Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Inhumanity of Law (Awkward Treasure #2)

The PCs come into possession of a fantastic painting, titled the Inhumanity of Law. 5ft tall and 9ft wide, the painting depicts three scenes from the rise of Laziano as the capital of the Second Empire of Man. The first scene depicts the assassination of Julen, a successful general who named himself Tyrant. Julen drew on popular support from ordinary soldiers and other commoners, but his reforms alienated the oligarchs and denied them their legal rights. The oligarchy included his own family, and he was stabbed to death in public by his mother, his brother, and his sister. The second scene is depicts the increasingly gruesome and imaginative ways in which the oligarchy attempted to eliminate the Julenian factions and cow the people of Laziano. The final scene is truly nightmarish, with the dead walking the streets of Laziano as servants of the oligarchs. From this ordered necropolis the Second Empire of Man expanded across the known world.

The painting is worth a fortune, painted by Hybok the Cynic over two hundred years after the barbarians sacked Laziono and killed the Octatus Octatus, the Demon of Law who had assumed the role of Emperor. It is such an evocative painting that is exerts a malign influence on all those within 30ft of the painting. Even if it cannot be seen, its message can be felt. And its message is: Law is inhuman. Rules, explicit or tacit, cannot be trusted. Even the social contract between you and your neighbour is to be doubted. The PCs will feel this message, and their assessment of NPCs will be coloured by the presence of the painting.

In game terms, the presence of the painting triggers a Loyalty or Reaction Roll in all NPCs, and modifies all 2d6 Reaction Rolls be -2. The (2-12) range of possible NPC reactions will not get worse in the presence of the painting – i.e., if the Referee has determined that a Reaction Roll of a 2 would ordinarily result in a particular merchant attempting to cheat the PCs, when in the presence of the painting he won’t do anything more hostile than that on a roll of 2-4. Of course, as the merchant is more likely to cheat the PCs, the Players are more likely to react, and so begins a downward spiral.

And, of course, low Reaction Rolls will often prompt more hostile action than a bit of harmless swindling, and the players will have to negotiate with the buyer of the painting as the minds of everyone present thrum with the message: Do not trust this deal or the oaths sworn.   

[In a way, this ‘treasure’ was inspired by Picasso’s Guernica, as every time I see it I am horrified that we have seemingly normalised aerial bombardment as a clean, humane form of warfare. But arguments about that aren’t for here.]    


  1. I'm making notes of these! Fantastic stuff, keep it coming.

  2. @ Andy:

    Do you live in Madrid? I've visited the Guernica exhibit...powerful stuff (and I'm not even a Picasso fan).

    1. @JB, sorry for the delay. I don't live in Spain, no - I have been to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona though, and, of course, Barcelona is peppered with artifacts and exhibits relating to the Spanish Civil War. When I was last there there was an collection of propaganda posters from both sides on display in one of museums - when I remember who was involved (not just in Spain, internationally, from Italian futurists to British artists through American adventurers) I'm not surprised at the impressive artistry on show.