Vornheiming Middenheim Part IX: Grafsmund-Nordgarten and the Law

[UPDATE 1/6/21: I no longer support spending money on products that benefit Zak S, or giving him positive attention and connection. The short version is that I find credible claims that he has engaged in unacceptable behavior and not made up for it. For more detail, see here for the core of the accusations. To get Zak's side of things, he maintains this separate blog from his main one to post updates on the legal status of these complaints. 
Please consider these claims and make your own decision on their validity, and the implications thereof, before either supporting or shunning Zak.]

Okay, so I'm trying to hammer out the district write-ups and not drag this thing out too much past the original target of a few days ago. I'm afraid that the "Locations" entries are getting a little too much into "stuff to look up" territory. Right now I figure I will leave them in there to fulfill the secondary goal of making this a useful reference for running the city "as intended", though I do take some liberties with the encounters and rumors as I present them.

I'm also noodling around with a further addition to the contacts system presented earlier. It might be complexity for the sake of cute mechanics, though. Basically, I really like that contacts in different districts get you different information. I've started trying to think how to have "juicier" rumors be more accessible from "better" contacts. Something like a contact rank that modifies their likelihood to know what you're asking if you're in the right district, or ordering the rumors so that ones that only some people would be privy to are higher numbers, and you add the rank when you roll on the rumor table.

But I think that that goes against the main spirit of what I'm trying to do here. For one, keeping secrets based more on dice rolls than on player ingenuity isn't very cool, it's better to supply information that leads to interesting situations than it is to try to create lame mysteries and reveals. Secondly, I've intentionally been playing fast and loose with what I put in the rumors and presenting them all with the same lack of confirmation of veracity, whether it's "officially true" or not. I think that ordering the rumors would be counter to that, and I really like the efficiency of presenting interesting and/or weird stuff as potentially but unreliably true. So, at this point, it looks like I've talked myself out of that new contacts idea for now, but maybe consider it shelved for a specifically conspiracy/detectivey game.

I have also included a quick system for resolving trials. The original book has a pretty involved subsystem chock full of modifiers and specific charges and severity ratings and mitigating factors and so forth. I liked the concept of an "off-screen" way to handle trials, but I wanted to streamline it some. So I took out most of the specific modifiers, gave some guidelines on applying your own, and converted it to a 3d6 system for some sweet, sweet bell curve action. Also, I have an irrational distaste for the eminently reasonable percentile system. The system is weighted more towards lots of bribery and heavy penalties to encourage player action in the form of bribes and breakout attempts. If you're more looking for a simple "you're fined for pickpocketing" result, you should probably just make that call and move on. If you want high-participation trials, I recommend Vornheim.

4. Grafsmund-Nordgarten
  • Hardly anyone travels the well-cobbled streets running between large houses set in their own grounds
  • The watch discourages any sort of street performers or hawkers and quickly  sends them on their way so as not to disturb their betters
  • Other than the odd luxurious carriage, the only business on the streets is servants and flunkies running errands or delivering messages
  • Young rakes and dandies stroll arrogantly to the various high class hostelries in the neighborhood
  • Frequent watch patrols keep the streets relatively calm and safe
  • The Prospect
    • Superbly luxurious hostelry, one of the finest in the city
    • A favorite starting point for young blades out for a night on the town
    • Owned by Rudolf and Sigrid Buffler, genteel, respectable, and haughty in the way that only the top servants of the very rich can be
  • The Graf’s Repose
    • Another luxurious hostelry, but quieter than The Prospect
    • Run by Rolf and Ulrike Steinmeyer, an obsequious couple who like nothing more than to bow and scrape to nobility
    • The burly, mute doorman Boris doesn’t admit “troublemakers” in order to maintain the quiet atmosphere
  • The Harvest Goose
    • The finest restaurant in Middenheim, known for its Elven cook Fanamis Shassaran
    • Its namesake is its specialty dish, a succulently roasted goose stuffed with special herbs and fruits
    • The fine menu is rivaled only by the extensive and exorbitantly priced wine cellar
No random encounters in the day. 1 in 6 chance per hour at night
  • A bored watch patrol looking for an excuse to mix it up with some rich folks
  • Some bored rich folks confident they can treat poor folks however they like
  • A group of drunk young blades. Roll 1d4: 1 - Angry drunks 2 - Melancholy drunks 3 - Stumbling, incoherent drunks 4 - Actually wounded from being on the wrong end of a duel
  • A nervous looking servant hurrying somewhere with a heavy and awkward package
  • A lone nobleman, stumblingly drunk asks for assistance getting home and waves a purse full of coin around rather obviously
  • Was that a man on the roof? There he goes!

The owners of the Prospect pump their guests for information which they use to perform audacious heists
The proprietor of the Harvest Goose came to the city 40-some years ago with a mule-train of gold with no explanation of its origin, and still has barrels of the stuff hidden in the wine cellar
Important people, even the Graf and the heads of various commissions dine at the Harvest Goose regularlly
A particular wealthy merchant has become smitten with a pretty young thing and spends very little time at home
Some of the older houses’ cellars are actually old sections of Dwarven tunnels with sealed up connections to the rest of the underground structure
A particular noble with too much time and too much money has been hosting “authentic Chaos rituals” for exclusive guests
Just as only the richest people live in Grafsmund and Nordgarten, so only the finest thieves and burglars ply their trade here, and they jealously guard their turf against common thugs and sneak thieves
Some entrepreneurs are acting as guides for groups of rich young rakes looking for more “authentic” night time experiences.  Only some of them are working with gangs of footpads
Some of the watch patrols are well paid to teach any undesirables found in the district a lesson they won’t forget about where they’re not wanted
There’s been a number of disreputable looking fellows going in and out of one of the homes nearest the Morrspark Cemetary, and the owner has not been seen for weeks.
A mysterious count has recently purchased a home in the district, but he conducts all of his business through a local agent
Some of the emperor-appointed nobles have been keeping recent pro-Ulric vandalism of their homes under wraps for fear of causing further trouble

The Law

Below is a process for handling the trial of a character arrested or otherwise suspected of a crime.  The emphasis is on simplicity and ease of use, but feel free to add in modifiers for other factors, such as the social class of perpetrator and victim, hiring a lawyer, or others. It is recommended that whether characters are caught and arrested, and by whom, be handled through the normal course of play, and then bring these rules into play once they are held.
  1. Court
    1. Civil: “normal” crimes. Double effectiveness of bribes, double severity if lower class
    2. Religious: specifically religious crimes, crimes against members of churches. Double severity rating of crimes involving heresy, +3 for devout followers of Ulric
    3. Military: crimes committed by or against those in the military. +3 to all rolls, but punishment is more likely physical or forced labor
  2. Severity of the Accused Crime
    1. Misdemeanor (0): things like stealing petty amounts, fighting, insubordination, et cetera
    2. Felony (-3): serious “normal” crimes like murder, arson, rape, or desertion
    3. Heresy (-6): Fundamentally going against the society, mostly religious. Things like worshipping chaos gods, practicing necromancy, or harboring mutants
  3. Time Rotting in a Cell before Trial
    1. 2d6 - severity - (10 x gold spent on bribes) weeks
    2. Gold must be spent before roll
    3. Minimum of 1 night held
  4. Trial and Sentencing
    1. Roll 3d6 - severity + (1 per 1000 Gold spent on bribes) +/- Court Modifiers
      • 3 or Less: Absolutely Atrocious! Death through horrible means, possible banishment, some very serious and very permanent penalty
      • 4-5: Guilty! Sold into slavery, mutilated, or other serious permament penalty
      • 6-8: Guilty! Pay a hefty fine, spend some time as a pit fighter, temporary slavery, or other serious penalty
      • 9-12: Guilty. Pay a fine, spend some time in the stocks, do some minor labor, or other relatively light penalty
      • 13-15: Not Guilty. You are free to go, but you have a record
      • 16-17: Not Guilty! You are free to go, and the charges are expunged from all public record
      • 18 or higher: Apologies! The plaintiff will pay a penalty of 1,000 gold per level of severity to the accused
  5. Time to Sentence
    1. If Guilty, sentence will be carried out in 1d6 days

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