Common Magic and the law

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Dan True
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Dan True » Wed Jul 04, 2012 6:58 am

alex_greene wrote: 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 this is my point exactly. The severeness of the crime is decided by the killed man's family, status, and how many family members will back up on the fact that he was murdered. Real evidence will rarely be given much value, especially as they will not actively seeks bipartisan evidence, or have the means for it.

My point was not that different cases of killing, might not be judged differently, rather that much else than the actual circumstances affect the outcome of a trial in such a society.
Of course, one might have a world where the legal system, just as gender roles, morality and family values, have been pushed forward a few hundred years.

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Rikki Tikki Traveller
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Fri Jul 06, 2012 6:38 pm

Don't forget the concept of "Felony Murder". If someone dies while you are committing a felony (such as using a Fire Arrow spell against a neighbors barn), then you can be charged with Murder. Unintended consequences don't abrogate your responsibility when you are committing a serious crime.

In my setting, Common Magic is just that Common, EVERYONE can cast a spell. However, you the caster are responsible for the consequences of your spells, intended or otherwise.

One of my societies is very open with Common Magic and it is not uncommon to see a tailor casting a Mend spell to fix a torn piece of fabric or cast a BladeSharp spell before butchering a cow.

In another of my societies, Common Magic is outlawed, the rulers (a theocracy) limit the use of magic to themselves and their Cultists only. All other use of magic is considered heretical and the caster is burned - no matter how simple or innocent the spell.

Just depends on the society in question.

Also, in my version, all spells leave a trace that can be detected and analysed by other casters; so Magical Detectives can track down who cast the spell (within limits of course).
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Savage Yinn
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Savage Yinn » Sun Jul 08, 2012 1:13 pm

Thank you for sharing the ways in which your different societies handle common magic.

I am used to gaming with a more D&D mindset than a Legend one and now I can see that I have to do some research into ancient societies so I can get the feel of the game correct.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:09 pm

Savage Yinn wrote:I am used to gaming with a more D&D mindset than a Legend one and now I can see that I have to do some research into ancient societies so I can get the feel of the game correct.
I'm going to point you in the direction of an existing Legend book as a perfect example of a sourcebook which included the law into its rules.

Vikings of Legend.

You can't really discuss Vikings without discussing the law. Which makes it one of the best tools for any Games Master. For all the [wrong?] reasons. And Vikings had very specific rulings when it came to the use of magic: what magic was legal, what was illegal, what was shunned and what magic would get you disgraced and kicked out of their society or even killed on the spot.
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Savage Yinn
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Savage Yinn » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:40 pm

I've picked up Vikings of Legend, it's full of good stuff. Thanks for the advice.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Prime_Evil » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:09 am

Savage Yinn wrote:Thank you for sharing the ways in which your different societies handle common magic.

I am used to gaming with a more D&D mindset than a Legend one and now I can see that I have to do some research into ancient societies so I can get the feel of the game correct.

Much as I love D&D, one of the things that has set Runequest (and Legend) apart from the very earliest days is the emphasis on the social context of the world that the characters inhabit. In the D&D tradition, adventurers usually don't have strong connections to the rest of society around them - they are wanderers who move from one trouble spot to another. Indeed, in the 1st edition DMG, Gary Gygax explicitly compares adventurers to gunfighters in the Old West. They act as a civilising influence in the frontier regions, bringing law and order to the wilderlands. But one they succeed in restoring order to regions threatened by evil forces, they tend to move on - they simply can't fit into the restrictive structure of a feudal society for any length of time.

I suspect that Gygax favoured this approach because it mirrored the kind of fantasy that he preferred - the pulp fantasy tradition of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber, and Jack Vance. These authors generally produced short stories rather than novels about their protagonists and often featured lawless adventurers who were at odds with the society around them. Their adventures were recounted in a picaresque fashion, with the protagonists moving from one location to another between stories.

By contrast, the "Runequest tradition" has always insisted that adventurers are deeply integrated into the society around them. They typically have close ties to family and friends who are ordinary citizens. In addition, they must align themselves with organisations such as cults or guilds if they wish to progress beyond a certain point in their chosen profession. Sure, characters can rebel and choose to become maverick outsiders - but this means giving up some of the benefits of civilised society.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby PhilHibbs » Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:16 pm

Rikki Tikki Traveller wrote:Don't forget the concept of "Felony Murder". If someone dies while you are committing a felony (such as using a Fire Arrow spell against a neighbors barn), then you can be charged with Murder.
It's worse than that. In some societies, theives were considered to be murderers as the presumption is that if someone stumbles upon a thief, then they will be murdered because the thief can't afford to be caught. In an enlightened society, I can rob a house and if I go to jail then I just get free bed and board for a couple of years. I don't have to kill the person that finds me. If the punishment is likely to be so harsh that I can't let someone report me, then I have to kill them. It's somewhat self-reinforcing, but if your society doesn't have the resources to treat thieves leniently then it's a vicious circle that can't be broken.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby Vile » Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:13 am

If magic is common, society is not likely to distinguish between the means used to commit an offence. It's the result that counts. I don't think you should get too hung up on the mechanistic differences between magic and other ways of doing things (persuasion or violence).

More importantly, it's the relative influence of the victim and the perpetrator (or alleged perpetrator) that will be the deciding factor in a normal fantasy setting. If a noble says a peasant did wrong, that's all there is to it - doesn't matter whether magic, sharp objects or harsh language were involved, or whether the accused is even the guilty party or just a convenient scapegoat. Good luck to the peasant trying the same on the noble.

It's your game world, but I'd advise caution in translating modern concepts like rule of law and policing into pseudo-historical settings. You can have outright bans on certain things, e.g. the wearing of swords by commoners or the ownership of metal armour by a conquered populace, but you have to bear in mind whether a ban on a spell or type of spell will be enforceable (easier if there is some physical element, like a fetish or focus or spell book). An unenforceable law can become a liability if it gets people used to the idea of flaunting it.
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Re: Common Magic and the law

Postby arthurfallz » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:53 pm

There is also the problem that our real-world-law may have had provisions for dealing with the practice of magic, but magic itself is fictional. Think of the Salem Witch Trials (chilling stuff to read). But examine, for a moment, a world where magic is possible, and the populace has access to it.

For one, Common Magic will be regionally limited, with certain spells being passed on as a matter of use and profession. Using them in the context they were intended for is seen as normal, useful behaviour. Other spells will be illegal or forbidden, or taboo at best. Why does a common person need to know spells to hurt and harm other people? They can argue self-defense, of course, but in a community, the man who knows Skybolt is going to get a lot of heat after a storm sets his neighbour's barn on fire with a lightning strike.

We can assume that, generally, most people are going to avoid using magic for destructive and anti-social ends. They were raised that way. "Don't go casting this Hand of Death, boy, unless you mean to use it." Even in a primitive society, the social stigma for using Common Magic recklessly would be intense, and result in banishment or death for he or she that does so.
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