Saturday, 6 December 2014

Crime and whatnot

This week we will be looking at an often used area of Fantasonia, the Underworld.

What, like with fire and lakes of lava and stuff?
No. Not that Underworld! I mean the underworld in which criminals lurk. The Underworld where you can meet a murderer, master thief, disgraced noble looking for kicks and more ladies of dubious history and violent tempers than you could shake a stick at.
Ah, princes of thieves and such.
And noblemen who are actually mater jewel thieves.
If you like…
And women who look like they might be_
YES! Enough!
This week we are looking at the dingy underbelly of Fantasonia, the world of beggars and thieves and cutthroats and murderererers and people who have just been misunderstood.

Goodguff was looking at the youthful face of this year’s Hero. He was a particularly vapid specimen with bucked teeth and a pudding bowl haircut. Goodguff suspected that it had been a soup bowl rather than a pudding bowl, but only because the bowl hadn’t been properly washed out and there was a piece of leek sticking out of the thatch of hair.
The Wizard tore his gaze from Hop Groundfloater’s terrible hair and swung an arm out in a half-hearted gesture which encompassed the shambles baking in the desert sun before them.
“This, Hop, is the port of Funngi-Footon. The greatest hive of…”  He stopped mid-swing and let his arm fall. “Actually, it’s about average as far as Scum and Villainy go but it does specialise in Filth and Immorality.” Hop nodded, his eyes feverish as he flicked the reins and urged the four tethered goats to a trot, the little chariot lurched forward and stirred up the orange dust which rose up and obscured most of the cart and most of the lathered goats.
“That said, they do quite well with Naughtiness and are dabbling with Unhygienic Food Handling which seems to be going quite well.”

The Underworld
Also known as the Underside, Underbelly, Hidden City and Thieves Kingdom (to name some of the more popular brands), this week we are delving into the world of Crime in Fantasy.

Right. So what goes on in the Underworld/belly/side/city/thieves-kingdom?
What do you want there to be?

Well it is fantasy.
What about a club for fighting in which members of different species batter the crap out of each other at the whims of a demonically possessed man with two faces…hang on…
What about a noble who ventures out in the dead of night in his armour to batter criminals and wrong doers…hang on…
What about a gang of amoralistic sociopaths who will do anything for money and who’s only code is “Do unto others before they do unto you” and who’s favourite activities include, murder, torture, gain by illegal means as well as inducing fear in others and warping the minds of the weak with chemical or herbal substances.

That’s a bit dark isn’t it?
Pretty much. I mean we are speaking about criminals here. In real life criminals have always been the fringe members of any society. That’s part of why they turn to crime.
They don’t have to though! And even if they do then they don’t have to lose all their morals!
Well, you’re right on both counts but so very wrong at the same time. Lets sort it out with a quick example.
·         Blog Joess is a young man with everything to live for and all of the wondrous opportunities which can be afforded to a strapping, six stone slopmonger.
·         Blog gets drafted into the army of the Dark Lord Sorebum.
·         Blog gets killed. The end.

Hmm….hang on, lets try that again.
·         Blog gets drafted into the army of the Dark Lord Sorebum
·         After fighting anyone and everyone for a few years Blog decides he’s had enough and goes off to open his very own Inn (this is a strange compulsion known to many soldiers and as yet no source for the condition is known).
·         After a couple of years of poor trading Blog’s Inn is burned to the ground by the forces of Lord Sorebum, about a week later the stables, kitchens workshop and yard, including his mongrel dog’s upturned wheelbarrow home, are burned down by the forces of The One True Hero.
·         Blog is now broke and without a means of support or a legitimate target to vent at. Instead he decides it’s everyone’s fault.
·         Several wandering vagabonds come along and steal Blogs shoes, coat and bowl of stew after beating him up. For a laugh they make him smoke Goblinscrote (a powerfully addictive hallucinogenic herb).
·         Blog “Trips Balls” for several hours, winning the disgust and comradeship of his former muggers.
·         The band of hobos wander from town to town, robbing and stealing and mugging.
·         After a while, Blog’s former Legion of Doom training kicks in and he ups the levels of violence whilst taking a bigger share of the loot, as well as getting high as a very high thing on a daily basis.
·         In order to support his growing habit, which is the one pleasure left in the horror which is Blog’s life, he expands purchases several slave girls and whores them out to his friends, whilst also threatening to batter the snot out of people who live in his area if they don’t give him money.
·         Having more or less taken over a town Blog sets his sights on the nearest city.
·         Over the course of several bloody years blog takes over the herbal distribution in the city and becomes richer than his wildest dreams, which were not that wild.
·         Blog is once more overcome by the ill-advised urge to open and run and Inn.
·         The Inn is investigated for tax irregularities and Blog dies in a hail of hail stones which also has some well-placed arrows in it.

But that’s just a bog standard gangster plot!
Yes, and why not? Crime novels can transposed into fantasy very well, Pratchett has done it for years with the Vimes series (one of the best detectives ever written and containing some lovely homages to various other detectives, ten points if you can spot and name the Colombo reference).
Fantasy is fantasy because it takes place in a realm in which anything is possible. Imagine how tough a criminal would have to be to survive in world in which Dragons occasionally burn a village to smoking cinders. Then imagine how tough the police-esque force sent after the criminals would have to be to survive. And if they weren’t tough, then how smart.

But I’m not a criminal, how do I start?
Well your hair and fashion sense say otherwise to me but if you insist.

The official definition of crime is as something with contravenes a nation’s legal code and/or something which transgresses an individual’s rights/bounds.
Crime is broadly conducted under two guises.
1.       Disorganised crime- More or less what you’d expect. Normally this is just opportunistic stuff, burglary (which is only rarely associated with the other type of crime) stealing and vandalism are the most common types and are difficult to predict as they are usually the work of one or two isolated individuals with little or no support structure.
2.       Organised Crime- Again this is a Ronseal job (Does exactly what it says on the tin). For crime to be Organised and classed as such it must involve at least three people (no seriously this is actually true and is the current legal definition in the real world).
Organised Crime is committed with intent and planning. There will be someone who is in charge (or several someones) and they will decide what activities the group will be involved with. This is the major difference between the two types of crimes and affects the sentencing and everything else massively.
·         Jenny Bunn and the Pink Street Girl Guides(Troop 6) see a delicious apple pie on a window ledge cooling in the afternoon sun.
·         Jenny decides as they are walking past they might as well take it.
·         The local Watchman sees them doing it and gives chase.
·         Having caught them red handed in stealing a pie the Pink Street Girl Guides(Troop 6) are given three hundred lines each about why they shouldn’t have taken the pie in the first place.

·         Jenny Bunn and the Pink Street Girl Guides(Troop 6) see a delicious apple pie on a window ledge cooling in the afternoon sun.
·         Jenny realises that the pie belongs to a bakery which has produced several dozen pies that day.
·         Jenny Bunn takes the Pink Street Girl Guides (Troop 6) back to their den to plan how to steal the pies.
·         They ‘work the angles’ until a suitable plan is concocted.
·         Having found an entrance point they lower Jenny Bunn into the bakery via a skylight and three hundred feet of rope.
·         Jenny Bunn descends through a tangle of magical warning beams which will scream if they are broken by even a fly.
·         Having acrobatically reached the bakery floor Jenny Bunn unlocks the bakery storehouse to get at the pies.
·         The pies are distributed amongst the Pink Street Girl Guides (Troop 6).
·         One of the Pink Street Girl Guides (Troop 6) is caught trying to sell the Pie to a “Street Herbalist” and the Pink Street Girl Guides (Troop 6) are arrested and sent down.
·         At the trial it emerges that Jenny Bunn is actually the daughter of the leading judge, they were separated at birth in a freak snowstorm at sea.
·         The judge is disgusted with his daughter’s behaviour and sentences the lot of them to fifteen years hard labour in the Return-Ye-Nott Penal colony.

I get it! opportunistic crime is less dangerous ‘cause it just happens but organised crime could happen anywhere and deprive everyone of apple pie!
More or less, yes.

Organisational types of Organised Crime Organisations. Organised.
Organised Crime (or OC for the sake of my fingers) generally organises its self in two broad lines.

Type 1-The feudal tree.
This is the classic horses-head-in-the-bed-you-ask-me-this-favour-on-the-day-of-my-daughter’s-son’s-best-friend’s-dog’s-second-birthday-cake-eating-rememberance godfather structure.
·         At the top Will be the King of the Thieves/Not so Fairy Godfather.
·         Immediately beneath them are two to three Captains of Villainy or Cappo’s. These are the line managers of the crime organisation and will be responsible for their own brands of law breaking with distinct responsibilities and areas of operation.
·         Beneath these fearsome individuals will be the Lieutenants, normally there will be two or three per “crew”. These are the frontline commanders, responsible for overseeing much of the actual crime and enforcing most of the discipline.
·         Beneath them are the sergeants, the guys who lurk on street corners and pick the houses to threaten and the marks to make.
·         Under them are the troops, the day-to-day shoulder thumpers, master pickpockets, con-men, arsonists, psychopaths and assorted low-life vermin who do 90% of the breaking of the laws.
·         At the bottom of the pile are the lookouts, the scouts, runners, mules and trainee villains. Most of them will be children, all of them will be on the run and a lot of them will end up caught, dead or deported long before they get the chance to be promoted.
Type 2-I know a guy…
This is the sort of “organisation” which give law enforcers the most problems and which is actually more prevalent than the Cosa Nostra style.
·         At the top Will be the King of the Thieves/Not so Fairy Godfather.
·         Immediately beneath them are two to three Captains of Villainy or Cappo’s. These are the line managers of the crime organisation and will be responsible for their own brands of law breaking with distinct responsibilities and areas of operation.
·         Each of the Captains will have an informal network of Guys/Girls-They-Know who each fulfil a different task. “I wants a job doing, bit of rough work…” “Sure boss, I know a guy.”
This kind of organisation is almost impossible to penetrate because aside from the main players, it does not exist. New runners would be used for each task and the regular “employees” would be kept isolated from leadership, much like revolutionary cadres, terrorist cells and “spys”.

Just some ideas for you, go have fun.

Goodguff nodded at his hero’s question before answering.
“It is indeed a staff. A more complex weapon for a more intelligent time. Now, you stay here, finish your juice and be a good boy.” Hop just nodded at him and let his gaze drop to his juice.
Hop wasn’t fond of the place he was in. It was filled with ugly people doing ugly things and drinking ugly drinks.
A blast of gibberish hit his right ear.
“Sorry.” He muttered and moved down the bar a bit.
The gibberish came again followed a thump on the arm. Hop apologised again and moved as far as he could down the bar.
“My ‘friend’ says he doesn’t like you.” Hop apologised a third time and shuffled so far down the bar that the he was nearly hiding behind it. “I don’t like you either.” Hop couldn’t dodge any further down the bar and instead ducked behind it as the two bullies drew weapons.
He was flinching away from the incoming pain when a blinding light wiped his vision out and something Hop suspected might be blood spattered his face.
Shreds of bully hung from the ceiling and the clientele were pretending nothing had happened even as the staff started reaching for the mops.
“As I said, a weapon of a more intelligent time.” The wizard looked up and pulled a chunk from his beard. “Bloody messy though.”