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TEMPLATE

Role Playing Tips - By Johnn Four

LAW, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN FANTASY ROLE PLAYING GAMES

Written by Brennan O'Brien
veilheim@yahoo.com



Law exists to maintain a social structure. Without law, there is anarchy. Anarchy tends to lead to social failure, because a society cannot successfully marshal its capability against threats.

Law Is Based On Custom & Religion

---------------------------------

In general, Law is based on Custom and Religion. Custom and Religion define for each society what is "right" and what is "wrong". Obviously, these factors vary tremendously between various cultures, and the crimes of your society should reflect the normative behavior based on what you view the customs and religious beliefs are that dominate your society. At the core, however, most societies have between 3-10 significant "thou shalt not" rules governing social behavior.

The Basic Rules Of Law

----------------------

In general, these rules resemble the following: * Do not kill people.

* Do not speak a lie about your neighbors.

* Do not steal or destroy the possessions of others.

* Do not have sex with some society defined group (varies by society and custom).

* Do not challenge the rule of law/authority (typically seen in older societies).

* Do not commit heresy against the predominant religion of the society (varies by religion).

These tend to form the basis of criminal law for a society. Most of the laws that we have on the books today can, in some way, trace their origins back to one of these six key laws. These, then, can be considered "felonies" for most societies.

Punishment for committing a felony in most early medieval societies tends to focus around retributive action. For example, killing someone tends to result in the offender being killed. Stealing tends to result in some sort of physical deformation.

How Social Status & Circumstance Affect Punishment

--------------------------------------------------

Two elements strongly influence the application of punishment to the crime. The first element is the level of relative social stratification between the "criminal" and the "victim". A noble killing a slave, from a society perspective, is a lot less "bad" than a slave killing a noble. Secondly, the number of factors which aggravate or mitigate the commission of the crime itself influences the punishment of the crime. This second class of factors, though, does not supersede the first set -- that is, even if you're defending your own life (a mitigating factor), killing a noble if you're a slave probably won't save your life.

The 4 Steps For Creating Your Own Crime & Punishment System

-----------------------------------------------------------

1. Determine the society's crime categories and assign Punishment Levels

2. Assign effects of social class as modifiers to Punishment Levels

3. Assign effects of circumstance as modifiers to Punishment Levels

4. Determine punishments for Punishment Level

A Sample Crime & Punishment System

----------------------------------

The following generic mechanics can be used to address crime and punishment in your own campaigns. Obviously, change whatever necessary to adapt to your own environment. Each of the major crimes has a generic "punishment" level. Remember these are just examples, and can serve in a pinch - but you'll probably want something a bit more tailored to your campaign world.

Crimes of Example Society X
Killing People is Outlawed Punishment Level 11
Stealing/Vandalism is Outlawed Punishment Level 9
Treason, Sedition and speaking against the Government is Outlawed Punishment Level 7
Assaulting A Guard or Soldier is Outlawed Punishment Level 5
Effects of Social Class and Reputation on Crimes of Society X
Slave/Outcast commits crime against Commoner +1 Punishment Level
Slave/Outcast commits crime against Noble +3 Punishment Level
Slave/Outcast commits crime against Society +5 Punishment Level
Commoner commits crime against Slave -1 Punishment Level
Commoner commits crime against Noble +2 Punishment Level
Commoner commits crime against Society +3 Punishment Level
Noble commits crime against Slave -3 Punishment Level
Noble commits crime against Commoner -2 Punishment Level
Noble commits crime against Society +1 Punishment Level
Criminal has an awful reputation +2 Punishment Level
Criminal has a poor reputation +1 Punishment Level
Criminal has a neutral reputation +0 Punishment Level
Criminal has a positive reputation -2 Punishment Level
Criminal has an exemplary reputation -4 Punishment Level
Victim has an awful reputation -2 Punishment Level
Victim has a poor reputation -1 Punishment Level
Victim has a neutral reputation +0 Punishment Level
Victim has a positive reputation +1 Punishment Level
Victim has an exemplary reputation +3 Punishment Level
Effects of Circumstance on Crimes of Society X
For each aggravation making the crime worse +2 Punishment Level
For each mitigation which lessens the crime -1 Punishment Level
Generic Punishments
Execution of Criminal, their Family and their Associates and Friends Level 13
Execution of Criminal and their Family Level 12
Execution of Criminal Level 11
Massive Deformation (Leg, Arm, Tongue, Eyes removed) Level 10
Major Deformation (Hand, Foot, Sex organs, Single eye removed) Level 9
Minor Deformation (finger, teeth removed) Level 8
Extended Imprisonment (Tens of Years) Level 7
Imprisonment (Several Years) Level 6
Short Imprisonment (Number of Months) Level 5
Significant Fine (Several Decades of Average Earnings) Level 4
Fine (Several Years of Average Earnings) Level 3
Minor Fine (Several Months of Average Earnings) Level 2
Crime Overlooked Level 1


Applying the Example

--------------------

Let's say Frederick, a Nobleman with an exemplary reputation in Society X, kills a social outcast with a poor reputation. He can demonstrate that it was self defense (a mitigating factor).

In Society X, killing is a punishment level 11. The act, though, was committed by a Noble against an Outcast, reducing the level by 3. The victim had a poor reputation, reducing the punishment by another 1 level, and the Noble has an exemplary reputation reducing the punishment by another 4 levels. The mitigating factor further reduces the punishment by one level.

The final punishment, then, is (11-3-1-4-1 =) 2. Frederick must pay a fine to the society/government amounting to several months of funds.

Expanding This System

---------------------

Other elements can easily be added to this system, such as the effect of magical spells, reaction modifiers, representation by counsel, or whatever catches your fancy. The key element to defining crime and punishment in your fantasy world is understanding what major activities constitute crimes. Identifying and differentiating these elements from each of the various cultures in your game world can add tremendous depth to your campaigns because the laws can be sketched out based on what you already know about your various cultures. In other words, a great bang- for-the-buck in terms of increasing the depth of your campaign without costing you a lot of time.

Copyleft Brennan O'Brien veilheim@yahoo.com Details on copyleft can be found at: http://www.xania.demon.co.uk/copyleft.html

Have more fun at every game!

Johnn Four

 
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