Vendetta law is the seed from which most legal institutions have
grown. The foundation of the system is the belief that most crimes
are private matters between families. Vendetta justice revolves
around the concept of wergild, being compensated for the death or
injury of a family member. The amount to be paid is negotiable and
varies with the status of the victim and the degree of his injury.
If the accused cannot pay, the entire family are liable unless they
cast out the miscreant by declaring him outlaw. Vendetta law is
fading from civilized Oerth due to two major weaknesses: guilt and
innocence are more a matter of power than justice and there is a
tendency for the system to inflame protracted fueds.
Feudal law assumes that nobles are superior and the legal
systems always protect the privilege of rank. Short of rebellion or
treason, there are few crimes that can be committed by a noble. Any
time a commoner is rude or familiar to a noble, he can expect swift
punishment. It is not a crime for a noble to maim or slay a
commoner for cause, although the victim’s family may have a tenuous
claim to compensation.
The major difference between freemen and serfs is their legal
status. Freemen are, like serfs, subject to the justice of the
local lord, but, unlike serfs, have the right to appeal decisions
to the king’s law. Needless to say, such appeal will be unpopular
with the lord, and intimidation, subtle or otherwise, to withdraw
suits from royal courts is not uncommon.
Town law is different from rural justice and is sufficiently
complex to support a guild of litigants. Towns regard the right to
operate their own courts, free from the interference of local lords
among their most treasured prerogatives. Most cases are handled
informally, but important or complex cases will likely go to the
Legally recognized churches (most of the neutral and good
churches) have the right to hold their own courts and administer
canon law for a variety of religious crimes, including blashpemy,
heresy, and witchcraft (practicing dark magics). Temple courts
often use trial by ordeal to determine guilt or innocence. Temple
courts must obtain secular consent to any death penalties, though
in the theocracies this is tacitly given automatically.
Very often an accused evades capture, escapes custody, or
otherwise cannot be found. This detail does not prevent the
accused’s trial. When an “in absentia” conviction occurs, the
penalty is limited, in practical terms, to outlawry. A declared
outlaw may be slain by anyone without fear of prosecution. If an
outlaw is considered particularly dangerous, a reward may be
offered for his capture, dead or alive, and a number of bounty
hunters wanter in search of business.
Aiding and abetting is a crime that will usually give the same
penalty as the crime itself. Unless a crime is considered a felony,
the accusation must be brought by the offended party or kin.
Felonies include rebellion, regicide (even attempted), treason,
abuse of royal trust, obstruction of justice (if the crime being
obstructed is a felony), cannibalism, manslaughter, murder,
forgery, theft of royal goods (including poaching on royal lands),
consorting with fiends, practicing necromancy, smuggling and tax
Hawking taxes are payable to the city bondmaster for all goods
brought into a city to be sold, including raw materials, but
excluding foodstuffs. Bonding fees (1% of retail value) are paid
for storage in a government bonding house when the goods are only
passing trough and not destined to be sold there, or if a guild
mercantyler wants to wait until he has found a buyer before paying
the hawking tax.