OSR: Legal Spells in Endon

Loxdon College has 1,000 students and, at present, 4 areas of study.
-History / Literature / Politics

Why, in a game where you could be a Wizard, would anyone choose to be a Lawyer? 

  • The pay is better.
  • Courses are less likely to kill you.
  • The finer details of promissory estoppel might give you a competitive edge in business.
  • Friends in the justice system can make minor infractions vanish and major crimes sink into a morass of procedure and delay.
  • You can be a Brawler, Duelist, Thief, or Dandy.

The System

Feel free to skip this bit; it's probably not relevant for actual campaigns. It's nice to have the information in one place though. Obviously, none of this is actual legal advice, or even fictional legal advice.

In theory, the judicial system of Endon is an independent structure that neither relies on the state nor the Monarch. In practice, the judicial system is an arm of the state, prone to the same biases, jealous of its power, slow to change, and lacking both mercy and perspective.

Medical practitioners are divided into Surgeons (who cut into patients, pull teeth, and dispense practical advice) and Physicians (who know medical theory, dispense prescriptions, suggest treatments, and try to avoid touching patients). Physicians aspire to nobility; they consult for a living and their fees balance nonchalance with avarice. Surgeons are workers.

Similarly, lawyers are divided into Solicitors (who draft documents, collect fees, and handle routine legal matters) and Barristers (who study legal theory, appear in court, and avoid direct contact with money if at all possible). Solicitors practice a trade. Barristers indulge in a hobby.

A degree in Law is not required to be a lawyer in Endon, just as a degree in Magic is not required to become a wizard. Most lawyers are members of the Middle Class, though the profession represents one of the few avenues where talent (and skill at social manipulation, and heaps of money) can take a lawyer from the bottom of the Middle Class to the lofty heights of the Upper Class.

Becoming a Solicitor requires a 5 year apprenticeship as a Clerk. A degree in Law lets a student skip all but six months of the apprenticeship... but as tuition at Endon College costs 15gp per Season (not including room, board, and incidentals), while an apprenticeship provides a small salary, it is not a route commonly pursued.

Solicitors deal with clients directly, taking fees and passing them on to Barristers (as "gifts", to maintain the fictional distinction between a trade and a pastime). In a bizzare inversion of the normal social order, Barristers clamour for the attention of Solicitors, hoping to receive cases, revenue, and prestige. 

While Solicitors can only argue in a few minor courts, they cannot lose their status by means other than death. In theory, Parliament could strip a Solicitor of their credentials. In practice, Parliament would probably find it easier to encourage a conviction for fraud, treason, or uncommon affray and assign the appropriate punishment. Radicals, troublemakers, and frauds prefer the Solicitors's role.

Becoming a Barrister is a slightly more fluid process. The Grim Baliol, the high courthouse of Endon, is surrounded by boarding houses and minor courts. A prospective Barrister needs only to show up at one of these courts, build social connections with existing Barristers (usually for about 3 years), and then receive a call to the Bar. A degree in Law grants no special favours in this process, but since students mingle with existing Barristers, build strong social connections, and generally grease the wheels of social mobility.

Unlike other court systems, the Bar in Endon is a physical object, a cylindrical bronze rod buried in the dungeons of the Grim Baliol. Touching it without flinching or fleeing in terror makes one a Barrister.

Some courts (the Court of Last Appeals, the Court of Unusual Inquests, etc.) require Barristers to have a Law degree, arguing that the arcane and weighty matters dealt with by these courts cannot be understood without appropriate training.

After a decade or two of competent work, a Barrister's peers can elect them to the ranks of the Monarch's Counsel, granting them the right to wear silk robes and add the initials "M.C." behind their name. Another decade, and the Minister of Justice can appoint them as a Judge in one of the courts, adding additional robes and a thick wig to their regalia.

No rule prevents women (or sentient trees, or magical constructs) from becoming Barristers or Solicitors. A few Solicitors might, for ideological or financial reasons, accept a woman as a Clerk, but Barristers, buttressed by centuries of traditional bloody-minded obstinacy, are unlikely to willingly admit one to the Bar. The judicial system is a small close-knit club.

Courts and Cases

Minor criminal and civil cases are handled by Magistrates. Any member of the Upper Class with the right social connections and time to spare can become a Magistrate with minimal effort. It is not a prestigious role. Magistrates are not paid. The role requires literacy, patience, and a very basic knowledge of the law. They judge cases "by the book", assigning standard fines or punishments for cases where the evidence is clear. In a Magistrate's court, the word of a Copper is sacred. Some Magistrates are corrupt, some are tyrannical, some are merely filling time.

If a Magistrate can't figure out who is in the right, or feels the details of a case exceed the bounds of their legal knowledge, they can pass the case to any number of specialized hierarchical Courts. There, Judges (who were once Barristers), and Juries (consisting of twleve men of Endon who can be trusted to show up and vote correctly) decide complex cases.

Defendants do not have a right to counsel. Some irritable Judges consider the mere presence of a Barrister to be an admission of guilt; the defendant should simply tell the truth and let the court decide. A lawyer merely introduces complications. With criminal trials proceeding at literally breakneck speed, widespread ignorance of court procedure among Endon's population, and laws predisposed to punish and chastise, trials are treated as a high-stakes gamble for most citizens.

George Cruikshank

Magical Industrial Litigation

Actio personalis moritur cum persona - "A personal right of action dies with the person."

Charges related to strictly personal actions - fraud, murder, etc. - cannot survive the death of the person who committed them. Faking your own death is (of course) merely another charge to add to the list, but actually dying (with witnesses), then returning to life, technically clears a host of outstanding charges and potential legal actions.

However, Dread Necromancy is illegal in Endon. Either you were raised by Dread Necromancy (and subject to the appropriate penalty) or you weren't and are still liable. Attempting to prove you were resurrected by non-necromantic means is likely to irritate a Judge and result in a swift sentence of Horrible Death.

Plot Hooks:

  • A botched charm-like spell have convinced everyone that your professor is dead. He's not (and he's still in his office), but people keep trying to bury him. The effect is weak enough that solid concentration can temporarily hold it off, but anyone not paying attention will interpret the Professor's movements as "spasmodic twitches" or "ghoulish pranks", his voice as "trapped wind", and his notes as the desperate attempt of lazy students to pass a course instead of retaking it.
  • The Archlich Aoraxestave Triumphant has sued the City of Endon for nonpayment of ancient tithes. Ordinarily, the City would refuse on the grounds that the Archlich is undead, but the Archlich has a royal warrant dating from "Time Immemorial" (630 years ago last Thursday) showing that the rights were assigned when the Archlich was already undead. It's a bit awkward. With compound interest, the tithes would bankrupt Endon. Either find a legal way out or permanently dissuade the Archlich.

Dan Peacock

Consensus ad idem - "A meeting of minds."

Contracts require both parties to agree on the terms. Vagueness, deliberate or malicious, can lead to the contract becoming null and void.

For very high stakes commercial contracts, some industrial wizards turn to telepathy to ensure a literal meeting of minds and a fusion of intent. If two parties share the same mind, there can be no disagreement. Non-consensual mind-altering effects are illegal, but nothing in law prevents two or more willing participants from direct communication. Tales of accidental mind-swaps, secrets revealed, personality fusion, and ancestral possession are best left to the Penny Dreadfuls. Ignore the Cult of the Invisible Hand. 

Plot Hooks:

  • The sixty-odd shareholders of the Northern Transubstantial Rail-Away Ltd, a speculative company, decided to vote via telepathy. Something went awry. The sixty-odd-bodied entity that coalesced from the ashes of their meeting house is embroiled in dozens of lawsuits (including alimony, parking offenses, and Moral Crimes by the score), and is either looking for swift justice or a way to separate its constituent minds and memories.
  • Someone is making a fortune by detecting correlating traces of telepathic magic and the location of business magnates to potential mergers and sales. Seems like a good way to get rich; find this person, steal their system, and retire.
  • One of Endon's Wackit teams (the Knickertwisters) might be using telepathy to coordinate plays. This isn't technically against the informal rules of Wackit, but it threatens to split the league into Sorcerous and Mundane branches. Many scions of the Upper Class play Wackit; telepathic access to their secrets might tempt a rogue (or a law student) into crime.

"A living flesh and blood sentient man"

The definition of "person", in most of Endon's law dictionaries, spans a dozen pages, includes a half-dozen contradictions, and is generally as useless as a law dictionary's definition of "obscene material". Judges know a person when they see one. 

The general consensus among wits and Barristers is that a person must both 1) be capable of wearing trousers and 2) understand the concept of paying taxes. A Dragon could (in theory) wear trousers and could (in theory) pay taxes; therefore a Dragon is a person under the law. A Goblin could wear trousers, but cannot (and Barristers have tried) understand the concept of paying taxes. A Goblin is therefore not a person. 

Entities of nebulous personhood who wish to participate in Endon's legal system can sign a declaration stating that they are a "living flesh and blood sentient man" for the purposes of Endon's laws. Judges treat such declarations with deep suspicion, but usually accept them. Notorious voting rights campaigner Edwina Thurnsby attempted to use such a declaration to vote in a Parliamentary election and was charged with Treason, but eventually found guilty of Mere Lying, paid a small fine, and returned to campaigning.

  • Thord is a Flesh Golem. Thord is made of several bits of dead people (including a few criminals). Thord, as far as any wizard can tell, was not raised by Dread Necromancy. As your final class project, you must assist with one of three lawsuits surrounding Thord. 

1. Defend Thord against a charge of Not Being Alive. 

2. Thord's creator is suing Endon for imprisoning Thord, thereby depriving Thord's creator of his property without due process.

3. Thord is suing Thord's creator, arguing Thord is not property.

  • Your Professor suspects Thord is a publicity stunt engineered by the Resurgent Golem Company. But how to prove it?
  • Your Professor is also a Flesh Golem and doesn't want any competition. You know, your classmates know, the Judiciary is blissfully unaware (and unlikely to believe any evidence, as the Professor is a long-established member.). Is Thord aware?

Duorum in solidum dominium vel possessio esse non potest - "Two persons cannot own or possess a thing in its entirety."

Under Endonian law, a person's soul is a thing owned by a person, and ownership can neither be subdivided nor transferred. Some spirits, demons, and otherworldly patrons may face court-ordered eviction notices. Legal exorcisms are considered an ineffective novelty at best and a fee-generating scam at worst. Still, faced with the prospect of listening to years of civil litigation, a spirit may choose to voluntarily depart for a more interesting host.

  • Armed with bell, book, and fee schedule, you are training as a Legal Exorcist. You toss tenants off their land, ghosts from their graves, and try to put things in their proper place (as the law sees it) by bluff, writs, and mediation. 
  •  Using a Thaumic Prism, a hedge wizard accidentally split a gold coin into two entangled coins. Anything that alters one coin alters the other. No one is sure if this is counterfeiting (illegal), alchemy (legal), or illusionary currency (illegal).

N.L. Morrison

Res ipsa loquitur - "the thing speaks for itself"

Sometimes, negligence does not require proof other than the results. A barrel of flour cannot fall out of a second-story warehouse without some negligence.

This minor legal maxim has taken on new life in Endon. Court-appointed wizards can grant inanimate objects the power of speech. The evidence of the barrel can - if the court so wishes - be heard directly. Deodands can be charged for their crimes. Objects tend to know only information related to their role. A spoon knows it was used to stir liquids; it can't recognize individual people. An object carved with eyes and a face might be more perspicacious.

Plot Hooks:

  • A wizard has a great deal of control over their newly animated object. It's possible - consciously or not - that they are manufacturing evidence from suspicious thoughts and leading questions.
  • Throckmorton Wells wants to put a surveillance gargoyle on every corner. All one needs to do is animate and interrogate the gargoyle; there's no magical upkeep.
  • Echoes of animating spells are bouncing around the Casques of Evidence in the Grim Baliol. While valuable evidence sometimes "walks off" and into a Copper's pocket, there's a risk the euphemism may become literal.

Cornelis Saftleven


Under current Endonian law, spells cannot be patented. Specific magical devices can be patented, though initiations and variants immediately appear, but spells exist in a nebulous region of law and precedent. The case of Scruggs v. Henslow has challenged this paradigm. If spells can be patented, magical innovation in Endon will be changed forever. Wealthy industrial interests on both sides of the case have poured blood and treasure into it for a decade with no result. Law students might be tempted to venture into its sprawling ecosystem of lawyers, clerks, and sub-cases, but Scruggs v. Henslow tends to consume and digest anyone foolish enough to attach their name to the case. It's one of many ticking time-bombs in Endon.

The laws of Endon are explicitly forbidden from dealing with cakes, puddings, or confections. De cuppedium non curat lex; the law does not concern itself with trifles.



  1. The advantage of being a lawyer is I found this delightful.

    Who brings a criminal case? That seems highly relevant for PCs. Also, being bailiffs (i.e. thugs) for a primitive criminal court is always a good source of potential adventure and conflict.

    And while it is weird to bring up copyright concerns, the obvious question is whether Endon has any copyright system. If they do, then you could simply copyright the particular version of the spell. You'll still get infringements, but it'll slow people down a lot. Yes, I find this genuinely an interesting question.

    Also that pun at the end is awful. Well done.

  2. The Northern Transubstantial Rail-Away Ltd gives a new meaning to the term 'corporate entity'.

    Also, this answers the old question of who would win:
    Asmodeus, Infernal Duke, Governor of Five Legions of the Damned, Dread Despoiler, Bearer of the Pestilential Fire
    Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

    1. One of the many quirks of Chancery is that new evidence can't be introduced. If you want to add new information, you have to create a lawsuit and judgement the Court can cite. Even if (say) ownership of a house is not disputed, you have to sue someone to get a court to prove it, then ask Chancery to reference that judgement. I didn't include this in the system above because it's manifestly insane.

      So, before introducing the Infernal Duke, we need to sue to prove His Dreadful Identity.
      And while that identity isn't in dispute, there's still a chance he could lose.

    2. ...that's in the past, right?


  3. If someone were to steal The Bar, would it completely destroy the legal system of Endon? What if you replaced The Bar with a new object designed to incorporate new legal principles the creator desired?

    ...I think I've got a campaign idea.

    1. What if that hedge wizard accidentally uses the Thaumic Prism on The Bar, and now there are two of them?

  4. Another audible groan at the concluding line over here. Well done! :)

    1. I didn't write this post to make that pun... but it was a strong incentive.

  5. A gargoyle on every corner feels like another apocalypse waiting to happen... I like it!

    1. Who watches the watchers? Cases of gargoyle defacement prompt the construction of yet more gargoyles with their beady eyes trained on each other. The sabotage and mutual observation escalates until grimacing faces start manifesting on any available surface and the only way to stop the spread is to replicate the ending of Don't Blink.

    2. It's all fun and games until someone creates a GarGarargoyle that can create more Gargoyles. Then someone creates a GarGarGargoyle that can self-replicate, and we end up with a Gar Goo scenario.

  6. Semi-related question : What OSR system would you recommend using to represent the very magic-centric universe of Endon?

    I had planned to use OSE, but I am just a litttle afraid the players won't have enough magic to go around even as they level up. For that purpose I got them faulty wands with life-changing misfires.

    I was wondering if you had other suggestions, either mechanical changes to OSE, tools to give the players, or literally a different system that you feel works better hahaha.

    Thank you for your time and for all that amazing content you post!

    1. It really depends on your goals and the type of campaign. Is Endon a city the players will visit or use as a home base as part of a more standard dungeon-crawling game? Is Endon the focus?

      For OSE, I'd suggest relying on minor magic items and other little "trinkets" in odd combinations, backed up by standard spellcasting. Players don't need to be magic users to enjoy Endon.

  7. "The law does not concern itself with trifles."

    Which is altogether unfortunate, from a case law standpoint. After all, the proof is in the pudding.

    1. A common misconception. The proof, in this case, is mathematical in a nature. The endless jiggling of a pudding without external forces (called Brown Saucian Motion) has baffled mathematicians. If this confusing sourceless motion could be solved, they claim, all other problems could be derived from the proof. This is known as the Pudding = Not Pudding or P=NP position.