[RPG] Are there guidelines for punishments for crimes


I have a player with a character that is a likely to get in trouble with the law. His character is currently Chaotic Neutral and is slowly slipping toward Chaotic Evil. The player is not being disruptive: out of character the group and I find it fun and an interesting dynamic. The problem for me is in-character: when he does something and gets caught, I don't know what punishments could result.

Is there are a specific list of punishments for specific crimes in the D&D 5e Fantasy setting?

For example, he knocked someone completely innocent unconscious who may or may not go to the Townmaster to inform him of the assault. Would this be just a fine, a certain time in prison, or something else?

Best Answer

First, there are no lists of punishments in the rules.

Second, the default D&D 5e setting is a fantasy medieval one, as such, imprisonment is an inappropriate punishment. Imprisonment as a punishment is a late modern development from the early 19th century:

The original purpose of confining a person within a prison was not to punish them, but was a means of keeping the perpetrator of a crime detained until the actual punishment could be carried out. This was usually in the form of corporal punishment that was intended to cause the guilty person pain, such as being beaten with a whip, or capital punishment which used a variety of methods to claim the lives of condemned individuals.


A more appropriate punishment might be the pillory or stocks both of which were used to restrain the criminal in a painful position (Exhaustion might be an appropriated D&D mechanical outcome) and to allow the populace to humiliate them by laughing, hurling insults, rotten vegetables, offal and, of course, human or animal excrement.

Here is an interesting list of historical punishments for both criminals and children from around the world. I give thanks every day I was not an Aztec child.

This presuposes that the rule of law is suficiently established that a common assault is a matter for local law enforcement. In medieval times (and some places today) retribution was a private matter. For example, gathering a bunch of friends together and beating the snot out of the perpetrator.