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Old 04-01-2021, 12:13 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

Legal Immunity [5, 10, 15 or 20] is a mundane social advantage, providing you with some degree of exemption from laws, and thus their enforcement. Like Legal Enforcement Powers, it is in the “privilege” sub-category, and can be lost if abused. This advantage appeared in this form in GURPS Religion for 3e, with a precursor in International Super Teams.

You aren’t immune to laws with this advantage, but the laws and enforcement that apply to you are different from those that apply to most people in the setting. At [5], the laws that apply to you are approximately as restrictive as the normal ones, just different. For example, a medieval abbot is not subject to local law, but the bishop who can hold him to account will normally want to ensure that his conduct is creditable.

At [10], the laws that apply to you are significantly less restrictive. The canonical example is a medieval bard, who cannot be seriously punished for anything he sings, even if it’s libellous or insulting to the local ruler. He can be excluded from court, or even banished, but not fined, imprisoned or physically punished. This immunity has prerequisites, in that you need actual skill as a bard. You also need the good opinion of your fellow-bards, who provide enforcement by being cruel in their performances about anyone who breaches your immunity.

At [15], you can do pretty much as you like, provided you don’t harm the interests of whoever granted you Legal Immunity. Monarchs traditionally have this, but the canonical example is modern Diplomatic Immunity [20], where you are only subject to the laws of your own country and can’t be punished for anything by other countries. Local police can arrest you, but can’t hold or prosecute you. The only thing a country can do is expel you, by declaring you persona non grata. This requires a Duty to your own country or government, and often some kind of Rank. The extra [5] cost is because you also have “Diplomatic pouch” privileges, allowing you to send and receive physical messages that other countries aren’t allowed to intercept or read. That privilege is possible for lesser levels of Legal Immunity, if the setting allows it.

Various GURPS supplements add new forms of Legal Immunity, including “Answerable only to other Gods,” “De facto government in his own tower,” “Igor Immunity,” “Represents the Patrician,” “Subject to Guild Discipline” and “Trial by His Peers” all [5] from Discworld, while Banestorm limits Bardic Immunity fairly strictly, in favour of “Skaldic Immunity” [10] and “The King is the law” [15]. Boardroom and Curia has organisations where some members have this advantage, and City Stats has “free cities,” whose populations have it in the surrounding area. DF17 Guilds provides it as a benefit for members of the right organisations, while Horror offers it for children and Men in Black. Locations: Hellsgate’s rulers have the [20] version, while students and teachers at Worminghall have to settle for [10]. Power-Ups 8 has the “Informal, -50%” limitation, which works, but can be lost easily, and Social Engineering: Keeping in Contact has “freedom of the press” extending to that level, and Pulling Rank can have it as a prerequisite for all kinds of Rank.

My personal experience with this advantage is with full Diplomatic Immunity [20] in a THS game where the PCs were a group of consular services troubleshooters for the EU on Mars. One PC was an SAI, and another an under-age cat-girl bioroid, so having a human with Legal Immunity who was a director of the SAI’s holding company, and the cat-girl’s legal guardian made travel between different polities a lot easier. I never actually had to invoke Diplomatic Immunity, but having the ability to do so was an effective way of keeping confrontations from escalating.

Has Legal Immunity been important in your games?

Last edited by johndallman; 09-17-2021 at 02:43 PM. Reason: Spelling
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Old 04-01-2021, 12:27 PM   #2
Kromm
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

Maxed-out LI has always been attractive to players in my games, because they love having an official, sanctioned-by-the-GM-and-paid-in-points excuse to go around like they have a license to kill pretty much anybody who gets in the way. Thus, I'm very wary of permitting it unless the player asking for it is capable of some in-character discretion. So the answer is that yes, it has had its place in my campaigns, but never below the 15-point level, usually as a way to let would-be James Bonds laugh at Rank, Status, etc. as they pursue whatever mission they're pursuing.
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Old 04-01-2021, 02:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

I've never had a game where players would mark this on their sheet, because it was either something that no one in the party would have, or everyone in the party would be treated as having it, so charging the points wasn't meaningful.
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Old 04-01-2021, 03:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
Maxed-out LI has always been attractive to players in my games, because they love having an official, sanctioned-by-the-GM-and-paid-in-points excuse to go around like they have a license to kill pretty much anybody who gets in the way.
We were a bit more restrained. Jianwei Chen was a professional diplomat. He did carry an electrolaser on field operations, but hardly used it. He did once use an SDV in orbit as a prop for Intimidation, mind you.
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Old 04-01-2021, 05:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

Not itself, but I use a variant that's very slightly different that allow couriers to travel anywhere and bring information to anyone. Holding them for even an hour against their will somewhere can lead to huge legal complications and even that is barely important because anyone who wants to be able to send messages privately knows they'll lose that privilege the moment they try to stop someone else's message.
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Old 04-04-2021, 02:28 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
Maxed-out LI has always been attractive to players in my games, because they love having an official, sanctioned-by-the-GM-and-paid-in-points excuse to go around like they have a license to kill pretty much anybody who gets in the way. Thus, I'm very wary of permitting it unless the player asking for it is capable of some in-character discretion. So the answer is that yes, it has had its place in my campaigns, but never below the 15-point level, usually as a way to let would-be James Bonds laugh at Rank, Status, etc. as they pursue whatever mission they're pursuing.
In my opinion and experience, there is a not-so-rare case when LI working like a literal license to kill at the character's discretion entirely makes sense. A wizard, psi, xianxia cultivator, or super Person of Mass Destruction and Army of One that is so powerful they can crush armies with ease. They cannot bothered to obey the laws of puny humans, yet for whatever reason they don't want to overthrow Muggle governments and become the new ruler. The latter probably b/c they do not want to be burdened with the hassle of administration, and prefer to focus on adventuring, research, etc. Yet they find obeying the law far too inconvenient to do what they like to do.

A compromise to ease co-existence between the OP individual and society establishes the legal fiction they are sovereign nations. They don't own any actual territory, but they enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, and any place they choose to live is treated like an embassy. As a rule, Muggle authorities treat the character with the same respect due to a superpower or nuclear state.

In practice, the super agrees they shall not threaten the security of the world, and the human governments agree to look the other way about any crime they may do. The only feasible check, should such a super go rogue and do something like large-scale atrocities or environmental devastation, would be a posse of superpowered individuals that is strong enough to overwhelm them. However, those other high-powered wizards or supers, assuming they exist, cannot be bothered to intervene if their peer occasionally abuses some unlucky Muggle. Quite likely it is b/c they enjoy the same privileges and find it too convenient.

Last edited by Irioth; 04-04-2021 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 04-04-2021, 05:21 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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Originally Posted by Irioth View Post
A compromise to ease co-existence between the OP individual and society establishes the legal fiction they are sovereign nations. They don't own any actual territory, but they enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, and any place they choose to live is treated like an embassy. As a rule, Muggle authorities treat the character with the same respect due to a superpower or nuclear state.

In practice, the super agrees they shall not threaten the security of the world, and the human governments agree to look the other way about any crime they may do. The only feasible check, should such a super go rogue and do something like large-scale atrocities or environmental devastation, would be a posse of superpowered individuals that is strong enough to overwhelm them. However, those other high-powered wizards or supers, assuming they exist, cannot be bothered to intervene if their peer occasionally abuses some unlucky Muggle. Quite likely it is b/c they enjoy the same privileges and find it too convenient.
In fact, that is almost exactly one of the settings I proposed in Chapter 8 of GURPS Supers, and I ran a campaign based on it where the PCs were a squad of supers not quite powerful enough to be sovereign as individuals, but able to survive a fight with a sovereign and versatile enough to get them under control—or offer a meaningful threat. Things like Clark Kent's apartment being legally the Kryptonian Embassy were part of the legal structure I envisioned.
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Old 04-05-2021, 07:45 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

These posts from Legal Enforcement powers thread are probably relevant: once you start extended Legal enforcement powers and Legal Immunity the difference between them can get blurry.


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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".
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I don't know if I've ever used it "as intended", but I've come close. In campaigns where it would come up, instead it's a campaign feature and basically follows whatever rules I need it to as a GM. Outside of that, I've taken it a couple of times with Cosmic as a form of "I can ignore this specific, broad law and no one bats an eye"... but now that I say that aloud maybe Legal Immunity would be better?
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Old 04-05-2021, 02:08 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
These posts from Legal Enforcement powers thread are probably relevant: once you start extended Legal enforcement powers and Legal Immunity the difference between them can get blurry.
While there's probably truth in that, those cases seem more like having simply picked the wrong one.

It seems like there's a pretty plain divide between them though: Legal Enforcement Powers is built around an authority to make demands with the force of law (in particular demands to surrender to your arrest and demands to let you conduct searches, but I could see that being extended). If someone defies your authority it's not just you they're defying, it's the entire system that accords you your Powers. Legal Immunity doesn't give you any coercive power at all, it simply prevents regular laws from being enforced against you. If you have extreme Legal Immunity you might be able to kidnap someone or toss their house and get away with it, but your victim isn't obligated to cooperate.

However, the higher levels of Legal Enforcement Powers and of Legal Immunity do have much the same trend towards 'no rules govern your actions'.
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Old 04-11-2021, 11:03 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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In fact, that is almost exactly one of the settings I proposed in Chapter 8 of GURPS Supers, and I ran a campaign based on it where the PCs were a squad of supers not quite powerful enough to be sovereign as individuals, but able to survive a fight with a sovereign and versatile enough to get them under control—or offer a meaningful threat. Things like Clark Kent's apartment being legally the Kryptonian Embassy were part of the legal structure I envisioned.
Yeah, I am very fond of that particular bit of GURPS Supers. We conceived the basic idea independently, but I am grateful you added it to the sourcebook and wish we could have a whole sourcebook about it.

If you ask my opinion, this system deals with the elephant-in-the-room issue of high-powered supers co-existing with Muggle society in a much more practical, realistic, and satisying way than assuming all non-villainous OP supers got Honesty in their character sheet or were brainwash... err, reared by their parents to obey the law no matter what like Clark Kent.

As I see it, it just takes one OP super or three facing a government decision they really find intolerable, and the whole house of cards falls apart. Marvel Civil War shenanigans aside, a typical case I can think of is a judge ruling aganst a powerful super in a child custody case. Even many otherwise 'good' supers would realistically be sorely tempted to say "f**k the law" and bring down the courthouse on the judge rather than surrendering their child.

Last edited by Irioth; 04-12-2021 at 12:06 PM.
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