Laws and Honor (Pandlecron)
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Copied from Endhaven's Laws and Honor page
- 1 Intro
- 2 Actions Against Lawbreakers
- 3 The Legal Roadmap
- 4 Things that the Party Can Do
- 5 Bandits, Raiders, Pirates, Thieves, and Other Violent Ilk
- 6 Wanted
- 7 Women and Children of Violent Humanoids
- 8 War Prisoners
- 9 Usurpers
- 10 Incursions, Aggressors, and Civil Conflict
- 11 Paladins and the Law
- 12 Typical Situations
Lawful characters seek to obey and uphold the law. Honorable characters seek to obey and uphold their honor. Good characters seek to do good and avoid evil. These descriptions of law, honor, and good are here to aid characters as they wrestle with what is lawful, good, and honorable.
A lawful character can uphold law, honor, or both. If they uphold one aspect, they will uphold it to a high esteem. So some paladins, for example, may not uphold corrupt local law, but they will uphold honor to the highest degree.
A neutral character can uphold law or honor, but not all the time. Neutral characters will not follow law or honor to the ends a lawful character would. Instead they may uphold certain tenants of law or honor, but not others. A neutral character can still be a strongly moral character, but they do not necessarily follow the rules of honor and law.
A chaotic character completely disrespects law or honor. They may follow local laws most of the time, but they are completely dishonorable. In this case, they also follow laws not because they believe in them, but because they have to. They may show a strong sense of honor, but they will break it if situations warrant it. Generally, chaotic characters are flexible in their beliefs and will disregard honor and law if it seems appropriate.
Actions Against Lawbreakers
There are many actions that can occur with respect to lawbreakers. The two most basic actions are capture and kill.
Capture: Criminals can be captured and brought before a court. Depending on the region, court sessions can be short and come with harsh punishments.
Kill: In many situations, criminals may be lawfully killed. When defending yourself from mortal harm, you may kill your attacker. Many types of violent criminal may be killed in the ordinary course of adventuring, such as bandits, pirates, and thieves. Generally, known criminals that do not have a bounty for their capture can be killed without repercussion. Generally, those who act for opposing gods to a region may also be killed.
The Legal Roadmap
Wanted: Some criminals are known and wanted. These cases are usually so clear as to need no trial, or the trial has happened in absentia. The legal writs against these people are usually clear. These individuals usually have a bounty against them, and the behavior against them is pre-approved in these bounties.
Most bounties list the crimes that the criminal has committed.
Wanted Alive: This means that all care should be taken to bring this person in alive. The criminal's death may be dishonorable, depending on the circumstances of the death. They should not be summarily executed. Most likely, they must face trial. It is almost always illegal to kill this person unless it is in self-defense.
Wanted Dead or Alive: This person is so dangerous that capturing him is important, but stopping him is more important. It is honorable to either kill or capture these people. Once captured, they may be summarily executed, although many consider this evil.
Wanted Dead: All purpose should be taken to kill this person. Sparing them may be dishonorable, depending on circumstances. Summary execution is mandated. Killing this person, even after capture, is not an evil act.
Things that the Party Can Do
Summary Execution: Some lawbreakers may be killed without a trial. In these cases, the proper ritual is to line them up, and read the evidence against them. After reading the evidence, they are condemned to death. For each criminal, an executioner states, "I condemn you to death for <crime>. Do you have any words in your defense?" If they can provide no compelling reason why they should not be executed, then they are executed. Executions may include hanging, beheading, drowning, or other terrible deaths. Good characters prefer swifter executions. Some good characters will give clemency to the condemned.
Trial by Fiat: In some circumstances, when there is no clear law in an area, parties may form their own ad-hoc court to determine the fate of a being. These impromptu courts are viewed both honorable and good, and the law looks upon them with favor. This is especially true in areas where the law is ignorant or powerless. These courts are usually held in circumstances where formal justice is impractical or impossible.
Example: Having determined that evil creatures are enslaving humans, the party uses trial by fiat to act against the slavers, kill their leaders, and drive them from their hidden fortress.
Affront to the Gods: Some beings violate the religious laws of the gods. Both clerics and paladins have a legal right to hold trials over those who affront the gods, may determine their guilt or innocence, and may determine punishment, including execution. For example, someone seeking to raise a demon, and so destroy the world, is an affront to the gods and so may be killed or summarily executed. Killing those who are an affront to the gods is held as good. Undead, by definition, are an affront to the gods.
Death on Sight: Some beings may be killed for existing. Killing such a being is both lawful and good. These include all forms of undead (being who exist via negative energy), beings that are murderous or become murderous (such as evil lycanthropes), outsiders of evil alignment, beings that are worshipers and servants of evil gods, and other blatantly evil ilk. Killing such things is held as lawful and good.
Detect as Evil: Anyone who has done enough evil deeds to detect as evil, or is sufficiently enmeshed in dark forces as to detect as evil, may be executed without trial or justification. (See detect evil for details.) Do note that there are forces which can cause a man to seem evil, so care should be taken with this ability. An evil person may legally be held for simply being evil and stripped of all possession. If this person still detects as evil, a paladin may seek a dispel magic from a temple (and the temple must perform such spells gratis for the paladin). If the person still detects as evil after seven dispel magic, and is not under a curse, then the paladin may execute that person. Once the paladins and clerics have done their utmost to remove any doubt about the condemned's alignment, that person may be executed. (If a mistake is somehow still made, and an innocent dies, paladins do not lose their abilities. They have done due diligence in such a matter.)
Best Judgment: Paladins, knights, and clerics may invoke the traditional right of best judgment. In these cases, the law or the morality is unclear as to how it applies to a situation while the situation itself is perilous. Best judgments are held as morally neutral. These judgments, unclear of what is good or lawful, seek to avoid being evil or arbitrary. Later, should there be questions about these actions, all courts hold Best Judgment as a valid right, and generally defer to this right. Best Judgment requires that the executors show that all other avenues are either more illegal or immoral, and that the current set of actions is the least bad of all options, including doing nothing.
Bandits, Raiders, Pirates, Thieves, and Other Violent Ilk
There are many folk that prey upon the civilized lands. These folk are usually dealt with rather harshly. The key identifier of such individuals is that they seek wealth (even if their justifications include more noble ideas).
- Any such person, caught in the act, may be summarily killed or executed.
- Any such person who is captured may be summarily tried and executed.
- Bandits may be sold into slavery. Though honorable, this is condemned as evil.
- Any summary executions are honorable and good.
Wanted Posters: These posters provide full legal authority to act against the condemned. The posters or writs state what authority a person may act on.
Women and Children of Violent Humanoids
- Anything which retreats from combat, or fights purely to defend itself or its children, should not be killed. The killing of non-combatants is generally held to be dishonorable, and possibly evil. The killing of juveniles is held to be dishonorable and possibly evil. These actions should be avoided.
- Non-combatants may be sold to provide reparations to the victims. Though lawful and honorable, this is considered evil by many, even though the practice is widespread.
Those who surrender in war are prisoners. Wars are declared, and held for articulated reasons. Wars are political in nature.
- Disarming prisoners and sending them home is considered honorable and good.
- Holding prisoners captive is considered honorable and good, although sufficiently long captivity is not held as good.
- Pressing prisoners into labor during wartime is considered honorable.
- Selling prisoners into slavery is considered honorable, but also held as evil.
Usurpers vie for control of territory through declared war against a sitting ruler. They usually assert this right through lawful, good, or honorable reasons. Likewise, a usurper may be unlawful, evil, and dishonorable.
A paladin may leave service of his superior and join a usurper if that cause is lawful, good, and honorable.
- Usurpers may or may not be good.
- Usurpers may or may not be lawful.
- Usurpers may or may not be honorable.
Incursions, Aggressors, and Civil Conflict
There are many conflicts over land and control of territory. These have a higher standing over most conflicts, as the opposition usually has a lawful claim to their action. Opposing or conducting these incursions is honorable. Acting to minimize death during these incursions, or resisting them, is held as good. Deaths resulting from such actions are held as lawful. Use of excessive force against your opponents (causing unnecessary death) is held as evil. Ending such conflicts through negotiation and treaty is both honorable and good. Ending these through surrender of either party is held as honorable and good. Unnecessarily drawing out the conflict is seen as evil.
Paladins and the Law
First Degree of Morality
All paladins are only held to morality in the first degree. Only their direct actions determine whether an action is good or evil. A paladin does not fall through indirect action. The person who commits an evil act is always the person who commits an evil act, and they can not transfer responsibility.
Example: A slaver says, "If you attack me, all these slaves will die, and their deaths will be on your head. Their death will be your fault." As morality is only held in the first degree, the actual fault goes to the person who gives the evil order. That person is the slaver. The slaver can not transfer moral responsibility to the paladin for his own evil choices. In fact, the paladin does not even cause the death of innocents. The death of innocents is an evil choice made by the slaver as a reaction to the just action of the paladin.
It is both legal and moral for paladins to disobey order, provided that they give a justification for doing so. A paladin is never under obligation to follow an immoral law or an honorless ruler. Paladins hold the Laws of the Gods above the Laws of Man. Where the two conflict, the Laws of the Gods must prevail.
- Non-Combatants Decline Combat
Anyone who seeks to be a non-combatant or to not engage in a fight.
- Lawful: Killing of non-combatants is murder. They may be arrested.
- Honorable: Killing of non-combatants is dishonorable. Treating them in accord with their station is honorable.
- Good: Killing of non-combatants is evil. Enslavement of non-combatants is evil. Releasing non-combatants is good.
- Wanted Alive
- Lawful: Taking suspected lawbreakers prisoner is lawful.
- Honorable: Taking suspect alive is honorable. Having the suspect die during capture is regrettable, but not dishonorable. Killing the suspect, on purpose, is dishonorable.
- Good: Capturing the subject is good. Killing the suspect during combat is neutral. Willfully killing the subject is evil.
- Wanted Dead or Alive
- Lawful: Killing or capturing is lawful.
- Honorable: Killing or capturing is honorable.
- Good: Killing is neutral. Capturing is good.
- Wanted Dead
- Lawful: Killing is lawful.
- Honorable: Killing is lawful. Subject need not be ready to defend himself, but honor would prefer that he was able to defend himself.
- Good: Allowing subject to defend himself is good. A quick death of the subject is good. A slow death is neutral, possibly evil.
- Disobeying a Superior
- Lawful: You need only follow lawful directives. You may always resign rather than carry out an order. You may lodge objects to orders with superiors.
- Honorable: You need only follow honorable directives. You may resign rather than be dishonored.
- Good: You need not follow an evil order. The moral laws come from the gods, and no man may contravene them.
- Rebellion Against a Ruler
- Lawful: It is every man's right to rebel with due cause against those rulers who do not follow the law. Rebellions are lawful acts that are declared, like war, against a ruler or government for well declared reasons. Any lawful position need not be resigned.
- Honorable: It is honorable to rebel against those who do not follow honor. Any lawful position need not be resigned.
- Good: It is good to rebel against those who are evil. Any legal position need not be resigned.
- Breaking the Law
- Lawful: It is a neutral act to ignore a violation of the law. It is a chaotic act to break the law.
- Honorable: It is dishonorable to break the law. It is neutral to ignore a dishonorable act, turn a blind eye, or even direct another to do it.
- Good: Breaking the law is good, neutral, or evil, dependent upon the situation. Breaking an unjust law is not evil. Following the divine intentions over mortal laws is good. '