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hymer
Seeker

33 Posts

Posted - 24 Nov 2017 :  10:41:08  Show Profile Send hymer a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I've come to realize I have very little concrete stuff to work with when it comes to the legal system of elves in the Realms. Though they likely don't all have the same sorts of system across all the various elven cultures, I am particularly interested in Moon and Sun elf customs and laws on this. Or if we want total specificity, Evereskan laws and customs.

If there is little or no canon to work with here, I'm happy to hear peoples' thoughts and speculations. Some of my own:

Crime rates among surface elves are quite low. Whether it is the short term gain from crime compared to the long term benefits of keeping one's nose clean, or just general elven (perceived) superiority, elves generally don't screw their fellows over in a crminal sense.
But sometimes they do. It's hard to imagine an elven prison or execution. What would those be like? Fines and excommunication are perhaps more common? Restitution towards the victims and that sort of thing?

What say you, wise scribes? Please enlighten me!

Adhriva
Learned Scribe

USA
144 Posts

Posted - 24 Nov 2017 :  14:36:00  Show Profile  Visit Adhriva's Homepage  Send Adhriva an AOL message  Send Adhriva a Yahoo! Message Send Adhriva a Private Message  Reply with Quote
We don't have anything like a copy of a lawbook....for all the rule lawyers we joke about that is one area of play that's rarely touched on. That said, we know quite a bit, especially once you dig belief the surface.

My notes focus on Cormanthyr in general, but I would say most of it applies elsewhere.

Elves fall what is called the Code of the People and it's a very much an oath of communal fellowship (in legal practice and in song!). They are somewhere on the border of political communism and socialism with one exception. I would point to the Federation in Star Trek for being a close example. The big exception comes in from their nobility by birth society. So while they are very social oriented, they also are not equal on a clan level. Individual wealth and ownership are rare as most of it resides under the familial clan unit, which is often guided by a scion of the house to varying degrees. Judgement is handled by the Coronal or high ranking noble depending on the case. Most Elves tend to be more rehab minded when it comes to such things, but death is possible. Fines are possible, but most punishments tend to be social in nature, like being stripped of social rank (which borderlines on being a currency of its own), exiled from that city, banishment from all elven realms, and so forth.

Below is the translated final stanza of the Code of the People. Keep in mind, this is Elven Law itself and it is taken very seriously.
"As I would think, so shall ye;
As I would feel, so shall ye;
As I would do, so shall ye;
As I would not harm, nor shall ye;
As I would, so shall the clan;
As the clan would, so shall I;
As we would, so shall ye.
The People are as one, and never shall I stray from this, nor shall ye, for to digress is to diminish you and your People."

Hope that helps!

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Edited by - Adhriva on 24 Nov 2017 14:39:47
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6618 Posts

Posted - 24 Nov 2017 :  18:56:26  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Human laws tend to punish minor crimes (which focus on ownership and theft and property) with mere fines and reassignment (loss) of property/ownership, but this tends to favour only those who can afford to pay such fines/losses, those without the means to do so are instead punished the same way as criminals who've committed major crimes. Pain, humiliation, incarceration, or even execution. Often inflicted in public so that others can (even must) witness that "justice has been served" and "the price has been paid" and the ugly implied threat/message "this will happen to you or those you love if you defy the law".

I think elves would tend to focus more on "rehabilitation" than on "punishment". Many magical and divine cures for ailments of mind, body, and spirit are available. And elves always love healing and growing things, not harming and halting them.

Individual elves seem inclined to feel great guilt, shame, and remorse for their crimes. Self-imposed punishment while seeking atonement, forgiveness, or justice for their crimes. Emo drizzt is a fine example, constantly compelling himself towards "good" and "noble" acts yet constantly condemning himself for the "evils" and "crimes" of his entire race.

There's been some mention of elves committing "unspeakable" or "unforgivable" crimes against nature or elvenkind ... they suffer exile. Apparently elves are social creatures, but it's more than just their temperament, it's their "biology", and any elf separated from the companionship of his kind for too long ends up languishing in despair. Being severed from the elven community, for most elves, is basically a kind of living purgatory. Exiled elves often end up wasting away or suiciding themselves.

Stuff like theft doesn't seem to bother the elves as much. But injuring/violating another elf or nature is probably a great crime, especially since elven victims and criminals must continue to live "in harmony" with each other for many centuries. But theft - of, say, a sword - is probably a minor offense, more concerning as a "symptom of criminal sickness" than because of any real value attached to the stolen object - unless, perhaps, the stolen sword is a precious legendary heirloom passed through the lineage of elven heroes and kings and prophesied to become something epic, etc.

And elves as a group tend to have strong preferences towards "Chaotic" rather than "Lawful" alignments. Meaning that they'll tend to be more inclined to define and evaluate each "crime" on specific, conditional, case-by-case merits ... not by the stuffy codified rules of some legal tradition. Taking the legendary royal sword, undisturbed for centuries and absolutely forbidden for any other to touch/contaminate, to defend oneself or another in a time of emergency is hardly any kind of "theft" or "crime" at all, maybe meriting a stern slap on the wrist. But taking this sword for purposes motivated by mere greed or treachery, even if the sword was given to passing adventurers (as a reward for Useful Service) and many decades passed before the theft of another rusty old magical sword off the museum/cenotaph wall would ever even be noticed at all ... that would be tremendously significant offense which might merit severe reparations.

And, let's face it, D&D settings are filled with weapons and violence and monsters and heroes-vs-villains fighting to the death. Public floggings, stocks, and shackles are common. Hangings and drownings and burnings and beheadings and stonings are not unheard of. Life is especially cheap in those societies which endorse slavery. And scrabbling for sustenance or needing every sword arm available for common defense means there's no manpower or resources to waste guarding criminals, even less for those criminals deemed "unrepentant" or "unsalvageable" by society. Particularly heinous crimes might easily warrant a death sentence (or even a worse-than-death sentence), regardless of how lofty and moral the (elven) euphemisms describe things. Remember that the entire elven community might suffer a subtle social/spiritual blight from having to live with a murderer or rapist in their midst across the centuries ... perhaps the least painful "cure" is the most obvious one.

I would think (invent) the notion of elven "execution" following organic, natural law. Reincarnate the offender, basically reformat his spirit (which has already forsaken its elven membership) and let Nature or Fate or Corellon (or whatever) weigh the appropriate reward/punishment for the most extremely troubled (and troubling) individuals. Maybe the criminal is demoted to a slug or amoeba or kender. Maybe the criminal has been sorely misjudged and gets reborn into elven nobility or even gets promoted to eladrin. But reincarnation not only deals with the distasteful criminal in an impersonally and ultimately "fair" fashion - it also serves the living, it allows the other elves (judge, jury, executioner, and victim) to more easily reconcile their personal feelings and move past the past.

And, of course, elves living among other races should be subject to the local laws. Humans might hang a horse thief, the worst kind of thief, and elves might view this practice as barbaric and beneath their rarified, "evolved" sensibilities. But this doesn't mean an elf can steal a man's horse with impunity or that he can avoid "unevolved" human legal judgements when doing so.

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 24 Nov 2017 20:19:38
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hymer
Seeker

33 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2017 :  12:03:15  Show Profile Send hymer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you both very much for your insights and your time!
It's been a little hard for me to reconcile the communal behaviour of elves with their generally chaotic alignments. But then that's more of a lack of nuance with alignments, I suppose. There are only nine of them, after all, so they can only cover so much ground.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31233 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2017 :  17:41:15  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by hymer

Thank you both very much for your insights and your time!
It's been a little hard for me to reconcile the communal behaviour of elves with their generally chaotic alignments. But then that's more of a lack of nuance with alignments, I suppose. There are only nine of them, after all, so they can only cover so much ground.



Also, people keep overlooking the fact that alignments are not set in stone, but are more of a general outlook on life. Nothing at all prevents a person of one alignment having one particular aspect of their life where they are closer to another alignment, and there are similarly no prohibitions against actions that fall into another alignment.

It's like real-world politics: even if you are an elected representative of a particular party, you can still hold some views and even cast the occasional vote that tracks more closely with another party.

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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6618 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2017 :  20:55:56  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
9-peg alignments are not really absolute for groups or for individuals. But they're more than just "guidelines", they reflect outlook and temperament and philosophy.

A "Chaotic Good" elven community tends to value individuality and personal freedom and the "good" of the whole. "Breaking the rules to do the right thing" is basically acceptable, so "breaking the rules to do the right thing" is often forgiven (unless it's evident that "rules" were broken while it's ambiguous whether or not "the right thing" was done). But still some rules do exist, at least implicitly, as they are needed for the group to function. Elves don't harm each other, don't kill each other, don't steal from each other, don't spit on the faerie queen, etc, more because it's the "wrong" thing to do than because there's a penalty for doing it. They do enjoy personal freedom but they also have the responsibility of using that personal freedom well ... and if they abuse their freedoms then they have to have those freedoms taken away. (Something our "free" societies should do better, I think.)

[/Ayrik]
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6618 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2017 :  21:06:41  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It goes without saying that you can't define "outlaws" without first defining "laws". Our "Lawful" human societies categorize many things as either "legal" or "illegal", while "Chaotic" elven societies would need fewer of these distinctions.

[/Ayrik]
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Wrigley
Senior Scribe

Czech Republic
459 Posts

Posted - 25 Nov 2017 :  23:11:40  Show Profile  Visit Wrigley's Homepage Send Wrigley a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik
I would think (invent) the notion of elven "execution" following organic, natural law. Reincarnate the offender, basically reformat his spirit (which has already forsaken its elven membership) and let Nature or Fate or Corellon (or whatever) weigh the appropriate reward/punishment for the most extremely troubled (and troubling) individuals. Maybe the criminal is demoted to a slug or amoeba or kender. Maybe the criminal has been sorely misjudged and gets reborn into elven nobility or even gets promoted to eladrin. But reincarnation not only deals with the distasteful criminal in an impersonally and ultimately "fair" fashion - it also serves the living, it allows the other elves (judge, jury, executioner, and victim) to more easily reconcile their personal feelings and move past the past.



I really like the idea of reincarnation as a form of elven punishment. That is great thought.
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sfdragon
Great Reader

2209 Posts

Posted - 26 Nov 2017 :  02:28:21  Show Profile Send sfdragon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
funny thing about reincarnation as a punishment as said elf could come back as an elf of the opposite gender....

why is being a wizard like being a drow? both are likely to find a dagger in the back from a rival or one looking to further his own goals, fame and power


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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6618 Posts

Posted - 26 Nov 2017 :  03:23:56  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was thinking of physical rebirth as a reflection of "karmic" transformation along a wider spiritual scope, the vast numbers of species and possibilities offered in the Realms (and beyond) are practically endless.

But if Nature/Fate/Corellon/Whatever decrees something as ordinary as a gender swap within the same species then so be it. Some humans might find the notion particularly offensive (or particularly attractive), but I suspect elves (with their generally more "fluid" and sophisticated understandings of gender roles) wouldn't be very concerned either way.

I suggested reincarnation as a way for elves to:
1) remove particularly offensive/criminal/dangerous "problems" from their society,
2) let their society continue to live on with minimal grief, loss, and suffering, and
3) absolve themselves of the responsibility (or even the need to make such difficult decisions) by passing the buck onto impersonal "higher powers".

Not to say that passing judgement on one of your own kith or kin is easy, sentencing them to reincarnation is a form of rebirth and of appropriate reward/punishment, but it is still not unlike a sentence of death.

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 26 Nov 2017 03:31:22
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Bladewind
Master of Realmslore

Netherlands
1249 Posts

Posted - 26 Nov 2017 :  16:40:30  Show Profile Send Bladewind a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Most elven communities are built from elf houses and effectively ruled by a council of noble houses (sometimes called the House of Masters). Each clans elder or house master is responsible for the actions of his peers and pays any compensations the offending house member made to the house upon which the crime was committed. Its not unheard of that a capital punishment is called for by the offended house, but most councils are very conservative and executions have been deemed uncivilized for a very long time (probably inherited from the Seelie courts distaste for the death penalty). They are known to hold n'tell'quess to a very different standard and will punish non elves with less reservation.

Warcrimes, corruption and genocide are probably the only crimes deemed worthy of the death sentence, with murder, rape, espionage and treason usually getting the exile or shunning punishment. I agree theft of individual property is less of a cause for calling for justice, especially if the theft is 'in house' and returned within a few years or so accompanied with a good story. Theft between houses is a serious offense and can start feuds or even wars.

Actual punishment in the individual elven clans can be very personal and terrible things, inheriting a fey penchant for mental and magical torture. I am thinking confinement, forced labor, binding with cold-iron, exposure to the elements, deprivation of reverie and/or forced polymorphs, placing a geass, prolonged exposure to fear spells, reviewing the fault in their act with repeated illusions or temporary removal of faculties.

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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6618 Posts

Posted - 26 Nov 2017 :  21:12:35  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Exile and shunning are taken to the ultimate extreme with the drow. An entire race of elves branded and ostracized and condemned to live apart from the nature and sunlight elves love. Both in life and afterlife.

I note that 2E PHBR8: Complete Book of Elves describes an elven mindset of embracing emotions and passions, viewing even the most unpleasant consequences of passion as "normal" expressions of personality. So it seems to me that elves would tend to be more understanding and accepting (perhaps even forgiving) of what we call "crimes of passion". While this book does also briefly refer to "rape" - but not as a transgression upon another person, instead as a transgression upon the land and upon living nature. Humans tend to help themselves to nature, viewing it as a "resource", selfishly and impulsively taking whatever they want or need, thoughtlessly and carelessly leaving behind whatever they don't - to elves this is both a sickening perversion and a profound violation, so wrong in so many ways that they can hardly even address it. Which is to say that elves and humans seem not so different after all, both races are equally capable of knowing unspeakable crimes.

And this book also provides details about a ritualistic elven "Blood Oath", along with this cautionary tale:

In the not too distant past, a dwarf bounty hunter made a terrible mistake. While pursuing a fleeing half-elf foe, he came upon an elf hamlet. He wrongly assumed it to be the home of the half-elf culprit. Nothing would satisfy him that this was not the case, and he grew ever more enraged that the elves were "hiding" his rightful prey from him.
In the dwarf's anger and his lust for the reward money, he cruelly slew a woodsman - using the elf's own axe to cleave the widower in two. The elf's four children, who had been playing nearby, froze in fear. Ignoring the grief-stricken children, the ruthless dwarf turned once more to the woods. There he found old tracks made by the fleeing half-elf, and the dwarf set off after his foe again.
Elves being elves, the children were taken in and nurtured as best the hamlet could. Most were eventually fostered away to other villages, for the hamlet couldn't support children whose provider had passed on. Despite being separated, the four children nursed a private longing for vengeance in their hearts. Each trained diligently to understand the ways of the forest and of tracking, learning its subtle nuances that they might avenge their father.
Fifty years passed after the death of their father before the young elves deemed they were ready. They reunited and swore a solemn oath not to rest until they found the slayer of their father. The four then split off, each heading in a direction of the compass. Burned in their minds was the image of the dwarf. They questioned all they came across, and some sought certain magical items. Finally, one of them found a lead and left word for her siblings to follow as soon as possible.
The old dwarf had retired from bounty hunting to live alone in the mountains. The four elves swooped into his house and stole him from his doze by the fire. None ever saw the dwarf again, but his house still stands. Hacked limbs are left on the doorstep every few years - the hacked limbs of an old dwarf. To date, there have been 17 arms and 12 legs.
A ring of regeneration can work wonders in vengeance.


It would seem that elves can readily apply different "laws" to elves than to non-elves. And the blighted drow were forcibly ejected from the elven race, so their "crime" merits the worst of all possible punishments.

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 26 Nov 2017 21:58:34
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CorellonsDevout
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USA
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Posted - 29 Nov 2017 :  23:45:20  Show Profile  Send CorellonsDevout an AOL message Send CorellonsDevout a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just adding my two cents.

I don't think elves necessarily view reincarnation as a punishment, as they view it as a cycle in being part of the natural world. Their spirits go to Arvandor (unless they specifically worship a deity outside the Seldarine), and some--if they choose--are reincarnated after a time. Others choose to remain permanently in Arvandor. The reincarnation isn't forced.

Though I suppose, if the elf were reincarnated as a slug or blade of grass, that could be seen as a punishment, but they would still probably see it as part of the cycle. Also, if the elf was truly "evil", they may not be allowed in Arvandor in the first place. But there are nuances here, too, as we have gods like Fenmarel, who is worshiped by outcasts (some of whom have committed crimes and been exiled), and Shevarash.

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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1655 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2017 :  16:37:45  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Adhriva


"As I would think, so shall ye;
As I would feel, so shall ye;
As I would do, so shall ye;

In other words, conform, or be swarmed or ostracised.
Which is part of why they are in such a situation, though this may be chicken and egg.

quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

Exile and shunning are taken to the ultimate extreme with the drow. An entire race of elves branded and ostracized and condemned to live apart from the nature and sunlight elves love.

They don't see it as "the ultimate extreme", however.

quote:
Originally posted by CorellonsDevout

I don't think elves necessarily view reincarnation as a punishment, as they view it as a cycle in being part of the natural world.

They also tend to consider being anything other than an elf a cruel, cruel fate.
Or a great sacrifice, if the transformation is taken voluntarily for the good of other elves.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
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