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Dilemma involving dubiously acquired treasure

 
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DuncanM
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:20 pm    Post subject: Dilemma involving dubiously acquired treasure Reply with quote

*** Note to Dylan S, this thread concerns Sir Guy Gallant and his compatriots, please do not read as this may contain spoilers ***

I've been running a homebrew fantasy game for a little while now and all of us are enjoying it quite a bit. The setting is D&Desque high fantasy in the mercantile age with magic, monsters, merchants, nobles, etc. The gist of it is that there are a group of demons who have essentially doppelgangered their way into powerful positions in the region that the PCs are in and are now using their ill gotten power in various ways to destabilize the region and generally cause trouble. The PCs are on a mission to smoke out these evildoers and win the day (Huzzah!).

The most recent demon they discovered was posing as a local Bishop who went on a mission to recruit followers for what was essentially a cult, an offshoot of the Church of Pelor, the Sun God. He gathered followers from many of the nearby towns and eventually descended on one village, killed everyone who didn't join the cause, then conducted a mass suicide. He then raised the dead to form a zombie army which would then have wreaked havoc across the countryside, growing in number as the body count grew. Instead, the PCs intervened and managed to kill the Bishop (and over 100 zombies) in one of the most epic battles we've ever had (close to 200 minis on the table). They then found the treasure that the Bishop had gained through his campaign of manipulation and slaughter.

The treasure was 90,000 Doubloons. Very substantial; game-changing if not game-breaking. I wanted to impress upon the PCs that this was basically Nazi gold and that they should think carefully about whether they had the legal or moral right to take it. One of my players, an Arthurian knight with the Code of Honor Hindrance, stated that this was a duly won prize captured in war and that the spoils of war go to the victors.

This was a creative solution, but I'm still feeling uneasy about it. I'm wondering how some of you guys would handle this sort of thing and what, if any, the consequences should be for taking gold that was conned or outright stolen from innocent people. I don't want to 'punish' my players, but I can't shake the feeling that they did something morally wrong and are a little too comfortable with it.

It is fair to note that they did give some of their treasure to the townspeople who managed to flee the town during the slaughter, and who returned after the PCs had made it safe again, but most of the PCs still took the lion's share.

So, are these ill gotten gains or legitimate loot? Should I even bother with any consequences? What can I do to balance the karma?
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SlasherEpoch
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, I don't really have a problem with it.


A bunch of people will chime in with ways to punish the players, but...

they killed a hundred zombies. They get the gold.

I say you can change the direction of the game now, if you want. The PCs can buy coats of arms, a small estate, they can do almost anything - give them options to take huge chunks of it off their hands, not punish them for having it.
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DuncanM
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like I said, I don't want to punish them, per se. The gold is theirs and good for them. I was more wondering if anyone had a suggestion for maybe an encounter or problem that might result in them having it. Like, say, the God Pelor, who was slighted by the Bishop and further slighted by the PCs possessing gold taken unjustly in his name, appears before the PCs and asks them to perform a task to make things right, or else face his wrath. In this way they would be able to balance the scales of justice and might curry favour with a god, who may even reward them further if they prove themselves to truly be champions of justice.

I love the idea of my PCs having enough gold to do interesting things like buy land, build a church, start a yoga studio, whatever. I don't have any metagame concerns, I just have some in-game angst that I want to resolve. If they encounter some sort of challenge related to their newfound riches, it would show my players that their actions have consequences, which would make the game even more immersive. Plus, that sort of thing is fun.
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UmbraLux
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Dilemma involving dubiously acquired treasure Reply with quote

DuncanM wrote:
So, are these ill gotten gains or legitimate loot? Should I even bother with any consequences? What can I do to balance the karma?
Put it this way, can any heirs and specific amounts owed be identified? If there is a legal method of tracking the gold, you might have heirs dun them for it. But I suspect that will be a small fraction of the total at best.

If you really want to create a dilemma in the future, I recommend using items which are easily identifiable. Art, particularly famous art, unique pieces of jewelry, the crown jewels, and similar items. Pieces which will be difficult to sell without destroying them...and pieces with known owners.
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UmbraLux
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DuncanM wrote:
If they encounter some sort of challenge related to their newfound riches, it would show my players that their actions have consequences, which would make the game even more immersive. Plus, that sort of thing is fun.
The obvious is thieves, bonus points if you can blur the lines about whether or not they may be heirs. Also, every crackpot and snake oil salesman who can get there should show up...all with some scheme to get rich off the PCs. Mix in a few legitimate charities and business ventures for spice.
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Connallmac
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And don't forget the newly instituted windfall taxes! The king has to fund his army somehow.
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robert4818
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would lay a curse upon the gold. It doesn't directly affect the PC's, but it starts to spread it's taint to all of the people they give the gold to in spending it.

At first, people just get flu like symptoms, but eventually all of these atrocities start happening in all of the places where they've been spending the cash. The people they charge to care for/hold/defend the cash (it is 90k after all) also suffer from the taint.

Do it subtle, and then let them slowly realize that the gold they've been spending like water is the cause of the problem. An entire long story arc can be wrapped around the concept of re-aquiring and de-cursing the gold.

Sort of a REVERSE Pirates of the Caribbean. THEY aren't affected, but everyone else is.
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Winsling
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, so the knight thinks it's legit. Why does anyone care what he thinks? Does his liege agree? Does the local baron? Does the church? Do the survivors/heirs? Will the next innkeeper spit on his shadow and be mysteriously full up? Depending on the feudalism structure set up, everything within the borders from the rivers to the plows might technically belong to the nobles. If there's any legal standing, I can see the local powers getting very technical about exactly what's allowed with "their" gold.

I don't see it as a punishment - it's just taking the campaign in a different direction in response to their choices. You know, gaming.
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evilscience
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a Serenity comic that deals with this exact issue.

I'd say taint the gold. Nothing to major, just something that reminds them of their moral failings.

OR if your more ornery like me, have every penny they spend contribute the power source or the machinations of a major evil.
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SlasherEpoch
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why did you include such a substantial treasure if you actually wanted them to give it away or be taken aback by the morality involved?
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Clint
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:35 am    Post subject: Re: Dilemma involving dubiously acquired treasure Reply with quote

DuncanM wrote:
One of my players, an Arthurian knight with the Code of Honor Hindrance, stated that this was a duly won prize captured in war and that the spoils of war go to the victors.

This was a creative solution, but I'm still feeling uneasy about it. I'm wondering how some of you guys would handle this sort of thing and what, if any, the consequences should be for taking gold that was conned or outright stolen from innocent people.


Might also point out the knightly virtue of largesse (Def. 1 : liberal giving (as of money) to or as if to an inferior)...

Note the "liberal giving," not here's a bit, but I'm keeping most of it. Largesse is considered by some the prime virtue of chivalry, greater than all the others.

And if nothing else, this money doesn't exist in a vacuum. As you noted, the demon stole this money from several towns and villages and across the entire countryside. He has wiped out the economy of the entire area. Sure, a lot of the residents are now dead, but maybe, maybe all the money combined is enough for the survivors to rebuild and survive through the next winter.

If the players want to keep the money, fine, but have the logical and unavoidable outcome occur. The survivors abandon the area, moving to unaffected towns or villages. Some might make it selling anything of value left behind, but others end up taking any job they could get. In that part of the countryside, villages become ghost towns (perhaps literally).

Without "civilization," things change fairly quickly. If you've ever seen "The World Without Us," nature moves in pretty fast (and we aren't even talking asphalt and steel). Without hunters, the level of prey increases not to mention escaped farm animals and thus predators move in to fill the void. Pretty soon, the countryside becomes the "Bishop's Barrens," an area filled with wild beasts and abandoned villages full of the unquiet spirits of those left behind.

Prices go up as trade means going around the area or hiring more guards; both of which cost more. The events or area may even attract a larger problem which causes the problem to expand.

Maybe an "apex predator" moves into the area (like a dragon or other supernatural beastie) or maybe the spirits attract the attention of a necromancer who binds them as his servants or maybe one of the survivors holds a grudge and becomes a new "villain" ("He took our money and killed us quickly, while you took our money and left us to starve slowly. Which is the greater evil?").

And if there are a group of demons in positions of power seeking to destabilize the region... how could one of them (or more) not resist taking advantage of this gold mine dropped in their lap.

Heck, move units of soldiers to be stationed at the unaffected villages on the borders of the area. It looks good, but the villages now have to support the soldiers, so they don't have additional aid for the refugees who end up beggars or worse. Plus, the soldiers just protect the village, so they aren't being sent into the area to actually combat anything that might move in or be left behind, so it is free to grow unchecked.

Done right, ultimately, even if they had given away 90% of the money at the beginning, they would have come out better than what awaits down the road.
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Chezzo
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The characters have already given some of it away to those townspeople. The townspeople would try to return the favor by spreading the character's fame through out the land.

Thieves may learn that the characters have a lot of money. A party of characters isn't as hard to crack as a bank or a castle, where most have their money.

This can be as big as the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, with the money trading hands a lot, until they are Legendary or when you want them to actually have it.

Or it can be spent immediately by the thieves, on an opulence that seems silly to most. For example, the vain king of thieves steals the loot, and uses it to commission 900 portraits of himself. Or the obese head of the Thieve's Guild has the loot stolen, and uses it to build a magical floating throne.
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Warpwolf
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh, what Clint suggested is downright, dare I say it, savage! Twisted Evil

If the treasure is simply recorded on character sheets as a simple addition to their wealth then your group won't grasp the significance of the wealth other than "Wow, sweet treasure drop".

With that much lucre at stake the money should almost be treated like a singular entity, like an artifact, that could be pivotal to a whole new series of events (the Pulp Fiction briefcase mentioned above is a good analogy).

If you treat it as such, then the players will look at the loot in a whole new light and it may dawn on them that they may have landed in a whole mess o' trouble. Smile
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Lord Inar
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wait, what do you do with money in fantasy games anyway, other than drinking and wenching?

Really, the worst pox you can put upon your players is responsibility!
"Sire, the royal masons are complaining that the royal woodcutters have had one more feast day and are requesting an audience with your majesty."

"My humble queen, the bal-Cwynnd forest fire is raging out of control and we need to recruit more mages to air lift water."

"Good king! The peasants are revolting!"
"They most certainly are!"

You get the idea.
Make the money itself the root of the evil, not something external (like a curse that they could then remove.)

Otherwise, have them found a monastery, encourage them to be generous with rebuilding towns affected, but allow them to enjoy their wealth.

After all, Bilbo did for another, what, 81 years without much trouble.
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Poor Wandering One
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm 200 minis on the table 100 zombies. What were the other 100? Allies? They would need paying.

As far as the loot. This was a HUGE chunk o' change what was the priest planning on doing with it? The other plotters will now come looking for "their" cash.

If it were me I would have an "heir" to the person the demon killed to become the bishop arrive on the scene and sue the players. This person will of course be a demon however he/she will have impeccable credietials and the backing of the church of Pelor. Demon conrtolled merchant houses will also bring pressure on the king and courts to get this case heard and to dddddddrrrrrraaaaaggggg the process out.
Why are they doing this? The goal is to kill the king and the top level of the government in one stroke. The demons will constantly up the stakes. The heir will, secretly, promise the money to several different factions to get their backing. Legal precedent will be found, especially if there is a "might /= right" Autherian king involved.

This will all culminate in a case argued before the king and the high court. Everyone is there. King, check. Queen, check. King's heir, check. Merchant princes, check excepting a couple who were demons and who have to wear the skin of the claiment in this little murder play. Head of the church who has been promised the cash. Claiment, check. Noble backer of the claiment at whose manor this is all taking place. Unarmed players, check. "this is a court of law, I'm sure you understand".

Play the court case until it gets boring. Then have the deamons along with the nobles forces/mercenaries hired for the occasion attack. If you are lucky this could turn into a frantasy freaking Stalingrad. The players and survivors of the first attack in the courtroom sealed inthe courtroom and surrounded by the Deamonic forces who hold the rest of the manor. The manor is surrounded by the kings army.

The demons want everyone dead. The king wants out and to have a nice long talk with those behind this. The Noble sees a chance to become king. The church is still trying to play both sides. Everybodie wants the money and if the neighboring kingdoms hear that the high command is tied up here there may not even be a kingdom to come out to.

That's what I would do anyway. In all the excitiment the cash could simply dissapear in a cloud of scandal and recriminations.

Sounds like you are running a fun game.

good luck
~will
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77IM
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SlasherEpoch wrote:
Why did you include such a substantial treasure if you actually wanted them to give it away or be taken aback by the morality involved?

I have players who would happily give such treasure away because they are trying to role-play a very moral character.


If your players are trying to be paragons of virtue, I'd utilize benny rewards for role-playing. Any time the group gives away a good chunk of money, or uses it for a good cause, or returns it to the original owners, they all get a benny. If they hoard it selfishly, then any time they use it, you withhold bennies, even if they use the money for something that would normally earn a benny. (It's OK if they have a decent pile of gold left over afterwards as long as they made an earnest attempt to dispense it.) Of course, more mercenary characters should get rewarded for the opposite behavior...

-- 77IM
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Karnaze
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How are the characters going to move such a load of treasure? Do they have wagons? Gold is very heavy, a good rain storm and they could find themsleves bogged down with no way to move the loot.

To add to one of Clint's suggestions, the survivors flee to surrounding towns and villages where they tell all living there of the group who captured such a large treasure. The group could very suddenly find that supplies cost them 20x what they normally might as the villagers try to take advantage.

If the treasure was 90,000 gold coins...perhaps the Bishop had them all restamped with the likeness of a demon and most normal people are scared to take them. Such coins might even attract the attention of various 'good' religions. If the players decide to melt down the coin into ingots, well, unless they have a forge and smithing skill, they'll need help and it won't be free.

If the 90,000 gold is just a sum of the worth and there are things like jewlery included, well, some of the jewelry might be unique and recognizable. Rich families hate to see their heirlooms fall into other people's hands. They might send younger sons to retrieve it, or perhaps hire someone.
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77IM
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another way to approach it. Let's say 90,000 gold is enough for all of them to qualify for the Rich Edge. If that's the case, you could allow them to give it away to get a different Edge.

For example, if a player gives his share to charity, maybe he gets the Charismatic Edge because everyone loves him now. If a player uses hers to start a hospital, maybe she is blessed and gets the Healer Edge. If the players track down the rightful owners of the gold, they get Connections Edge in relation to that group. etc. Someone who keeps the money just gets the money, like Rich.

That way, the players are rewarded for their roleplaying and still feel like they are getting something good for defeating that boss monster.

-- 77IM
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JarJarMessiah
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The great philosopher P.Diddy once said, "More money, more problems."

Even if they hoard the money for themselves, bog them down with expenditures. If they build a castle, where will they stay while it is being built for the next six months?
They will have to furnish it as well.
Tryin to deal with these things will take adventuring time away form them. How can a wizard study some anicient text when he has to look over carpet samples?
They could hire a conultant , but he may not be very trustworthy (embezzlement) or he could overspend on firvilous items/decorations (Trump-style).
This new found wealth will also attract con men, nobility, and lots of long lost relatives.
Is this hoard safe? Who can you trust to guard it?
I think these other demons are going to be ticked off.
Those that were manipulated out of thier gold will want to get it back.
What's to keep another group of unsavory types to take the treaure for themselves?
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Warpwolf
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a nutshell, you're sitting on a big ol' powder keg of plot hooks and adventure. I'm envious Very Happy

Ooh, a roleplay paradox: If a treasure trove is akin to a powder keg, and a powder keg can lead to more treasure.. #1eek13
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