Sunday, July 7, 2013

Justice In Ur-Hadad

Let's keep the #AtoZ RPG fun rolling with a brief discussion of Justice In Ur-Hadad. Much of this information was developed for a recent session of the "FLAILSNAILS of Ur-Hadad" game when the players were looking to turn in a bounty on several captured members of the Bloody Successors terrorist organization. 

"No, don't listen to those chumps who claim 'there ain't no justice in Ur-Hadad.' Yes, there is justice to be found in the First City, it's just that the chances are fairly strong that it's not justice for you and yours. There's been a hundred different bodies of law in the First City in the last age, and who knows how many before that when elves and lizard men and snake men and worse things reigned here. You know what they all have in common? Not a one of them was written to benefit you." - Master Guang-Yuan Jo

In Ur-Hadad justice, like most things, is a commodity freely traded by noblemen and merchants, bureaucrats and criminals, priests and apostates. Law, holy law, as handed down from the gods, as writ by philosopher kings of old, as agreed to by congresses of learned elders scheming legislation, fills scroll after scroll, metal plates bound with sanctified sinews, leather-bound and moldering tomes and even carved into the walls of the temples, palaces and public places by the bloody hands of the first free men. Such a sacred legacy as the Law cannot be entrusted into the hands of common men, argues tradition in the First City, but rather is the holy charge of the true guardians of the Dominion of Man, the social structure of Ur-Hadad. The justice system of Ur-Hadad, such as it is, places the greatest onus to keep Man's laws in the hands of the grreatest members of society; thus, noble houses jockey for position by bidding to fund and run as many prestigious guard gates and way stations within the city as they can, with the most important being the Gates themselves and the work-camp prison on Usilkor Rock in the city's bay. The captains these nobles employ endeavor not merely to keep the houses' interests in mind, but also each house's particular interpretation or preference in the Law.

While the main Gates of the city are the most obvious example, the Grand Vizier's bureaucracy maintains a series of gates connecting neighborhoods, marking the transitions from one district to another and carefully controlling traffic on major streets. Each gate is commanded by a captain, employed by the nobles of one particular house or another, who serves as chief bureaucrat and primary judge within his district. Since the city guard is primarily concerned with keeping the peace, they will rarely actively investigate crime not currently underway, but rather take statements from victims and offer bounties for criminals, a practice which has led to the recent boom in the bounty hunting business. Some gate stations refuse bounties from certain other gates or for particular crimes, but by and large, a system of paid extradition ensures that a bounty paid by one gate will be reimbursed by the issuing gate. A criminal brought in by a bounty hunter, should he be able to pay the appropriate fees and bonds, may pay for court trial by judge or jury (depending on the laws applied). In large part, the justice system of Ur-Hadad runs, like everything else in the First City, on money.

Who Are You To Judge?

The system of laws that is applied by a gate captain or judge varies not merely from noble house to noble house, but often from one gate to the next and even from one crime to another. What set of laws is being applied in this particular case? Roll d11. (1 - 2) - Trial by ordeal. Only a guilty man can fail to survive whatever harsh punishment law proscribes. This one is likely brutal. (3 - 4) - Trial by art. The defendant must spontaneously create the proscribed form of art, and is provided with the appropriate time and tools to do so. Surely the gods will only inspire an innocent soul to great creation. (5 - 6) - Trial by combat. You have to face an opponent in one-on-one combat and prevail to be found innocent. That person may be the judge, your accuser or a violent goon hired specifically for this brand of brutality. (7 - 8) - Trial by advocate. The standard sort of trial we tend to think of in western civilization, where you present your case (or someone does for you) while a prosecutor presents the case against you. (9 - 10) - Trial by performance. A mingling of the standard "trial by advocate" and the "trial by art," both the accused (or his representative) and the prosecutor must perform their argumentation as part of an artistic performance such as song, dance, poetry or dramatic performance (acting); only in the case of a superior argument and performance may a winner be declared, all other cases being declared mistrials and re-tried. (11) - Trial by mystery. Through enacting ancient and holy rites, the judge must undertake a prophetic meditation to determine the defendant's guilt or innocence. Whatever revelations he receives, he need not share or explain. Good luck with this one. Things Get Better: The judge or gate captain sitting in judgment is sympathetic to your case, your crime or your performance under the terms of the applied law. Your sentence will be halved if found guilty or, if found not guilty, you will be awarded damages in some amount. Things Get Worse: The judge or gate captain is unduly prejudiced against you for reasons of race, social class, birthplace or something else unreasonable. If found guilty, your sentence will be doubled or you will be found in contempt of court if you are found not guilty. When will your kind ever learn?

Please note that typical sentences include terms of labor in Usilkor Rock or stiff fines measured in crowns.