When a character (I mean the in-game character, not the player) makes bad decisions, there should definitely be in-game consequences that have an effect on the character. I'm not trying to punish the player, but these consequences should:
- Preserve the fun of the game.
- Push the story forward.
- Not make it seem like I'm picking on the player.
This question is addressing a general problem that I've encountered, but it might help if you knew the story behind why I'm asking, so here it is...
In the first session of my current campaign, one of the characters (not players) was enraged by a greedy Sheriff who was going tax-happy and decided to assassinate him. So this character (who is an 8ft tall human barbarian) successfully snuck into the sheriff's castle in the middle of the night. The barbarian, henceforth known as Fabulio -- yes that's really his name -- accidentally entered the the sheriff's bedchamber and met his wife. Fabulio convinced the sheriff's wife that he meant no harm, and she made him leave out the window. He landed on the next balcony down, which was the bedroom of the village's sage/sorcerer. Fabulio sneaks past the sage and into the next room. (His weapon was taken away at the village's gate, and he is trying to recover it.) There, he found the apprentice of the sorcerer. The apprentice freaks out and begins screaming, so Fabulio decides it is best to kill him. Fabulio sends the apprentice out the window, off the three-story balcony, and his mangled body rolls down the hill that the castle stands on.
The Sheriff finds the apprentice's body while coming back from his midnight perimeter check (my sad desperate attempt to save his life) and quickly runs into the castle to check on his wife. By then, Fabulio is already out in the entrance chamber, hiding in wait for the Sheriff. The Sheriff enters the castle and descends into a trapdoor leading to where Fabulio's weapon is hidden.
When the sheriff comes back out of the trapdoor, he has Fabulio's maul with him and is wondering about some runes on it. The maul is extremely heavy, so the sheriff has to carry it over his shoulders, at which point Fabulio sees the opportunity to strike. He kills the sheriff with a single blow of the fist. The chandelier is broken in the short brawl and the guards are alerted, but Fabulio manages to hide just in time. One of the guards goes to fetch the village's cleric to see what he can do.
After the guard leaves, Fabulio kills the remaining guard and drags his body away, replacing the guard with himself. When the other guard returns, he asks where the guard went, and Fabulio tells him that he has come to replace him because he was complaining about diarrhea. I make him roll a bluff check, and he rolls a natural 20, so the guard and the cleric both make Sense Motive checks. They both roll a 1, so they believe Fabulio. The cleric begins to revive the sheriff on the floor, but Fabulio has other plans. He kills the guard, at which point the sheriff's wife come to check out what's going on. She tries to kill Fabulio with a poisoned blade, but he crushes her skull.
Fabulio spares the cleric's life. The cleric then tells Fabulio that the next man in charge is far worse then the sheriff was, and asks him what he had against the sheriff, Fabulio says that the sheriff was a bad man and deserved death. The cleric agrees, but says "many who deserve life receive death, and many who deserve death receive life and fortune; who are you to say who deserves what?"
I ended the session there because I was at a loss of what to do and it was getting late. I didn't stop anything because it seemed fun and logical that a chaotic good barbarian would do something like this. We had a blast and I'm not complaining about what happened or the actions that were taken. This is an in-game situation that arose in game and I'd like to solve it in game.
Below is my question, broken down into the simplest form I could come up with.
How can I make the logical implications of the CHARACTER's actions take effect without making it seem like I'm punishing the player and, at the same time, preserve the fun and push the story forward?