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.
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.
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