Dealing with murder hobos in D&D!

Murder hobos in D&D need to be rehabilitated, given NPC friends, deal with consequences, and made not profitable if you do not want a murder hobo game.

Every once in a while people complain that their party is a group of murder hobos in D&D! Some experienced dungeon master’s hear this and lament your bad luck with you, but a new dungeon master might not understand what a murder hobo is.

To explain: A murder hobo in D&D is a player who goes around murdering things first and asking questions never. The murder hobo does not have a place of residence and sows chaos across the land.

Murder hobos in D&D need to be rehabilitated, given NPC friends, deal with consequences, and made not profitable if you do not want a murder hobo game.

The issue

You might be able to see a problem with murder hobos just from that description, but let me go into detail. Yes, murder hobos in D&D murder everything, but what does that mean for you the dungeon master? It means that any sort of plot will not be allowed to happen. Your story? Stabbed in the face. Your work? Torn to shreds at the burst of a fireball.

The plot is not the only thing that will suffer. All that time you put into your lovely non-player characters (NPCS) is now worthless. “Hello there would you lik-” Stab in the face! Every non-player character must die muhahahaha!

Not only do your NPCS die horribly, but any attempt at negotiations gets stabbed. If you want to have an intricate plot about political subterfuge nope. That is completely out the window as the first obstacle is stabbed rather than overcome with guile.

Your game can become a mess and nothing is okay with murder hobos. That being said….

When murder hobos in D&D are okay

Yes yes, I just built up a case about how horrible murder hobos in D&D are, but hear me out. What game are you running? Is it just a simple dungeon crawl? If so why wouldn’t murder hobos in D&D be okay?

This is a type of game where Diablo-style gameplay is encouraged. Diablo-style gameplay is kill a bunch of monsters, get loot, and maybe, MAYBE get some quests from the town, but the quests are not necessary. Strangely enough, this game mostly only works with murder hobo players.

Is this a good way to play Dungeons and Dragons? That is debatable, but you can get this satisfaction out of video games. That is why any game like this is frowned upon.

Should you play a Diablo-style game?

Again, it depends on your group. Are they teenage boys who just want to kill and get loot like my high school years were? If so a Diablo-style game of kill and loot is possible for you.

The sad truth is that Dungeons and Dragons strength is not in these types of games. Dungeons and Dragons was designed for more than killing and looting, thus pure combat games can get stale.

Another huge reason why Diablo-style games get stale is that video games are much better at delivering a satisfying experience when looting and killing things. I mean, I am referring to this style of play as ‘Diablo’ because a video game did this far better than most Dungeons and Dragons games can do!

So should you primarily play Diablo-style games? Only if your group really wants to, but there are far better games to play if your group just wants to kill and loot.

When murder hobos are not okay

Dungeons and Dragons strengths do not lie in hack slash loot. Instead, Dungeons and Dragons is able to bring infinite worlds and possibilities to life. Combat is developed and intricate, but it is a tool to deliver narrative.

Why are your players fighting a monster or person? There should always be a reason that does not revolve around experience.

The narrative mentioned here is what gives Dungeons and Dragons its strength. You can craft any sort of story with Dungeons and Dragons, but when a group turns into murder hobos they stop this game from happening. In order to portray the true strengths of Dungeons and Dragons, you must have a narrative and murder hobos completely destroy this.

Is it your fault?

Now we reflect a little bit. Why are your players murder hobos? Do they have an obsession with violence? If so, why?

Most of the time when dungeon masters see a problem with players, they blame the players. First, you must ask though, what have you done to encourage this behavior?

Have you given the most experience for killing monsters and very little experience for successful roleplay?

Is killing a quick and easy way to accomplish their goals without any meaningful consequences?

Do you just ‘let it slide’ and move on to the next thing?

If any of these are true, you have facilitated a murder hobo culture. The rewards you are giving are telling the players that they should kill everyone.

Rehabilitating murder hobos

Well, now we need to fix the problem. Easier said than done right? Surprisingly, not so. If we identified why the players are murder hobos, we can rehabilitate them much easier.

Did you encourage them to become murder hobos? If so the answer is simple, STOP DOING THAT!!! You may have to talk to your players before the session and explain that now role play will give more experience than killing. You may also explain that there will be consequences for killing everyone since killing is wrong and most people don’t like it when their neighbors die.

What if the issue is not you, but the players. Are they bloodthirsty monsters? If they are or just don’t know how to play, here are some tips to make your players no longer murder hobos.

Making NPC friends

Your players need gear, right? Perhaps they need a place to stay or just want some strange item. Give them a great shopkeep. Almost every single dungeon master has made their players invested in an awesome NPC and most of the time that NPC is a shopkeep.

A shopkeep is the easiest NPC for your characters to interact with since they need to spend that gold somehow! There are other NPCs that a player can start to love like a bartender, waitress, informant, anything you can think of that will be beneficial to the player.

If they have a friend the player or players are more likely to not kill since they want to keep this friendship. In addition, the players will not kill their friend since well, they like their friend.

Make sure that these friends are fun and not out to betray the party (at least not intentionally) otherwise the players will feel betrayed and burn the whole town to the ground.

Consequences

“Hey I would like you t-” *stab.* How would you react if a person just committed murder in front of your eyes? Would you just walk along and whistle continuing your day? I would certainly hope not, and most people will not. Instead, people will react.

Some people may try to intervene and stop the murders. Some may decide to run and hide. Others might go and call the police or in this case, the town watch/militia.

The point is, people will not just accept the player’s murder. Some may flee and tell others of the players deeds, and thus players will not be able to go shopping or be told that the item they are looking for is out of stock when it is not in stock. Perhaps the players cannot find an inn to sleep at, but in any case, murder is not acceptable in society.

Make the players have consequences for their despicable actions, do not reward them.

Bounty hunters

Speaking of consequences, some people are paid to hunt and kill criminals. These are bounty hunters. If your players are going around and killing people, then they are criminals. Rewards are put out for criminals all the time in these settings.

Don’t believe me?

What is a quest? Stop that evil necromancer from forming an army and reanimating the dead! Save the princess from the evil warlord! Free the slaves from the madman! A person came and murdered our families and village! oh wait, your that person nooooo!!!

I think my point is made. People put out rewards to stop other evil bad guys, so why not have others try to stop your players since they are now bad guys in society’s eyes?

Send a few assassins. It will make their life annoying, and they will want to find out why this is happening to stop the annoyance.

The law

I am the law! Seriously, you are the law of the world. Is wanton manslaughter okay? Probably not. So what are the consequences for murdering your fellow human? Try to impose these issues on the players and possibly have them spend time in jail.

Even if the players are level seven, 100 level one guards can take them down. If they are higher level, get a few higher level sergeants, captains, and the like. Make sure that the players cannot just walk away with murder.

Jailbreaks

Jailbreaks happen, but you can make the jailbreaks extremely hard to accomplish. If these guys have murdered a ton of people, manacle and gag them for a while. Make escaping extremely difficult, and possibly impossible.

What will you do now? Make a few years pass by. Wither their bodies and only let them out when a crisis hits the city. Now the players need to get into the good graces of the city they wronged, or they will be criminals forever.

If they run? Then make them wanted criminals. This can lead to an interesting game or repentance. Either way, you win and the players will not just kill everyone from now on.

Make murder non-profitable

How much are the players getting from killing people? If the players are rewarded sufficiently, they will keep on killing. So drastically reduce the reward.

If they kill a person, make the gold or items on their person pittances. Force the party to find treasure or even pull a heist. If the party steals, then they can become part of the local thieves guild and bam you have an interesting campaign where the players are thieves instead of murders.


In addition to this, the players now have a guild who they are dedicated to. It may not be the game that you imagined, but the players have an influence on the flowing narrative. The upside is that you still have a game and an interesting one at that.

Giving them a home

Part of the murder hobo aspect is not having a home. If you do not have a home, you are not beholden to any place since you will just pack up and go. If you have a home, you are more invested in the area around you.

Let’s say that players worked hard to gain a keep. Do the players want to lose that keep? Most likely not. So threaten that home if the players start taking illegal actions like murdering.

Your players are powerful, but make it clear that they cannot stand up against an army. If the group loves their home, they will do everything they can to protect it. Even if it means hanging up the murder hobo shives.

Stories

Stories are another great way to give murder hobos consequences. Have a villager or defeated assassin tearfully curse the monstrous players. Players will want to hear the story since they are curious if you make empty open-ended threats like “you monsters!” Or “How can you be okay after all you done?”

Cries like that will make the players start to wonder what the person meant if they do not hear them out. More importantly, the players will start to feel some sort of guilt. Perhaps the next time this happens, they will hear the person out.

Once this happens, you can start relaying the person’s backstory. Everything that the players have done will come to light and they will start to feel guilt. This guilt will be internal since they know what they did was wrong and stop their murdering ways.

No repentance?

Sometimes players don’t care about guilt. This is most of the time because the execution of conveying your NPCs emotions falls flat. Perhaps it seemed corny, perhaps it was halfway done. Perhaps you just didn’t have any acting skills and the whole thing fell flat.

These are instances where it can be because of you the dungeon master. If you cannot pull off the guilt card, stick to simpler things like giving the players a home. Make them love that home. Give the players a quirky butler or some interesting guards. Make people know about them and give them quests making their life easier.

If their lives are easier, more entertaining, and murder doesn’t give the rewards that it used to then the players will naturally veer away from becoming murder hobos in D&D.

What if they don’t?

At this point, you have done everything you can. Given a home, disincentivized the whole idea of murder, and even used guilt along with other consequences. This is now the time to talk to your players and find out what they want.

If your players do not want any of these things and instead want to play a Diablo-style game, it is up to you if you want to be a dungeon master for that game. Do not try to play another type of game because it will not work.

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by going over all of this in session 0. I recommend reading the article to have a proper session 0, and if you are still concerned include what we talked about in your session 0. Say that killing will not have high returns and consequences for actions will happen. This will save you a lot of time, effort, and let you know where the players stand if they want a Diablo-style game.

Conclusion

Murder hobos in D&D are mostly bad but can be great for Diablo-style games. You can solve the issue of murder hobos in D&D 90% of the time by giving them a home, consequences, guilt, and friends.


Make your world a live vibrant place so that killing randomly is not worth it. If you can, save some time in session 0 figuring out what your players want, but make sure your world will not reward killers.

Lastly, if you want to support the blog you can get stuff for it! We offer The Cube as a custom add on to your game and our affiliates. At Dice Envy they offer well made and cool looking dice and Dungeon Vault helps to help give you extra tools to make your campaign even better! I prefer to use my dice from Dice Evy since they are actually balanced and love to use the tools from Dungeon Vault.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!


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