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blog Law for Fantasy Writers — Legal Systems in Worldbuilding

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Featured Author, Aug 5, 2018.

  1. Featured Author

    Featured Author Scribe

    Black Dragon submitted a new blog post:

    Law for Fantasy Writers — Legal Systems in Worldbuilding
    This article is by Garren Jacobsen.


    What do you call 1000 attorneys at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. Now, with the obligatory lawyer joke out of the way, let’s consider fantasy writers’ worlds and the law. There is a lot that goes into the law. Sometimes, the law is concerned with high minded concepts and digs deep into philosophical discussions to understand itself. Other times, the law is bogged down by the mundane and the procedural. But, no matter what, the law is an integral part of everyone’s lives and is inescapable. Everyone has or will enter into a contract of one kind or another. Everyone will be injured by someone else’s actions and could use legal redress. And every single writer that has written a story will be afforded the protections of copyright law.

    However, while the law is so ubiquitous in our own everyday lives, the law is not quite so impactful in the lives of main characters. The legal systems of many worlds are either such a sham of a system that the people would have torn the system down long ago (looking at you Harry Potter) or the legal systems are entirely non-existent.

    But Garren, you might say, the law is so complex and so vast, it is impossible to actually build a decent legal system. Ah, but that is where you are wrong. While, yes, in the details, the law is complex, in its foundations the law is rather simple. Now, like Virgil and Dante,...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
    Laurence and Skybreaker Sin K'al like this.
  2. Ben Bryant

    Ben Bryant New Member

    You raise an interesting thought. For my own novel (which I just just published myself- hurrah!), I went for a positivist approach. Legal precedents in my world come from fairy tales and horror movies as well as the real world. I think it has allowed for some expansion on the possibilities, while drawing on some of the rich tapestry of established culture, and also setting some boundaries to root my story in the 'real world'.
    Black Dragon and Garren Jacobsen like this.
  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    My setting is called "Her Law" so I've put a lot of time into thinking about this subject. Particularly the lines between divine, natural and man-made law. I guess you could consider that a secondary theme in my setting.
    Decent post but I can't saw that I got much information or insight out of it.
  4. I agree. By digging to this kind of fundamental question, you can show what things your society considers important.
  5. No. It wasn't meant to give a whole lot of detail it really is a primer, meant to introduce people to the basic concepts and show their applicability.
    Black Dragon likes this.
  6. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Very basic. I felt like you could have gotten out all of the information in a 1/3 of the space, giving yourself more space to throw-out suggestions or go more into detail. Maybe talk about law enforcement since a lot of story deals with that subject in one way or another and it's probably a more useful thing to muse on when building a story or setting than the distinction between divine law and man-made law.
  7. If I had wanted to discuss law enforcement I would have. But that wasn’t the goal. The purpose was to get people thinking about foundational philosophical underpinnings of their system. Because these philosophies will impact how the rulers and the rules think. The language they will use when justifying their government. And how the law and its enforcement sees itself.
    Black Dragon likes this.
  8. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    The article was always intended to be a basic primer, with the purpose of giving writers something to ponder. The article succeeds beautifully in accomplishing that. We are grateful to Garren JacobsenGarren Jacobsen for his contribution to the blog.
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  9. Dark Squiggle

    Dark Squiggle Troubadour

    I greatly enjoyed the article. I have always thought of law as something that came out of a book, but these two categories make sense. How would they work in a small trial, say in a frontier town, where there ae no lawbooks? Someone would claim they are right because the are 'natural'?
    Also, how would a lawyer defend a case where, as you said law can be decided by some lord who effectively is lawmaker and arbitrator of a city?
    Black Dragon and Garren Jacobsen like this.
  10. Let's first consider the small town example. It's difficult to say. In the real world, the judge would look at what the guy was saying and make a gut decision, if the system was a "natural law" system and declare that's the way the law ought to be. But, supposing gods are real in this world and readily accessible, then it is possible for that man to consult the god and see what it has to say. The man could also look at the words of his gods and decide what is right and what isn't. If he has any prior legal knowledge, he would compare what the other person is saying to what he knows or believes is the law and make the decision from there. Can you give us an example, then we can maybe play around with it.

    As for the second, that highlights the problem with a purely positivist system, if you have an arbitrary and capricious ruler then you will have arbitrary and capricious rules. That's why often, in the real world, positivist systems wrap themselves up in a blanket of natural law, like the modern-day US, to make their rulings at least seem not so arbitrary.
    Black Dragon likes this.
  11. rktho

    rktho Troubadour

    Crazy how this article pops up the same week I'm taking a law camp at BYU. In light of what I've learned, this is very interesting to read.
  12. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Sage

    this in interesting one of my story ideas folks worhip and fear a sentient essence of law. it opposite is the sentient essence of chaos
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.

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