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Old 01-08-2016, 03:08 AM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

"Going to law is cheaper than going to war."
"Is it cheaper than a small band of desperadoes?"
"Um..."

Law is the IQ/H skill of knowing about codes of law and their application. The only default is IQ-6, and no skills default to Law. A successful roll will allow you to remember the applicable law for a question or problem, or deduce an answer from some combination of legal principles, precedent, and society's attitudes. However, legal answers are rarely cut and dried: the way a case comes out in court often depends on human factors. A trial may be a contest of Law skill between the sides, or Law may be used as an Influence skill on the judge(s) (or, presumably, a jury) to get a favourable ruling. The facts of a case may also be relevant!

Specialisation is required, and comes in several forms. The commonest is a combination of a region and a field of law, such as (British Criminal) or (French Commercial). Fields that aren't tied to a region, such as (International) or (Jewish) are also valid, if they're sufficiently specialised. Law enforcers normally have some Law (Criminal) or (Police), the latter being procedure, with less theory, for their region, so that they can make arrests, handle evidence, and so on, without causing problems for subsequent trials. There are defaults between specialisations: -4 for a different region and the same field, or for the same region and a different field, -6 or worse if both are different. Law skill dates from GURPS 1e, but was significantly changed at 4e to create the current structure of specialisations.

A professional lawyer needs Law skill, possibly several specialisations, and some other skills: Writing is important, as is Public Speaking for court appearances, and Administration for the associated paperwork. Some will have Research; others will use the default of Law-2 for research about Law (see B217). Current Affairs is important for high-profile cases. For more discussion, see this thread. Lawyers who specialise narrowly might have almost any IQ-based skill: ones who can handle complicated cases involving Finance or Engineering won't be short of work. Brief rules about laws, customs, trials and punishments are on B.506-8.

A GM who knew or was willing to research legal history could make a more realistic default system based on differences between traditions, such as a basis in Roman law vs. other starting points, the separation of the common law vs. civil law schools within the Roman tradition and so on. If anyone can estimate the penalty for the differences between different US states' legal systems, for example, and if they're specialisations, familiarities, or something in between, I'd be interested. The comparative study of different legal systems and their philosophies is probably Expert Skill (Comparative Law).

Law (Police) is universal on templates for professional law enforcers. Several GURPS books refer to Law without a specialisation, by which they seem to mean "pick one," or with just a field, by which they mean "fill in the appropriate region." Ones that just specify (Local) puzzle me slightly: is it common in the USA for a city to have enough strictly local law to justify a specialisation?

Banestorm is notable for outlining the legal systems of all the polities of Yrth. Bio-Tech adds (Bioethics), (Environmental), and (Medical). Boardroom and Curia notes some types of organisation that often use Law. Fantasy covers the swearing of oaths, and the way that Roman society was built round laws. It would be interesting to have some insight into the laws that Homeline applies to itself in Infinite Worlds to enforce The Secret. Locations: Hellsgate adds (Contract) and (Hellsgate), and the college at Worminghall includes a law school. Low-Tech Companion 1 has a valuable section on the evolution of law codes, and Martial Arts has material on the way they're applied to martial artists. Gladiators adds (Roman), Monster Hunters (Demonic) and (Liturgical) and Mysteries (Fire). PU3 and PU7 have examples for this skill, and PU7 adds (Contract and Corporate). Social Engineering has uses of Law to make an action seem legal, and as a complementary skill to Public Speaking when defending a criminal who has confessed.

With its many specialisations and fairly large default penalties, Law is a tempting target for Talents, Wildcard skills and house rules. If heroes need more than one Law specialisation, they may well need several, for activities like interstellar or international trade, or international law enforcement. The trick of applying optional specialisation in reverse, and creating Law (everything) as an IQ/VH skill is perhaps a bit too friendly, but Law*, as a mini-wildcard skill that costs twice a VH skill might well work.
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Old 01-08-2016, 03:42 AM   #2
WaterAndWindSpirit
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

The main use of law is getting you out of trouble after a fight went sideways and your group got arrested, or if you are framed for a crime and you need to defend yourself in court. It could be used to know what to do to mess with evidence with intent to render it inadmissible in a court of law (assuming you did commit the crime, whether or not it was justified (Action! heroes are not a particularly law abiding bunch, even (especially) when they are fighting various kinds of evil conspiracies), or even to frame a known member of a conspiracy or even more funny, convict him of negligent firearms handling after he beat 100+ murders, conspiracy to murder and other crimes, or using similar legal loopholes.
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Old 01-08-2016, 03:49 AM   #3
RogerWilco
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

I like this series. I'm new to GURPS and have been reading a lot of them. Keep up the good work!

On topic:
If you want to model real life with Law, then it's a pain and very specialized. I find the defaults to be quite generous, from my own experience with law. I would say that often knowing the law on one topic, still gives you very little idea what it might be on another topic or in another country/state.

It also requires a big investment just to keep up, as at least in a modern setting, the laws constantly change and what you know from last year might not be true today. Law(Dutch Criminal 2010) and Law(Dutch Criminal 2015) might default to each other but are not the same in a realistic model. I know fist thick tomes with changes get published every year.
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Old 01-08-2016, 07:33 AM   #4
Donny Brook
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

GURPS Law skill is a very awkward set-up. I think the matter has been discussed at length on other threads.

The primary use of the skill in my gaming group seems to be to decide whether a course of action is likely to result in trouble from the authorities, or whether and NPCs behaviour is correct or inappropriate.
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Old 01-08-2016, 10:17 AM   #5
johndallman
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterAndWindSpirit View Post
The main use of law is getting you out of trouble after a fight went sideways and your group got arrested...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Donny Brook View Post
The primary use of the skill in my gaming group seems to be to decide whether a course of action is likely to result in trouble from the authorities...
Interestingly, that's never happened to me. For the GURPS I've run the situations have been (a) Characters didn't engage in law-breaking, (b) Characters were working for a secret government agency who would handle law-breaking in the line of duty, but would be very hard on doing it gratuitously, so they never did, and (c) No law on the Astral Plane, and no need to engage in much law-breaking on inhabited worldlines; thefts have been largely from depopulated worldlines.

For campaigns I've played, we've generally been on the side of the law, or in utterly lawless environments, or only using violence against the other side in a conflict that both sides try to keep secret. One of the latter had a small sea battle that the authorities decided to investigate: after some good Law rolls the other side found themselves claiming they thought we were Irish pirates, although it was obvious they'd have to be idiots to make that mistake. We settled for some cash compensation.
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Old 01-08-2016, 10:22 AM   #6
jason taylor
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

I should think Law(Jewish) would simply be Theology.
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Old 01-08-2016, 12:35 PM   #7
Phantasm
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

"I handle mostly tax laws, and probate stuff occasionally." -- Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters II. Totally out of his depth when it came to criminal proceedings.


Most of the time when it comes to players wanting to give their characters a Law specialization, I ask them to give both a jurisdiction (municipality, barony/county, state/province/duchy, nation/kingdom, empire) and a focus (criminal, civil).

This could include Roman Catholic Canon law or Islamic Inheritance Law (the latter is the reason we have Algebra as a branch of mathematics, IIRC, because of how intricate and complicated it can be).

Law (Jewish)? I'd probably give it a fairly generous default to Theology, but the laws laid down in the Book of Leviticus can be taken as a separate legal code by itself without having to know the rest of the Old Testament. Same with Law (Code of Hammurabi); you don't need to know Babylonian religion to act as an advocate in Hammurabi's court.
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Old 01-08-2016, 12:40 PM   #8
jason taylor
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbrock1031 View Post
"I handle mostly tax laws, and probate stuff occasionally." -- Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters II. Totally out of his depth when it came to criminal proceedings.


Most of the time when it comes to players wanting to give their characters a Law specialization, I ask them to give both a jurisdiction (municipality, barony/county, state/province/duchy, nation/kingdom, empire) and a focus (criminal, civil).

This could include Roman Catholic Canon law or Islamic Inheritance Law (the latter is the reason we have Algebra as a branch of mathematics, IIRC, because of how intricate and complicated it can be).

Law (Jewish)? I'd probably give it a fairly generous default to Theology, but the laws laid down in the Book of Leviticus can be taken as a separate legal code by itself without having to know the rest of the Old Testament. Same with Law (Code of Hammurabi); you don't need to know Babylonian religion to act as an advocate in Hammurabi's court.
The King of Portugal used to have a Court Rabbi specifically for the purpose of advising on cases involving Jews. So yeah, knowledge of Jewish law is not necessarily Theology; if there is a polity with a tradition of subsidiarity an official who acts as liason to a recognized Jewish community might know Jewish law without actually being a Jew.
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Old 01-08-2016, 01:06 PM   #9
simply Nathan
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

I've put this on characters but never used it.
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Old 01-08-2016, 10:55 PM   #10
Rocket Man
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Law

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Ones that just specify (Local) puzzle me slightly: is it common in the USA for a city to have enough strictly local law to justify a specialisation?
It's not uncommon, especially with charter cities, who have permission to deviate from many of the standards set by state law. Knowing the municipal code of Longmont, Colorado won't help you much in New York City, and both are likely different -- though with the possibility of some default knowledge -- from Kansas City, Missouri.
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