I am DMing the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure.

One of my characters is planning on having his ideal be "Stealing is ok if they have something you want", and he says his character will be "skilled in thievery", and his hobby will be "collecting spoons".

I can see this player becoming problematic when they get caught. I have already figured out the punishment from the Code Legal handout given in the book and it goes as follows:

"Flogging followed by imprisonment up to a tenday, hard labor up to a year, or a fine equal to the value of the stolen goods."

I then figured out the punishment if any character attempts to hide any evidence, and that goes as follows:

"Fine up to 200 gp and hard labor up to a tenday"

I don't want to bog the game down with too much down time, I don't want to exclude the player and I want to keep it realistic. How do I prevent this?

P.S. I doubt that the player will change their character, and the party has been given:

the code legal and Volo’s Waterdeep Enchiridion so far.

  • Have you talked to the player about how he plans to roleplay this ideal and hobby? Compulsive kleptomania would be quite different from intelligently stealing things only when nobody's around to notice. – V2Blast Sep 17 at 2:29
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    wait wait wait wait.. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist has a list of rules for breaking specific laws? – Yates Sep 17 at 7:24
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    ...Why do you have these things spoilered out? Am I missing something that'd ruin the adventure if you know in advance the punishment for stealing? – Nic Hartley Sep 17 at 17:20
  • @NicHartley though the code legal is listed as a handout i figured some DMs may wish to change it to better suit their groups so figured I had better spoiler them. there is nothing there that is otherwise going to spoil the plot or stats in the book. – rpgstar Sep 30 at 12:09
  • @rpgstar Ah, that's fair. I honestly think it'd be better to add a note saying exactly that -- i.e. "some DMs may wish to change it to better suit their groups" -- rather than having things spoilered out. No harm either way, though. – Nic Hartley Oct 1 at 0:50
up vote 35 down vote accepted

Let Waterdeep take care of it.

I had a similar situation where a player got into a chase in broad daylight, started falling behind their quarry, and pulled out a scroll of fireball.

SCREEECH went the brakes.

"Um, you're going to rip off a fireball?"

[grinning] "Yup."

"In Waterdeep."

[grinning] "Yup."

"In broad daylight."

[grinning] "Yup."

"You've read the code legal, right?" (I'd given handouts of it to all players during session zero.)

[grinning] "Yup."

I gave him a few rounds to try to get away, cast disguise self, hide, anything really. But he proceeded blithely along as a platoon of guards shut down the block and the crowd pointed him out as the assailant. And he confessed to the crime.

That character spent I-forget-how-long in jail, and that player made a new character to join the party.

Problem solved.

  • Now I'm just curious what the player was thinking (and what his character would have been thinking). – V2Blast Sep 17 at 2:28
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    Given the player (whom I like a lot and who is very often the gm for his school's group) I suspect it was "let's see what the sheep'll do with this one!" – nitsua60 Sep 17 at 13:11
  • @nitsua60 I'm probably just missing something obvious, but I don't see anything in the code legal about casting spells. Did he assault/kill someone? – Duncan X Simpson Sep 17 at 19:00
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    @DuncanXSimpson with a fireball in the middle of a broad-daylight city street? Yes, yes he did. Very many someones. – nitsua60 Sep 17 at 22:59
  • @nitsua60 Right, I was thinking Flaming Sphere, not Fireball. That at least could have a chance of not having anyone in range. – Duncan X Simpson Sep 17 at 23:07

You might want to closely read the sections in Life in Waterdeep entitled "Breaking the Law" and "Arresting Characters".

If you don't want to spend too much time dealing with arresting the miscreant you can follow one of the suggestions in the adventure:

If the threat of arrest becomes tedious, you can switch to the second approach, which is to merely inform the players that one or more characters have been arrested. You can describe the arrest, the subsequent detention, and the events leading up to the trial.

You may have trouble excluding the character, if in fact they end up stacking significant time. In gritty life-of-crime-on-the-streets-type TV shows, they sometimes say to the person heading off to the big house that you only do two days, your first day, and your last day, and the rest don't matter.

The book suggests other outcomes as well, which are worth reading closely.

And finally:

Given how strictly laws are enforced in Waterdeep, it’s possible that the adventure could end with one or more of the characters being exiled, sentenced to several years of hard labor, imprisoned, or put to death. If that’s how their adventure ends, so be it. Hopefully, your next group will fare better.

Good luck!

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    Don't be a criminal, I think is the moral of the story. And for most groups, having to re-roll once should be enough. – phyrfox Sep 17 at 15:17
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    @phyrfox: On behalf of players with the Criminal and possibly Charlatin backgrounds, as well players of the Rogue and some Bards, I think the moral is modified to "don't get caught" :P. – sharur Sep 17 at 16:53

In this particular case, there may be many solutions unique to each situation in which the PC could be caught. Since his fascination is with spoons, the opportunity to steal is really only presented when dining (or when otherwise in a kitchen where a spoon is available). The only NPCs likely to dine with the PCs are likely to be those that might not be inclined to call upon the guard to deal with their problems, be they criminals or wealthy people with their own security, or people quite capable of dealing out their own punishment (Acq Inc from PAX West 2018 provides one example). Others might not deem it worthwhile - stealing a spoon from a local inn or pub might simply be ignored as it might be the sort of thing that happens everyday and an accepted cost of doing business.

If the character strays away from spoons and starts pilfering other valuables, then the same rules hold, though the opportunity for theft widens considerably. Again, some people will simply deal with the problem themselves (or with their own resources) and some might choose to ignore it depending on the value of the good and their own interests with regard to the PCs (e.g. "I'm glad that you will take care of this little problem for me, and please, consider the coins your friend here lifted from my person as a down payment") - perhaps even using it as leverage over them ("tell you what - you do me this favor, and I'll forget this unfortunate incident").

Getting caught pick pocketing a random commoner off the street, however, will almost certainly result in the city guard being called in, but the examples I've shown are merely to illustrate that there are alternatives that can keep the game from devolving (evolving?) into a legal drama. In fact, penalizing the party as a whole by denying them leverage in a negotiation, etc, a time or two might encourage said party to help reign in the proclivities of the thief.

And also relevant:

Because spoon

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