18 Adventurers or, An Exercise in D&D Alignment

A party of 18 adventurers find themselves in a bit of a moral quandary.

They had been adventuring in and around a rustic village and have earned some well-deserved renown amongst the townsfolk. Every so often one farmer or another living on the village’s outskirts complains of bizarre livestock mutilations. The village elders (some of whom have lost livestock of their own) bicker about whether the mutilations are the work of a malicious prankster or a monster living in the wilds beyond the fields. The party become involved when the most recent mutilation raises the stakes dramatically: instead of a sheep or a goat, a child has been found murdered and the body badly ruined. The villagers need this problem solved quickly. Either they have a murderer living amongst them or there is a vicious beast growing bolder by the moment. The adventurers are hired to investigate the problem and deal with it. Upon successful completion of the quest, their reward shall be 1,800 pieces of gold (100 pieces each).

The party follows the trail to a distraught woodsman in a cabin out beyond the fields. The man admits to the mutilations, but swears innocence, blaming his actions on a terrible curse that has befallen him. He periodically transforms into a werewolf with an insatiable hunger for slaughter, and cannot control his actions while in that state. He has known about his condition since winter and has been trying to manage it by limiting his visits to the village to just those of necessity. He is understandably traumatized to learn he has slain a child and fears his explanation will fall on deaf ears if he is delivered to the village elders. If the village gets hold of him, he will surely be found guilty of murder and hanged. He swears to the party he will pack his meager belongings and head off into the wilds, living off the land and staying far from civilization, if they agree to let him go.

There’s a slight wrinkle, however, when under the effects of a zone of truth spell, the woodsman is discovered to be lying. The curse is real, as is his remorse, but the party discovers he has two daughters living in the village whom he loves dearly, who he does not intend to be apart from them. His will to leave is genuine, but he plans to continue sparse visits to the village to see them, believing that he can return in the time between his violent episodes so as to cause no further harm.

The decision before the party is this: they can either let the man go and run the risk his curse management plan fails, leading to more deaths, or they can bring him back to the village, collect their reward and leave the poor woodsman to the village’s justice.

The lawful good druid argues to let the man go. The laws she recognizes are the laws of nature, in all their primal beauty, and the nature of the woodsman’s curse is a perversion of those laws. While the child’s death is tragic, manufacturing a second death in no way pays for the first. The only reasonable course of action, she says, is to seek a cure for the woodsman’s ailment, thereby preventing any future unnatural loss of life.

The lawful good paladin angrily disagrees. Letting the man go is simply not an option. While the circumstances are indeed tragic, the fact remains he broke the laws of the village where he trades. The paladin intends to uphold the law by bringing the woodsman back in irons and submitting him to their justice, but concedes to advocate on the man’s behalf against execution, using his portion of the reward money to that end if necessary.

The neutral good bard was leaning toward letting the man go until casting zone of truth. Now that he knows the woodsman will return to the village from time to time, there’s really no way to prevent future murders except to bring the criminal to justice. The continued loss of life is simply unacceptable. Perhaps if the man had not lied about his intentions…

The neutral good dwarf doesn’t give a goblin’s bollocks about the man’s intentions. The fact remains, there’s some sort of malignant force in these woods transforming people into werewolves. While alive, the woodsman is an asset in locating the source of his curse; if he is executed they lose their primary lead until someone else is turned and another murder has occurred. He argues the party has a duty to this man, the village, and the slain child to find the creature or magic ultimately responsible for the violence and destroy it.

The chaotic good ranger doesn’t think the village can render a fair punishment. It’s wrong for this man to have killed a child, but he at least has the excuse of being magically compelled. An angry mob cannot be counted on to act rationally. If delivered to the village he will become the victim of a different kind of bloodlust, and one she wants no particular role in feeding into.

The chaotic good half-elf points out that it’s disingenuous to say the man has acted under magical duress. He’s known about his condition for months but valued his desire to see his daughters over a child’s life. He’s therefore ultimately responsible for his own actions. Each villager deserves to know the truth and has just as much right to weigh this man’s priorities as the man himself does.

The lawful neutral dragonborn wants to calm the discussion down and just stick to the facts. The village has laws. The law was broken. The punishment for breaking the law is hanging. That’s the end of it as far as she’s concerned. What’s left to discuss?

The lawful neutral monk is a bit surprised, as she has the same reasoning but arrived at the opposite conclusion. Respect of law must be observed, but in this case, the woodsman very pointedly hasn’t broken any laws. He acted under compulsion of a magical curse which, as of now, is ill-understood. To kill him for actions outside of his control and before all the facts are in evidence isn’t justice, it’s vengeance.

The true neutral barbarian says he’s fine with the villagers enacting vengeance. A life lost for a life taken. That’s fair in the only sense that matters.

The true neutral necromancer says the man should be freed. He’s been following the debate closely, and while only about half of his companions have spoken their piece, it was starting to look like “bring him in” was picking up steam. He wants to make sure that everyone’s thoughts have been given due consideration and that the dissenters aren’t bullied into submission.

The chaotic neutral half-orc flipped a coin. It came up heads. He therefore argues loudly and boisterously that they bring the man in and see him hanged.

The chaotic neutral artificer argues, equally loudly and boisterously, to let the man go. He doesn’t actually care about the man or what happens to him, but arguing for the man’s release ties the conversation back up, and the more discordance and bickering amongst his companions, the happier he is. He’ll change his mind later if it looks like things are swinging the other way.

The lawful evil cleric agrees with the paladin and the dragonborn: a law was broken, and the penalty is fair. However, she has been secretly unhappy with her recent efforts to sway the villagers into converting to her patron deity. She sees an opportunity to use the situation to cast the village’s church in a negative light by insisting their worship of pagan gods is what caused the curse in the first place. (Which, for all she knows, is true!)

The lawful evil warlock insists those arguing to drag the man back in chains are acting prematurely. He wants to join the dwarf and the druid in searching for the source of the curse, and they need the man alive to do that. If the village is willing to pay them each 100 gold to bring the murderer to justice, the warlock imagines he could negotiate double or even triple once the town learns of the much more insidious threat!

The neutral evil assassin has done the very simple math. If they bring the woodsman in, they each get 100 gold. If they don’t, they don’t. That’s all the information he needs to seal the woodsman’s fate.

The neutral evil wizard sees the 100 gold reward as a pittance when compared to the fascinating fel magic that’s obviously in play. She wants to let the werewolf live in order to study his case, potentially identifying and maybe even learning to control this curse for her own ends.

The chaotic evil battlemaster wants the man hanged. The sight of the child’s mangled corpse excited him, and the prospect of a violent public execution excites him further. He secretly hopes the mysterious curse creates more werewolves in the future, perpetuating the cycle of bloodshed.

The chaotic evil tiefling votes to release the man, but doesn’t explain why. Her plan is to sneak away from camp that night, track the werewolf down, and offer him this ultimatum: he must pay her 100 pieces of gold every month or she will reveal him to the village. If he refuses, she reasons, she can drag him in herself and claim the whole 1,800. Either way her payout is larger than it otherwise would be.

Sensing the gridlock, the party members prepare to go over the pros and cons of all their arguments again, when the bard suddenly realizes the woodsman has fled out a back window during the debate. The party takes a short rest, spends some hit dice, and the chase begins anew!

1 comment to 18 Adventurers or, An Exercise in D&D Alignment

  • Meditative_Zebra

    The Lawful Good Cleric argues that they should kill the woodsman immediately. The woodsman has already perpetrated a heinous murder against a child. Further, she sees the woodsman as irrevocable tainted by the evil curse that has befallen him. His death would both achieve vengeance for the slain child and begin to purge the land of the curse.

    The Chaotic Good Transmutationist feels that the woodsman shouldn’t be killed for actions committed while under the influence of the curse but neither can he be trusted to maintain good behavior. Therefore, he proposes to cast True Polymorph and turn the woodsman into a harmless little box turtle. Even a were-turtle would hardly pose any danger, he argues.

    The Chaotic Evil Rogue sees that the group is arguing its way to a standstill and instead takes decisive action to resolve the situation. He sneaks back to the village and murders the woodsman’s two daughters. With the daughters dead the woodsman no longer has a reason for sneaking back from the wilds and the party has successfully fulfilled their contract of eliminating the threat to the village.

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