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Are ransoms negotiable?


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Weird little question that came up while writing. Can captors upsell their captives, for instance if they've captured someone vital to a wealthy community? I'm assuming the converse, trying to bargain for a captive clanmate, would be shameful and in bad taste, but is it merely that or is it completely taboo? Basically, is weregild set in stone or is it subject to market variables like other types of monetary transactions?

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On terra, this was quite common and important hostages would be kept for lengthy periods... up to decades... waiting for the negotiations to conclude, People being people (quite gauche and immune to the effects of shame and bad taste when it comes to money, and additionally with the existence of gods of trade who promote bargaining) I would assume it would have to be the same in Gloranthan lands that have ransoms. 

I can understand why one would want to hold to higher ideals and views of people, especially in a FRP, so I would say if one wished it to be so, simply make it a binding taboo backed by religious decrees and societal relations and have your game be set in a better light than I suggest. Personally, I fear that money sullies noble thoughts or activities when it comes down to it in the end.

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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That was my initial suspicion as well, and makes a lot of sense. The main thing I was thinking of was whether there was some kind of Spirit of Reprisal or similar phenomenon that whacks you in the back of the head if you demand more than 1000L for a neighbouring clan's noble described somewhere that people would take issue with my not acknowledging. Good to know!

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35 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

Weird little question that came up while writing. Can captors upsell their captives, for instance if they've captured someone vital to a wealthy community? I'm assuming the converse, trying to bargain for a captive clanmate, would be shameful and in bad taste, but is it merely that or is it completely taboo? Basically, is weregild set in stone or is it subject to market variables like other types of monetary transactions?

There are a lot of circumstances that can lead to someone having room to argue that more or less wergild or ransom is owed. The set prices are really more of a basline than a hard-and-fast rule, and it isn't considered shameful to negotiate over it, so long as there's some actually plausible legal argument to make.

For example, let's say you're offering wergild because you injured someone in a fight. Legally, you owe that person's family a certain price. But if you argue that the person you injured had injured one of your kin, or that he had trespassed or caused property damage or something, you might have room to argue that the wergild you have to pay should be reduced. And so on.

What's more, "No one can make you do anything," and if someone decides he doesn't want to accept wergild period, or demands an outrageously high one, that's their prerogative. One is not actually obligated to offer or accept wergild as compensation, and sometimes a Heortling will decide that only blood will pay for blood.

Edited by Leingod
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In our world negotiations are complex, for example some experienced kidnappers make videos of the victims being mistreated, to try to motivate their friends into paying faster, or threaten to start sending pieces of the victim to their family. The Gloranthan equivalent might be an invitation to divine what was happening to the kidnap victim.

And the final price if payed is usually less than the initial price - if you offer to pay too quickly, the kidnapper increases the initial asking price, thinking you have more money than they thought.

Not sure if Glorantha is that complicated though, and perhaps no need to be too exact in copying the ugliness of real life.

Edited by EricW
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While not an equivalent system of the Orlanthi weregild, I recall reading about compensation systems in South Sudan. Either the Nuer or the Dinka (both pastoral cattle herders with a history of endemic raiding up to the 20th century) are seemingly obligated to haggle for the compensation, in order to ritually satisfy their deceased comrade. Simply settling for a compensation without pushing would be considered admitting defeat, so they basically set up what is essentially a performance which ends in the ritual sacrifice of a cow by the paying part, where the smoke and smell will sate the deceased and the two living parties will share the actual meat (sharing a meal being obviously a very public show of reconciliation). 

To align this a bit more with Orlanthi customs - since ancestors are known to get prissy about their descendants changing their ways, it's possible that they will negatively effect their living descendants for not pushing for "appropriate" weregild, or indeed, continue a blood feud. They might have to be placated with sacrifice to make their ire drop. 
 

Just spitballing. Though I always like the whole "strategically inferior decisions are made because the ancestors are really obstinate and grumpy about this sort of thing" that you see in the King of Dragon Pass games, etc.

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2 hours ago, EricW said:

Not sure if Glorantha is that complicated though, and perhaps no need to be too exact in copying the ugliness of real life.

Yes sir, as I was saying if you prefer a cleaner and nobler people, why not? I intend slavery and some of the horrors of our modern world to be relegated to the truly evil and disgusting cultures at my table, and why not. Life can be depressing, hell, history more so... usually. Why does your game have to bring you down? Now not to be preachy, if down and dirty is the flavour your table prefers go for it.  Be noble or be real! Let your game vary! 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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2 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Just spitballing. Though I always like the whole "strategically inferior decisions are made because the ancestors are really obstinate and grumpy about this sort of thing" that you see in the King of Dragon Pass games, etc.

Missed that post, I suspect you posted at the same time I did. Glad I went back to check... Always happy to see your spitballing, I do not even have to agree with or use your ideas. I just enjoy reading them and then parsing them.

Cheers

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4 hours ago, EricW said:

In our world negotiations are complex, for example some experienced kidnappers make videos of the victims being mistreated, to try to motivate their friends into paying faster, or threaten to start sending pieces of the victim to their family. The Gloranthan equivalent might be an invitation to divine what was happening to the kidnap victim.

And the final price if payed is usually less than the initial price - if you offer to pay too quickly, the kidnapper increases the initial asking price, thinking you have more money than they thought.

Not sure if Glorantha is that complicated though, and perhaps no need to be too exact in copying the ugliness of real life.

That may be less economical in Glorantha, since if they don't offer enough you can still make decent money by keeping or selling your captive as a slave, and you probably don't want to maim your captive if that's your back-up plan; it might lower their value, and healing costs money.

Plus, among the Heortlings at least, the kin of whomever you're holding ransom probably aren't totally helpless (especially if they've got the resources to pay a decent ransom at all and are thus worth trying to sweat out for extra money in the first place), and the Heortling legal system and ethos is that "Violence is always an option." If you push too hard with your demands, well, nothing except the fear of failure and the possibility of escalating hostilities between clans is actually stopping them from trying to take the captive back by force (or even taking captives of their own to strengthen their bargaining position), and unless you're a pack of bandits out in the wilds you can't really rely on anonymity or being hard to reach to protect you from that. And if it gets to that point, the kidnapper's own kin might not be on their side if it feels like they got the wider community closer to a feud just for the sake of greed.

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5 hours ago, Ladygolem said:

Weird little question that came up while writing. Can captors upsell their captives, for instance if they've captured someone vital to a wealthy community? I'm assuming the converse, trying to bargain for a captive clanmate, would be shameful and in bad taste, but is it merely that or is it completely taboo? Basically, is weregild set in stone or is it subject to market variables like other types of monetary transactions?

As Issaries are designed to deal the agreement, it would surprise me if there was no negociation.

Now I think the main point about decision to pay or not is politic reasons:

- is the hostage vital for the community, a "lambda", a noble, etc... ?

- are the supporters of the hostage easy to convince of any decision (pay, go to war, do nothing)

- is the price acceptable ?

- is the risk to fight acceptable ?

- what is the standard politic ? (for example some countries irl say "we  never pay", is it true or false is another question)

 

and that is the  same for wergild: wergild are created to avoid fight, but there are feud, so sometimes people decide to not pay

 

 

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5 hours ago, EricW said:

perhaps no need to be too exact in copying the ugliness of real life

There is "honour and good faith" in real world ransoms.  King John of France was captured at the battle of Poitiers, he was eventually provisionally released to help raise his ransom.  When his son broke the terms of the provisional release agreement, King John voluntarily returned himself to the English for re-incarceration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransom_of_King_John_II_of_France

It is also a good example of how ransoms worked in real life.  

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2 hours ago, Stephen L said:

There is "honour and good faith" in real world ransoms.  King John of France was captured at the battle of Poitiers, he was eventually provisionally released to help raise his ransom.  When his son broke the terms of the provisional release agreement, King John voluntarily returned himself to the English for re-incarceration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransom_of_King_John_II_of_France

It is also a good example of how ransoms worked in real life.  

I was thinking of some really brutal ransoms I heard about like Amanda Lindhout in Somalia or some brutal narco gang kidnap ransoms, but I agree there are examples of more genteel behaviour in history.

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10 hours ago, Ladygolem said:

Weird little question that came up while writing. Can captors upsell their captives, for instance if they've captured someone vital to a wealthy community? I'm assuming the converse, trying to bargain for a captive clanmate, would be shameful and in bad taste, but is it merely that or is it completely taboo? Basically, is weregild set in stone or is it subject to market variables like other types of monetary transactions?

Looking at the Ransom box on page 64, and the ransom section on page 407, two things jump out at me:

  • The ransom is set by custom.
  • The ransom is paid by the captive.
  • The captive tries to avoid payment by others as they then owes a life debt to the community.

Asking more sounds like "we are ignoring custom, come and get them, or start a vendetta. It's going to destabilise the system.

eg  If the Orlevings capture the Thane of Apple Lane during an adventure and demand the customary 1200 L (60 cattle). That is against custom. When this gets back to Queen Leika, she's going to want to know why the Orlevings are doing this with her sworn tribesman. This escalates the whole situation from a clan vs clan incident to a full tribe vs tribe incident.

The reverse:

As the amounts are set by custom, you either have the money or you don't. If you don't then you need to succeed in a love / loyalty roll for those that are going to pay instead. They don't have to pay and can seek vengeance instead.

If succeed in a love / loyalty roll and they try to pay less than custom demands, then clearly they don't think you are as valuable as you status implies. This is clearly a public declaration of your status drop. You are just not worth your real value (by custom). This should cause all kinds of problems if you are released. Depending on your game this is likely dishonourable / reduces relevant passions.

eg if the Orlevings capture the Thane of Apple Lane during an adventure and demand the customary 1000 L (50 cattle). Then you send out your merchant out to bargain for only 40 cattle, that says to the Orlevings that your thane isn't worth it. When this gets back to Queen Leika, she's going to want to know why didn't you pay the full amount for her sworn tribesman. The Orleving now know that the Hiordings don't value the thane or why would they try and pay less. 

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There's always the overhanging threat that violating or aggressively "gaming" customs makes you disliked not just by the group you're feuding with, but also by other, adjacent groups. A neutral clan might hear about how your clan really screwed over your enemy in a way that's "just not cool, man" and so get less inclined to ally or align with your clan, because you're trouble. 

This is offset by a whole host of rules, of course. The wealth and military power of the clan, magical standing, etc., existing alliances, existing reasons for the the feuding, etc. 

These can probably be combined in ways that can justify whatever outcome you personally think is the most desireable from a storytelling perspective. 

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I wrote this up last year:

Issaries and Argan Argan, being friendly trade rivals since before the Dawn, long ago agreed that a respectful token would be included in every Ransom. Thus, there is always one Bolg and one Clack in every ransom paid, usually in excess to the amount required. To not do so shows that the Ransom is not blessed by either party, and suspect to subterfuge. Legend has it that the Bolg will turn pitch black and taste bitter to any troll biting it as proof that the terms of the ransom will not be honored, as well as that the clack will not sink if placed on still water, for the same reasons. Ransom is a ritual, based on an oath, and not a mere transaction.

PLUNDER ITEM: Ransom coin
Based on the above, some Argan Argar and Issaries High Priests would specially prepare blessed ransom coins for use in sanctioned ransoms. Trolls would bite a clack and bolg to “crimp” the two coins together, while Issaries priests would use a hammer to achieve a similar effect. The rarest Ransom coins are bi-metallic, and stamped specially in a communal ceremony in a Great Market. It is said that placing such a coin in the mouth of a dying priest of either cult is a sign of respect, and aids in their passing to the underworld. Such coins are rumored to be an adequate payment to a ferryman for a journey across the Styx. It is unknown whether Issaries has such a coin with him on The Lightbringer Quest.

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"My ransom is 250 Lunars - hale and sound. Rough me up, and down my price goes..."

"Aw, we don't have 250 Lunars right now. How about you give him a good beating, and we get him back for 150 Lunars?"

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

"My ransom is 250 Lunars - hale and sound. Rough me up, and down my price goes..."

"Aw, we don't have 250 Lunars right now. How about you give him a good beating, and we get him back for 150 Lunars?"

and the clan Chieftain answers back...

Look... we can make you a better offer... we will give you this 20 cows, 50 sheep and this two iron swords but you keep it...

No ?...

Ok... ok... we can add 20 pigs.

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5 hours ago, David Scott said:

eg if the Orlevings capture the Thane of Apple Lane during an adventure and demand the customary 1000 L (50 cattle). Then you send out your merchant out to bargain for only 40 cattle, that says to the Orlevings that your thane isn't worth it. When this gets back to Queen Leika, she's going to want to know why didn't you pay the full amount for her sworn tribesman. The Orleving now know that the Hiordings don't value the thane or why would they try and pay less.

There might be some occasional reasons to negotiate the price down. For example, if the captive lost a limb during the fight and the captors didn't heal it? Or if an important item was lost? Would these considerations factor in the negotiations?

Edited by lordabdul
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50 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

There might be some occasional reasons to negotiate the price down. For example, if the captive lost a limb during the fight and the captors didn't heal it? Or if an important item was lost? Would these considerations factor in the negotiations?

Battling law speakers, with competing claims for compensation! Why ever not!

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1 hour ago, lordabdul said:

There might be some occasional reasons to negotiate the price down. For example, if the captive lost a limb during the fight and the captors didn't heal it? Or if an important item was lost? Would these considerations factor in the negotiations?

Probably. If a culture used something like wergild to adjudicate damages, then I could see the price of the damaged coming off the ransom. So if someone had a ransom of 2000L, but lost a hand, and that had a wergild of 500L, the final ransom could be reduced to 1500L with the idea than the injury had been settled.

I could also see situations where someone might be pressed for money and accept a lower ransom than normal. Maybe someone needs to buy something before the next High Holy Day so they are willing to let a couple of hundred Lunars slip by in order to meet their deadline.

A lot of this would probably depend on just how much animosity existed between both sides, and other factors. Are rival clans or cults involved? Is one side just a hired mercenary with no real stake in the matter? Was the fight particular nasty? Did anybody die? It all probably matters. There might even be cases when the captors decide to waive the ransom - perhaps to settle a matter or to prevent reprisals. 

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13 hours ago, lordabdul said:

There might be some occasional reasons to negotiate the price down. For example, if the captive lost a limb during the fight and the captors didn't heal it? Or if an important item was lost? Would these considerations factor in the negotiations?

I think that's certainly a possibility. However it comes down to a duty of care and what level you expect the captors to maintain. In a world where heal 6 can reattach a limb, heal body is common, and there's are two major healing cults (Ernalda & Chalana Arroy) and that the captives are part of the same culture, I would expect the Orlevings to look after the thane. A clan that keeps slaves or traffics them, would also want to keep them well as they would have no work value.

The local tusk riders, however will not bother to ransom or care for their captives so they can sacrifice them later...

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