Common Magic and the law

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Savage Yinn
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Common Magic and the law

Postby Savage Yinn » Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:43 pm

Just how common is Common Magic?

I'm not talking about a head count of people who can do a little magic trick or two, what I'm interested in are the restrictions which would be placed upon Common Magic, or more specifically some of the Common Magic tricks.

For example, Babel causes a person to talk gibberish for five minuets. Is it acceptable for any commoner to be able to cast Babel freely? Would casting it upon a rival merchant be considered assault? What if it were cast on a guard or even a member of the ruling classes?

I feel that each society would develop it's own ruling on what Common Magic is licensed and what it required.

Have I missed something (I must admit I'm not into Glorantha and haven't read much about the setting)?

How have you handled this kind of issue or is it simply a non-issue?
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Dan True » Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:56 pm

Well, in a society where (usually) everyone can carry a weapon of some sort, and self-defense is the universal law of the land, I don't think there will be formal restrictions on anything less than tabu (necromancy for instance).

But, will there be consequences if you cast Babel on a high-ranking merchant or noble? of course, but of the same sort as if you covered him in paint or otherwise humiliated him... which might still be deadly consequences depending on the society.

- Dan
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Fonso » Sat Jun 30, 2012 8:29 am

In my games, casting any spell with a Resistance trait to another people is similar to attack him with a weapon.
Spells which increase your own capacities would be OK, but it's rude cast them in front of witness when you need an opposed roll against them.
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Savage Yinn
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Savage Yinn » Sat Jun 30, 2012 5:49 pm

Dan True wrote:Well, in a society where (usually) everyone can carry a weapon of some sort, and self-defense is the universal law of the land, I don't think there will be formal restrictions on anything less than tabu (necromancy for instance).

But, will there be consequences if you cast Babel on a high-ranking merchant or noble? of course, but of the same sort as if you covered him in paint or otherwise humiliated him... which might still be deadly consequences depending on the society.

- Dan
I understand that some society's will be more readily armed, but an archer who has access to Fire Arrow is considerably more dangerous than one without.
Fonso wrote:In my games, casting any spell with a Resistance trait to another people is similar to attack him with a weapon.
Spells which increase your own capacities would be OK, but it's rude cast them in front of witness when you need an opposed roll against them.
That is a good point to start with when I make a list of common magic and the restrictions that I shall have some kingdom's place upon it.

A friend just suggested that a guild/cult rank might be the way to limit the more dangerous magic and I agree that this looks like a good way to limit the magic which is more harmful to society.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Dan True » Sat Jun 30, 2012 9:48 pm

Savage Yinn wrote: I understand that some society's will be more readily armed, but an archer who has access to Fire Arrow is considerably more dangerous than one without.

Yes, but the archer is already considerably more powerful than the peasant without a bow. My point is that if a society does not limit access to weapons, I don't think they would limit common magic - except of course if magic is seen as evil or something like that, but that is hardly a setting appropriate for common magic.
A society might also try to limit availability of magic to control the masses, but in that case they would likely also limit weapons, education etc.
That, does of course not mean that there are no consequences. It might be rude, or even illegal to use magic on other people - just like it would be to forge a document or attack them with a weapon. My point is that magic is a tool, and in a world where magic is common, it will be seen as just another tool, and handled as any other kind of tool.
Fonso wrote:In my games, casting any spell with a Resistance trait to another people is similar to attack him with a weapon.
Spells which increase your own capacities would be OK, but it's rude cast them in front of witness when you need an opposed roll against them.
This seems like a good rule of thumb on when magic would be made illegal by the authorities.

- Dan
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Savage Yinn » Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:13 am

Dan True wrote:Yes, but the archer is already considerably more powerful than the peasant without a bow. My point is that if a society does not limit access to weapons, I don't think they would limit common magic - except of course if magic is seen as evil or something like that, but that is hardly a setting appropriate for common magic.
A society might also try to limit availability of magic to control the masses, but in that case they would likely also limit weapons, education etc.
That, does of course not mean that there are no consequences. It might be rude, or even illegal to use magic on other people - just like it would be to forge a document or attack them with a weapon. My point is that magic is a tool, and in a world where magic is common, it will be seen as just another tool, and handled as any other kind of tool.

- Dan
I totally get your point. What I'm asking is that in a world where magic is as common as a knife, some societies might find it necessary to limit the access of all magic to it's citizens. I'm not saying that common magic should have a blanket ban on the more "dangerous" spells rather that within a civilised city some of the magic may be licensed.

Much in the same way that it would be odd for a civilised person to use a bowie knife at the dinner table while in polite company. If that same person were to try and use the bowie knife at a feast with the local lord present then I'd expect the guards to at least keep a very sharp eye on that person.

However, if that same person is out 'adventuring' in the wilderness then it would be natural - and if they used a more 'civilised' knife they may be ridiculed by their companions for being "posh."
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Dan True » Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:37 am

Savage Yinn wrote: Much in the same way that it would be odd for a civilised person to use a bowie knife at the dinner table while in polite company. If that same person were to try and use the bowie knife at a feast with the local lord present then I'd expect the guards to at least keep a very sharp eye on that person.

However, if that same person is out 'adventuring' in the wilderness then it would be natural - and if they used a more 'civilised' knife they may be ridiculed by their companions for being "posh."[/color]
My point is that you have the restrictions right there :) I think it will come pretty naturally in the situations, and the reaction from society will likely be the same as in use of weapons etc. Of course it's okay to cast Bladesharp on a knife, when in the field to cut firewood - but not to cut your steak at the king's dinner - that'll get you escorted out.

- dan
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:59 pm

Savage Yinn wrote:what I'm interested in are the restrictions which would be placed upon Common Magic, or more specifically some of the Common Magic tricks
This is all very dependent on the society. In a primitive, nomadic, or barbarian tribe, knowing "evil" magic (which is entirely dependent on the specific culture) will get you castigated, exiled, or killed, but other than that, tribe members will be assumed to have the good of the tribe at heart and would be permitted to learn any "good" magic that they can get their hands on. In a repressive feudal society, much more Common Magic will be forbidden, and generally you will only be able to learn the magic that you need to know in order to fulfill your duties.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Simulacrum » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:01 am

I follow the logic up thread that a magical assault is at least equivalent to a physical one. In my own setting, the equivalence is almost always to a violent assault even for a spell that affects the target's decision-making capacities as it is similarly a tool in denial of the exercise of free will.

The other thing to add is that magic is deployed as a tool to exercise power, and even to enhance 'excellence', and is therefor is restricted by an elite for their exclusive use, and its acquisition or use by anyone else is strictly forbidden. You can take this as far as you want to - limiting magic to cults or cult ranks, certain social classes or castes, to dynasties or even individuals, e.g. 'only the king's firstborn daughter may...'

In short - fully expect restrictions on magic use to be an exercise in power and control, both to reserve capability to a certain group, and to actively deny it to others. No different than legal rules for who can and can't carry and use weapons
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby alex_greene » Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:18 pm

Since one cannot accidentally discharge a magical effect, every magic spell is an act of will. Thus, if a spell leads to a death the law really should consider it an act of premeditated murder.

In any fantasy setting not based entirely on whimsy, every curse, hex, malicious spell or lethal sorcery could be considered similarly; Disruption, Hand of Death and Skybolt could be construed as aggravated assault, and Bladesharp, Bludgeon and the like similarly could be construed as assault with a deadly weapon.

As for Firearrow, Fireblade and Ignite, if those spells are detectable with magical senses - if they leave behind a magical "residue" which can be read - specific charges of arson can be levelled upon the perpetrator as well as the aggravated assault and assault with a deadly weapon charges.

And spells that manipulate minds, such as Befuddle, Babel, Demoralise or any other kinds of Common Magic with similar effects (e.g. "Desire," "Aversion," "Humiliate" and a few others I've got in my personal Common Magic spell list and which I'll list somewhere soon enough), could be prosecuted under the same kinds of laws befitting cases of premeditated poisoning or drugging. Whatever takes away the will of the victim, making them more susceptible to suggestion, could be construed as a kind of a "date rape" attack.
Last edited by alex_greene on Tue Jul 03, 2012 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:46 pm

Simulacrum wrote:I follow the logic up thread that a magical assault is at least equivalent to a physical one.
We should have the same rule in the real world for laser pointers.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:48 pm

alex_greene wrote:Since one cannot accidentally discharge a magical effect, every magic spell is an act of will. Thus, is a spell leads to a death the law really should consider it an act of premeditated murder.
The game system does not have rules for accidentally dischargining a magical effect, but I would not infer real-world implications from what may be a simplification of actuality.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby alex_greene » Tue Jul 03, 2012 5:08 pm

PhilHibbs wrote:
alex_greene wrote:Since one cannot accidentally discharge a magical effect, every magic spell is an act of will. Thus, is a spell leads to a death the law really should consider it an act of premeditated murder.
The game system does not have rules for accidentally dischargining a magical effect, but I would not infer real-world implications from what may be a simplification of actuality.
You're spending a Magic Point and rolling Common Magic / Lore / Grimoire. You're spending at least 1 CA. How can you call that "accidental" in any way, shape or form?

Like I said, spellcasting is a deliberate act, which makes its use in causing death a premeditated murder, even if one's "Hand of Death" attack fumbles the physical contact bit (the mundane unarmed combat attack roll) and the caster kills the wrong target by mistake.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:42 pm

alex_greene wrote:Thus, is a spell leads to a death the law really should consider it an act of premeditated murder.
PhilHibbs wrote:The game system does not have rules for accidentally dischargining a magical effect, but I would not infer real-world implications from what may be a simplification of actuality.
alex_greene wrote:Like I said, spellcasting is a deliberate act, which makes its use in causing death a premeditated murder, even if one's "Hand of Death" attack fumbles the physical contact bit (the mundane unarmed combat attack roll) and the caster kills the wrong target by mistake.
Accidentally killing the wrong person is a long way from premeditated murder.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby alex_greene » Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:56 pm

PhilHibbs wrote:
alex_greene wrote:Thus, is a spell leads to a death the law really should consider it an act of premeditated murder.
PhilHibbs wrote:The game system does not have rules for accidentally dischargining a magical effect, but I would not infer real-world implications from what may be a simplification of actuality.
alex_greene wrote:Like I said, spellcasting is a deliberate act, which makes its use in causing death a premeditated murder, even if one's "Hand of Death" attack fumbles the physical contact bit (the mundane unarmed combat attack roll) and the caster kills the wrong target by mistake.
Accidentally killing the wrong person is a long way from premeditated murder.
"I'm sorry, Your Honour. The gun was in my hand, yes; and I carried it all the way from home, ten miles, specifically to kill that person who got in front of me in the post office. I understand that. But it wasn't my fault that I missed that person and accidentally shot three innocent tellers at the Post Office, so you can't really charge me with murder, can you?"

You'll find that they can, they will and they always do.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:12 pm

alex_greene wrote:"I'm sorry, Your Honour. The gun was in my hand, yes; and I carried it all the way from home, ten miles, specifically to kill that person who got in front of me in the post office. I understand that. But it wasn't my fault that I missed that person and accidentally shot three innocent tellers at the Post Office, so you can't really charge me with murder, can you?"

You'll find that they can, they will and they always do.
Someone committing a crime will be punished as a criminal, and more harshly than in the modernesque world that your narrative describes. But someone getting into a scrap with a patrol from a rival clan over a border dispute might be a more likely situation in a roleplaying game. Or a disagreement within a group of "adventurers" (i.e. tomb robbers) over a valuable piece of loot from the Temple of Bob. Premeditated murder, just because magic was used? I don't see it.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Dan True » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:22 pm

Well.. In a medieval setting, will they really make a difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder? I mean, won't it basically boil down to "murder" vs. "self-defense". And the status of the two involved being more saying in the actual circumstances in the deciding of it.

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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby rust » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:35 pm

Dan True wrote: In a medieval setting, will they really make a difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder?
In most real world medieval societies they did make that
difference. Manslaughter usually resulted in a high fine,
often to be paid to the relatives of the victim, while mur-
der almost always resulted in a death sentence.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby alex_greene » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:40 pm

Yes, they do make a difference.

Manslaughter can include death sustained as a result of a duel or a scuffle over some cause or other. In the old Wergild system, a manslaughter would typically be settled with some sort of financial recompense, and then that would be it.

Murder, on the other hand, involved such activities as poisoning someone's food or water in his well, or setting fire to the person's house while he was sleeping in it. It meant that the deceased died without a chance to defend himself - an unconscionable offence.

Under Welsh mediaeval law, the Law of Hywel Dda, the Wergild custom was continued. Disputes were settled in courts where each case was presented, not so much with evidence, but more with as many individuals as could be found stepping forward to vouch for each side as possible. But in the end, the loser of the case would have to pay up whatever the court decreed was appropriate.

Under that law, the penalties for witchcraft were as bad as those of murder committed in cold blood. As a matter of fact, witchcraft was considered an act in cold blood, even if the intent was non-lethal - impotence, curdled milk, bad luck at games of chance.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:32 pm

Dan True wrote:Well.. In a medieval setting, will they really make a difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder? I mean, won't it basically boil down to "murder" vs. "self-defense". And the status of the two involved being more saying in the actual circumstances in the deciding of it.
I agree, in a setting where a little bit of Common Magic is as commonplace as a knife, the circumstances will be much more important than whether or not magic was used. In a setting where magic is unusual and noticeable, someone using magic will attract attention to themselves and if they kill someone with it then they will probably get lynched.

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