Creating Incident Laws - The Art of World Building
Sep 022021
 
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Like the old saying, “shit happens.” And sometimes, the ruling authority creates a law to inhibit it from happening again. Examples include restrictions/permits on weapons, pollution, vehicles, building and infrastructure, and many more. What they have in common is an attempt at improving safety and life quality through prohibition. If a building fell down due to an earthquake, a new law may result in better materials being used. People driving too fast or while drunk leads to accidents, injury, and death, and therefore a slew of laws. Most of those aren’t particularly glamorous or useful to us and, while they’ll exist, we don’t need to focus on them. We should focus on what’s different about our invented world (magic, tech, lifeforms) and the resulting laws we need to envision.

With technology we’ve invented, imagine what can go wrong and create incidents proving it. The result can be a character using a weapon that’s not up to code because it was invented before a law, and possession and use of it is now illegal, either back home or where they are now. They might be upset to find it confiscated, then even destroyed by the local authority. Magic can lead to many laws, especially if we’ve decided that our magic system includes the ability for failed spells to still do something (see chapter six).  This is a great way to invent small stories, minor characters who were involved (and for whom a law may be named, officially or colloquially), places of interest (where it happened), and some history.

Examples of laws inspired by incidents (with explanations in parenthesis):

  1. Black magic is forbidden (it leads to unsavory beings in town and the resulting problems they bring)
  2. Goblins are not allowed near a treasury (they robbed several in the neighboring kingdom)
  3. Children may not undertake interstellar travel unless accompanied by an adult or guardian (kidnapping risk)
  4. Ogres are not allowed in public baths (they’re disgusting and cause evacuation)
  5. Children may not perform magic (they are too undisciplined)
  6. Interstellar travel is only permissible on “Class 5” vessels or above (others are obsolete and do not work with modern docking stations)
  7. All residents must pass a biannual swimming test, especially dwarves (over a hundred couldn’t be rescued in the last flood and many non-dwarves also perished due to resources diverted to dwarves’ rescue)
  8. A federal work authorization permit from Earth is permitted to be employed on Mars (illegal immigrants are taking jobs)
  9. Inciting Thor’s wrath is punishable by death (Thor destroyed a city the last time someone provoked him)

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