When Your PCs Go From Paragon to Renegade


General Discussion


I recently had a band of Dead Suns PCs go all cold-blooded-killer on some KO'd goons. A few more details in the write-up over here, but I'm curious if any of you GMs out there have had a similar experience. Have you ever seen your Neutral/Good crew of PCs turn into a band of Neutral/Evil killers? Is it ever appropriate for a GM in this kind of situation to say, "Are you sure you want to do that?" Or are morally dubious actions like this always best left to the discretion of the PCs, even when it seems out of character?


As per usual, a flat statement of 'you are about to do something pretty evil' is about as far as you can go. Killing people in combat is one thing, killing them when they are defeated is another. It is very easy for players to default to violence for resolving problems and inconveniences, the system is built so that dealing with violent situations or causing them is a prominent aspect of most characters. That can color how a player thinks. Encourage taking a step back from that mindset.


I've got a murder hobo in my regular group, it can be a pain in the backside.

The way I usually deal with it is to ensure any evil act (against character) has consequences. And if there are no witnesses / evidence, plague them with bad dreams causing penalties to any rolls. Maybe send a ghost or two to haunt them :)


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It depends on so many things. The character, the player, alignments, the specific setting at that moment.

In general, my default is "Is that thing sentient? Was it just trying to kill me? Then it's earned a death sentence."


Just read the actual situation in the link and having run that game, I can definitely say that murdering a bunch of unconscious enemies should definitely have repercussions. The station definitely has a modern police force capable of solving crimes and while the PCs might be excused if they had killed the gang in self defense or while investigating, extra-judicial executions tend to not go over well. It might not be much but most authorities on the station would likely treat the PCs as about as dangerous and trustworthy as the very gang they murdered.

They could have called the cops for clean up


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Ok, very interesting read there.

You did the right thing in giving them a chance to rethink their action.

They did not and now must deal with the consequences of their action.

So here are some thoughts.

1. It is a gang hideout. It surely has surveillance equipment monitoring the place. Did the PCs take the time to disable?

1a. No, then the boss finds out. He most certainly make the PCs life miserable now. Additionally all future encounters with the boss, boss's crew or boss's associates would have to be adjusted to a minimum starting attitude of unfriendly if not down right hostile.

1b. Yes, they did. Good on them, but did they remove the bodies? No, well it is a nightclub, so it has employees, other guards and the like. The boss may go to the authorities and report the crime or more likely he will hire a private group or individually. So send your best Boba Fett type character after them.

1c. Alternatively have the boss hire a mystic to cast speak with undead on one or more of the bodies. The boss now knows who did it.

2. You could have the PCs employer find out who did this. The employer hears on the news about a multiple gangland style execution at the Top Hat Bar and Grille. When the PCs arrive back at their employer, imagine their surprise when the authorities are there in force to arrest them.

2a. Or the employer can fire them and not pay them.
2b. If they are Starfinder agents they certainly are not paid, suspended at a minimum for 6 months if not out dismissed and or turned over to the authorities.

I could come up with more but you get the idea.

What is important is that you don't get upset by the players doing this and when you dole out the consequences you don't take glee in it.

I have had this happen a few times in 30+ years of GMing across multiple games /genres. One good and measured set of consequences is usually enough to curb this.

If it happens repeatedly you call a GM timeout and ask them if they would like to play an evil campaign.

That also usually stops it.

Hope this helps and good luck.


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Hawk Kriegsman wrote:
1. It is a gang hideout. It surely has surveillance equipment monitoring the place.

Yes, criminal organizations famously record all of their undertakings in their headquarters, it saves a lot of time and uncertainty at their trials.


Xenocrat wrote:
Hawk Kriegsman wrote:
1. It is a gang hideout. It surely has surveillance equipment monitoring the place.
Yes, criminal organizations famously record all of their undertakings in their headquarters, it saves a lot of time and uncertainty at their trials.

The public portion of the nightclub absolutely.

The back room where business is conducted absolutely not.


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Xenocrat wrote:
Hawk Kriegsman wrote:
1. It is a gang hideout. It surely has surveillance equipment monitoring the place.
Yes, criminal organizations famously record all of their undertakings in their headquarters, it saves a lot of time and uncertainty at their trials.

...or the proliferation of cheap surveillance methods and the self-interest/paranoia of the average gang-lord means that they might like to have records of some choice bits in case one of their cronies betrays them or a bunch of dangerous outsiders decide to murder their crew seemingly without reason.

Wayfinders

Read you blog and can say that it was cold blooded murder. Now, if you want to let them get by with minimal repercussions and treat them as Punisher type characters, okay. They stepped outside the boundaries of legality, so now the gang and Law Enforcement are hunting them. If the employer is one that uses wetwork on occasion, they can run to them for help. If not, they turn them or their information over to the police and cut them off. Now your adventurers are on the run vigilantes, and you take that path for their operations now. Many former contacts and associates are cut off and they have to build a new way to operate.


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Oh, I see, we're assuming current Earth standard morality and such.

I usually try and view what 'justice' would be like in the setting, without trying to fit how it would play out in the here and now.

So, if you live on a space station, and you have to manufacture, import, or magically create all the things that keep your populace alive (you know, food, air, water, light) then you probably don't have jails or prisons. You don't waste resources on non-contributing criminals. You send them planetside or space them.

Dataphiles

That's a can of worms as old as RPG games ...

The key here might be that the players are not used to a "modern" setting and went back to "no witnesses" because they didn't even think about help from local law enforcement ...

I can understand the "we cannot have gangers telling on us", the best possible way would have been handcuffs and calling the cops; I've had players do that in medieval settings to orcs in the middle of the forest !

But it reads like your players went along the "no witnesses = no problem" route ... alignments are a guide, and vigilante campaigns can work, but you need to call a timeout and discuss that with them.

I'm mostly sure that if they subdued an attacker in real life, they wouldn't kill them in cold blood and call for help, there's no reason outside "heat of the moment" for their characters to do that !


Pantshandshake wrote:

Oh, I see, we're assuming current Earth standard morality and such.

I usually try and view what 'justice' would be like in the setting, without trying to fit how it would play out in the here and now.

So, if you live on a space station, and you have to manufacture, import, or magically create all the things that keep your populace alive (you know, food, air, water, light) then you probably don't have jails or prisons. You don't waste resources on non-contributing criminals. You send them planetside or space them.

Not necessarily Earth but a society with a lawful bent to it.

I could see some societies (Drow come to mind) where this is perfectly acceptable behavior.

I took it from the OP that this was not acceptable behavior on this space station not from any cultural background.

I do like the idea of spacing them. After a brief but fair trial, of course.


Pantshandshake wrote:
So, if you live on a space station, and you have to manufacture, import, or magically create all the things that keep your populace alive (you know, food, air, water, light) then you probably don't have jails or prisons. You don't waste resources on non-contributing criminals. You send them planetside or space them.

If you live on the ISS, sure.

The characters are on Absalom Station, which is the size of a large city and has multiple levels of commercial space and levels that simply are not in regular use. Even without that context, they were a gang in a club. If space station is strapped for resources, they are not going to have things like private clubs or the kind population that has the time, inclination, or social/economic pressures that typically form gangs of people with nothing better to do than hang around in non-existent clubs.

Even then, a working legal system is probably higher priority than leisure space.


I guess it depends on the gang.

If all they did was smuggling and drug dealing, probably overboard; if they were murderers and slave traffickers, yeah, kill all of them.

This would also influence the involvement of law enforcement - while the first example might seek the law, the latter one wouldn’t.

The PCs should face consequences based on the societal structure around them: is killing violent criminals frowned upon by law? By their employers? By their inner circle of family and friends? If you take this situation from Absalom Station and place it on Akiton, it’s radically different. Well, even inside AS, a murder in the Spike is probably much less shocking than one in the Eye.

And, obviously, consequences by the rest of the gang, which would seek revenge from either the imprisonment or the deaths of their members - the boss probably has his place bugged and feeding into his tier 5 computer, it’s very easy to do and also cheap; and in the case of an arrest, the PC’s names would probably show up in some (hackeable) files.

If the GM/OP doesn’t want to expand on these consequences, their organization might just give them a public reprimand on violent actions; and the gang might have been so frail from recent conflicts that this last episode just makes it fall apart.

Wayfinders

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Hey, not using Terran morality but a knowledge of dealing with real world violent criminals for 27 years in Corrections, everything from a high violence maximum security prison to parole agent on a high risk unit gives me a bit of insight into the thought process of real violent gang bangers. First, if you beat their guys, but let them live and show some respect, you will probably get some grudging respect. Second, you hurt or kill one in an upfront fight, you will earn respect but still be considered an enemy. Third, you just off one who is down, you have all out retribution. Period. End of sentence. Pure, nasty vengeance. They can't afford to be seen as weak or not standing, it is ON. No quarter, no peace making. They have to maintain that respect from other organizations.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There are two, unrelated, questions here:

1. "What do I do when the characters decide to randomly murder prisoners?"

2. "What do I do when the players randomly decide to break alignment and tone, and have their PCs murder prisoners?"

The latter is really much more important. Ruthless actions leading to complications with law enforcement, employers, and enemies is a valid dramatic twist. However, if the players are disregarding the established beliefs and motives of their own PCs, or disregarding the possibility of consequences happening in the game? That is a big deal.

Or, I would make very, very clear that, one, their action is direly contrary to the established facts of their characters, and not only will it bring consequences in the story, it will also lead to alignment change and a redefinition of what their characters are about.

If it was just a brain fart, hopefully this gives them enough notice to reconsider their actions. If it was a weird set of mismatched expectations, hopefully this gives the opportunity to stop the game and discuss with the players genre intent and expectations. And if the players don't care about such? Well, you have to seriously consider whether you want to even run the game. If the players want to play in an evil villain game, they should have made that desire clear during campaign setup.


@ Metaphysician

Well said


Master Han Del of the Web wrote:


If you live on the ISS, sure.

The characters are on Absalom Station, which is the size of a large city and has multiple levels of commercial space and levels that simply are not in regular use. Even without that context, they were a gang in a club. If space station is strapped for resources, they are not going to have things like private clubs or the kind population that has the time, inclination, or social/economic pressures that typically form gangs of people with nothing better to do than hang around in non-existent clubs.

Even then, a working legal system is probably higher priority than leisure space.

You don't necessarily have to be strapped for resources to not want to just throw resources away. Between that and the general romanticized scifi old west feel this setting has, I really don't think 'killed a bunch of unconscious gang members' is anywhere near as big a deal as people want to make it.

On top of that, I generally assume some kind of capitalism is at work on Absalom, which would usually mean that the people who make/control policy aren't going to care about some downtrodden gangers.

And on top of THAT, your characters might at worst be Space Cops, and at best be paragons of universe saving proportions, and lord knows those guys don't go to prison even for shooting unarmed guys, let alone guys they were in a legit gunfight with.

Lastly, I personally find the entire idea of having a fight where one side is using lethal weapons and the other isn't completely ridiculous. Where's your force continuum? You don't try and taze someone firing an assault rifle at you. You put them down.

Ok, actually lastly, I'm not trying to argue anyone's setting, I just tend to have a vastly different view on things like this than most people, figured I'd share.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh, and regarding law enforcement on Absalom Station, I would expect it to be fairly tolerant of vigilanteism in general. After all, the government of Absalom Station is not really a singular centralized state; the place is more like a loose federation of neighborhoods, businesses, religions, criminal gangs, private organizations, and foreign actors. Governmental power is not minimal, but its very light handed.

Does this mean PCs can go around executing prisoners and not get into trouble? Well, *maybe*. . . depending on how much evidence they leave behind, and exactly which prisoners they execute. If no one ever has a clue that they did any such thing, they are free and clear obviously. . . though note that the relevant standard of evidence for things to become dicey is probably closer to "reasonable suspicion" than "beyond a reasonable doubt". If nobody finds any bodies, but various involved parties know that the PCs had a grudge against Gang X, and then suddenly Gang X vanishes? Inferences will be made, and even if law enforcement doesn't have enough evidence to arrest the PCs? Doesn't mean they can't informally blacklist them from any official support, or investigate them to the point of obnoxiousness. Whether they *choose* to do this probably depends on how much they care about the victims, and to what extent it seems disproportionate ( and thus indicative of dangerous instability or callousness ).

So basically? If you make a gang of psychopathic killers who worship demons vanish without a trace, nobody is going to care, and even if they turn up suspicion they still won't care. If you bust into a drug smuggler's hideout, capture everyone, and then paint the walls with their brains, with clear security camera footage of you going in and leaving? Station Security is going to be issuing APBs for your heads, because you are clearly psycho nutjobs.


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Metaphysician wrote:
If it was a weird set of mismatched expectations, hopefully this gives the opportunity to stop the game and discuss with the players genre intent and expectations. And if the players don't care about such? Well, you have to seriously consider whether you want to even run the game. If the players want to play in an evil villain game, they should have made that desire clear during campaign setup.

I think this may be the issue. Notes of cyberpunk mix in with Starfinder, and that is a famously dirty future. Even the protagonists are amoral people there, so a certain amount of "looking out for #1" gets into the mix.

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