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The 3 PCs enraged the main quest giver in my campaign by the PCs threatening to kill him and doing things to try to get more money out of him. They are level 1 and could easily get TPK'ed by this NPC. The main quest giver is part of my campaign's thief guild and has no mercy, but I don't want to TPK my party in the second session. What do I do to put them back in their place?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Purple Monkey, V2Blast, linksassin, Miniman, A_S00 Mar 5 at 0:06

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Please clarify your question. What do you mean by "enrage"? As the DM, are you in control of this NPC's actions? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Mar 4 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. This is a very broad question as currently written, and doesn't really provide many details on the situation. Also, given that you control the NPC and their personality... Why don't you just not kill them? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 4 at 23:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you can edit the question to include details about the party (level, number, classes), the NPC (abilities, social status, etc..) and the situation (what happened?) we will be able to provide you will advice. As written this is too broad and unclear. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 4 at 23:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why don't you want to TPK them? Do you feel that they would not learn from the experience? Is rolling up new characters something they are averse to? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 5 at 2:41
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Potentially consider non-lethal ways of demonstrating consequences

Letting it slide will diminish his credibility, and a TPK is definitely not ideal. Demonstrate his clear superiority with a cutscene moment if need be, but if they absolutely insist on fighting I'd let them.

In a current game we are playing, our party became indebted to some very bad people, essentially a thieves guild. They're forcing us to perform jobs for them. This turned an impossible fight into one of the driving factors for the story.

You don't have to have the "take a family member hostage and force them to obey thieves guild", but something that shows actions have consequences when you're low on the pecking order is a good idea.

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You control the NPC and there are several reasons for a generic NPC to avoid attacking.

Even if your NPC has "no mercy" and is enraged there is any number of reasons why the NPC would not attack them. Most people have been enraged more than once in their lives without committing multiple murders. For one thing, cleaning up bodies is messy under the best of situations, and even more so if you need to do so in a way that will not get you tied to multiple murders.

Not to mention that once you step outside of the mechanics of D&D, fights are dangerous and unpredictable, especially against multiple opponents. 5e's bounded accuracy was introduced partially to help bring that back into the rules. If your NPC is a (demi-)human, they should not be all that confident, within the story, that they will walk away completely unscathed from a fight against a whole party, no matter how high level they are because combat is chaotic. You haven't said how the party enraged your NPC, but if it is something petty the danger to your NPC, at least within the story if not mechanically, should make them think twice about fighting several enemies.

Since there are multiple reasons for your NPC to not create a total party kill, the question is how to move forward and that depends on the details of the situation.

Talk to your players and consider changing course.

Depending on the situation, this could be an implicit signal from your players that they do not like this NPC or the quest he is offering at that point there are a couple of general ways to address this. One is to follow their lead, change directions, and provide a different quest giver with a different quest. This one could fade into the background for now, perhaps to bring out a more subtle vengeance later. Another is to go out of character and discuss the situation with them. Especially when the group is new there is nothing wrong with asking directly what they don't like, why, and how they would like to see it changed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Not to mention that once you step outside of the mechanics of D&D, fights are dangerous and unpredictable, especially against multiple opponents." Sure, but they are in DnD. People being strong and superior fighters is part of the world. A lvl20 fighter surviving a trashing by a dragon is perfectly normal and expected. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin S. Mar 5 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinS. I must beg to differ in two ways. First, in most material, a lvl 20 fighter is a legend. Meeting one is not normal or expected for an average person. Second, hit points are an abstraction that includes things like being able to avoid damage, divine favor, and luck. In other words, unless the level 20 fighter is packing serious magic to keep them alive, within the fiction a single well placed dagger strike is life threatening. With 5e placing less emphasis on magic items and using bounded accuracy, this is somewhat closer to true mechanically then it was in, say, 3E or 3.5E. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Mar 5 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ You assume the world is one way, and DnD models it very inaccurately. Why not go the other way, and assume that while the modeling is never perfect, the DnD world looks more like the model than our reality, and fights between high and low level characters are really only dangerous to one side? \$\endgroup\$ – Martin S. Mar 6 at 6:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinS. That is a reasonable position to take, but its not the position any of the in-fiction descriptions I have yet seen takes. Also remember that the question is tagged with 5e which deliberately makes a group of low-level threats more dangerous to a high level character than they were in some other editions. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Mar 6 at 16:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Offtopic somewhat, but you should really read Paul S. Kemp's Forgotten Realms literature. He portrays high level characters as they would look if the rules were (liberally, mind you, you don't hear the dice rolling in the background) applied. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin S. Mar 6 at 18:26

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