I like the Law skill, as used by John Bell in his Necrocarserous game. It’s pretty simple: when the players encounter a system of laws and codes, or wish to represent themselves as part of a such a system, they spout some legalese-sounding mumbo-jumbo, then make a law check. If the check is successful, then either your character knew what they were talking about, or they simply managed to sound confident enough that the person they’re talking to feels too intimidated to object.
Of course, a bandit is not going to care that it’s illegal to rob and murder you, no matter how official you make it sound. But an officer of the law may be convinced that you have the authority to do whatever it is that she stopped you from doing. Or you may convince a customs agent to let you pass without the proper documentation. Perhaps the mayor will be intimidated to learn about her town’s severe zoning violations, and allow you to demolish the buildings that are in the way of your keep’s expansion.
The skill is tons of fun to use in play, which is why I’m bummed that I can’t effectively add it to LotFP. Raising a skill to 6-in-6 is great, because it means you’ll almost always succeed at what you’re attempting. But with the law skill, that’d turn characters into an unassailable legal authority. It functions best when it’s unreliable, as it is in the highly unpredictable skills system used in Necrocarserous.
Sooooooo, why not just make a Lawyer class?
Note: The Lawyer class assumes the game is being run with Courtney Campbell’s “On the Non Player Character” social interaction system.
The Lawyer has the same hit dice and experience progression as a Halfling, and saves as a Halfling of 1 level lower than the Lawyer’s current level. Lawyers, after all, are slippery folk.
Law: Lawyers know the law. And when they don’t know the law, they’re pretty good at faking it. Whenever a lawyer is interacting with laws, or a codified set of rules, they can make a law check to attempt to get what they want out of the interaction. The player must produce some vaguely accurate sounding gibberish, then roll. A 5 or better always indicates success.
At first level, the Lawyer rolls 1d6. At third level this increases to 1d8. At fifth level, to 1d10. And at seventh level, to 1d12.
Smooth Talker: In any social interaction, the Lawyer receives a number of bonus social actions equal to her level.
Contract Negotiation: When there is a Lawyer in the party, it is assumed that any agreement the party makes will be detailed by a contract signed by both parties. Any dispute about the agreement will then be subject to the Lawyer’s law skill at a +1 bonus, since the Lawyer will be arguing from a document they authored themselves.
Legislate: Legislation may be attempted any time the Lawyer is associated with visible public good. For example, donating a large amount of gold to charity, or being part of an adventuring party which slays a terrible monster. If the general feeling among the townsfolk is that the Lawyer is a pretty great person, they might be interested in subscribing to your newsletter.
The Lawyer may then draft a law for the town. Laws which would be obviously destructive to the town may be rejected out of hand at the referees discretion. So “The town must give all of its money to me.” is right out. But there’s no reason the Lawyer couldn’t propose a 10% annual tax be paid to the party for 5 years, as payment for services rendered. Or something like that.
Once the law is drafted, the Lawyer makes a Law check. If the check is successful, the law is enacted. If the check fails, then the law is rejected, and the Lawyer has squandered all of her social cache by backing such an unpopular idea.
Referees, of course, are encouraged to enhance their game by introducing interesting consequences for laws which are poorly considered, or do not promote the public good. A 10% tax will probably start to seem very unreasonable after a poor harvest.