Sunday, June 16, 2013

Litigation in Superhero 2044

More art by Mike Cagle
In general, Superhero 2044 accom-modates standard tropes of the genre, but there are also some concessions made to 'realism.'  In a world where the antics of costumed menaces cause copious amounts of property damage, there will certainly be lawyers attempting to capitalize on the situation.  Such legal activity is rarely addressed in the comic books; litigation is ill-suited for graphic narrative.  However, in the setting of Superhero 2044, characters must not only fight villains, they must also suffer the slings and arrows of civil law.

Litigation is covered in four slight paragraphs on page 24 of Superhero 2044 and I am devoting an entire post to it – longer than the actual litigation rules themselves.  So sue me.

The default setting for Superhero 2044 is the island of Inguria, where the activities of superheroes are tolerated.  (Page 3 says, “Cash rewards are available to those who help the government by fighting crime or by aiding in time of disaster.”)  Although they are officially condoned, superheroes are still subject to lawsuits.

As explained in a prior post, characters possess a handicapping score called Damage.  By being cautious so as to avoid causing property damage and harming innocents, characters gain a higher 'Damage' score.  When a character attempts to thwart a crime while on patrol, a 'damage result' is determined based upon the type of crime, the severity of crime, and the character's Damage score.  Higher results mean less damage; a high enough result means no damage was caused.  If any damage was caused, a lawsuit results.

Each lawsuit requires that the character spend a block of time (six hours) “in court” the following week.  This rapidity of legal resolution is somewhat less believable than people throwing energy bolts and flying under their own power.  For the sake of playability (as opposed to realism) I appreciate the need to address lawsuits in such a speedy manner.  Still, although the character is deprived of a block of time that could have been put to better use, the player chooses which time block to be in court.  For instance, 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. is acceptable in the Ingurian justice system, a convenience unmatched in the annals of law.

In litigation, there is the plaintiff – the party filing the lawsuit – and the defendant – the party being sued.  Characters are defendants.  Each party rolls a die.  Unfortunately, the rules are not explained very well.  This is one of those occasions where the example serves only to further confuse the issue.  The rules state that the plaintiff's result is subtracted from the defendant's.  This is reversed in the example provided.  It seems that the rules describe the correct method, rather than the example.

If the total result is positive, the character/defendant must pay a number of 'pseudodollars' equal to the result multiplied by one one hundred (minor lawsuits) or one thousand (major lawsuits).  If the result is zero or negative, the character prevails and nothing is owed.  Of course, before the dice are rolled, the player can file a counter-suit for 1,000 pseudodollars.  In such a case the character is awarded money on a negative total result.

The actual fact pattern of the incident at issue (i.e, the cause of action) is not important.  (Since the 'incident' was a patrol encounter, it was not role-played.)  What does come into play is the 'Stop' result generated for the incident; it determines which dice to roll.  If the crime was stopped and the perpetrators captured, the plaintiff rolls 1d20 and the defendant rolls 1d8.  If the crime was not stopped and the perpetrators escaped, the plaintiff rolls 1d8 and the defendant rolls 1d20.  With any other combination of 'Stop' circumstances, both parties roll 1d20.  So, winning or losing the lawsuit (and the degree to which it is won or lost) is affected by how successful the character was in thwarting the crime.

In 'real life,' of course, the defendant's Charisma would be a factor in winning or losing the case; perhaps a bonus to the roll equal to Charisma / 10 (round down).  The quality of a character's legal representation should also be taken into account.  Perhaps the defendant pays for which die to roll, more sides being more expensive.  The cost of the die might also be based on the 'Stop' rating of the incident.

Superhero 2044 also offers the option of liability or malpractice insurance.  With either of these, lawsuits are handled out of court.  The character doesn't even spend a block of time; however, there is no possibility of counter-suit awards.  The insurance costs are fixed – liability costs 500 pseudodollars per year and malpractice costs 1,000.  'Realistically,' insurance should become more expensive in proportion to the number of lawsuits settled. 

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