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Old 04-16-2018, 09:32 AM   #1
Minuteman37's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Kenai, Alaska
Default Low Tech White Collar Crime

Just had an idea for a big bad evil guy Scheme in a low-tech setting.

The resident bean counter for the king has a scheme set up where he discreetly hired several bandit groups to terrorise particular locations within the kingdom that are of high importance/visibility to the king and those who have his ear.

The kingdom's tensions with a neighboring state are high and the king is hesitant to commit a significant portion of the army to search the countryside for these bandits.

The bean counter (feel free to suggest an appropriate name, I'm just not sure what he would be called), privately suggests to the king that these bandits could be dealt with by establishing an organization that would identify these criminals and contract out bounties with would be adventurers (the PCs).

The twist is a portion of these quests are being issued to lowlifes (Also possibly the PCs) under the table to go out and commit banditry, which in turn justifies additional funding for the agency. At this point the bean counter stops paying the first group of bandits out of pocket and the agency is deemed a success.

The bean counter just continues to embezzle funds while creating enough crime to justify the continued existence of his new comfy position.

Thoughts? am I missing anything, or are there any flaws in my logic?
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Old 04-16-2018, 10:02 AM   #2
Purple Haze
Join Date: Jul 2006
Default Re: Low Tech White Collar Crime

In England that would be "The Keeper of the Privy Purse." Typically a Baron or an Earl.
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Old 04-16-2018, 10:04 AM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Brighton
Default Re: Low Tech White Collar Crime

One question springs to mind, at some point you will need to show some dead bandits to the king (or their factotum) or even worse some living ones. Dead ones to be sanguine about it are easier to provide!

However it's going to depend on the initial set up of the kingdom. It's unlikely that the king and their army would be the direct method of bandit control anyway* so providing an alternative isn't necessarily a good hook.

It's rather more likely that the king would already have deputised some local lord to maintain peace in the area, the reward for doing this for the local lord is being a local lord (which tends to come with material perks like levying taxes etc).

TBH your bean counter could be the local lord, but there's the risk that the king will just say in response to claims of banditry "well OK that's why you are there, get to it and I expect my taxes to be sent on time, and if you can't deal with it I will find a replacement who will".

Thing is being the solution to you own problem is kind of an old trick, and potentially an easy one to play when you are the only position of local authority. And at various points in history the difference between banditry and "semi-unofficial, pro-active opportunistic local taxes" was slight indeed. Sometimes just the difference between making sure your chaps** did not display your coat of arms and kept their faces hidden at the point of collection!

So some kings weren't stupid, (and most were wary of local nobles getting too clever or rich anyway), so they often had agents they could send to check it was all above board, these agents often had direct authority from and acted in the crown's name. Don't get me wrong they were as prone as anyone to be corrupt or to have a terrible unfortunate accidents, but questions would get asked.

But if you could set up some bandistry and the local lords are shown unable to deal with it, and you suggest being put in charge of it that could work.

However you have a problem in the tha fact that the local lords will be:

A). doing their best to stop the bandits

B). if they find out what your doing, very quick to point it out to the king.

*actually you might have a some areas that are under direct control by the king's forces (e.g, important roads, mines, ports) but those forces kind of end up being the very thing your suggesting anyway, and won't look kindly on your bean counter muscling in on their territory and may wll be in position to do something about it!

**and going in the other direction, organised groups of bandits often found themselves being paid to work their skill sets in official capacity in times of need i.e the difference between 'poacher' and 'gameskeeper' was often slight and a matter of days.

Last edited by Tomsdad; 04-16-2018 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 04-16-2018, 10:17 AM   #4
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Brighton
Default Re: Low Tech White Collar Crime

There's another question as well, who are you stealing from in the first place, and what are you stealing. Portable wealth and valuables are pretty concentrated in the hands of those who can likely make it hard for you to steal it the first place, and cause you problems later.

People who are easy to steal from and can't do much to about it afterwards tend not to have anything worth stealing unless you are going to get into stealing crops and livestock.
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Old 04-16-2018, 10:18 AM   #5
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Default Re: Low Tech White Collar Crime

Possible terms for a royal accountant include Chancellor (of the Exchequer), Treasurer, or possibly Steward, Chamberlain, or Keeper of the Privy Seal. The first two are historical and current offices of the English crown that dealt with money; the other are related offices that could plausibly have access to money.

I think this scheme is possibly too complicated and unnecessary for an accountant. Accountants who want to embezzle usually have an easy time of it: they have access to the funds and the books and a comparatively easy time cooking the books.

I think this would be a better scheme for a High Constable or other law enforcement entity who doesn't have access to the books and treasury directly. Since he can't draw money out of the vaults on his own authority and then cook the books, he's got to go the long way round:
1. fund some banditry against some of his enemies, then take a cut of the proceeds
2. convince the King to give him some cash to hire high quality bounty hunters to deal with the bandits
3. hire low cost, semi-skilled bounty hunters (the PCs) and pocket the difference.
4. point the PCs in the fairly specific direction of the bandits, using his inside information to overcome their lack of skill. make sure the PCs kill the bandits to cut the link back to him.
5. take another cut of the loot the bounty hunters get when they defeat the bandits (sure, stolen goods are supposed to be returned to their owners, but not all of it gets recovered and he's the one reporting what was recovered)
6. Now that he's really in the black, return to step 1.

Assuming you want the PCs to unravel the scheme, at some point they need to either capture a bandit alive and question him, or at least began to wonder why random bandits seem to know exactly when great treasures are being moved around with minimal guards. They might also start seeing bandits equipped with items that the PCs took from the last set of bandits and definitely handed over to the Constable for return to their rightful owners.
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