So, the PC's have completed yet another exciting adventure and they
are surveying the loot they've accumulated. Perhaps a little
disappointing. The DM was a little stingy this time. There sure wasn't
much treasure in the secret compartment in the villian's private
Priest: "Well... there was that parchment."
Wizard: "Its not a scroll. It doesn't radiate magic."
Thief: "I'll check it out."...... "Hey, its the deed to the property!"
Ranger: "What good is that?"
Thief: "The property must be worth thousands!!!"
Fighter: "Hey, we could move in! I'm tired of sleeping in lice-infested bunks at the Mercenarys' Guild."
Wizard: "And I could use the necromancer's lab instead of
sharing bench space with a bunch of 1st year apprentices at the
Wizards' Guild. Do you know how much it would cost me to set up my own
private lab somewhere else?"
Thief: "But the property must be worth thousands!!!"
Priest: "I agree. We should move in and use this building as
a new base of operations. The dorms at the Temple are the size of a
closet, and Brother Tuck snores. We'll have to register the deed in our
name, though, or the city will seize the property as ownerless.
Besides, we'd have to register the deed before we could sell it off
Ranger: "I'd still rather sleep in the woods."
So, what's a DM to do? The easy solution is to say "Ok, you go to
the courthouse, pay 100 gp, and register the deed." But why pass up a
chance for some interesting role-playing, and the chance to frustrate
your players at the same time! In my own campaign, the PC's completed
an adventure where they had cleared out a City of Greyhawk residence
that belonged to a sage. The sage had died an unfortunate death as a
result of experiments that had gone very wrong. Those experiments were
still wandering about the residence, and caused quite a bit of
difficulty for the PCs. In the end, one of the more valuable pieces of
"treasure" that they had found was the deed to the sage's residence, a
deed that they became intent on registering. This is how I resolved the
situation. Adjust any specific references to specific guilds (such as
the Sages' Guild) as your needs require. What follows is the tangle of
red tape the PCs were forced to run through. Paragraph headings
indicate where the PCs are. When there, the clerk they meet generally
requires them to explain why they are there and what they need (each
and every time!). Below that, I list the questions the clerk asks, his
actions in response to the answers, then what he requires from the PCs
before he can give them what they came for. Keep track of the time it
takes visiting all the locations, since the party will have to wait
until the appropriate City Hall wickets are open.
Entering the room they see a counter at the back with two wickets.
"Estate Dispensations" and "Property Registry". Only one of the wickets
will be open (depending on the time of day it is). A room behind the
counter is filled with shelves and stacks of books. If they wish to
register their deed, they must come when the Property Registry wicket
is open. They will approach the wicket and ring a small bell. An
elderly scribe will eventually emerge from the back room.
1. Property Registry
They will be asked "Where is the property?" The offiicial disappears into the back room for a while and looks up the address they give in the city property index.
Who is the currently registered owner? Looks up the official registry and finds the name of the sage.
"Our records indicate he is the registered owner and that he is still alive." To prove otherwise, the PCs must produce an official death certificate Form E71-c bearing the Embalmers' and Gravediggers' Guild seal.
2. Embalmers' and Gravediggers' Guild
Was the death of the sage reported to the City Watch? Was the cause of death investigated?
PCs must produce a favorable Incident Report, Form I-9a, from the City Watch.
3. City Watch
If the City Watch was not involved in the proceding adventure (for example, if the Watch asked the PCs to investigate, or were called in during the course of the adventure), the PCs may find it difficult explaining their actions. Once they can prove that their actions were well-intentioned, and may have even benefitted the city in some way, they will be issued a copy of the Incident Report Form I-9a (for a fee, of course). Whether the PCs's actions were on the up-and-up or not, the Watch may now mark them as potential troublemakers, and will be keeping an eye on them in the future. (See my article on Notoriety for suggestions on how to handle that.)
4. Embalmers' and Gravediggers' Guild
When the PCs produce Form I-9a, which must indicate that the body was identified, and that the sage is indeed dead, they will be asked where the sage is buried. Lord's Tomb, Common Crypt, or New City Cemetary (the choices for the City of Greyhawk)? At this point, the PCs will be required to pay for the internment of the sage's body, if it hasn't been taken care of already.
After paying another fee, they will be issued a Death Certificate Form E71-c.
5. Property Registry
PCs produce form E71-c. They may now request to reregister the property. They will only now be told that in order to do that, they must have a Form LC207-a Certificate of Legal Claim from "Estate Dispensation". Since it is now afternoon, and the Estate Dispensation wicket is closed, they will have to return the next day.
6. Estate Dispensation
When the PCs arrive the next morning, they see the Estate Dispensation wicket open. When the bell is rung, a scribe emerges from the back room. The same scribe that they had been dealing with behind the Property Registry wicket, of course. The scribe will not acknowledge that he knows who the PCs are, what their story is, or what they want. They will have to explain everything from the start. After they have done that...
Was there a will? The scribe checks to see if there is an official Last Will and Testament registered with the office. If not, the PCs must verify the absence of a will with the Lawyers' and Scribes' Guild, and if there isn't, must return with a Form EW222-3b as proof.
7. Lawyers' and Scribes' Guild
If there is a will, the PCs' quest ends here. The DM could then use the will, and the named (potentially mysterious) beneficiary, as a jumping off point for a new adventure. If there is no will, they get their EW222-3b (after a fee, of course).
8. Estate Dispensation
Upon return, they will be told that if there is no will, all property goes to whichever guild the deceased belonged to. The deceased's guild can waive all rights to the property if an official from the guild fills out a Form PRW27-42-1c. They will then be handed the appropriate blank form. If the previous owner was not a member of a guild (unlikely for an NPC wealthy enough to own their own property), skip to step 10.
9. Union of Sages and Academics (varies according to your
The guild will not relinquish rights. "Give up a claim on a property worth over 15,000 gold pieces? You've got to be kidding!" There no doubt will be some arguement from the PCs. In a more chaotic or lawless town, the PCs may be able to bribe the official (raising potential adventures in the future when the guild hierarchy finds out) to sign the paperwork. A more likely response would be.... "You're adventures are you? Well maybe we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement." The agreement will vary according to what type of guild is involved. In the case of the Union of Sages and Academics (in my campaign example) the guild asked that the PCs allow the guild to copy any maps or books the PCs find over the next 5 years, and just hand over materials that the PCs do not want to keep. Provide copies of any maps the PCs make. Finally, the dead sage's library was to be handed over, and then the PCs could keep the property, furniture, and equipment for a 2000gp donation to the guild. The PCs sadly informed the official that the library was destroyed by fire sparked by a spell cast in combat during exploration of the residence (they were lying, of course). After agreeing to the guild's conditions (the PCs may be required to sign a document), the official signs the Form PRW27-42-1c and affixes the seal.
10. Estate Dispensation
The PCs produce the deed, the Waiver of Property Rights PRW27-42-1c from the guild, and the Form EW222-3b (Absence of Last Will). They will then be asked for their Form R87-401T. "What?" "No transfer of property can be made unless all outstanding taxes are paid. Form R87-401T certifies that there are no outstanding taxes."
11. GRS (Greyhawk Revenue Service)
Well, it turned out that the very busy sage had been too busy to pay his taxes. After the PC's coughed up 587gp in back taxes, the GRS issued an R87-401T certifying that there were no longer any outstanding taxes.
12. Estate Dispensation
Now the PCs produce the deed, the Form EW222-3b (Absence of Last Will), the Waiver of Property Rights PRW27-42-1c from the guild, and the GRS Form R87-401T. Now the clerk fills out the Form LC207-a Certificate of Legal Claim. "Bring this form to the Property Registry Office and you may register your property." By now, the PCs shouldn't even have to be told. They will have to return in the afternoon when the clerk is behind the wicket that lies just a few feet away.
The PCs proudly produce Form LC207-a Certificate of Legal Claim. They can taste victory! The clerk then asks for their C95 Citizenship papers. Doh! "Only citizens and permanent residents can own property within the walls of the City of Greyhawk. It is the law." If none of the PCs are citizens, they can prove residency if they get a Form R1-p, Certificate of Permanent Residency, from the Office of Immigration and signed by an official from a city registered guild or temple stating that the person in question has been a resident of the City for at least 6 months of every year for a period of not less then 7 years. Once they produce either a C95 or an R1-p, pay a 100 gp fee (of course!), their claim is registered (Form PR-c). If no other claims on the property are filed over the next 90 days, the property is theirs. If any other claims are filed, the case will go to court and you will have to hire a lawyer.
"At the end of the year you will be assessed your property taxes."
Ranger: "We should have stayed in the woods."
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