Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fantasy Medieval Style Law. Part 2

The Arrest
As Sigurt and Thil enter Lado's shop, the one of the two Greene men following them runs to tell Aldus and Marcus where Sigurt is. Unfortunately for Sigurt, the Greene has gathered everybody and ready to move. Several minutes later everybody arrives at Lado's shop.

Lado was successful at covering his discomfort at the arrival of Sigurt and Thil and managed not to tip them off that something was amiss. Their conversation about provision was interrupted by a loud insistent knock at the door. When Lado answered he see Marcus with his posse backed by a City Guard patrol standing nearby.

Marcus presents his writ and then turns to Sigurt and Thil announcing he is here to arrest Sigurt for the murder of his brother. Sigurt puts his hand on his weapon but Thil noticing the posse and the guards stops the Northeron. Thil examine the writ and finds it in good order. Sigurt and Thil get in to a heated argument until Thil pointed out the dozen or so armed individuals outside in the street. Thil will take Sigurt's gear and get back to Corbin to see what can be done. But for now they are out numbered.

To everybody's relief, Sigurt surrenders after giving his gear to Thil. Marcus, the city guard, and his posse take Sigurt to the nearest Jails and has Sigurt locked up. The writ is signed by the Jailor indicating that the arrest has been made.

The Trial
Aldus and Marcus Green return to Alderman Mallory and present him with the signed writ. Aldus requests that Sigurt be tried at the next assizes for the murder of his son. Alderman Mallory agrees and issues a Writ to compel Sigurt to appear before the commission of oyer and terminer when it assembled in 18 days at the monthly assize to answer for his crimes. Aldus pays the Alderman another two shilling for this writ.

Rob's Notes: Eastgate as a freetown is not allow to try capital crimes. The king holds monthly assize in where felonies can be heard and adjudicated. In this fantasy kingdom, the Grand Jury is a group at the assize that issues indictments requiring the named individuals to appear at the next assize. Indictments can be presented to the Sheriff or Aldermans to secure a writ to arrest the named individual to force them to appear.

The Commission of Oyer and Terminer, actually hears the case and renders a verdict. To have the commission hear a case the plantiff has to secure a writ in order to be put on the schedule or docket.

It is quite possible that the indictment step is skipped as in the case of Sigurt. In which case, if a suitable authority, like an Alderman or a Sheriff, issues a writ to put the case on the docket.

In the 18 days that follows these things happen.

Both the Greenes, and the Adventuring Party gather witnesses who would swear an account of the events that led to the death of Micheal. The Adventuring Party has a hard time of it due to the Greenes better connections. However they manage to find a merchant who was present during the incident who happened to be a rival to the Greenes.

Sigurt sits in jail and one of the adventuring party makes sure that he has food, water, and clothing each day. Medieval Jails provide minimal food and water. The expectation is that the family will keep the prisoner supplied. Luckily none of the jailers wants to mess with the Adventuring Party after the first visit so Sigurt is able to get everything that the party delivers until the assize.

When the day of the assizes arrives, Sigurt and the other prisoners to be tried are escorted by the city guard to the commons where the tents and the commission's benches are set up. It is cloudy day with rain drizzling off and on so everybody is in a foul mood and ready to get this over with.

At first the trial goes badly for Sigurt as the Greene line up an array of witnesses swearing that Sigurt instigated the fight with no provocation. And other testifying to Micheal's good character. However prior to the trial Thil managed to find out that one of the commissioners was a knight whose son got in trouble because of Micheal's rowdy ways. Thil's investigation and persuasion abilities (along with a few quiet Charm Persons) allows him to highlight Micheal's rowdiness.

At the conclusion of the trails, the commission finds Sigurt guilty of manslaughter not murder and fines him double weregild (400 shilling or 4,800 sp) for Micheal's death. The Greene family wanted death is not happy with the verdict. The party pays Sigurt's fine and quickly leaves Eastgate on their long delayed expedition to the Barradine Ruins. It unlikely the Greenes will be able to exact any type of vengeance unless the party returns to Eastgate.

Wrapping it up
I deliberately made the resolution more peaceful than would likely be the case. Odds are that Thil and Sigurt would have made a scene at Lado's shop. Either fleeing through the back of Lado's shop or attempting to take on the posse and the guard. Each with their own negative consequences.

But the scenario path I opted for allowed me to illustrate each part of how medieval style justice would work in a fantasy RPG campaign. The key to Sigurt paying a fine and not hanging from a noose is Thil clever work in discovering that others were negatively by Micheal. Thus painting the incident as one where a crime has been committed, manslaughter, but caused by Micheal's history of drunkenness. However because the Adventuring Party had no local ties it was a uphill battle at every step.


Narmer said...

Very helpful posts. Thanks.

Lasgunpacker said...

Great posts, thanks! Certainly gives one more to use in game than the more usual fantasy tropes. (or murder hoboing)

Reason said...

Something not covered that much and definitely gameable, something I'll use. Which is about the highest praise OSR can give.

Charles Saeger said...

1) This is utterly fascinating and has inspired me to buy Hârn Law and detail my own fantasy world legal system.
2) How would this look in play? You have a lot of background events involving NPCs. At the table, the fight will happen, critical rolled, hushed reaction, PCs leave. GM asks if they go to bed and yes, then they plan the next morning. They go to the chandler, then the arrest. They don’t see all the stuff that happened with rounding up the posse and getting a writ. How do you handle this fast?

Robert Conley said...

@Charles good questions, one thing I do is feed the overall picture of how it works at the start of the campaign and in the early part. Perhaps when they were first level they were hired to be part of a posse for an afternoon.

Or while shopping they ran across this situation.

You pass a Chandler shop with a dozen people outside with clubs and several town guards keeping an eye out at the fringe. You see a leader type that obviously not a guard or officel walk up to the door and pound on it, shouting "Merle Redson, you are under arrest, come out or we are knocking down this door."

If the party speaks with the crowd they find that Merle Redson is wanted for assault from a bar fight that left the leader's brother with a broken arm and leg. If they talk with the guards, they act bored and say they are there to make sure the posse doesn't get out of hand.

The general principle you try to show not tell and do it with a light touch until the players have an understanding of how things work.

What my players have done with what they know is one of several things. 1) They immediately gather their things and leave town. 2) They have a patron or ally and go to that person and ask them to help them with the situation. 3) They go to the Greenes and offer restitution.

If the situation I wrote about did happen and the players were aware of how the law worked it was because the players misjudged the social status of the individual that was killed. While unjust by our standard, there are people who don't have any connections and thus doesn't have anybody to stand up for them.

As a rule the innkeeper doesn't want mayham on his premise. But if the party is able to smooth thing out with the business owner, they will get away with murder. Players are often aware of this and adopt a 'oh well' attitude if somebody provokes them. Only worrying if the NPC has some kind of status.

Hope that helps.

Charles Saeger said...

So, I gather the table conversation goes like this:

Sigurt: Twerp should know better than to keep trying to hit me. Socking him in the Face. (rolls) Got a 4, baby! Crit! Can't Dodge this! (rolls) That's 7 points of crushing to the Face.

GM: (rolls) Oh, triple damage. He's now full negative. (rolls again) Oh dear ... that wasn't a good HT roll for him at all. He falls down, his nose caved-in. The whole bar goes into a hush.

Corbin: Let's go. I give the barkeep 50 gold. Hopefully that will keep things silent enough until we can get out to the Barradine Ruins.

GM: So, is there any other business for tonight?

Corbin: Lado's shop still open?

GM: Lado said he was going to bed, remember?

Corbin: Oh, yeah, right. Guess we'll do the same and hit him up for supplies tomorrow.

GM: OK, next morning. Whatcha doing?

Thil: Guess we go see Lado. Should Sigurt come with for backup?

Sigurt: Sure. Ain't nobody gonna mess with me now.

GM: (rolls Observation for the PCs, noting failure) OK, Lado lets you in. What do you want to buy?

Thil: We need more rations since Sigurt is defaulting on Survival in Plains.

Corbin: Get a pick axe.

GM: You're not there!

Corbin: Well, I would have told him to get a pick axe.

Thil: Yeah, a pick axe and a shovel. Anything else?

GM: Regardless of whether or not you guys hashed this out beforehand, a city guardsman, a young man, and a bunch of goons show up. "Sigurt the Northeron?"

Sigurt: "Yes, little man?"

GM: "You are under arrest for the murder of Michael Greene."

This pretty much what happens in the interim time?

Robert Conley said...

@Charles, you pretty much nailed it. Nice touch with Corbin's player chiming in.

PatrickW said...

Nice! Excellent illustration of the law in action. Would something similar extend to the early Renaissance, say 1650s? If not, any recommended reading? I'd like to add a bit more structure to my Holy Roman Empire game.

Robert Conley said...

Broadly yes but the specifics would have changed with the times.

I would look at the Time Travellers guide series by Ian Mortimer on Amazon.

There is one for Restoration Britain from 1660 to 1699.

PatrickW said...

Cool thanks! I'll look into those.