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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 aand 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 while 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?
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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 04-02-2021, 01:53 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Has Legal Immunity been important in your games?
In THS, I played a PC whose backstory including obtaining a Diplomatic Immunity from New Guinea by . . . dubiously-legal and corporation-related means. The main uses in play I remember was ignoring LC restrictions on some military hardware during one quest, notably a very old model of RATS (due to newer models being unaffordable in both cash and points) and APFSDSDU ammunition.
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Old 04-02-2021, 06:41 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

I've never seen anyone try to take 15-point Immunity as a "Can get away with murder" advantage, and I'd certainly require an implausibly good justification if anyone tried that in a game I was running. The diplomat John mentioned from the THS game was effectively spending the 20 points to be the Serious Accredited Diplomat of the party, making him the point man in dealings with local authorities and so forth.

One could argue that the base cost for Diplomatic Immunity (before the extra 5 points for Diplomatic Pouch Privileges) in modern-day games might often be less than the 15 point version, depending on your employer's attitudes and the state of their relations with the host country. (And note that, by the Vienna Convention, diplomatic immunity only applies in the country where you're an accredited diplomat.) Your employing nation will at minimum be very annoyed if you embarrass them, and is actually free to waive immunity and hand you over to local justice if they're annoyed or embarrassed enough. Or they may prosecute you under their own laws. Or they may recall you, or the host nation may expel you, and you may find that you've just terminated your career, or at least screwed up your promotion prospects.

Going by the Wikipedia entry, yes, a few diplomats have literally got away with murder -- but others have suffered actual consequences. I think I've even heard of cases where diplomats who'd behaved like idiots suffered worse consequences after recall than they would have under the host nation's justice system; murderous dictators can be very annoyed at losing face. So perhaps a diplomat with few special connections, from a law-abiding country that values its squeaky-clean image, should be paying just (10+5) or even (5+5) points for Diplomatic Immunity. Heck, some may not even have useful Diplomatic Pouch Privileges.

I've not seen other forms of Legal Immunity come up at all in games, which actually makes me think I've not tried hard enough. Hmm...
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Old 04-02-2021, 08:33 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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I've never seen anyone try to take 15-point Immunity as a "Can get away with murder" advantage, and I'd certainly require an implausibly good justification if anyone tried that in a game I was running.
It wasn't really getting away with murder. The PCs actually acted alongside with more 'accredited' forces in what essentially was an ad hoc counterterrorist operation. But it involved the civilians who happened to be on the spot . . . being amusingly well-armed. In retrospect it certainly was an optimistic interpretation of the Immunity's applicability. But not outright over-the-top.
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Old 04-02-2021, 09:04 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

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Your employing nation will at minimum be very annoyed if you embarrass them, and is actually free to waive immunity and hand you over to local justice if they're annoyed or embarrassed enough. Or they may prosecute you under their own laws. Or they may recall you, or the host nation may expel you, and you may find that you've just terminated your career, or at least screwed up your promotion prospects.
Even if we posit some form of diplomatic immunity that can be applied to covert agents, the same thing applies – if you get caught, you're an embarrassment to your sponsor country, and your career as a covert agent is over, because the country that caught you is going to put your face/prints/DNA on terrorism watch lists all over the world, and anyone who'd like to embarrass your sponsor will have an easy way of doing it. ("This guy got caught in Paris, and they think they can cover it up by sending him to Kinshasa?")

Even the most tolerant of agencies probably frowns on murderhobo killing sprees.
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Old 04-02-2021, 01:13 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Legal Immunity

Honestly, Kromm's example feels less like, "I'm going to shoot this guy just cause" and more like, "Relax, central's not going to be upset that I snapped the guard's neck, even though he's technically a civilian."
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