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Month Index: October, 1996

From:     Kent Lerch <100716.2601@??????????.com>
Date:     21 Oct 96 06:06:44 EDT
Subject:  Re: Salvage laws.
Greetings, dear list members.
I'd like to give a few suggestions as to the matter mentioned in message 1964 of
Terry Hawkins:
"Has anyone come up with a simple and game-balanced set of salvage rules/laws
for SJ.  It seems that if PC's find a ship with even 50% damage with a minor
helm and sell it at port for even 50% of its remaining value, they are still
going to make a killing.  Many SJ players/DMs' agree that the prices for
helms are a *bit* high.  Does anyone have a more reasonable price listing for
a sphere with common access to Spelljamming ships.  One suggestion I have
heard is to set the value of helms at 10% of listed book price.  This seems a
little more reasonable when you consider that mages and priests of sufficent
level can cast spells to create (temporary) helms.  In general, what is to
keep a party from becoming TOO rich for the campaign is they have a few
encounters with pirates or scor that are using ships with helms."

It seems to me that this is the old Dragon Hoard dilemma revisited. Generally
there are three main solutions: Adversaries, the market and the law.
Ad 1: As to adversaries not much needs to be said: whoever finds a treasure has
to see to it that he will be able to enjoy his profits at the end of the day. So
even if your PCs get the listed 100 000 Gold Pieces for the salvaged helm, there
will be many, many people out there willing to relieve them of the burden of
carrying around such a pile of money (which amounts to a TON of Gold if you
calculate 1 GP = 10 grams as suggested in the PHB; historically it was closer to
5 grams per gold coin, pretty uniformly everawhere in Europe in the middle ages;
quite a lot of weight still). Robbers, thieves and tax collectors abound. And
the PCs will usually be strangers in a strange land, making them the top target
on anybodies' list.

Ad 2: The market will also help to get a grip on this problem. Will there be any
buyers for the goods at this price? And even if there are, what will a massive
influx of money do to the value of money (cf. the massive inflation the Spanish
gold and silver imports from Sout America caused). The PCs will either not be
able to sell their helms, have to sell them at a price way below the price given
in the box, or get devalued money for it.
A good "official" guideline is given in the SJ adventure "The Sea of Sorrows" in
Dungeon 36, where the PCs can salvage nearly a dozen ships and/or helms from a
sargasso. They may sell the ships and helms right where they found them, in
Pirtelspace, at a somewhat reduced price. This price is actually quite a good
price, as the goods are in high demand in Pirtelspace. If they fret and mumble
"but this is not the price listed in the Spelljammer box", they are in for an
even bigger surprise when they reach Refuge: the Arcane offer even less for
their goods, since they had a lot of salvaged ships come in recently.
Unfortunately I can't give you the rates suggested in the scenario, since I
haven't got my Dungeons at hand; but maybe someone is willing to check it up.

Ad 3: This is my favourite. Usually PCs assume that as soon they got their hands
on something, it is theirs. Dead wrong. Quote from Baker, An Introduction to
English Legal History, p. 438:
"Certain categories of lost property belonged to the Crown by the royal
prerogative ... The best known instance is treasure trove. Gold and silver
artefacts, coin or bullion .. belong to the Crown unless and until the true
owner makes good his claim; and they may be seized into the queen's hands by a
coroner. Wreck of sea belonged to the crown unless the owner claimed the goods
within a year and a day. The rhetorical Elizabethan explanation for this ancient
rule was that it compensated the queen for her expensive naval obligations."
As you see there are two parties to be reckoned with: the authorities and the
former owners. Maybe there is such a thing as serial numbers for helms (in the
form of wizard marks and such). There will definitively be something like a
ships' register. If the PCs haven't got any documents proving that they are the
owners, this will be the last they have seen of their salvaged ship. Whether it
will go to the former owners or to the crown will most probably not be of major
interest to the PCs.
Another thing to consider are the prize laws, if the PCs tooks the ship off some
nasties in combat, scro, pirates, you name it. Again, they will enjoy their
gains only if they are either a ship of war, fighting for the Elven Imperial
Navy or such, or bear a letter of marque recognized by the local authorities of
the port where they want to sell their prize. If they are not, the ship is
considered droit of the crown, and the above-mentioned rule is used. Maybe they
get some reward for their good deed, but this is not obligatory. If they are a
ship of war or a privateer, the captured ship is considered droit of admiralty
and seized by the authorities as prize. The PCs will then get a share of the
prize money (only a share, not all!), but only after all the relevant facts of
capture and ownership have been ascertained by a prize court - and this means a
lengthy trial, which will take away months of the PCs time ...  Of course they
may settle for a lesser amount of money if they waive their claims ...  ; )

Just a few ideas out of the huge fundus of nasty tricks with which the law can
provide evil-minded DMs. If anyone is interested in more details of prize law
and such, just send me a mail and I'll reply in private, as I don't want to bore
the list with legal stuff.

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Month Index: October, 1996

SubjectFromDate (UTC)
Salvage laws.    TLHawkins@???.com    15 Oct 1996 01:49:12
Re: Salvage laws.    Kevin Scardino    15 Oct 1996 13:36:02
Salvage laws.    Kent Lerch    21 Oct 1996 10:06:44

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