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Tobrian
2008-01-16, 09:20 PM
Hello,

has anyone of you experience with setting up and playing out a court trial? In this case, my group's paladin requested that an NPC wizard he took as prisoner be put on trial for necromancy at the end of the current campaign - either by the earl that has become the paladin's liege lord, or by the country's duchess. I already have some ideas, including that the trial itself with be run by a LN judge/priestess of Wee Jas, since the accused is a wizard of noble birth, and the accusation is about a magical crime.

The point is that the wizard (neutral alignment, in case you're wondering) *has* used necromancy to protect himself and a village (complicated plot behind that, too long to write that all down here), but is technically a seer. A seer who speaks to the dead, and the D&D equivalent of an archaeologist. (The paladin thought the wizard was robbing graves.) Also, there are certain people who want to find him and probably want him dead, which is why he was hiding in the wilderness from them, under spells to block scrying.

When the wizard was captured by the PCs (he surrendered to the paladin), they inadvertently led a paid assassin directly to him (he survived because he's a plot-important NPC *cough*, and because the paladin healed him). There's some more details, but it's late, I have to get some sleep.

I've already decided what most of the NPCs will say, the basic blueprint of the trial and who will attend it, etc. But a lot is still sketchy.

My question is, how do I make this interesting for the players? Sitting in a court room, TV dramas aside, isn't really that interesting when you're relegated to the role of listener, listening to NPCs talking to each other. Other than being called on to testify as witnesses, what else might happen to the PCs?

Thanks in advance.

Espynwislyn
2008-01-16, 10:09 PM
Ah, but keep in mind that as this is a fantasy game, you are not limited in the nature of these official proceedings. I can guarantee that this encounter will only hold the interests of the PCs if they are directly involved somehow. Forcing them into some unforeseen role as lawyers and investigators will make the courtroom drama all the more interesting. Turning the true events into a mystery of sorts that the PCs need to get to the bottom of will appeal to their curiosity and give them something to do. Searching for clues, convincing witnesses to testify honestly (or dishonestly if it's that kind of party), dealing with slimy informants, and arguing their case before the court is much more interesting than just watching the DM talk to himself (I mean no offense regarding your abilities as an actor, of course). This Paladin would probably be surprised to find that by accusing the seer, according to the laws of your little land, means that he must provide sufficient evidence or the Paladin himself must face trial for false accusation. You could even choose to confuse issues further, by having it turn out that this seer knows something valuable to the PCs, but will only divulge it if they let him go or prove his innocence. There are many options available to you. However, if you really do not want to go that route, then it might be best to just quickly summarize the events of the trial and move on.

F.L.
2008-01-16, 10:14 PM
Well, I'm playing Phoenix Wright right now...

And it's warped my idea of how a legal system works, so I'm about useless now.

Sstoopidtallkid
2008-01-16, 10:20 PM
Well, I'm playing Phoenix Wright right now...

And it's warped my idea of how a legal system works, so I'm about useless now.The legal system works?:smallconfused:
Realistically, have your players testify, maybe have them run a few intelligence gathering missions, and then tell them the verdict. It's a good excuse for the wizard to get spare time to scribe scrolls, but just like in real life, it takes a lot of work to make a courtroom interesting unless you're the one on trial.

VanBuren
2008-01-16, 10:33 PM
Well, honestly I'd like to suggest that you use the NWN2 trial as a sort of example of what might work. It was set up for a lot of Diplomacy checks, but other skillchecks worked too at times.

Essentially it was the theatrics of the court that won the jury. I thought it was quite well-done, aside from the fact that you ended up fighting either way.

F.L.
2008-01-16, 10:50 PM
The legal system works?:smallconfused:
Realistically, have your players testify, maybe have them run a few intelligence gathering missions, and then tell them the verdict. It's a good excuse for the wizard to get spare time to scribe scrolls, but just like in real life, it takes a lot of work to make a courtroom interesting unless you're the one on trial.

Well, as far as I can see, a legal system works with perform(objection) checks, and psychic discern lies. Also, it's always a frame-job, so I guess craft(framing) is involved.

No need for profession(judge) in this though, that's what insanity is for.

Mark Hall
2008-01-16, 11:01 PM
A lot depends on your players, and how the legal system in your game works.

Quite a few jurisdictions probably use what the US would consider unjust methods to reach justice... we'd read them the charges, and then ask them if they did it while they were under the influence of a Zone of Truth spell. They would answer yes or no. If yes, they are guilty, but could speak in their own defense (i.e. why they did what they did, perhaps to mitigate the charge), still under the Zone of Truth (giving them a time limit). If no, they are innocent.

What is this "Fifth Amendment" you speak of? I find your notion curious, and rather silly.

TheOOB
2008-01-16, 11:07 PM
If I want to keep it short and not take too much time. I have each side roll knowledge(law) and diplomacy, averaging the results, and applying modifiers based on witnesses, evidence, how well the defendant is known, and how bad the crime was. At their option, a side can attempt to lie their way through, making a bluff check subtracting the other sides sense motive check and adding the result to their roll.

EvilElitest
2008-01-16, 11:07 PM
Or read the Merchant of Venice, to kill a mocking bird or watch Law and Order (first few seasons, the ones with Mr. Stone)

....


what?
from
EE

ZebulonCrispi
2008-01-16, 11:41 PM
Well, I'm playing Phoenix Wright right now...

And it's warped my idea of how a legal system works, so I'm about useless now.

Just remember:

Guilty until proven innocent three times and someone else proven guilty five times.

Prometheus
2008-01-16, 11:46 PM
Things to involve the PCs:
-Have them gather evidence
-Have them stop someone from tampering with evidence or intimidating witnesses
-Have them apprehend an accomplice or follow up on a hook.
-Have them decide which prison will most securely hold the dangerous wizard
-Have someone give them an offer that would illegally and secretly tamper with the proceedings (such as bribing someone, or fabricating evidence) that would be crucial to the court case going as the PCs wish
-Have the court be brutal in its sentencing, having the PCs argue that the family of the prosecuted should be spared, or that torture is inherently wrong
-Have the case thrown out on a technicality and let the PCs decide how to continue for justice
-Have the court clearly corrupt and bias and have the PCs how to continue for the sake of justice (fun twist: see if it bothers them that it is corrupt in their favor)
-Have the PCs testify, supplementing it with their mental scores & Diplomacy.
-Have elaborate beaucratic rules that PCs have to circumvent.

Mephisto
2008-01-17, 12:09 AM
Wait, why is necromancy a crime?

The dead need love too! :smallmad:

Tobrian
2008-01-17, 06:44 PM
Thank You to everyone who took the time to answer.

Some things I should have mentioned beforehand:

I have the d20 Fantasy supplement "Crime & Punishment" from Atlas Games, makes for very interesting reading. It discusses law in societies with priests and wizards, magical crimes, use of magic in forensics, interrogation and sentencing, and examples of (anti)magical prisons. But I want to keep that stuff in the background and not bore the players to death with technicalities.

The judge will not solely trust in Zone of Truth and similar spells because the wizard's WILL save is so high that IC they can never be certain if he has fallen under the spell's influence and is unable to lie or not. They won't torture him if they can help it, because he's of noble blood.

The trial will happen after the end of the campaign, a sort of epilogue. I don't want to drag the trial out too much. On the other hand, I don't want to just say, "They put the wizard on trial and sentence him to ". The reason for this is that the player of the paladin specifically stated several times that he wants to see the NPC put on trial, so it has become a bit of a plot point. I will still try to keep things brief, since the paladin player is prone to wanting to skip over stuff that doesnt have to do with the "plot" (as he sees it); he didn't even want to play out the time when his paladin of Heironeous was granted the chance to visit the plane of Mount Celestia. *shrug*

A quick summary of my group:
- The human paladin of Heironeous. The player who is driving the whole trial. Character is LG leaning strongly towards LN. Has few or no ranks in Knowledge (nobility) or (law) though.
- The human bard (CN). A player who might get lot of fun out of playing out the trial, since his character has lots of ranks in diplomacy and bluff (plus Glibness spell) and the bard doesn't really like the paladin much. He might even testify for the defense because the accused has never harmed him personally. The bard might decide to keep a low profile, though, since he's a bit too fond of spells like Geas and Bestow Curse which are legally and ethically questionable. He is the wild card.
- The gnome sorcerer (CN). The player has already stated that he isn't much interested in the trial and doesn't care.
- The gnome monk of Zuoken (originally LN but leaning towards NG, because in my campaign monks don't need to be lawful, only non-chaotic). The player is interested in the trial, because his character so far believes that the wizard, while technically guilty of the charge of necromancy, is not a bad person and innocent of wrong-doing in any practical sense.
- There used to be also a NG human mercenary fighter/bodyguard, who was sort of sitting on the fence: he respected the paladin as an honorable man but wasn't hellbend on putting the wizard to death, because he had doubts. Mostly, the warrior mistrusted the seer's intentions, he found him creepy because their prisoner was far more intelligent than the group and had on occasion used his brains to piece together information he had overheard from the PCs talking among themselves in his presence, and then offered to help THEM! The fighter often talked the paladin into pursuing more moderate courses of action. Unfortunately, that player had to drop out of the group due to time constraints.

The PCs basically ARE the only witnesses left, except maybe for a few peasants from some backwater village. Everyone else is dead, including the assassin and the wizard's sentient zombie bodyguard (a Lesser Animus, a World of Greyhawk specific undead: similar to the Deathless from Eberron, but powered like any standard zombie by negative energy) as well as the handful the animuses he created to protect the villagers from ghouls and monsters. There will also be several NPCs testifying for the defense, because they only know the seer as a sober, honest scholar of history.

I've already decided that there will be a fair trial, so as not to destroy the players' trust in the NPC authorities that I have worked to hard to establish. But I'm afraid there [i]has to be a "guilty" verdict of some sort, I cannot just let the NPC judge rule "not guilty" and let the wizard go, because knowing the paladin player that would almost certainly piss the player off big time.

He runs his paladin very "law and order, smite evil", black and white, not much in between. I told him early on that just because someone might register as evil, he cannot simply pull his sword and cut that person's head off, at least not in towns. He agreed to that, because his paladin honors the authority of local law enforcement. But once he has set his mind that someone is "guilty" he's like a bulldog and difficult to persuade otherwise, and the player takes it personal... He once accused me that I, the GM, was "keeping my hand over that NPC", protecting him because he's a plot-important NPC. He's gotten the mistaken impression that I want them, the players, to help re-instate the wizard in his position as potential heir to the throne, even though I've told them that isn't the case and in-game the wizard clearly stated that he has abnegated all claims to any title and merely wants to be left alone because he's "cursed". (Long backstory.)

The paladin believes that according to the teachings of Heironeous and Pelor, necromancy and creating undead is in itself a crime, regardless of the reasons, intentions or outcome, and I'm not going to tell the player how to run his character. Unfortunately, other priesthoods (of Wee Jas, Boccob) will disagree, pointing out that necromantic spells are not in itself evil, i.e. the paladin spell Mark of Justice belongs to the necromancy school, and it's not forbidden by law to craft an Arrow of Slaying. It bound to get philosophical fast. *sigh* Now, spells like curses and lifeforce drain or poison are illegal, but the seer never used them and they're not found in his spellbook.

Actually, the paladin was originally tasked to track down and find whoever was creating ghouls that had been menacing the border marches. They stumbled across the seer and his zombies hiding in the wilderness, then later found out that the real culprit was an insane cleric of Nerull. The group only recently managed to finally hunt the cleric down and slay him but there wasn't much left of the body afterwards. Apart from some books of forbidden lore the cleric owned and the obvious fact that he had been murdering people, the only REAL tangible proof of the cleric's use of tained magics escaped, because the players didn't realize what was up with the odd creepy guy (aka test subject) whom they had "liberated".

I have wondered if I should throw the paladin player a curveball by having the wizard ask the paladin to act as his counsel for the defense, because he trusts in the paladin's ironhard adherence to Law, believes that the paladin is an honest man who will put justice and mercy above his personal feelings, etc. The seer does have ranks in diplomacy, after all, and the paladin is easy to manipulate if you know how to play to his vanity as a just and valiant knight in shining armor. But I'm not sure that's a good idea because the player might take that as a gamemaster attempt to manipulate him into letting that NPC go free. Sometimes alas that players takes IC things a bit too seriously.

There are in-game reasons, both magical and political, why executing the wizard would be unwise. I'm toying with the idea of the judge sentencing him to be turned to stone for a set time, that way he cannot escape from a prison. Nevertheless, some people will want to see him dead.

AslanCross
2008-01-17, 09:24 PM
Well, honestly I'd like to suggest that you use the NWN2 trial as a sort of example of what might work. It was set up for a lot of Diplomacy checks, but other skillchecks worked too at times.

Essentially it was the theatrics of the court that won the jury. I thought it was quite well-done, aside from the fact that you ended up fighting either way.

I agree with this. It was set up in such a way that you had to collect evidence before the trial, get witnesses, and actually bring them to the stand in front of the crowd. (So the better you had performed in earlier quests, the better word you get in from the witnesses.) The amount of evidence you submitted, as well as the positive word from the witnesses helped a lot, but you still lost the trial unless you actually succeeded on the diplomacy checks. Indeed it was more theatrics (humiliating the opposition in front of the populace) than a strict legal procedure, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Blackadder
2008-01-17, 10:14 PM
First off, something that needs to be cleared up, is Necromancy banned in all forms in this world? If so the best you can get is a "guilty" verdict with a very light sentence.

Second, See if you can convince the Bard to act as the Wizards defendant"

I have an inkling of an idea I want to run by you. Assuming you can get the bard to agree to defend the wizard.

Assuming the wizard is guilty of the "crime" of necromancy you can create two different adventures off of this. One of the Paladin(And whoever he gets to go with him) to collect evidence to prove the Wizard not only raised dead, but had "evil plans" or some such. While your PC Bard tries to prove not that he did not raise undead, but instead that, he only did it with noble motives in mind(Protecting the village)

On the other hand
You can do the whole intimidation/tampering with evidence, but it sounds like your party does not want a month long epic of a trial, so instead you could play it simply as a court-room drama with the bard attempting to mitigate the Wizard's crime.

Rather than turning him to stone, why not find him guilty of the crime, have his possessions confiscated and sold off(Including his spell book) and sentence to help the good and swear an oath to never again cast such spells again. So now your formerly big NPC wizard is reduced to a commoner with a funny hat(Without his spellbook) and is forced to work for some set period(A year and a day or some such), even make him work for the Paladin's liege lord so you can have a re-occurring "color" NPC the next time the Paladin goes back home to visit with his Lord.

Clementx
2008-01-17, 10:17 PM
I'd definitely go for the angle of the wizard asking the paladin for aid, or at least try to use the trial to demonstrate the tragic nature of the situation. I have found that making "evil" antagonists likable, pitiable, or otherwise fundamentally vulnerable and human really trips up crusader-types. The wizard pleading guilty could be interesting, as well, if the players aren't digging the "Ace Attorney" gameplay or Law and Order plot twists.

A possible intermediate verdict would be a Mark of Justice that restricts the wizard from casting spells, leaving him a shell of a man as long as a devout hardass kept him in line- cue the paladin to become his parole officer. He is neutered, but still a intelligent and wiley foe/source of information and plot hooks. That should keep the paladin interested in the wizard as a source of plot, and whet his bloodlust, since losing class features is worse than death in many regards.

BlackStaticWolf
2008-01-17, 10:59 PM
The dead need love too! :smallmad:

That's necroPHILIA, not necromancy. :smalltongue:


Now in all seriousness on the issue at hand,

I recommend against basing your trial format on the American trial system. A great deal of our system is the way it is because of this country's Constitution and the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Most medieval based fantasy society are NOT going to have the same rights.

Not only are modern court systems unrealistic for a medieval fantasy society, but they're also very complicated. You could easily spend an inordinate amount of time preparing something that will receive a small amount of "screen time."

For this reason, I recommend having the trial follow a format in which the magistrate calls the witnesses and make the decision of guilt or innocence. In a medieval society, that's actually a bit more likely than a trial by jury. Likewise, no matter what questions the prosecutor asks (note, it's actually possible/likely that the defendant won't have an attorney... the right to counsel is actually a fairly modern concept) there probably won't be objections allowed.

As another poster pointed out, the defendant probably won't have a right against self incrimination (in fact, once upon time failure to testify on one's own behalf could be and was taken as a sign of guilt), so he'll have to testify, and magically truth-telling compulsions will certainly be placed on him if they're available, which can make the trial a foregone conclusion and extremely anti-climactic. In truth, that's why I flat-out prohibit all spells like that in my campaigns.


Honestly, the situation you have described can make having an entertaining trial somewhat tricky. The key issue is that the crime the seer is accused of is necromancy... well... as you've pointed out various priesthoods would object to idea idea of necromancy itself being illegal. The paladin wants him tried because he thinks its a crime to create undead.

What this means is that you need to refine and narrow the crime that the seer is accused of. I recommend limiting it ONLY to some specific actions on the part of the seer like grave-robbing and/or setting ghouls lose on the countryside. That way the crime isn't something nebulous like "using tainted magic" whose definition is open to debate.

Once you've got that out of the way, what I actually recommend doing to resolve the outcome of the trial is create a sort of sliding Innocence/Guilt scale. Start it off roughly in the middle (maybe a little in favor of one or the other, depending on the society). With this setup you then keep the PCs solely in the role of witness.

Have each of them testify... ask them questions whatever questions about the events in question that you wish. For each answer they give, have them roll a Diplomacy check... the higher they roll the more their answer affects the scale. The kicker is... the player doesn't get to decide in which direction their answers tilt the scale.

When the player gives his answer, you decide which way that particular answer tilts the scale (or if you want to give the trial a really impartial feel and don't mind a delay, you could get someone from the forums to make that call). Once all the characters have testified, tally up the results and see what happens.

Yami
2008-01-18, 03:08 AM
Well, you'kk probably have the local lord judjing said trial. It is sort of what they do, keep the law and all that.

So you have the players and NPC's gather. And I quote "The Situation is explained." Ask if anyone wants to step in for one side or another. Wieght thie answers, find the seer guilty or not, as the local lord would, and give a punishment deemed worth by said lord.

We're I dm and no players interfered, I go "Alright, he's found guilty, the lord orders him executed, and the paladin falls."

But then I find Heronius to be an eyesore.

Really, if you consider the Seer to be a good aligned character I think the best use for him would be giving the paladin an atonement sidequest.

Tobrian
2008-01-19, 10:55 AM
A lot of interesting replies...

For the record, I'm German, so I wasn't going to base the trial on anything resembling the American judical system anyway ;-). I have read a couple of things about crime and punishment in the European High Middle Ages over the years, and I was going to base the law roughly on the Magna Carta, as the PCs are in a "civilised" country (my own version of the Duchy of Urnst on World of Greyhawk). In the northern lands there will still be Trial by Combat, though, and the PCs have already come across examples of "judgement of the gods" style punishment out in the countryside (i.e. if you survive the ordeal you are free to go).

What this means is that the seer, being born into the higher nobility, has the right to a trial and judgement by his "peers", in this case peers being both the nobility and the arcane community. (Well, the duchess was going to be involved anyway.) The paladin dragged the Church into it, which is not going to sit well with the nobility and the wizards seeing as how Urnst was historically the center of the Sceptics movement (atheists) in the Flanaess, with clashes betwen the various Churches and the nobles about the Right to Rule. The paladin has really kicked up something there. :smallamused:

If my players can muster some interest in this tangled political situation, things could get... interesting. Of course if they aren't I'll have to drop it and cut the whole thing short. :smallfrown: The odd thing is, I never planned this trial when I wrote the campaign, the paladin player is ultimately responsible for it coming to pass. I hope I can make it suspenseful for them.

I admit the whole subplot of the seer-necromancer was created as a sort of moral testing for the paladin from the beginning... how does he react to things that run counter to his narrow world view? As an out, I had inserted the second necromancer, the cleric of Nerull, who really was horribly evil and sadistic. There was some other "tests" throughout the campaign, some with no obvious "right/wrong" answers, just compromises. Don't get me wrong, I did not designed this with the purpose to make the paladin fall, and I won't penalize him for playing someone with strong convictions. (The player once accused me of always forcing his character into situations where he has to make moral judgements based on a fictional religion. Maybe he is partly right. But then, the whole paladin class is based on such an unrealistic chivalric ideal... and unfortunately the D&D authors are also to blame as they rarely talk about such virtues are mercy but are very fond of pretending that merciless zeal and torturing "criminals" is Lawful Good behaviour.) That's why I don't want to end the campaign by letting the paladin fall for a petty disagreement between me, the GM, and the player over the question of the alignment and/or guilt of an NPC wizard. :smalleek:

Also, the paladin already saved the seer's life twice, after both assassination attempts; the first time, after the seer had surrendered but then got shot with an arrow poisoned with curare, the paladin gave the kiss of life to the paralysed seer for a solid hour, until the man could breathe again on his own. (A source of endless amusement for the fighter.) :smallbiggrin: So I don't think the paladin simply wants to see the wizard dead.

I'm still not 100% sure how to subtly explain to my players why using Animate Dead is not automatically a crime, although is frowned upon because it's, well, icky. In my campaign, no spell is in itself "evil" (except for spells that destroy souls and tainted spells from sources like the Book of Vile Darkness) because that frankly makes no sense. If I started down that slippery slope, the first thing I'd do would be to define Dominate Person as evil too!

On this topic, how do you handle creating undead in the context of in-game law in your campaigns? I'd love to hear it.

As for atonement sidequests and similar: Personally I'd love to. But I don't want to make this NPC too much the paladin's albatross around the neck responsibility, because the campaign is coming to a close and I don't know yet if the players want to continue their old characters or start new ones. Also the paladin player was never happy when his character had to guard NPCs. He's the kind of player who, when his character enters a city, tavern or whatever, he gets juttery and want to be off the next morning, to "follow the plot". It drives the bard mad. Anything not obviously related to the "plot" apparently feels like a waste of time to that player. *sigh* Incidentally, he has shown a remarkable ingenuity to get rid of any NPC I tried to attach to him, even the young wizard NPC who expressed the wish to become a paladin himself and practically hero-worshipped the paladin PC (long story). What did the paladin do with his new "squire"? Immediately sent him away on an errand. *headdesk*

The paladin has recently come into possession of a magic item created especially for prisoners with spellcasting or supernatural abilities... think antimagic aura limited to the person wearing it; no magic works, neither by the prisoner or on the prisoner. The paladin already got a taste of it himself. There's a high probability the player will have the neck ring put on the seer. This would indeed stop the NPC from doing magic, but would only postpone the ultimate question what to do in regard to his curse.

Another question is, how do I involve the gnomes in this? The gnome sorcerer is technically a subject of the Earl they befriended (as a large gnome community lives on his lands), and the sorcerer was born in the earl's shire. In deference to the players' fun, I've always tacitly assumed that all player characters are Freemen no matter what social stratum they were born into (*gamemaster's handwave*) because no player likes to be told "Peasants are not allowed to travel or marry without their lord's consent". Too much historical accuracy, not good for game. And really, merchants, mercenaries, bards, travelling carnies and other misfits have always been able to cross borders. There was a lot more mobility even in the Middle Ages than most people think, although it was limited to certain groups.

I already have a long list of things that will happen during the trial. Involving the players in a meaningful way beyond their role as witnesses still gives me tummy aches. It will become important that they protect the seer from further assassination attempts, because if he died, bad things would happen. Trust me on this. But it must be their free decision to involve themselves or not. I don't want them to get the impression that i am forcing a "you must protect the gamemaster NPC!" plot on them. How would you handle this?

----Footnote-----
Of course, if you ask me, D&D worlds were never really medieval anyway. They're at least Renaissance level, with large cities, roads, universities, guilds, knights in full plate armor etc., heck most D&D worlds have nation states, not countries or kingdoms except by name! Dwarves and gnomes have even higher tech level, similar to Greeks/Roman Empire/Persians. Society is not medieval at all, except for some token aristocracy hanging around to give things a feudal feel.

While commoners and citizens in medieval times might face fines, punitive mutilation or execution by hanging for even petty crimes (depending on century and country), priests usually got off easy even for murder, they usually only got a branding on the hand, to mark them. Because they could read and write, they were considered an asset to society; which meant there was upon times a thing called a clerical test, if a criminal could write a verse from the bible, he was spared and got off lightly. I don't think that's really applicable in D&D though because almost all people in D&D worlds are literate.

The penalty for high treason was death, but punishment for nobles was often exile. Thing is, the seer had already gone into self-chosen exile when he was a young man. He believes he is cursed... if you've ever read the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, I styled the seer's powers and personality after the Zombie Master of Xanth, quite a charming but reclusive fellow. I wrote a template similar to the Pale Master's zombie creation powers for him, and then applied levels of Noble class (Mongoose Publishing), souped-up Expert class for skill points and skill focus feats, Wizard and the Spectral Loremaster PrC (from Mongoose Publishing: "Necromancy - Beyond the Grave" supplement), ending up with a spellcasting scholar with natural necromantic powers (and some personal drawbacks of being saturated with negative energy, such as reduced natual healing).

Tobrian
2008-01-20, 08:32 PM
Thanks for the contributions.

I think I have material to keep the paladin busy. Any ideas about the gnome sorcerer? (see above)

Lupy
2008-01-20, 09:03 PM
What if the Gnome somehow was put on the jury?:smallbiggrin:

Tobrian
2008-01-20, 09:12 PM
What if the Gnome somehow was put on the jury?:smallbiggrin:

No jury. (see above)

But... hm, perhaps as a magical body-guard? To cast Dispel Magic on the wizard should he try anything or on anyone trying to kill him with magic.

The players are so paranoid about his powers, they'll probably not put it past the wizard to pull off something even when he sits in an anti-magic sphere. They took his spellbooks away and then were perplexed when he was still able to cast a protective spell. (Wizards can have Spell Mastery, is all I'm saying...)

Ganurath
2008-01-20, 09:38 PM
The judge is a priestess of Wee Jas, you say? I don't see why a Cleric of a Lawful deity of magic (among other things) would have any compunction against making a motion for Zone of Truth to speed up the trial process.

Tobrian
2008-01-21, 04:54 AM
The judge is a priestess of Wee Jas, you say? I don't see why a Cleric of a Lawful deity of magic (among other things) would have any compunction against making a motion for Zone of Truth to speed up the trial process.

I never said that. The judges will most likely set the spell up, for the sake of having tried, but personally I think Zone of Truth and Discern Lies are pretty much useless in regard to their design intent, or at least they're not surefire ways to cut an interrogation short. Check the descriptions of Zone of Truth and Discern Lies, it says "Saving Throw: Will negates" in both cases. Wizards can be expected to have strong willpower. If the seer makes the save, he can lie, should he so chose. Even if he doesn't make the save, he can still decline to incriminate himself. And in-game, how will anyone be able to determine if he's affected or not? I don't think casting Detect Magic on him will work because the accused is sitting inside the Zone of Truth, so you will detect that the spell is active, but can't say for certain if it is affecting the person or not.

Now, I've already decided that the seer will be cooperative, as long as it suits his purposes. There's not much use in denying the zombie issue, there are too many witnesses, and in his mind he has done nothing wrong. There are one or two things that he is still keeping a secret right now, such as the fact that he's not completely helpless... but as long as they don't ask, he doesn't feel obliged to tell them.

The PCs know that their prisoners has reduced healing rate and healing spells work with reduced effectivity (as well as causing him pain) because the spells channel positive energy into the recipient's body. I hope the monk and the paladin at least will not agree should anyone suggests torturing the prisoner, but instead go for diplomacy.

Rumpus
2008-01-22, 03:23 AM
It sounds like the Paladin player is a real pain in the bum. Frankly, I'd be tempted to spring the Wizard on a technicality, and then let him figure out what the "right and just" thing to do is. Or have the judge sentence him to time already served based on the fact that he had good intentions.

Three words: Trial by Combat.

The assumption is that the Paladin will fight for the prosecution, since he's hellbent on seeing this guy punished. A way to make this interesting: have a survivor of the town show up and agree serve as Champion on behalf of the wizard since he tried to protect them. The catch is this guy is both a good person and obviously NO challenge whatasoever to the Paladin. We're talking 16-year old level 1 Commoner, the village Priest (Lvl 1-2 Cleric), or maybe a level 1 Paladin of Hieronious who's more interested in Good than Law. If the combat is to the death, suddenly the Paladin has to decide whether he's right to kill an innocent person in order to see "justice" done. Additionally, Hieroneous may take serious issue with this. Does the church (and Hieronious himself) match up with the Paladins interpretation? If not, he could easily wind up fallen for fanatical pursuit of what he thought was the right thing. If you are really ending the campaign after this (as in tearing up the character sheets and never seeing any of them again), the player has no legitimate reason to complain if his actions cause him to fall, especially if you drop some hints on the way.

If he complains that he has to make value judgements based on his fictional religion, point out that he's the one roleplaying a religious zealot in a pantheistic world. Lawful Good characters can disagree, if he's so into the plot, make him roleplay.

BlackStaticWolf
2008-01-22, 08:10 AM
I'm still not 100% sure how to subtly explain to my players why using Animate Dead is not automatically a crime, although is frowned upon because it's, well, icky.

This is actually quite easy: if the legislative body of the nation (king, parliament, who ever holds that power) hasn't declared something to be a crime... the it quite simply, is NOT a crime. Of course, these raises the potential issue of ex post facto laws, but you probably want to avoid this issue entirely.


I already have a long list of things that will happen during the trial. Involving the players in a meaningful way beyond their role as witnesses still gives me tummy aches. It will become important that they protect the seer from further assassination attempts, because if he died, bad things would happen. Trust me on this. But it must be their free decision to involve themselves or not. I don't want them to get the impression that i am forcing a "you must protect the gamemaster NPC!" plot on them. How would you handle this?

Well, it's simple really... let them do as they will. If the NPC dies... then bad things happen. Sometimes you have to accept that the PCs are going to do stupid things that have terrible repurcusions... for example, in my campaign, my PCs are about to screw over a rebellion that they orchestrated because they've gotten distracted by a vague prophecy and have decided to trek halfway across the world instead of meet the rebel army at the agreed upon time.


Of course, if you ask me, D&D worlds were never really medieval anyway. They're at least Renaissance level, with large cities, roads, universities, guilds, knights in full plate armor etc., heck most D&D worlds have nation states, not countries or kingdoms except by name!

Uh... you seem to have misunderstood the meaning of the term "nation-state" here. A country or a kingdom can be either a nation-state OR a city-state. They're not mutually exclusive terms... in fact, they CAN'T be exclusive at all. They simply describe different aspects of a particular state... in fact, the word "country" doesn't actually describe any aspect of a particular state.

Further, state organization has nothing at all to do with social or technological level. There were city-states in existence right into the Renaissance level... and come to think of it, there is still at least one city-state in existence today: the Vatican City.

hewhosaysfish
2008-01-22, 09:09 AM
I think Zone of Truth and Discern Lies are pretty much useless in regard to their design intent, or at least they're not surefire ways to cut an interrogation short. Check the descriptions of Zone of Truth and Discern Lies, it says "Saving Throw: Will negates" in both cases. Wizards can be expected to have strong willpower. If the seer makes the save, he can lie, should he so chose. Even if he doesn't make the save, he can still decline to incriminate himself. And in-game, how will anyone be able to determine if he's affected or not? I don't think casting Detect Magic on him will work because the accused is sitting inside the Zone of Truth, so you will detect that the spell is active, but can't say for certain if it is affecting the person or not.


You can know...


Succeeding on a Saving Throw

A creature that successfully saves against a spell that has no obvious physical effects feels a hostile force or a tingle, but cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack. Likewise, if a creature’s saving throw succeeds against a targeted spell you sense that the spell has failed. You do not sense when creatures succeed on saves against effect and area spells.

..at least with Discern Lies. Zone of Truth is an area effect, so that is unreliable.
Alternately, Detect Thoughts should let you pick out a deliberate falsehood, and though you won't be able to sense when they pass the save, you'll still no when you don't pick up any thoughts at all.

And on the subject of self-incrimination:

What is this "Fifth Amendment" you speak of? I find your notion curious, and rather silly.

As another poster pointed out, the defendant probably won't have a right against self incrimination (in fact, once upon time failure to testify on one's own behalf could be and was taken as a sign of guilt), so he'll have to testify, and magically truth-telling compulsions will certainly be placed on him if they're available, which can make the trial a foregone conclusion and extremely anti-climactic. In truth, that's why I flat-out prohibit all spells like that in my campaigns.

merge
2008-01-22, 01:48 PM
I don't know if this helps at all, but:

Societies, including quite complex ones, can exist without the level of legal complexity most people are assuming. That is, there might be a law like "No one shall use magic for wicked purposes," with no binding source of interpretation to explain what's "wicked." Then, it would just come down to convincing the judge that this necromancer is or isn't a bad man who deserves to be locked up (executed, subjected to an ordeal, whatever). This doesn't mean that the country in question is barbaric, or that the judge is unfair or arbitrary: just that less value is placed on a consistent, scientific interpretation of the law than we're used to (whether in Germany or America).

This kind of legal system might resolve some of your worries about how to define the necromancy laws; though it might also disappoint or frustrate your players, if they're looking forward to a Law and Order-style legal battle.