If you’ve grown up on Monopoly and Sorry!, then there’s a bit of culture shock when you arrive at D&D. 

You mean I can do anything?”

“You can certainly try.”

“Like anything anything?”

“Within reason.”

And then, with wide and sparkling eyes: “Guys… Let’s rob the magic item shop!”

That’s the go-to story among the old timers in my group. To hear them tell it, that long-ago heist did not end well. The newbies tripped a magical alarm, summoned the town guard, and failed to surrender without a fight. Theft is punishable by the standard penalty quest: slay ##[monster] as community service. Murdering half the town guard, on the other hand, is punishable by hanging from the neck until dead. Their next characters were a bit more respectable, or at least more circumspect in their murderhoboing.

We’ve all heard the standard dungeon master advice: Make sure that there are consequences. If the players want to be thieves and murderers, they get treated like thieves and murderers. But if you’ve ever had the misfortune to meet an epic level innkeeper, you probably know that it’s possible to go overboard in the consequences department.

What I want to caution against in today’s comic is the knee-jerk need to “punish” player behavior. Especially when you’re dealing with new players, I think it’s better to encourage creativity than crack down on misconduct. I mean sure, if you’ve got a chronic murderhobo like Fighter in the group, then go nuts with the rocks. But when players are in the “testing boundaries” stage of their gamer development, try showing a little restraint. Imagine if, the first time you tried to rob a shop in an Elder Scrolls game, you had to retire your character rather than pay a fine. I doubt I’d have ever finished Oblivion.

When you encounter a new game, pushing the boundaries of what’s allowable is only natural. You try to glitch out of the map. You kick the chickens. You mess with the NPCs. The same impulse applies to the tabletop. But whether you’re in the digital realm or the analog, the novelty wears off. You eventually settle down to play. So if you’re running for such a player, give ’em time to get it out of their system. We’ve all been there, and it can even be fun if you let it. After all, “We stole all this crazy magic crap and now half the kingdom is after us!” makes for a pretty good story.

Question of the day! Have you ever had to deal with murderhoboing as a GM? What happened to the offending players? Alternatively, have you ever tried on a pair of murderhobo pants yourself? Did you get away with your shenanigans, or were you bludgeoned about the head by sudden-onset consequences? Let’s hear your tales of antisocial adventuring down in the comments!


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