This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

though lost eyes, re-discovering a game from my past.

Back when I was in Jr high school I wrote a "RPG" about pro wrestling, which I creatively titled "The wrestling game." I don't remember exactly when. I know it was before High school, before being able to drive, and all the distractions that come from that sort of thing.

We would get together at one of our homes and play D&D, Car wars, Star fleet battles, or whatever was on deck. Since we were relying on rides from others, we would never all arrived at the same time. So I wrote the wrestling game to fill those minutes before the group had fully convened. We played it a few times. I think we enjoyed it. I guess that's when I got the game design bug. I realized I could makes something my friends and I could share and enjoy.

Since then I have always held a soft spot for pro wrestling games. Not that there have been a ton of them, but there have been a few.
Here's a quick list of some of the Wrestling games I've read through in the years since I wrote my own.

  • Squared Circle
  • WWE's Know your role RPG 
  • World wide wrestling:  This happens to be my favorite, due to the authors approach. I have taken heat for that here on the blog before, my opinion is unchanged.
  • Superstar pro wrestling: More of a board game. I have never played the physical game but have had a chance to read the  rules in PDF format. I have fooled around with the Computer version.
  • There was a game named "Ring Master" which used a percentile based system to simulate matches but I simply can't find it a Any more.
  • The WWF adventure game  This is another I never got to play only read.
  • I also did some e-feds and ran my own E-feds on a couple of occasions.
I have tried to keep my ear to the ground in a search for wrestling RPG games. I have even updated my original ideas over the years. Having written a few drafts of  wrestling games with varying degrees of success.

 Recently one of my friends found (A physical copy?) of that old wrestling game from so many years ago. It got me thinking. I have kept a digital copy of the original game since I bought my first pc back in 1993.  I  laboriously transcribed it from the paper copy and saved it as updated file types as I have gotten new technology ever since. It has been sitting on my portable hard drive, with a last opened date of 8/10/2003.

Yesterday I opened it.

As you all know and I am not shy about saying I'm not a good writer. I have no idea what year I last typed up that old wrestling game, but I was a hell of a lot worse back then. To make matters worse I must have opened the original rich text file in MS Word 97, then just saved it. So the  formatting is all buggy. There's not a single line of text longer than seventy characters. The font is  hideous. Funniest to me is that this old document is rather vaingloriously labeled "version 4.5." I have no memory of ever tracking versions of the game, or why I would have.

 I spent a few hours on it this morning. I started going through and correcting the obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes. I worked on fixing some of the formatting.  It's a big pile to dig through.

So what can I learn from my old game design that could help my current gaming?
First of all if it were someone else's work and I read it with my current perspective I would say it's not a role-playing game. It's more like an attempt at genre emulation based on wrestling video games.  There is hardly any attention given to "backstage politics" or the relationships between the wrestlers. The game is about creating a character and beating up other characters.
I must have been reading TSR's "Top Secret" at the time  because the game features attributes with secondary-attributes calculated using those attributes. I would need a calculator to make a character. There is a great deal of fiddly stuff going on.

There's not a lot of fat in the game, everything is directed towards simulating matches. So two players could fight it out and pretty much know the game will deliver a fair match. There is no padding to force a dramatic or "good" wrestling match. A dominant character would smash a weak character given average die rolls. Which is a good emulation of wrestling at the time when the game was written. At that time a viewer would see mostly  "squash matches" with lesser talent getting killed by established stars week after week.

Finally the game was written before the internet, Or at least it was written when the internet was still mostly BBS boards. The  whole game is  devoid of "smart-mark" insider wrestling lingo and "it's still real to me" jokes.

Wrestling was never"real to me." The very first time I ever watched IWCCW wrestling from Texas, with my told me straight out. "It's not real. If they really did that to each other some one would be dead, and they would all be in jail." 
I always knew it was fake but when I wrote that first wrestling game I had no idea how it worked, or how a wrestling promotion functioned behind the curtain. The game reflects that. I didn't know wrestling, I knew matches. The game only does matches. There's absolutely no irony in the game. There is no sense of, "this is a wrestling game and I'm writing it to show you  how smart I am about wrestling." That smarkishness is so prevalent in today's internet culture.

The game simply exists the way  the matches in Nintendo's "pro wrestling" existed. Floating in their own singular bubbles removed from the real world, entrenched in their own reality. A reality where big guys have advantages because the WWE of that era (one could argue still) favored size over pretty much everything else.  And whether or not you can lift your opponent might be the  thing that wins or loses the match for you.

With the internet, wrestling lingo is everywhere, the internal workings so of the publicly traded WWE are written about all over the place. That influence is unavoidable. The world wide wrestling RPG has a section and essays on wrestling and culture. My most recent efforts toward writing a wrestling game focused on the matches being the engine that powers a promotion, competing with other promotions for talent and  resources. The matches are almost secondary to the  wider pro-wrestling  business.  This represents a sea-change in perspective from the time I wrote the original to now. A recognition that my mental focus has as one would expect changed over time. The old game is a wide eyed kid is watching the matches and asking how do these athletes succeed? The new game is looking at it as a business and asking how do all these parts come together to make a successful product?

I guess the big lesson to be had is when working on a project, game adventure what ever. Recognize the effect a persons perspective has on the project focus. Realize that perspective on any given subject might not be 100% under a persons control. The amount of information available, and the amount ambient noise about a subject a person might have absorbed over time can significantly  influence the  focus of a project and the end result. This is true even if the  person working on the project does not intend it to. Games and game designs are o some extent like anything else products of their time, and environment.

So is that old wrestling game of mine any good?
I don't know.
I don't think so, to be honest.

On the other side is original Car wars any good? Is Red Box D&D any good? 
I don't know. Depends who you ask.
Are they fun? Absolutely. I love car wars even if it does take 4 hours to simulate 4 seconds of combat. Red box D&D was my first D&D and of course I love it for that. I know there are people out there who think Red Box D&D is the  ONLY D&D worth playing. I'm sure there is someone who feels Chain-mail was the best game ever written and can see no reason to play any tabletop game written after 1971. Each to their own. As long as a good time is being had, who cares?

Like those other older games it's pure, kind of like a car wars for wrestling. That's what surprised me. I like the  purity of the  whole thing even if the end result is not what I would  look to do today.

Make a character and fight. How could I ever complain about that?

Thanks for reading .

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Random NPC appearance, features, oddities, habits, perhaps some strangeness.

This post is just for fun. Use it at your own risk.

Modern, post apocalypse, undercity dwelling, odd ball NPC's

Chart 1:
NPC is 1d6:
1-2 Male
3-4 Female
5-6 Given their present state and manner of dress it's impossible to tell.

Chart: 2 Stature
Roll 1d6: on a roll of 1 to 4 the person is of average stature on a roll of 5 or 6 roll on the chart below.
  1. Person is hunched over, drags a leg when they walk. Hard to tell a true height.
  2. Person is extremely tall, over 6 foot 5 inches, thin as a rail.
  3. Person is  very small. just about  4 foot tall.
  4. Person Morbidly obese.
  5. Person is of average height and very muscular.
  6. Strikingly statuesque and hansom.
  7. This person is below average in height  and heavy set, wears large platform shoes for a bit of extra lift.
  8. This person is tall well over 6 foot and heavy set, a human wall.
  9. This person wears super baggy clothing that dragon on the floor behind them, impossible to gage height or weight.
  10. This person is small and frail.
Chart 3:  Hair
Roll 1d6 
0-1 Brown OR generally dark
2 Blonde
3 Black
4 Red or Auburn.
5 Grey
6 Roll on the 3a chart below.

Chart 3a Hair Cont: (Use chart above to determine natural hair color if you in this case roll 1d6-1)

  1. Mohawk large,  multi colored.
  2. Massive long dreadlocks.
  3. Long hair woven through with  cables and rubber tubes.
  4. Head shaved bald, but hair drawn on  with  markers
  5. large very colorful mane of hair. 
  6. Tight Afro with circles shaved shaved into it.
  7. Tight afro with complex designs shaved into the side.
  8. Extremely tall High top fade.
  9. No hair, Feathers.
  10. Faux-Hawk
  11. Long hair down to the person's ankles.
  12. A HUGE afro.
  13. Many tiny braids that stick out all over the place
  14.  A beehive hair do that contains actual bees.
  15.  Just a disheveled rats nest.
  16. The  worst combover you have ever seen.
  17. Spiked Mohawk
  18. Head covered in tattoos.
  19. Normal hair-doo with a nasty scar running across their head.
  20. Who the hell knows they always wear that damn hat (roll on hart 3b no seriously I have a hat chart..
Chart 3b Yeah hats why not. (d20)
  1. A very tall top hat.
  2. A multi color bowler
  3. A pirate hat with a dead pigeon stapled to it.
  4. A straw hat.
  5. One of those hats that can hold cans of beer..
  6. A bright red ascot cap
  7. A beanie with a rather large and sharp looking propeller on top.
  8. A coonskin cap  that may or may not be raccoon.
  9. Wears a dunce cap with the  word "Estúpido" brightly emblazoned across it.
  10. A blue fez
  11. A bright yellow hard hat.
  12. A fantastically oversized blue knit cap.
  13. A white phrygian cap
  14. A massive sombrero. The bring  has several hundred fire crackers taped to it.
  15. A trucker cap with and obscene saying on the front panel.
  16. A furry russian Ushanka. On Closer inspection there is a large microphone buried in the fur.
  17. A very large brightly colored turban.
  18. A felt Trilby
  19. A pill box hat that is in fact filled with  various pills.
  20. A living animal wrapped around their head (D6) 1. Snake 2. large ferret or weasel 3 a living raccoon 4. a pile of living rodents 5, a rarge turtle 6.a large vulture in a bird's nest strapped on their head
Chart 4: At first glance this stands out...(D20)
  1.  Carries a drill with a frayed cord, sometimes stops to make “whirring” drill noises with their mouth.
  2.  Once broke their neck and it never healed right, now they walk around with this messed up crooked neck.
  3. Carries a bible or similar religious text, Loudly and randomly quotes out of it often.The quotes are never in context.
  4.  Has shaved one half of their head and apparently attempted self-Trepanning. Their brain can clearly be seen through a one inch square hole cut in their skull which is covered with clear plastic wrap.
  5. Has a huge swollen left eye. Looks like they got hit with a bat. If asked , thinks  there is  a small pixie living under their eye-lid
  6. Everywhere they go they carry a desiccated corpse rolled in a blanket over their shoulders.
  7. They wear a long trench coat with a multitude of dead rats sewn onto the inside. You smell the rats long before you see them.
  8. They collect lost keys and carry several hundred random door, car, and padlock keys all over their person. They jingle loudly when they move.
  9. Wears a bandoleer full of baby food jars, each jar contains a different liquid.
  10. Carries a pistol which has badly bent barrel. Claims it once belonged to a famous gunfighter.  
  11. Dresses like a scarecrow, complete with  rotting  pumpkin mask.
  12. Wears a child's xylophone around their neck. Hammers on it  absently when not engaged in conversation.
  13. Person  never wears a shirt and is extremely hairy.
  14. This person has a glorious beard that hangs down to their midriff. It is well combed, well tended, and a local legend.
  15. Person has OCD their clothing is immaculate and they stop to lint roll it ever few minutes, 6 passes over each arm, each leg, and the chest.
  16. Person is wearing olives on  all of their fingers.
  17. Person carries a paperboy style satchel filled with rusty circular saw blades.. 
  18. Is wearing a hooded white dress covered in eyeless white masks. 
  19. Has one arm amputated just above the elbow, has ties several chains to the remaining section fo arm.
  20. Is wearing a completely leather suit, leather vest, leather pants, everything thing shiny black leather.
Upon furhter investigation, this person:
  1. Claims to be A finder of nibs. This person is always searching for “Nibs”, while never defining what exactly a “nib” is.
  2. Asks often "do you think it's going to rain today?" as if they are desperate to know. Asks even if it's raining.
  3. Tells obvious lies wiht almost every statement.
  4. Has a fake eye, the has tiny engraved letters which read.. (1d6) 1 "If you can read this your're close enough to kill." 2. "Acme Eye works" 3. " Tell how my breath is" 4 "Acme Laser eye [tm], Caution, do not stare directly into Acme Laser eye." 5, "Hell hath no Rage" 5 "Ohh Oedipus Wrecks!" 
  5. calls all men Jeffy, and all women Beth.
  6. Greets every one like they are the oldest of Friends.
  7. Has horrible body odor, It's like a cross between garlic, sweat, and bad life choices.
  8. is intoxicated...
  9. knows a lot of things.. very interesting secret things... Are they making it all up?
  10. only wants to talk about insects.
  11.  is being followed around by a bodyguard and a three person film crew.
  12. Has a joke for pretty much every topic of conversation.
  13. Will try to sell you. (1d6) 1. Tiny broken bits of electronics 2.The deed to their share of a lost mine somewhere to the west, 3. A rancid sandwich 4.Organs 5. A book that they claim is banned in  twelve countries. 6. Drugs, all kinds of drugs.
  14. Is searching for their lost child.
  15. Paints revolutionary graffiti, has cans in a bag, paint on their hands and a black mask in their hood.. The real deal.. willing to  die before they stop painting anti government images. Jail is not an option. 
  16. Is a great connoisseur of wine, carries an empty bottle of their favorite vintage, claims to be from France.
  17. Is a professional independent wrestler. Drinks a shit-ton (that,s metric) of protein
  18. Claims to be a rich professional. Has a drug issue, has woman issues, has honesty issues, just plain has issues, loves to talk  about his problems.
  19. Leaves no room fro other peoples opinions.
  20. Over complicated every issue discussed, analyzes things to oblivion loves to talk...
I might continue this at some point... but this is enough for now.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Happy New Year: The Dustpan year in Review.

Here we are on the doorstep of 2016:
Let's talk about what went on in the old dustpan this year.

  • Only  75 posts this year, way down from 2014. (132)
  • I did some  rearranging on the  blog:
    • Added meta tags to every post so that old post should be dredged forward more easily.
    • Dropped the game art page.
    • Added the game resource page as a holder for all the flotsam I have posted.
    • Made room for a swank banner by Charles Akins.
    • I think My favorite 2015 post just might be "D20 NPC's from Pandelver"
    • My most viewed post was "Add flavor to your 5th ed Combat"
At the start of 2015 I was working on expanding AAIE and had put up a play-test pdf of the basic game for download. As imperfect as that PDF is, and contrary to the fact I think it gained me nothing, I am still glad I put it out into the world.

I can see the end of the road. I know that eventually I will write my last blog post. Play or run my "last game" of D&D. I will buy my last video game. Nothing lasts forever and nothing should. I love the people I game with but have found it increasingly  difficult to engage with the games. I can't totally put my finger on why. Lack of consistency concerning when and what I'm running is part of it, real life being busy is another.

This year I pruned then segregated my RPG connections on google plus into their own circle for which I eliminated all alerts. I left almost every RPG group I was a member of on G+ or facebook. I haven't posted anything from here, or shared a blog post from here outside of the automatic G+ Public share that blogger hoists on everyone in several months. I have for all intents and purposes removed myself from the greater RPG community.*

For the  record nothing negative happened to directly trigger my step back. Outside of some easily  handled or ignored snarky replies here on the blog. Nothing negative was directed towards me at all. I do read other blogs. I do read twitter. I do follow the industry news. I get to see negativity when it crops up publicly. What little I see is enough to make me not want any part of it.

What does that mean  for this blog?
Without pushing the blog like I was, and without the potential of a "product" ever materializing the readership fell back to 2013 levels.
I'm ok with that. I haven't Earned any new readers this year. A successful blog on any subject needs to be promoted, needs to be regularly updated, and those updates need to be quality posts. In 2015 I haven't done any of those things. A successful blog is work, and I have not put in the work, the equation is as simple as that.

Onto Next year:
I'm back to posting and thinking about the  AAIE game again.
Funny story about that:
Jens D. of the Disoriented Ranger blog has taken a liking to the AAIE game I wrote last year. Just when I thought AAIE was dead and buried, Jens wrote me and asked if he could embark on making massive improvements to the layout and presentation of the PDF.  This is great, because the original PDF is a dumpster fire that needs all the help it can get.
I told him very honestly that he is, "Taking on the work I was too lazy or too unskilled to do myself."

I very much appreciate Jen's effort. First of all People whose opinions I value have told me the only thing holding AAIE back from being a game others would try and enjoy was the shity presentation. As a creative person that's a tough pill to swallow. I believe it's a correct analysis. Secondly  it's flattering that anyone would take os much time, talent, and interest in one of my projects.

So in 2016 expect to see that project move forward and eventually bear fruit. I'm not sure it will be done in 2016, but it's something I will write about.
Right now that's all I have on the fire as far as projects go.

I will continue to use this blog to promote other things I find on the web that I think are very  interesting or somehow  "gameable" either  via linking  or writing short posts about whatever has caught my attention.

I will continue to only have blogs on my blogroll I actually read.

I'm hoping I will think of something that will bring me back to this with renewed consistency and enthusiasm.

That's it 2015 gone into 2016.
If you are still checking in on this blog, I sincerely Thank you.
Have a very happy and productive new Year.


*Which is a shame because that same RPG / DIY rpg community is something I was pretty excited about trying to be a part of only a year ago.

Friday, December 2, 2016

D&D is Murder...(Crime and Punishment Edition.)

My applogies for the reduced posting frequency . It will likely pick up again after the  US holidays.

Rather this is about the idea of Murder in D&D.
Murder most foul.

The players in our group kill all the time. I mean it's kind of their thing. Still it has been a rare occurrence when they outright murder someone.
in one of our recent games Limura a ranger dropped two sailors in broad daylight. Mind you the sailors were working for "the bad guys" and Limura was covering the back of a fellow party member .. still.
Murder in the streets.

Naturally people screamed women fainted, guards were called. In the end the party had to flee the city as attempts to arrest them intensified. Having a boat that flies helped them greatly in that escape. On the other side of that messengers will have been sent out letting it be known that the persons involved are wanted in the city of Torin, for Murder.  That's an albatross hanging around their necks that will be difficult to cut loose.

Now Murder in D&D is nothing new. A "cult of the Murder-Hobo" has sort of grown up around the hobby. There are plenty of  memes and jokes littered across the internet which illustrate the concept.

What happens to these murderers?
As usual, the  acts of the players in our game  have made me run to the internet and embark on researching another subject I might have never thought to read much about. While I'm no expert in the study of crime and punishment throughout history I have come up with some gamerly ideas. As a point, I'm going to try to focus only on the  parts of this vast subject that are particularly of use in game.

Primary are two concepts.

  1. Ancient Prisons were by in large horrible places.
    1. Unsurprisingly, in many cultures there were (are) stark differences between the conditions a rich  citizen might encounter in a prison, compared to the fate of a more common criminal
  2. Prison itself was not the punishment. Offenders were only held there until some physical punishment could be meted out.
Looking at part 1, The Prisons: 

Accurately covering all of  incarceration's history in a blog is impossible. Some details may make for interesting gaming.

  1. In ancient Greece and latter Rome prison officials were known to turn a blind eye towards a prisoner's escape. Generally an escape of this sort would be into exile.  "I have found my way out of prison but may never set eyes on beautiful Eretria again."
    Often such an escape may involve bribes. Buying one's way out of prison even if  awaiting a death sentence was not that uncommon. 
  2. With the exception of  instances where cash is involved. Prisoners would have little chance convincing the guards of anything.  By the time the  players get dumped in prison  the guards have heard it all. They have been told every sob story, every tall tale, every beggars trick. They have been bribed, threatened, cried to and yelled at. They have been offered every type of promissory bargain, sexual favor, and future payment imaginable. In short the players yammering on to the  guards bout how they "had been framed," is going to mean nothing to a guard.
    And why would a guard help a prisoner? A guard who has a JOB, a paying job for their king or country, that provides food and shelter in a time when perhaps those things are not so easy to come by. A living that likely supports the guards whole family and does not involve the guard dying in a tin mine somewhere. Why would that guard help just another  nameless prisoner?
    Yet it happens.
    My thought would be to give the player -6, "Disadvantage,"  or some other steep penalties (depending on your game of choice) on any  social skill check made involving a guard.
    I would also allow that the player could reduce the penalties if they continually engaged the same guard in an effort to befriend the guard.
    Something like one check per month of incarceration for each successful check the roll penalties are reduced. OR after three successes the prisoner has developed a rapport with the guard. The effort would have to be specific and  focused on winning the ear of a particular guard. Keep in mind it was common practice to move guards around just so long term prisoners don't have a chance to get to know their captors and vice versa. Imagine the frustration of a prisoner that has just gotten the ear of guard, when the guard is rotated to another assignment..
  3. Prisons just like today were expensive to run. If a society is using  incarceration as a punitive measure and not just holding some poor sod until he gets stoned to death, then there has to be a prison. The  expense of  building a secure building, staffing it with wardens, guards, officers, carpenters, clerical staff, grave diggers, and all the rest would be  massive. Not only massive but most likely coming from the coffers of the state, or king, or who ever is making the rules that generate criminals in the first place. With that said it can be assumed that not every town or even small city would have the means to create an actual prison. Smaller towns might have a cell or two, a cellar below the church, a root cellar or ice house, or a tower in the local fort dedicated to holding trouble makers. These buildings would likely be much less secure and not as well manned as a true prison.
  4. Overcrowding / disease: Jails and prisons: Still true today, but especially true in times when medical science had not yet caught onto how illness spreads, prisons are perfect breeding grounds for disease.
    Overcrowding, no understanding of hygiene, no waste removal, vermin, lack of bedding, all compound issue of  disease in an ancient prison. The young and the old are particularly susceptible to disease. In game terms this can be thought of as younger and older characters having a lower "constitution" or your game's equivalent. But even a hail and healthy character would likely get sick if a truly nasty illness should crop up. Disentairy kills and spreads easily in overcrowded unsanitary conditions. Pneumonia is a killer, Diphtheria, a myriad of respiratory infections, stagnant water can lead to Legionnaires disease, the list is endless.
    In Game terms the fetid conditions should start to wear on a character's constitution.
    I Suggest weekly checks that get harder as time goes on. Once the character fails the check have them begin to suffer constitution (or what have you) Loss. Many games have rules for disease and I would enforce them to their  harshest if an affliction is picked up in a prison.
  5. I have a strong opinion, that long term incarceration is not the best way for a character to end their days. The heroic warrior Biff Stonehips Dying of Phenomena and gangrene in some fetid oubliette goes against everything I enjoy in gaming. Your mileage may vary, I mean ole Biff might deserve it.
Part 2: The punishments:
For most of history the above atrocities are avoidable. Most of history no one thought of prison as the punishment, rather prison was simply where a criminal was held until the real punishments could be delivered. This may have sometime to due whit many cultures not seeing any  corrective value in  incarceration. I have a hunch a lot of it also had to do with many cultures did not have the resources or space to hold criminals indefinitely. Likely it was a bit of both. Regardless it was much cheaper to simply kill a prisoner, or punish them physically in hopes that pain will convince them never to commit the same infraction again. Better still for some cultures a prisoner could be sold into slavery at a profit. This option while rightly viewed as an atrocity in the view of  today's culture gets rid of the criminal and makes the municipality some coin at the same time.

Punishments varied wildly deepening on the society and culture in question. A GM will have to make their own calls about what fits their setting.

Again like where a criminal might be held social standing  will play a huge part in punishment. For example Slaves may be  beaten severely, branded, put to labor in a work house, and marked in some way but as property with value they were rarely put to death unless their transgression was particularly severe.

For the rich Exile was a popular choice. In both Greece and Rome, stripping a criminal of citizenship and casting them out of civilization could be a worse sentence than death.  Debtors might be branded, or their worldly processions stripped from them.
Player characters who have been arrested would likely fall into this category of  rich prisoner. They very well might be viewed as income opportunities by and judge or  municipality that has them in custody. If the  parties fighter has been arrested for  some infraction, and the  city knows there  are four other people traveling with her. The law enforcement of the city would likely know that the party came to town carrying  exotic weapons and wearing fine armor. They might know about magical possessions, and  perhaps even have heard that they had been buying out the inn every night. It would make sense that some sort of ransom could be negotiated. Leniency for your companion if you do this for us, or pay us this amount of gold. This situation could be an excellent adventurer hook opportunity, particularly if one play has a scheduled conflict and is going to have to miss a game or two.

The  opportunity to exile a whole adventuring party  might be a fun option for the GM , having them shipped to some  exotic coast and just dropped off with no equipment or supplies. This sort of thing could change the face of a campaign from the typical, "Lets go get that McGuffin!" to "how the hell do we survive?"

Having the  Prisoner Player characters sold off to a slave trader is an interesting option from a gaming perspective. The escape, return, and revenge opportunities could make for a campaign all by themselves.

After reading articles around the internet I quickly realized there are as many ways throughout history to torture or kill a prisoner than there were crimes to be tortured over. Again unless Your parties fighter is named Will Wallace I'm not saying torturing a player characters to death is a great way to end a campaign. The links above have some  pretty  good descriptions of ancient punishments tortures and  executions that may serve as threats or sentences that the  characters might endure or avoid. A character that is tortured as a punishment for a crime should  suffer some kind of permanent attribute loss. Charisma loss makes sense for things that mark the character obviously , such as loosing an ear, or being branded. The Charisma penalty should be particularly severe while the character is  active in the  culture where the punishment occurred. A character forever marked as a criminal will affect the characters ability to do business in normal society.

Other tortures could sap strength or dexterity. Horors such as being broken on a wrack or wheel. Intelligence and wisdom could also be affected if the torture is something like solitary confinement, prolonged pain or other psychological cruelty.
I would suggest steep attribute penalties. For D&D style games allowing the character a save after which if successful they loose 1d4, and if they fail the would loose 1d6 of whatever attribute is being targeted.  This sounds steep but remember we are talking about cruelty designed with all of humanities cruel inventiveness to break the target.  This would scar a character for life, and might change the direction of their carer.
Imagine the party fighter accused of murdering some poor innkeeper, convicted in a kangaroo court, and sentenced to torture. The party tried but fails to get the conviction overturned and  even fails at breaking their friend out of jail. The warrior is tortured and next time the party sees him  he' is a shadow of  the  man he once was. Where does the story go next? Perhaps the fighter retires? Perhaps the  player sees magical healing to regain his strength. Perhaps the Fighter found god on the rack and multi-classes to priest form then on? Perhaps the party  seeks revenge perhaps not?
It is a bit of very  heavy handed GMing but  in the right situation this sort of thing could open up many  story telling avenues.

So for now that's all I have on the subject of crime and punishment in D&D.
I suppose the moral of the story is that Player characters committing all sorts of crimes should at some point be threatened with the horrors of ancient punitive measures. Not only will it make the players think twice before they stab some innocent NPC in the face. Having some systems of law enforcement in place creates opportunities for adventures that players will be invested in from the get go. Jail breaks and escapes are a classic adventure trope, exile can lead to adventure, unfair trials and  even harsher punishments create enemies for the  player characters that can last for a whole campaign.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Thanks for reading

A 2D20 list of  execution methods, jazzed up a tiny bit for D&D
(Taken wholly from this Wikipedia source, credit to them.)

2: Crushing by elephant. or other heavy beast such as ogre, War Horse, or Golem 
3: Devouring by animals, as in damnatio ad bestias (i.e., as in the cliché, "being thrown to the lions"), as well as by alligators, crocodiles, piranha and sharks.
4: Stings from scorpions and bites by snakes, spiders, 
5: Tearing apart by horses (e.g., in medieval Europe and Imperial China, with four horses; or "quartering", with four horses, as in The Song of Roland and Child Owlet).
6: Trampling by horses (example: Al-Musta'sim, the last Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad).
7: Back-breaking A Mongolian method of execution that avoided the spilling of blood on the ground
8: Blowing from a gun Tied to the mouth of a cannon, which is then fired. Seems legit.
9: Blood Eagle Cutting the skin of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and pulling the lungs out through the wounds in the victim's back. Used by the Vikings.
10: Boiling to death, This penalty was carried out using a large cauldron filled with water, oil, tar, tallow, or even molten lead.
11: Breaking wheel Also known as the Catherine wheel, after a saint who was allegedly sentenced to be executed by this method.
12: Buried alive Traditional punishment for Vestal virgins who had broken their vows.
14: Burning Most infamous as a method of execution for heretics and witches. A slower method of applying single pieces of burning wood was used by Native Americans in torturing their captives to death.
15: Cooking, Example Brazen Bull A bull made of brass that the prisoner could be stuffed into, a fire is then lit below the  bull. It could be anything however, a large stew pot stirred by Baba Yaga for example. A huge oven?
16: Crucifixion Roping or nailing to a wooden cross or similar apparatus (such as a tree) and allowing to perish.
17: Crushing By a weight, abruptly or as a slow ordeal.
18: Decapitation Also known as beheading. Has been used at various points in history in many countries in Eurasia. One of the most famous execution methods is execution by guillotine.
19: Disembowelment Often employed as a preliminary stage to the actual execution, e.g. by 20: beheading; an integral part of seppuku (harakiri), which was sometimes used as a form of capital punishment.
21: Drawing and quartering English method of executing those found guilty of high treason.
22: A magical electric chair could be  rigged up in some campaigns... It's gruesome but it could fit a particular game.
23: Falling The victim is thrown off a height or into a hollow
24: Flaying The skin is removed from the body.
25: Garrote Used most commonly in Spain and in former Spanish colonies (e.g. the Philippines), used to strangle or choke someone.
26: Gas Death by asphyxiation or poison gas in a sealed chamber. Again in D&D this could be achieved via alchemy or  magical spells.
27: Gibbeting The act of gibbeting refers to the use of a gallows-type structure from which the victim was usually placed within a cage which is then hung in a public location and the victim left to die to deter other existing or potential criminals.
28: Hanging One of the most common methods of execution, still in use in a number of countries.
29: Immurement The confinement of a person by walling off any exits; since they were usually kept alive through an opening, this was more a form of imprisonment for life than of capital punishment 
30: Impalement
31: Keelhauling European maritime punishment. Tied to the keep of a boat while it is moving through the water.
32: Poisoning Lethal injection. Before modern times, the method of capital punishment of nobles.
33: Pendulum A type of machine with an axe head for a weight that slices closer to the victim's torso over time. (Of disputed historicity. Great for D&D though ...)
34: Scaphism An Ancient Persian method of execution in which the condemned was placed in between two boats, force fed a mixture of honey and milk, and left floating in a stagnant pond. The victim would then suffer from severe diarrhea, which would attract insects that would burrow, nest, and feed on the unfortunate victim. The unfortunate victim would eventually die from septic shock. I mean  honestly WTF?
35: Shooting (with bows in most games, but also slings, cannon, whatever fits your setting)
36: By a single shot (such as the neck shot, often performed on a kneeling prisoner, as in China).
37: Smothering (Asphyxia) Suffocation in ash, or  Clay, or even in snow.. Horrible way to die.
38: Starvation / Dehydration Immurement
39: Stoning The condemned is pummeled by stones thrown by a group of people with the totality of the injuries suffered leading to eventual death.
40: Suffocation

Sources: Some things I read while writing this post.