Monday, February 13, 2017

Traveller Tuesday: the Potato Sack Principle

Yes, it's Monday. I feel like writing this today because tomorrow is slated for a complex piece that I've been working on since last week and I don't want to break my flow.

So deal with it. It's Tuesday somewhere.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
The Potato Sack Principle, as put forth by Karr Tsonka, Esq., states that "To claim the Rite of Assassination, the assassin in question must, at the very least, be more deadly and do more to end the Emperor's life than a sack of potatoes."

I shall explain.

For those who don't feel like following the link, the Rite of Assassination in Traveller is "an archaic Imperial law providing for leadership succession according to the dictates of power politics."
Although the rite of assassination has fallen into disuse, it is generally agreed that for the method to be a valid route to the Iridium Throne, certain precedents must be followed:
  1. the assassin must be a high noble; 
  2. the assassin must kill the Emperor by his own hand in the presence of witnesses; 
  3. the Moot must approve of the new emperor (just as with any successor).
Thus, the reason for the assassination must be well founded, or Moot confirmation will likely be denied. Moot confirmation can make all the difference - depending on what the Moot says, the assassin could be hailed as a courageous hero or prosecuted as a seditious murderer.
Points 1 and 3 are clear-cut; it's point 2 which has caused much discussion among law students within the Third Imperium. On the face of it, it seems obvious enough: the assassin must kill the Emperor without help. This makes sense, because otherwise a group of people (read: player characters) could gang up on the Emperor, dogpiling him while the highest ranking noble administers the coup de grace. While certainly efficient, it would bring the legitimacy of the assassin into question as it could be argued that the noble who delivered the killing stroke could not have done it without the help of the others, and so the other assassins would present an equally-valid claim to the throne ("Sure, Poncey actually killed the Emperor, but I did the hard part! I should be Emperor, not him!")

Multiple claimants to the throne are how civil wars start, after all.

However, when considering assassinating the Emperor, it soon becomes evident that unless the assassin is with the Emperor's family, some outside help is required in the form of conspiracy in order to get close enough to deliver the killing blow. Since logistical assistance is clearly required, conventional interpretation of point 2 works out to "It's fine to have help getting to the Emperor, but everything after that must be done by the assassin himself and no other." This is still vague enough to cause problem with legal scholars, though, who busy themselves with such academic questions as "Well, what if a conspirator calls the Emperor on the telephone and distracts him so that the assassin can deliver his killing blow?"

Karr Tsonka, Esq. has solved this conundrum with a splendid bit of legal simplification by presenting this hypothetical: "What if the assassin were replaced with a sack of potatoes?" In such a case, would the Emperor still be under threat of death?  In other words, has the assassin done anything to imperil the Emperor's life, or is he just a passive thing being lugged around and then metaphorically tossed at the Emperor?

It is ultimately a statement of agency. A weapon cannot act on its own; it must be wielded. Similarly, if the assassin was effectively wielded by another, the assassin effectively had no agency.

Therefore, if a claimant cannot adequately demonstrate a difference between his action and those of a sack of potatoes hurled at the Emperor, he has not satisfied the conditions of the second point of the Rite of Assassination. Q.E.D.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to