How to punish players insulting powerful NPCs?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Kitty Catoblepas wrote:


Don't make the world punish your players, have the world react to your players.

I love how you said it here. Neat and simple. And a big truth. If you just give your players logic and coherent reactions they will be rewarded when they should and punished when they should, not because you are not allowing them to do things but because they are getting reactions for their actions.

They want to kill one of their biggest allies on the story? Saving him in a forced way and keeping him as an ally because that's how the story is supposed to run? Bad. It ruins all sense of reality. Letting them do it and then making them face the consequences? That's much better.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kileanna wrote:
Kitty Catoblepas wrote:


Don't make the world punish your players, have the world react to your players.

I love how you said it here. Neat and simple. And a big truth. If you just give your players logic and coherent reactions they will be rewarded when they should and punished when they should, not because you are not allowing them to do things but because they are getting reactions for their actions.

They want to kill one of their biggest allies on the story? Saving him in a forced way and keeping him as an ally because that's how the story is supposed to run? Bad. It ruins all sense of reality. Letting them do it and then making them face the consequences? That's much better.

But again, we don't know full context, and if it's most of the party going "Oh Cool, the centaurs love us" and one guy going *f...... fur.....* then that's really sort of the thing that needs to be discussed out of the box.


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Disruptive players, when faced with being told OOC to not disrupt, will a hundred times out of a hundred say "I am just playing my character". But sure, you are certainly welcome to try anyway.


Kitty Catoblepas wrote:
Aranna wrote:


Your making the wild assumption that the whole party wants this. Here is news; That is really rare. What typically happens is one or two of the stronger egos in the group decide to act out (or create problematic characters) in order to force the GM to cave to their demands often doing so against the wishes of the rest of the party. If the GM isn't strong then the behavior actually gets worse because they see that they can get away with bullying the GM. If you instead have them pay for their misdeeds in game in a real way and present a believable world with real consequences the rest of the party (and often the bad players themselves) will thank you down the line with excitement and investment into this world you're presenting.

By having them "pay for their misdeeds," you're really saying, "There's the rails or there's the door!" The wold isn't malleable. You're just bullying them into behaving by threatening them with timeout. Your players' immersion tells them that they shouldn't antagonize the NPCs. If they behave right, they'll get to advance the plot.

If they're free to break things, fall from the king's graces, or piss off a group of centaur, then they'll enjoy the possibilities of what they can do instead of wondering what the story will do next time. Maybe they'll end up ruling a kingdom and maybe they'll end up in prison. They'll be a lot more invested when they're playing through as the main characters of a story opposed to just being supporting cast.

Don't make the world punish your players, have the world react to your players.

Or maybe you have a problem player lashing out for attention. If he's being disruptive, tell him to stop.

First I am NOT saying "there's the rails or there's the door!" That's all YOU and your strawman.

Nor am I saying they aren't free to do as they please. What I am saying is there HAS to be real consequences in game for such behavior. Having the Centaur's NOT realistically behave angrily toward the dwarf for insulting them on sacred ground is game wrecking; at least for those who enjoy having an impact on the game world. And the best form of punishment the Centaur's can employ would be one that doesn't reward the Player at the same time.


Yeah you guys are all agreeing you just don't realize it cause there is some nuance in each others posts that your missing.

To make sure of this assumption
1. is anyone saying that the centaur should not react appropriately to being insulted?
2. Is anyone saying the Player should be punished for role playing his character if that is in fact what he is doing?
3. Is anyone saying a disruptive player should be rewarded?

If you answered No to all these questions I think we are pretty well agreed.


Dont punish the players, have grudge holding powerful npcs punish the npc's the players like. Send them on long derailing adventures to deal with the antagonist they themselves created, many of which cause them to lose ground on any major overarching plot.


How can you punish a player's character without some effect on the player?
Besides, insulating a player from his own choices on how his character acts is odd.
Are your players all Stanislovski method actors lost in the part? No Meta, ever?
(That could be seriously cool if it were so, it just never seems to be)

Be honest, if the disruption has killed off your campaign prep, tell them. "Sorry guys, I wasn't prepared for you all to ditch my storyline, I really don't have anything for you."


Aranna wrote:


First I am NOT saying "there's the rails or there's the door!" That's all YOU and your strawman.

Nor am I saying they aren't free to do as they please. What I am saying is there HAS to be real consequences in game for such behavior. Having the Centaur's NOT realistically...

"Having the Centaurs NOT realistically behave" is your strawman.

...And how is punishing them for acting contrary to your wishes and rewarding them for doing what you want encouraging free play?

Of course the Centaur should react realistically. That doesnt mean that a non-standard response should always result a bad situation for the players. It shouldn't always mean that they're denied rewards for their actions (with this situation, they were denied rewards and then reacted badly).

The players should also act realistically to NPCs. If your NPCs are going to be jerks, why should the PCs be required to take it with a smile? That could result in the NPCs thinking that behavior is acceptable if the PCs don't punish it, right?

All this is really avoiding the question -- If your players hate the NPCs you've been using, why would you continue using those NPCs?


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Kitty Catoblepas wrote:

"Having the Centaurs NOT realistically behave" is your strawman.

...And how is punishing them for acting contrary to your wishes and rewarding them for doing what you want encouraging free play?

Of course the Centaur should react realistically. That doesnt mean that a non-standard response should always result a bad situation for the players. It shouldn't always mean that they're denied rewards for their actions (with this situation, they were denied rewards and then reacted badly).

The players should also act realistically to NPCs. If your NPCs are going to be jerks, why should the PCs be required to take it with a smile? That could result in the NPCs thinking that behavior is acceptable if the PCs don't punish it, right?

All this is really avoiding the question -- If your players hate the NPCs you've been using, why would you continue using those NPCs?

When a player decides to have his PC mouth off to an NPC that has some form of power (let's face it, every NPC they talk to is going to have power of some sort, or they wouldn't be talking to them, whether that means someone rich, someone like a guard with legal authority, or whatever), that is not an uncommon situation with some players. Whether they absolutely hate the idea that anyone else in the campaign world has something they don't, or they just get ticked off by anyone with authority, or they get a kick out of derailing the game for everyone else, it always becomes a serious problem.

What happens is, they start up a scene which everyone else then has to deal with. This takes time. Worse, it contains absolutely no chance to improve anything for the characters, and the consequences could be as dire as wrecking the entire campaign. See, the problem player is banking that the GM will not hit back with realistic force, if only to get the campaign back on track. The GM has to choose between either breaking immersion by having the NPC forgive them yadda yadda, or deal with it which could mean running a war in the streets of a major city for several sessions, scrapping the entire plotline which hinged on getting support from said city, or whatever.

The details vary, but the point is: The problem player forces the GM (and the other players) to give up immersion or SPEND TIME DEALING WITH HIS CRAP.

When confronted, they always claim that "I was just playing my character". The only relevant question is: If your character is unable to stop being an ass, why would you make such a character in the first place?

For these players, it doesn't matter who the NPC is. It doesn't matter what the NPC does. It is there, so it needs to get badmouthed. And it won't happen once. It will happen EVERY SINGLE TIME the party is faced with an NPC. And every single character they make is going to have authority issues. Oh, right... they never seem to GM either, for some reason.

The only cure is to kick them, or try to teach them that being disruptive gets you time in the cooler and a slap on the wrist for their character.


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throw a feast for them. But don't tell them what they're eating until after they're done. I do it for people all the time, and It's a big hit!... for me.


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Kill them all and use their neck holes as gestation chambers for whatever crazy ass s&%* I can think of. You want tentacles, oh, we can do tentacles! How about ten razor sharp maws that only speak in tongues. Dude! We're getting weird with this one!


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I would think Gorum would be more likely to opine on this...


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He gets pretty preoccupied playing with his action figures.


Sissyl wrote:
When confronted, they always claim that "I was just playing my character". The only relevant question is: If your character is unable to stop being an ass, why would you make such a character in the first place?

Sad but true.


So what, all of the Good deities are staying away from this mess?


Paraphrasing an old Heinlen quote:

Stupidity is the only Universal sin; the Universe executes punishment without mercy.

The Behavior cited, insulting the Centaurs in their Place of Power, is stupid, in or out of character. Pain should ensue; without the possibility/inevitability of consequence, you aren't playing, you're just gassing about.

Separating the Character from the Player in terms of responsibility is at best highly subjective. At worst it is that River in Egypt.


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The Sideromancer wrote:
So what, all of the Good deities are staying away from this mess?

Kinda busy here. They can figure it out, and if not Pharasma will judge em and we'll see where they land.


As an aside, I'd like to say that you guys have some really insecure NPCs.


Well, the OP did say the centaur had a major temper.


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Well, the OP did say the centaur had a major temper.

Turns out that's a misprint. He had a major distemper. But a simple remove disease and he'll just be a little horse.

I'll show myself out...


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
quibblemuch wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Well, the OP did say the centaur had a major temper.

Turns out that's a misprint. He had a major distemper. But a simple remove disease and he'll just be a little horse.

I'll show myself out...

Sooo... Remove Disease is the Anti-Viagra?

*vanishes into the shadows!*

Silver Crusade

quibblemuch wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Well, the OP did say the centaur had a major temper.

Turns out that's a misprint. He had a major distemper. But a simple remove disease and he'll just be a little horse.

I'll show myself out...

I don't think horses can get distemper...wait, is the centaur also a werewolf? Because then he might be able to have distemper.

Great, now I'm trying to figure out if a werewolf with distemper has their lycanthropy cured, do they still have distemper?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Isonaroc wrote:


Great, now I'm trying to figure out if a werewolf with distemper has their lycanthropy cured, do they still have distemper?

...or would it be 'dat' temper?


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Isonaroc wrote:
quibblemuch wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Well, the OP did say the centaur had a major temper.

Turns out that's a misprint. He had a major distemper. But a simple remove disease and he'll just be a little horse.

I'll show myself out...

I don't think horses can get distemper...wait, is the centaur also a werewolf? Because then he might be able to have distemper.

Great, now I'm trying to figure out if a werewolf with distemper has their lycanthropy cured, do they still have distemper?

I just googled it and equine distemper totally exists so.


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Kitty,

Centaurs are a warlike/warrior culture. If the centaur chief allows himself and his people to be belittled in their own place of power, he is showing himself to be too weak to lead. He will be removed, probably in a permanent way.

I suppose I could have missed that we were talking My Little Pony centaurs and this will all be solved with Apple-based products.

Or is it that non-humans and other lesser folk should just know their place?

I don't like overly tactical/optimal games where not taking the right feats/spells/gear means everyone dies, but rampant stupidity should be fatal. Picking a fight well above your weight class, running off alone to cut your party out of the play-time/rewards and other similar stupid, suicidal behavior should lead to Bad-Things™. If it doesn't then why bother playing a thinking character at all. The punishment should fit the situation, grabbing the hat off the head of an acquaintance is no big deal, grabbing the crown off the head of the King certainly is, likely a fatally big deal.


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Daw wrote:

I suppose I could have missed that we were talking My Little Pony centaurs and this will all be solved with Apple-based products.

I totally want to build that race now...


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Kitty Catoblepas wrote:


Of course the Centaur should react realistically. That doesnt mean that a non-standard response should always result a bad situation for the players. It shouldn't always mean that they're denied rewards for their actions (with this situation, they were denied rewards and then reacted badly).

Why should we assume they were denied a reward just because they weren't given a big ol' pile of money? Maybe the centaurs don't have a lot of cash to give? Maybe they would offer a life debt instead? We don't know none of that applied - rather the OP said that the dwarf character mouthed off after not being given what he considered enough money.


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I promised I would tell you what I did. Initially I planned on the centaurs trailing them out of the holy area and once outside a powerful centaur wizard turning the dwarf into a dodo. I thought it would be pretty funny if he had to waddle around as a dodo for a session and it probably would have been hilarious ... but ... the end of the session coincided with a three-week break from the game and then I thought that it would be best to simply warn them that NPCs will react appropriately. I thought if I turned him into a dodo perhaps he wouldn't learn anything from the experience apart from "they got the better of me this time, but ..."
So I told them they are free to insult an NPC, but they have to be aware there may sometimes be consequences ... so I let them off this time, but I was helped in being lenient because of their mitigation ... they had rescued the centaur chief's relative from being certainly eaten by the troll.
Since this incident then the dwarf in question seems to have cut back on insulting NPCs and concentrated more on other aspects of role-playing, so it seemed like my action has benefited the group as a whole.
Many of you gave me some excellent advice and I thank you for that.


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You made the right call.


This is what I told the players ... MSG 1 ... "Message for players in the campaign I run now and also in future: "INSULTING POWERFUL NPCs ... This is an interesting topic so I should talk about it to be fair to the players in the campaign I run ...
If you want to insult people then that's fine by me, but remember there may be consequences to pay so don't blame me if one of them shoots a lightning bolt at you, or strips you naked and throws all your belongings off a cliff. I just should warn that in the campaign the NPCs are played like they are real people, i.e. they could take offence at a sustained bout of verbal abuse and might get very angry to the point of murderous. These be dark ages full of murder and mayhem, not 2017 Tokyo!!!
Maybe I have mentioned it earlier, but I thought I should remind you after the centaur incident. That's the third insulting of people in powerful positions. In Kassen, the dwarf Voldreas Oakchest (played by my work colleague) insulted the captain of the guard (reasonable insult I guess but the guy was the captain of the guard), and in Tamran, Kulakh insulted Gavkirk the ruler of Nirmathas but it wasn't a massive insult but it has not won Kulakh a friend, and then the centaurs ... there were about 80 of them. Quite clearly they are dangerous creatures.
Just letting you know for future reference or I wouldn't be doing my job properly. But I am certainly not telling you how to behave! Just bear it in mind."
MESSAGE 2: INSULTING POWERFUL NPCs TOPIC ... I thought up a good analogy ... "In my neighborhood of Asakusa in East Tokyo there are a lot of yakuza. If you went into a bar with 3 friends and there was a yakuza boss in the corner surrounded by a dozen henchmen, would you even jokingly insult him? Of course, if you did, he might have a sense of humour and laugh it off, thinking `who is this little upstart?' and be rather amused, but 9 out of 10 times he or his henchmen would probably be angry and there would be a price to pay. He would probably just threaten or kick you out or administer a minor beating as this is Tokyo, 2017. But in a Dark Ages world where people wield swords, errr, the response might be a little more lethal ..." Even good aligned creatures could get angry, although I guess they might cast a curse rather than kill the offender. Or, of course, challenge the offender to a duel."
SO now the matter is effectively closed and the campaign continues!


I'm really glad you could solve everything by talking to them and to know that everybody is enjoying now!
I think you dealt with it in the right way!


My only advice is to take two steps back, deeply breath, and as objectively as you can, think if you want to pubish him because of in game reasons, or because that particular powerful NPC is your personal Mary Sue and you feel insulted yourself because they are hurting the imaginary ego of this character.

Then, if you are sure what you are doing, proceed as you see fit


I think you did the right thing, made your thoughts clear and concise to the point and addressed the issue on what happened and what will/could possible happen in the future.

MDC


Yay Closure


I figure now that the party has been explicitly warned that "insulting powerful NPCs is bad for your health" the next time it happens (and it probably will, because sometimes "Man, I hate that guy" is a deliberate choice by a player), you're going to need to do something nasty (but probably not fatal or permanently debilitating in response).

Of course, you might not want to derail your campaign into "blood feud with centaurs/witches/whatever." But I'd try to prepare something for the eventuality that this happens again that's more amusing (to the players, not their characters) than anything else.

The Exchange

First, let the punishment fit the crime/circumstances. Are the PC's already aware that they are going to have to 'toe the line' in their dealings? Has there been any hints that crossing the line will have severe, possibly permanent consequences?

If the above answers are no, then perhaps have the centaur order his guards to grab him and lock him up for the night so he learns his lesson. But clearly state the intent so the party can decide to let him rot too, or if they really want to risk what may happen if they come to his defense.

If the hints have been in place, then there's really not much to stop a more severe punishment. If access to their lands is vital, banish him/them. Make the party have to risk sneaking in or out.

Personally the coolest option that solves this problem and future problems at the same time pops into my mind. If the guy is that angry have his guards grab him and inform the party that he will be detained why preparations for his punishment are being made ready. When if they ask what that punishment will be. Inform them that his impudent tongue will be removed. Allow the party to appease/convince him not to do this if they choose (not an easy task) and should definitely include something very degrading/debasing that the dwarf would have to perform.

If it does come to cutting the Dwarf's tongue out, make him stay that way for a couple sessions before they are able to find someone that can cast regeneration to grow it back. Then tell him that even though his tongue is back Ale/Mead/Alcohol now disgusts his palate!

The Exchange

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Ok, I didn't do a full reading of this forum before I posted. So good work handling that incident, now that they've all been properly warned, Feel free to use tongue removal for any future incidents ;-)

Shadow Lodge

Glad it worked out for you, OP.

Daw wrote:

How can you punish a player's character without some effect on the player?

Besides, insulating a player from his own choices on how his character acts is odd.

Some players are motivated more by a desire to tell an interesting story than to see their characters succeed, so they will actually enjoy seeing a powerful NPC punish their character's insolence in an interesting and realistic way. It's a punishment for the PC, not the player. This is a fine dynamic as long as the other players and GM are not bothered by the PC's antics.

On the other hand, if the GM decides to take the PC out of action for a while (eg in prison), leaving the player bored, that may be a punishment for the player as well as the character. This is undesirable if the player isn't being disruptive. (And if the player is being disruptive it's probably a good idea to discuss it OOC.)

Scarab Sages

bearinjapan wrote:
Should I punished the adventurers or always allow them to get away with abusing/insulting powerful NPCs? A dwarf adventurer (level 3) has just hurled some sustained abuse at a powerful NPC centaur leader in front of his tribe of 80 centaurs on their holy ground during one of their annual rituals. The dwarf was part of a group (average Level 2-3) that had rescued one of the centaurs (cousin of centaur leader) as he was about to be eaten by a troll. But upon rescuing and returning with the centaur to the tribe, the dwarf was unhappy that he was not given a lot of money (hence the insults). Already the scenario notes warn that the centaur leader, Neutral in alignment, is easily angered. Also the centaurs are not fond of outsiders. (This is one in a series of abuses at NPCS from the dwarves in the party who I think they believe are acting in character; I feel it is time to teach them a lesson).

If it's a problem, have the Centaurs beat the entire party down to 1 HP, and then toss them out of the forest or settlement of whatever with just their skivvies.


Baleful reincarnation. Every time there is one more defect. It's destroyed my ego IRL. In game every time they die they reincarnate with one more defect than before.

Another possibility is there is a terrible prophecy involving exactly what the PC said.

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