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Old 01-16-2021, 09:52 AM   #1
Michael Cule
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Default Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

I'm starting a new game set in the post-Demon Emperor Megalos. The players will be working as investigators for an Imperial Magistrate and it has become necessary to decide at what point the Magistrate (or any other judge) can insist that testimony be given under Truthsayer or even Compel Truth spells.

I want to establish the sort of law that would give the PCs things to investigate without allowing them just to invoke the full majesty of the law and of the Communication and Empathy Colleg.

Now, the law in Megalos isn't fair. I think we can take that as read. And it definitely isn't egalitarian.

So there will be no 'one law alike for rich and poor'.

What I am thinking of is that the courts should need increasing levels of proof/suspicion to be able to issue a warrant to require a person to testify under Truthsayer.

Slaves and Serfs can be interrogated under Truthsayer at any time and Compel Truth can be used if they resist that interrogation.

What for free persons of no rank?

What for the gentry? Knights and burgesses, that sort of thing.

What for lesser nobles?

What for higher nobles?

Please don't bother suggesting that I get rid of the spell entirely. It's not only part of the setting but part of the backstory of my campaigns. I don't want to rejig the history of the universe: the paint hasn't finished drying from the last time I did that.
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Old 01-16-2021, 12:45 PM   #2
johndallman
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

An obvious answer is "Testimony from a person of equal rank to the suspect is required before a warrant can be issued."
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Old 01-16-2021, 01:39 PM   #3
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
An obvious answer is "Testimony from a person of equal rank to the suspect is required before a warrant can be issued."
Or higher.

Hmm. That's very neat. Probably too systematic for the pragmatic Megalosians but there should be a way to do it.

After all, nobility must have a certain number of privileges or people wouldn't be so anxious to pay the Emperor to enoble them.
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Old 01-16-2021, 04:07 PM   #4
Rupert
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

Their might be some way commoners can bring suit against nobles, or be useful as witnesses. Something like a warrant forcing a noble's testimony under spell can be obtained if three commoners all provide evidence, said commoners' good character being vouched for by a noble, and the judge being persuaded by their testimony that there's reason to believe that the noble in question actually has useful information that they're concealing.
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:28 PM   #5
mlangsdorf
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
An obvious answer is "Testimony from a person of equal rank to the suspect is required before a warrant can be issued."
And possibly doubling or tripling for each rank below:
3 serfs (of good character, of course) can testify against a freeman and cause a warrant to be issued.
3 freeman or 10 serfs can testify against a gentry.
3 gentry or 10 freemen (or in theory, 30 serfs) against a lesser lord.

Alternately or additionally, both witnesses might be subject to magical compulsion: if you levy a claim against someone of equal rank, both you and the other person have speak under Truthsayer.

Truthsayer is kind of limited; you only need to tell one polite, white lie every few minutes to make it nearly useless (or tell a polite lie every time you think a mage is about to cast the sell). Compel Truth is more powerful, but technically true statements and indirect statements that give the impression of a more definite than was actually given are certainly possible. Megalos laws might be very specific about what kind of questions can be asked, and what kind of answers can be given, to help work around the limitations of these spells.

Another potential complication might be secret spells that let you lie under either spell, but make it seem as if you failed to resist. Being able to lie while everyone is convinced you're telling the truth is a nasty complication for investigators.
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Old 01-16-2021, 06:44 PM   #6
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

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Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
... it has become necessary to decide at what point the Magistrate (or any other judge) can insist that testimony be given under Truthsayer or even Compel Truth spells.
I'd think it would have to be Compel Truth to be admissible as evidence. It's too easy to end an answer with "I am done" and have the last thing you say always be true.

Making Compel Truth the standard automatically make the process more rare and consequential, due to the Magery 2 prerequisite. It also provides Compel Lie (or even Forgetfulness) as reasonable countermeasures.
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Old 01-17-2021, 09:04 AM   #7
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

The way I'd do it if I were writing the legislation is casting Truthsayer every five minutes of testimony and if there were any lies you go straight to Compel Truth. None of this dicking around with 'white lies' at all and if you start playing tricks the court loses its patience with you.

Mind Search is there for people who want to try to resist that.

Of course the tax court in Tredroy has a torque with Compel Truth that you have to wear when swearing your tax returns are complete and accurate but even in that wealthy city I believe they only have the one.

I think that I will go with four ranks of judicial protection. The slaves and serfs have no protection but a dozen can complain against a commoner. The commoners can be compelled to testify with only the word of another commoner (itself given under Truthsayer of course). The gentry (a loose term covering most burgesses, most clergymen, guildsmen and knights) can be compelled on the word of three commoners or one member of the gentry, the nobility (anybody of the rank of Baron or above) require the words of three gentry or nine commoners.

Slaves or serfs accusing gentry and lords? The very thought!
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Old 01-17-2021, 10:37 AM   #8
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

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Originally Posted by thrash View Post
I'd think it would have to be Compel Truth to be admissible as evidence. It's too easy to end an answer with "I am done" and have the last thing you say always be true.

Making Compel Truth the standard automatically make the process more rare and consequential, due to the Magery 2 prerequisite. It also provides Compel Lie (or even Forgetfulness) as reasonable countermeasures.
Obviously you just don't allow that kind of answer in responses. Most likely the last question would be "Has your testimony been true to the best of your knowledge" and you are only allowed to answer "Yes". Compel Truth is not going to be common enough to be integrated into the legal system.
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Old 01-17-2021, 11:01 AM   #9
RyanW
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
Obviously you just don't allow that kind of answer in responses. Most likely the last question would be "Has your testimony been true to the best of your knowledge" and you are only allowed to answer "Yes". Compel Truth is not going to be common enough to be integrated into the legal system.
Probably best to ask not just true, but "true and complete" to avoid misleading omissions.

"He hit Steve in the head and Steve died" could be true, but it leaves out the rather important bit in the middle where the witness slit Steve's throat.
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Old 01-17-2021, 11:07 AM   #10
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: Magic and the Law: Nerfing TRUTHSAYER (but not too much)

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Probably best to ask not just true, but "true and complete" to avoid misleading omissions.

"He hit Steve in the head and Steve died" could be true, but it leaves out the rather important bit in the middle where the witness slit Steve's throat.
No, "complete" is too ambiguous. Making sure the answers are complete is the job of the interlocuter to ask the right questions in the first place.
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