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Pendragon 5.2 has this to say about the Just trait: "A Just character is capable of telling what is right and wrong (within the mores of his upbringing and his personal beliefs) and is desirous of passing due judgment based on that information.

This is pretty vague.  Who is to decide what is right and wrong, especially given that bit in parenthesis?  How does this overlap with Honor, and keeping with society's ethical code?

My interpretation of Just is that it is doing what society says is correct behavior, and Arbitrary is making decisions based on personal feeling.

When Arthur insists that Gweneviere be tried for adultery, and even burnt at the stake, he's doing what the law, and therefore Justice demand.  Almost anyone would respect him if he claimed his right as king and insisted on almost any other action.  It's the difference between "I am the law,": and "the law is the law."

How do you see Just and Arbitrary in your games?  What behaviors do you feel justify a check for Just or Arbitrary?  When would you call for a famously Just or Arbitrary knight to have to make a test?

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10 hours ago, Willow said:

Pendragon 5.2 has this to say about the Just trait: "A Just character is capable of telling what is right and wrong (within the mores of his upbringing and his personal beliefs) and is desirous of passing due judgment based on that information.

This is pretty vague.  Who is to decide what is right and wrong, especially given that bit in parenthesis? 

Basically the GM. If the Knight rolls Just he does the "right thing" according to what the GM tells him is right. Where as if he does the Arbitrary thing then his decision is made based upon personal beliefs passions, and prejudices. Note that something the Arbitrary choice might also be the Just decision, but if so it is by coincidence not by reasoned judgment. 

10 hours ago, Willow said:

how does this overlap with Honor, and keeping with society's ethical code?

Mostly it tells you what the "right thing is" based on feudal oaths, custom, family obligation, honor, hospitality, and the codes of chivalry and romance. Sometimes that differs from modern values ofd right and wrong. . 

10 hours ago, Willow said:

My interpretation of Just is that it is doing what society says is correct behavior, and Arbitrary is making decisions based on personal feeling.

Pretty much. Although the distinction is that  being Just is making decides based upon what society says is correct behavior, as sometimes knights can do the wrong thing for the right reason and vice versa. 

10 hours ago, Willow said:

When Arthur insists that Gweneviere be tried for adultery, and even burnt at the stake, he's doing what the law, and therefore Justice demand.

It's actually more serious than that, as Adultery in a Queen is considered to be treason, and she not only betrayed her husband, she betrayed her King. If that seems especially harsh, then consider that if she had a child then someone other than the Kings actual son would have been the heir tot he throne. 

10 hours ago, Willow said:

  Almost anyone would respect him if he claimed his right as king and insisted on almost any other action. 

Not necessarily. First off if people respect him or not will be based on what action he takes, and people will judge him by that and some could lose respect for him. There are quite a few cases where a vassal loses respect for a liege because the liege did something the vassal considered unfair or even dishonorable. Also, many times Justice ends up being tempered by Mercy.

10 hours ago, Willow said:

It's the difference between "I am the law,": and "the law is the law."

Not really. As the king he is the law in that he can usually insist on almost any action. However if he insists on an an Arbitrary action people will consider it to be unJust, and might lose the respect of a lot of people. The problem here is that the punishment in this was was considered to be Just for  Guinevere's crime. So ever those who might not like the punishment probably consider it to be a Just one. 

While some latter day versions of the Tale, inspired by T.H. White, might have Arthur agonizing between enforcing Justice and using his Royal power to pardon Guinevere, with the latter being unjust, and thus overthrow his "new invention" of the court. Most earlier versions of the tale have Arthur hurt and angry for being cheated on, and quite willing to execute Guinevere. Most medieval people would have been surprised if he would have pardoned the queen, but they also would have considered the act to be one of mercy and not an arbitrary action. 

 

10 hours ago, Willow said:

How do you see Just and Arbitrary in your games?  What behaviors do you feel justify a check for Just or Arbitrary?  When would you call for a famously Just or Arbitrary knight to have to make a test?

Usually it the choice between that they think they should do vs. what they would like to do. But usually the conflict isn't Just vs. Arbitrary but Just vs some other Trait or Passion, such as Mercy or a Hate. 

In my games, Arbitrary tends to come up more when PKs are tempted to show favoritism to another character. For instance, the PKS in my campaign have formed a Knight Order and whenever one of them hosts a feast they could bump their fellow members to better seating during the feat, instead of where their rank and glory would normally seat them. So if the Host bumps his friends up o the seating they get an Arbitrary check, as he is giving his friends special advantages. 

Just vs. Arbitrary tens to come up when a PK has a reason to want to select a particular outcome instead of doing what he thinks is fair. Stuff like when a PK knows someone is guilty but wants to acquit him because he is a friend, or knowing that someone is innocent but wanting to say he is guilty because he is a rival. 

For a Famously Just or Arbitrary Knight I'd usually reserve the trait rolls for when a the Trait would be opposed by some other Trait or Passion. Like when a PK knows his son is guilty but would like to defend him in court because he is his son, i.e. Love (Family). Another instance might be when the test is some sort of moral test that might need to be passed on an adventure. For instance, if a Knight needed to make a Just roll to successfully draw the "Sword of Justice" from it's scabbard.  

 

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While some latter day versions of the Tale, inspired by T.H. White, might have Arthur agonizing between enforcing Justice and using his Royal power to pardon Guinevere, with the latter being unjust, and thus overthrow his "new invention" of the court. Most earlier versions of the tale have Arthur hurt and angry for being cheated on, and quite willing to execute Guinevere. Most medieval people would have been surprised if he would have pardoned the queen, but they also would have considered the act to be one of mercy and not an arbitrary action. 

That's a really good point. 

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There are quite a few cases where a vassal loses respect for a liege because the liege did something the vassal considered unfair or even dishonorable.

In this specific situation, Mordred's faction certainly would, and I suppose it could affect a noble lord who was on the fence.

 

Blood and Lust features The Adventure of the Questioned Heraldry.  In it, the knights are asked to adjudicate a dispute between two knights, who have similar arms.  A rich knight insists that a poor knight's arms are too similar to his, and must be changed- or fight to the death for the right to bear them!  Is the difference in heraldry distinct enough that one of the knights must change their arms?

This is a question that has a basis in the rules of heraldry: the arms both feature two leaves of the same color, but of slightly different shape and orientation.  Under the rules of heraldry, the arms are the same.  It is unusual that a character with the Heraldry skill only knows this on a critical success- I would probably instead offer a Heraldry roll at a penalty.  What is more interesting to me than seeing if the players can guess the answer to the question is whether or not they find the plight of the poor knight sufficient to rule in his favor.

In the adventure, coming to the conclusion that the arms are the same gives the character a check on Just, and coming to the conclusion that they are different gives a check on Arbitrary (unjust)- even if the character didn't know!  A suggestion here that there is an 'objective' justice, regardless of the character's views.

I also quite like this example, because it is a situation where the 'correct' behavior, likely leads to an unsatisfying outcome for the players, as ruling the arms are the same results in a duel, that the rich knight is likely to win, against the sympathetic poor knight.

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I interpret the Just trait as following the rules set out in the law and custom of a location. 

Even a king needs to abide by these rules. And yes he can change them, since his word is law. But changing a law, as King Arthur could do it in this case, would create a whole lot of other problems and set a precedent for future cases. For a king I would say that changing the law to suit his own interest is arbitrary. 

The problem I have is with Arbitrary: It is usually instigated by another trait or passion, like Mercy or loyalty. So what is a truly arbitrary act?  

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1 hour ago, Cornelius said:

The problem I have is with Arbitrary: It is usually instigated by another trait or passion, like Mercy or loyalty. So what is a truly arbitrary act?  

Anything that goes against Just. But perhaps a truly capricious ruler could be simply purely Arbitrary. He doesn't care about justice and pretty much makes his judgement randomly. Generally, though, I agree with you. I would expect that it is Arbitrary + something (the motivation of going against Just). I don't have a problem with that.

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4 hours ago, Cornelius said:

I interpret the Just trait as following the rules set out in the law and custom of a location. 

Even a king needs to abide by these rules. And yes he can change them, since his word is law. But changing a law, as King Arthur could do it in this case, would create a whole lot of other problems and set a precedent for future cases.

Except that according to custom and law a king could pardon a condemned prisoner. So the issue when Guinevere is not a Just/Arbitrary conflict in most sources of the tale. In the pro-Arthur stories is is a just act, and in pro-Romance stories it is a Vengeful and unJust one used to help support the view that Romance trumps all and that the affair is a is a Just act.

It only becomes a Just vs. Arbitrary in more recent T.H. White inspired versions such as the play and Film Camelot, where Arthur would dearly love to pardon "Jenny", but cannot not do so because it would completely undermined his allegedly revolutionary idea of the rule of law (by 20th century standards, mind you) over the rule of law (per the feudal system). This latter is compounded by the fact that he is desperately trying to prove the virtues of his more enlightened view to Mordred in order to somehow redeem him (which is somewhat ironic as the traditional view of Mordred isn't an a wicked spoiled boy who Arthur vainly tries to turn good, but as a good knight who sours and turns bad after a chance encounter with a monk with a big mouth). Even more ironic is Arthur's absolute joy of Lancelot unjust act of circumventing the Law by freeing her at the stake and slaying many good men and knights. It just shows that Arthur in the film is  preferably willing to throw all his ideals out the widow , he just doesn't want to be seen doing it. 

From a medieval standpoint, the situation in the movie Camelot is ludicrous medieval people would be surprised if Arthur pardoned the Queen but probably praise him for his great Mercy, ability to Forgiveness and Love of his wife. It wouldn't hurt him in the least. Neither would burning the Queen after a trial, under the circumstances. That's why even strong supports of the Queen such as Kay and Gawain could accept it. 

It is only a problem from a modern (T.H. White) point of view where it is considered to circumvent the law, but even that argument is weak, as high ranking officials such as governors, presidents, and kings can indeed pardon people who were scheduled for execution. While doing so might be seen as nepotism by modern western standards, also by modern western standards, Adultery isn't a capital crime.

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For a king I would say that changing the law to suit his own interest is arbitrary. 

I'd agree. It is. 

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The problem I have is with Arbitrary: It is usually instigated by another trait or passion, like Mercy or loyalty. So what is a truly arbitrary act?  

But that is  true of most traits. Vengeful requires some wrong, real or imaged that the character is vengeful about. Lustful is usually directed towards a particular individual, Deceitful is normally lying about something specific, and not just being a habitual liar. Proud requires something for the character to be Proud about, Cowardly requires something for the characters to be afraid of, and so on.

That the traits are listed as opposing pairs also plays into that, as any action can be viewed in terms of being the opposite of the other trait in the pair. Someone being  Arbitrary could be called  unJust, Vengeful considered unForgiving, Deceitful being  disHonest, and so forth. It is part and parcel with the traits being opposing natures. 

Admittedly nobody seems to get up in the morning filled with a sense of feeling Arbitrary, but some people are noted for being biased, capricious, mercurial, or willing to do things on a whim, and I do think that plays into the Arbitrary trait. To some extent you see this with some of the fans of virtually all sports teams who tend to views things from a very team-centric point of view. In personal experience I used to have a friend who a was a very nice guy, generous and merciful, but extremely Arbitrary in how he would view situation and act. He would often side with friends and family in a situation over any sort of logical argument. In gaming we somethings saw him argue entirely different views depending on who was on what side of the situation he was on. And the thing was he generally believed that he was right and just both times despite picking opposite side in the same situation!

I have since used him as the example of a high Arbitrary trait. In his case he was someone who was Honest, and Merciful but whose other traits and Passions tended to be more important to him than being "Just" (in essence to him being "Just" was doing whatever seemed best for his friends, family, and religious beliefs in all situations). 

Edited by Atgxtg
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One interesting point is that if someone is presiding over a case (as described in Book of Warlords I believe) they get a just check if they come to the correct decision (as in they punish a guilty person or release an innocent person) whereas they get an arbitrary check if they do what would not be appropriate according to the law.

The thing that stands out to me is that they get these checks based upon the truth of the situation, rather than just their perceptions of the case. So if the defendant is really guilty but uses trickery and deception to convince the court otherwise, the judge can still gain an arbitrary check if they follow what they perceive as justice by letting the defendant go free.

Granted part of what I kind of get is the idea that the law in Pendragon isn't just a manmade thing but something more absolute (notably, if you are in a trial by combat and are on the right side, you actually can get a bonus based off of your Just trait.)

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5 hours ago, Ravian said:

One interesting point is that if someone is presiding over a case (as described in Book of Warlords I believe) they get a just check if they come to the correct decision (as in they punish a guilty person or release an innocent person) whereas they get an arbitrary check if they do what would not be appropriate according to the law.

The thing that stands out to me is that they get these checks based upon the truth of the situation, rather than just their perceptions of the case. So if the defendant is really guilty but uses trickery and deception to convince the court otherwise, the judge can still gain an arbitrary check if they follow what they perceive as justice by letting the defendant go free.

Granted part of what I kind of get is the idea that the law in Pendragon isn't just a manmade thing but something more absolute (notably, if you are in a trial by combat and are on the right side, you actually can get a bonus based off of your Just trait.)

IMO that's wrong, and directly contradicts earlier stuff. . For example in the Your Own Land Solo, a PK is sometimes given the choice between taking a bribe to side for one part in a case, or deciding the case Justly. Nowhere does the solo state that the PK is ever making the correct decision in terms of who is right or wrong, only that they are trying to Just or not. In other words, intentions not results.

If someone were to decide the outcome of a case by flipping a coin, regardless of the facts of the case, would they be considered to be Just on those times that the coin toss gets it right? 

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The thing is, the Verdict is reached with trait rolls of the Lord (in the Graft resolution). In order to reach a guilty verdict on an innocent man, he pretty much has to be motivated by Vengeful, Suspicious, Arbitrary and/or Deceitful. Or in order to acquit a guilty man, he needs to be motivated by Forgiveness, Trusting, Arbitrary and/or Deceitful. In both cases, Just would incline him towards the correct verdict. It is not just a coin toss.

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But in most cases the Lord is deciding things not on actually innocent of guilt (which is probably not known) but on claims, opinions, and relationships. By medieval standards it's quite just for a higher ranking noble to have more influence that a lower ranking one, even if the lower ranking one is correct. 

Not that I've seen much graft so far in my campaign. Most of the PKs seem to be squeaky clean. The  officers all have very hight Loyalty scores too, so I doubt they could go through with it if they wanted to. It's one of the reasons why they got those jobs. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/26/2019 at 5:10 AM, Willow said:

Pendragon 5.2 has this to say about the Just trait: "A Just character is capable of telling what is right and wrong (within the mores of his upbringing and his personal beliefs) and is desirous of passing due judgment based on that information.

This is pretty vague.  Who is to decide what is right and wrong, especially given that bit in parenthesis?  How does this overlap with Honor, and keeping with society's ethical code?

My interpretation of Just is that it is doing what society says is correct behavior, and Arbitrary is making decisions based on personal feeling.

When Arthur insists that Gweneviere be tried for adultery, and even burnt at the stake, he's doing what the law, and therefore Justice demand.  Almost anyone would respect him if he claimed his right as king and insisted on almost any other action.  It's the difference between "I am the law,": and "the law is the law."

How do you see Just and Arbitrary in your games?  What behaviors do you feel justify a check for Just or Arbitrary?  When would you call for a famously Just or Arbitrary knight to have to make a test?

I have always played that Just is a combination of what is considered moral within the religious morals of the community, as well as what consitiutes a local legal precedent.  English Law had its origins in Roman Law, which we are still using, albeit in a form modified heavily by time.

In Pendragon, I have always enjoyed viewing the story of King Arthur from the perspective of a rectification of local law into something closer to the Common Law.  The notion being that the knights go out into the countryside and rock up to some bumblescum village where they do something bloody awful because it is tradition, and the knights set about putting matters to rights in the name of the King's Law.  A classic example of this is Tristan and Iseult and the Beauty Pageant.  The notion being that King Arthur puts together a system of common law centuries before the real common law, in much the same way that the Pendragon Saga effectively crosses from the Dark Ages into the proto-Renaissance, before slipping back into the Dark Ages a la a Connetticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court style anachronisms.

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