Laws about death penalty and resurrection
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  1. #1

    Laws about death penalty and resurrection

    I wasn't sure whether to post this here on in "Plots and places" sections...

    Anyway, here's something happened in my game.

    We are in a city, in fantasy/low-steampunk setting, Dnd 3.5 (pathfinder)

    An npc guard was found guilty of treason and put to death.
    One of the players contested the laws, saying that the soldier didn't deserve death for what he had done (the soldier actually got tricked by a demon into disobeying orders), but the laws were the laws.

    The players asked if there were any laws against resurrection, to which i didn't really think about. The mayor said that techically there weren't any laws against that, since no one actually ever reached a level high enough to resurrect anyone. (Post-apocalyptic world)

    I resolved this because the soldier actually wanted to pay for what he had done, and so asked not to be resurrected.

    However, this made me think.
    In a world where magic exists, where people know about the possibility of resurrection since they've read it on some book, one would guess the laws would reflect the possibility of someone being raised from the dead after a death sentence.

    What would you think government laws would say in such a case? Would it be logically illegal to raise someone after he was put to death, or would good governmens for example allow this as a second chance?
    What if this transform death penalty into a 5000gp fine to pay the costs of resurrection?

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    I have to admit. I've NEVER thought about this. Completely new territory for me.

    Really, I think since resurrection is out of the reach of the common man in your campaign, you're fine saying resurrection is not covered by law - if you can do it (and someone is willing to do so), you're fine. But then, you could just as easily be punishable by death again. "It's not illegal for you to be raised here in Newtown... but it IS illegal for you to be alive here in Newtown."

    Now, in higher-magic campaigns, I would tihnk there'd be laws against the death penalty for higher-profile cases, just because of this. Instead, I would think the punishment would be something like "banishment to Carceri" or lifelong imprisonment in some sort of escape-proof magic box.

    However, there is definitely a cool adventure to be had in trying to get ahold of the body of someone who has been executed, so you can raise them.

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    I think one of the biggest holes in D&D storylines is clerical magic.
    In a world filled with Healing spells, cures and raise deads, why would there ever be plagues? Hospitals? Populations would soar as everyone would be raised from the dead. In the least, kings would never die young.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Madeiner View Post
    I wasn't sure whether to post this here on in "Plots and places" sections...

    Anyway, here's something happened in my game.

    We are in a city, in fantasy/low-steampunk setting, Dnd 3.5 (pathfinder)

    An npc guard was found guilty of treason and put to death.
    One of the players contested the laws, saying that the soldier didn't deserve death for what he had done (the soldier actually got tricked by a demon into disobeying orders), but the laws were the laws.

    The players asked if there were any laws against resurrection, to which i didn't really think about. The mayor said that techically there weren't any laws against that, since no one actually ever reached a level high enough to resurrect anyone. (Post-apocalyptic world)

    I resolved this because the soldier actually wanted to pay for what he had done, and so asked not to be resurrected.

    However, this made me think.
    In a world where magic exists, where people know about the possibility of resurrection since they've read it on some book, one would guess the laws would reflect the possibility of someone being raised from the dead after a death sentence.

    What would you think government laws would say in such a case? Would it be logically illegal to raise someone after he was put to death, or would good governmens for example allow this as a second chance?
    What if this transform death penalty into a 5000gp fine to pay the costs of resurrection?
    The government has a few possible responses.

    1) Since the ability to come back from the dead is generally quite rare, very expensive in societal terms, and the desire to come back makes the event even more rare, ignore the possibility and very rich well-connected folk have yet another possible advantage over common folk (go figure).

    2) When sentenced to death, the person becomes persona non grata in the society. If he were restored to life, the laws state he will be killed again. The best a convict can hope for is a resurrection and exile to an unfriendly nation / wilderness.

    3) The death penalty becomes rare as it is no longer a "final option" and actually has a higher potential to release a convict back into society in an uncontrolled manner.

    4) "Grade" death penalties. A simple murder reslts in death and the corpse returned within a day. Multiple capital convictions result in results in death and the corpse is retained for no less than a month and/or is transformed into a mindless undead for labour. If the crime is particularly egregious, the body will be destroyed to the point a True Resurrection would be necessary.

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    IMO it would depend on the society. Technically speaking if you executed a person for their crimes, and they're raised from the dead - they were still executed for their crimes. "Justice" has still be met, even though the perpetrator doesn't remain dead.

    More "good" socieities on the alignment scale would probably allow for a second chance. More "evil" ones would probably just destroy the body or do something else to prevent resurrection. More neutral socieities might just exile the person because they're still a convicted criminal and were supposed to stay dead.

  6. #6
    In a LARP that I played in, this issue came up (partly because PCs had been executed in game for murder). The conclusion we reached was that there were multiple possible grades of execution. For crimes like voluntary manslaughter (typically, killing someone with intent to do so but in the heat of passion), you might get a simple execution (or penalties short of execution, like losing a limb and fines). For something more like second degree murder, you would get an execution where Resurrection (a higher level spell) was necessary instead of a Raise Dead (a lower level spell). For egregious crimes, like first-degree murder, or a commoner killing a noble, or mass murder, or murder and then horrible necromancy, or whatever, it would be a sentence to execution "binding beyond death." That would involve some form of execution that makes resurrection difficult, plus a rule that raising anyone executed binding beyond death is itself punished by execution binding beyond death, plus outlawry in the sense that people are obligated to try to kill the person again, because they are legally supposed to be dead.

    The lesser forms of the death penalty were based in part on the idea that going to the afterlife and being judged could have a transformative effect on people, and that resurrection was often unavailable and would thus cost serious resources.

    The system worked pretty well, and felt at least plausible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gilthan3 View Post
    I think one of the biggest holes in D&D storylines is clerical magic.
    In a world filled with Healing spells, cures and raise deads, why would there ever be plagues? Hospitals? Populations would soar as everyone would be raised from the dead. In the least, kings would never die young.
    Huh, just like today's medical system. At least there are caveats such as people who die of "old age" can't be resurrected. I've always thought of magic as an analogue for modern technology, and magic-rich campaign settings could easily contain all the same comforts of our contemporary life. Of course, just like real life there are large discrepancies that exist between "magic" rich societies and "underprivileged" societies that lay elsewhere.

    "Taking care of people who should have died a long time ago." - Dr. Cox

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by gilthan3 View Post
    I think one of the biggest holes in D&D storylines is clerical magic.
    In a world filled with Healing spells, cures and raise deads, why would there ever be plagues?
    If a world filled with clerics, the god of plagues just might take that into account. Make the plague spread faster than can be cured.
    Hospitals?
    Gee I wonder where the word hospital came from?
    Populations would soar as everyone would be raised from the dead. In the least, kings would never die young.
    As long as you can pay for the raise dead, and the spirit is willing to return from paradise/be released by its tormentor.

    Except for lunatics like adventurers, virtually no one is going to choose to come back/ be allowed to come back. Of the few who would come back, few have the required funds.

    This isnt a problem if you think about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gilthan3 View Post
    In a world filled with Healing spells, cures and raise deads, why would there ever be plagues? Hospitals? Populations would soar as everyone would be raised from the dead. In the least, kings would never die young.
    Clerical magic exists, but that doesn't mean it is common. The world is not necessarily "filled with" these things - they can still be fairly rare and expensive, especially as the spell level goes up.

    How much access common folks have to such stuff is not determined by the rules, but instead by the setting.

  10. #10
    Hmmm... I'd say that a lot depends on the size of the community and how magic is looked upon in general. A remote hamlet is probably not going to have the laws developed to address this simply because there isn't the infrastructure to develop the law in the first place and because there't not going to be a lot of high level spellcasters there.

    Another thing to consider, high level spellcasters are very powerful. Does the community even have the resources to enforced its will upon people who bring back the executed? If that's the case, I can see laws enforcing punishments upon those who bring back the dead criminal depending upon the crimes of the criminal in life.

    Perhaps the presence of raise dead might enough to justify other punishments as ultimate punishments? Spells like Imprisonment (cast in a remote and obscure out of the way place), Trap the Soul, or other ways to Seal Evil in a Can suddenly become much more lucrative. Fantasy/adventure writers often get a lot of crap for why evil isn't destroyed instead of just imprisoned. Well, badabig-badaboom- you've just got your reason. If it's likely to come back to life, banish it to somewhere out of the way where nobody can get to it.

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