Order and the Occult
Having opened the daily updates to any requests (so that there aren’t any burning questions as we dash towards the final few days), Ryan Blackstock earlier today asked about two issues that I think would benefit from a wider quick discussion; law and order and attitude to magic in the Blight. These make a nice update for today, so we’ll have an extract from the Pathfinder version of Law and Order section first...
“The law which attempts a man's life is impractical, unjust, inadmissible. It has never repressed crime -- for a second crime is every day committed at the foot of the scaffold.”
The law is tough and well organized in the Blight. Making an enemy of it is unwise, but perhaps inevitable.
Having a viable law in a city is the only way to keep order, and as a GM you should not hesitate to call upon high CR officers and minions to see it carried out, but it must be relative. 3rd level PCs who wantonly burn down a royal palace soon find a group of 12th level rangers on their cases, 9th level PCs who are happened upon by a watch, should happen upon a standard watch unless there are other circumstances.
The standard city watch patrol is made up of 5 level 3 watch and one sergeant (level 5-6). However, this is only the standard watch; there are some places in the city where the watch just dare not go, and some places (such as the Capitol) where patrols are two, three or even four times as big. These patrols are also, of course, much more professional than your standard constable of the watch.
The law has not only rangers and fighters, but rogues, clerics and wizards amongst their number. These groups watch a city of thousands upon thousands of people, however, and crime is rife; in general a parish tiff where a cult temple is burned to the ground by adventurers is not a cause for concern, bumping off an aristocrat is.
The more respectable (read powerful) an individual is, the less likely he is to be troubled by the law, and certainly a bribe of 500gp can get the aristocrat criminal off all but the worst crimes. How you judge this is very much a matter for personal taste—the law is there for you to use—it could soon become very boring having to deal with the tenth cultist’s body by dumping it in the river for fear of hanging, but similarly characters who march up to the Capitol singing anarchists songs are not likely to be seen again, unless they are released later, changed for all to see.
As with all this setting, judge the level of law how you wish. If you want a very strictly legal campaign have the city watch as a constant issue for the PCs, perhaps at the core of some adventures where it’s not just about killing a powerful and aristocratic enemy but disposing of the body. Conversely in some streets murder is commonplace, and in a city of countless serial killers, the law is clearly failing somewhere, and failing badly.
Throwing an unexpected city watch into an adventure is a great way to test your player’s mettle, and if they happen to kill some guards then so much the better; everything, as has been said before, has a cause and effect in a place so crowded. There are always so many eyes everywhere; looking greedily to make a coin or seize some power over someone.
In general, hanging or beheading is a punishment for anything from theft upwards (unless deported to one of the Between colonies), those who commit lesser crimes are tossed into the city gaols or worse, the sanatoriums for the mad. There are still some prison hulks floating in the Lyme, these are terrible diseased places without hope where those who their betters may wish to talk to at some time are incarcerated. There are also several special prisons in the Blight…
“Only the wise know how to use the dangerous curse of magic, and only a fool would tamper with it”
One of the Seven Prayers of Castorhage
“Magic is power and power in the wrong hands is folly. Only those of high caste know how to use it wisely. Those others who dabble with it must be taught a lesson and cleansed as an example to others”
The unspoken prayer of magic
The attitude to magic in the Blight, which is discussed at length in the Guide—using the as written campaign I must stress—is summed up by this saying and its hidden true meaning. However, magic is a very individual thing, and for many gamers access to it is a crucial part of their gaming experience. Therefore any options are just that—options. As written, Castorhage is a low-magic setting simply because magic is power, and anyone who has power in the Blight is desperate to keep it—BUT also enhance it.
The Blight also offers three optional approaches to magic, varying from it being uncommon, to fear. Various options for playing are given, including the availability of magic and where to find it, and options on various cults, clubs and groups to join and advance within. The issue of raising is given some serious thought; as written the campaign only allows the powerful (do not always read high level as this) access to such spells, but of course your group may decide that such spells are an inherent part of play and can commence the campaign associated with a group or religious order who has access to such groups.
The bottom line with magic is that you decide, but as written, magic is something powerful and is feared and controlled accordingly. Yet even with this approach, magic thrives in the city—indeed the place is bloated with it—guilds and cults and the Great Coven have access to vast libraries, Booktown is in essence a district of written magic, cabals create cabalistic magic for multiple spellcasters and new spells and darker versions of old favorites are found lurking in moldering antiquaries, hidden in secrets or jealously guarded by loners.
Here’s the introduction to magic from the Guide…
There are thousands of independent wizards and sorcerers operating in the city, but in general access to the higher level spells (6th above) are controlled by guilds, who guard them jealously—even going to the trouble of burning copies of spells in other tomes and libraries if they happen upon them.
Higher level miraculous spells are even more strictly controlled, and generally only deemed suitable for royalty or those of great importance. As such spells such as raise dead, resurrection and miracle are not generally encountered by the ordinary PC or for sale. If you wish you can ignore this rule, however, its basis is in logic; the nobles wish to keep such miracles for their own use; dish them out to the common-man, they say, and everyone will want them. This does not rule out high ranking clergy or those who serve them being given access to such spells as rewards for example. Nor, of course, the powerful in any other way…
The Illuminati are of course rumored to be the depository of a thousand unknown spells, taken by their spies, unearthed by their explorers and ripped from alien hands by their adventurers. Tales of countless new magics and new domains are speculated upon by conspiracists. Of the few known to be truth, the foul birth magic, where children are the focus of arcane power whilst still in the womb, has evidence walking and staggering across the city. Tales of spells that can unmake a person’s biology, of arcane that can control parts of the Between and those that are able to break and bend the will of men to unspeakable acts continued to be whispered…