"Good" Crimes for a Good Party


Hey all, I've been working on a campaign idea that I've had for a little bit. Don't have a group for it, but that's okay. Gives me time to work. Maybe I'll put it up as a play by post if I get it far enough along and still don't have a group.

The premise is a "You were framed" kind of adventure where several good and neutral characters are framed for diffetent crimes and must work together to clear their names. Not sure what level range, but fairly high, high enough for the mystery to go several layers deep.

Anyway, my question to you all is this: What kind of crimes could you frame a good party for? They would need to be serious enough for high or even lethal consequences and get most of their friends to disown them. Really, it's the divine classes giving me trouble. For example, what can you frame a paladin for without them falling, and since they didn't fall, the order realizes that they didn't do it. Same applies for the other divine classes too. And just suggestions in general.

Any ideas?

Silver Crusade

I disagree with the premise of the question. Just being a known good character or divine spellcaster doesn't immediately defeat being framed. Good characters could be framed just like anyone else though their friends might be more inclined to believe that they were set up (or maybe not--as they said in Shawshank Redemption, everyone in prison says that they were framed, and a lot of their friends and family will say so too). For every good cleric who still has their powers despite being accused of heinous crimes, there is an evil cleric or neutral cleric impersonating a good cleric who also has powers. For every paladin who appears to have not fallen despite having done heinous crimes, there's a blackguard or anti-paladin or warpriest who is pretending to have (or to still have) paladin powers.

It seems that you think people would reason:
1. The party is accused of a heinous crime
2. Party member A is a paladin
3. Party member A appears to have his powers
4.a. Therefore, Party member A did not commit the crime and furthermore the rest of the charges must be false too.

That is one potential conclusion that people might draw but the following conclusions instead:

4.b. Party member A did not commit the crime but the rest of the party is still guilty.
4.c. Party member A is probably faking his paladin powers with some combination of Misdirection, undetectable alignment, fake auras, and powers with similar effects but other sources. How long was he faking? Was he always a blackguard or did he just fall hard when he fell? Good question.
4.d. Party member A has lost his powers but the people who should be testifying to that are lying in order to cover up the fact that their order was sheltering a heinous criminal.
4.e. There is probably more to Party member A's involvement in the crime than meets the eye. He did it, but maybe he was tricked or dominated or something or the murder victim had it coming--still illegal but maybe not bad enough to cause a fall. (Obviously he has a pet cleric who gives atonements on the cheap).

Depending upon the strength of the evidence against the party, who controls the investigation and court, any of those explanations could be rendered plausible or even preferred to explanation 4a. If the people in charge of the court or investigation are the ones doing the framing, they could probably make it look like one of the other explanations is true. I believe the traditional way is to have control of the investigation mechanism and to say that the Templars were all secretly worshiping Baphomet.

That said, depending upon what is legal in the area, there may be number of crimes where the alignment and generally heroic demeanor of the character would not be a hindrance to the frame-up. For example:

A. Excessive force. Those thugs in the street, harassing the old lady. They were good kids--honor students who were in the wrong place at the wrong time or fell in with the wrong crowd. Sure, they were trying to wrestle the paladin's sword away but that's no excuse for using lethal force. The kid had his hands up.

B. Theft of slaves. If slavery is legal, framing the good group for forcibly freeing a group of slaves is not a huge stretch. Bonus points if they somehow left all the guards, etc alive. "That's just the kind of thing Party member A would do on his misguided crusade."

C. Assisting in the escape of slaves. Perhaps the land has a fugitive slave law which obliges citizens to turn in any fugitive slaves they find. The group turned a blind eye to the escaping slaves or actively assisted in their escape.

D. Dishonoring the gods. Blaspheming the gods of the city is often considered a serious crime and might be particularly credible if some of the gods of the city are evil.

E. Murder of an underworld figure with collateral damage. "Everyone knows (but no one could prove) that XYZ was a major underworld figure/cult leader. Last night, his house burned to the ground and we found him, his mistresses, his children, and all of his guards dead at the scene. And who was seen fleeing from the scene of the crime? party member A!"

F. Sedition. Party member A was seen in the company of the disgraced Prince. He must have been discussing supporting his rebellion. If the government is tyrannical or illegitimate, that might even be correct.

G. Aiding and abetting rebellion. Party member A has a reputation for being heroic and but when we put down the Rhenee rebellion at Two Ford, he was treating their sick and injured. Clearly his Rhenee heritage (or maybe just his healer's oath) outweighs the good of the city. It worked for Captain Blood.

H. Destruction of property. They destroyed the idol of Asmodeus in the temple! Who but a paladin would do that?

I. Fraud/misappropriation of funds. The character was soliciting donations for the orphans of the poor quarter but diverted that money to fund the Great Northern Crusade. Or diverted that money to his personal wardrobe and fund raising expenses.

J. Discrimination. The paladin, as a member of the temple of Zilchus (or Heironeous) did unlawfully reject the loan application of a certain Bozal Zamon on false pretenses. The real reason that unreasoning bigot rejected her loan is that her husband is reputed to be a priest of Kyuss. Now, discrimination on the basis of religion is illegal in the free city of Greyhawk, and whether he was rejecting a loan for the construction of a hidden cellar in Mrs. Bozal's townhouse (what business is it of his if said cellar has a purely decorative altar and an inlaid pentagram on the floor--asking about the design indicates his intent to discriminate) which has no connection to Mr. Bozal at all (since he did not apply for the loan), and even if he did, any criminal record he might have is not legal grounds to refuse him credit. If the temple of Heironeous wants to lend money to help build a shrine of Mayaheine, they have to lend to Mrs Bozal as well. He didn't, so he can rot in jail.

Now, everyone might not see these kinds of things as heinous but they all carried (and many still do in various parts of the world) serious penalties and in a lot of places that would be enough for friends or even family to say, "Look, Party member A, I like you and I think you got a bum deal but I can't be seen with you right now. I've got a family to think of."

Looking at it slightly differently, generally people are going to reconsider their friendship with someone guilty of malus in se (things that are wrong in themselves). I think that it's still quite possible to frame good characters and even good divine characters for such things, but it would help to have control of the judicial process or investigation when you do so. On the other hand, there is a wide range of malus prohibitum (things which are bad only because they are against the law or where the law is actively unjust) where an accusation would not be subject to the concerns you outlined above but depending upon the environment, social pressure or legal sanctions against "collaborators" or "aiding and abetting" or "accessory after the fact" might cause their friends to steer clear of them.

I like the idea of being convicted for high treason or something like that. For the background you could say that the city is heavily religious and paranoid. The inquisitions are desperate for targets and the king is leading a crusade against other religions. You would have to defend yourself from blasphemy. Some Inquisitors may see you are telling the truth, but because they aren't as tightly bound as clerics they can still justify prosecuting you for public appearance. One day, a mysterious figure sneaks a key to a party member after a torture session. They release other players and work to uncover the conspiracy and weaken the Inquisition. (The city should probably worship a Neutral god so the inquisitors can be evil).

Elder Basilisk wrote:
A. Excessive force. Those thugs in the street, harassing the old lady. They were good kids--honor students who were in the wrong place at the wrong time or fell in with the wrong crowd. Sure, they were trying to wrestle the paladin's sword away but that's no excuse for using lethal force. The kid had his hands up.

Or the Paladin subdued the kid, but continued to beat him after putting him in manacles.

Silver Crusade

Xaimum Mafire wrote:
Elder Basilisk wrote:
A. Excessive force. Those thugs in the street, harassing the old lady. They were good kids--honor students who were in the wrong place at the wrong time or fell in with the wrong crowd. Sure, they were trying to wrestle the paladin's sword away but that's no excuse for using lethal force. The kid had his hands up.
Or the Paladin subdued the kid, but continued to beat him after putting him in manacles.

That's what (one of) the witnesses said. Punches 1-3 were good and necessary. Punch 4 was over the line.

A paladin or a divine caster could be found guilty of crimes that aren't necessarily religious or sacrilegious to their order. For instance, if a known associate turns out to be engaged in treason, then anyone associated is likely to be brought in and probably found guilty (with a suitable amount of evidence.) It's important to remember that the concept of Innocent-until-proven-guilty wasn't really the de-facto legal framework for most places. You'll probably be put in jail for weeks or months until evidence or a bribe surfaces that gets you out. Most PCs won't stand for this and will try and break out and prove their own innocence. And then... that does make them legitimate escaped prisoners (guilty or not). If they are being justly held then a paladin will fall for breaking the law, but most PCs aren't paladins. A paladin will just have to trust in the law and, unless there's some active motivating force piling up evidence against him, will probably be freed... in a month or two or more.

If a paladin is seen interacting with someone who turns out to be a foreign agent (or just a foreigner), no one would expect anyone to lose faith with their gods (possibly they don't even really worship the gods the proclaim to, probably they secretly believe in some foreign deity.) Depending on the laws against foreigners or members of certain enemy states, a spouse or ally or friend is going to be closely scrutinized.

Maybe the party received stolen goods or that last dungeon they looted was a royal tomb or protected burial ground or they found a lost treasure of state (and no one had Knowledge: Nobility or Local) and they've broken some grave-robbing decree.

Maybe the really bad guys were disguised to look like most of the party members (while they were out adventuring or in a dungeon or otherwise have no real alibi) and the witness are all reliable and even Sense Motives or magic lie detection indicates they're telling the truth. It's also best if an agent of the bad guys hired the PCs to retrieve something, and pays them when they come back, but then isn't around or doesn't seem to exist when the PCs need an alibi or witness. Also no one's heard of him, since his name was fake, and the location they met in looks completely different.

If a body is involved, like a killing, make sure the jaw is at least smashed to prevent speak with dead and even if the PCs come up with a way to return the victim to life... Surprise, the bad guys looked like the PCs. Especially good if one of the PCs has a well-known catch phrase or battle-cry one of the villains can mutter.

The city may not wish to expend such high expenses for spells in a criminal case where the evidence is clearly already against the PCs, so if the PCs want evidence for their defense they will have to shell out the money or even cast the spell themselves. If they cast the spell themselves, and the dead person knew them, he may just refuse to return since he thinks they killed him, despite what their current supposed deity and alignment is. If they pay someone else to raise him, if asked who killed him, he can easily point at the party and say, "It was them." Great moment to see the PCs' faces.

Basalisk the problem with being framed is that if a paladin can prove that he still has his powers by definition he hasn't gone over the line because their god would revoke powers.

Clerics not so much but paladins must remain both lawful and good. Evading the law would revoke this status as would breaking it.

Silver Crusade

Undone wrote:

Basalisk the problem with being framed is that if a paladin can prove that he still has his powers by definition he hasn't gone over the line because their god would revoke powers.

Clerics not so much but paladins must remain both lawful and good. Evading the law would revoke this status as would breaking it.

First, that is not what the paladin code says.


"A paladin must be of lawful good alignment and loses all class features except proficiencies if she ever willingly commits an evil act.

Additionally, a paladin's code requires that she respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use the help for evil or chaotic ends), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents."

The paladin does not necessarily fall for breaking the law. They fall for committing an evil act or failing to respect legitimate authority, or acting with dishonor. It is quite possible that in many (perhaps most or even all) areas the authorities are not legitimate or are exercising their powers in an illegitimate manner. I would also interpret the paladin code requiring the punishment of those who harm or threaten innocents to provide one example of where authority could be exercised illegitimately (by preventing the punishment of those who do so), so practically the requirement to punish those who harm or threaten innocents creates a "not legitimate" exception to the respect authority requirement.

That leaves plenty of room for a paladin to be guilty of a variety of actual crimes without falling.

Even if you were to assume that paladin with powers=innocent, however, there are however several further questions:

A. Who decides whether the paladin has proved that he still has his powers? If the people who decide that are in on the frame-up, it doesn't matter if the paladin can positively prove that he still has his powers. They write the court records and whatever happens at the trial, the recorded verdict is, "doesn't have powers; must have fallen; probably because he committed this crime." Historically, it didn't really matter what the Templars did, the King of France had decided that they were going to be found guilty of consorting with Baphomet. The frame-up could be that kind of a trial.

B. Even if we assume an honest trial, it is still not clear that there is a reliable paladin test.
Depending upon the expertise of the testers, lay on hands may or may not be easily distinguished from a warpriest using fervor to cast a cure spell. It would be harder to distinguish from a persistence inquisition inquisitor.
And, though I'm not sure if the class still exists in pathfinder, a fallen paladin who takes Blackguard levels retains lay on hands.
Smite is fairly easily duplicated since a number of classes have smite and the most easily notable effect of smite (ignoring DR) works regardless of alignment, so it's not necessarily going to be easy to tell a smite evil from a smite good.

Lots of classes have spellcasting and channeling.

Aura of courage is hard to duplicate but also hard to detect. RAW, it's not clear that you directly perceive the bonus or if you would perceive it in the absence of a fear effect, though it seems reasonable that you would--at least in the presence of a fear effect. But even assuming it is directly perceivable in the absence of a fear effect, it is also something that false witnesses could cast doubt on. "Well two witnesses said they felt good around the paladin but two said they didn't."
Aura of Good is easily faked with misdirection.

@Elder Basilisk

Your first post was actually really helpful. Putting an actually false agent inside a holy order that is trying to make the PC look like a false agent would work very well. And using the last loyal friend trope could give the party leads to follow.

I'd also bring up the possibility that a Paladin is in fact guilty of whatever crime he's accused of and lost his powers, but received the atonement spell between committing said crime and their arrest. Just because the divine forces of Good have forgiven them for whatever crime they've committed doesn't mean local law enforcement has.

Granted, depending on the circumstances a Paladin might see turning themself in for their crime as a necessary part of said atonement, but that is by no means universal.

There is a kind of momentum to public viewpoint.

If whoever decides the verdict over the party (the public, the cops, the high magistrate, king, whatever) has once been convinced that the party is guilty, said momentum assures that they will have an easier time believing the party is somehow cheating.

After all, there is little difference between the apparent powers of a paladin and a warpriest of say, besmara. One could pose as the other with little difficulty, and a resourceful individual is certainly capable of fooling and redirecting divinations with the right spells.

If the presiding judge is good-aligned, they may opt to simply incarcerate the party for a week or two while the supposed anti-divinatory spells wear off. You should have time-sensitive issues go down in this period, such as the party is forced to break free of their prison, making themselves look incredibly shifty in the eyes of the judge.


-A paladin would murder a sufficiently corrupt city official, if they were sure that they could not expose the corruption. It would not be a quiet, stealthy murder, but it would be murder nonetheless. They kill bandits and even enemy soldiers all the time. It is not difficult to convince people that the paladin would have erroniously believed a prominent figure to be marred by the powers of evil in some manner, and summarily cut them down. Sadly, stupidity is not a lawful defense, and so the paladin must hang for his crime.

-A paladin would desert from an army, if faced with orders that would cause him to fall. Desertation is usually punishable by death.

-A paladin would break and enter if convinced that they were stopping great evil.

I'm sure we can make up more stuff. But there is some thoughts.

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