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Crime and the Law in Ptolus

Crime poses probably the greatest problem in Ptolus today. Crime has worsened over the last two decades, most noticeably in the last five years. Many blame the lawlessness encouraged by “delver culture.” Others blame the rising power of the city’s criminal organizations. The ranks of the Watch increase each year, but the Commissar believes it is better to suffer some controlled amount of crime than risk open warfare with such formidable forces as the Balacazar family and the Killraven Crime League—or worse yet, both at the same time.

The Law
Ptolus operates under Imperial law, which places the Commissar, as the Emperor’s representative,as the ultimate judge in all legal affairs. However,the Commissar almost never exercises this privilege, instead allowing the courts to dispense justice in his name. The Commissar’s position also makes him the ultimate authority in enforcing the law, which is something he does do, through his administration of the City Watch and his own personal military force known as the Commissar’s Men, not to mention the covert Imperial Eyes. In times of serious public disorder, such as a riot, or other emergency (a particularly serious fire raging through dozens of buildings, for example), the Commissar takes direct control of the city’s forces to deal with it. In fact, he often goes right to the site of the trouble and leads his people “in the field,” as it were, just like he did when he was a military general years ago.

Imperial Law
Imperial law is codified within the Vast Codex, a series of twenty-three volumes totaling more than twelve thousand pages—over ten thousand discrete laws, regulations, edicts, and codes. This complex system of rules covers specific cases rather than providing general guidelines. Imperial law affords greater rights and freedoms to Imperial citizens than to noncitizens, and greater rights and freedoms to Imperial officials (including priests of Lothian) than to Imperial citizens.

Ptolus Law
Thanks to a Commissar who understands the importance of tradition (and its value in keeping the people happy), Ptolus observes some modicum of traditional Palastani law. This means, for example, that members of the nobility are afforded the same privileges under the law as Imperial officials. So are members of the City Council. It also means that occasionally criminals are branded or even mutilated as part of their punishment, even though such sentences are not part of the Vast Codex.

The Process of Law in Ptolus
From crime to punishment, the process of law typically follows four steps.
1. A crime is observed, reported, or investigated.
2. The criminal is hunted down and apprehended. He is placed in a jail at one of the Watchhouses. If the appropriate punishment for his crime is a fine, he can pay it at any time to secure his release.
3. The criminal is brought to trial, typically within one to two weeks.
4. The criminal is fined, sent to the Prison, or executed.

Licenses and Permits
Imperial bureaucracy is extensive and difficult tonavigate. Licenses and permits are required for many activities, and obtaining them is usually an expensive and time-consuming process. Forms must be filed, and often bribes must be paid. Ptolus residents apply for licenses and permits at the Administration Building in Oldtown. Permits and licenses create revenue for the government and, more importantly, they register the applicant for appropriate taxes, which bring in even more revenue. They also allow the Imperial government to monitor activities they consider worth monitoring, such as firearm ownership and book printing.

Illegal Acts and Their Punishments

Crime  Typical Punishment*
Murder of an official  Death
Murder of a citizen  20 years imprisonment
Murder of a noncitizen  5 years imprisonment
Assault** upon an official  520 years imprisonment or death
Assault** upon a citizen  6 months 20 years imprisonment
Assault** upon a noncitizen  1 month 10 years imprisonment
Kidnapping an official  10 years imprisonment
Kidnapping a citizen  1 year imprisonment
Kidnapping a noncitizen  6 months imprisonment
Threatening the Holy Emperor/Prince of the Church Death
Theft/destruction of the property of an official (or of city property)***   Petty: 1 month imprisonment + 10 gp fine
Theft/destruction of the property of an official (or of city property)***   Lesser: 1 year imprisonment +200 gp fine
Theft/destruction of the property of an official (or of city property)***   Major: 10 years imprisonment + 500 gp fine
Theft/destruction of the property of a citizen***  Petty: 10 gp fine
Theft/destruction of the property of a citizen***  Lesser: 6 months imprisonment + 200 gp fine;
Theft/destruction of the property of a citizen***  Major: 5 years imprisonment + 500 gp fine
Theft/destruction of the property of a noncitizen***  Petty: 3 gp fine; 
Theft/destruction of the property of a noncitizen***  Lesser: 100 gp fine
Theft/destruction of the property of a noncitizen***  Major: 1 year imprisonment + 500 gp fine
Trafficking in illegal goods  1 year imprisonment + 500 gp fine
Trafficking in illegal goods (magic related) 5 years + 800 gp
Possession of illegal goods  250 gp fine
Coercion of another of an official 1 year imprisonment
Coercion of another of a citizen 500 gp fine
Coercion of another of a non-citizen 100 gp fine
Using magic to influence the mind of an official 1 year imprisonment + 500 gp fine
Using magic to influence the mind of a citizen 6 months imprisonment +100 gp fine
Using magic to influence the mind of a non-citizen 100 gp fine
Casting spells of mass destruction in the city††  1 year imprisonment + 200 gp fine
Intentionally using evil magic (evil descriptor)  1 year imprisonment + 500 gp fine
Creating an undead creature/bringing one into the city  10 years imprisonment
Grave-robbing  Death
Calling a demon  Death
Intentionally spreading plague  Death
Inappropriate disposal of waste/trash  101,000 gp fine (inappropriate disposal of a corpse: 250 gp fine)
Disturbing the peace  550 gp fine
Inciting a riot  1 year imprisonment
Arson (in addition to destruction of property charge)  5 years imprisonment
Falsifying Imperial documents Imperial documents:  1 year imprisonment + 200 gp fine
Falsifying other legal documants 200 gp fine
Perjury in court  6 months imprisonment
Defaming the character of an official  6 months imprisonment
Bribing an official  250 gp fine
Tax evasion  Imprisonment until taxes are paid (plus 10% interest)
Failure to produce a license/permit when required  100500 gp fine
Being a dark elf within city limits  Death
Harboring a dark elf within city limits  2 years imprisonment
Sacrilege against Lothian Blaspheming 50 gp fine
Sacrilege against Lothian - deflining a sacred site  1–20 years imprisonment
Worshipping an illegal god (e.g. Destor)  120 years imprisonment
Treason  Death

An “official” is someone with a role of leadership and/or enforcement in local or Imperial government. This honorific applies to those in positions of responsibility (managers, administrators, etc.) and to all members of the City Watch and clerics and paladins of Lothian. Anyone who works for the government isn’t necessarily an official; low-ranking employees (clerks, street sweepers) can only aspire to such a rank.
* Punishments are cumulative. Thus, murdering two citizens is punishable by 40 years imprisonment. Typically for humans, a sentence of more than 50 years imprisonment is altered to death.
** “Assault” covers a broad range of crimes, from a physical strike to rape to draining ability scores or blasting with magical fire. Thus, the range of punishments is broad as well. Typically, assault implies the intent to maim or kill. Barroom brawlers, for example, are usually charged with disturbing the peace, not assault.
*** Petty = property worth less than 1 gp; Lesser = property worth 1–100 gp; Major = property worth 101 gp or more.
† Smuggling otherwise legal goods into the city to avoid the tariff is considered trafficking in illegal goods.
†† Spells of mass destruction include fireball, lightning bolt, and similar magic that threatens life and property. Spellcasters can obtain special permits for limited use of such spells for specific sanctioned purposes.
‡ This extremely broad category can include unlicensed firearm use, unlicensed prostitution, building without a permit, and so on.