Saturday, March 24, 2018

That One Time The Party Solved The Plot With A Legal Battle

It's said that even the finest battle plan never survives the first touch of actual battle. In much the same way, the most intricate and comprehensive plan by a dungeon master will never survive the ingenuity, resourcefulness, or sheer stupidity of the actions players are capable of taking. Sometimes a DM will try to force the party into taking certain options... and other times they'll just see where this new and unexpected path leads.

And this one went to pretty much the last place you'd expect... unless you read the title.
Which is why when one motley crew of renegades, rebels, and rogues ran into a problem too big for them, they decided to lawyer up.

Who Did What Now?

Let's back things up, and begin at the beginning. When the DM started his 5th edition game, set in a world of his own making, he asked for misfits, outcasts, and PCs who just didn't really fit in. Which is how we ended up with an Old One worshiping tiefling named Sophie, a furry kobold sorcerer named A.J., a wide-eyed half-orc monk who'd escaped what amounted to a penal colony named Hevvy, and a revoltingly mannered, slick-talking barbarian dragonborn by the name of Vile.

While they were of disparate races and backgrounds, this particular group of so-called adventurers had a few things they bonded over. Taste in drinks, a desire for easy money... and three of the four of them had rap sheets longer than their arms (while the fourth was traveling on an illegal visa, making his very presence in the country legally questionable, at best). But, despite their rather... colorful histories, there was no denying they delivered when they were given a task.

Which was how they found themselves on the road heading north, on the trail of a famous but retired jouster, at the behest of a man who wanted the former athlete to train his daughter for the upcoming games. While they found they guy they were looking for, there was one, small problem. He was defending an ancient fey forest from the axes of "progress" who wanted to put a magic, floating train straight through the heart of the wood.

Well... maybe "small" isn't the right word.

Can We Talk This Out?

When the jouster had retired from his public life, he'd come north, and found a new home among the ancient creatures of the forest. Satyrs, dryads, trolls, unicorns, centaurs, and the list went on and on. Many of them were rare enough that they didn't exist anywhere outside of this forest, and some were so old that their memories stretched back to the breaking of the world. The major problem was they cannot leave this forest, since their very lives were tied to it. And no one from the rail company was willing to entertain the idea that such a potent array of forces were arrayed against them, and that by forcing the issue they might be starting a war they would be hard-pressed to win (and that if they did win, they would definitely look like the bad guys in the eyes of the public).

The intense militarization of the rail company isn't helping, either.
Because the rail boss saw this as a few naysayers standing in the way of progress to protect, "a few pixies and sprites," the company went and hired a massive mercenary company called the Fortunate Sons (which inspired the entry Who Are Your Mercenary Companies? a few weeks back). A potent fighting force, if they were unleashed against the wood, it was going to be a bloodbath on both sides.

Which was why the party decided to try to be reasonable. They made their way into the camp, and tried to talk to the boss. She heard them out, then when they were finished, blew smoke in their faces, and told them that the rail would stop when the party presented her with notarized papers that told her it had to stop. Until then, the new world was coming whether the party, and whoever lived in those woods, liked it or not. Where the ley line went, the train had to follow.

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

Between Vile, A.J., and Sofie, the party has run cons, extorted, assaulted, and destroyed property across four nations, and they were fairly familiar with the legal system of the country they were currently in. Run by wizards, and tended to by magistrates, it was a very law-and-order sort of place. Which was why, if you were going to be a criminal there, you have to be pretty good in order to stay one step ahead of the rope. No one had hung them yet, so they knew a thing or two about evading the inconveniences of the law when it suited them.

However, they also knew that for the law to work, it had to be available to anyone and everyone. Which was why while Vile, Hevvy, and A.J. had a private meeting with the captain of the Fortunate Sons to see if they could get the mercs to back off (or at least re-negotiate the terms of their employment, given what they were going to be made to fight), Sofie rode into a nearby town to find them a lawyer.

Shysters are always down at the bar, for those who are curious.
All it took was finding a half-drunk halfling barrister with a bit of a reputation, a desperate need for gold, and who perked up at the phrases, "precedent setting," and "trial of the century." She got him packed up, brought him out to the forest, and that was when he started filling out paperwork, and taking statements from the unicorn queen, the pegasus prince, and even from the hulking Mumbler, king of the trolls.

Then, in a few days time, the party went back to the camp, and served the rail boss with a cease and desist order. Rail construction was being officially halted until a magistrate could come out, and settle this current dispute.

Not Their First Rodeo

While this collection of hooligans, thugs, and blackmailers was perfectly comfortable in the thick of fighting, they were even more relaxed on the stand. They'd all done this dance before, except Hevvy, who listened very carefully when his party mates coached him on what to say, and what not to say. Especially when it came to keeping cool under harsh questioning. In addition to getting the party on the stand, though, the magistrate also wanted to hear from the fey royalty (who were close enough to the forest in our location to be all right), as well as from the ancient tree father whose next generation would be destroyed if the train followed its planned route (and thus ending the line of his people, and all his knowledge stretching back for an eon or more).

Then the magistrate listened to the rail boss, and to the workers who had survived things like troll attacks, magical sabotage, and other, assorted guerrilla attacks along the lines. Grisly, and stirring, but given that the fey creatures literally could not leave (and all attempts to contact the rail workers peacefully had been ignored or rebuffed), it wasn't quite enough to sway the onlookers.

I rule that this be taken to mediation.
Once both sides had a say, the magistrate asked very expressly if, now that all these facts had been aired, the two sides would be willing to come to the table and discuss what could be done. There was no undoing what had been wrought, but they had a chance to prevent future bloodshed, and to come to some agreement. Otherwise the case would have to be pushed further up the pipe, and that would mean results could take many more months. Perhaps even years, as more powerful legal figures ruled and decided.

So the boss and her head wizards sat down with the strange, ancient creatures that pre-dated this nation's government, and talked turkey. Which is how they found that, if they'd reached out and made allies in the first place, they could have shaved not just months, but years off their task. With the aid of the fey, now fully legally recognized as a township within the existing government, they could complete their transcontinental project without bringing more harm to anyone.

And that is what happens when three ex-cons and a border-jumping half-orc are faced with a situation that's too tough to fight their way clear of. Because it is amazing what a few affidavits, and the right barrister, will do for your cause.

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  1. That is so fun! Your players are very clever.

    But you are very clever too. My current DM, we sometimes explain our plan to him and then he acts like he didn’t hear it because it doesn’t follow his adventure idea.

    Thank you for allowing your players to throw you a googly and hitting it right back at them. Good show.

    1. Can't take the DM credit for this one... I'm the guy playing Vile, lol.