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I'm concocting a scenario for my players. In this scenario, in order to convince a ghost to hand over the keys to a valuable piece of property, they'll be given a quest:

"To redeem {a paladin who was afflicted with lycanthropy before becoming immune, who became chaotic evil after some time as a werewolf, and was then killed and became a Death Knight (as in MM2), who became a fallen-paladin blackguard (as per the DMG prestige class)}."

As I see it, they could satisfy the ghost by simply killing {the blackguard lycanthrope death knight NPC} and beating the ghost in a contest of diplomacy vs diplomacy after providing proof of death, but it either might not work (the ghost is pretty good at diplomacy) or my players might decide to do things properly all by themselves and attempt to truly redeem the fallen paladin and get the ghost's guaranteed support right from the start.

As I see it, to truly redeem this NPC, they'd have to kill the death knight since 'living' undead can't be resurrected. Then, after resurrecting her (as a now-living werewolf, not an undead one), they'd have to cure her lycanthropy using remove curse or similar, then offer atonement, which would allow the character to choose to reject the change of alignment forced by her lycanthropy, thus restoring her LG alignment and paladin abilities.

I've considered reincarnation, and the ghost wouldn't consider that any better than the NPC's death, since the ghost had a romantic connection to the NPC before her 'fall', and I'm not sure that reincarnation would correct the lycanthropy-induced alignment change.

I'm guessing that once the NPC is resurrected, curse removed and has atoned, their blackguard levels would be just HD with none of the blackguard abilities, much like a fallen paladin.

This is supposed to be complicated. they're supposed to be asking the ghost to surrender something extremely valuable, and I want to make the players work for it and level up a bit too.

So, my question is, have I correctly assessed the steps involved in this process of redemption, are there 'gotchas' that I haven't considered here, or an (undesirably) easier way of achieving the same result?

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2 Answers 2

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The redemption process sounds solid.

There's no particular way to shortcut this redemption process short of very high level spells along the lines of Wish, and the incredible specificity of the situation means I highly doubt any expansion books have some obscure instant-win button here. Even if they did, the chances of your players knowing and having these options is slim-to-none.

But that's not the weak link.

The way I see it, the main issue here is that it would take significantly less effort to just sidestep the quest entirely. Depending on your players, this could be in any number of ways. They could slay the ghost to take the keys by force, sneak in to steal the keys covertly, fabricate a replacement set of keys, pick or break the lock of whatever the keys go to, et cetera, et cetera.

Make sure there's something about the keys and the lock that makes them difficult to subvert. Not impossible, necessarily - players being clever and subverting your inteded goals is a feature and not a bug - but tough enough to make the players seriously consider this complicated redemption quest for an NPC.

Additionally, make sure the players build up enough sympathy for the paladin that they will want to go on the quest of their own accord. The ghost is one such avenue for this, so make sure you've got a really compelling character that the players will want to help. Foreshadowing the entire challenge by introducing a few NPCs who have been touched by this paladin's kindness would also help (even if lifespans mean they would have to be elves or elans). If the players just see the ghost as an obstacle and the paladin as a puzzle, they're going to try to subvert them in the easiest way available. That might be the route you want, but it might not be.

Don't stress what the players choose too much.

Sometimes, the players don't follow the plot the way you want or expect them to. If that starts to happen here, make sure you don't lose your composure and be ready to give a good challenge to whatever path they find.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Family lore could be a good source of people touched by the paladin without requiring especially long-lived races. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 9 at 19:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 'keys' aren't really physical keys, its a whole lot of knowledge about the secrets of a place that the PCs want to control. They could just find them all out the hard way. 'Keys' was a metaphor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Feb 10 at 2:08
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Don’t railroad your players

You have created an obstacle. That’s fine, that’s what a DM should do. However, you have also decided that there only a “one true path” of surpassing the obstacle. Bad DM; no biscuit!

Don’t do that. Don’t prep plots. Create toys for you and your players to play with.

Let your players devise their own solutions. Here’s one I came up with just now:

We all go back to town for a couple of weeks. Then we come back and the bard, who has expertise in deception, tells the ghost that we had a big fight where we disintegrated the paladin, fools the ghost who gives us the keys.

If I were the DM, I’d say “good idea, if it works you get the keys; if it doesn’t you’re going to have to deal with an angry ghost”. I get the feeling you would just disallow this; I may be wrong, but if you are, you should definitely change.

Of course, if they can disintegrate things, maybe they just disintegrate the lock and tell the ghost where he can shove his keys.

Also, don’t fixate on what redemption means. Let your players decide what it means and then with an open mind decide if you, as the ghost, agree with them. Perhaps it means the players righting the wrongs of the ex-paladin rather than confronting her. Perhaps it means imprisoning her for eternity as just retribution for her crimes. Just don’t box yourself into a corner by deciding you know all the solutions to the puzzle.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is just one possible way of solving the problem. It's just that the players like befriending NPCs. They have a choice between befriending and helping the ghost as described in my question, and ending up with the ghost and the paladin as friends, or just sweeping them all aside and doing a whole lot of investigation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Feb 10 at 2:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the issue of what redemption means is somewhat addressed by the system. There's a set definition for what it means to be redeemed as a paladin in 3.5, and most of the people who play 3.5 care significantly about what the rules say and allow. If this was a question for 5e, though, I would certainly agree more with the last paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10 at 14:18

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