Laws, Slavery and Pesh sales in Absalom?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


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I have started to prepare for our Edgewatch game and I was wondering what are the laws in Absalom concerning slave trade and Pesh (and other narcotic substances) trade?

Is there some general information about the laws in Absalom that we know?
(For example:
a Stealing always bad and gets punished,
b protecting property is always a priority for the city watch,
c only the rich get the benefits of the city patrouille etc.)

If the city guards find an alchemist with unknown substances what would happen, would they:
confiscate it for testing and if proven that the wares are "safe" returned to the owner?
or would the wares get automatically destroyed? (like food in an airport today).

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If you are a mecrhant do you need to pay a percentage of your wares (10%) or do you need to pay with coins and who decides what the total worth of the merchants wares are?
What happens if you try to smugle?
What happens if you try to avoid taxes/tolls/"duty costs"), what is the punishment?
Do small farmers/sellers get taxed too (girl selling apples, old woman selling eggs etc.)?

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What safeguards are there for the merchants? Are there several merchants guilds (one for Katapesh, one for cheliax etc.)
Are there merchant consortiums who specialise only on one type of ware (like slaves, jewels and gemstones, armor and weapons etc.).

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Is there a difference between the port authorities and the "road" authorities?
(It used to be easier to inspect ships, and thus easier to demand the "right" amount of tax, toll, "duty costs" and thus ships used to pay a different amount than carriages, coaches, wagons, caravans etc.).

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How easy is it to smugle large amount of cheap stuff into the city and thus avoid the authorities? (Like smugling flour, firewood, ale/beer... cheap stuff with large volume, hard to transport stuff).

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What is the amount of public magical transport (portals, teleportation etc.)?
How are they regulated and who is running them?

What is the amount of flying transport (dragons, flying carpets, balloons etc.)?
How are they regulated and who is running them?
And because you can see if someone is flying into the city who is taxing them?

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What are the regulations about animals? Can you have chickens, pigs, cows etc. inside the city?
If there is an animal plague (like madcow disease, or tapeworms i pigs) who regulates the in city animals?

What about monsters like chimaeras, manticores, dragons etc?

Is there city wide pest control and/or ratcatchers?

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Is there a lockdown when the gates are closed for the night?
Is there a curfew when it is expected that people go to sleep? (Except for predetermined areas, like bars, locals, taverns, etc.)

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If a horse dies on one of the main roads, and the owner leaves it there, whose responsibility is it to "clean the carcass up"?
Is it part of local government (if such a thing even exists), in this case the district, or is there an all encompassing city wide governing body who takes care of such matters (cleaning roads, maintaining safety, ensuring a safe market environment etc.)?

Liberty's Edge

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I'm pretty sure most of this is up to you, but we can infer a certain amount from the text of various things, particularly from the PF1 Guide To Absalom. Here's some things we know:

1. The slave trade was (fairly recently) made illegal in Absalom. This one is not from the PF1 Guide to Absalom, but from the Inner Sea World Guide. The rest are from the PF1 Guide to Absalom. Based on said PF1 Guide to Absalom, if they follow historical precedent from other times Absalom has had slavery be illegal, merely owning a slave will not be punished harshly (though the slave will be freed and you will get punished), but trading slaves will be.

2.The city is very focused on trade. To the point that laws that restrict it in any way (rather than profit off it, like a tax) are generally struck down.

3. Speaking of which, many of the laws of Absalom pretty explicitly change regularly as the Grand Council who rule it does, and explicitly also often vary from district to district. So some of your questions don't have defined answers week to week or district to district even in-setting.

4. In terms of taxes, the primary taxes seem to be foreign merchants, who are taxed at the port (actually, they're taxed twice, once for using a legally mandated guide provided by the city through the difficult waters nearby, a second time for access to the port). Property taxes explicitly do not exist and locals would explicitly be offended by the idea of paying for something they already own.

5. In terms of services, the city does also charge for access to roads, waterways, and sanitation. They consider dumping trash of any sort on the side of the road an attempt to avoid the last, and thus both take care of that trash and charge you for doing so. Dead animals would qualify.

6. In terms of guilds, the economy is broken down into crafts, trade, and labor. Crafts and labor have codified and legally enforced guild structures and operating in a field without being a member of the appropriate guild is noted as illegal. Sometimes guilds overlap, though, which can be interesting politically and, one imagines, legally as well.

7. Trade, however, has a very different set of rules and trade guilds or collusion among traders is actually super illegal, as Absalom had some early issues with price fixing in its history and made laws to ensure it never happened again. A single person must individually own each thing being sold and no person can own more than one outlet for the sale of goods. There are ways around this involving silent investors, but the city comes down hard on anyone they even suspect of price fixing. Trade is also, however, the most prestigious way to make a living.

8. Slight side note, but horses are very rare on the Isle of Kortos. Most animal transport in Absalom is done with camels or axebeaks.

9. It's explicitly noted that the laws tend to be fairly lax, with things that don't inhibit trade or offend the rulers of Absalom being generally tolerated. So I think it's pretty clear more draconian measures like curfews are very much not gonna be the norm.

10. Not on your list, but it seems worth noting that most residents own their own home. Poor people obviously own one in the bad part of town, but they still own it. Generally only those new to the city or there temporarily (like students) rent a place. I'm sure there's also homelessness, but renting is rare as a permanent lifestyle thing.

10. Unsurprisingly given the emphasis on trade and not disrupting it, theft is explicitly noted as illegal.

11. Spells to conceal one's presence, such as invisibility or misdirection, are illegal, as the lawmakers found they could have no legal purpose. Mind control (such as charm) is legal, but treated like the use of a weapon (ie: you'd be in trouble for using it unprovoked), and thus fine (indeed, preferable to physical force) for use in self defense. Spells are all legal until explicitly made illegal, unless they're a functional copy of an already illegal spell.

12. It is illegal to kill or export badgers or otters. Speculation for why involves a previous ruler's pet badger.

13. It is illegal to remove books from the Forae Logos, Absalom's largest library. This one is sometimes honored in the breach, but has allowed the library to accumulate a lot of books.

14. Citizens of Absalom may not be imprisoned or exiled except in response to the commission of a crime...unless they 'continue to move while entombed' (an exception intended for the undead), as mental illness is not illegal Absalom's one asylum takes the form of a large necropolis with individual 'tombs' (read: comfortable cells) for the residents so as not to break the law. This loophole has been allowed to stand, though in secret. The most relevant bit of that is probably the first bit, as it's an essential human right citizens of Absalom possess.

Additionally, personally, I come to the following conclusions based on the rules for services and the implications of the above:

1. There is no public magical transportation on any large scale. Certainly, the city government has access to teleportation, but it's used for emergencies and information not trade. Privately, you can hire someone to teleport you (for the book's rates) and travel wherever you like, but if you're trading in large amounts of goods, you're probably gonna get in trouble for circumventing the city's primary cash cow (the port duties).

2. One imagines smuggling is difficult since the city's primary income is trade-based and that would mess with their income quite a bit. No details are given for enforcement of that, but it follows logically.

3. It sounds from all that like substances generally wouldn't be illegal, at least not throughout the city. Yes, including drugs. There's certainly no mention of such a law.


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Thank you very much! Highly appreciated! :)

On slavery:
I am wondering what galleys are doing? Galleys without oarmen (whom are usually slaves) don't really work. So I guess they transport wares with galleys to other ports, where they reload on to a "brig" which sails to Absalom.

And I think even in our "civilised world" debt slavery was kept till the 19th century or something... completely abolishing slavery in its entirity doesn't sound very practical, or profitable...
[But obviously as a childrens game (Pathfinder that is) it is the right thing to do.]

I think I will have a smugling ring who brings in some illegal items (like badgers) through flying carpets (or somthing similar) in my adventure. :)
And I will make a "Big Bad Boss" who is going to be a legal Pesh merchant. Who tries to use the PCs as law enforcers for his cause.

I think my PCs would like that. All those goody-two-shoes, Lawful Good paladin types. :-D
I heard only good things about the first adventure in the AP, I sure hope, the rest of them are good too. :-S

Liberty's Edge

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Mantriel wrote:
Thank you very much! Highly appreciated! :)

You're quite welcome, I'm always happy to be of assistance. :)

Mantriel wrote:

On slavery:

I am wondering what galleys are doing? Galleys without oarmen (whom are usually slaves) don't really work. So I guess they transport wares with galleys to other ports, where they reload on to a "brig" which sails to Absalom.

Actually, galleys crewed by non-slaves were far more common in the ancient world than those crewed by slaves (Ben Hur is not historically accurate). Being a rower in a galley is physically demanding, but no more than many other professions.

Galley slaves did exist, but were never super common or necessary for galleys to work.

However, I believe most ships in the Inner Sea are, in fact, sailing ships rather than galleys, so I don't think the issue arises anyway.

Mantriel wrote:
And I think even in our "civilised world" debt slavery was kept till the 19th century or something... completely abolishing slavery in its entirity doesn't sound very practical, or profitable...

Economically, slavery is actually only really useful in very specific contexts, none of which Absalom really has at the moment. It's usually more profitable to pay workers for their work than it is to pay for a slave and then all their food, clothing, and other maintenance.

Some of the reasons for this are uglier than others (ie: you don't necessarily have to pay for the treatment of sick employees...you do have to with slaves if you want to keep your investment), but it remains true.

Which makes it a political rather than economic decision, and one that was made in response to specific events. I find it pretty plausible in context.

Mantriel wrote:
[But obviously as a childrens game (Pathfinder that is) it is the right thing to do.]

It's the right thing to do, but it does also make sense in-universe.

Mantriel wrote:

I think I will have a smugling ring who brings in some illegal items (like badgers) through flying carpets (or somthing similar) in my adventure. :)

And I will make a "Big Bad Boss" who is going to be a legal Pesh merchant. Who tries to use the PCs as law enforcers for his cause.

Badgers are apparently only illegal to export, so a badger importer would apparently be fine. But yes, that sounds pretty reasonable as a main villain, and I'm sure smugglers would exist, they'd just be a high priority for law enforcement.

Mantriel wrote:

I think my PCs would like that. All those goody-two-shoes, Lawful Good paladin types. :-D

I heard only good things about the first adventure in the AP, I sure hope, the rest of them are good too. :-S

The first adventure in AoE has some serious issues with the PCs revenue stream but it otherwise seems quite good, yes.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:

Actually, galleys crewed by non-slaves were far more common in the ancient world than those crewed by slaves...

Galley slaves did exist, but were never super common or necessary for galleys to work.

Galleys were around till the end of the 18th century, after 1600+ as far as I know, it was manned with mostly political and other type of prisoners. Think of the: "Papillon".

You need to have a pretty good administration to find an escaped slave/prisoner and return him/her to his/her place, (some kind of legal documentation needs to exist and every "citizen" needs to be counted etc.). And as you said, in ancient times once a slave escaped it was pretty much free. And ancient galleys (as far as I understand) once they rammed one another, the oarmen equipped weapons and boarded the attacked ship, you can't do that with slaves.

But all of this is moot, if there aren't any/much galleys in the inner sea (which surprises me, since they were used till the 18th century as ships of war).

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Economically, slavery is actually only really useful in very specific contexts, none of which Absalom really has at the moment. It's usually more profitable to pay workers for their work than it is to pay for a slave and then all their food, clothing, and other maintenance.

I disagree with you on that VERY strongly. I have seen modern day slavery, it is not a pretty sight.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Which makes it a political rather than economic decision, and one that was made in response to specific events. I find it pretty plausible in context.

Yeah, that's true.

Deadmanwalking wrote:


Badgers are apparently only illegal to export, so a badger importer would apparently be fine.

Damn! :-D I need to find another minor administrative nuisance. :-D


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Galley slavery depends on the culture. Some depended on it, others used it for convenience while others preffered free men as they worked harder, could fight and didn't need to be guarded. And others simply did not call it slavery but being pressed (which was not limited to galleys)

I don't think the game goes into enough detail to decide if Absolom would need slaves for its navy. For example big, modern-ish ships, like the one seen in the campaign guide for Absolom require a large amount of people and it would be questionable if Absolom could even crew a sizeable navy.

What I wonder, is only slave trade illegal but also slave ownership?

Mantriel wrote:


Galleys were around till the end of the 18th century, after 1600+ as far as I know, it was manned with mostly political and other type of prisoners. Think of the: "Papillon".

Not quite, but convicts were used more and more. In 1571 was the Battle of Lepanto, a 500 galley battle between the Osmans and a alliance of christian nations. You can't have this kind of forces with just political prisoners and neither side suddenly stopped using galleys after that. The Osmans used slaves for rowing extensively though while many christians used convicts with the big exception of Venice.

The use of convicts increased the more the value of galleys declined, but that took a bit longer than till 1600.

Liberty's Edge

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Mantriel wrote:

Galleys were around till the end of the 18th century, after 1600+ as far as I know, it was manned with mostly political and other type of prisoners. Think of the: "Papillon".

You need to have a pretty good administration to find an escaped slave/prisoner and return him/her to his/her place, (some kind of legal documentation needs to exist and every "citizen" needs to be counted etc.). And as you said, in ancient times once a slave escaped it was pretty much free. And ancient galleys (as far as I understand) once they rammed one another, the oarmen equipped weapons and boarded the attacked ship, you can't do that with slaves.

Oh, there certainly were slave galleys at various times. I'm just saying there were also non-slave galleys and that there's little evidence that the use of slaves was necessary to make galleys a useful ship.

Mantriel wrote:
But all of this is moot, if there aren't any/much galleys in the inner sea (which surprises me, since they were used till the 18th century as ships of war).

I said 'most'. I believe there are at least a few galleys, but they aren't the most common ships for trade, which is what Absalom engages in. They're not really a naval power per se.

Mantriel wrote:
I disagree with you on that VERY strongly. I have seen modern day slavery, it is not a pretty sight.

Sadly, there are a lot of reasons other than economic necessity for slavery. I think it's continued presence in all sorts of societies says more about that than it does about its economic viability.

Mantriel wrote:
Yeah, that's true.

Pretty much, yeah.

Mantriel wrote:
Damn! :-D I need to find another minor administrative nuisance. :-D

I'm sure you can come up with something. :)

Ixal wrote:
I don't think the game goes into enough detail to decide if Absolom would need slaves for its navy. For example big, modern-ish ships, like the one seen in the campaign guide for Absolom require a large amount of people and it would be questionable if Absolom could even crew a sizeable navy.

Absalom doesn't seem to be a military power at all outside defending itself. They clearly have a fair amount of resources to do that, but little beyond that. I'd imagine any navy they have to be quite small and primarily used to defend the Isle itself and a few trade routes.

Ixal wrote:
What I wonder, is only slave trade illegal but also slave ownership?

Per the Guide To Absalom, when Absalom has made slavery illegal before (it's gone in and out of legality several times over the city's history), slave ownership was indeed illegal, though only lightly punished. Slave trading or the enslavement of people was a much more severe crime. I see no real reason any of that would have changed for modern Absalom.

But regardless, slavery itself is stated to be illegal, not only the slave trade, so a slave brought to Absalom would, by law, definitely be freed.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:


But regardless, slavery itself is stated to be illegal, not only the slave trade, so a slave brought to Absalom would, by law, definitely be freed.

That was what I was going for.

Shadow Lodge

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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Economically, slavery is actually only really useful in very specific contexts, none of which Absalom really has at the moment. It's usually more profitable to pay workers for their work than it is to pay for a slave and then all their food, clothing, and other maintenance.

This isn't actually true, since slave maintenance amounts to subsistence and the "natural" wage likewise tends toward subsistence (whatever "subsistence" means in particular social conditions). The notion that slavemasters were doing their slaves a service by paying more in slave maintenance than employers of free labor were paying in wages is, in fact, slavemaster propaganda from the 1840s and 1850s. Free labor only begins to outcompete unfree labor in conditions where the economic system can harness the benefits of freedom - freedom of movement to where labor is needed, freedom of thought to make more productive workers, and so on.


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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Deadmanwalking wrote:
I'm pretty sure most of this is up to you, but we can infer a certain amount from the text of various things, particularly from the PF1 Guide To Absalom.

Very slight nitpick: The Guide to Absalom is actually a D&D 3.5 era product, from before the pathfinder RPG was a thing. Not that it really matters, there isn't any rule content in that book, unless you count the city statblock.

Shadow Lodge

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zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Free labor only begins to outcompete unfree labor in conditions where the economic system can harness the benefits of freedom - freedom of movement to where labor is needed, freedom of thought to make more productive workers, and so on.

To clarify, free labor's great advantage over unfree labor - given the ability of society to facilitate long-distance, general education, and so on, for laborers - is its greater productivity. Free movement can't be permitted to slaves, because they would take advantage of it to escape their enslavement. Literacy likewise can't be provided to slaves because they would take advantage of it. Both are enormous productivity multipliers, and there are others besides. Slave productivity, meanwhile, is limited by the ways the slaves have to be oppressed. Not just in denial of the cultural fruits and freedoms that can be provided to free labor, but also in the overhead of repression - overseers, slave-catchers, instruments of discipline and torture, etc. The advantage of slave over free labor is its ready supply. But that can be overcome by increasing the free population and depriving it of [much] property, so there is always some churn of readily-available labor in the economy. Because the wages of free labor tend toward subsistence and the costs of slave maintenance amount to subsistence, if you can get greater productivity out of free laborers than you can out of slaves, and secure a ready supply, you get more value out of the free laborers.

Liberty's Edge

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Frankly, that's more or less what I was trying to get at. I phrased it very poorly and inaccurately, and I apologize for that.

Shadow Lodge

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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Frankly, that's more or less what I was trying to get at. I phrased it very poorly and inaccurately, and I apologize for that.

Hey, I didn't get it right the first time I posted in the thread either.

Why doesn't Paizo allow posters to edit after 1 hour?

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