Main Page » Domain and Regency » Anatomy of a Law Holding

Sire, I am pleased to report that your sheriff has at last driven the bandits out of your realm's north eastern territory. Her victory lends a stability to the province already recognized by the peasants. Even now, settlers are beginning to construct homesteads and farm the land. Soon, you may wish to consider appointing a stronger authority in the region. As the population increases, you will want to ensure that the crofters of that outlying area continue to recognize the long arm of the law as your own.
- Druand Resurvont, legal adviser

Law holdings do not of themselves confer control of a province - just because a regent controls the law of a province does not mean he rules the land (or vice versa). A character who controls any or all of the law in a province may dictate and enforce the laws of the land, or he may bow to a higher power or be a rival power.

The law regent is not necessarily a mere law enforcement agent or a lackey. Likewise, law holdings do not necessarily constitute police forces or codes of conduct. Law holdings appear in diverse forms, and can be wielded in a variety of ways.

[top]The Influence of the Law Holding

As stated elsewhere, a law holding is any entity that affects a ruler's ability to control a province and the loyalty of his governmental services. The actual make-up of the law holding can vary widely, depending on its level of influence and relationship to the realm.

[top]Law (0) Holdings

A holding (0) is usually found in low-level provinces where law has hardly had a chance to form. In a province (1) to (3), such a holding reflects the beginning of law and order. In such cases, a law (0) indicates that a moderately powerful character, probably a regent who controls law holdings in neighboring provinces, has reached out to try extending order to a new territory. His representatives are probably a few sheriffs, perhaps henchmen or even hirelings. Their main job is to lay the groundwork for future improvement by making the area safe and ready for law.

In populous areas, law (0) holdings usually constitute an alternative or a challenge to law of another kind. Since there may be any number of 0-level holdings in a province (regardless of its level), a law (0) in a mid- to high-level province that also supports law holdings of higher levels usually reflects some very specific influence wielded by an individual or very small group. Perhaps the regent of the law (0) has control of a local lawyer, baliff, or a few thugs. He has the power to influence a very narrow sphere of control within a limited area and the nature of his influence is probably pretty specific. For example, such a regent might have a local lawyer 'in his pocket'. Any case that can be be manipulated by that particular lawyer will probably go the regent's way (maybe with a few bribes or arm-twists), but the regent can't affect any other public service or law-oriented activity.

DM tip: If a character controls a law (0) holding, he's right on the edge of disaster - or of creating a brand new power base. Left unchallenged, he will probably increase the holding level and order the province to meet his needs. Until he does so, however, you should severely limit his ability to make decrees or award grants based on the law (0) holding. Certainly, he can publish any sort of legal papers he wants, but the residents of the area probably won't honor these orders unless they wish to do so. The best use of a law (0) may be as a contact. Most contacts are described as either information, influence, or skill contacts. But law (0) holding is really all three of those, only barely able to affect the realm, but significant as an NPC. In the above example of a lawyer who is loyal to a regent, he would be knowledgable about the legal activity in the province, wield some personal influence in the province, and able to capably serve court documents in the province.

[top]Law (0) Example

A ruler controls a fairly wild province (1/7). Virtually all the inhabitants of the province are either dwelling as single families in isolation or live in a tiny village, but no law holdings order their lives (they make their own laws in a popular assembly). The province ruler creates a law (0) holding by sending his rangers to order the forest. The villagers don't care one way or another, so the regent acts unopposed.

However, the regent decides to award one of his henchmen with a grant of land - coincidentally, the village itself. Now, even though no other law exists in the province, the DM declares this action ineffective; in story terms, when the henchman rides in to take over the village, the villagers see his scrap of paper (the actual grant) and laugh him out of the province. Basically, the province ruler/law regent still didn't have enough authority to make his grant stick automatically. The DM rules that the regent must increase his law holding (presumably by sending in more rangers and, perhaps, some sheriffs or henchmen) if he wants to dictate his laws to the inhabitants of the province. So instead, the province ruler asks his rangers to act as information contacts and let him know who the key players are. Next month the ruler knows what families, individuals, and organzizations are in the village and where they stand on the issue of expanding the ruler's law. Armed with this information, the province ruler sends his rangers to act as influence contacts and meet with those families, individuals, and organizations most favorable to the ruler's aims. When the ruler is ready, he will bring some or all of these into his faction in the village by ruling his holding up to a Law (1).

[top]Law (1) to (3) Holdings

Holdings of levels 3 and below are called 'low level' for a very good reason; the regent who controls law holdings of this size has built only a foundation of law and order in his province and must still work toward increasing the holding level if he wants complete control.

[top]The Only Game in Town

When a low-level law holding exists alone in an equally low-level province, its presence means that the small population generally respects the authority of the regent. The higher the portion of control the regent has, the more authority the people give him - a law (1) in a province (3) isn't particularly influential, but a law (3) in a province (3) is. The law regent must also take into account the rest of the province.

On the other hand, what happens when a regent controls the only law holding in a high - level province, say a law (3) in a province (7/0)? In that case, virtually all of the province has been settled and is heavily populated, but the regent's law influences less than half the citizenry. The other half might be reflected by self-rule, a local, solitary Law (1), or lawlessness.

Self Rule is a case where the locals have become the legal authority. They decide legal issues themselves according to their own interpretations through their own officials. This is an easy kind of empty holding to aquire, because it only requires winning locals over to the idea that they should follow your lead more closely. When the province is friendly or helpful, the bonus to skill checks associated with domain actions will be important.

Local, Solitary Law (1) means that there is a single law holding unconnected to any other domain run by a local notable. This might be a priest of Haelyn or Avani, who would naturally be inclined to bring law to lawlessness, a local noble, or any other single official and their organization. Unlike self-rule, the ability to aquire this "empty" holding is mostly based on getting the regent of this local, solitary holding to swear fealty to you and your organization. A successful rule action would relfect the addition of this small holding to your organization.

Lawlessness means that there is a temporary period of anarchy in some part of the province. Anarchy is a temporary condition and will eventually be replaced by local rule or the rule of a local notable. But there are times and conditions where the absence of law prevails. When this is the case, the people are generally happy to see some powerful figure step in and protect them.

DM tip: Since no other regent controls the law in the province, the law regent faces only disorganized challenges to his rule. When much of the province remains wild, the DM may want to increase the chance of monsters, bandits, or other creatures causing difficulty in the law regent's area. When a significant part of a heavily-populated province remains uncontrolled by law, robber-barons, thieves guilds, and hostile organizations challenge the regent's rule with greater frequency.

[top]Competition for Law Regency

In order for two or more regents to control holdings of the same type in a single province, the province level must be (4) or greater (except in the case of 0-level holdings, which were discussed above). Where multiple law holdings exist, two or more regents compete for influence in a relatively populous area.

Often, at least one of the competing law holdings is considered illegal or even rebellious. In a large, heavily-populated province (8), for example, up to three regents may have law holdings. The province ruler may control none of these holdings, one of them, or all of them (directly or indirectly). Those he does not control may be considered illegal or rebellious, or could simply be parallel legal systems, depending on the situation.

To determine how much effect any one law regent has on the populace of the province, simply determine the percentage of control he has. Even the ruler of the province cannot influence legal matters (directly) unless he has a significant law holding as well. The higher the percentage of control any law regent has, the more likely people are to listen to him. Generally larger law holdings mean that more people obey your law as well as meaning that people follow your law more often. In both cases, the portion is a reflection of the fraction of rulership the law regent wields in the province.

DM tip: With two or more law regents trying to enforce authority in the province, things can get interesting. Play the regents off each other. Even if all the law regents consider themselves allies and act in accordance with each other all the time (extremely unlikely, even if they are PCs trying to get along), their lieutenants, henchmen, and hirelings - not to mention the general populace - likely will compete with each other and follow only one ruler. Each side may believe the other(s) to be less important and possibly illegal or treasonous. Use NPCs from the province, and
even from other realms, to stir up trouble.

The larger organizations get, the more diversity they contain. Keeping a small organization allied with another small organization is reasonably easy compared to keeping to large organizations cooperating smoothly with one another. Its more likely that a small group would be homogeneous and its generally true that small groups feel more isolated and eager for allies. The larger an organization gets the more it becomes work to keep the whole group working together, let alone cooperating with another organization which might include people working for very different ends.

The realm of Medoere and Ruornil's Celestial Spell are both fairly small, and would be easier to get working harmoniously than the realm of Avanil and the Western Imperial Temple. Even so there will still be people in the Celestial Spell who are concerned about the sources and seek to limit the growth of the realm, while there would be advocates in the state of Medoere for growth of the realm to increase the material power of the realm. The larger domains get, the more such problems crop up.

[top]Law (1) to (3) Example

In a province (9), three regents control the existing law. One, the province ruler, controls a law (1). The second, the province ruler?s ally, holds a law (3). The third regent, who does not respect the province ruler's authority, actively controls another law (3). This leaves two levels of the province uncontrolled by any law.

The province ruler publishes a decree stating that no citizen may be on the street after 10 p.m. However, since he has only a small law holding (probably an official constabulary or some sort of government offices tied to law holdings in other provinces), he has few police or constables in place to enforce the curfew. So, unless he brings in his army to enforce the decree by occupying the province, this new ordinance has only a marginal effect. Putting aside the question of how sensible or desirous a curfew is (and that along may be the most important issue), either a small portion of the populace (roughly one-ninth) obeys the decree, or a particular individual respects it only occasionally (perhaps one-ninth of the time). Regardless, the new law hardly cuts down on the number of people staying out at night. If the decree was obviously in the interest of the community, obedience might climb to half, while if it was clearly contrary to the desired of the community it might even be ignored by everyone, including the province ruler's own officials.

But the situation changes if the province ruler's ally supports the decree. (He does so by issuing his own decree to make his feelings known.) All the people who respect the second regent's authority follow the dictate of the province ruler. Now the new ordinance has nearly half who comply of compliance, because now four of nine law holdings support the decree.

Perhaps, however, the third law regent doesn't like the ordinance. Maybe it affects his allies' holdings, or maybe he's just ornery. He issues his own decree stating that people can stay out as long as they wish, and that his law enforcers will protect them. One-third of the province follows his lead or, individuals disobeying the first two regents a third of the time. Recall that the province still has two unused levels of potential law holdings, so some citizens will ignore the bickering regents altogether.

A fairly large number of people are inclined to obey the law regardless of its desirability. The more desirably a decree is, the more likely even our enemies will comply, if only because its a good idea in the first place, despite the fact that you urge compliance, and if a law or decree is obviouly undesirable, non-compliance will be common, even among your own followers.

[top]Level (4) Holdings and Higher

After a law regent begins to maintain law holdings of (4) or greater, he is into 'high-level' law management. In all but a very few cases, he probably controls a majority of the law in the province. He might control all of it, and could even control the province's entire potential for law.

[top]The Majority Leader

Whenever the regent of a law (4) or higher controls the majority of law in a province, his dictates should be given extra weight. It doesn't matter if he is a benevolent or tyrannical ruler; the people either respect or fear him enough to listen. Even if other law regents exist in the province, he has the majority and can back up his dictates.

Law (4) holdings don't just have sheriffs or constabulary under their control; they have the beginnings of a bureaucracy and a legal system. Laws become more intricately detailed, like a spider web, where each strand supports many others.
This does not mean the law regent must become some sort of tyrant - nor does it indicate incorruptible law and order. The regent's own alignment more directly affects the legal system under his thumb, since the law of the land all generates from his attitudes and tastes. Essentially, he extends his values and beliefs outward, affecting everyone in the province to some extent.

DM tip: Someone has to be the bad guy. When one regent stands out from the others, he usually gets the job. Every 'bad' or 'harsh' law gets blamed on the top man, even if he had nothing to do with it. While the other law regents might go along with his laws and decrees (though they are just as likely to team up against him), they should always be looking for ways to increase their influence at his expense or the expense of their other competitors. The highest-level regent will usually find himself distracted by matters of law while the others coast along, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

[top]A Battle for Dominance

When two or more law regents control similar strength holdings of level 4 or higher, clashes on legal and even moral grounds become more significant and pronounced. Again, even if the two regents work together in harmony, their subjects won't. Whenever one regent makes a decision or performs any action not immediately supported by the other regent(s), dissention will arise.

Of course, in many cases the regents start this dissention themselves. When two regents control high-level law holdings, they generally have pretty strong attitudes regarding how 'their' province should be policed and run.

DM tip: This situation usually arises only when one regent manages to out-maneuver another and 'catch up' with his level of holdings. In this case, competition is bred into the relationship. On the off-chance that the two have an amicable relationship, it will only enflame their supporters and sycophants. Each side will attempt to paint the other as the 'bad guy', unless the regents take action to keep this from happening. Even so, any occurrence that makes one regent look bad usually makes the other look good - and vice versa.

Consider the common situation of a state religion. Nearly all of the membership in both organizations may agree in principle that they should be allied, but officials in the state will naturally think that the state should be the leading member of the partnership, while priests in the temple will view the matter quite differently. Like any marriage, small differences will blow up into serious distractions to the otherwise harmonious cooperation one might expect. Little resentments, differences in style, and actual differences between their other allies, goals, or methods could be a cause of conflict that occupy the two domains' attention.

[top]The Only Game In Town (part 2)

When the regent of a law (4) holding (or higher) controls all the existing law in a province, he suddenly becomes incredibly effective. Even in the most developed province, a single regent determines what is lawful and what is not for over half the populace.

With great power, however, comes a great headache. Suddenly, the regent becomes responsible for everything legal within the realm. Every crime, every infraction, and every loophole in the law becomes his personal problem and, even though he has a bureaucracy to help him solve these difficulties, his visage is the one everyone thinks of when considering the face of law in the province.

The regent's decrees become much more powerful. While in reality a law (4) holding in a province (4/4) means the regent's legal power extends to only the half the province where the people dwell, his representation remains pronounced. Those who do not wish to subject themselves to the regent's law must actively avoid it.

DM tip: When a law regent becomes this powerful - alone - he makes enemies. The people of the province may consider the law regent a tyrant, even if he is actually a lawful good paladin with only the best of intentions. This feeling peaks every three months or so, when they have to pay taxes and tithes. Add to that decrees and grants regarding new laws or rewards for select individuals, and the possibility of rebellion seethes. When a regent has no competition, he often finds himself competing with himself. Make his people harder to satisfy and more willing to grumble against the laws of the land and he has something to worry about.

Generally the most common sign that a ruler is in trouble with his subjects is that his loyal followers are hated by the people. People are naturally loathe to hate the ruler, both because its a quick way to visit the gallows, but also because the ruler is bound to the land by his bloodline, insulating him somewhat from the vicitudes of the people's ingratitude. The lieutenants and cohorts of the ruler recieve no such protections, and are often blamed for whatever goes wrong. The people can riot against the lieutenant or denounce him while praising the ruler in the same breath. They often believe that the "bad minister" has decieved the good king, and that if he only knew, he would quickly correct the problem.

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