RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 93: Cops and Lawyers 11 September 2016

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's police and legal systems.

Mass Combat in the City (David L. Pulver) extends the Mass Combat system by adding urban combatants - American-style militarised police units are here, and so are rioting mobs, bike gangs, implausibly cinematic terrorists, and so on. (It's a small shame not to have technicals, trucks armed with improvised weapon mounts, included too.) Pulver, who usually knows his stuff, unfortunately includes the nonsensical term "semi-automatic assault weapons" in one of his descriptions. This is a set of units for a city at war, not for anything I'd normally recognise as police work; rather than an extension to a police campaign, I see this as something to use when practically any urban campaign has gone really horribly wrong.

Above the Law (Christopher R. Rice) tries to join superheroic powers to an actual functioning legal system. I regard this as bold but essentially pointless (the source material doesn't generally represent a functioning legal system, which is why you can have superheroes in the first place), but it's a workmanlike job, with accrued Misconduct Points gradually making the reactions of law enforcers more negative until arrest is inevitable. The main body of the article gives guidelines for rating powers in terms of GURPS Legality Class, based on how much damage they do (most obviously) but also touching on concealment, transmutation, extreme defences, shape-shifting, and so on. Designer's notes here.

Sultans, Shurta, and the Courts (Jon Black) is the sort of article I'd usually expect Matt Riggsby to write, an introduction to the legal systems of the classical Islamic world (632 to 1800 or so). There are three separate approaches here: the religious sharia, the low-level secular shurta, and the high-level secular maẓālim, with details on jurisdictions, how proceedings are initiated, what evidence is acceptable, and how a verdict is determined. There are notes on the philosophical underpinnings of sharia to enable the player to get a handle on the sort of decision it reaches without spending years becoming an expert in it, and on the types of judge and official to be found in each system. The article concludes with several adventure seeds. I may well use this as the ancestral basis for the laws of a much-secularised but nominally-Islamic state in one of my current games.

Eidetic Memory: Marine Protector and Dolphin (David L. Pulver) gives descriptions and statistics for a US Coast Guard patrol boat (crew of ten) and helicopter. No illustrations, which is a shame; let's fix that by linking here and here. This is obviously very specific to the USCG, which by some measures is among the world's larger navies, but the mission descriptions and adventure seeds may be useful elsewhere.

Mega-Max! (J. Edward Tremlett) describes American-style prisons for supervillains. The company running the prisons is clearly dodgy in the extreme, and treatment or rehabilitation are of course not even considered as possibilities; I suppose it makes for good adventures, but it's all a bit grim for my taste.

Judicium Dei (Nathan M.M. Meluvor) examines trial in the sight of God, by combat or by ordeal, and how they can be implemented in game mechanics both in mundane terms and in the case that there actually is regular divine intervention in the setting. This is on my rereading list for next time I run a fantasy game.

Random Thought Table: When the Bad Guy Threatens to Wiggle off the Hook (Steven Marsh) looks at how to deal with the scenario in which a foe, already caught, does something clever at trial and threatens to get away with it. The key point is to make the positive outcome genuinely positive, getting the villain punished and achieving something else, rather than just setting things back to where they were when the heroes win options include a more complex scheme, involving other people, behind the one that's already been found out, or legal problems caused to the heroes that make them have to re-evaluate the way they work.

There's little of direct and immediate use to me here (and I'm generally not a superhero gamer), but several articles that I'll refer back to when relevant situations seem likely to arise. This is one of the reasons why I like GURPS: it has room for talk about things like legal systems, rather than just saying "you shoot the bad guys". Pyramid 94 is available from Warehouse 23.

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