The Platinum Badge

Justice, as we know it, is a modern conceit, no? The idea of innocent until being proven guilty, that it’s better to let a guilty man go free than to punish an innocent, and that there are procedures to follow to make sure rights are preserved — all these are from the last few centuries, and have little place in a game whose roots are in medieval Europe, amirite?

The local constabulary in a D&D campaign may have magical tools to ferret out the guilty, but the ethic, most likely, is older. If someone purloins a jewel from the duke and drops it in a peasant’s pocket, that peasant is screwed, condemned by weight of evidence right away. Justice is swift, because that’s the philosophy of the medieval era.

But there are reasons that the philosophy of law-enforcement, even the mundane, classless and magicless town guard, would uphold modern standards of justice. And those reasons are named Bahamut and Tiamat.

Platinum and chromatic, good and evil, male and female; split from Io, in the 4e cosmology, and utterly opposed. But their domains are two sides of the same coin: Bahamut is the god of justice. Tiamat is the god of revenge.

In the real world, justice and revenge operate on a continuum. One act, one decision, can be both. Our jail system is pulled between impulses to rehabilitate and punish. Felons might pay their debt to society, but they’ll forever lose some rights. We seek an eye for an eye, yet hope we won’t all end up blind.

But D&D isn’t the real world. Justice and revenge can’t be one and the same — at least, not in the eyes of servants of Bahamut.

So it makes sense that some who serve Bahamut — perhaps paladins, perhaps classless — would focus on this part of his domain, his philosophy, and set forth to preach and to teach. Their targets would be those local town guards, magistrates and constabularies. They would preach the virtues of justice without revenge, how it brings an orderly society while revenge brings only pain. And they would teach methods of logic, deduction, investigation and, yes, even the notion that the accused have rights.

This order of the church, which I’m calling the Order of the Platinum Badge, provides a logical reason for DMs to have your local NPC law-enforcement types act in a way that you might first think is anachronistic. It’s a good reason the sheriff might want your party to investigate a murder or robbery — really investigate in a detective-show way — rather than just pulling a usual suspect out of the alley between the warehouses by the river.

I’m totally using it next session. I just can’t tell you why. My players might read this.

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