Imperial law is extensive and complicated. This chapter gives DMs an idea of what is and isn’t legal, how the authorities deal with crimes, and the various punishments handed down by the courts.
Crime poses probably the greatest problem in Ptolus today. Crime has worsened over the last two decades, most noticeably in the last five years. Many blame the lawlessness encouraged by “delver culture.” Others blame the rising power of the city’s criminal organizations. The ranks of the Watch increase each year, but the Commissar believes it is better to suffer some controlled amount of crime than risk open warfare with such formidable forces as the Balacazar family and the Killraven Crime League— or worse yet, both at the same time.
- The Law
- The Process of Law
- Licenses and Permits
- Information Panel: Vices
Ptolus operates under Imperial law, which places the Commissar, as the Emperor’s representative, as the ultimate judge in all legal affairs. However, the Commissar almost never exercises this privilege, instead allowing the courts to dispense justice in his name. The Commissar’s position also makes him the ultimate authority in enforcing the law, which is something he does do, through his administration of the City Watch and his own personal military force known as the Commissar’s Men, not to mention the covert Imperial Eyes. In times of serious public disorder, such as a riot, or other emergency (a particularly serious fire raging through dozens of buildings, for example), the Commissar takes direct control of the city’s forces to deal with it. In fact, he often goes right to the site of the trouble and leads his people “in the field,” as it were, just like he did when he was a military general years ago.
Typically, a recidivist thief has his forehead branded to warn potential victims. Sometimes a pickpocket has a finger removed, and castration as punishment for serial rapists is actually standard in the city.
Bounties on well-known criminals are commonplace. Usually the Empire puts up the reward money, but sometimes the victim or the victim’s family will do so. Earning a bounty involves actually bringing a criminal to justice—physically. Telling the authorities where the criminal can be found usually earns one a tenth of the posted bounty.
The punishment for falsely reporting a crime can be as severe as the punishment for the crime in question
It’s dangerous to try to equate the City Watch with a modern police force. They are closer to an occupying military force and are more interested in order than justice, and more interested in the well-being of the city as a whole than in the needs of a particular citizen.
Imperial law is codified within the Vast Codex, a series of twenty-three volumes totaling more than twelve thousand pages—over ten thousand discrete laws, regulations, edicts, and codes. This complex system of rules covers specific cases rather than providing general guidelines. Imperial law affords greater rights and freedoms to Imperial citizens than to noncitizens, and greater rights and freedoms to Imperial officials (including priests of Lothian) than to Imperial citizens.
Thanks to a Commissar who understands the importance of tradition (and its value in keeping the people happy), Ptolus observes some modicum of traditional Palastani law. This means, for example, that members of the nobility are afforded the same privileges under the law as Imperial officials. So are members of the City Council. It also means that occasionally criminals are branded or even mutilated as part of their punishment, even though such sentences are not part of the Vast Codex.
THE PROCESS OF LAW
From crime to punishment, the process of law typically follows four steps.
- A crime is observed, reported, or investigated.
- The criminal is hunted down and apprehended. He is placed in a jail at one of the Watchhouses. If the appropriate punishment for his crime is a fine, he can pay it at any time to secure his release.
- The criminal is brought to trial, typically within one to two weeks.
- The criminal is fined, sent to the Prison, or executed.
A City Watch guard observing a crime has the authority to apprehend and detain the criminal immediately. If the criminal resists, the guard can use lethal force to deal with him, if necessary. Brutality to criminals and even suspected criminals is expected.
The Sisterhood of Silence has the same authority as the City Watch when it comes to apprehending criminals observed committing a crime. The Sisterhood does not detain criminals, however, but turns them over to the custody of the City Watch.
If a citizen goes to a Watchhouse or finds a guard on the street, he can report a crime he has seen. (Noncitizens can report crimes, but the city guards are under no compunction to act.) The City Watch takes the person’s statement. If the chance to apprehend the accused is high (which is to say, the crime is occurring at the time), the members of the Watch act immediately. Otherwise, they take the report and thank the person but make no assurances that anything will be done. If the citizen reporting the crime is the victim of the crime, he is usually given more attention than someone who is just a witness.
The Reality of the Situation
The wheels of justice turn slowly. The City Watch exists first and foremost to preserve order—stopping crime, let alone investigating crime, is a secondary concern. Reporting a crime or providing information about a criminal does not automatically get results. Other factors include the current manpower level of the local Watchhouse and the personalities involved. Ptolus is an unabashedly classist society. The Watch will almost certainly ignore a noncitizen accusing a wealthy citizen of a crime. A wealthy citizen reporting a crime gets better results than someone without wealth or prestige to back her up.
Say the player characters learn of the Ennin slaver base in the Docks and report that location to the City Watch. The Watch members will use the information as they see fit, but they will not necessarily storm the place. In fact, almost assuredly they will not.
This is not to say that the Watch is entirely corrupt, and certainly not that it is incompetent. Its priorities, however, may not always be the same as those of a victim of or witness to a crime.
The Sisterhood of Silence
The Sisterhood of Silence does not take statements or listen to reports of a crime, unless that crime is occurring at that very moment. Those who come to the Priory of Introspection to make a report are turned away unheard. Approaching a Sister and telling her that you saw a man steal an apple from an applecart twenty minutes ago obtains no results, but if you tell her that there’s a woman setting fire to the pub around the corner right this moment, she’s likely to run off to find her. The Sisterhood cannot allow itself to become entangled in disputes and potentially false accusations. Mainly, they apprehend criminals whom they observe breaking the law, and nothing more. That’s why they focus so much on patrols.
It can’t be stressed enough: The members of the City Watch don’t really investigate crimes, at least not in the modern sense. They might question witnesses, but they don’t look for clues. Mostly, they just care about stopping crimes as—or before—they happen.
One could say, as many have, that justice under Imperial law is extremely precarious. It is, in fact, frightfully easy for a person to be blamed for a crime unjustly, particularly if the person belongs to the lower classes or is a noncitizen.
Take the example of a high-stakes game of Dragonscales. During the game, one player drops dead, the victim of poison (revealed through a Heal check or a detect poison spell). The other player immediately becomes a suspect for the murder. If the suspect has a criminal history known to the City Watch, he’ll likely be arrested and detained. If not, he might still be arrested and detained if he is not a citizen with a respectable job or a family. And it would just take one person claiming to have seen the suspect put something in the victim’s drink for even an upstanding citizen to be arrested. Arresting an upper-class citizen, or an official (including a priest of the Church) would require more substantial evidence, however.
The point is that, either way, there is little in the way of an investigation. The person who seems most likely to be guilty (if anyone) is assumed to be just that; the word of one eyewitness is sometimes all it takes to send a person to prison for decades.
Once detained, a suspect might be questioned or interrogated. The Watch may beat or torture a lower-class suspect, particularly if he is thought to have committed a particularly heinous crime. Some suspects are questioned under the effects of a zone of truth or discern lies spell cast by a cleric of Lothian—usually an itinerant priest on retainer of the City Courts, but in truth any cleric will do. This process is expensive (the courts must pay the cleric), and thus not undertaken lightly. No one requests magical assistance in cases involving minor crimes unless the suspect is prominent in some way. And even so, if the divination reveals the suspect’s innocence, the interrogators ask him further questions about other possible crimes he may have committed, based on some digging they did ahead of time. The City Courts want to get their money’s worth—if they pay for a spell to be cast, they want a conviction. This is why even innocent people rarely demand a divination to reveal their innocence.
A cleric can volunteer to cast the divinations necessary to ascertain truth, even if it is not requested. In such a case, however, the authorities also scrutinize the caster closely. If she is a friend of the suspect, the results of the spell may be called into question. This goes double if the cleric is not a Lothianite—or if the caster is not a cleric at all, but a wizard casting detect thoughts, for example.
And in the end, even the word of a cleric of Lothian is not beyond reproach. The courts are well aware that every kind of spell has its counter, and that the cleric herself might be controlled or charmed to say something she otherwise would not. Though most clerics called to perform these duties check for such counters, the system is not foolproof.
Since real criminal investigations are rare, this means that the player characters can break into a crime lord’s safe house, kill all the thugs and cutthroats inside, and—as long as they make good on their escape before the Watch shows up—they can get away without fear of punishment.
It is possible for an individual to hire a freelance investigator (often a spellcaster with access to divinatory magic) to look into a crime. Most charge 10 gp to 50 gp per day, plus the cost of spells, so this is a service available only to the wealthy. The findings of such an investigator do carry weight in a trial, though, so it may be money well spent.
As previously stated, the City Watch (and the Sisterhood of Silence) can use any amount of force deemed necessary to apprehend and detain a criminal. The law affords them great leeway in committing any act in the name of doing their duty.
The Watch guards have considerable discretion at this stage of the process to arrest whom they choose. This means that if a person holding a bloody sword is found standing over the body of some half-fiend sorcerer who was about make a human sacrifice to one of the Demon Gods, they’re unlikely to arrest the murderer. In other words, if player characters are careful, kill mainly evil foes, and don’t cause too much destruction, they will rarely have to worry about being arrested (see the “Vigilante Justice” sidebar as well).
The City Watch usually puts captured prisoners in manacles, with a black hood over their heads to help disorient (and therefore control) them. Then they march them to the nearest Watchhouse and put them in a small and ill-kept jail cell. For some offenses, a criminal can immediately pay a fine and leave, but in the case of a drunk apprehended in a brawl or similar misconduct, the Watch captain may order a mandatory night in a cell on top of the fine.
Jailers frequently commit acts of brutality against prisoners, often in the name of justice, retribution on behalf of a victim, or even rehabilitation.
The concept of citizens “taking the law into their own hands” is not considered a bad thing in Ptolus. Local authorities, from the lowest-ranking guard to the Commissar himself, are quite practical in this regard. In an effort to maintain order, they do what’s best for the city rather than strictly uphold all the laws of the Vast Codex. If an angry mob finds and lynches a kidnapper of children, the authorities not only don’t intervene, they don’t make arrests. They go out of their way not to get involved.
This means an adventuring group can slay a Vai assassin or a human-sacrificing cultist without fear of the law. In most cases, the City Watch would rather not even know about it, to avoid the bureaucratic paperwork. The guards are happy to look the other way in such instances.
TRIALS IN PTOLUS
Trials are brief and weighted heavily against the defendant, with the idea that if things have progressed this far, the suspect is probably guilty. A single judge presides over a case, with an advocate and an Imperial prosecutor to present evidence and argue applicable passages in the Vast Codex. Imperial law is not one of generalities or extrapolation, but of specifics, with different laws and codes for every particular situation. Advocates and prosecutors focus far more on knowledge of the law than on persuasion. Arguments come into play regarding which statute specifically applies.
Trials can be public or private, at the discretion of the judge. In fact, everything that occurs during the course of the trial is at the discretion of the judge, although a higher-ranking judge or other official can overrule these decisions.
There are three ranks of judge in the city: judges, high judges, and grand judges. The higher a judge’s rank, the more important the cases he hears. Promotions come from the Commissar’s office. Today, Ptolus has about fifty judges.
Advocates usually charge anywhere from 10 gp to 1,000 gp per case, depending on the case, the client, and the advocate. More skilled and wellknown advocates get paid more.
Of course, not everyone arrested for a crime goes to trial. If the City Watch apprehends a criminal in the act of committing a very serious crime, a Watch captain has the authority to mete out justice immediately. Because officials can challenge this authority after the fact and even reverse a decision, guard captains use this privilege sparingly and limit their summary sentences to fines and/or imprisonment—almost never death. (Captains found to have handed out an unwarranted sentence of death can be stripped of their rank.)
The Commissar himself can sentence anyone to serve a term in prison any time he wishes, as can the Holy Emperor and the Emperor.
Imperial lawmakers recognize the need to defend oneself against aggression. “Self defense,” a very common defense in murder or assault cases, often results in acquittal and complete exoneration for the accused.
Punishments in Ptolus are swift and harsh. Only aristocrats, Imperial officials, and the very rich can contest a verdict—an appeal requires the order of a powerful official, so only highly influential folks can attempt one.
Some crimes are punishable by death. Executions, usually hangings, are public events held in a square in Oldtown appropriately called Gallows Square.
A criminal who cannot pay a fine typically stays in prison until he or his family can pay, up to one year for every 100 gp of the original fine.
Sometimes a criminal is sentenced to labor rather than imprisonment—usually for onequarter to one-half the length a sentence of imprisonment would carry. Labor means hard labor during the day and imprisonment at night.
Construction projects are the most common sources for labor, although clearing clogged sewers remains a favorite among some judges. Usually sentences of labor have more to do with the current need for laborers than with anything having to do with the case.
The system deals harshly with recidivists. A criminal up on charges who is found to have committed similar (or worse) crimes in the past is typically given double the normal punishment. The table on the next page shows a list of many crimes and typical punishments. Actual punishments can vary considerably.
Owning a slave is not illegal in Ptolus—although it does raise eyebrows. Kidnapping people to sell as slaves is illegal, as is selling slaves. Abuse of anyone, including slaves, is also illegal. Of course, all these things still go on, more in some circles than others. For more on the slave trade, see page 428.
LICENSES AND PERMITS
Imperial bureaucracy is extensive and difficult to navigate. Licenses and permits are required for many activities, and obtaining them is usually an expensive and time-consuming process. Forms must be filed, and often bribes must be paid. Ptolus residents apply for licenses and permits at the Administration Building in Oldtown.
Permits and licenses create revenue for the government and, more importantly, they register the applicant for appropriate taxes, which bring in even more revenue (see page 558). They also allow the Imperial government to monitor activities they consider worth monitoring, such as firearm ownership and book printing.
The list at the top of page 558 shows a few examples of activities that require permits or licenses, and their cost.
You can find a sample firearms permit among the handouts in the envelope at the back of this book.
Sometimes the city will issue a special permit to allow a spellcaster to cast potentially destructive spells (like fireball) in the city. There are even so-called “death licenses” that enable the license-holder to commit murder with no fear of punishment. These are granted only in special circumstances, and only by the Commissar or someone of higher rank (which is to say, one of the Emperors). People like the Imperial Eyes or other such special operatives might have such licenses.
The availability of substances or services that are illegal, dangerous, or addictive—or some combination thereof—makes Ptolus a den of iniquity in the minds of some.
To make things easy, each addictive substance has been given an addiction Difficulty Class. This is the DC of both a Fortitude save and a Will save (Fortitude first). If both saves fail, the user is addicted and suffers some drawback when he does not have his regular dose. The drawback, usually damage inflicted for each day the user goes without the substance, is presented after the Difficulty Class in the substance descriptions that follow.
Overcoming addiction requires one to give up the addictive substance and make successful saves (both Fortitude and Will) for a number of consecutive days equal to the addiction DC. Further doses addict the user immediately, however. Some spells, such as neutralize poison, greater restoration, and heal, also alleviate addiction.
Tobacco, Alcohol, and Legal Drugs
Smoking is a common practice in Ptolus. Tobacco grows in fields south of the city, and local merchants import it. It is rolled into cigarettes and cigars and smoked in pipes. Tobacco prices range from 1 cp to 50 gp per smoke. At the low end, the leaves are dry, old, and often mixed with bits of common grass or trash paper. At the high end, it is not only fresh and pure but mixed with expensive herbs, oils, and even magical substances to produce enhanced flavors, scents, and sometimes colors. Smoking is considered very sophisticated and those who do not like the smell of smoke are thought uncultured. Most tobaccos have an addiction DC of 10 (Constitution damage, 1 point). Dosage is usually twice daily. Long-term use (twenty to thirty years) inflicts a one-time permanent Constitution drain of 1d4 points.
Note: A rare type of tobacco called ghostweed, imported from lands far to the west, allows ghosts to continue to interact with living friends.
Alcohol flows more freely than water in Ptolus. Ale, beer, wine, rum, whisky, and brandy are all common. There are no special laws against drunkenness, but the Watch knows that drunk people are likely to get rowdy, so the guards patrol the area around taverns late at night with regularity. Intoxicated drinkers, in addition to losing some of their inhibitions, suffer a temporary penalty to all ability scores of –1d4 points, which lasts for 1d3 hours. Alcohol has an addiction DC of 5 (all scores damaged 2 points). Dosage is usually three times daily, although each dose for an addict is a prodigious amount. Long-term use (ten to twenty years) inflicts a one-time drain of 1d4 on all ability scores. (DMs may want to simply ignore the addictive quality of alcohol.)
Most tobaccos and alcohols are legal in the Empire (but see below). However, because they are heavily taxed, they both are smuggled into the city frequently, alcohol more often than tobacco. Smuggled goods are considered illegal substances and confiscated or destroyed if found.
The city’s physickers and herbalists use a wide variety of medicinal herbs and drugs to alleviate pain, treat symptoms, and even cure conditions such as baldness or warts. The effects of these treatments, usually brewed or applied as poultices, vary wildly. Only some are addictive and, if used as prescribed, pose little problem.
Illegal drugs usually get that way because of their highly addictive nature coupled with a dangerous effect. The Empire, in conjunction with the Church of Lothian, has outlawed substances known to be deadly, either through their use or the lack thereof. The following substances are the more well-known illegal drugs.
Also known as smokeweed, ayorith is an intoxicating weed that one smokes like tobacco in cigarettes or pipes. It is a powerful relaxant, but every time one smokes it after the first 1d12 times, the user must make a Fortitude save (DC 10) or become so relaxed that she dies of heart failure. Ayorith has an addiction DC of 12 (Constitution damage, 2 points). The required dosage is once daily. Long-term use (one year or more) results in an annual Constitution drain of 1d4 points.
Gravebloom is an extremely rare plant that grows only on the graves of those consecrated in the name of Blurrah, Goddess of Comfort in Sadness, an obscure deity with a very small following. Gravebloom flowers, however, contain a potent narcotic worth 50 gp per dose. The drug creates a feeling of utter euphoria in those who use it, producing a near catatonic state for 1d4+2 hours. It has an addiction DC of 16 (Intelligence drain, 1 point). The required dosage is once daily. Long-term use (one year or more) results in an annual Intelligence drain of 1d3 points, and the required dosage becomes twice daily.
Because of gravebloom, followers of Blurrah keep their burials a secret, so that would-be drug merchants do not desecrate the graves of their fallen.
When beer is brewed not with hops but with the pollen of a flower called yillow that grows in the Dragonsbirth Mountains, it becomes murlch. This potent alcohol becomes a stimulant, adding an enhancement bonus of +2 to Strength and Constitution, and a penalty of –4 to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These modifiers last for 1d3 hours. The drink also gives one distinctively foul breath. Murlch has an addiction DC of 13 (Strength damage, 1d2 points). The required dosage is once daily. Long-term use (six months or more) results in 1 point of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma drain per month, and the required dosage becomes twice daily.
A few taverns sell murlch on the sly, while there are secret murlch bars that serve nothing but the stimulant. Most of these secret bars are only open for a few hours at a time each day and their location moves to stay ahead of the City Watch.
The magical/alchemical substance known as nightsong derives from an extremely rare plant found only in Cherubar. This substance changes ordinary people into powerful figures at night, able to ignore pain and perform amazing physical feats. While not addictive, the drug inflicts terrible damage on a user’s body, burning him out and eventually opening him up to control by an otherwise bodiless evil fey spirit.
This drug, which functions only at night, grants Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity enhancement bonuses that depend on the user’s original score. If the score is 8 or less, the increase is +12. If the score is 9 to 14, the bonus is +8, and if the score is 15 or higher, the bonus is +4. Further, the user gains DR 3/— and an immunity to daze, stun, nausea or sleep effects. The effects last for 1d3+1 hours. The Challenge Rating of someone using nightsong increases by +2.
The first use of the drug inflicts 1d3 points of temporary Wisdom and Intelligence damage one hour after using. The second use inflicts 1d6 points of temporary Wisdom and Intelligence damage. The third use inflicts 2d6 points of temporary Wisdom and Intelligence damage and 1 point of permanent drain to all ability scores. All subsequent uses inflict 3d6 points of permanent drain to all scores. A user who falls to 0 or below in a mental ability score but remains alive is possessed by a sly, murderous, evil fey spirit that controls him until the ability score is somehow restored.
Nightsong is for sale from the gnomes who own the North Point Restaurant in the Fairbriar neighborhood of Midtown (800 gp per dose; see page 214).
Called the “pleasant poison” or “black sea-powder,” shivvel is developed from a black seaweed that grows near the shoreline of certain islands in the Whitewind Sea. The weed is harvested, dried, and eventually rendered into flakes or powder. When mixed with other substances, it becomes a powerful narcotic. A dose costs around 20 gp, although the price can vary greatly depending on the time of year and the seller. It has an addiction DC of 18 (Constitution drain, 1 point). The required dosage is once daily. Long-term use of shivvel is almost always deadly, but only after a prolonged period of madness. After 1d10 doses, regardless of addiction, the user suffers 2 points of temporary Wisdom damage each day that he does not use the drug and 3 points on any day he does use it. When a user’s Wisdom score falls to 0 or below, rather than becoming catatonic, he goes mad as described in the insanity spell. After this occurs, a user generally dies 1d8 weeks later, unless healed via a heal or greater restoration spell.
Rumor has it that the secret of creating shivvel was passed on to humans by a demon. The Balacazars control virtually all of the shivvel traffic in Ptolus. It is the most commonly used illegal drug. (See Chapter 33: Adventures for a scenario involving a shivvel dealer named Linech Cran.)
Once prescribed by healers, the following drugs, distilled from various plants and flowers, have been declared illegal because of their strong addictive factor and the dire consequences of that addiction. Most people cannot survive the withdrawal damage without powerful magical assistance. These drugs inflict no harm based on long-term use. Prices below are per dose.
Alstalan: If the imbiber’s Dexterity score is below 12, this drug grants it a +4 enhancement bonus. If magically enhanced, alstalan adds +8, although the total score cannot exceed 16 without an additional enhancement, doubling the price a second time.
Price 35 gp; dosage: twice daily; addiction DC 18 (Dexterity drain, 2 points).
Ravalan: If the imbiber’s Strength score is below 12, this drug grants it a +4 enhancement bonus. If magically enhanced, ravalan adds +8, doubling the price; the total score cannot exceed 16 without an additional enhancement, doubling the price a second time.
Price 35 gp; dosage: twice daily; addiction DC 17 (Strength drain, 2 points).
Vistaran: If the imbiber’s Constitution score is below 12, this drug grants it a +4 enhancement bonus. If magically enhanced, vistaran adds +8, doubling the price; the total score cannot exceed 16 without an additional enhancement, doubling the price a second time.
Price 35 gp; dosage: twice daily; addiction DC 16 (Constitution drain, 2 points).
Gambling per se is not illegal. However, the heavy taxes placed on gambling earnings, whether won by individuals or “the house,” have made it far more profitable to gamble in secret locations away from the tax collector’s eyes.
The Church would like gambling itself to be illegal: It promotes destructive behavior and encourages a fascination with chaos and randomness, as opposed to Lothian’s ordered will.
Prostitution is illegal in the Empire without a license, requiring heavy taxation and regulation. The fees, taxes, and rules involved mean that many prostitutes—most of them, in fact—operate illegally. Generally, criminal organizations control these illegal prostitutes, which means that the life of an illegal prostitute is not a terribly pleasant one. Often they are slaves forced into the profession by their criminal owners. Some specialized illegal brothels cater to deviant or strange tastes, but most streetwalkers deal in fairly straightforward sex.
Legal, licensed prostitution is not only condoned, but certain temples in the Temple District require it. In such temples, sexual practices are used as a part of worship or atonement—but only with official temple prostitutes, who serve as special priests and priestesses.
Some of the few legal brothels include the White House in Oldtown, Esser’s in the Docks, and the House of Delights in the Nobles’ Quarter.
Five out of six prostitutes, legal or otherwise, are female. Breakdown by race mirrors the demographics of the city quite closely (see Chapter 7: City by the Spire for more on Ptolus demographics).
It would be naïve to think that, just because certain actions require permits, everyone who undertakes such actions always has them. No one building in the Warrens obtains a permit first, and there are far more illegal prostitutes and gambling dens than legal ones (to avoid both license fees and taxes).
Subjective Law Enforcement
There are crimes so serious that, although they may not carry the penalty of death, if someone killed the perpetrators while attempting to stop them, the authorities would not bat an eye. For example, say you come upon two Pale Dogs beating a sister of the Order of Dayra within an inch of her life. For this crime of assaulting an official, they should receive up to twenty years imprisonment. However, no judge in Ptolus would say a word against a band of adventurers who came upon the scene and slew the assailants. Undercity Market, page 423 Imperial Eyes, page 153 Delver’s Square, page 198
Crime and “Monsters”
Nonhumanoid creatures have no rights under Imperial law. In other words, it is not murder to slay a dragon, it is not assault to attack a troll, and it is not theft to rob from a manticore’s hoard. Exceptions have been made, however, in the case of beings like Urlenius, ogre-mage Star of Navashtrom (see page 387), and Shibata, minotaur cleric of Niveral (see page 397), who clearly have found a place in civilized society.
Most people find Imperial taxes burdensome, to say the least. Every Imperial citizen must pay 3 gp in tax per year—nothing to the wealthy, but onerous to the common laborer. (The tax collector can instead choose to assess the value of a citizen’s current wealth and levy a yearly tax of 9 percent of the total.) Children are exempt from this unless they earn a wage, which means that fewer children work (and instead attend school) than one might suspect. Sometimes a parent convinces his employer to allow his child to work and add the wage to his own—this is more common in the manufactories and workshops of the Guildsman District than elsewhere. And, of course, children who work for their parents typically do not earn an official wage and so are not taxed.
The tax collectors also levy taxes on noncitizens, but not in the same fashion as for citizens. At any time, virtually any government official can demand one silver shield from a noncitizen as an Imperial services levy, as long as the noncitizen has spent the last week in the Empire. Technically, a noncitizen only needs to pay this once per week, but since there is no way to prove that one has already paid the levy, someone without citizenship papers could get charged multiple times.
The government attempts to impose “salvage” taxes on treasure that delvers find on their adventures. If they could, Imperial officials would place a tax collector at every known entrance to the Dungeon, but of course, that isn’t possible. So instead, the Empire keeps a tax assayer’s table in the Undercity Market, where delvers are instructed to register all of their finds and pay a 10 percent tax. Naturally, adventurers don’t cooperate with this plan. The Commissar has ordered a few of his Imperial Eyes to maintain a presence undercover in Delver’s Square and other places where delvers bring their treasure, and report what they see to the tax collectors.
Taxes on goods are levied as they come into the city, unless proper paperwork is presented to show that the taxes have already been paid or that the goods are tax exempt (which is to say, they are being sold to the government, the Church, or an official thereof). The tax rate on all goods coming into the city is 25 percent of their assessed value. They are then stamped or marked with an Imperial seal to show that they need not be taxed when sold.
Goods produced in the city are not taxed unless they are also bought and consumed in the city. In this case, the seller must pay the 25 percent rate on goods, collected monthly. The sale of certain goods, such as alcohol, is taxed at an even higher rate: almost 40 percent.
These high taxes encourage smuggling and black market activities. Smugglers sneak goods into the city and sell them on the sly for a greater profit—often offering a 10 percent discount to move the goods quickly and to cover the customer’s “risk.” It is a crime not only to circumvent the assessors, but to sell, buy, or even possess the results of such illegal actions.
Certain organizations in Ptolus hold an Imperial Charter, a document certifying official recognition by the Emperor. Chartered organizations often receive Imperial funding in the form of stipends and similar support from the Commissar’s budget, in exchange for the valuable duties the groups perform for the city. Chartered organizations are also the first to be commandeered by the Commissar in the event of a civic emergency. Examples of groups with Imperial Charters include the Knights of the Chord, Keepers of the Veil, and the Knights of the Pale. Groups lacking an Imperial Charter are not necessarily illegal, but they receive no official recognition from the Empire.