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Blood Debt

Blood Debt

Postby Marras » Mon Sep 26, 2016 3:41 am

Hi

Couple of years ago my party avenged one PC's sister's violation by killing two men. One of them was a nephew of a noble. In addition to the killings PCs stole the men's swords and the nobles sword was a family heirloom. Funnily enough PCs decided to throw both swords to the middle of a river.

Now, the noble demands that the (nominal) ruler of the area sentences PCs to pay a blood debt for his killed relative and the return of this stolen heirloom (he doesn't know it lies at the bottom of a river).

A bit of background of the setting. The noble believes in old patriarchal ways where women are more or less property (and is willing to pay a small fine for the deed if necessary). On the other hand the foreign ruler (who is now practically without his own army and thus in a very precarious position) hails from a religion that is extremely egalitarian where violation of women (or men) is a crime. To make things more complicated the relative of that noble did not himself do anything but tried to prevent PCs from interfering on the deed and died doing so.

I am planning to handle it just by having players do their speeches and make Influence skill rolls to see what the verdict will be but one possibility is that PCs have to pay the blood debt (and try to return the sword). So, do you have any suggestions on how large that blood debt should be?
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Dan True » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:17 am

I seem to recall Mythic Britain has some guidelines governing this.

Killing the nephew of a noble is a grave crime and the blood debt will probably be very large. Large enough to ruin anyone but other very wealthy nobles. It will likely not be cash, but instead property, rights or very long leases that he can exploit instead. The actual size depends on the rank of the nobles:

A knight: probably a cash payment. Something like 5-10 years wages for the characters' social class.
A baron: Secession of a village with beehives or other industry, a mill or a few agricultural villlages. Maybe a large cash payment... The yearly or biyearly income of the baron might be suitable.
A count: Leases to a barony or two for... 5-20 years depending on how dear he held the nephew.
A duke Secession or long leases on one or two towns, castles or taxable land - like a forest with good timber or hunting grounds.

Most likely the characters will not be able to pay it, and will either be socially ruined (read: outcasts/lawless) or if they have sufficient allies, the whole case can escalate into a border conflict of sorts. The noble may choose to raid and pillage lands related to the characters, to extract the blood debt from the peasants directly.

I would try to keep the cases distinct to allow for flexibility in reaction and storytelling. Let him demand his blood debt, and then see the characters scuttle around to find the cash or property and negotiate how everything is done. Then, when they hand over the cash or property, THEN let the noble bring up the subject of the family heirloom which is just as precious to him as his son was.

The characters may use the fact that several years have passed for their own gains. If he truly loved his nephew, why did he wait several years to act? And more importantly, what does the father of the dead nephew think of the noble not acting sooner? Are the cracks in their family the characters may exploit?

Regardless, it seems like the noble is just gambling for a casus belly anyway.

- Dan
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Marras » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:47 am

The time between the killings and call for justice is actually couple of months but two years in RL :) Sorry for not being more clear.

The noble is a Jarl. He practically rules over northern territory of the setting (one large settlement and some villages). He is from an old ruling family that lost some of it's prestige when a non-Roman empire conquered the lands. Now non-Roman legions have left the area but a local governor decided to stay. So, that former governor still has nominal power over the area.

One of the PCs is a son of a wealthy merchant (whose sister and heir to the venture was violated). The other is basically nobody in family status.

So, practically this blood debt would ruin both characters as well as fortunes of the merchant house. Nice :) Even if I would settle for baron level. My plans is that governor will sentence the blood debt to be paid only in the worst outcome (both players fail their influence rolls). Otherwise the ruling goes in favor of PCs (as the governor has dealings with that merchant class character's father). Obviously this will cause these raids (thanks!) but I will also use those clocks mentioned in another thread that I loaned from Apocalypse World. It is a 4 segment clock with 1st segment already filled. If the ruling goes in favor of PCs, the second segment gets filled. When all 4 segments gets filled, there will be an open rebellion as local strong men grab for power. That's the reason PCs even have to roll (besides, it's fun).

Thanks for input! More is welcome!
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby umbraldragon » Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:38 pm

As a side note - I like the fact that you're bringing elements from other games into yours. I do the same thing, much the chagrin of experienced players sometimes, but hey, if it works then why not? I've used the clock method from games PbtA too, also I've developed a mini six campaign setting using many of the Mythras elements for creating characters. My students are running a one shot with that right now and plan on running M-Space in a few weeks. :ugeek:
Certain mystes aver that the real world has been constructed by the human mind, since our ways are governed by the artificial categories into which we place essentially undifferentiated things, things weaker than our words for them.
- Gene Wolfe
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Marras » Tue Sep 27, 2016 4:11 am

Thanks!

I try to keep an eye out for cool stuff to import for my games. Clocks are one of the easiest things to import regardless of the system used. I already used it but using just a normal d6 to track the scene where PCs were searching for the previously mentioned sister. In practice they found here just when the last segment got marked (or in that case the dice showed 6). That kind of methods really show how the clock is ticking.
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Marras » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:23 am

I have been thinking about possible alternate outcomes if the governor decides to rule in favor of the Jarl.

As PCs are just ex-auxiliaries and just recently returned to home they have no way to have enough resources to pay off the blood debt. Only way would be for the merchant father to give his business to the Jarl. As the PC is not the one to inherit the business he won't do it thus leaving his son on his own. This should give an interesting angle to what PCs think about that NPC. So, what are other alternatives?

* Execution? Sounds a bit boring way to end the game.

* Imprisonment? It would be one long sentence and I think prison sentences would be practically non-existent at that sort of society.

* Hand over the PCs to the Jarl to do as he sees fit (use as slaves or whatever). This could work, especially as he and his retinue would have to transport the PCs to his own fief thus giving an opportunity for them to escape.

* Trial by combat? I don't if that is a possibility after the governor has already passed his own judgement.

Any other possibilities?
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Dan True » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:37 am

Marras wrote:* Execution? Sounds a bit boring way to end the game.


This could work if you have a Deux ex Machina to save them. Perhaps the Jarl has already started raiding, and war is imminent - their trial is just a show and they are secretly saved by the governor, and some criminals executed instead. Or maybe a splinter group of the governor's forces save them?

Marras wrote:* Imprisonment? It would be one long sentence and I think prison sentences would be practically non-existent at that sort of society.


Imprisonment existed, but mostly for nobles that were to be ransomed. For others, it was mostly just a drawn-out execution. Unless you want to humiliate the prisoner and perhaps drive them mad from the conditions.

Marras wrote:* Hand over the PCs to the Jarl to do as he sees fit (use as slaves or whatever). This could work, especially as he and his retinue would have to transport the PCs to his own fief thus giving an opportunity for them to escape.


This can allow the characters to escape without a Deus ex Machina.

Marras wrote:* Trial by combat? I don't if that is a possibility after the governor has already passed his own judgement.


It could happen - the governor might decide the evidence is inconclusive and require a fight instead. But I find it a bit of a predictable way of handling it - the other options offer more possibilities for drama.

- Dan
Last edited by Dan True on Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Matt_E » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:18 am

Having the characters be slaves to the governor--or the jarl--does not require deus ex machina for further adventures, I claim.

Their master could just use them as tools, sending them on (really dangerous) missions, probably without pay. :-) There would have to be a (magical?) means to ensure that they did not just bolt once out of sight. (Maybe this is too much like "Suicide Squad", but here we are.) Instead of magic, the master could just have extra leverage over them, like beloved family also as prisoners. The threat is the key. Tie it to Passions for natural, integrated buy-in.

If the PCs are clever enough to invent a way to remove that leverage (presumably without their master knowing), then they have earned the chance to escape. I think this would be much more satisfactory than deus ex machina.

OTOH, a simple deus ex machina would be the sudden demise of their master--perhaps at the hands of someone even worse. There are more forces at work in the world than you can reckon... A nicer master might free them, or forget about them, or not know of them at all (if they were secret agents). An even worse master might induce them to redouble their efforts to find a way out... In any case, the inevitable chaos from a sudden change at the top would provide a handy opportunity to escape.

Another classic take: Have the master delegate the minding of the slaves to a (far) less competent underling, someone foolish, sloppy, corruptible, or naive. It's so hard to find good help these days...
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Marras » Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:27 pm

I think the governor gives PCs to the Jarl to do as he pleases as a final result, should both players fail their rolls.

If players (or at least one of them) makes the roll, the governor rules that blood debt is not recognized and killings were done to defend the woman. This will cost the governor in stability of the region but that's fun, too (in a game). With only one successful roll PCs will be pressed to the governor's service to collect taxes later (at the next adventure) with practically no pay. If they both succeed they will be actually hired for the job.

This way it matters how many successful rolls were made, if any. Actually both succeeding seems to be the least interesting outcome :)
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Re: Blood Debt

Postby Matt_E » Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:52 pm

Marras wrote:I think the governor gives PCs to the Jarl to do as he pleases as a final result, should both players fail their rolls.

If players (or at least one of them) makes the roll, the governor rules that blood debt is not recognized and killings were done to defend the woman. This will cost the governor in stability of the region but that's fun, too (in a game). With only one successful roll PCs will be pressed to the governor's service to collect taxes later (at the next adventure) with practically no pay. If they both succeed they will be actually hired for the job.

This way it matters how many successful rolls were made, if any. Actually both succeeding seems to be the least interesting outcome :)



Structure that as Social Conflict, i.e. use the Task mechanics? One of the best features of Mythras, possibly underrecognized as such
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