Laws and Loopholes



  • This is not prompted by any recent activity / player. This is something many players have discussed with me over the years; "Why are there loopholes in the lawbook? Why can't we punish people whose guilt is obvious?"

    What's generally understood by the playerbase is that this is for OOC reasons, to give criminals breathing room. This is partially true, but it might surprise you to know this is how laws work even in RL.

    This was posted by me in the DM forums a long time ago, I think it's a beneficial read to all law characters now and in the future. Feel free to discuss.

    Disclaimer : I'm no lawyer, I won't respond to challenges to this post's content by any players with real legal expertise; Assume you're right, because I can't really debate on the subject. I have a basic understanding of jurisprudence because my father was a lawyer, but that's the extent of it.

    @Polaris:

    LG Laws will always have loopholes. It's because of statistics.

    There are two basic types of error in hypothesis testing. In law, they will be transliterated from Type I (Guilty but proven innocent or in statistics, a false positive) and Type II (Innocent but proven guilty or in statistics, a false negative). These two errors are inversely proportional (IE when one decreases, the other will always increase).

    I won't discuss hypothesis testing here, but if you're interested, it's about rejecting or not rejecting the null hypothesis (person is innocent). Note I don't say accept; It's always "not reject", because not rejecting something isn't the same as accepting something, which is how law works. You don't need to prove innocence, you just need to establish that guilt is doubtful or as it's called, "reasonable doubt" in Anglo Saxon Jurisprudence. This is for Type II. For Type I, the situation would be reversed.

    Most systems of law around the world are designed to reduce Type II as much as possible. IE, better a guilty person walk free than an innocent is punished. Type I may or may not be used anywhere, these days I'm not sure. Type I basically follows the principle "Guilty until proven innocent" or "Better an innocent suffer than allow the guilty to escape punishment".

    Cormyr, as an LG nation, will always choose to minimize Type II, and therefore, will have loopholes because the system is designed to protect the innocent over punishing the guilty. Zhentil Keep for example, would have the exact opposite. In other words, proof of guilt is the burden of the prosecution (while for type I, it'd be reversed; Proof of innocence would be the burden of the defense) and reasonable doubt is sufficient to warrant acquittal. Of course, many people will complain about criminals getting off on technicalities (even as they do in RL) but they don't realize the system allows that, even considers it acceptable because there's no middle ground. You have to favor Type I or Type II.

    Alignment wise, as you can imagine, LG will strive to minimize Type II, LE will strive to minimize Type I, and LN will just do what the book says regardless of which approach is followed by the judiciary. Of course, individual judges may differ; LE judges may seek to minimize Type I as much as they can within the framework of a minimized Type II system of laws.

    I suggest you explain that Cormyr is not led by a zealot or a tyrant, and draconian laws that could put innocents in danger of false imprisonment or execution will never be tolerated in Cormyr. An LE kingdom would actually have less crime than an LG one, precisely because they would prefer to punish and take innocent suffering as collateral damage. Mathematically, far fewer guilty people would escape punishment in LE than LG system of law. There's a reason that the LE or Type I system is often attractive to people (even good, law abiding people, perhaps especially them), though those who are caught mistakenly and escape due to LG systems will never again question that LG is the way to go, where laws are concerned.

    I'd also recommend posting this for general viewing, as most people are unfamiliar with law and statistics and it might be useful to understand why Cormyr takes such a lenient view on the fact that sometimes its laws can be exploited; It's very much by design, and by very GOOD design.



  • Thanks, this one is an interesting read.
    Not that it contained anything totally new to me, but summed it up nice so I can think in these terms now.
    It also helped improve my english in a way that I can perhaps even use IG! 😉



  • The only issue is, DM's and players alike IG tend to want 'evidence' with big crimes. And in most players and DM's minds, evidence is used as a modern term.

    In an era/time/world like Cormyr/FR, a noble in good standing swearing to the gods something is true - makes it true in the eyes of the law. At that point, it's the accused parties responsibility to show why a Lord of Cormyr would risk their title and more to frame them.

    I have more to write on this, but I'm to distracted to expand.

    Edit add on: Also, while Arabel has basic Cormyrian laws in it's book, it has it's own much larger and more comprehensive book. And Arabel as a city for the past several years, IMO is very much a LN city, not LG.



  • @RighteousJustice:

    The only issue is, DM's and players alike IG tend to want 'evidence' with big crimes. And in most players and DM's minds, evidence is used as a modern term.

    In an era/time/world like Cormyr/FR, a noble in good standing swearing to the gods something is true - makes it true in the eyes of the law. At that point, it's the accused parties responsibility to show why a Lord of Cormyr would risk their title and more to frame them.

    This could not be more true actually and is severely under represented.



  • Its entirely possible to eliminate all criminals before they become a problem. We could start targeting them the moment we notice they might be up to no good, and steadily eliminate them before they get high level to be a problem. But where's the fun in that? As PCs, we would be more efficient, but as Players, we turn a blind eye and occasionally fudge things so criminals can get away with it.

    There is no such thing as evidence in CoA. There only Witness Statements and DM handouts. You talk to as many people as you can and piece together their statements into a cohesive report, then file it, make conclusions, figure out what the charges are, then head out to arrest, screw up the arrest (this is a required step), put in another report, post a sending that someone is a fugitive from the law, then ask for a bounty.



  • @Thune:

    Its entirely possible to eliminate all criminals before they become a problem. We could start targeting them the moment we notice they might be up to no good, and steadily eliminate them before they get high level to be a problem.

    Why would we ever do that? Who suggested that?

    @Thune:

    There is no such thing as evidence in CoA. There only Witness Statements and DM handouts.

    Tell that to the NPC's who demand evidence.


Log in to reply