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Introduction

I guess most GMs have had a group of murderhobos in their sessions before and there are quite a few nice answers dealing with how to react to them, these threads have nice answers, but I fear my problem is a bit too complicated for general punishment of the whole group.

Backstory

I have dealt with quite a few murderhobos already, but mostly they were only a few in a group that strongly opposed them. A few months ago I started a new homebrewed campaign loosely based on DSA (in English: The Black Eye) rules, which started quite fine. Most of my players are rather reserved, so most actions of the group as a whole are decided by a few, who take up the initiative. One of these few is my star player. He has played Pen&Paper for years and it is a pleasure to have him in my party, as most of the more inexperienced players still lack the confidence to interact with the world vividly.

Unfortunately he has also quite a temper as well as a borderline aggressive vibe. He gets angry fast, takes things personal and gets grumpy and loud as soon as things don't go his way. NPCs that are hostile or offensive to him end up on his kill-list pretty soon. This happens quite regularly, as the group plays as Witchers, which aren't treated with much hospitality. He doesn't care about NPCs, plots to kill guards and royalty and beats shopkeepers into submission, because he claims they disrespected him with their prices. He played a murderous viking in a one-shot adventure I held before and now has a rather feeble and laid back character, but doesn't play him much different.

Examples

  • Due to some unfortunate accidents with black magic the group ended up wreaking havoc to a local inn, which caused the other innkeepers in my village to stop serving them. My problem-player saw this as disrespectful, knocked that guy out cold, prohibited (threatened) the rest of the group from tending to him and 'took over' the inn.
  • Due to some critical fails in bartering, my problem-player convinced a local scribe – twice – that his map of the region is worth more than he is currently demanding, after raising the price to something my group couldn't afford. The problem player tortured that poor scribe until he fainted and would've killed him, if not for another player.
  • Having anyone look down upon him will make my problem player immediately plot to kill him. I created an easy-to-antagonize Baron for whom they are currently doing some jobs. Each time they meet him I have to gently remind my murderhobo about the castle full of well-armed guards, who definitively can end their adventure on the spot, as soon as they notice him attempting an attack against that baron again.

Punishment

I thought about several ways to get him to stop treating these people poorly, but I doubt any of them will help. I thought about:

  • Reminding him to act according to the rather gentle nature of his current character (which he made himself)

    Problem: His personality clearly somewhat reflects in his character and I doubt that this will be a long term solution. I already had a talk with him, after he complained - in character - how the dungeon boss deals too much damage and then left the fight, slamming the door behind like an offended teenager. It got better, but not for long.

  • Removing him from the group

    Problem: As I said he is one of my most active players. He advances my plot and the group would greatly suffer without him. (We had sessions without him, so I know the others aren't just intimidated)

  • Punish them for their crimes

    Problem: I plan to do that somehow, but I fear that general punishment will have quite the opposite effect, as my violent player would get even more mad while the others are dragged along into committing even more crimes. I even had one campaign come to an end by mass-suicide, because I had a few murderhobos in my last group, who thought the best idea to break free from a encirclement of a superior enemy was to behead, gut or ignite the few important prisoners they had taken previously.

  • Only punish my problem-player.

    Problem: I didn't find a way to not make it look like I am picking on him, which would escalate the situation. It also wouldn't make much sense for the villagers to not condemn the whole group of strange outsiders, if their supposed leader has just reinforced their prejudices.

The Group

The group doesn't necessary agree with the actions of my murderhobo, but doesn't oppose them either, so they just follow.

Since playing as Witcher was my idea, as I liked the whole 'Monster Hunter' setup, I asked my group on several occasions if they would like to abolish the Witcher-plot and play on as brigands or mercenaries, since they didn't seem to internalize the whole concept, as none of them ever read or played the source material, but they decided they would like to stay as Witcher.

I don't mind them stirring up some trouble. In fact Geralt of Rivia himself has more than enough brawls and fights with harassing peasants in the games and books. But maiming everyone who makes abusive remarks to the Witchers makes the whole campaign stressful and boring to me, as no matter what encounters I plan, they'll end up brawling with the city guard. And yet again, none of the other players seems to be in for that kind of progression.

Question

I think the best way my problem-player would reflect on his previous behavior to be less violent, would be if he met opposition from within the group. Although nobody seems too happy about going in the direction my murderhobo is leading them, nobody stands up against him either.

How can I help my rather reserved players to discipline their murderhobo, if they don't agree with his violent ways?

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Make an explicit and clear reputation system, minimize antagonism, and don't make failure mean incompetence.

Reputation system

The Witcher originally had a reputation system to handle such issues.

At any rate Geralt's reputation had an impact on his environment and, in particular, on the NPCs with whom he interacts. A good example is the diversity of bandits. If Geralt had a bad reputation it was easier for him to get information and even support from bandits. He could engage them to help him in several ways to complete any given mission when he was in need of a bit of extra backup. The game trailer about the decision system in the game offers one option to solve the quest: Geralt with a bad reputation makes a deal with thugs to help him. Of course Geralt with a bad reputation building a rapport with "the criminal element" should take care to avoid the City Guard who already have a poor view of witchers and probably would not hesitate to arrest him.

If the witcher had a good reputation, then he would be likely not to tangle with bandits. They would not help him, they would likely be even more hostile. But on the other hand Geralt probably would get support from the "good guys", the City Guard. Possibly this could have avoided bribes. Likely he would get more support and information from townsfolk and peasants as well.

I suggest you impose something similar. Talk to your players, mention this system and mention you are importing it. If they act as violent thugs, bandits and evil people will like them and the city guard and good people will hate them, and vice versa. The players clearly are not grasping this, so making this more explicit will help them decide what to do.

Minimize antagonism

I'd also suggest more care with insults around players. Geralt is a single dude, and has difficulty brawling with a group of town guards. The players are a group of powerful Witchers. It doesn't make sense for most people to berate a group of heavily armed thugs with a reputation for torturing people to death. Players killing people who insult them isn't a super surprising thing.

Failure doesn't mean incompetence

With bartering and similar rolls, rather than treating a failure as "You are a bad person, and you suck at this" make more use of unlucky coincidences.

So, the player comes in to barter for a certain good at a certain price. They roll, they fail. Rather than having this be "You critically fail, you are a bad person." have it be "I am so sorry sir, the local guard bought out most of my stock of maps because they are planning a raid on a local cave with a monster, all I have left is my personal map, that my dear daughter drew for me personally. I could part for it if you have some dire need, but it will cost you. Or, I could point you in the direction of the guard- they could always use more warm bodies for this monster."

Make a failure interesting, pointing towards the plot, and have it not insult the player's competence. Many players hate that a poor roll means their character sucks at doing things. Limit that, especially with the problem player, and you'll have less antagonism, and you have a chance to humanize your people so that people are less likely to kill them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you misunderstood the part about failure a little. Rolling a 20 (which would be a 1 in DnD) would result in a 'critacl failure', which can be a self inflicted wound in combat or - in terms of bartering - raising the price instead of lowering it. They were not seen as bad people because if this, not until my murderhobo decided "fuck this, let's kill him". I like the reputation system you mentioned, but I am looking for a way to have my group realize their actually quite positive reputation gets quickly tarnished by my murderhobo without branding the whole group as criminals right away. \$\endgroup\$ – Azzarrel Apr 17 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't misunderstand it. I am noting that if they fail, get a nat 1, their critical failure should be explained as due to bad circumstances, not their own failure as a person. To use your example, rather than having an experienced and skilled warrior self injure themselves (a very incompetent and dumb move) their enemy's skill allows them to force the blade back into them. The same bad thing happens, but your murderhobo won't be so annoyed. The reputation thing works. If the group does good things they can outweigh the murderhoboness, but it will be harder to maintain a good reputation. \$\endgroup\$ – Nepene Nep Apr 17 at 20:11
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NPCs that are hostile or offensive to him end up on his kill-list pretty soon. This happens quite regularly, as the group plays as Witchers, which aren't treated with much hospitality.

I think a lot of groups would find this reasonable. I have been in many groups where most players signed up for a combat-centric game and most players quit when the DM insisted on making them kowtow to boring NPCs. The point of playing a Witcher is not to play a cringing, servile peon. A Witcher is a highly vulnerable character who sometimes has access to devastating power, but who frequently has to run from danger.

However, if these guys are Witchers, they may have powerful charm spells available. I would start by awarding extra XP to characters who can charm and brainwash NPCs without killing or injuring them. Depending on the tone of the campaign, Witchers might have high charisma bonuses for persuading the opposite sex also.

If all else fails, contrive some silly excuse to keep them tramping through a desolate swamp, with nothing but Drowners and Foglets to keep them company.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you mistake witcher as warlocks. Witchers are in fact rather tough brutes and treated as peons to kill monster in their lore. Everyone who has played skyrim probably also knows, that simply telling someone he looks like someone stole his sweetroll or like he doesn't get to the cloud district very often will make you wanna kill this person, but carving a new smile into everyone that said something mildly offensive to you in a hostile world won't get you pretty far. \$\endgroup\$ – Azzarrel Apr 15 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Azzarrel Aksji and Somne can certainly help. Not quite a brainwashing, but helps. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Apr 16 at 9:30
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OK, I am going to start with some tough love and then offer you some advice to move forward.

First, it is not up to your players to control this problem player. You are the gameMASTER. That is your job. Especially since you created this problem in the first place. You allowed things to get this far. You established a precedent that this player could get away with being a murderhobo without penalty. Did it ever occur to you that your reserved players are not saying anything because you (the person running the game) isn't saying anything? So, it is on you to course correct. Having already established the precedent that the players will not face logical consequences for illogical behavior, you can't just suddenly switch back and start enforcing realistic results. You are going to need to have a conversation with the whole group. Explain to them that just because it is a fantasy setting doesn't mean they can get away with being serial killers - no matter what imagined provocation they think they have. Look at it this way, if someone calls you a name on the street right now - would the police look the other way if you pulled out an axe and chopped them into pieces? Of course not. So the players need to acknowledge that the same holds true in the game.

This will serve to establish for the group as a whole that when (not if) your problem player acts out again, the consequences are of his own making because he knew what he was getting into. Understand that this is a dominance game on the part of the player and it has nothing to do with playing a character (which you already said he isn't doing) and everything to do with an immature knobhead interfering with everyone's enjoyment so he can feel better about himself. Mature players do not throw a tantrum and storm out of a game because the boss is doing too much damage. You are not responsible for the poor decisions he makes nor is it your job to heal his insecurity issues. Your job is to run a fun game that everyone at the table can enjoy. If one player is causing problems for everyone else then get rid of the problem. Your reserved players are not going to get better if they are being bullied at the table. Instead, they are going to eventually stop playing. The next time he murders someone send in the guards to beat the whole party into submission and throw the lot of them into the dungeon. Roleplay the investigation into the crime and let the local cops figure out that this idiot was the primary culprit and the others were just drawn into things. Tar and feather him, cut off his hand, and banish the whole party from the town for 10 years upon pain of death if they return. And follow through on that threat if they do come back. This was, BTW, an actual punishment in Medieval times for people who continually caused trouble in towns. Do NOT kill the character. Force him to live with the consequences of his bad behavior. Give him a few games to suffer and then turn the lost hand into an advantage. Give him a silver plated hook or something so that he knows he can put the past behind him IF he behaves himself.

Now, let's talk about your world setup. How often are the players facing prejudice for being witchers? What do those encounters look like? How often do these encounters take place? Now go and compare them to the scenes in the Witcher novels and video games that show Gerault dealing with prejudice. Notice any differences?

These scenes don't happen all that often. The majority of the people that Gerault interacts with are at least civil to his face and more than a few are quite friendly. Typically, the prejudice shows up in snide comments behind his back. The encounters where people are blatantly rude to his face fall into three categories. Category 1 - Rulers, Nobles, and other powerful people (such as gang leaders) in the seat of their authority and backed by literal armies of armed guards ready to swarm Gerault and kill him. Sure, he may kill a few, maybe even a lot, but eventually he knows he is going to lose. Category 2 - angry mobs of commoners waving torches and pitchforks. These guys may not have the legal authority that the Kings in cat 1 have but the result is the same - there are enough of them to assure Gerault's destruction if he doesn't watch himself. Category 3 - small groups of nobodies who are just there so Gerault can beat the crap out of them. Cat 1 & 2 are not combat encounters and attempts to turn them into one are obviously going to end up with PC deaths. Cat 3 is a combat encounter that players are intended to win. They will leave the players feeling good about themselves. But all three encounters are few and far between. You only need one or two of these encounters per story to get across that witchers get treated unfairly. The bulk of your encounters, like the bulk of Gerault's encounters, should generally be positive or at least neutral. People dislike witchers because they fear them and they fear them with good reason. Witchers are stronger, faster, and have scary magics. Joe the Townie is not going to risk angering a heavily armed and violent mutant unless they know they are going to win if the lunatic with the two swords goes crazy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. You have some massive paragraphs; you may want to break them up further into smaller paragraphs, and possibly use section headings so people can easily understand how your answer is organized. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 24 at 3:49
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It sounds like you're having a theme disagreement with your group.

  • Your group wants to play a game where the characters raid and pillage and murder anyone who disagrees with them, and they don't really suffer consequences for it.
  • You want to run a game where the characters are polite and law-abiding members of society even though most of society is rude to them.

There are three obvious ways to resolve this.

The first option is to run the game you want. Politely explain to the group that you're not interested in running a game where the group are criminals. You can try enforcing this with aggressive police/military presence, but I've found a much less disruptive approach is "Just Say No": if someone tries to do something that would provoke an aggressive police response and sideline a lot of the plot, just tell them they can't do that in this game.

The second option is to run the game they want. Let them be murderhobos, and never make them suffer consequences for it. When they show up in town, they find all the wealthy NPCs have run off because they're afraid of getting beaten up. Townsfolk are fearful and groveling in their presence. It may not be super realistic, but if your players are having fun (and if you're still having fun), there's no harm in it.

A third option is to try to compromise. You've told us that the group are playing Witchers and aren't treated with much hospitality; change your mind about that. Decide that this group has a reputation for being mean when treated badly, and have all the NPCs be polite to them as a result. But try to keep them away from NPCs they might be tempted to mistreat: the villages they go to are full of penniless civilians with nothing worth stealing, and they spend a lot of time in the wilderness fighting bandits and monsters.


I'd like to note that the game you're trying to run -- where the group is polite and law-abiding members of society even though they're "not treated with much hospitality" -- doesn't sound like much fun. Part of the fun of playing an RPG is being a hero in front of NPCs. If you're instead narrating encounters where all the NPCs are mean to the players because of baseless prejudice, it's maybe not surprising that the players are fighting back.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note to your note: if players have read Witcher books and decided to play Witcher RPG, game OP is trying to run is exactly what they signed up for and OP is doing good job trying to deliver what promised. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Apr 15 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ But if OP decided he wanted to run the Witcher RPG, and the players said "I dunno what that is, sure, let's try it", that might be a different. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Apr 15 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let's adress a few points: My group is against the problem-players actions, but aside from a rather wispered protest they take no action against him and due to their reserved nature nobody want's to 'dethrone' him as 'leader', so they just follow. They also all agreed (I asked them on multiple occasions) that they like to be witcher (despite not knowing much about the lore). It is okay for me to have them react to the hostile world, but getting contracts when beating people up or killing them is quite hard and I think the rest of my players will suffer for the misbehavior of one of them. \$\endgroup\$ – Azzarrel Apr 15 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Azzarrel so they didn't know about the lore before they started? In such case DanB is right in his last paragraph, I'm afraid. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Apr 16 at 9:24

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