²1987 Steve Marsh

P.O.Box 2552

Wichita Falls, TX 76307

The following excerpts my letter to Bob Butler, including the terse version of my meta-system for generating legal systems.

Premise 1: Law is legislated Morality. (Law is the codified version of "what's right" from the point of view of those with power).

Premise 2: Law is a set of rules. (Just like boxing or any other regulated activity has rules, so does general society).

Premise 3: Law applies to:

a) avoid conflicts

(cf right of way laws or

the law of which lane you

drive in).

b) resolve conflicts

(cf contract law)

Premise 4: Law is affected by history.

To determine the legal system of a people you need to know the values the people who control the society have (the "true" morals of the society)(law is legislated morality); the society's approach to rules (formal rules, informal rules, fixed rules, etc.); and the conflicts that drive the system.

For example, suppose a system where the ruling caste derives its power from land ownership and where the people rely on the past to guide the present. You've got the English feudal law (what became our common law). The Americans wanted protection from law decided by "despots," and did not want a nobility to evolve. Note that we exalt law over action (the constitution over Oliver North) and fight restraints on land (the fee tail is illegal in the United States).

Its fun to look at laws to see the conflict that a law resolves and what values it embodies (my essay on superpowers & the law addresses issues from that perspective).

From that essay and reading my earlier letters, the aspiring GM should be able to construct any desired legal system or solution to a legal problem.

Now, for a specific answer:

On superheros, testifying and the right to confront and cross-examine.

Traditionally the right to confront and cross-examine included a prohibition against masks but did not necessarily require revelation of one's employment (except as it was relevant testimony). To see the limits, look at the federal witness relocation program where the government hides witnesses after they testify.

True this still causes problems for heros with secret identities -- but only if they testify.

They can still give tips to the police. All the police need is some identifier for the tipster and a history of previously reliable information.

E.G. This is informer A-3. I'm calling again. I was right about the murder on Ninth street wasn't I? Well, right now you can see two guys running a counterfeiting press inside the warehouse on Fifth and Pacific.

The police can use that to get a warrant and go look.

And Superman can testify -- even if he isn't "human." As long as his testimony is more probative than prejudicial.


Fantasy Champions got its blood shed from all of the killing attacks. I put a small knife at 1d6, a sword at 2d6, etc. With a bit of strength, a sword does 4d6 killing. That is enough to leave quite a bit of blood on the floor.

Generally, the Champions killing attack is under used for the efficiency against targets in general. Buy it with a +2 to dice roll modifier (2/3rds of your rolls get in stun multiples that would topple Iron Man).

I'll admit that I did not prefab a rigid magic system, but I did suggest several (with examples) that would allow for more spells than the current rules do.

And I recall your suggesting some more. I think that Fantasy Hero suffers from its choice of a) selecting a single package for the players and b) its choice of package. In meta-systems, I really dislike forced choices.

I'd like them to take the approach I suggested (of having lots of different packages). Heck, you can simulate D&D (each spell comes with the limit of one charge), RQ, etc.


As soon as I get things untangled (I'm installing a hard disk and some software) and get some spare time (Win is teaching me how to wind surf), I will re-write the letter into an article. I need to integrate the letter, post scripts, etc. into one item anyway.

Of course what I really want to do is to get a little more feedback on legal questions that arise in the course of games. Many that do are not ones that I think of (such as the problem of testifying -- it never occurred to me that heros would testify. I don't see police testifying that often. Victims and bystanders testify).

Or the recent question about the prosecution appealing a verdict of "not guilty" -- to me that is like someone questioning "when is it acceptable to participate in the forcible rape of one's own mother." It is so unthinkable that I would never have thought to address the question.

P.S. If you have to get a Chaosium product, I'd get Call of Cthulu and Dreamlands or just the Dreamlands supplement. If you've ever wanted to game in Lovecraft's dreamworld . . . and the scenarios in Dreamlands are very smoothly done.

It is good enough that I am finally going to re-write my Mistworld rules so that I can also use it as a dream world. Its a limited audience idea (not the stuff for a commercial success) so I plan to do about 20 - 30 copies and give them away when (if ever) I finish.


Economics in FRPGs. The easiest economics to construct are unstable ones. For example, if your government has just been toppled, a frontier has just opened, gold has just been found, war has just started (or ended) it is likely that the short term prices, availability of goods, jobs, opportunity, etc. will not be stable or appropriate now. You can blame it all on the "previous unstable situation" that resulted in the current mess...

Next, you can pick a model. Golden age SF used the era of tramp steamers for its model. The ports were all the same distance apart, space ships cost the same, crews required the same training and were as replaceable, etc.

Look for an historical period that fits your society and copy the relative prices and economic structure into your campaign. That's what C&S does. The detailed RQ III economics in the many culture packs model. Its obvious in Vikings but it applies to everything.

And don't worry about "holes" or unstable situations. Our society has them. I can list several examples (using hindsight). The biggest is subdividing farm land into housing developments. I've read books printed in the '50s that recommended that as a way to wealth. I've met a fair number of people who worked their way from nothing to riches doing it. After 30-40 years, the hole in our system is closing up (at least in some areas -- the Texas bank failures are mostly the result of developers capturing a bank and financing subdivision projects in an economy that went stagnant).

Another hole is the number of corporations, in the early 70s, that were worth more than their stock. At one time, more than half of the millionaires under the age of 30 had made their money by selling corporations that were worth more than their stock. That hole is starting to dry up.

Since societies change, economic systems are inherently unstable. No one wants to admit this since it means that they can't always deliver on the "chicken in every pot" promise.

Worse, under the (provable) "theory of the second best," once you get away from an optimum situation, you can't reliably predict which step will necessarily get you closer. That is, if no monopolies are an optimum, you can't promise that having only three monopolies is better than having five.

And there is nothing wrong with adjusting on the fly.

So, what you should do is pick a model you like, copy it, and then adjust the campaign as time develops. To increase believability (and situations for play) it helps if your society has entered into an unstable period (such as a "warring states" era, civil war, expansion/new frontiers, technological/magical invention/change).

(just ran the spelling checker. I'm not sure of its grammer sense)

Book Reviews

When the Changewinds Blow, Jack L. Chalker.

Jack Chalker has fallen into a canned style. It involves semi-graphic sex (the kind that appeals to adolecents but that doesn't get into blow-by-blow descriptions) with weird overtones, sex changes, shape changes, background figures and pretty girls who aren't quite in control.

Sorry, this one was well done, but I've seen the stew one too many times. It may be a good reprise on the theme, but the theme is too old. Kind of like one more depressing rerun of Miami Vice. Let me know when he's written something new. Until then, I'm skipping Chalker.

Godslayer by Mickey Zucker Reichert; should have been written by Timothy Zahn. It is a noble attempt, but Reichert doesn't quite carry it off. Mostly its a matter of not quite enough technical skill and slipping here and there on the elements (such as how long the princess concealed her true feelings, etc.) that could have been handled better and differently.

Triplet by Timothy Zahn; should have been written by Mickey Reichert. Has some great ideas but an unlikeable female lead/central character. (I don't like spoiled brats). There is also no explanation or reason (other than deus ex machina) for the actions of the demogorgon {sp}.

Glory Lane by Alan Dean Foster. Three almost likable characters. Almost. An unredeemed studious nerd, an unreformed rebellious punker, a totally self-centered airhead, and a commercial spy. A cute novel. If the author had redeemed the characters just a little more I would have recommended it. Saberhagen should have written it -- he always has a good character or two.

Berserker Blue Death by Fred Saberhagen. Should have been written by Alan Dean Foster. Foster completes the characterizations. This novel is well laid out, well thought out, and well cast. It just needs another draft, fuller development and it would have been a Hugo contender instead of "just another Berserker story."

My, sour reviews tonight. Guess that the real problem is that all of these novels were ok, could have been very good and with just a little more (or, in the case of the Chalker novel, a little less) could have been contenders, could have been great. Gargh.


I'm willing to answer legal questions about game situations. Caveat (caveat is legalese for "warning/notice!") I'm not going to answer questions about real world law as it applies outside of Texas. I'll even expand on the Meta-Law system I wrote Bob Butler about if people have questions.

The same is true of economics. Mark Swanson's topic was too much to answer in just one zine. Economic factors in a campaign are really lots of little questions.

About which, how many of you only let ships in Traveller have only one roll on the cargoes/commodities available chart each week? And followed the advice about not letting ships sit in port for long periods of time? That solves most triangle routes.

Where has all the wonder gone? (long time passing...) Its gone to rules everywhere. Players a) have the rules and b) assimilate them too fast to keep the sense of wonder we used to have.

[Heroquest] [Norns] [Diablo] [WingCommander] [e-mail] [©1996-1998 Stephen R. Marsh All Rights Reserved]