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So, I am running a heroic campaign where a bunch of "god's chosen" people (led by the cleric in the party) are preparing to become the "spear's end" in the war with fiends who plan to invade the kingdom. So the kingdom is human-oriented as well as the whole setting. Elves and dwarves are more independent kingdoms. In general (to cut this short), the world is inspired by Tolkien's but more D&D-ish.

The party is level 5 already. They have a reputation as the heroes in the big coastal city (called New Star). The party consists of 5 players.

The general story tensions right now are:

  1. They need to complete the ritual of "helping" 7 deities (3 out of 7 complete) to become more powerful; they need to do that before the enemy strikes; they don't know the deadline date.

  2. A bunch of cultists figured out that the cleric is a Champion of the Gods and he needs to be killed; so they tried to straight up kill him in the fight; that didn't work; now they are plotting onto him; first they blackmail one of the party members who is in love with one lady; they kidnapped the lady and gave the guy 2 days to kill his own brother!

  3. The party has a dwarf (fighter) and an elven lady (ranger); humans are really interested in what the others (other races) are planning on doing in this war; can these two be a diplomatic force that will rally troops to help the human kingdom;

But... For some reason my elf lady and the party's rogue decided to rob a jewelry store. And they failed so hard that it's insane. So they kill (straight up kill!) the owner after the rogue fails a few 'ruse' checks because they (the player) were frustrated by this. Then they both try to kill the guard of the jewelry (a mercenary), who escapes and goes straight up to the city watch. So the elf and rogue decide, "Ok, we didn't plan to kill the guy, but if he is dead, let's take what we can!" They take a huge amount of jewelry and run through the backdoor into the streets before the city watch arrives.

What is my problem with all of this? Meanwhile, the 3 other players' characters were doing some heroic stuff trying to do good for people. The whole party were invited to the City Council this night! They are heroes! The city loves them! They helped the city a lot (we started at level 1; and every quest was to help others). And now this...

I need some advice. Because so far I see the city administration just executing these two magnificent bastards (Bonnie and Clyde). Is it okay to just sentence your players' characters to death by the law?

My players and I are ok (we talked about it on session 0) with NPCs being smart. The party messed up, and messed up big. It is only a matter of time until smart NPCs figure out who killed the guy and who robbed the jewelry.

My main problem is that I don't wanna kill these PCs, but if I don't, players will think I just went easy on them. I don't have ideas how to gently rule this one situation out.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Purple Monkey, Sdjz, Tiggerous, NautArch, Ifusaso Apr 1 at 12:19

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. It's not clear what question you're asking us to answer here. It seems like a broad idea-generation type question, which are usually primarily opinion-based and not a good fit for StackExchange's Q&A format; such questions are generally better suited to a forum. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 1 at 7:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Title asks do you need to do it, body says is it okay to do it. Answers to these questions will (at least could) be different. Please your question consistent. Also, please state your main goal. Do you want consistency in the world? Do you want to have fun? Do you want to kill PCs and need to know how? Do you want to spare them?.. And so on. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Apr 1 at 7:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please do not use expletives on Stack Exchange. F-bombs edited out. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 1 at 10:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh. i am sorry for my language. I thought we have PG16+ here. \$\endgroup\$ – Femuel Fox Apr 1 at 14:33
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Weregild is a great tool here: Actions have Consequences

Since your world is Tolkienish, you can apply some medieval concepts to deal with this kind of thing. It begins with the city's reaction: a "Wanted, Dead or Alive" proclamation comes from the city's law enforcement, spread by town criers, hand bills - but make sure to include the other three players as part of the larger effort to bring these murderers to justice! Make them part of the solution. Those three join the posse to hunt the miscreants down. (You can sell this through NPC's as their honor and reputation being at risk due to association ...)

The two murderers become outlaw,

In historical legal systems, an outlaw is declared as outside the protection of the law. In pre-modern societies, the criminal is withdrawn all legal protection, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute or kill them. Outlawry was thus one of the harshest penalties in the legal system. In early Germanic law, the death penalty is conspicuously absent, and outlawing is the most extreme punishment, presumably amounting to a death sentence in practice. The concept is known from Roman law, as the status of homo sacer, and persisted throughout the Middle Ages.

They remain under sentence of death, unless ...

... the two PCs must make restitution

In a world that you describe as "a lot like Tolkien's" you can use this opportunity to illustrate how actions have consequences, and how the two can start to get out from under a death sentence by making restitution to the town/family/community.

  1. Return the stolen material
  2. Pay weregild for the dead persons(the price needs to be steep)
  3. Incur/fulfill other obligations or debts of honor. Those need to fit your campaign.

Weregild.
If property was stolen, or someone was injured or killed, the guilty person would have to pay weregild as restitution to the victim's family or to the owner of the property. Weregild payment was an important legal mechanism in early Germanic society; the other common form of legal reparation at this time was blood revenge. The payment was typically made to the family or to the clan. No distinction was made between murder and manslaughter until these distinctions were instituted by the re-introduction of Roman law in the 12th century.

The other three party members help recover this situation.

The two have already split the party. The other three party members have a vested interest in keeping the party together, one presumes, so they need to vouch for the good conduct of these two who breached the peace once they are apprehended, or turn themselves in. Or, they need to keep their own honor intact and thus help to punish to murderers, which begins to take on a PvP character ... and that takes table consensus.

Hunt them down and kill them, roll up new characters: does this fit?

You have the option to create a PvP scenario where the three remaining party members join the posse, hunt down the two killers, and either kill them during the encounter or capture them. If capture, you can go with condemned to death, or consider the weregild approach above. This is an an opportunity to have the two who went all murderhobo to roll up new characters after the PC's are hunted down and either killed, or executed.

Caveat! Before taking this approach, sit down with all five players and see if this kind of "going down in a blaze of glory" suits the table's tastes.

  1. If yes, go for it as it makes sense "in-world" for it to go down that way.

  2. If not, then the capture and make restitution is probably a better way to move your game forward.

    Either way, this is a great way to play out how Actions have Consequences.

How we did it in old days ...

We used weregild and outlaw conventions quite a bit in the AD&D 1e games I played in and DM'd the 80's to handle stuff like this when PC's crossed the line. I've seen the "condemned and roll up a new char" work, and the "make restitution, pay the weregild" work, but it will vary by table in terms of the group's tastes. Lay the two options out for your players and see which fits their tastes better.

5e experience

My experience (player side) in 5e with a murdering PC saw the DM make the world react to our being (in their eyes) accomplices. The honor/reputation of all six of us was at stake. There were wanted posters up for him, but none of us had been around for the crime. Simple "guilt by association" messed up the party's reputation.

Our efforts at restitution began with four of us going to meet with the officials, the social encounter turning into a hostile encounter, one player escaping and three of us (me included) being captured and confined. Then the other three PC's put together a rescue mission to get us out of there. The first session of the rescue mission progressed to where our release was pending, and then ... dun dun dun! ... the game ended due to RL. The DM became unavailable for work reasons, and his wife's health, and then the murderer PC dropped out due to a work schedule change. Some day, we may finish the rescue mission. Cliff hanger!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Dude, thanks a lot! Mostly you just confirmed that my pre thought on this situation are right! I can handle this one now) Have some ideas. \$\endgroup\$ – Femuel Fox Apr 1 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry) I am new here. How do I do it? Ok! Found it! \$\endgroup\$ – Femuel Fox Apr 2 at 8:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank a lot again) From all of ppl here i think you were the only one who actuallt tried to understand and wanted to help. \$\endgroup\$ – Femuel Fox Apr 2 at 8:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FemuelFox Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 2 at 10:45

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