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Old 03-26-2021, 03:37 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

Legal Enforcement Powers [5, 10 or 15] is a mundane social advantage, allowing you to enforce laws. It belongs in the “privilege” sub-category, since it allows you to do things that aren’t permitted for most people, and can be lost if abused. This advantage appeared at or before GURPS 3e, possibly in the first version of GURPS Horror.

The three levels of this advantage roughly correspond to “local uniformed police”, “FBI agent” and “Top international agent.” An appropriate Duty disadvantage usually comes bundled with the powers, and many police forces have well-known Reputations. Having this advantage is normally a prerequisite for Police Rank, and often for a legal Alternate Identity.

Of course, many real-world countries and game settings have police whose powers don’t fit neatly into the [5] and [10] levels, or where the descriptions of those levels don’t quite fit the legal system. Discworld handles this for the Ankh-Morpork City Watch by having the powers depend on Police Rank, but they could also depend on the branch of the force a copper serves in, or many other things. Banestorm points out that historical monarchs usually had the [15] level of LEP, by virtue of having absolute power, while action-movie cops with this advantage can get heavy weapons permits in Gun-Fu. Infinite Worlds explains how the various polities of the setting use this trait, and Powers points out that special abilities, such as mind-reading, can raise the value of this advantage, to the limit of [15].

This is a prime case of an advantage that doesn’t need to be on character sheets if all the PCs have it, which was the case for the psionic and magical MI5 employees of two campaigns that I’ve played. The Laundry campaign I ran charged did have it on character sheets, because it was a little odd: [10], for the [15] level, but missing much of the [5] level powers, mostly because the characters lacked the power of arrest.

Getting NPCs to submit to arrest is an interesting question in GURPS. Intimidation is my usual method, not with the message “You’ll get beaten up” but more “You’re spotted, and if you don’t come quietly, there’ll be loads of people hunting you.” Situational modifiers can be very important: the German agent in late 1940 London who’d just finished his radio transmission when he felt a gun muzzle on the back of his neck did not resist, at all.

How much have PCs in your games used Legal Enforcement Powers, as opposed to being their victim?
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Old 03-26-2021, 12:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

In a few settings that I've worked on, I offered a level between [10] and [15]: Having two of the options (e.g. 'national or international jurisdiction and free to engage in covert investigations') allows a cost of [12].
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Old 03-26-2021, 06:21 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

While Legal Enforcement Powers popped up one or twice way back in my old, 3e-using High School group, it wasn't too big of a deal. One time, the entire group had it. The other time, just one character. There'd be a few situations where we needed them, or where doing something stupid meant we were at risk of losing them, but it was very easy to forget such real-world constraints in the heat of the action, even for the GMs. ^^'

Plus, both campaigns ended up morphing into other campaigns. The first began as Supers, became Black Ops, but ended up in a fantasy setting. The second one also began as Supers, and then jumped almost straight to the fantasy setting. I was the GM for the second one. I just had a "cool plot twist" and rushed things sooo badly.
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Old 03-27-2021, 06:43 AM   #4
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

My current campaign has run into this issue. It may run into more.

The player characters are Lictors: the agents of an Imperial Magistrate: a new office whose holders are the direct deputies for justice of the Emperor in his efforts to clear up the mess left by his predecessor while at the same time juggling factions and enemies so things don't turn into an all out civil war.

The PCs are sent on ahead of the Magistrate as he progresses on his pre-announced 'circuit' of the Northern part of Megalos. One is his Marshal, a young lawyer whose job it is to see to the housing of the Magistrate and entourage, ensure that they will be secure, look up the law and dig out authorititative texts. One is an ex street cop who can openly go out and ask questions about the up-coming cases on appeal to the local Watch and the Michaelites. The other three are covert operatives who go out and gather evidence in manners that might not be entirely legal sometimes: they have badges but are expected to display them as little as possible.

Now their patron has an effective Legal Enforcement Power 15: he is the Emperor's personal deputy and within his area of responsibility he Speaks With The Emperor's Voice. He can and has said: "You have the right to appeal above my head if you think annoying him while he's busy negotiating the fate of the Realm will make him more merciful than me." He couldn't (well, probably couldn't) order the launching of a war but anything he says about the cases and justice generally in his circuit goes.

They probably have no more than Legal Enforcement 10. But they have the Magistrate as backup and so far he has always backed their play.

However... In their first stop they unfolded What Happened To The Vile Old Vicechancellor. At their second they showed that the local law enforcement had failed to notice a conspiracy by a local nobleman to Pervert The Course Of Justice and that the Michaelites in the capital had failed to do a simple trace on a person's identity properly.

The waves of warning messages went out in front of them from Watch Captain to Watch Captain, from Michaelite Commandant to Michaelite Commandant.

At their third stop they have found a vampire entrenched in the local power structure. They have evidence of what was arguably treason. And remember that I said the Magistrate probably couldn't get the Empire embroiled in a war? The traitors were planning to stage a Northlander invasion to cover their planned annexation of the Duchy to the north of them. It has gone off too early and the Magistrate may have to take control of the illegally raised troops to save the situation.

Sometimes soon the local power structure is going to decide that either them or their Patron are too dangerous to allow to continue. Legal Enforcement Power will clash with Legal Enforcement Power. There may be assasination attempts. There may be accusations of abuse of office.

Hmm...

I started to write this partly to make what was going on clear in my own mind and to map out my plans for the future but I hope it's a good illustration of what can happen when legal authority is nominally in a far-away central authority but has always been handled mostly by local Powers That Be. Things have been A Little Fuzzy for centuries. The new Emperor is a reformer (he'll be called The Great if he survives: the Ill-Counseled if he doesn't) and the PCs are at the cutting edge of the changes he is going to bring.

The one legal authority that Just Won't Care is the Ministry Of Serendipity. Unfortunately, they may be the only ones with the capacity to solve some of the problems the PCs poking may cause.
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Old 03-27-2021, 06:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

I ran those campaigns John mentions, where it was essentially a campaign premise that the PCs were working for The Organisation. (Well, in one of them it became a premise, though they all did it at once.) But I'm not sure the psionics group had LEPs as such – they could get out of jail free by making a phone call to their bosses, but they didn't have any kind of formal constabulary status that would appear on public records.

In the UK of course while we technically have something like local and national police forces it's all rather different from the US assumptions baked into this advantage definition. On the one hand our "non-territorial" forces are extremely specialised (British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Ministry of Defence Police) – the CNC for example can go anywhere if civil nuclear materials are involved, but not otherwise. On the other hand our "local" forces, of which I believe there are currently 38, collaborate very extensively, mutualising powers of arrest, lending each other specialised investigators when a smaller force has an obscure sort of crime to deal with, and constantly creating and dissolving inter-force teams for crimes that seem to span jurisdictional boundaries. If a London copper arrests someone in Manchester or Aberdeen it's a minor matter of paperwork, not legal uncertainty. So is that "national jurisdiction"? Mostly yes, but most police officers would say no.

(And then there are some highly specialised hyper-local forces like the Mersey Tunnels Police, which are probably the closest we get to US small-town police departments with all the usual problems.)

(British people will note that I am politely not mentioning the City of London Police.)

I'm trying to think of campaigns I might run where the cost of this advantage would matter, i.e. where some PCs had more of it than others. Perhaps something like CSI where you have some police and some non-arresting investigators (at least when the writers remember the difference). Or perhaps "unofficial" monster hunting (up to and including Delta Green), where the hunters have to (ab)use the powers granted to them in their mundane lives to learn more about the esoteric enemy.
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Old 03-27-2021, 09:24 AM   #6
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
(British people will note that I am politely not mentioning the City of London Police.)
What do you feel is squirelly about them?

(Apart from being tiny, responsible for the richest part of the richest city in the land, having an equal partnership with the Met in the Serious Fraud Squad and being responsible to a medieval city corporation?)
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Old 03-29-2021, 09:07 AM   #7
Ramidel
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
I'm trying to think of campaigns I might run where the cost of this advantage would matter, i.e. where some PCs had more of it than others. Perhaps something like CSI where you have some police and some non-arresting investigators (at least when the writers remember the difference). Or perhaps "unofficial" monster hunting (up to and including Delta Green), where the hunters have to (ab)use the powers granted to them in their mundane lives to learn more about the esoteric enemy.
The latter is what I'd find especially likely. The one cop in the group has a badge to flash, at least until he's inevitably called into the office because he's using it to cover for that scruffy bunch who hunt things that don't exist. The rest are monster hunters with no legal authority.
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Old 03-29-2021, 11:54 AM   #8
ericthered
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

I like to use the permit perk, which is a form of legal enforcement powers, when building races which have formidable natural weapons and abilities that they get to take with them into "civilian" locations. I most often do this with aliens that have natural armor, but I've also applied it to Strength in settings where power armor and exoskeletons are common, and required it on some mages. I've also required mages to have have more expensive forms to represent that they get to me a walking, talking weapon.

Most of the time, its part of making powers and natural weaponry a lot cheaper: I require an accessory perk, the permit perk / legal enforcement powers, and occasionally payload, and you get to have powers equal to tech for 5 to 10 points.

When only using LEP as permission to always be armed, I offer the "De-facto" -40% limitation to represent that you don't really have a permit to be a wookie, people just can't really object to you being "armed".


I've run some games where all of the PC's had legal enforcement powers. A few Infinite worlds one shots, and Lawmen of Borlo, which was (mostly) a police procedural. It never really mattered. Or rather, it mattered all the time in Borlo, but we never worried about the advantage because it was so naturally a part of who the PC's were, and the campaign's primary activity.
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Old 03-30-2021, 02:45 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Enforcement Powers

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So is that "national jurisdiction"? Mostly yes, but most police officers would say no.
In these cases, I always do the GURPS thing: the Advantage represents reality, not official theoretical technicalities. These come to be important only if they are important in the plot (the bad guy being released because a Dorset policeman arrested him in London, and the paperwork was not done properly, and maybe the bad guy has a friend high up); but even in that case, that's going to be the interesting exception, not how the Advantage normally works.
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