Nothing New for the New Year
Previews for January and Beyond
By Mat Smith


Rules and Regulations

Written documents play a significant role in the Five Nations. Because the Notaries Guild of House Sivis makes it possible to create certificates whose authenticity is virtually unimpeachable, the people of Khorvaire have come to rely upon contracts, licenses, and other official documents to help commerce and government run as quickly and smoothly as possible. Of the many types of documents that facilitate society functions, the following are among those most likely to be encountered or needed by adventurers.

Arcane Signet Ring: The dragonmarked houses of Khorvaire use these rings extensively for identification purposes. They resemble ordinary signet rings, but are set with gemstones like decorative rings. Inside a large central gemstone, an intricate runic pattern -- actually an arcane mark -- becomes visible when worn by the person for whom the ring was constructed. These rings are only given to members of a dragonmarked house or one of its most trusted retainers.

If you are a member of a dragonmarked house (particularly if you have the Favored in House feat), you can buy an arcane signet ring with no difficulty from any house enclave at a cost of 150 gp. If you are not a member of a house, you might be able to acquire an arcane signet ring that identifies you at a cost of 200 gp or more, but it requires both working with a jeweler to build the ring, then persuading House Sivis to impress its mark into the stone. Acquiring an arcane signet ring that would identify you as someone else is extremely difficult, if not impossible. As a first step, you would need false identification papers to "prove" your identity to a house enclave or House Sivis.

Business License: Each country in Khorvaire takes a slightly different attitude toward commerce and industry. Some governments, such as Breland's, require all business owners to buy a business license of some sort, with the cost and difficulty of obtaining the license increasing depending on the value of the business and what danger it might pose to nearby people and property. Other nations, such as Zilargo, take a more hands-off attitude and allow most businesses to operate with minimal restrictions and interference. A business license consists of a simple parchment that must be displayed somewhere in the place of business.

Typically, a town or city has a licensing office that issues business licenses. Smaller settlements rarely have offices devoted to this activity, but magistrates issue licenses in addition to their other duties. It can take considerable time to process a business license, though the cost is usually less than 1 gp (depending on location and the type of business).

Identification Papers: Most people of the middle and upper classes, at least in central Khorvaire, carry identification papers with them at all times. Issued by national governments and notarized by House Sivis, these papers present a detailed physical description of a person (sometimes with an accompanying small portrait), the person's name and residence, and some additional information about the person's affiliations (particularly including any connection to a dragonmarked house, royal or noble family, or a large institution). The papers are usually kept in a durable container of some kind -- a leather folder, metallic case, or other decorative holder.

In some areas, individuals must carry identification papers with them at all times and be prepared to show those papers to officials at a moment's notice. This is particularly true in border areas (especially when the borders are not quite clear or some dispute persists about the lines established in the Treaty of Thronehold), and also in Throneport itself, which is governed by an international council of representatives from the Five Nations.

Identification papers are issued by the same facilities that process business licenses: dedicated licensing offices in larger settlements, or local magistrates in smaller ones affiliated with or operated in conjunction with House Sivis. It is only possible to obtain identification papers in the nations recognized by the Treaty of Thronehold, and it becomes increasingly difficult outside the Five Nations. The Mror Holds and Zilargo readily issue papers, but applicants elsewhere might have to travel some distance to find a magistrate or House Sivis enclave that is willing and able to assemble such documents.

Standard identification papers typically cost 2 gp, while a portrait raises the price to 5 gp. Forged papers cost around 10 gp.

Letter of Credit: House Kundarak, the house that carries the Mark of Warding, operates banks throughout central Khorvaire. A character who has funds on deposit in a Kundarak bank can request from the bank a letter of credit, which allows her to withdraw funds from a different branch. For many characters, this system is a convenient alternative to carrying wealth around in the form of precious gems, jewelry, or coins. House Kundarak does not charge a fee for issuing letters of credit.

House Kundarak is the only organization that issues letters of credit. Occasionally, an employer secures a letter of credit for an employee -- such as an adventurer -- who is expected to incur large debts in the course of his work for the employer. The letter specifies a maximum amount available to the bearer, and any sum up to that total amount can be drawn from the issuer's bank account. When funds are withdrawn, the clerks at the bank update the letter to reflect the new available balance, notarizing the change to the letter or issuing a new letter.

Letters of credit are always notarized with arcane marks, making them difficult to forge. Even if a document can be successfully reproduced, however, it is nearly impossible to acquire funds from House Kundarak using a forged letter of credit, since the house keeps records of every such letter it issues and makes those records available to all its banks. If a clerk at a bank has any reason to suspect that a letter of credit is forged, it can be checked against house records to verify its authenticity.

Letter of Dispensation: Each nation in Khorvaire has its own set of laws and regulations. In some cases, however, the leader of the nation might want to grant specific individuals the right to act outside the law. In these instances, the government issues a letter of dispensation. Such letters always closely detail exactly what permissions the bearer is given -- for example, the right to seize and destroy property belonging to suspected seditionists, or the right to kill any monsters found within certain geographical boundaries. Letters of dispensation cannot be bought. They are issued by a high-ranking government official only to select and trusted parties. The letter always bears the seal of the nation along with an arcane mark, and it specifies to whom the dispensation is granted. (The document is not considered valid without matching identification papers.)

A letter of marque issued by
King Boranel of Breland

Letter of Marque: The concept of letters of marque originated during the Last War, when the rulers of the warring nations granted adventurers permission to attack ships and assets belonging to other nations. The Treaty of Thronehold declared void all letters of marque that existed at the time, but the idea survives, though in a rather altered form. The King of Breland now issues papers granting adventurers permission to explore and plunder the ruins of Xen'drik. Though such permission is not technically necessary, wise adventurers secure a letter before using Sharn as a launching point for expeditions to Xen'drik. Those who try to sell treasures from Xen'drik on the open market in Breland must produce a letter of marque or face stiff fines -- on top of forfeiting the treasure in question.

When adventurers are hired to explore Xen'drik as part of an expedition (such as one sponsored by Morgrave University or the Wayfinder Foundation), it is common practice for the employer to secure a letter of marque for the expedition, so that characters don't need to worry about the expense or the frequently considerable difficulty. Characters who must secure a letter for themselves most likely do so at the Bureau of Antiquities in Sharn's Highest Towers district. Filing an application can take the better part of a day and involves both answering extensive questions from the staff at the bureau and enduring their long, musing recollections of their own expeditions to Xen'drik years before. A letter of marque costs 500 gp.

It is not particularly difficult to forge a letter of marque, and it is certainly possible to sell goods from Xen'drik on the black market or outside Breland to avoid the need for one. A forged letter of marque can be purchased for about 25 gp.

Letter of Proxy: On occasion, illness, distance, or scheduling conflicts keep a political, military, or industrial leader from attending an important event. In these cases, he might want to send a representative to speak for his interests at one or more occasions or gatherings. This person receives a letter of proxy to verify that she does, in fact, have official sanction to speak for the leader in question. Traditionally, a letter of proxy is drafted by House Sivis on the issuer's personal letterhead, notarized with an arcane mark, and carried in a leather billfold bearing some sign associated with the issuer. The letter clearly identifies the name and physical description of the intended bearer. If there is any uncertainty, these details are compared to that person's identification papers for corroboration. A letter of proxy costs 8 gp.

Securing a letter of proxy is usually a simple matter of contacting House Sivis and arranging the service. The sorts of people who have need of such a document have ready access to the means of acquiring it. Should a person want to acquire a letter of proxy under false pretenses -- having assassinated or otherwise removed a designated proxy and wanting to take her place, for example -- the process is much more complicated. Professional forgers are loath to venture into the realms of high politics, so they make sure the reward is commensurate with the risk, charging around 100 gp for the service.

A royal decree signed by
Kaius III and Boranel

Pardon: Just as every nation has regulations and strictures defining certain acts as criminal, each nation also has prescribed penalties for breaking its laws. However, a government might decide to forgive even a lifetime of criminal activities when extenuating circumstances can be proven or when the criminal performs some other mitigating act. (This happened more frequently during the Last War, when a convicted criminal could earn his freedom with meritorious service on the battlefield.) Such forgiveness comes in the form of a pardon -- a parchment that describes the acts committed, the original sentence imposed, and a statement of clemency, which is affixed with the seal of the government and an arcane mark. A pardon is usually carried with or attached to the individual's identification papers in case word of his misdeeds carried more widely than word of his reprieve.

A written pardon is issued by the government -- usually by the law enforcement system that is releasing the pardoned person, but sometimes by higher authorities (even the king of a nation, or at least in the ruler's name). Forging a pardon is difficult, but many people would pay well for a clean forgery that clears their names. The best kind of forged pardon is one that purports to be issued in one of the Five Nations, but not where the character lives and operates. In cases where the crime and supposed pardon took place some years ago, a pardon from the Queen of Cyre is the best bet because its authenticity cannot be verified. Any forged pardon runs the risk of being investigated if an individual is taken into custody for a new crime. When the pardon is revealed as a forgery (presumably by checking against the records of the issuing court), two more crimes are added to the charges against the captive -- forgery or possession of a forged document, as well as whatever crime is supposed to have been pardoned. A forged pardon costs at least 100 gp.

What Do You Know?

Knowledge (arcana)

DC 15: The arcane mark spell is widely used, particularly by House Sivis, to authenticate important documents. A special form of arcane mark can be embedded in a signet ring in such a way that it is only visible when a specific person wears the ring.

Knowledge (local)

DC 10: Most people of the middle and upper classes carry identification papers with them at all times. In certain areas, everyone must carry such papers and be prepared to show them to officers of the law when requested. Anyone crossing national borders must carry traveling papers.

DC 15: Letters and certificates are sometimes required to operate a business (a business license) or even to plunder the ruins of Xen'drik (a letter of marque). Properly notarized documents are essential to establish ownership of significant pieces of property (a title deed) and to establish a person's right to act in someone else's place (a letter of proxy).

DC 20: The right document can get you money from the bank (a letter of credit), a pardon for a crime you committed (a letter of pardon), or even a pardon for a crime you haven't committed yet (a letter of dispensation).

A check against this DC is also sufficient to determine where to acquire a document needed for a particular purpose.

Knowledge (nobility and royalty)

DC 10: House Sivis notarizes official documents. The house uses the arcane mark spell to establish the authenticity of particularly important documents.

DC 15: House Kundarak issues letters of credit (notarized by House Sivis) to allow account holders to access their funds from any Kundarak bank. These letters can also be used as payment for services, specifying the amount the bearer can withdraw.

DC 20: Members of the dragonmarked houses use special signet rings that contain arcane marks to establish their identity and membership in a house.

Royal Decree: When the head of a royal family or ruler of a nation makes an official proclamation, word is spread by disseminating a royal decree. This is a large, ornately decorated parchment detailing the announcement in clear, easy-to-read script. Royal decrees are read in town squares, reproduced in printed chronicles, and hung on the walls of government buildings and other places where people gather. During the Last War, royal decrees were issued whenever a decisive battle was fought, when allegiances shifted, and when the Thronehold Accords were signed. These days, royal decrees are used to announce births and deaths in the royal family, changes in tax policies, or other matters of state. Although there is no monetary value attached to the documents, some people save royal decrees of historic or personal importance.

Royal decrees cannot be purchased and are difficult to forge for any useful purpose. The issuance of a royal decree is typically a matter of such public notice that it would be hard to present a forged decree as authentic without the accompanying gossip, rumors, anticipation, and officious goings-on.

Title Deed: Possession might be nine-tenths of the law in the wilder parts of the world, but throughout the Five Nations a deed is required to prove ownership of buildings, land, airships, and other property of significant size and value. Title deeds are not carried by the owner, but are rather kept under lock and key in a safe location. They are large documents prepared by House Sivis on oversized sheets of parchment, bearing a detailed description of both property (particularly identifying marks or measurements) and owner, a history of the property's previous ownership, plus a pair of arcane marks. Title deeds are considered extremely difficult documents to forge.

Title deeds are issued by national governments -- sometimes through local or regional offices, sometimes by courier from the national capital. The cost is 15 gp, plus any appropriate courier fees.

Traveling Papers: Anyone who travels across national borders is usually required to carry traveling papers identifying them, their residence, their destination, and their reason for travel. Traveling papers consist of a parchment sheet with the appropriate information and an arcane mark, carried in a leather folder. House Sivis, House Orien, House Deneith, and House Lyrandar all offer traveling papers that are recognized throughout central Khorvaire.

A set of traveling papers typically costs 2 sp, and can be purchased at Sivis and Deneith enclaves, lightning rail stations, and Lyrandar offices located in the ports of major cities. A forged set costs about 5 gp.

Warrant: In civilized Khorvaire, the city guard, militia, constabulary, and all others charged with keeping the peace have the power to detain those they suspect of wrongdoing. However, this power is somewhat diminished if the suspect is a member of a royal family or a dragonmarked house, or is sufficiently wealthy. This is especially a problem for rural officials and deputized citizens, whose authority could be questioned. A warrant is an official document stating that the bearer has the authority to arrest a specific individual or impound a specific item. A warrant includes identifying details of the person or item it covers, the reason it was issued, the signature of the local lord or magistrate, plus both an arcane mark and a wax or printed seal.

Warrants are issued by law enforcement authorities and cannot be purchased.


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