View Full Version : [3.PF]Campaign Building Assistance: Courtroom/Trial Mechanics!

2010-09-16, 08:48 AM
So, I'm working on developing a campaign idea that's been buzzing around in my head. Set in Eberron, specifically Sharn, a sort of Law And Order/Ace Attorney themed game. Rather than Adventurers, the PCs are agents of the law--cops and prosecutors (Combat-capable prosecutors, because it IS D&D still) and possibly contracted freelancers. In all cases, though, reporting to officials and having both resources and restrictions therefrom.

The general idea would be a focus on evidence and conviction rather than just killing. PCs would be presented with a mystery or a suspected criminal, and tasked with investigation. In the former scenario, they'd have to do standard detective work. After that (and in the latter scenario), the task would be to bring in the target.

Lethal force would, generally, be strongly frowned upon. Heavy focus would be placed on bringing the suspect(s) in alive, to stand trial. This might result in the use of more obscure rules/homebrewed stuff (-4 to hit to do nonlethal on any weapon is the actual rule, might provide feats/equipment/ACFs/etc to make nonlethal easier. Could theoretically just pull in 4e's "he who does the final blow decides dead or not", but that makes it way too simple.) or more creative means of victory. Do note that killing isn't absolutely disallowed--if the party is, say, set upon by thugs or vicious beasts, they ARE allowed to defend themselves properly. They just might have to justify that to the boss, and the characters might then have paperwork to do!

That much can be handled pretty well within the system as-is. It's what comes after that that I come to the Playground for. I'd like to have the PCs play trial segments as well (Which is why I said L&O rather than procedural). While this COULD just be managed with social skill checks (presenting evidence to gain bonuses and stuff), I'd very much like something more involved than that. I'm not entirely sure how to go about this, and while I am thinking about it myself, I'd like the Playground's opinions, too!

Any other relevant information and ideas would be most welcome, along with any concerns about the core concept.

EDIT. Oh, right. Forgot to mention what system. Probably going to run in 3.PF, unless anyone can convince me something else would work better. :smalltongue:

2010-09-16, 09:37 AM
Cityscape, I think, has rules for whether a legal case will be decided for or against the deserving party or not.

Fiendish Codex 2 had rules for one specific kind of case- whether your soul will go to Baator or not if you're disputing the contract.

Star Wars Saga Edition (Scum & Villainy) had its own legal rules.

Maybe you could draw from any of these for inspiration?

2010-09-16, 10:03 AM
Lots of VERY old magazines and supplements had rules for courtroom antics.

Erm... Dragon warriors had it in - I think - book 6, and there's a couple of issues of Imagine with some stuff in. Otherwise... make stuff up.

Remember that the whole 'trial by peers' and by jury is not guaranteed in most societies. The case is likely to be heard and decided by a single figure. In a high magic setting, zone of truth and the like would be quite key. There's unlikely to be anything like pleading the fifth: People used to be pressed with big stones on their chest until they entered pleas ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressing_(execution) )

2010-09-16, 10:08 AM
Depends on the society. DMG2 suggests striking a balance between medieval justice and modern justice for Neutral to Good societies.

And this is Eberron, Sharn (biggest city of Breland)- much more modernistic than many other D&D settings, and ruled by a CG king who is actively working to increase the level of democracy in his system.

2010-09-16, 10:23 AM
As an attorney who games with several other attorneys (yes, we've heard the rules lawyer jokes) we've discussed this kind of situation before, but never in quite the scope you propose (we usually try to get away from law topics when we game.) :D

That said, how modern do you want this legal system to be? You could shoot from something like the English system around the time of Henry II (late 1100s), which was the precursor of the American jury system, but still had trial by combat on the books. The king's justice was still the prevailing law, but it was put in the hands of local officials, and 12 man juries brought possible crimes and misdeeds to the attention of those officials.

All that said, L&O is usually pretty good about its portrayal of the modern courtroom and the system, especially the rules of evidence, although the drama level is naturally increased and the time line shortened.

Personally, I think the Fiendish Codex 2 rules are pretty sharp and hilarious. I've considered constructing a lawyer prestige class just for such an encounter.

As one of my favorite legal historians (Grant Gilmore) wrote "In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed."

2010-09-16, 10:28 AM
Sharn has trial by jury (9 people from the ward in question), which decides guilt by majority vote.
Based on the vote, a magistrate then passes the sentence.
Everyone who can afford one is entitled to be represented by a barrister, though there's no licensing for those, so technically anyone can become one.
Witnesses give their testimonies within Zone of Truth (from a permanent item).
Sharn follows the Galifar code and the Brelish laws, which afford rather comprehensive legal protection for most people*.
Just for the record.

*Ah, and a curious fact regarding the laws: only citizens of the 12 nations recognized in the Treaty of Thronehold are protected by them, so, say, killing someone from Droaam or Shadow Marches isn't technically illegal (unless they're members of or employed by a Dragonmarked House).