I'll see you in court! Trials in PF


Homebrew and House Rules

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My players have done a goof. We intended to have a 'Law and Order' style game set in Cheliax with a group of Lawful Evil Characters. What we got was some trigger happy Asmodeans burning an outdoor play stage and assaulting actors for insulting their god. It was a right mess. So now my players are arrested by the Hellknights and await trial. So I guess I had to come up with a system for holding a trial in game. Here's what I came up with so far. Please, please, please be critical and give me any advice or ideas you have to make this better. Next session is on the 8th of April, where we will see just how well this all works.

The Player Characters, or their Lawyer(s), will use skill checks at crucial points of the Trial to argue their case. These will be opposed by the skill checks of the Prosecution. I've come up with the following uses for skill checks for defendants, but they are by no means the only interpretation. Still haven't worked out how these skill checks work for the prosecution.
Bluff - Arguing Innocence from Accusation
Diplomacy - Arguing Justification of Actions
Intimidate - Attempt to Discredit Opposition
Knowledge (Local or Nobility) or Profession (Barrister) - Use obscure law to prove actions were not illegal

The opposed skill checks will happen during the following crucial points of the Trial. I've basically just pulled these from watching alot of Law and Order, not sure if they are general enough.
Structure of Trial Proceedings
1) Opening Statements
2) Allegations of Crime
3) Witness(es) to Alleged Crime(s)
4) Evidence of Alleged Crime(s)
5) Testimony of The Accused
6) Closing Statements

Winning the opposed skill checks with the opposition's lawyer will grant Victory Points. The number of points is determined by the difference between the final results of the skill checks. Defeating the opposition by 1 to 5 points grants 1 VP. 6 to 10 is 2 VP. 11 to 15 is 4 VP. And more than 16 is 6VP.

There will be opportunities to use superior legal knowledge or a keen eye to launch an Objection against the opposition. These may only be attempted during the Witness, Evidence, and Testimony portions of the Trial. Using Sense Motive, Knowledge(Local/Nobility), or Profession(Barrister) the PCs or their Lawyers can detect violation of the rules of evidence or other procedural law. This is opposed by Bluff, Knowledge(Local/Nobility), or Profession(Barrister). Success means the opposition loses 2 VP. Further successful Objections only loses the opposition 1 VP.

If the Prosecution has more VP at the end of the trial, then the accused are convicted of their crimes. If the difference between Prosecution and Defendant is profound (5 or more) they may be sentenced harshly or charged with additional crimes. If the Defendants have more VP at the end of the trial, then they are acquitted of their alleged crimes. If the difference between Defendant and Prosecution is profound (5 or more) then they are vindicated and may be in a position to launch a counter suit for defamation.

(( I've been playing around with the idea of moving away from the opposed skill checks. Perhaps there would be a DC each side rolls against, based on country, settlement, and Judge. Success means each side earns VP based on Skill check and how far over the DC they go. Perhaps extra VP for rolling much higher than the opposition. And still having an Objection system for taking VP away from the opposition. ))


You should have someone, witness for either the prosecution or defense, maybe they offer to provide an alibi or corroboration to the PCs or maybe the witness makes a false statement on behalf of the the prosecution. Either way, they get proven wrong (they are lying) and have something very bad and very decisive happen (like their tongue cut out and hung from the courthouse). Make sure it very clear that if you lie, don't get caught.

Dark Archive

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Well I am using the following guidelines for Crimes and Punishment in Cheliax. I'm still working on adjusting a few of these, but it is pretty close to a final version. I need to add descriptions for each type of crime to explain what it is. I mean, what's the difference between Burglary, Robbery, and Theft? Perjury is a High Crime, punishable by a large fine and branding. Everyone will know you lie under oath when you have a scar on your forehead.

Spoiler:
Laws of Cheliax
Here, by the decree of Abrogail II, Queen of Cheliax, are the rightful laws of the realm. Let all who disobey submit to the punishments within, or burn in the hellfire of our dark lord Asmodeus.

Low Justice
Low Justice, which applies to the common people, is enforced by the representatives of the crown. In our cities, laws are enforced by the dottari, and judged by magistrates.

High Justice
High Justice, which applies to crimes against the crown, crimes against nobles, and crimes against our dark lord Asmodeus, is enforced by the duxotari.

Hellknights, sworn to the service of an Order, have our dispensation to dispense High Justice as they see fit within our borders.
________________________________________
Crimes and penalties

Crime |Class |Penalty|

Arson |High Crime |Commoner 500 gp |Noble 500 gp & Immolation

Assault |Low Crime |Commoner 50 gp |Noble 1,000 gp

Banditry |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Possessions, Term Enslavement

Battery |Low Crime |Commoner 200 gp |Noble 2,000 gp, 10 Weeks Imprisonment

Blasphemy |High Crime |Commoner Public Whipping |Noble 50 gp

Burglary |Low Crime |Commoner 200 gp & 2 Weeks Imprisonment |Noble 1,000 gp & Loss of Hand

Destruction of Property |High Crime |Cost of Repairs & Public Beating

Forgery |Low Crime |Confiscation of All Possessions & Loss of Thumb

Fraud Against A Noble |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Possessions & Death

Grave Robbing |Low Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp |Noble: Confiscation of Goods & Execution

Impersonation of Noble |High Crime |Forfeiture of Wealth/Possessions & Disfigurement

Interfering w/ Noble Representative |Low Crime |300 gp & 4 weeks Imprisonment

Kidnapping |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp, & 26 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods & Impalement Not Less Than 3 Days

Magical Assault |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of Spellbooks, 500 gp & 4 Weeks Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Spellbooks and Goods, & Loss of An Ear

Manslaughter |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Equipment, Property, and Wealth, 52 Weeks Imprisonment

Murder |High Crime |Death by Public Execution

Negligent Use of Magic |High Crime |Commong :Confiscation of Spellbooks, 500 gp, & 4 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Spellbooks & Goods, 2,000 gp, 13 Week, & Loss of An Ear

Ownership of Illegal Goods |Low Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 200gp, & 2 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods, 1000gp, 8 Week Imprisonment & Public Beating
|Common: Drugs, Icons of Illegal Faiths, Seditious Materials, and Wild Beasts |Noble: Relics of Illegal Faiths

Perjury |High Crime |Common: 600 gp & Branded with Asmodean Seal |Noble: 1500gp & Branded

Piracy |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of All Wealth, Hanging |Noble: Confiscation of All Wealth, Public Torture, Hanging.

Robbery |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp, & 10 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods, 5,000 gp, 26 Week Imprisonment, Loss of Hand

Sedition |High Crime |Common: Death |Noble: Loss of Title, Death

Theft |Low Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 200 gp, & 5 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp, 12 Week Imprisonment, & Loss of Finger

Treason |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Possession, Property, Wealth, & Death by Being Drawn & Quartered

Trespassing |Low Crime |Common: 20gp |Noble: 500 gp & Public Beating

Dark Archive

I've looked at the Victory Points system and I'm just not satisfied with it. Opposed skill checks are thematic but means only one side can earn any VP each round. There should be incremental progress from both sides throughout the trial. So I'm switching things up. After each crucial point of the trial, each side will make their chosen skill check. Each will earn VP equal to the skill check minus 10 and then divided by 2, rounded down. Example: A Bluff check of 19 earns 4 VP. (19 - 10 = 9. 9 / 2 = 4.5) It's the same math used for ability scores. I may or may not create a cap for how much VP can be earned.

The Objection rules would be very similar to before. You use Sense Motive or Profession Barrister to notice any funny business from the other side during Witness, Evidence, or Testimony. If successful you are allowed to make an Intimidate or Profession Barrister check. The opposition loses VP equal to your check minus 15 and then divided by 2, rounded down. Example: An Intimidate check of 20 would lose the opposition 2 VP (20 - 15 = 5. 5 / 2 = 2.5)

Doing the Victory Points like this gives each side 6 chances to earn VP and up to three chances to take some VP away from the Opposition. Skills like Bluff would still be subject to the penalties or bonuses for believably or convincing evidence. I would allow Aid Another bonuses during trials since they should be working together as a team. I might just increase the DC of Aid Another to 15 or higher due to the circumstances.


I would just use the verbal duel rules from UI. They were kind of made with this sort of situation in mind.


Wolfgang Volos wrote:
I need to add descriptions for each type of crime to explain what it is. I mean, what's the difference between Burglary, Robbery, and Theft?

I am not versed in the nuances of law, especially in Cheliax, so the degrees of severity for these crimes and their punishments may not be congruent with modern day associations.

I believe, Burglary involves theft and trespassing, such as robbing a home, a warehouse, or a store or shop after it's closed.

Theft is probably any stealing that doesn't involve breaking and entering or trespassing, like pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, robbing stall or a shop that's open for business.

Robbery likely involves violence or the threat of violence or directly confronting the victim, like mugging, highway robbery (like a stage coach hold-up), train robbery, extortion (though that crime might be named itself), and also piracy on the seas (though that is likely just called piracy, as well.)

Dark Archive

Dαedαlus wrote:
I would just use the verbal duel rules from UI. They were kind of made with this sort of situation in mind.

I... have no idea how I missed that. I have Ultimate Intrigue. I have eyeballs. Huh... anyways, Verbal Duels look awesome, if a little chunky. I might trim that down a little for my players. Thanks for the suggestion.

Pizza Lord wrote:
Wolfgang Volos wrote:
I need to add descriptions for each type of crime to explain what it is. I mean, what's the difference between Burglary, Robbery, and Theft?

I am not versed in the nuances of law, especially in Cheliax, so the degrees of severity for these crimes and their punishments may not be congruent with modern day associations.

I believe, Burglary involves theft and trespassing, such as robbing a home, a warehouse, or a store or shop after it's closed.

Theft is probably any stealing that doesn't involve breaking and entering or trespassing, like pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, robbing stall or a shop that's open for business.

Robbery likely involves violence or the threat of violence or directly confronting the victim, like mugging, highway robbery (like a stage coach hold-up), train robbery, extortion (though that crime might be named itself), and also piracy on the seas (though that is likely just called piracy, as well.)

I was mostly asking rhetorically, but you've saved me some time in writing up descriptions for all the various crimes. I'm going to throw up short descriptions under or beside each crime. This way I, and my players, know what sort of actions constitute certain crimes. After they have the right connections or influence over the city, many of the crimes will simply not apply to them. But while they work up to that point, it is important. Also if they want to catch any criminals and know what to have them charged for.

Dark Archive

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I've updated the crimes list with short definitions for each. If any of these seem like they aren't descriptive enough, that is intentional. Cheliax is a place for bending the rules. They are Lawful, but they are Evil as well. Just as soon charge you with 5 crimes rather than let criminal scum walk around free.

Spoiler:

Laws of Cheliax
Here, by the decree of Abrogail II, Queen of Cheliax, are the rightful laws of the realm. Let all who disobey submit to the punishments within, or burn in the hellfire of our dark lord Asmodeus.
Low Justice
Low Justice, which applies to the common people, is enforced by the representatives of the crown. In our cities, laws are enforced by the dottari, and judged by magistrates.

High Justice
High Justice, which applies to crimes against the crown, crimes against nobles, and crimes against our dark lord Asmodeus, is enforced by the duxotari.

Hellknights, sworn to the service of an Order, have our dispensation to dispense High Justice as they see fit within our borders.
________________________________________
Crimes and penalties

Crime |Class |Penalty|

Arson |High Crime |Commoner 500 gp |Noble 500 gp & Immolation
The criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property with the intent to destroy or cause harm.

Assault |Low Crime |Commoner 50 gp |Noble 1,000 gp
Any threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm, outside of a duel.

Banditry |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Possessions, Term Enslavement
The organized actions of criminal elements to defraud, threaten, and steal from citizens of the empire.

Battery |Low Crime |Commoner 200 gp |Noble 2,000 gp, 10 Weeks Imprisonment
Intentional physical action that results in harmful or offensive contact, outside of a duel.

Blasphemy |High Crime |Commoner Public Whipping |Noble 50 gp
The offense of speaking sacrilegiously about Asmodeus, his unholy Church, or the Asmodean Disciplines.

Burglary |Low Crime |Commoner 200 gp & 2 Weeks Imprisonment |Noble 1,000 gp & Loss of Hand
Unlawful entry into a building, residence, or business with the intent to commit a crime, especially theft.

Destruction of Property |High Crime |Cost of Repairs & Public Beating
Injury to property caused by willful destruction or gross negligence, requiring repairs or reparation.

Forgery |Low Crime |Confiscation of All Possessions & Loss of Thumb
Creation or use of falsified documents including but not limited to contracts, legal certificates, and permits.

Fraud Against A Noble |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Possessions & Death
Willful misrepresentation of matters of fact to a Noble to deceive into acting toward legal injury.

Grave Robbing |Low Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp |Noble: Confiscation of Goods & Execution
The act of uncovering a tomb or grave to steal artifacts, personal effects, or the body of the deceased.

Impersonation of Noble |High Crime |Forfeiture of Wealth/Possessions & Disfigurement
Knowingly assuming false or fictitious identity of a Noble with intent to defraud, defame, or demean.

Interfering w/ Noble Representative |Low Crime |300 gp & 4 weeks Imprisonment
Willful interference with Noble's business via interruption of representative.

Kidnapping |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp, & 26 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods & Impalement Not Less Than 3 Days
Criminal act to seize or capture of a person against their will using force, fraud, or magic.

Magical Assault |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of Spellbooks, 500 gp & 4 Weeks Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Spellbooks and Goods, & Loss of An Ear
Any threat of magical harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cast spells, outside of a duel.

Manslaughter |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Equipment, Property, and Wealth, 52 Weeks Imprisonment
Unlawful killing of a person without premeditated thought, prior intentions, or purposeful actions.

Murder |High Crime |Death by Public Execution
Unlawful killing of a person without justification or valid excuse, especially with malice aforethought.

Negligent Use of Magic |High Crime |Commong :Confiscation of Spellbooks, 500 gp, & 4 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Spellbooks & Goods, 2,000 gp, 13 Week, & Loss of An Ear
Intentional magical spellcasting that results in harmful, manipulative, or offensive contact outside of a duel.

Ownership of Illegal Goods |Low Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 200gp, & 2 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods, 1000gp, 8 Week Imprisonment & Public Beating
|Common: Drugs, Icons of Illegal Faiths, Seditious Materials, and Wild Beasts |Noble: Relics of Illegal Faiths
Common: Drugs, Icons of Illegal Faiths, Seditious Materials, and Wild Beasts Noble: Relics of Illegal Faiths

Perjury |High Crime |Common: 600 gp & Branded with Asmodean Seal |Noble: 1500gp & Branded
Intentional act of swearing false oaths concerning matters material to an official procedure of law.

Piracy |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of All Wealth, Hanging |Noble: Confiscation of All Wealth, Public Torture, Hanging.
Acts of violence or depredation on the high seas with intent to plunder.

Robbery |High Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp, & 10 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods, 5,000 gp, 26 Week Imprisonment, Loss of Hand
Theft or larceny of property or coin through use of force, magic, or fear against the victim or victims.

Sedition |High Crime |Common: Death |Noble: Loss of Title, Death
Overt conduct or speech that incites insurrection against the Thrice Damned House of Thrune or her agents.

Theft |Low Crime |Common: Confiscation of Goods, 200 gp, & 5 Week Imprisonment |Noble: Confiscation of Goods, 1,000 gp, 12 Week Imprisonment, & Loss of Finger
Physical removal of an object from possession of owner without consent or intention of return at later date.

Treason |High Crime |Forfeiture of All Possession, Property, Wealth, & Death by Being Drawn & Quartered
Betrayal, treachery, or breach of allegiance with Cheliax, levying war against her, or adhering to her foes.

Trespassing |Low Crime |Common: 20gp |Noble: 500 gp & Public Beating
Knowingly entering a person's property without consent, infringing upon the right to benefits of ownership.

As far as the Trial goes, I'm going to use the Verbal Duels rules. But I will be making a few small changes. I'm not going to bother explaining all the rules about types of arguments, reading the jury, or any of that. I will keep the Determination points, ante, opposed checks back and forth till someone quits, and the edges. So basically all of it except the argument styles. I'll simplify that to something like 'if you use the same skill check twice in a row, take a penalty or you can't use an edge.'


First off, I do like the idea of doing a bit of a legal battle in a courtroom. I can recall playing Phoenix Wright, and pressing the button to shout "OBJECTION" at questionable portions of the testimony.

Still, this being Cheliax, I feel like the main battle is going to be happening before the characters even reach the courtroom. Now, I'm not that familiar with the inner workings of Cheliax, but I know it's a Lawful Evil facist empire that worships (Though they claim it's more of a partnership) Asmodeus. So they're more concerned with maintaining order and keeping the peace than serving justice.

So, you've described the scene as several members of the party burnt down a stage and attacked an acting troupe for disparaging Asmodeus. Certainly, they're going to be arrested and tried, to give the pretense of being an orderly, just society. But the question is how much is the crown (In this case, used as a general term for the acting representatives of Cheliax) on their side?

It seems at first glance that the judge is already hostile to the actors. If they were badmouthing Asmodeus, they probably didn't have many friends in high places. If they have a reputation for this, the case may have been decided before the game begins, and the trial is just going through the motions. Even if they didn't have a reputation, the judge is probably very eager to listen to any reasonable explanation (Bald-faced lie) about being assaulted by the actors and the players stopping subversive acts of treason.

But, of course, maybe the opposite is true. Maybe the actors have a powerful noble patron who supports them, and may even cover for them. (Why? Who knows? Likes their act. Blackmail. They're actually assassins secretly in his employ. All sorts of possibilities.) And said patron is spearheading the trial, at least behind the scenes. Now the players have a tough courtroom duel on their hands, and will have to use every trick in the book to not end up in prison. Maybe insulting Asmodeus, while certainly not culturally acceptable, isn't technically illegal, so now the players do have stern charges of assault, arson, and whatever else laying over their heads, especially if witnesses are collaborating the actors' stories.

As a final caveat, if the party is looking like they're about to lose, you could give them an out. A powerful patron overrides the court case for whatever reason, or provides a solid alibi for the party, vouching for their innocence. But he wants a favour in exchange...

Dark Archive

Trigger Loaded wrote:
*PURE GOLD*

Everything you said was awesome. A lot of it hit on some ideas I was knocking around but hadn't finished forming properly. I was also thinking part of this is going to take place before the trial. They players will probably be presented with the evidence against them and be allowed to do some research of their own before the trial. Since this isn't a murder or manslaughter case, the evidence probably isn't nearly as important. I like the idea of the judge having more concern about public order than the by-the-book facts of what happened. "Yes, you did have Negligent Use of Magic, but the REAL crime is what those 'actors' were doing to the name of Asmodeus."

I'm not sure if this is how it is in canonical Cheliax, but I have the Church tied into the legal systems. The laws of Cheliax are based on the Asmodean Disciplines, the unholy texts of the Asmodean faith. To be familiar enough to practice or adjudicate the laws of this land, you basically have to be a Cleric. There are exceptions to this, of course, but more often than not the Judges will be part of the faith.

I have two patrons in mind for the players, opposing evil forces within the city. One will try to approach them while they await trial and offer to make their problems go away. They have battery, negligent use of magic, and other charges levied against them. If they lose their case it will be a long and expensive stay at the local Hellknight Citadel's dungeon. If they refuse that patron's offer, then they will have the other attempt to intervene during their trial. The second patron will only do so if things are looking bleak. A sudden strong piece of evidence, or a very convincing witness. Whichever patron they choose to accept help from will aid them in coming adventures and the other will probably become an antagonist.

I've gotten a lot of criticism about running an Evil campaign but throwing the book at the players. This isn't coming from my players, they are fine with what's going on. As newbies they are quite frank with me when they feel I mess up. Like complaining for two weeks that I almost killed the Gunslinger with a goblin's thrown torch attack. When he could have used Gunslinger's Dodge and been fine. Yep. -sigh- But the criticism is that if I'm running an Evil game, why punish the players by having harsh laws? I feel it is fair to the setting to portray Cheliax as the Lawful Evil society it is. Also the players need boundaries. Soon enough they will be the enforcers of Law and will be able to use these harsh laws to control the citizenry.


How did it go?

I may do a similar thing soon.

This is my favorite thread in a long time.

I will be cribbing your list of crimes, penalties, and imprisonments times!

Dark Archive

rainzax wrote:

How did it go?

I may do a similar thing soon.

This is my favorite thread in a long time.

I will be cribbing your list of crimes, penalties, and imprisonments times!

The situation the party was in that was leading toward this trial had resulted from the rash actions of one member of the party... The Cleric of Asmodeus. The one person who should have known what was illegal or not, and what crime and punishment was in Cheliax. But nope, he decided to attack people that had done little to nothing to him. So when he couldn't make it to the following session, I decided it was in everyone's best interest to retcon the burning hands assault, and not arrest them. So they just started the campaign proper and had a wonderful time not being in court. I'll keep these rules set aside in case they need them for being on either side of the aisle.

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