions. Hit them over the head, repeatedly, in a variety of ways with what you want them to know because they’re only going to absorb, remember, realize the significance of a small portion of whatever you shovel their way. I think sometimes GM’s, who have access to all the information all the time and fully understand how everything is related, don’t realize how much being a player is like the old five blind guys describing an elephant allegory.

THIS, right there.

There should always be envoys with ransom demands (and info to be squeezed out of), easily-overheard loudly-gossiping sentries, the old lady's daughter run-away-to-town hoping to hire adventure to rescue her lover doing stupid stuff as BBEG's nameless underling #47, etc. Litter your campaign with NPCs. It should never seem, from the players' perspective, that their mission is clear-cut.


For those wondering about the old woman's actions, the back story is that she was being quietly subversive. Trying to talk her son into less violent actions. Talking to the individual raiders and trying to convince them to do as little harm as possible. Showing by example that you don't have to do every thing the chief says. If she had openly and loudly defied the chief he would have killed her or cast her out. She wasn't afraid to die but she didn't want to leave her tribe completely under the control of her son.

Mechanically, I put her there as a healer and safety net for the party. When the party inevitably came for the barbarian chief, that was going to be a brutal encounter. I figured there would be very good odds a few party members would die. During combat the old woman was supposed to watch in anguish and do nothing. If the battle went really bad, she would throw out a few healing spells and/or buffs to make sure the PCs come out victorious. Of course she would be sobbing and crying as she helped these strangers kill her son. Big emotional scene.

After the combat she would use her considerable powers to raise and/or heal the party and thank the party for "sending her son on to the next world where hopefully his soul will find the peace it never found in this world". Then she would give the party all the good info they would need to go on to the next stage of the campaign. At least that was how I thought it would go. That was a big swing and a miss at the outside breaking ball.


No plan survives the PCs.


Slim Jim wrote:
No plan survives the PCs.

...Unless you're railroading. Speaking of railroading, your planned senario sounds like it was designed to either facilitate or outright require railroading to work.


Loxsis Bale wrote:
Slim Jim wrote:
No plan survives the PCs.
...Unless you're railroading. Speaking of railroading, your planned senario sounds like it was designed to either facilitate or outright require railroading to work.

Apparently.

And since I have, at best, a dirt track going on, it looks like the PCs have decided to do a little off-roading.

Silver Crusade

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Hold up, if she can raise PCs, as the OP indicates, she's a 9th level caster, bare minimum. I'm currently reading the entry for Erastil from Inner Sea Gods. "He isn't afraid to face down a bully" "groups function best when led by a benevolent leader" "priests are generally the first to step in with a firm hand to deal with a rebellious or disruptive member of the community". If she's powerful enough to rebuke death, she's got options for her son. Sitting back, wringing her hands, she is acting exactly opposite the tenants of Erastil. Upon discovering that her son was corrupted, she has access to Mark of Justice, Atonement, just to name a few, if she wanted him redeemed, she could have done so.


I think your problem started with there not being a good way for the PCs to investigate this cleric. Or even a hint that they should.

The way you described her passive subversive actions leads me to think that the only way an outside could learn about them would be to talk to her, the chief, or the raiders. Of those, the chief is the big bad, so there's no real 'lets pump that guy for information while he tries to kill us.' The cleric doesn't seem like she'd speak to the party directly.

That leaves us with the raiders. Since it doesn't seem like your party would try to talk to someone who just got done being a raider, I think you'd have gone in the correct direction by having survivors from the raids have some information. Either keep it obtuse, and the survivors basically give your party a rumor that someone powerful in camp is trying to mitigate the destruction, or have them come right out and say 'Raider #27 told me the chief's mother is unhappy with his rule.'

Basically, you ran into the old 'I thought of a puzzle, and a solution, but the PC's thought of something different.' When you only have 1 'correct' way to solve something, I guarantee your party is going to do something different.


There were a few ways to get the info. They just managed to bypass them all. In many ways it was a good plan. They bypassed the two young villagers hanging out in the woods that would have spilled the beans with no urging. And snuck past the guards that would have given some info with a bit more aggressive urging.

Earlier, when I let the bard get into the camp he didn't ask a single question. He threatened and flattered and bullsh$#@&%d with great skill, but he never asked a single question. I guess I should have just spoon fed him the info, but I figured the party still had a couple more chances to get the info. But unfortunately they outsmarted me and figured out a way past the kids and the guards.

And frankly, I was a bit taken aback when the party ignored the big threatening barbarian chief and his honor guard. Then they disregarded the two mysterious magic users that only talk to the chief and no one else in the tribe. Instead the party focused fire on the little old lady that had never made any aggressive actions toward anyone.

Shadow Lodge

Definitely debrief the players, if not immediately then after the consequences of this action become known. They probably have what seemed to them a good reason to be suspicious of the old woman and finding out what it is will help you predict them better in the future.

Consider in the future being more proactive about dropping hints if you see the players ignoring your planned sources of information. If the players aren't asking questions, might the mother have approached them to express regrets for her son's behavior? Or at least sent some message to that effect? Could you have explicitly described her showing some form of discomfort during the encounter where the party saw her attending her son?

And definitely don't get too attached to specific scenes happening. Having the plan that at some point the grandmother will tearfully help the party to defeat and likely kill her son is fine. Having the plan that it will happen in a particular way during the final showdown... well, you could certainly keep the possibility in mind, but there are so many different ways that could go in a direction you aren't expecting - sometimes for the better!


Val'bryn2 wrote:
Upon discovering that her son was corrupted, she has access to Mark of Justice, Atonement, just to name a few, if she wanted him redeemed, she could have done so.

Um, what do you think those spells do? They certainly don't redeem anyone who doesn't want to be redeemed. A helm of opposite alignment is the only magic I can think of to do that, and chances are she doesn't have one of those lying around.


Well, Geas/Quest is definitely an option if you want to be "repent or else" on someone...

Silver Crusade

If he was magically corrupted, Atonement would have worked. Had it been a mundane tendency towards evil, Mark of Justice could have been used to rein in his actions, specifically through a forbiddance to act against the tenants of Erastil.


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Unfortunately Atonement only works on someone that is willing and truly wants to change.

Mark of Justice also clearly states that the target must be willing or restrained as it has a ten minute casting time that involves writing symbols on the target's body.

I'm sure the old lady has her sneaky side, but she probably isn't going to be able to BS her son into letting her spend 10 minutes writing arcane symbols on his body.


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There is a MASSIVE double standard being applied here. On the one hand, we have a person walking around watching someone kill innocent people. On the other hand, we have a person who murders an innocent person. And many here seem to be hung up on the watcher's inaction while absolving the murderer.

The PCs saw a person walking. She was near a BAD GUY. The PCs planned and executed that person's murder. The PCs are murderers.

Kifaru you did nothing wrong. If your PCs feel empowered to kill anyone they have a bad feeling about, without doing any research or recon, that's up to them. They didn't research, they didn't recon, they didn't even check her holy symbol, they went straight from suspicion to murder.

This is an extremely CHAOTIC act and their alignments should shift accordingly. They were not manipulated or coerced into this murder, they chose it themselves.

Shift their alignments and make that sword burn a little. Definitely don't reward this with a level in Paladin (whose major drawback is that you're not supposed to go around murdering random people).

I would have the local Abadarians put up wanted posters with their pictures saying they are suspected brigands who accost travelers on the road.

Regardless of the clerics alignment, or action/inaction, they murdered an old woman who had done nothing at all. You need to impose consequences or just throw alignment out the window.

Silver Crusade

I doubt the Abadarans would be interested in this. After all, she was a barbarian of a tribe currently raiding civilized lands. The Abadarans are actually more likely to side with the PCs than her.

As for the casting time, grab a couple of strong warriors who aren't happy with the new direction of the tribe, have them hold the chief while she attempts to drive out whatever evil has taken her son. That is LITERALLY the job of the wise woman, to deal with the magical curses and hazards.

Additionally, people keep bringing up her being an old lady as if that meant she was less of a threat, she's a cleric, those extra years directly increased her power as a caster. She was at minimum 9th level, she was by no standards just a feeble grandmother type.

People may disagree with me, but I see her as acting in, at best, a Lawful Neutral alignment, not any shade of good. It may be due to very subtle hints, but the PCs had enough information about her to decide she was a possible problem (fair with her being a 9th level cleric, minimum) but no hints how she was using her power. Did she channel to heal? Summon any angels? Cast any Good spells at all? Or did she sit there, wringing her hands, "oh poor me, I'm the good guy here, but I must never stand for the Good"? She could have stood against her son, even if he killed her, barbarian tribes take a view of matricide so dim it makes Deeper Darkness look rosy. The tribe would either split, or he would be removed from authority, messily.

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