What do you do with prisoners


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So when I was a kid or in games I've run like a video game I never considered this much, but in a megadungeon campaign I've started there are warring factions in the dungeon. Moral quandaries are a part of the game, especially since one of the characters is a paladin worshipping a deity of merchants, oaths and deals/commerce.

So... there is a good possibility that the party takes and interrogates prisoners. What do you do with said prisoners? What are the LG, general "good" or moral implications if you take prisoners?

The reason I ask is because the party was in debate, encountering some elite kobolds (kobold warrior 3), if they would give quarter or not when the wizard got the first initiative. Said wizard let loose with a Fireball spell and several botched Reflex saves later the point was moot.

It got me thinking though; if this group encounters other intelligent humanoids, such as the different factions on the next level of the dungeon, and wants to gather intel, what is the "right" way to treat any captives? Like, their home is here in the dungeon so taking them back to the city and throwing them in jail may be correct/humane, but just murdering them after they've served their usefulness might be kind of evil. What's the middle ground?


The question of what to do with prisoners in the game depends almost entirely on the game being played.

For most of humanity's military history, prisoners taken in battles between armies could expect little more than enslavement or death. While there are almost certainly specific examples of populations or soldiers being spared after conflict, they are few and far between.

Historical examples of prisoners being spared and repatriated begin to crop up during the renaissance. The term POW was first used during this time period. Armies and Conquerers could get a lot of mileage out of a reputation for sparing the lives of cities that surrendered without resistance while slaughtering every inhabitant of a city that resisted.

Most people have an idea about POWs that bears some resemblance to what they know of the Geneva Convention (1907). Some nations did not sign and did not abide by the convention.

The single biggest determinant of behavior toward prisoners is the perception that they have value. Prisoners might be worth a ransom (financial), provide intelligence about their forces (informational), might weaken the enemy (troops that are removed from the field can't continue to fight), or even help to guarantee te safety of your own prisoners (We'll keep our prisoners safe and healthy if you do also). Finally, taking prisoners gives your enemy a way out besides fighting to the death. If an enemy knows that they face death if they surrender, there is no incentive to continue resisting.


Prisoners are a lot of work. Murder is much easier, and a lot more fun.

If the party is willing to take prisoners back to town, then that is probably the best option for maintaining Good alignment. Accidentally not creating any prisoners, like what the Wizard did, is always good, too.

From a game standpoint... escort missions suck. Babysitting is not why people play fantasy games. Nobody wants to split their rations with their prisoners. Nobody wants to double up fire guard to watch the prisoners. Nobody wants to protect the prisoners from harm. Prisoners just slow down the game and distract from the fun stuff.


Ah, yes. Nothing adds to a sense of excitement and high adventure like moral quandaries!

First thing, define as much as you can, as clearly as you can, as early as you can. It's your game; even if you've got an ethics professor at your table, you have the absolute final say on matters of morality within your story.

With that in mind, you'll want to figure out what kind of a story you're telling. Are Good and Evil quantifiable, physical forces that make up reality, or are they philosophical perspectives?
I think Tolkien's work is a great place to look for a world where the good vs. evil argument is simple and straightforward without being boring. The wild men are tricked into evil deeds, but are not evil at heart. They can be redeemed. The orcs, however, are beyond hope. They were born of wickedness; take that away, and there is nothing left.
George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" is the opposite. There's a world where many people believe they are right or "good", even as they fight and kill opponents who feel the same way about themselves.

If you pan back too far, you end up with conversations like "is this drowning priestess *really* evil? I mean, she was raised by evil people; what choice did she have?" --which do not lend to fun, dynamic games. I mean, in a world like that, two paladins from opposing faiths should be able to smite each other. Maybe not even opposing faiths. They could belong to different factions of the same church, or just live in different countries.

I try to keep things simple and streamlined. If you're good, you help those who need it, you don't hurt those who aren't trying to hurt you, etc. If you're evil, you either enjoy other's suffering or are remarkably cold. Goodnight does not equal nice, though. Those are separate qualities.

For your situation with prisoners, I'd look to Tolkien again. Requiring your foe to swear an oath to never take arms against you again, etc., and then having them be moved by the PC's mercy/awed by their power so they actually follow through. Evil is underhanded and tricky, but if your players are eternally punished for trying to be the good guys, they may run out of reasons to stay good.


I knew this was gonna be a tricky campaign.

I picked a module in a "gritty" setting; ruthless merchants; an unforgiving megadungeon; potential demonic influences. I decided up front, as a contrast to the setting, to ask my players to be "heroes." We talked before the campaign started and landed on all PCs having Good as part of their alignment, generally helping others whenever they could, avoiding taking advantage of others unless absolutely necessary, etc.

I don't need everyone to be Superman; rather, when the chips are down, I want them to don their hat and whip and go save the kids from the village, not because they're getting paid but because it's the right thing to do.

In the midst of all of this one player chose to make a paladin. I didn't think anything of it since I know this person pretty well and I'd already laid out the basics. The very first adventure to get through the wilderness to the city saw the paladin character helping to broker peace between warring humanoid factions in the hills in order to garner safe passage for the party with phenomenal RP and rolls.

Just in the past 2 sessions however I've noticed some old tendencies surface in the paladin player. This person through most of their RPG experience has played the "kick in the door, loot the dead" kind of character; they've specifically avoided paladin-types in the past.

Also, in the past, I've never really demanded heroism from my players. We are getting together over minis and pizza to blow off steam and hack some dungeons, so whatevs. But THIS campaign I set the precedent up front that the PCs be heroes. I inadvertently put myself in this catch 22.

Again, so far the paladin has behaved in all ways like I'd expect a heroic, LG paladin of a mercantile deity to behave. He's insisted on extremely fair deals, favored others over his own interests in early business dealings, and he's avoided attacking anything outright unless it either radiated evil or acted overtly hostile.

It's just this last instance, debating about taking prisoners, that got me nervous. I get the military rationale, but the characters aren't soldiers, they're just a bunch of armed dungeon looters that descended into some humanoids' lairs and started trespassing and hacking. I also get that moral quandaries aren't fun, so I've largely ignored things like "do the monsters have rights," "should the dead receive last rights," "if some of the loot taken from the monsters can be traced back to citizens, should they be compensated" and so on.

The idea though, of having purposely and willfully beaten monsters into helplessness, interrogating them, still having said foes (sentient, intelligent monsters mind you) under your total control, and then just slaying them when they're done talking...

You're right, of course. I need to bring this up now to the players, before this goes further. I need to be clear what my expectation is. I guess, since I'm so out of practice with moral gray areas in my games, I was just looking for suggestions on how to frame the conversation, what parameters others have set.

And y'know what's funny? In this and other games that have either partially or fully included the Golarion gods I've encouraged folks to play worshippers of Sarenrae, goddess of (among other things) redemption.

I have never found myself punishing "evil" behaviors in my games but I encourage and reward heroes. Those ruthless merchants? After 5 levels of being able to have the paladin over a barrel in business dealings, just recently when they needed a sword with Disruption on it but didn't have the money for the weapon one of the merchant lords gave it to the paladin, insisting only that once their mission was over he either return with the sword, the money, or a damn good story.

I WANT heroes in my games, but in the past never demanded it. I started this campaign in reaction to that inequity. I'm paying for my reactionary nature now.


You have just found the old debate are monsters moral creatures?

Also you have to have party expectations, was it their job to take prisoners?
If they did not kill them to get information, that was controllable by you.
If the mission was to take prisoners, fine they need to keep them alive. If they are still in the middle of assaulting the fortress where discovery is death they have to kill to them and hide the bodies. We have gotten by it with a Rogue that was that type of guy, most of the party would go forward and he would kill the enemy. Yes the party knew what was going on but by not seeing it it was deniability for the others.

You just need that one guy, all the others that can't just push on.


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Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!


Artofregicide wrote:

Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!

I love this. It made me laugh until I stopped. I especially enjoyed the assumption that every party has a Necromancer in need of skeletons.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Send them...to the Sharkticon pits!

MUHAHAHA...
...HAHAHA...
...HAHAHAH...
...HAHAHAH...
...HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


VoodistMonk wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:

Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!

I love this. It made me laugh until I stopped. I especially enjoyed the assumption that every party has a Necromancer in need of skeletons.

Had to laugh at that one too!

So want to make a party and adventure now just to do this


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I always try to make sure it doesn't become an event that the players regret.

'You quickly overwhelm the rest of the kobolds, who surrender their weapons and beg for their lives.'
"We tie them up." the players say.
'You tie them up' I as the DM say, and the event is over, and the PCs will not be punished for 'leaving' enemies behind that chew out of their ropes and quickly wish to pursue and give vengeance to the players as they adventure on through the dungeon.

Don't ever make taking prisoners as a thing that comes back to bite the group in the ass. Because they never will try it again. I always just make it a non-issue that the event has occurred, and that they still get full experience. A couple of hold persons, one last Non-lethal blow; tie up the enemies, and know that there aren't negative repercussions for doing so.

Make it something easy to accomplish, and maybe they'll even come back to the well to do it again.


Erpa wrote:

I always try to make sure it doesn't become an event that the players regret.

'You quickly overwhelm the rest of the kobolds, who surrender their weapons and beg for their lives.'
"We tie them up." the players say.
'You tie them up' I as the DM say, and the event is over, and the PCs will not be punished for 'leaving' enemies behind that chew out of their ropes and quickly wish to pursue and give vengeance to the players as they adventure on through the dungeon.

Don't ever make taking prisoners as a thing that comes back to bite the group in the ass. Because they never will try it again. I always just make it a non-issue that the event has occurred, and that they still get full experience. A couple of hold persons, one last Non-lethal blow; tie up the enemies, and know that there aren't negative repercussions for doing so.

Make it something easy to accomplish, and maybe they'll even come back to the well to do it again.

I think it depends on the party, but if you continually punish the players for mercy they will stop awarding it.

In one AP I'm running, the PCs have captured a number of cultists. They've considered executing them, but have stayed their hand. While it's possible their fellow cultists may attempt to free them, I don't plan to automatically undo their hard work instead of just a CdG and done.

I did have to explain to a player that torture and mutilation are unquestionably evil acts in this setting... so there's that too.


Preface: My group has done some questionable things to keep "important" characters alive but otherwise completely incapacitated (while not having access to the magics that make it easy).

We have:
Broken hands
Broken legs
Bound
Gagged
Blindfolded
Manacle (hands and legs)
Placed lamellar heavy armor on (for spell casters arcane spell failure chance)
Sovereign glued hands together
Sovereign glued a tower shield to their hand
Gouged out eyes
Continuously kept unconscious via repeated beatings with non-lethal damage

When we went to these sort of extremes it was undeniably evil.

If we had good characters in the party who were too squeamish for it we usually just stuck to the beating unconscious with non-lethal damage for spell casters) and bound/gagged/blindfolded for others.

If we had someone capable of casting spells like stone to flesh or something else that made a creature "compliant' without killing them we preferred to use that method instead.

Bear in mind we only did these sorts of things when it was absolutely essential to keep an NPC alive but also knew they would not just give up if left alive. We all admitted what was done was evil, but used the excuse of the greater good and felt little guilt since it was being done against a (greater) evil person.

And I guess to earlier posters points...as a group we've been burned by too many occasions where mercy toward an enemy has lead to more trouble. We have carried that with us between campaigns and it will probably never leave.

The nicest mercy we can give is a quick and clean death.


I feel like it depends on whether the NPC is even capable of escape.

A BBEG is far more likely to be competent and less easily cowed than their minions.

A religious fanatic is far less likely to bargain than a mercenary.

Often, I'll have baddies beg for their lives, giving up information and promising to never get in the PCs way again. If this is honored, they almost never go back on this.

Keep in mind, the party usually demonstrates their combat prowess quickly and violently. Any intelligent survivors are well aware what a second encounter will look like.


Realistically it depends on the situation
1 you are in a situation were you can take prisoners
2 you are in a situation were you can NOT take prisoners

In the situation were you can take them means you have a line of retreat and prisoners were part of the goal. Band of enemies attacking a village you are defending. You are attacking scouts for information on the enemies army. You are dungeon crawling, large scale with multiple groups in it, and a group attacks you. You are attacking a position and will hold it until reinforcements arrive.

In situations you cannot take them, attacking a Kobalds Layer to save the [Insert]. In this case though the odds of them surrendering is pretty much not going to happen. They may pull back to wait for reinforcements, but until you rescue the [Insert] and start to escape it is not possible to take prisoners. So as the GM don't have the enemy surrender if it is not a situation that can support it.

In truth the situation should not come up, if the players are not in a position to do so.


Let's get back to the not punishing them bit. Ok, I'm 100% with you on the sentiment of this, but think about the situation, the logistics:

1. The party is currently involved in a megadungeon campaign
2. They defeated (fireballed) several kobolds on level 1, after resurfacing from level 2 below.
3. Since they are lower level and don't have any sort of teleportation magic yet, they know of only one way down to level 2 right now, which goes right past an area controlled by kobolds

So, if they'd have taken prisoners, the kobolds would know where they come and go from level 2 AND would have a reason for vengeance. How, in that situation, do I NOT have the kobolds retaliate?

Since they did NOT take prisoners, let me tell you how this unfolded instead:

The Kobold Konnektion:
The PCs had previously made friends with a group of neutral Ratfolk traders who occupy a very small portion of level 1. The party helped the Ratfolk fortify their area and slew an ogre nearby. The Ratfolk now have a means to enter and exit the dungeon from a secret door that leads outside so they can send a few of their number out at a time to trade in the nearby city.

The kobolds control a larger area on the opposite side of level 1, but close to an ancient crypt room with a secret entrance to level 2. Previously the PCs and kobolds have clashed, then the party discovered the level 2 crypt entrance and headed down. Upon returning a kobold scouting party was inspecting the newly opened crypt (a random encounter that came up "kobolds") so as the party was debating among themselves whether or not to take prisoners the wizard PC let fly with his newly acquired Fireball spell and destroyed the majority of their enemies.

Having slain all of the kobolds, the dragon whelps were more than a little afraid to go toe-to-toe with the PCs again. As the PCs headed out into the wilderness though to do a short rest and resupply, the kobolds decided to take revenge by attacking the Ratfolk. The PCs came back in time to help repel the kobolds and further fortify the Ratfolks' area, even expanding into/cleansing and repurposing the Ogre's lair for a dungeon base of their own, when needed. They've now gone back to the city for a bigger resupply, to return an NPC they've rescued and to check on their own businesses.

TL/DR, how do I keep future potential prisoners from harboring a grudge and trying to do something about it for revenge? Aside from, y'know, just SAYING they don't because GM fiat.


Prisoners are completely allowed to harbor a grudge. They can even try get revenge. All of that is fine.

Just don't have prisoners wiggle free of their bonds to coup de grace the party later, or whatever.

As for the Kobolds of Konnektion, the party is going to reduce their very last scale to ash if the Kobolds don’t cease and desist their hostilities towards the Ratfolk, immediately. Therefore, in a rare stroke of reason, the Kobold leader calls a ceasefire and arranges for a diplomatic solution to the ongoing territory dispute.

The Exchange

I can remember a fight where the PCs just "Cake Walked" the fight. It envolved a number of Kobolds in a ruined watch tower, and the PCs using sleep spells and grapples to beat them easily. Less then 10 HP taken in damage amoung the 5 PC. so they tie up the Kobolds, and gather up the loot and ... look it over.

"What a bunch of C%$#P! Cheap, Small weapons, and wicker shield, 'food' I wouldn't feed my dog, rotten leathers, and COPPER PIECES! What the h&%%, I'm not loading any of this s&^%t on my horse to haul it outta here." off stomps PC1

the rest of the party also shake their head in disgust and mount up. Rides away into the sunset.

Just then Player A starts to giggle "Talk about insulting. Think about it from the view of the kobolds. Not only are they not dangerous enough for us to kill 'em, but we didn't even want ANY of thier treasure!"

Player B "yeah, (gollum voice), my presious, why didn't they take my presious" laugh.

The Exchange

here's a link to another thread on this same subject - from a few years back and from a Society (PFS) take on the subject

Killing of helpless or unconscious enemies.

and here's my post from there -

It might be a bit theoretically thin, but as a GM I'm fine with glossing over how the party gets rid of prisoners just to keep the main action on the rails. I have enough trouble finishing scenarios on time without worrying about this.

and it is quite possible that thru "glossing over how the party gets rid of prisoners" a lot of hard feelings and un-productive game time is avoided. (IMHO this is a good thing). It could easily mean that three (or more) players will assume that the party handled the "prisoner disposal" the way they each wanted too - all different. When asked later what was done with the prisoners, the responses could be...

Player A: "We killed 'em dead, like they deserved. And I enjoyed it..."

Player B: "Turned the evil creatures in for a suitable reward. The gold got rolled into the award at the end of the game... I think they use them in the Salt Mines..."

Player C: "We enrolled them in the Sarenrae twelve-step program of redemption and restitution. So that they can become useful members of society..."

and the players all move on to their next game - happy to have resolved this issue "correctly".


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
It got me thinking though; if this group encounters other intelligent humanoids, such as the different factions on the next level of the dungeon, and wants to gather intel, what is the "right" way to treat any captives? Like, their home is here in the dungeon so taking them back to the city and throwing them in jail may be correct/humane, but just murdering them after they've served their usefulness might be kind of evil. What's the middle ground?

I guess this is all up to you and your players. What kind of world do you want to create, and what do the players want their characters' stories to be like?

If everybody wants to keep playing like it's a video game, murderhoboing everything that moves and cozening everything not nailed down (until they finally find that claw hammer) to wrack up more points, literally killing for the experience of killing, then I guess that's just fine.

If want to pretend that those orcs and goblins you're fighting are people who just want to live their lives like people, you have a real dilemma. You know they will sound an alarm if they can. But killing helpless people is evil. Killing them just because they are orcs and goblins, well, isn't that racism? Do you want to tell a story about good and honorable characters striving for social justice? Do you want to tell a story about those good and honorable characters being punished by a cruel world where no good deed goes unpunished? That might make a good story, too, but isn't that a little too much what the real world is like?

It is reasonable to make players pay a price for being good or evil, or reward it. The key here is that GMs should collaborate with their players to have a good time and/or create a good story.


VoodistMonk wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:

Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!

I love this. It made me laugh until I stopped. I especially enjoyed the assumption that every party has a Necromancer in need of skeletons.

With how many dead bodies the average adventuring party creates or finds out in the wild, it'd almost be irresponsible not to have one around.


Coidzor wrote:
VoodistMonk wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:

Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!

I love this. It made me laugh until I stopped. I especially enjoyed the assumption that every party has a Necromancer in need of skeletons.
With how many dead bodies the average adventuring party creates or finds out in the wild, it'd almost be irresponsible not to have one around.

I'm beginning to wonder if adventures are the primary cause of undead...


Artofregicide wrote:

Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!

No, you are chaotic evil whether you know it or not.

We are playing "Way of the Wicked" and had a large group of prisoners, including one of the Barons of the realm, the highest rank outside the royal family.

My character used psychic reconstruction to max out her Profession, chef skill and knowledge of bugbear dietary preferences.

She then cooked the prisoners alive while the bugbear army watched and fed the prisoners to the bugbears.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:

2. They defeated (fireballed) several kobolds on level 1, after resurfacing from level 2 below.

3. Since they are lower level and don't have any sort of teleportation magic yet, they know of only one way down to level 2 right now, which goes right past an area controlled by kobolds

So, if they'd have taken prisoners, the kobolds would know where they come and go from level 2 AND would have a reason for vengeance. How, in that situation, do I NOT have the kobolds retaliate?

Let's say in my game, my party had taken some kobolds prisoner, intimidated them into giving away information, and then (naive fools!) simply released them.

I could have the kobolds retaliate, or I could have them be amazed and delighted to still be alive. (If the situation had been reversed, they'd certainly have eaten the party.)

When the party meets these specific kobolds again they could be (a) vengeful, (b) grateful and willing to negotiate, or (c) terrified of these dangerously whimsical outsiders who defeated them so easily last time they fought.

It depends on the type of story I want to tell, and the personalities of the kobolds in question.

If they don't want to fight, then we have an interesting role-playing situation. If they do? Well, that's more XP & loot for the PCs.

The risk of having them vengeful is that I might be teaching the players that they should execute all prisoners after they've finished torturing them for information, and that's probably not the game the Paladin wanted to play.

Maybe one kobold asks the PCs to kill the cruel kobold king who's been oppressing them, and once they've done that she takes over and becomes an ally?

Of course, even if I've planned a nice redemption arc, that doesn't mean the players will know what to do. To avoid endless arguments, I'd let them use tools like Detect Evil and Sense Motive to give them a feel for who can be trusted.


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One thing I'd point out is that, while "punishing" player choices for being merciful can lead to some unfortunate consequences, being "The Good Guys" isn't supposed to be consequence-free. It's hard. That's the temptation of evil. It's easier. And that's why paladins are supposed to get so many awesome things; they're gonna need them.


Quixote wrote:
One thing I'd point out is that, while "punishing" player choices for being merciful can lead to some unfortunate consequences, being "The Good Guys" isn't supposed to be consequence-free.

The problem is, sometimes only some of the party are trying to be the good guys. If the paladin tries to do the right thing by keeping his word and freeing co-operative prisoners, and this nearly gets the party killed, that could lead to severe conflict between the players. For example, the Paladin getting kicked out of the group for being a liability (since he's unlikely to stop trying to do the right thing), or the Paladin walking out on the group when they start executing prisoners in front of him.

If the entire party is trying to do what's right, then tough moral dilemmas aren't a fatal problem; the players will work through them together. But if half the party is only in it for the loot, then the easiest way to keep the adventure on track is for the GM to make sure that the heroic thing is also the most profitable thing. That's why common adventures tend to be 'rescue the kidnapped child and receive a fabulous reward' or 'slay the dragon that's been attacking the villagers and then help yourself to its hoard'.


Have prisoners sign a contract of good behavior....if they break it their right to quarter is revoked should they cross that paladins path again.

god of contracts and obligations after all.

Maybe at high level you find some way to give him access to a lesser geas type effect that works based on signed agreements.


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Joynt Jezebel wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:

Eat them.

Extra provisions and you still get skeletons for the necromancer to use.

I'm totally chaotic neutral! Whee!

No, you are chaotic evil whether you know it or not.

Nope. It says CN on my sheet. You're trying to railroad my character! You're a bad GM and shouldn't be allowed to play Pathfinder ever again! I'm just doing what my character would do so you can't tell me how to roleplay... (devolves into frothing whiney gibberish)

:P


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
So... there is a good possibility that the party takes and interrogates prisoners. What do you do with said prisoners? What are the LG, general "good" or moral implications if you take prisoners?

Hm. My current campaign, featuring a party of good and neutral characters operating in a largely LG-dominated region in which the party is also the authorities, has featured the following ultimate fates after NPC surrender/capture and any interrogation that may have been needed:

-roleplay and diplomacy leading to joining forces against other enemies
-offered a second chance at life, in a new line of work with better pay and benefits than banditry
-held prisoner until the overall conflict was over, then set free
-accepted the enemy's offer of a wish in return for being spared (this was an efreet)
-stripped of gear, told to GTFO of the adventure site and don't let themselves meet us again (for monsters/dungeon denizens)
-exiled and expropriated (for "civilized" enemies, rotten nobles and the like)
-kept in custody and relegated to a term of hard labor on public works
-death sentence, clean death on the spot
-kept on as a minion and trained up as an assassin against the rest of the party (this one came from the more chaotic side of the party)
-grisly torture-execution in a dark and bloody druidic rite to earn the favor of the fey Winter Court (this one also came from the more chaotic side of the party and, naturally, sparked some drama. Included for completeness, but not likely to be the solution of a LG character who wants to stay that way)

So we picked from the above based on moral (how much of a bastard has this NPC been?) and pragmatic (do we think this option has a decent change of working out and not backfiring?) considerations.

We're in a large scale war right now and depending on the state of things when the fighting is done, ransoming prisoners might or might not end up being added to the above. Ransom has that medieval feel, and while it is likely Neutral at best and open to abuse (such as starting conflicts specifically to gain prisoners to ransom, also known as kidnapping), without abuse it probably isn't going to imperil LGness.

So, general considerations about moral implications of prisoners?

Make case-specific decisions using the character's best judgment. Good alignment in general isn't, I think, amenable to one-size-fits-all approaches to most things, and that includes prisoners. Exercise of judgment is necessary. Even LGs, which has lawfulness and the social order to look to as guideposts, need to be using their judgment at the end of the day if they aren't going to turn into some LN modron lawbot. If they aren't interested in doing that personally, they can go the "take prisoners back to town" route and outsource the exercise of moral judgment to a LG-compatible authority.


Matthew Downie wrote:
The problem is, sometimes only some of the party are trying to be the good guys.

And that's another reason why a session 0 is so important.

I've heard a few players complain about how "they just don't really see why their character would be hanging around with these people/doing this stuff", after I gave them an extremely clear understanding of the setting, the tone, the theme and the general direction of the game. And every time, I want to beat them over the head with a rulebook.
Making sure a character fits within the world and is motivated and invested in the story takes two people.

Paladins traveling with jaded mercenaries or well-meaning sorcerers wrestling with their demonic heritage can make for great stories. But everyone needs to be on board for it.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A lot of this falls on the DM. If you make every prisoner try to wriggle free and murder the PCs in their sleep / steal their horse and ride off / is otherwise be a massive logistical pain in the neck - then congrats, you were the one that turned the players into murderhobbos. Even if it was in your last campaign, not this one.

Its the same as how DMs who have the PCs' families and NPC friends kidnapped or murdered start wondering why every new PC's backstory covers how they are an orphaned loner with ties to no one.

So the onus is on those of us running the games to have taking prisoners not prove more trouble than its worth.

Things to consider
- other NPCs of the same group more likely to surrender
- foes being more willing to negotiate with the party
- ransoms being paid
- ability to exchange captured NPCs for something else you want "release the kidnapped villagers and you can have your shaman back!"
- released prisoners being afraid enough of the party they don't want to fight again
- use of prisoners as hostages in exchange for safe passage through a group's territory
- prisoners who'll give their word and keep it - look up the Napoleonic history around captured soldiers giving their parole - e.g. give us your word you'll not fight against our country again
- willingness of the opposition to show mercy to the party (more on this later)


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JulianW wrote:
willingness of the opposition to show mercy to the party (more on this later)

I think this is a big part of the problem in Pathfinder and similar games.

Normally the biggest incentive to show mercy is that word gets around and you might expect mercy in return.

Trouble is, the game is so gear dependent that surrendering and probably losing all your magic items will utterly cripple many characters. If you get to roll up a new one with wealth by level when your character dies, surrendering and losing your equipment might actually be a fate worse than death!


Ryan Freire wrote:

Have prisoners sign a contract of good behavior....if they break it their right to quarter is revoked should they cross that paladins path again.

god of contracts and obligations after all.

Maybe at high level you find some way to give him access to a lesser geas type effect that works based on signed agreements.

I really like this idea! I might tweak it so that it's a verbal oath with some kind of unique handshake or something but yeah. I bring up the verbal thing b/c the player specifically requested that his NPC hireling (an NPC traveling with the party that the paladin is grooming to become a Cohort in a couple levels) is a cleric with Scribe Scroll.

The paladin insists the cleric NPC keep a glut of Tongues scrolls on hand. So far this has only come up once in play but the paladin pays the NPC cleric for the use of these scrolls in cases where he has to negotiate with folks he doesn't know the language of.

Thanks for this suggestion Ry Frei!

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