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Disproportionate Retribution / Tabletop Games

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  • Canonically happens quite a bit in the BattleTech universe. The Kentares Massacre and the Word of Blake's Jihad are just two major infamous examples (the former historical, the latter rather more recent) that virtually anyone in the setting could immediately name.
  • Dungeons & Dragons examples:
    • The Draconomicon states that even good dragons are prone to this. Any disrespect, even if it appears minor or an individual case, is magnified when made towards a dragon due to lesser mortals not knowing their place and their long life where they associate it with a long series of insults.
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    • There are also marids, genies of elemental water. Apparently, offending one in any way is a crime in their society if you aren't a marid. (And they barely tolerate being offended by other marids.) Of course, they're such incredible egotists that every one of them (that is not an exaggeration) has at least some title of nobility, if not royalty.
    • In the Ravenloft setting, the gothic Powers That Be in control of the place love answering pleas for vengeance - but freely disregard the scale of the supposed wrong. A lot of the campaigns revolve around some greedy or prideful person successfully calling down a curse of undeath or torment on someone for an imagined slight or trivial grievance.
    • The Forgotten Realms campaign setting has this, combined with a Self-Inflicted Hell. Did you worship an evil god because it was the culturally accepted thing to do where you came from? Then you're going to that God's hell, even if you never really did anything evil or you never even knew of a good god you could worship. And it won't be pleasant ('cause none of the evil god have pleasant afterlives for their followers, making one wonder how they get followers at all. Worship me! And win eternal torment). Were you an atheist? Then once you die you get to spend a LONG time having your soul slowly destroyed, becoming part of a wall, gradually losing your memories and personality till there's nothing left.
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    • The Drow goddess, Kiaransalee, is the Goddess of Disproportionate Vengeance
    • The Demon prince Graz'zt is probably the least likely demon lord to rip you apart just for existing, even opening his layers of the abyss for trade. Mention that he actually fell in love with Iggwilv, that Malcanthet turned him down, or call his domain "The Little Hells", and he will feed you to the predatory plants in his gardens.
    • One sample adventure in the Heroes of Horror sourcebook, "For Hate's sake", is made of this trope. Growing up, Samuel (one of the primary villains of the adventure) was that guy who always held a grudge. Eventually he became a priest of the god of this trope himself. He then began taking revenge on all his childhood grudges (granted it's implied that MOST of these didn't involve murder). He eventually becomes his god pulls a Poisonous Friend and summons a ghost to take revenge for him, and this time it ALWAYS involves murder. Samuel goes mad with guilt and ends up pleading with the ghost to stop, only to be (depending on their actions) killed by the PCs, with the DM leading them to believe Samuel is the one responsible (which given that his god is also playing this trope for Samuel becoming complacent, he is, in a way).
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  • In the Iron Kingdoms RPG, this is why smart people don't take up crime in the Protectorate of Menoth. A fundamentalist theocracy, the Protectorate has incredibly brutal laws. No less than eleven crimes out of fourteen can earn burning at the stake in the Protectorate, including improper speech, the more elaborate forms of theft, smuggling, tax evasion, counterfeiting and destruction of currency. Drunkenness can earn you a trip to the torture chamber.
  • This is why you do not steal the Relics of the Arisen-neither they nor their gods take kindly to tomb robbers, so a dormant one will likely be brought out of stasis, and he will find you. Fun Fact: The Empire of Irem didn't really have a concept of forgiveness, only revenge.
  • Player Characters in Nobilis are bound by the Sevenfold Precept. Harming innocents is against the law, but if anyone harms you, you are allowed to repay it sevenfold. And (at least in Second Edition), Lord Entropy includes under the definition of "harm" accepting insults from a mortal, or simply accepting an order from one. Because it diminishes a Noble's miraculous nature.
    • In Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, Entropy's son, Entropy II, has set as one of the laws of his Evil World that none can be harmed more than three times as much as they deserve. (Why not "exactly as they deserve"? Because to Entropy II's mind, that can result in a rather nasty form of "you deserved that". Better to have a situation that evokes some sympathy.)
  • Exalted:
    • Aspect Book: Fire uses this trope to establish how bad the Realm's Deadly Decadent Court is. Peleps Dananchina, a noble of the Realm, responds to being called "stereotypical" by setting fire to the speaker's toys. And the revenge taken for that is even more disproportionate.
    Peleps Damanchina: (narrating) She didn’t try to insult me again. She did try to assassinate me, but that was an entirely different matter.
    • In Aspect Book: Air, a monk of the Realm destroys an entire tavern because its logo violated Realm doctrine.
  • This is part of the reason why the Dwarfs in Warhammer Fantasy are A: part of the "Gray" side of its Black and Gray Morality, and B: a dying race. They honor Revenge Before Reason to the point they are Too Dumb to Live, being willing to do things like get into a war that sees dozens of their own people dead and raze a castle that they spent years building to the ground because the guy who paid them was two and a half pennies short in his dozen wagonloads of gold payment.
    • The best example for the Dwarfs is the War of Vengeance, also called the War of the Beard by the Elves. It all started when the Dark Elf raiders disguised as High Elves attacked some Dwarf traders. High King Gotrek demanded compensation from the High Elves, but the arrogant Elf king Caledor II refused and had the Dwarf ambassador's beard shaved, causing Gotrek to declare all out war on the High Elves. Shaving a Dwarf's beard is considered so insulting the Dwarf is required to take the Slayers oath and likely also kill you in the time between. The resulting war shattered the two Empires, and it ended with Caledor's death at the hands of Gotrek, who took the Phoenix crown as compensation, and the High Elves being forced to withdraw from their colonies in the Old World to defend Ulthuan from the Dark Elves.
    • In the Total War: Warhammer video game, Grudges are a gameplay mechanic for the Dwarfs, basically being timed missions that the Dwarfs need to fulfil or they begin to suffer public order penalties. One Grudge requires you to send a saboteur to punish a neighbouring rival Dwarf clan, which depending on your relation can result in a war. Why? Because the clan stole away a halfling cook who served under High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer himself and made an apparently delicious nutty fig pudding that the king was fond of. Because as bad as it is that the End Times are upon us and the Old World is being reduced to a burning hellscape, we simply cannot allow the halfling pudding affront to go unanswered, can we? Another Grudge involves starting a war with the Vampire Counts because they killed a bunch of Dawi merchants and used their reanimated bodies to act in a play called "Stoutheart Beardcomber and the Ostlander's Wife": Sure, the death of innocent Dawi must be repaid in blood (or whatever Vampires shed), but the high priority of the Grudge is implied to be because the play was absolutely terrible.
    • Prince Sigvald once burned down an Imperial City. The reason? He didn't like the taste of their wine. Granted, though, Sigvald is a champion of one of the Chaos Gods, and the Chaos Marauders fully intend on destroying all life on the planet...
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution
    • If you turn down a recruitment offer from The Shop, Escaton, Abraxis, Aleph, or The Red Orchestra, they will either kill you, forcibly abduct you, or ruin your life until you have no other choice but to change your mind.
    • Harry's punishments in Broken Things are extremely harsh and are handed out for doing things like talking out of turn, requesting to be called by his name instead of subject number, and not answering questions quickly enough while under extreme duress.
    • Rose is rude to her captors in the beginning of Captured. They respond by sedating her, shaving her head, taking away her piercings, and doing laser removal on her tattoos.
  • The Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000 uses this for everything. A few examples:
    • The Steel Cobras Space Marine chapter worshipped the Emperor as an animal totem. The penalty for following the Imperial state religion in the wrong way? They were duly excommunicated, and any Imperial force to see a Steel Cobra is permitted, nay required, to shoot on sight and leave asking questions to the Inquisition.
      • All this while every single Marine chapter worships the Emperor in a way not sanctioned by the Ecclesiarchy, and some are much weirder than the Steel Cobras without being censured. Even worse, Space Marines don't have to worship the Emperor (as the geneseed comes from the Emperor), they just have to be loyal to him, and some Chapters are rather open about it.
      • All this just shows that all it takes to accuse a Space Marine chapter of heresy is one dumb Inqusitor and some bad luck. Even First Founding chapters are not immune to this as Months of Shame show.
    • The Carcharodons chapter of Space Marines are in love with this. After gaining control of the enemy's holdings (the Tranquility system) at the end of the Badab War, they exterminated every single person who was not of recruitable age, and forced the rest to fight to the death to determine which of the tiny percentage of survivors would get to join their chapter. After that, they stripped the system of all useful resources and vanished.
    • The Black Templars Space Marines, upon learning that a few people on a planet had purchased alien equipment from traders, proceeded to massacre a significant chunk of the population. Even the Imperium usually limits the punishment for this to jail time.
    • Subverted with Exterminatus. You'd think blasting the planet into an unusable wasteland is a bit much, but it's only supposed to be used if Chaos or Tyranid forces have overwhelmed a planet to a point where it isn't worth taking it back (Chaos corrupts everything and the 'nids eat everything and thus can lose billions and still have a net gain, so blowing up the surface of the planet will keep them from consuming anything usable) and yes, even the Imperium has its limits for throwing men into the meat grinder. Though given how utterly dystopian the setting is, someone, somewhere no doubt has used it for less than proper or sane reasons.
      • There is, in that a planet got exterminated because the taxes paid didn't round up and thus the Inquisition assumed they had started worshipping Chaos. Oooops...
      • There is an Inquisitorial Ordo whose job is to pass judgment on whether or not the Exterminatus committed was justified. In more than 90% of cases the Exterminatus is declared a mistake and an Inquisitor who ordered it is stripped of his/her rank and executed.
    • Imperial Guard Commissars are known particularly for their application of BLAM (fatal gunshot) in dealing with insubordination, heresy or uniform violation among hapless troops. This varies, but only the most suicidal of commissars ever engage in hapless murder of their own ranks. Bolt Shells cost to much to be wasted on a single Guardsmen who mis-tied his laces, and it's not uncommon for such Commissars to suffer from "Friendly Fire" in the next engagement.
      • The Imperium has also been known to send entire regiments with a mandate to burn the planet if strictly necessary, because someone bought a Tau-made crop harvester.
      • Of course that's partially justified since if that crop harvester had been bought from certain other illegal sources it would cause anyone who took a bite of the crops to turn to Chaos, mutate, or get stricken with a particularly virulent Nurgle disease. If someone gets away with purchasing from the Tau they'll keep buying from other xenos until they get a Chaos artifact in a shipment.
      • See the above about flip-flopping. The Imperium has also been known to tolerate - or at least turn a blind eye to - limited trading with the Tau Empire provided it's kept low-key. So...Depending on the Writer.
      • Less Depending on the Writer and more Depending on the Inquisitor. The Inquisition is a vast organization, and they vary pretty wildly in what they'll tolerate. Some, such as Gideon Ravenor of Dan Abnett's Ravenor Trilogy, will flat out ignore some xenos if they have better things to do; others will torture you on vague suspicions (most of them are in the fluff, as they don't tend to make relatable protagonists, or good inquisitors for that matter).
    • Any member of the Inquisition can and will dispense these at a moment's notice depending on their mood, temperment, boredom, paranoia, or a combination of both. Inquisitor Lord Karamazov famously roasted a young preacher. His crime? Thorian inquisitors, Karamazov's peers, thought the preacher might have been the Emperor reincarnated. The boy had otherwise done nothing wrong. [[labelnote]] The Emperor isn't dead. [[/note]]
      • Karamazov usually roasts people for far less. In his court, everyone found guilty is sentenced to death. Everyone found innocent is sentenced to death too because they wasted his time by appearing guilty while having done nothing wrong.
    • Woe befall anyone who crosses the Dark Angels' path. Their Interrogator-Chaplains extract confessions from suspected Fallen Angels with brutal torture. If you deny you are one, they will call you a liar then continue to torture you until you do confess, or kill you if they think it's pointless. If you confess you are one (even falsely) they will accept the apology, then kill you.
    • A number of alien races abandoned and betrayed humanity at the beginning of the Age of Strife. The Emperor's response was to attempt to exterminate every single alien race in a galaxy-spanning campaign of genocide. While it wasn't, at least according to Imperial sources, the only role of the Great Crusade, there are certainly a lot of alien races in the Horus Heresy novels who you won't see on the tabletop...
    • /tg/ created the Necron Lord Assholetep, "An aeons old automaton king... with the petulant impatience and obnoxious tantrums of a 7 year old child." Anecdotes regarding Assholetep state that he will obliterate entire sectors over comically trivial slights.
  • The Europans' general schtick in Rocket Age. They bombed Io back into the stone age (they consider this merciful), engaged in a genocidal war with the Jovians when they began using space flight, driving them into hiding, as well as constantly threatening Earth with disintegration.
  • The Splinter has this as a possible character origin. Were you caught in possession of books or associating with certain groups? You might get sent to play the game, which is an almost certain death sentence.

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