Pickpockets Signed Up. Then the Penny Dropped

Recently I posted some ideas for laws you could apply in one of your nations or cultures to make make your PCs flinch. Some great responses rolled, and today I present you with more thoughts on how to make your PCs’ lives legally interesting:

Passports & Licenses

From RPT GM Mark

I have two favourite real-world laws (IIRC) that I like to use as inspiration for RPGs.

Hong Kong Pickpocket Licence
Pickpockets were so prolific in Hong Kong that it was affecting tourism, so something needed to be done. The ruler made pickpocketing legal if you were a licensed pickpocket.

The licence fee was small, the application simple. The punishment for unlicensed pickpocketing was much greater than the old punishment for pickpocketing.

Pickpockets signed up. Then the penny dropped.

The licences were laminated hardwood boards nearly 1 meter x 2 meters. Pickpockets were required to have their licences with them while picking pockets or face steep fines. Pickpocketing was greatly reduced.

But some thieves did work around it, dressing as workmen and carrying two licences between them, or sitting on their licence dressed like a beggar, etc.

Ancient Egyptian Passports
These passports were simple wooden plaques with general information about the person written on them. The twist is that the passports had to include any crimes you had committed (whether or not you were caught).

When a person entered a city, they had to present their passport and pay a fee for each crime on their passport.

The trick is that lying on your passport was an executable offence. So most criminals would admit it and pay the fine, rather than lie and risk being executed if their crimes were discovered.

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Crime Pays

From RPT GM Tim

In my Zweihander campaign, the city is human ego-centric, and any other ancestry left in the city after sunset is hunted down and captured to be given to the Grendel who live in the underdark of the city.

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From RPT GM Jeremy

I have also used peace bonding and sword taxes. In most of my games, I have posted to my players some of the major laws that might get them in trouble.

In my current campaign, I am using the concept of weregild, and my players had to pay weregild on an enemy they had killed while trying to survive the proverbial killer inn.

Needless to say, my PCs have been annoyed by this idea.

(Comment from Johnn: I did not know what a weregild was before this. Thanks, Jeremy!

From Wikipedia:

Weregild (also spelled wergild, wergeld (in archaic/historical usage of English), weregeld, etc.), also known as man price (blood money), was a precept in some historical legal codes whereby a monetary value was established for a person’s life, to be paid as a fine or as compensatory damages to the person’s family if that person was killed or injured by another.)

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Clever Players

From RPT GM Michael Horton

I use peace bonding a lot.

I feel like it helps limit the random, casual killing that players/characters can sometimes fall into.

My current group turned it around on me recently and taunted their rivals (an NPC adventuring group) to the point that one of them drew a weapon.

Goes to show that clever players can sometimes turn limitations to their advantage.

On a similar tact, religion can be an issue. In certain areas/cities, a dominant religion may not allow any other worship. It may be simply that you can’t show other holy symbols, or it may be extreme, such as all other religions being banned with heavy penalties (fines, imprisonment, death).

Or use of arcane/divine magic may be outlawed except in certain cases.

I currently use the old Mystara/Known World setting of Karameikos and follow the classic “Duke’s Law” there. Peace-bound weapons and arcane magic are illegal in public, especially of an offensive nature. Different cities and towns in the dukedom follow these laws to some extent.

The party has had to leverage favours to avoid having to explain their actions in court when they had to defend themselves.

It has been a minor but fun bit of RP in the campaign.

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Thanks for the great ideas and examples, RPT GMs. You are awesome!

Have more fun at every game!

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