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As a new DM, I've been having a few games with my players, and it has been really fun.

However, at some point, a player's character started to genuinely skin a (recently deceased) half-orc boss to make boots out of it. His barbarian has a thing for collecting various items on bosses, such as clothes, but this habit started to get more and more gruesome (teeth, ears, and now an entire skin gathered on a sentient humanoid).

While this behavior can be "fun" for the players, I think that the characters should at the very least feel horrified by such an action and react in a certain manner. And if not for the characters, the NPC's should notice this strange collection and tend to be careful or even refuse to interact with this barbarian or the party (even if the barbarian gets an advantage on the Intimidation check).

How would you suggest dealing with such a behavior, without having the character killed, or leaving the party for some reason? How would you reflect these extreme actions on the party's morale, NPC's behavior with the group?

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    \$\begingroup\$ As an aside: humanoid leather is just terrible for making stuff out of. It's too thin and fragile, even if properly tanned (a process that takes months). Realistically, his boots would probably fall apart. :D \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jan 30 '18 at 14:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty You're right. I told him that he would be wearing blood-soggy, poorly-sewed and flesh-stained boots but he said "Meh, you know, this guy almost got me, so wearing a part of him for some times is a kind of revenge, even if it doesn't last." We were at the very end of the adventure, so I agreed while not knowing how this "habit" was going to turn out \$\endgroup\$ – T4nT413 Jan 30 '18 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alemus He is CN at the moment, with a slight but growing touch of insanity. He is not really turning to the CE side, since he also has a certain notion of good and bad and tends to be really acting on the good side when facing bad behavior of NPCs. He just lacks social qualities and take some unwanted initiative within the group (smashing a door open while the group wanted to get silent, etc...) but it's generally well accepted since he is a low Int character. \$\endgroup\$ – T4nT413 Jan 30 '18 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Obligatory OOTS: giantitp.com/comics/oots0063.html \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Jan 31 '18 at 4:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alemus I don't know, as long as the half-orc was dead before the skinning started I wouldn't really call it evil, per se. Amoral, sure. And probably against the tenets of most religions, and socially unacceptable in general. But it's not like a posthumous skinning causes any further injury or pain to an already-deceased opponent. I think evil requires a deliberate intent to cause tangible harm. Skinning a corpse is more vindictive/angry/addled than evil. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Jan 31 '18 at 13:00
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Let it Go

So, you feel your characters should behave a certain way, but everyone's having fun. I'd say let it be. Collecting trophies off victims is not out of character for a Barbarian. It doesn't seem as though the player is suffering from "My Guy Syndrome" (acting in a disruptive way and justifying it by saying "that's what my guy would do"). By the way, collecting body parts is so common a way to say "my dude's a badass" that it's a trope. It would be psychopathic to do in real life, but when a player says they want to do it in a game, I yawn a little bit.

Let the Fiction Determine NPC Reactions

But you are correct about one thing: NPCs should respond to your Barbarian's penchant for body part collection as that NPC would. That means a merchant in a civilized settlement may respond with disgust, while a bandit may be terrified by the Barbarian's prowess (probably the effect your Barbarian player is hoping for). The Barbarian may well be barred from certain settlements or even jailed. Conversely, another Barbarian, with their own body part collection, may well be impressed by your Barbarian's trophies, and may want to compare trophies.

The important thing is that you respond to the Barbarian's choices based on the story, and not in a punitive manner, e.g. "Because you are doing something I think you shouldn't do, bad stuff will happen to your character". NPCs should act based on their personalities and a common sense interpretation of the fiction.

When the Fun Stops

Now, all of this changes the moment one of your other players (or you, for that matter, you're a player too) stops having fun. Is this behavior making it difficult for players to enjoy the game? Is it making a player have an honest-to-goodness reaction that is causing them emotional distress? If so, it's time to talk about the behavior out of character, player to player, human to human.

My answer is predicated off my interpretation of your question, which is that: it's going ok, but it just seems like something I shouldn't allow, because DnD, and alignments and all that. I just don't think you should let preconceived notions of how the game is supposed to be interrupt you actual enjoyment of the game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is pretty good I'd suggest that NPCs should react more extremely than the barbarian's actual actions warrant though, legends grow in the telling after all. \$\endgroup\$ – user40081 Jan 30 '18 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a pretty neat collection of ideas! To be more precise on my question, It's not much about "Everything was fun and stuff until...". I was more wondering about the "Players are OK with it, but characters with a specific alignment should feel different" side. \$\endgroup\$ – T4nT413 Jan 30 '18 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T4nT413, right. That's what I gathered from the question. It may have repercussions in terms of mechanics that affect Alignments. It may change what Alignment your Barbarian has, but what constitutes Good and Evil can be a very sticky subject. You're absolutely correct that characters of differing Alignments should respond in a different way. I hope the section of my question dealing with NPC reactions sufficiently addresses that. \$\endgroup\$ – Doctor Kill Jan 30 '18 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T4nT413 OK, alignment being descriptive rather than prescriptive. I think that's the 5e intention. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 30 '18 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Chad as the hapless inhabitant of "any civilized land", if my farms have been raided by orcs, and my fields burned by orcs, and my cousins killed by orcs, and I see a random muscly guy with an enormous axe walking around wearing orc leather boots and an orc skull helmet... I might just buy that guy a beer and ask him to stick around for a while in the hopes of convincing him to add to his collection. Possibly a cape? \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jan 30 '18 at 19:23
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#1: talk with the others

This issue can be solved completely in-game, but the first question is: do you want to? Find out, whether you or the others at the table wish to discuss the ramifications of such behavior or are possibly disturbed by it. If anyone is uncomfortable with these elements being in the game, this has to be resolved out of the game.

Explain the situation to the player and simply ask them to stop doing it. If they feel it is a core part of the character, offer to let them bring a new one. Bear in mind that this does not mean that the player has done anything wrong. If asking nicely does not work it might come to asking him to leave, but that is a whole other question.

#2: responding in-game

As you have mentioned, most cultures will react to extreme behavior rather harshly. Depending on the "level of civility" of the particular area, wearing such trophies might label the character an uncultured barbarian to be avoided. Shopkeepers refuse to talk with him or might call the local guards just to get him away from their business. Performing such an act might bring the law down on his head if the city is run by, say, lawful good paladins.

Tell the player that he can expect consequences to this behavior. If he is fine with it, and is willing to deal with the response of the world, let him do it.

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A combination of in game and out of game choices

  1. First off if the players, in character, are all on the same side of this and you're on the other, which you seem to be saying, then you're going to lose this argument, every single time.
  2. You may have some in-character leverage through the alignment system, particularly if you have a Good character or two who needs that alignment for character functionality.
  3. You are always in control of the NPCs of your world, so you can always do things like sending bounty hunters after the abominable barbarian in question. How that turns out is going to be in the hands of the party more than you.
  4. You can make life awkward in terms of purchases and other social interactions. If the party is not self-sufficient in craft, they have to interact with NPCs to get necessary items. What to do with this barbarian in such cases? There are always ways around that, mainly leave the barbarian in a tent over there while the rest of the party goes into town. But (see point 3) if there's a bounty on the whole team then they'll find the gates barred. In that case, if they play rough remind them why no-one takes on the city watch. This will get really messy out-of-game so avoid "in game punishment" but instead provide consequences in game to choices made in game. Be warned that's a really fine line to walk.

    In summary there are some issues that you do need to address around character alignment in reference to the acts in question, skinning a person is a rather questionable act for a good man, so is standing by while someone else does it. And there should be consequences in the reactions of the world to the party if the behaviour continues. I'd suggest that NPCs should react more extremely than the barbarian's actual actions warrant, legends grow in the telling after all.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Thanks you also prompted me to add a couple of bits of clarification too. Yeah I get that way when I'm working on several pieces at once or a problem I've written on repeatedly. I'm always happy to get some help from people who're more experienced on a given stack than I am. \$\endgroup\$ – user40081 Jan 30 '18 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yeah I've played with some real moral crusader GMs which is why I know you can't win if the players feel you're spoiling their fun, and some really trigger happy and some really creepy players so I know how the world can and should turn on out of control parties. \$\endgroup\$ – user40081 Jan 30 '18 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ash Just for clarification, the boss was dead when skinned, not skinned alive. \$\endgroup\$ – RonV Jan 30 '18 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RonV Well, that makes it OK. :) Right? 8^0 \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 31 '18 at 4:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Well obviously. :0) But wasn't making a point about that, just pointing out an error. I still agree with the statement even if doing it to a corpse. Good person wouldn't nor would one stand by and let it happen. \$\endgroup\$ – RonV Jan 31 '18 at 13:38
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It sounds like he is pretty much in character for a barbarian. I would award him inspiration. Story-wise though, like someone said earlier, civilized and good related places might react negatively, while other barbarians and some evil people or NPC's might relate positively.

How to deal with this? Have the world / NPC's react based on who or what they are when they discover this barbarians habits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited your reply for two reasons: 1) to put it in standard prose and 2) take your points and answer the question (which is at the bottom of the question "how would you suggest dealing with this)." Welcome to RPG.SE. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, nor Twitter. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how this site works best to offer answers to questions. A key to that is identifying what the question is, and what your answer is. (I added that last sentence since that seems to be your point). Please review the edit and edit it again if necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 2 '18 at 14:13

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