Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice

Vigilantism

Vigilantism is a fairly modern concept that was developed based off of the ideas of Law and Justice we have had since about the 19th century.

All through history one can find what are deemed examples of Vigilantism though many is from us applying our own philosophical concepts of law and justice to ancient and older texts that were written with some vastly different philosophical views and applications.

This is especially a concept that has really taken off after the introduction of Super Heroes, and their popularity in present day. Many super heroes have undergone some transformations since their introductions in the late 1930s where they went from fighting fantastical ideologies of a culture's perceived threats in the world. They were often seen as some great benevolent force and was used to inspire people. Though soon they were starting to be translated into a kind of vigilante especially as some writes became discontented with current events going on in the world.

The modern concept of a vigilante only exists in the setting of Sirian. This is due to many of Sirian's locations having a similar structure of Law and Justice philosophies that mirror our modern day concepts, which in turn allows for the vigilante concept as we know it to be present.

However Vaxia is a more historical inspired fantasy game. While we don't base anything off an exact historical basis, Vaxia is set in a time that is similar to the Age of Discovery. While there is the start of some of the concepts that were eventually become our modern day law and justice philosophies, it is important to remember that it is not the same.
The concept of vigilantes as we know it today, does not exist in Vaxia as citizens of the various cities are highly encouraged to participate in the law keeping. This helps ensures that the citizens are aware of the laws of their city, it creates a further bond among the citizens which helps promote the idea of community, and it gave citizens a hands on way to see their system was working.
Mercenary groups that form with the idea of helping deal with crime is a common event and even encouraged often working with a local guard group if the city has one, or some equivalent that handles the more administration end of dealing with law breakers. Some towns and cities may even have it mandatory that anyone that can stop a crime is required to step in when they see one in progress, and should one fail to do so they could be arrested as a law breaker themselves.
One may say they are a vigilante, but the people will think they are just a mercenary/adventurer that is especially vigil in helping maintain the social contract (laws) of their community.

In essence all player characters are functionally vigilantes - it's roughly what an 'adventurer' is - so the notion of a caped crusader doesn't stand out in Vaxia.

It is important to remember that none of our settings are a 'Super Hero' genre game. Player characters are typically heroes and are "super" compared to most average citizens in either setting to begin with.

So if you are looking to play a more comic bookish gimmicky type of Super Hero/Vigilante our current Settings can not support that kind of concept. Some variations on the idea however may be able to work with some discussion and adjustment to fit within the settings.

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Hostility and Reputation

Hostility Levels

The hostility level of a court reflects the seriousness of the crime and how poorly received the character is. It accounts for repeat offenders and circumstances of the crime. The hostility level determines the difficulty for any rolls to reduce the punishment for the crime. A crime starts at a given hostility level, and the circumstances of the situation and character reputation may raise or lower the hostility. Evidence gathered against the character is considered to be included already by setting the tier for the hostility of the court.

Hostility Punishment Types Difficulty Statute of Limitations Notes
Tier 1 Fines, Service RP 25 1 year Minor stuff. Most simple violations (vandalism, disorderly conduct, etc.) This tier is basically the warning tier. On average would not expect punishments to go over 500s.
Tier 2 Fines, Service RP, Prison 50 2 years Aggravated crimes, minor theft, false accusations, manslaughter, kidnapping, etc.
Tier 3 Fines, Service RP, Prison, Permanent Marks 75 3 years Major thefts, murder of passion, assault, arson, etc.
Tier 4 Fines, Service RP, Prison, Permanent Marks, Stat Loss 100 No limit Planned murders, rape. The biggest stuff.
Tier 5 Fines, Service RP, Prison, Permanent Marks, Stat Loss, Death 125 No limit
No crime initially starts at tier 5. In order for the court to be this hostile the character must be a repeat offender.

How Does Reputation Apply?

Reputation with (or against) the local law enforcement agency applies to the hostility of the court. This allows for repeat offenders to face a more or less hostile court when they commit a crime. The local government will list the reputation group that applies for this system. If a character has a reputation over or under 16 / -16 with that group adjust the hostility levels up or down by one level. You cannot raise or lower a tier above 5 or below 1.

Note: The shift of tier is only by *one* level, this is not intended as a cumulative adjustment.

Reputation Hostility Effect
+16 or more -1 Tier
15 to -15 No change
-16 or less +1 Tier

Crime PP / Hostility Table

Use these crimes as guidelines for severity for the crimes the character is accused of. This is NOT an exhaustive list but is intended to give an idea of appropriate targets for the crimes listed. The exact detail of punishment may vary by area - some locations may favor silver punishments over time in jail, or penalize some crimes more or less harshly than average. That information will be in the government write up for the location. PP for any particular crime is maxed at 50 PP. Always round down for PP calculated as a percentage of a given value, minimum 1 PP.

Note: the PP targets for these crimes need to stay within 0 to 50 PP at most! Keep in mind the player only has 3 rolls to possibly reduce these values to zero - so they are NOT going to be able to grind down PP targets in the thousands. Punishments are scaled based on the tier of the crime - so a Tier 1 crime and a Tier 5 crime are punished differently even if they have the same amount of leftover PP.

Note: For theft, the value of 500 silver was selected based on the value of a starting character, it should be adjusted if the value of a starting character’s economy is changed in the future.

Crime Hostility Difficulty PP (Max 50) Notes
Disturbing the Peace Tier 1 25 10 PP Public drunkenness, fighting in public, minor vandalism, graffiti, etc.
Minor Theft Tier 2 50 1/10th the value of the item Items equal or below 500s, where no assault was committed
Selling Contraband Tier 2 50 1/100th the value of the item Selling contraband where illegal
Creating Contraband Tier 2 50 1/10th the value of the item Creating contraband where illegal
Arson Tier 2 50 1/10th the value of item or 5 PP per occupancy of the building Destruction of property by fire. Calculate occupancy based on how many people could be housed in the building permanently
Bribery Tier 2 50 10 PP Bribing a public official - usually in context of getting off for other crimes
False Accusations Tier 2 50 10 PP False accusations aimed at NPCs or PCs that go to trial
Stalking or Peeping Tier 2 50 10 PP If PC on PC: The player must have been given explicit positive consent from the other player or the player will be up for a Social Strike not IC punishment.
Kidnapping Tier 2 50 25 PP Unlawfully detaining an individual
Manslaughter Tier 2 50 50 PP Murder by accident or negligence
Smuggling contraband Tier 3 75 1/10th the value of the item Moving contraband into an area where illegal
Major theft Tier 3 75 1/10th the value of the item Items above 500s where no assault was committed
Major Assault Tier 3 75 10 PP Extreme attacks, torture, attempted (and failed) murder
Sexual Assault Tier 3 75 10 PP If PC on PC: The player must have been given explicit positive consent from the other player or the player will be up for a Social Strike not IC punishment.
Mass Assault Tier 3 75 25 PP Also covers piracy and banditry
Mass Kidnapping Tier 3 75 50 PP Of a group, includes running a slave ring where slavery is outlawed
Murder of Passion Tier 3 75 50 PP Angry murders are not planned, 2nd degree
Rape Tier 4 100 10 PP If PC on PC: The player must have been given explicit positive consent from the other player or the player will be up for a Social Strike not IC punishment.
Planned Murder Tier 4 100 25 PP 1st degree, with forethought and planning
Mass Murder Tier 4 100 50 PP Lots of people all at once
Serial Murder Tier 4 100 50 PP Lots of people over time
Treason or Spying N/A N/A N/A This type of crime is better run as part of a larger saga

Which Types of Reputation Apply?

That will normally be listed with the legal authority / government doing the sentencing so this should never be a question that need to be answered.

But as a general guideline for situations where the government is not yet clearly defined see the chart below for reputation scores that will add positive or negative modifiers for a character on trial in a given region. SHs should apply discretion in only applying reputations that are applicable to the given location (so a positive reputation with a distant church might not help with a particular theocratic court).

Examples of types of government and for/against group reputations that may apply:

Types of Government Good Reputations Bad Reputations
ALL TYPES Related Legal Groups Criminal Organizations
Democracy or Representative Republic Populace Terrorist groups, Enemy governments
Oligarchy or Aristocracy Nobility, Merchants Populace
Theocracy Church, Populace Rival Church, Populace
Monarchy Nobility, Royal family Rival families, Populace
Dictatorship or Totalitarian Merchants, Political party Populace, Enemy parties
Military Dictatorship Military Populace, Nobility
Anarchy Populace Nobility
No government Populace, Warlord group Enemy warlord group

Any additional non-rep biases (race, color, etc) should be played as part of a given NPC in a more complicated session situation, not as part of the justice system.

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Criminal Punishment Guidelines

Types of Punishment

Reputation - For all punishments taken there is a negative total added to the character’s reputation with the local government / legal system according to the value of the punishment. In addition, positive reputation up to half the value of the negative reputation (round down) will also be added to the sheet to go to the player’s choice of organizations: The local government to counter the negative reputation of the crime or to an appropriate criminal organization for the same. This second reputation bonus is meant to reflect the character’s handling of their new situation - cooperation and snitching with the law, or joining the ranks of the criminals of the area. This reputation fades away over time just like normal reputation does.

Fines / Restitution - The character may be forced to pay a fine or blood money in silver pieces. The silver is permanently lost. This is in addition to any contraband seized.

Service RP - Some punishments that come in the form of required RP measured in terms of the XP amount of the RP. Community service for example. There is a time limit on when a player is expected to complete their punishment RP ie - within 30 days per XP assigned. This reflects the time loss from the player’s end as they spend presumably limited available time to post in punishment RP instead of in casual or session RP during that window. If real life interferes with completing the RP in a timely fashion, Social can be called on to defer the punishment until a better time. This is intended to be the most common punishment used on site since it keeps a player active on the site but doesn’t let a character off the hook. Failure to complete the RP within the time frame means silver or inactive time will be applied instead.

Prison - For every month spent in jail the player does not have access to post as the character for that time. The character will be returned after time served with legally carried items and legally gained silver. While in prison though, the character does not gain daily silver.

Markings - These may be permanent public information reflecting brands, ankle bracelets, or other markers. These marks will negatively impact NPC reactions for all NPC groups (save for criminal groups) until the character works to remove the mark with a scene. This negative impact will be in the range of -5 to -10 reputation depending on the crime.

Stat Loss - A permanent stat or skill reductions reflecting a missing limb or mental wipe for skills. The stat loss should be equivalent to the value of the XP to to be charged. The PC may spend XP to regain the lost Stats or abilities afterwards.

Death - What it says on the tin. The character is removed from play and XP may be transferred as normal after a character dies. Save points are not an option for this punishment.

Punishments

Because any given location may vary in the punishments given for a crime and because we need some way to measure the cost of a crime against another crime - we have a conversion rate for silver, time spent not playing, and xp costs for crimes. This allows us to calculate what the equivalent worth in silver may be for time spent in prison, or loss of stats - so that a character may pay in bribes or the like as needed. This also allows us to calibrate the cost of any given crime to the real-life equivalent in time playing.

The conversion rates are shown in the table below.

Why these values? We are working these values out based on average play of a session, and silver and XP awards in a session. If that changes over time we should probably recalibrate, but this based on the current play rates for now.

Each leftover PP is worth… Silver Service RP Time Inactive
Tier 1 x 10 silver each 10 silver 0.1 XP 1 day
Tier 2 x 50 silver each 100 silver 0.2 XP 2 weeks
Tier 3 x 100 silver each 300 silver 0.3 XP 6 weeks
Tier 4 x 1000 silver each 400 silver 0.4 XP 4 months
Tier 5 x 1000 silver each 500 silver 0.5 XP 5 months

Stat Loss Punishments

We use the value of item bonuses as our way to calculate a stat loss or skill loss punishment based on the silver value of the punishment. To do this, first select the stat or skill to be affected. Then calculate how large a bonus to that stat or skill would be gained if you bought an item worth that silver value (round down). Then subtract that bonus from the stat or skill.

Maximum Punishments

Since we cap the amount of PP that needs to be reduced at 50 - that means the maximum punishments for each tier are:

Maximum punishment… Silver Service RP Time Inactive
Tier 1 x 10 silver x 50 PP each 500 silver 5 XP 50 days
Tier 2 x 50 silver x 50 PP each 5,000 silver 10 XP 100 weeks
Tier 3 x 100 silver x 50 PP each 15,000 silver 15 XP 300 weeks
Tier 4 x 1000 silver x 50 PP each 200,00 silver 20 XP 200 months
Tier 5 x 1000 silver x 50 PP each 250,000 silver 25 XP 250 months
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Running a Justice Scenario

A justice scenario is a special type of scene/session that involves a PC who has committed a crime and the response of law enforcement officials in some capacity.

When to Run a Justice Scenario

Committing a crime does not automatically place the character into the hands of the court system. A character’s crimes first need to be detected! They may be apprehended by guards while committing a crime, arrested after an NPC detects an intrusion or theft, or arrested after some other IC detection of the crime. Only after the character has been apprehended for the crime does this system kick into place.

Before Running a Justice Scenario

Before starting this, the SH needs to do a quick check of the details from the session. If an ASH, then the ASH should get a full SH to assist on this because risks here are pretty big. These are the details an SH should gather from the session:

  • Legal authority for the ruling - this is usually the local government, but may be the character’s home nation in cases of international law, a military court for enlisted characters, or other unusual situations.
  • The crimes accused - no need to grind down to every tiny little detail or accessory crime. In most cases, you should just pick the largest overall crime as your base.
  • Determine if the charge has already been ruled before. You cannot retry charges already ruled.
  • Any reputation that may apply for the location of the ruling, good or bad.
  • Evidence that may have been collected by law enforcement or other parties (a skill roll may be necessary) to be able to prove that the charges listed have been applied fairly.
  • Make note of any skills the player may be using to defend themselves in court or if they will be paying for that defense. Pay scales to the crime directly regardless of the assumed skill of the defender so that a PC is paying the right scale of ‘fine’ for the crime. Note: A PC with the skill to be their own lawyer gets to enjoy having invested XP in the skill and has a defense for free.
  • Notify Social and Setting leads with all the information you have so far so they can check the situation for any reasons not to go ahead with the process from an OOC or IC point of view. This is a cover-your-butt piece so if something has been missed they can fill the SH in on what’s going on. This is purely a notification! Permission is already granted - the leads just need to be in the loop in case something goes off-rails.

How to run the Scenario

A form to help run the math is available here: http://vaxia.org/vaxia/justice

There’s not a lot of RP to this and we don’t recommend putting too much into it if the trial is not part of a bigger saga or planned event. Just set the situation and make some rolls. Why? Because we don’t want to overly reward taking risks or failing. This isn’t exactly a stress-free situation and risks becoming a way to get on-demand one-on-one session otherwise. So keep this as clean and neutral as possible and reserve RP for other situations. The SH takes the following steps:

  • Determine the hostility of the court.
    • Set the initial hostility based on the base crime. IE: a crime with high offensiveness has a high initial hostility, one with low, a low one. See table mapping crime to hostility level and PP value below.
    • Adjust the hostility up or down based on the reputation(s) of the character.
      • Use only the largest positive reputation modifier.
      • Use only the largest negative reputation modifier.
    • Adjust the hostility up or down based on any pre-existing contingencies the character has arranged - favors, secrets, extenuating circumstances. No additional efforts can be made to adjust the hostility after the arrest.
  • Determine the PP value of the crime.
    • Set the PP to the value of the expected punishment level for the crime. See table mapping crime to hostility level and PP value.
  • No contest - In a no contest situation, the character can just outright pay the silver value of the crime. If the player chooses no contest, 100% of the PP value is paid.
  • Bribery - It is also possible for a character to opt to bribe their way out of this situation. But this requires a dice roll and risks making the situation worse.
    • In order to take the bribery option, calculate how much silver the crime is worth based on the PP before attempting to defend against the accusation. Use the table below to calculate the value.
    • The character cannot take a bribery option after starting defense rolls to reduce PP - even if they roll terribly. This is their one chance to buy their way out.
    • The character must have enough silver for the bribe, loans are not an option. If the character does not have enough to pay the bribe after the roll then treat this as if the character failed the roll.
    • The character may make one roll with an appropriate legal or social might at a diff 25. The PP generated will reduce the cost in silver to pay by an equal percent. For example, 11 PP generated will reduce the cost by 11%. At most the cost may be reduced by 50%.
    • Failing a bribe roll, either by rolling low or not having enough silver to cover the bribe cost, will add 10 PP to the PP they will need to reduce in the defense step as the attempt to bribe has been found out and will be added.
  • Determine additional circumstance modifiers that will apply for the rolls, including any counter evidence or defense arguments a character may have available. Evidence here is a ‘generic’ bonus sense, not specific IC information - this is an abstraction of what would be a much more complicated process in real life or to RP. Bonuses at this point are always in the favor of the player to provide a bonus to the player rolls.
    • Evidence is rolled for by other players with an investigative, legal, or science skill.
    • Evidence may also be rolled for by the court defense in inquisitorial courts. Use the standard defense representative Stats that should be listed with the gov.
      • The character does NOT get to roll at this point. It’s good to have friends. An NPC may also be hired - System will need to calculate correct pay for skill of the NPC to roll.
  • Player rolls! Players get three rolls to reduce the PP of the crime down to zero and escape punishment. These rolls represent the various stages of the trial process.
    • PCs lacking a relevant legal skill may be assisted by a court NPC, such as a public defender, a lord’s assistant, or a knight willing to stand in combat for them.
    • Roll against the Hostility of the court to produce PP to reduce the crime. What mights are used for this is based on the type of court.
      • Adversarial: Int and Cha + relevant PC or NPC skill (usually 25)
      • Inquisitional: Cha and Spi + relevant PC or NPC skill (usually 25)
      • Ordeal: Str and Dex, or Int and Spi + relevant PC or NPC skill (usually 25)
    • Critical successes can remove extra PP (-10 additional PP)
    • Critical failures can add PP back - making the punishment worse (+10 PP)
    • Determine how much PP has been generated by the rolls vs. leftover.
  • However much PP is left over determines the punishment for the crime after defense. This could be as simple as a fine, service, time in jail, permanent marks, up to death.
    • Calculate the end publishment in silver according to the table below.
  • Deal out punishment
    • The available types of punishments are set by the hostility of the court. For example a Tier 2 hostility can never result in a death sentence even if the silver owed is in the thousands.
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Crime and Punishment

When a player has run afoul of the law we need to run through the justice system and stick within the guidelines of the system to avoid SH bias for or against a character. This is important for crimes that risk the player losing the ability to play the character for any length of time or permanent loss of abilities.

Because punishing a character for a crime runs a very high risk of Real Life Harm to a player (loss of the character, loss of playtime, loss of earned Stats or items) it is really important that we play within these guidelines to be both fair to the player and fair to other players who aren’t running IC criminal empires in their spare time.

Since the SHs know - for a fact - the events of the crime, we can determine the absolute truth of guilt for a character. Because of that we also run the risk of automatically punishing out of hand, which can make playing criminal and rogue concepts effectively impossible. No matter how often we say ‘If someone is clever enough they can get away with it.’, if we don’t provide a way for that to happen then it relies mostly on OOC bias from an SH for that to happen.

So it really is important to have this structure for determining IC punishment levels and ways for criminal characters to “get away with it” after being arrested.

Genuine Innocence

For cases where the character is falsely accused, where genuine innocence is involved there are two guidelines here.

  • A/SHs should not make an IC false accusation unless it is pre-cleared with the player and documented with the Social Department or can be rolled back if the player objects. This can be a really cool plot for a character, but it should be consensual and planned within the course of an overarching saga.
  • If a player has made the false accusation, then again Social should be given the run down of the situation. It should be treated with the same seriousness as a PvP physical fight and may call for being handled with fully IC approach - skill rolls, charisma rolls and the like. The punishments for this situation should not exceed those that would apply if the PC had actually committed the crime. Note: False accusation is also a crime and NPCs should roll to detect it.

Does This Apply to NPCs?

Easy answer there - nope. This system is intended for handling PCs only because there is a risk of Real Life Harm for players. It is intended to ensure that a PC is getting a fair shake and not having to rely on (or defend against) bias from the SHs. In the case of an NPC going up for charges that is better handled as a scene or a session.

Types of Justice Systems

On an abstract level there are three primary types of justice systems:

  • Adversarial - two groups compete in front of a neutral judgement system to prove one or the other is right. IE. US courts, most modern court systems.
  • Inquisitorial - a single investigator looks into the situation and tries to gather evidence to the truth before handing down judgement. IE. feudal Lord’s courts / arbitration.
  • Trial by combat/ordeal - the accused must succeed at a physical or spiritual challenge to prove their innocence. IE. personal combat, prayer vigils, divination.

As much as possible we’re going to build out one system with the defined types adding wrinkles as appropriate, and put any flavor bits into the system during play. So we’ll have one universal approach that ASHs can use to run these situations when they need it.

Details

For A/SHs looking for guidance in running a criminal justice or trial session, or players who want to see how this works. Start here: Running a Justice Scenario

For guidelines on what punishment fits what severity of crime, refer to the Criminal Punishment Guidelines
To understand court hostility and the effects of reputation on punishment, refer to the Hostility and Reputation guide

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Ramsalon Laws and Criminal Justice System

Here are the laws and criminal justice system (court set up, punishments) for Ramsalon and similar Shi Inkahan territories on the Vaxian Continent


Laws and Punishments
The following actions that are considered illegal within these areas:

    Hooliganism – disruptive or behaviors deemed unlawful like rioting, bullying, vandalism, basically disturbing the peace kind of things.
      Associated Punishments: Fines, Service, Restitution

    Stealing

    • Robbery: The act of stealing another person’s property.
    • Robbery with assault: The act of stealing another person’s property with the use of some form of force or injury.
        Associated Punishments: Fines, Service, Restitution, Branding after repeated offenses

    Possession of contraband - the holding of items considered contraband (which are items that are banned in an area or items that have been imported or exported without paying proper duties/taxes). Also includes stolen items.

      Associated Punishments: Fines, Service, Restitution

    Smuggling - The moving of contraband (which are items that are banned in an area, or items that have been imported or exported without paying proper duties/taxes). Also includes species trafficking, and moving of stolen items.

      Associated Punishments: Fines, Service, Restitution, Hard Labor, Branding after multiple offenses.

    Slaving - The buying and selling of people that have been captured and forced to work and have no chance to regain their freedom.

      Associated Punishments: Restitution, Hard Labor, Branding, Banishment or Death

    The use of illegal poisons and/or the creation of illegal poisons – substances that can be injected, absorbed through skin or ingested by a person that can result in death or have been deemed illegal by the local government.

      Associated Punishments: Fines, Service, Restitution
      **If a person was killed by the use of poisons, the poison punishment is added in with the murder punishment**

    Homicide

    • Accidental Death: The death of a person through an accident when no crime was involved.
        Associated Punishments:Restitution
    • Murder: The taking of another person’s life.
    • Consequential Murder: A death resulted from the actions of another crime being committed.
        Associated Punishments: Service, Restitution, Branding (after multiple offenses), Banishment or Death

    Banditry and Piracy - Organized groups of people (especially outlaws) that participate in a variety of crimes, but especially the attacking and robbing of other groups travelling on the roads or ships on the seas without consent of the local government.

      Associated Punishments: Service, Restitution, Hard Labor, Branding, Banishment or Death

    Treason - An extreme act or acts taken against the governing body in an attempt to try and overthrow or rebel against that governing body. High Treason is acts that are directed towards the Emperor and Empress. Petty Treason is acts committed against a lesser authority.

      Associated Punishments: Restitution, Hard Labor, Branding, Banishment or Death (Especially for High Treason)

These areas do have a formal Court system.

Court Staff:

Judges - Also known as a Magistrate as they would also be a government official. They hear the case, and will decide punishment. SI Empire would likely keep in ones that were willing to conform to their ideals and often rule in their favor. Such judges would favor strict adherence to the laws and would give out strict punishments, perhaps even a bit harsher should the actions prove to try and go against the SI Empire. Would also have protections against mind magics to ensure that their rulings are not tampered with.

Jury Adviser - Someone that basically advises and assists the Magistrate. A Magistrate would likely have no more than 2 to serve them.

Advocate - Essentially a lawyer - though they do not operate like modern lawyers. The plaintiff and defendant shall be responsible for representing themselves before a Magistrate. However they can bring in an Advocate who can advise them on a strategy and even speak for them if a client so choose. Anyone can be an advocate for the most important thing for them to be able to do is talk no formal ‘law’ training is needed at all. Being an advocate in the right cases is actually a very good way to be able to move up certain political ranks.

Court Scribe - Someone that records the trial - only will be required in certain cases, mostly those involving nobles or other notable political heads. Though anyone if they have the coin can hire one in, though more often than not an advocate would take up this job if they so desired as well.

Court Guards - The defendant would have at least 2 - more if said defendant is known to be quite dangerous or has put up serious fights. The Magistrate would have 2 elite guards as well. If a case was becoming quite heated more guards could be called in.

Witnesses - Witnesses will be the key source of evidence in cases, especially as guards give their account of what they came into and why they took into custody the defendant. Diviners will be counted as witnesses as well - but they must be verified to serve the court as well. Diviners would also mostly be used in high profile (ie noble, and high political figure) trials, if there are no credible witnesses, or the Magistrate can be convinced enough to question with what they are presented with. Diviner services are expensive and are mostly used to verify by the court side, though if an accused wishes to retain a diviner's services they will need to pay for that themselves.

Court Procedure:

The guard will submit a formal written report explaining the reason the accused was arrested and the charges against them. This will also include other guard statements, witness statements they took at the time and any other evidence to make their case. The jury adviser and Magistrate will review such records and decide if they need to question anyone mentioned in the report.

If there is no question in the mind of the Magistrate that the accused committed the crime, the accused will not receive a trial and be assigned a punishment. However if the accused can pay for a trial or is of a noble/upperclass rank, then one will be granted.

The accused will be allowed to make their argument for why they should not be charged or for a lesser punishment given the situation. The accused may hire an advocate to make their arguments for them or help them with their strategy.

If the crime was committed against a specific victim, those victims or their chosen advocate may also appear to make an argument as to why the accused to be charged or face a specific punishment. If there is no victim someone looking to increase their political favor may request to be an advocate for the guard to push the charges.

Once all arguments have been presented the Magistrate will deliberate with his jury adviser's assistance will weight he arguments and then make a decision on what the accused will or will not be charged with, and the punishment they will face.

If all charges were dropped the accused will be allowed to walk away from the court. If any of the charges against the accused was affirmed they will be escorted to their punishment or to a dungeon for temporary holding depending on what the punishment is. For example if it is just fines or monetary restitution the accused will be escorted by guards to clerks to handle the financial transaction. In cases service punishment it will depend on which service, for lighter sentences like community service the accused will be allowed to return home and guards will deliver the notices for when they are expected to do their service and escort them there. For more harder labor related services the accused will likely be held until arrangements can be made or they get transported where they are being assigned.


Categories

Punishment Guidelines and Explanations

This section will explain the various punishments available in both the settings and guidelines on how to assign/rule which one will be applied in a given scenario, as well as give the ability to help A/SHs kind of be able to think in terms of 'punishment fitting the "crime"' in cases where the list of given punishments do not seem to fit what has happened, or in the duration of the RP the character may have been able to talk into a different kind.

This will also give players an idea what to expect in regards to their characters getting caught and punished as well to ensure we are all playing from the same page and are well advise on the risks involved in playing certain roles in certain regions.

To see common punishments by region please go to the following:
Vaxia Region Punishments
Sirian Region Punishments


What to Expect from Punishment Roleplay

The overall goal of having established criminal justice systems for the regions of both our settings is to introduce another facet of play into the game. While activities that are generally counted as 'criminal' (this will vary by region too), can be fun and produce great rewards, there is also much risk involved. The details on why such systems exist and how we build them will be covered Philosophy Behind Criminal Justice Systems : here , this section is just for the punishments end of such systems.

If a character is caught breaking the laws of the region there should and will be consequences. Such consequences should be done in a way that a character should truly think about their actions, and have something for the player to grow off of in their role play as well. However it does need to be more then just a 'time out' and dire consequences even as they exist will be built up to.

With that in mind, first and foremost: punishment roleplay is not a session.
While some punishments may be carried out by a group of characters, most punishments will be able to be carried out as a solo scene. No rewards will be given, as the goal of the punishment roleplay is to in effect 'pay a cost' in order to make up for the character's criminal activity. Some costs will be much higher then others.

It also may be possible that a character's punishment may also interfere with their ability to attend sessions. These will be IC reasons and not OOC ones, for the time being there was no reason felt to automatically ban a character from being able to go to sessions if they are undergoing punishment. However a punishment may create an IC reason as to why that character may not participate in the session. Some examples include:

    A character gets branded as a thief, a merchant NPC may avoid recruiting them to help out in fear that the character would steal from them.

    A character gets assigned to a service type punishment. They may be transported to a different area to serve the punishment out and therefore will not be in the area where a session is taking place.

    A character was banished from an area and warned if they returned they would be killed. Any session that takes place in that area would be a very high risk of the character getting seen and the warning enforced.

Therefore it is really important to be aware of the severity of punishment a character may face and the additional consequences the character may suffer. This will be clearly noted on the character sheet as well, especially if there are any special conditions that comes with the punishment.


Explanation of the Types of Punishments

How the punishments are handle will differ between the two settings, and even in the various regions found with in. This is just to give a general overview on what types of punishments to expect and what they are.
In some cases a character may be assigned more then one type of punishment depending on the offense.

Fines and Fees - The offender will be charged a monetary value as a punishment for a crime or other offense. Fines and fees will start out at 100 silver for the smallest offense and will increase by increments of 50 silver. Fines and fees are paid to an authority/government.

Restitution – The offender must make some sort of compensation (often in the form of money but other things/services may be requested by the victims to satisfy this) in order to pay for their crime. Restitution is different from a fine or fee as the money is paid to the person or persons the offender had wronged and not an authority/government, and counts as a separate punishment.

Imprisonment – as a punishment by itself and not being held until offender can be punished. The offender will be put in a prison or jail, where their freedom has been taken from them. In Vaxia an offender may be charged rent fees in order to pay for their stay in a prison. If their offense should permit they may be able to pay the rent fee in the form of work (there is a silver to XP conversion to allow for this, 100 silver = 1 XP worth of work done)

Service Type Punishments - if an offender can not pay their fines or fees then they will have the option to work off their debt (Much like our own community service programs work). Some regions may flat out assign this kind of punishment instead of fining an offender. There are a few different type of service related punishments, but the basics is a character will do work. This character must fulfill an set amount of XP in order to complete the service work. For cases of money owed a conversion based off of 1 XP = 100 silver will be used.

A player is not allowed to get an A/SH to help their character complete service punishments, but a character is allowed to try and convince other characters to help them. The player will be given an idea or ideas on what task or tasks their character is expected to carry out as their service punishment and then can do a scene. Service type punishments may include:

    Indentured servitude – an option for certain offenders. In essence a citizen makes a request for an offender to come work for them. The offender will not receive payment, but rather work for that person as a means of working off the ‘debt of their crime’. This is for private work (as in not laboring for the empire or other government official etc.) Would be considered kind of like we would bail, as the person making the request may have to pay a fee to gain access to an offender that would fit their needs. Though if the offender should re-offend - depending on what exactly happened the person whom indentured the offender may suffer a small punishment, and the offender would have to serve their other punishment in addition to any new punishment that comes with their newest offense. This also may be used as a form of Restitution as well.

    Being put to work for the government – Civilian type work, will vary in what kind and in severity depending on region and offense.. Some would be things like community service such as teaching kids or cleaning up parks, to mucking out garbage units or sewers, to really hard labor like being shipped off to a mining institution across the world. The offender will not be paid for their work, as their work will be used to cover the debt of their crime and any other fees incurred related to their punishment.

    Military service – The offender would be offered the chance to join the military (or equivalent) instead of facing what other punishment to be assigned to them. Most likely be unable to gain promotions for a long time and could be sent to some really crappy areas. Characters will not gain an Economy boost from joining such services until they have completed their mandatory service (this will be in the form of a required XP amount and given tasks they can complete on their own.) Once the character had fulfilled their required service and the player would like the character to remain employed with the service they had joined the player must request a Job Recruitment session to determine any Economy gain.

Branding (or similar marking items) – Basically a physical mark or item on the body (often done with a branding iron in a sensitive place or visible place – common areas the wrists and shoulders. Some regions may even do the forehead), to label an offender as someone that steals, kills, etc. Alternative forms of this kind of punishment are Tattoos anklet/bracelet, or necklace that gets locked on the character. This can make everyday life harder for the character.

Removal of a Body Part - The removal of a body part, usually a finger or toe as a punishment. In some regions this may be done instead of branding. Usually given when an offender performs multiple severe offenses, or repeats an offense a few times.

Exile or Banishment - The offender may be forced to leave a region and never allowed to return again. Should the offender return to the are they were banished/exiled from they will face severe consequences. This kind of punishment may also include a character being removed from a job/role/position, or banned from doing a type of job/role/position (either for a temporary amount of time or permanently depending on the severity of the offense.)

Death – The offender is killed as punishment for their offense(s). This is considered one of the most severe kind of punishments.


Determining the Punishment for a Crime

While the idea behind having IC punishments is to be able to have consequences for characters that violate and break the laws of a region or regions in IC, it is also very important to remember that we must balance such things as to not make the roleplay so miserable that it will drive off the player. The player must keep in mind that what is assigned is a punishment for the character - more severe violations will have severe consequences, and the A/SH needs to keep in mind punishment role play is not about punishing the player.

Should a player feel like the punishment is too great for what their character did, they request to have the situation reviewed.

Provided below are guidelines for A/SHs to help them be able to make such decisions. This will also help inform players that may be interested in having a character perform more criminal activities be aware of our thought process and better expect what kind of punishment their character may receive if they should get caught. If at any time a A/SH feels like they are unsure on how to proceed with which punishment to give they may request a review of the situation as well to get a second opinion on the matter.

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Philosophy Behind Criminal Justice Systems

The following is a brief discussion about law, justice and criminal justice systems and trying to incorporate them into a game to serve as a guide of sorts and to help inspire.

The purpose of this is to help educate our A/SH crew on these systems work in order to help them get a better idea on how to incorporate them into their sessions or to be able to rule scenes where such knowledge would be helpful. This is also to help give our player base as a whole an idea on how these things developed in our own world in order to help give them ideas for when they go to create such content or update it as the times change for our games.

Punishment is a large part of a criminal justice system and has its own discussion page, where players can learn what to expect from punishment roleplay IC and to provide a guide for the A/SH staff: Punishment Guidelines and Explanations
There is a lot of reading, but there is much to consider when developing these kinds of systems, especially in a game. Just take your time, take it in bites, and at any time a discussion can always be brought up in the Setting Forums



What to consider when developing a criminal justice system

One of the first things we must stress that while a criminal justice system is to reflect the social agreements and flavors of our settings we must endeavor to keep it interesting while not screwing over the players. This is about having another facet of play, while it may be kind of unpleasant and gritty, it should not be so miserable that it would drive off the players or be completely unreasonable to the point of abuse. This especially holds true when assigning a punishment when a character has been caught. Even still everyone must keep in mind is that at the heart of it - criminal justice systems are about consequences. Though when part of a game system, it should still be about consequences, but we must scale this as such to afford opportunities for the characters to grow from such roleplay and ensure the player base is fully informed of the consequences their character's actions may face when caught so they know what to expect.

When building a criminal justice system it is important to know what the region's (to note region will be used to mean country,nation,region,tribe,clan,etc.) culture and government is. These are two of the largest factors that determine what kind of system this region will have, and especially what kind of punishments and laws the region will have. Therefore before a criminal justice system can be fully developed for a region, the government of the region must be solidified first. This will allow us to clearly define what the players can expect when they are roleplaying their characters in an area, especially if they should engage in questionable activities for that region.

In regards to Sirian we can easily base much of the systems we can expect in the setting off of our own modern day ones with some possible twists to reflect the differences in the cultures as well as the growth of technology. However if we were to in-cooperate every detail of a modern day court system the play can become overwhelming and miserable for everyone so some parts will be excluded for the sake of trying to keep things interesting and manageable.

Vaxia poses some challenge. While Vaxia is not based on any of our historical past, we often look to certain time periods in order to get an idea or be able to compare what was there in order to help better establish the flavor and narrative of the setting. The problem is that when it comes to criminal justice and punishments the our past was extremely harsh. Portions of those systems however can lead to some interesting play as well help establish the feeling of the severity of the consequences, but some modern day concepts must be mixed in with the past concepts in order to try and balance such systems to keep it from going to the extreme one way or another. The consequences should be more then just a "time out", but they also should not be boring misery.

For both settings it is also important that whatever system is built for a region that there is ways to kind of introduce the characters and their players to the region's systems. Here documentation will be key especially in regards to the more severe violations and punishments. When a new region is opened up make sure that any and all documentation is clear and established and provided to the players. The most severe punishments should be reserved for repetition of an offense or multiple severe offenses. However certain violations, such as treason, may go straight to one of the more severe punishments (such as exile or death pending on the culture and government flavor). If such a situation should arise, the player should be well informed of the possible situation the character is getting into, and there should have already been well established documentation to help inform the character of what to expect in that situation in that region.

The classification of crimes and actual legislature (aka written law) should be simple and not confuse the players. The goal is to make sure everyone can be clearly informed on what to expect when role playing in a region, but also try to cover as much as possible. It is also important to try and leave room for adjustments and additions as things may change over time.

The law of a region should reflect the tone and flavor of the culture and government of that region without being too oppressive for characters. While misunderstandings could lead to some interesting punishment roleplay - we must make sure we allow for misunderstandings to be overcome and worked through.


A brief discussion of why we have Crime and Punishment as the concepts they are today:

What is justice is an age old question that even the great Greek philosophers touched upon. Most of it had to do about how we basically make sure everyone in a society gets along peacefully. In other words how to keep civilization civil. There are many theories surrounding the ideas of law and justice but it can all bed boiled down to one key concept: the social contract. This is basically an idea that for whatever reasons we form our societies (in the form of countries, nations, empires etc), when we do the people form a kind of contract with each other. The details vary but in this contract are what gives the rulers the power, and set of agreements (aka laws) that help keep people from just doing whatever they want and maintaining a form of peace and stability in the society. When someone breaks that contract (be it ruler or subject) then the results can be quite bad. Therefore a society has sought ways to deter its inhabitants from breaking that contract, usually by public shaming or death.

This is why in many early societies had public displays of punishment (from the stocks where people could jeer and throw rotting food at a person, watch someone get lashed, or even the the good ol’ fashion public execution). Dungeons for the most part were temporary holding areas where it was convenient to hold the person charged with a crime for ‘questioning (this was more often torture) and other punishments like the iron maiden, the rack, etc. Those were not only kinds of punishments but also ways of interrogation of certain prisoners. The state of those prisons and dungeons were horrible and poorly maintained (which became a deterrent unto itself almost), many prisoners would contract diseases or be severely abused by other prisoners or guards. Even the stay was not very long as imprisonment was not seen as much of a punishment (some notable exceptions, but really it was not), but rather a holding place until the real punishment could be dealt, or until the interrogation occurred.

It wasn't until about the 18th century that we begin to see the concept of modern prisons being developed. As during the enlightenment it was seen where depriving someone of their freedoms is considered as a means of the punishment fitting the crime with just variations on the time spent imprisoned pending on the severity of the crime. In fact the term of penitentiary comes from the first forms of US prisons where the idea of prisoners serving time for their ‘sins’ (it didn't hurt the Quakers helped make some of the first kinds of prisons as a means to try and encourage a more humane alternative to criminal punishment). However prisons soon fell into a worse state than previous dungeons as overcrowding became a huge issue.

Prisons and jails are expensive, hence why in history work camps were popular as a method for criminals to earn their place back in society. Certain jails were a worse punishment than anything else as the conditions were unsanitary and the prisoners often forgotten about (especially if they had no one that knew them that was wealthy.) In modern times one of an area’s largest budgets is spent on their correctional system and that is mostly on jails and prison (for example California spends like 10 billion dollars a –year- to maintain its correctional system). So while we would consider our current system a bit more humane in comparison to the majority of the past forms of criminal punishment, it just doesn’t work in many ways for the game, would make things a little on the boring side in a game setting, and we would risk some players just developing oh it is just a ‘time out in the corner’ and would not encourage them to think of the consequences of their character’s actions.


Court Systems Discussion

This is just a discussion about court systems in general, for more specific details of a court system of a region please visit the following:
Court Systems of Vaxia
Court Systems of Sirian

Much of this discussion was written with Vaxia in mind, as mentioned in a section above Sirian will largely follow a more modern day set up in its criminal justice system, which means most of the regions will likely have set ups more similar to modern day courts. However as time goes on some of what is discussed here may still prove to be helpful in Sirian.

To note: Court system is a phrase assigned to be a generic label if the part of a criminal justice system that largely handles determining if someone committed a crime and the punishment for a crime. It is possible for a region to not have what most people would consider a court - but do have something that performs a similar function, for simplicity sake that is still referred to as a court system.

For the most part the concept of the modern court system is not that old in the grand scheme of history. In general much of went on in dealing with law and punishment was handled at a local level. There are a few varieties on how that was handled some having designed a more formal court system which had a process and a staff etc, or maybe just a single authority (aka a lord) that had a small process but was all the staff in the court, then others may just deal swift ‘justice’ and have no process at all (aka no formal court system with trials etc). This is just a brief overlook in some of the set ups to try and get an idea on which may fit a region/culture better.

In certain regions/cultures the lord or whom ever is the central authority of a region is the one in charge of making sure their people behave. When those people get out of line the lord becomes judge, jury and punisher. How they handle the case brought before them can vary widely for they can go off of the word of the guards and give punishment off of that alone, or they actually may hear the person that had been brought before them out. One common thing though is that the lord makes the punishing of those people a big public spectacle, for no matter which law philosophy that region goes with the violation of the social contract is a spit in the face of that lord and they wants to make sure that their authority is felt. Lords may or may not have other personnel that work with them in handling such things - this would be something that to be left up to figure on a region by region basis.

Juries are nothing new in the history of law and courts, but they were nothing like what we know today. In some regions would employ a counsel version of judgement which would be a group of people that decide things in regards to the crime. How they are picked/chosen/or volunteered will be left up to decided on a region on region basis to best fit the culture of the region. In this method there is no single judge, what happens is this group which can be as little as 3 people and up to 6 people on average. These people are notified when a crime has happened or if someone accuses someone else of a crime or wrong doing. The group then meet and then either can investigate the situation themselves or have the evidence and arguments brought before them from other sources. In general though this group of people tend to be very interactive in the entire process unlike more modern juries. Some systems that use a central authority to decide may even have a jury, however that kind of jury is people that were employed to act more like special advisers or a kind of witness.

Roles like lawyers (most often referred to as advocates) do exist, but people had to pay for their own out of pocket. Even then most kinds of advocates were there to just help advise a person during their trial. Most formal courts prefer the defendant make their own arguments, but they can be convinced to let their advocate argue for them. The requirements for being an advocate can vary from region to region, some may require a little law training, others won’t care what kind of background as they tend to focus more on how well one can argue. Though no matter what having some idea on the law will be a benefit. It should also vary by region on if someone can act as a ‘public defender’ - meaning someone willing to advocate for free for someone, or even if they desire to have such services provided if able bodies were around.

Though much like prisons, a court trial can costs a lot of money, a judge/magistrate has to be paid, someone to record the session has to be paid, the advocates have to be paid, as well as any other consultants and the such. Thus actual court trials were usually reserved for the nobility/upperclass that could afford to pay all the fees to have a trial. Very rarely there was cases heard without the defendant covering the bill. Even rare was to hold a trial to try and figure out how to handle a case, that due to the current law code did not have a clear answer as to what to do with the charged. Which helps provide additional flavor to consider for a region.

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