Designer’s Notes: Above the Law

Pyarmid_3_93_cops_and_lawyers_cover_1000This article was something rather interesting to write – it came from a kernel of an idea from my Aeon supers campaign: how do powers and the law interact? There is a tiny section in GURPS Basic Set about Spell Legality – but that’s it. So I got to thinking, how could I expand it? How could I make it fit a world where superpowers are real? This led to a lot of speculation between myself and a few of my more trusted playtesters/peer reviewers. My first draft included a lot of specific cases – which I quickly discarded in favor of more generalized ones. It also included a new game mechanic: Malefaction Class. Which I also eventually discarded (but see below).

All in all it took me about 66 hours to write, 69 hours to edit, 6 hours worth of research (mostly in generalized laws in the Western world), and 80 hours of revision (it was a PITA to revise).

Malefaction Class
Control Rating determines how a given government might treat a person’s actions. But how could you classify a given action’s legality? The rules for Control Ratings give a generalized approach, but what about something more detailed? Many actions a character could commit have a “Malefaction Class” (MC). MC rates how a legal given action is or how socially acceptable it is. The repercussions of committing such an action depends on the actions MC and the society’s “Control Rating”; Control Rating and Legality Class (p. B507).
A given action only has an MC if it’s likely to be controlled. Obviously, there will be societies where there are exceptions; for example, public displays of affection might be MC4 in a puritanical society.
Each action within a given society’s government has a “Malefaction Class” (MC). Some modern-day examples include:
MC4 – Lawful. The action is legal in most societies, but some tightly controlled groups might restrict or license it. Examples: Travel within the society’s bounds; access to “everyday” information or libraries; growing produce for personal use.
MC3 – Semi-Lawful. The action is licensed, requires registration, or has conditions attached to it in most societies. Examples: Self-Defense; manufacture or selling of LC3 items; growing produce to sell to others; assisted suicide.
MC2 – Illegal, Misdemeanor. The action is illegal, but in a limited or minor way. Examples:Attacking someone else; theft of inexpensive items; accidentally killing someone; prostitution or sex work; vandalism; arson; fraud.
MC1 – Illegal, Felony. The action is illegal. Examples: murder (premeditated or otherwise), theft or embezzlement; rape/sexual assault; robbery; producing, using, and/or selling of LC2 items (especially recreational drugs).
MC0 – Illegal, Capital Crime. The action is heinous and condemned by all sane societies. Examples: Genocide; wholesale serial murder; treason.
Control Rating and Malefaction Class
Malefaction Class interacts with Control Rating as follows:
MC = CR +1 or more:Performing the action has no legal consequences.
MC = CR: Performing the action likely has no legal consequences. If the GM needs a quick method of determining if something is illegal, roll 3d against 5 + CR. If something is an illegal, you can either be fined a small amount (1d ¥ 0.01 ¥ Average Starting Wealth) or be imprisoned for (CR ¥ 1d) weeks. House arrest may be an option at the GM’s discretion.
MC = CR – 1: Performing the action has minor to moderate legal consequences. Either be fined a modest amount (1d ¥ 0.1 ¥ Average Starting Wealth) or be imprisoned for (CR ¥ 1d) months. House arrest may be an option at the GM’s discretion for first-time offenders.
MC = CR – 2: Performing the action has moderate to major legal consequences. Either be fined a modest amount (1d ¥ Average Starting Wealth) or be imprisoned for (CR ¥ 1d) years.

MC = CR – 3 or worse:Performing the action has major to severe legal consequences. Either be fined a large amount (1d ¥ 1d ¥ Average Starting Wealth) or be imprisoned for (CR ¥ 1d-1) decades. Especially vicious crimes might result in death or life imprisonment.

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