Saturday, June 26, 2021

Law in the Perilous Realms

This is the first in a series of web log posts where I describe what “alignment” must mean in the Perilous Realms, based upon our group’s tone and play-style, and its cumulative rulings so far. I am coming to realize how essential to the game alignment is. It defines so many things: the cosmos, the setting, the characters, the classes, especially clerics, monsters who are intelligent, and whether they are free, language, and whatever counts as “religion” in a given setting. This shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose. It is a wargame, after all. And wars have sides.

The Law in the Perilous Realms

So, a character is on the side of LAW. What is the Law? Well, since you asked, they are the Seven Laws of the Prophet Noe, revealed from heaven, through the great prophet who survived the cataclysmic ancient flood of Tiamat.

The Seven Laws of The Prophet Noe

1. Thou shalt not worship idols

2. Thou shalt not curse the Most High

3. Thou shalt establish and hold courts of justice

4. Thou shalt not murder

5. Thou shalt not dishonor the wedding vow

6. Thou shalt not steal

7. Thou shalt not show cruelty

The first law, no worship of idols, rules out a lot of behavior common to a lot of people and free races in a low fantasy setting. This limitation really stands out as something that distinguishes the Lawful from the crowd. The second law, no cursing the Most High, represents a kind of vague blasphemy prohibition that can be interpreted and enforced more or less leniently or strictly depending upon the local community, Church or otherwise Lawful leadership.

The third law, due process, is important and, in many ways, defines Lawfulness, setting Law in stark contrast to Chaos. Due process is essential to the Law. It is the key to establishing safety, order, and civilization. It forms an absolute prohibition against lynching, feuds, unlawful duels, revenge killings, and the like. Punishment may still be “cruel and unusual,” by modern standards. But they must at least seem to fit the crime. Duels may be authorized by the court as an appropriate means of settling a suit. But it must be court decreed.

An exception that is often, but not always honored by courts of Law (that is to say, by this referee) is that of “Wilderness Law.” In cases where adventurers find themselves far away from Lawful civilization, Lawful characters may declare “Wilderness Law,” and, well, let us say, “exact justice,” as the Lawful party understands it. In this case, the Lawful party (or the subgroup of Lawful members thereof) becomes a kind of de facto court of Law, likely to be recognized by the Church or a lawful civilization. So, for example, if it is dangerous to haul a captured Evil High Priest all the way back to a settlement with established Lawful courts, the party may just decide to “try, condemn, and execute” the “obvious offender,” right then and there. As the referee, I would usually uphold this if the reason were obvious and not simply a sham for making things easier on the party.

The fourth law, the prohibition of murder, may seem a little tough to uphold in a fantasy wargame. But note that what is prohibited is murder, not killing. Killing in defense of the defenseless and even in self-defense is not murder.

Capital punishment after due process is not murder. It is the removal of an individual from a corporate body, by that corporate body, through its authorized and Lawful leadership, to maintain safety and order for the whole. The court may just as well choose exile or gulag instead.

War, when declared just by the appropriate authorities, and conducted in a holy and chivalrous fashion, is about two people groups (or a people group against another free race) fighting one another. The death of individuals is a necessary and unfortunate by-product, not its goal. Thus, war does not technically count as murder.

Furthermore, you can only murder members of the free races: men, elves, dwarves, halflings, and intelligent lawful beings. Monsters, especially Chaotic monsters and fell races are not murdered, they are exterminated. Fell “races” count as monsters in the Perilous Realms. Remember, this is just a game – a medieval fantasy game based on the philosophy of Alchemy. Fell beings arise by abiogenesis. So, they don’t have spouses or children to worry about. Monsters are archetypes of our nightmares, ulterior motives, vices, passions, skeletons in the closet, etc. Try not to over think it or “deconstruct” it.

The fourth law, honoring the vows of marriage, establishes the basic unit of human order, the family, and thus ensures the safety and rearing of the next generation. This would include most traditional mores around such things, as understood by most traditional human societies. But it also includes things like the defense of widows and orphans, etc.

The sixth law, prohibiting theft, ensures the basic property rights necessary to maintain a free and orderly (medieval fantasy) society. This is an imaginary world before the industrial revolution so there is no “Capitalism.” And if wealth is not defined as the means of production, then we don’t yet need some medieval fantasy version of Marxism informing us that “property is theft”!

Finally, the seventh law, prohibiting acts of cruelty, maintains the humaneness of Law. Although there are plenty of Lawful characters who rule with an iron fist, if they cross a certain line, they may no longer be regarded as truly Lawful. The prohibition on cruelty includes not only the usual things associated with cruelty but also a wider gamut of behaviors such as: no corpse abuse, no animal cruelty (the actual prohibition of the seventh law of Noah, In Real Life) and no eating meat without humane slaughter and thanksgiving rendered to the Most High for the animal’s life.

A note about the relationship of the Law to being a “Good,” character:

You can imagine an “evil” Lawful character, one who hides behind the law in cowardice, for false motives, or who imposes the Law on others with forced conversions and an iron fist. But, in general it is “good” folks who will choose law, because they can see its obvious benefits to the oppressed and also its general benefits due to its role in the development of human civilization.

Up next: Chaos in the Perilous Realms

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