Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Hammer Comes Down

"Government is the Science of Punishment."

When in the course of Supernatural events it becomes necessary to punish people who are doing bad things, It takes a bit of thought on the part of those who are in power. See, character mortality can be a bitter pill to swallow for players. Especially for certain types of players. I'm not going to get into that. But for those players who end up in the power positions of a given game a little forethought can forestall all sorts of problems and additionally create a bit of extra drama.

Humans, Werewolves, and Vampires are gregarious animals (for the most part) So it's a hard thing to be seperated from the only group of people who understand the real changes in your life. This may be the stuff of a really great story in a table top game.
Only problem is that it's not really practicable in a larp setting. Larps are built on social dynamics, so it's kind of counter-intuitive to isolate a person from the rest of the body politic. Doesn't make for a fun night at the larp, Unless there are at least a few people who are willing to defy the powers that be. Usually, the Ostracism comes with some kind of clause that anybody who treats with the enemy of the state is also subject to Ostracism if caught. This can be awkward if everybody decides they like the offender better.
This is not to say that Ostracism can't be used constructively. It's the sort of punishment that you could mete out to an NPC who maybe needs to be moved into the background (This of course might be the sort of thing that should be pre-scripted)

While Ostracism isn't wildly practical. Exiling an errant person from the game is actually a bit of a long term investment in drama. The idea is this; If you exile someone from your kingdom, they will return in some form or another. How that character will return will vary from game to game. Some will return as avenging conquerors, other will return as emmissaries from another place (and they either desired to return or were ordered to.) To exile someone is to let the character live but not allow it to be played in the game under normal circumstances. This one might also call for a bit of pre-scripting, But should it be used without this kind of planning, It's not bad form to go the ST and plan some sort of return a bit further on down the line.
The Torpor Closet, which I mentioned in a previous article also falls under this rubric and can be used for the same purpose.

Tim Toner once wrote a brilliant article about vampire politics and the punishment that goes along with that sort of thing. One of the things he pointed out was that the vampiric form could be used against the miscreant. Like for instance breaking an arm or leg and forcing the lawbreaker to heal it back incorrectly. In games, I have sentenced people to having bits of them struck off and seared with a hot iron so growing them back was painful and costly. Caught feeding in someone elses domain?
Lose both legs as a way of saying,"Hey maybe it would be better if you stuck closer to your own territory." Can't keep your mouth shut at court? Or maybe get caught bearing false witness against another? Yank that tounge out and sear the stump.
In addition, there is Branding, (Which is classic Lancea Sanctum, "Scarlet Letter" anyone?)
This has a couple of interesting side effects. It makes hunting harder. It also makes dealing with any of your human vassals harder, especially if they don't know you are a vampire. It marks you of course as someone who has transgressed against the established order (So newbies get the hint) and it gives the player a thing to work with drama wise without all that messy mortality.

Trial by Combat
When one has transgressed against another (but not necessarily against the state) then it stand to reason that there ought to be someway to resolve these sorts of beefs...and create additional plot. Say that maybe the offender has to run a gauntlet of aggrieved offendees (and in the case of Vampires and Werewolves, this can be a horrifying prospect. Even if each person on line only gets 1 hit on the offender, that can lead to some major damage. And there's no telling what will happen if the miscreant should stumble and fall. Anything could happpen in such a dogpile.
Monomacy is a time honored tradition among Vampires but lesser duels can settle smaller problems and lesser beefs. Take a couple of pissed off vampires and handcuff them together but cover their mouths with duct tape. First vampire to frenzy gets pounded by the onlooking crowd. Lest, you think that I'M sick, i'm just a student of history. It used to be the fashion amonst upset Italians to duel. holding a piece of paper or tied together with a long cloth and try to stab one another with thumb-length razor sharp blades. The winner was usually the person who came away from the fight with the fewest mortal wounds. Just goes to show, never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
Formal duels are good for plot, they can involve seconds, duelists for hire,cheating and all manner of antics by the crowd.
Informal duels can also be good for plot although they are for more personal storylines. Werewolves virtually never duel informally. It's usually about dominance and needs the pack present.

Trial By Ordeal
Okay, it's pretty clear that you screwed up. The question is how badly should you be punished? You might allow your miscreant to mitigate his punishment by allowing him to undergo an ordeal of some sort. I once read that Trial by Ordeal was used heavily among the vikings as a way to discover guilt or innocence. the only method I remember right off the top of my head was that an Iron ingot was put into a boiling cauldron and fished out with tongs once heated, the ingot was then held in the hands of the accused until the judge said he could drop it. You could used this method against kindred too and it would work.

Loss of Chattels and/or Fines
Now, you wouldn't think that this would hurt as much as some kind of punishments, but for mages and other human types this can hurt pretty badly in some ways. Even some vampires might get very upset, if a judgement against them should dictate the execution of a favored ghoul. Similarly, an upset prince could demand that the vampire in question be forbidden from cultivating influence in a specific area if he's managed it badly, stripping him of all the influence in that field.
This is not to say that there can't be some bargaining or horsetrading or even going behind the back of those in power to regain their former chattels. That's all part of the fun.
In practice, this might mean the loss of Backgrounds (under the old system) or Merits(under the new) Those points haven't gone away but might take some time and effort to regain. With the ST's permission this might even be an opportunity to shuffle the points around a bit.

Loss of Domain
This can be hard for nearly any person. For a Werewolf, you get stripped of any kind of homestead. For a mage, this might mean the loss of a Hallow or a Demesne. For Vampires it is deadly. Not only could you lose your rights to your own haven, but you lose the right to feed within a city. You would be dependent on any vampiric allies within the city or you'd have to hie off to the hinterlands of the bedroom communities of the major city to hunt. That's Werewolf country... Hunting rolls should be made very hard indeed.

Blood Bond
While it's always tempting to turn an enemy into a friend via the means of the Blood oath, it makes others in the Princes realm nervous insofar as they could find their basic liberty at risk for increasingly trivial offences. it's a slippery slope. and everybody in town will be watching to see if you slip down it.
That said, Bloodbonding tends to generate plot no matter what you do. There are those who will decide to throw in with the Prince. There are those who will struggle to be free again from the yoke of servitude.

Public Humiliation (direct or indirect)
Nobody likes to be busted on publicly. I've talked about this in other Reports. But I was speaking of players. CHARACTERS, on the other hand, can and should be busted in public court every time you can get away with it politically. Same for all the other types. Stocks, public scourging and other such forms of humiliations are the tools that you can use to generate IC hatreds that will last the life of the game.
You can of course, decide not to punish the offender directly. Punish his allies. or better yet, punish his mentor. Peer pressure can be a marvelous thing. Say that a Lancea Sanctum member needs punishment. Why not punish the whole covenant for his screw-up, and leave him be. I gaurantee that the rest of the covenant will keep a closer eye on his activities from that point on...

Or you could have Miranda Zero come round and kick their ass. That's what i'd choose.

Sono Finito


Post a Comment

<< Home