Wednesday, January 9, 2013

ACKS - Mark of Justice

I ran a few sessions of ACKS solo with my brother earlier in the break, and after I informed him of our (probably incorrect) interpretation of the Hijinks rules, he began looking into hiring a few goons around town to carouse, spy, and smuggle.  Upon examination of the criminal punishment rules, his response was largely "eh, I can get these fixed with a Restore Life and Limb.  Might not be profitable, but losing a hand isn't as much of a deterrent as it might seem when you have backers."  And so, I present the Mark of Justice, a new application of Bestow Curse for ACKS.

A Mark of Justice may be cast only on a creature who has just rolled on the Mortal Wounds table, or who has been otherwise maimed, and applies to a single wound.  The casting cauterizes the wound, preventing blood loss and restoring 1d6 HP to the subject, but also marks the injured character permanently with a prominent, clearly-distinguishable symbol (as appropriate for the caster and circumstances, usually the seal of a particular court) over the cauterized area. The purpose of the Mark is to prevent the wound from being healed, and so it inflicts a penalty equal to half the caster's level to the d20 roll on the Tampering with Mortality table for any Restore Life and Limb attempted while it remains in effect.  In addition, the bearer of the Mark suffers a -2 penalty to reaction rolls with law-abiding citizens, though he may gain a bonus to reaction rolls among criminals.  The Mark is a difficult curse to break, as it is intended to foil high-powered magical healing, and so its removal requires a casting of Remove Curse by a caster of no lower than 9th level.  A subject may receive multiple Marks of Justice; their penalties stack.  Should the subject receive a Restore Life and Limb while subject to the Mark, the Mark persists and covers the restored area visually.  It retains its efficacy even if the subject is slain and returns from the dead.  The Mark is usually reserved for repeat offenders who have had legal punishments healed with RL&L, though certain chaotic sects are also known to use it for nefarious purposes.


  1. This is neat. The game needs this.

  2. This can be suitable for some (many?) campaigns, but your brother's view can certainly be suitable for other campaigns.

    I am a fan of the Jhereg books by Steven Brust. Vlad Taltos, the primary character is a member of the Jhereg, the 'organized crime' noble house, and associates with nobility from other houses (mostly the House of the Dragon, but also Hawklords and a few others). At the level they are at, revivification can be a fairly common thing:

    * Assassination in the Jhereg is sometimes used as a very pointed message (sorry) to back off -- "you annoy me enough to spend this much money to have you killed, but not so much that I'll arrange to have you killed and impossible to revivify".

    * Duels between nobles can be sanctioned, even to the death, as long as rules are followed that allow those who did to be revified... or at least sent to the Paths of the Dead and eventually reincarnated.

    There is even a sort of 'life insurance' policy in the Jhereg, at least for bodyguards. In one scene Vlad's second screws up and one of the bodyguards is killed; Vlad tells him that "you are paying our half to get him revivified, and if it fails you pay his widow".

    Actually, I just remembered a story that's an even closer match, both to the example being discussed and the relative level of power (Dragaera, the setting of the Jhereg books, is a pretty high-magic place as far as the major characters are concerned). Anne Logston wrote a series about an elven thief. In the first book published she saw a thief who had been caught robbing a temple being punished by having his hands put into fire. Her thoughts on it were something like "ow, painful, but cheaper and more likely fixable by magic... and why didn't the Guild ransom him?"

    It sounds like this will do what you want, but there are certainly also campaigns, settings, and tropes where treating maiming and the like as 'cost of business' is appropriate.

  3. The tampering with mortality table is evil and that can't be fixed so easily. Plus, losing a hand is painful and demoralizing. How would you react to having a boss that won't spend any resources to help you NOT lose a hand, assuring you "Oh, I'll just use magic to grow you a new one; hope you don't get any nasty side effects." DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH WHIPPING, TORTURE, AND DISMEMBERMENT HURTS! You can expect a retirement dagger in the back soon.

    Plus, there is the logistical problem of organizing regular Restore Life and Limb spells and a friendly shrine for there casting on KNOWN CRIMINALS in order to help them get back to their crime. Some churches/clerics might protest and either refuse service or charge more.

    1. Sure, it's a calamity and a morale roll for that particular hireling... but we're talking about L0-L1 thieves here. Not the scariest of threats as far as higher-level characters are concerned. And I imagine most of them, peasants and po' folk that they are, might not even know that growing back limbs comes with side effects, having never been in the company of those who have the resources to get RL&L... This is no different from standard henchman practices.

      Yah sure; the logistics might require travel between towns, or visiting the shrine of the god of thieves, or taking your hench on an adventure, picking up some new mortal wounds that aren't clearly the work of the justice system, and passing those off on an unsuspecting cleric. Given that the catastophic failure rates on hijinks are as low as they are, it's not something you need to get done often unless you employ a lot of thieves.