8 Ways To Punish Your Players With Clever Ideas

Sometimes in Dungeons & Dragons, you want to give your players a punishment they weren’t expecting. Maybe your party can rush in without thinking or perhaps make a bad decision resulting in dire consequences. If that sounds familiar and you’re looking to spice things up at your table, then a clever punishment could be just the right thing to build that tension.

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Of course, you shouldn’t punish your players often or force them to take on too much of a burden. These are just a few consequences to throw their way if they’re feeling clever.

8 An Embarrassing Spell

A Mind Flayer stands behind a figure whose eyes are glowing
Mind Flayer by Daarken

This is for a situation when your party is facing a spellcaster. If your party can just slaughter their way through most ecnounters easily, why not use a spell that slows them down? Taking them down a notch can result in a pretty funny scenario, especially during combat.

Make a homebrew spell that will force them to hallucinate an embarrassing scenario like they’re in a nightmare or do something like force them to dance every time they try to attack.

7 Poisoned With The Truth

A man being fed a healing potion
Potion of Healing by Pauline Voss

Another social situation punishment could involve the truth. We all know the spell Zone of Truth, but what if we could go one step further? During some banquet or occasion where the party is offered food or drink, you can say that their food was laced with some magical truth serum.

The same rules as Zone of Truth apply where one can equivocate, but the difference is that this serum is a lot more potent, and it compels the party to answer any questions given for a certain amount of time if they don’t make a saving throw, which could lead to some embarrassing but fun moments. It can also be a neat trick from a villain that the party wasn’t prepared for.

6 The Annoying Fan

A stout bard strums a lyre for a happy crowd in a tavern
Tavern Bard by Rob Rey

What better way to annoy the party than with a purposefully annoying NPC? If you’re dealing with a party that’s up there in levels and has some renown, then you can have them encounter an annoying fan who wants to be an adventurer just like them. This fan will, of course, pester them with questions, and the party may have trouble deciding what to do with them.

It can be a fun situation, especially if circumstances force the fan to be stuck with the party throughout a certain adventure or quest. Not to mention it offers some heartwarming roleplay if the party ends up endearing and adopting their fan.

5 The Cursed Weapon

A thin and long orange staff that has curves at the very tip

It’s a classic for a reason. Giving your party a cursed weapon is just the perfect little punishment because it doesn’t seem like a punishment. There are plenty of cursed weapons that Dungeons & Dragons provides, and it won’t be hard to search up and find some good homebrew ones.

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A benefit is that a cursed weapon, depending on what it is and how dangerous it can be, can also open up some fascinating roleplay opportunities for your players, especially if the weapon is conscious and tries to tap into a certain character’s dark desires or fears.

4 Sentient Gear Unionise

A pair of bracers sit with elven iconography upon them

For this scenario, one piece of gear from each party member suddenly achieves some level of sentience and communicates together in order to unionise. Of course, this is a very small punishment since magical items can’t really be paid. Instead, they just ask the party to treat them a bit more fairly and not toss them around and such.

This is a short and simple punishment to perhaps help your party appreciate the things they have and treat their items a little better. Plus they may end up bonding with the party even more which is always fun for your players.

3 Time Is An Illusion

A couple figures confront a tall pale vampire outside a castle at night
Van Richten’s Guide To Ravenloft Cover Art by Anna Podedworna

Maybe you’re seeking something more punishing when it comes to combat. During a fight, suddenly ask your players to get into pairs if possible, or you can do this randomly. During an enemy’s turn, whether they’re a spellcaster or have some magical item, have the enemy use an item that can only be used once and temporarily manipulates time.

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The pairs will switch places in the initiative order, or you can use any other method if there’s an odd number of players. Either way, this initiative swap may occur every two rounds or so, changing the order of things. This is a great way to switch up combat and make your party have to think more strategically.

2 Tax Fraud

A bulky man in steel armour walks with tons of treasure around him
Triumphant Adventurer by Alexander Mokhov

Does your party have a little too much gold? Perhaps you want to set them back temporarily. Well, have an agent of local government, like people representing a monarch or a democratic government, confront the party.

Since they’ve been getting tons of gold, they probably haven’t been paying their fair share as tax and so must cough up a hefty sum or face possible arrest. Whatever your party does will have its consequences, either losing out on gold or possibly becoming temporary fugitives.

1 Jealousy Spawns Rumours

A figure looms over a desk as numerous other creatures are behind him
Yawning Portal Art via Wizards of the Coast

Finally, we have something that a lot of parties could face. After adventuring for a while, a jealous adventurer or perhaps someone wronged by the party will begin to use whatever influence they have to spread rumours about the party.

It’ll be a surprise for the characters when they wander into the next town and find themselves getting stared at and people giggling and whispering about them. They will eventually find out just what rumour about each of them has been spreading around and with a little digging, who started it. This can also open up a nice investigative side quest while your party is in town and helps make the world seem more real.

NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: Ideas For A Short Campaign

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