Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crime 101 - Men of Honor

This may shock you, but sometimes criminals have disputes that need resolving. Yep, in that world of murderers, thieves, bandits, crooks, and con men, there is enough organization to also have dispute resolution as a "job" members of the underworld can do. These people are called brokers, at least by sociologists, due to the role they play in the social networks of criminals. They go by a number of other names with criminals, but the one I've seen most often is "Men of Honor". So, let's take a minute to look into what makes a man of honor.

Honor, It Means Something
This is something that some people have a hard time grasping, but many criminals are actually men of their words. At least many of the professional/organized criminals. The reason for this is that when you are living on the other side of the law, your reputation is just as valuable as whatever skills you have, and no one wants to deal with someone who is always double crossing and betraying their friends. As such, when a criminal says something, the people they work for - or with - need to be able to trust them.

This is even more important for the Men of Honor, as someone in a position of dispute resolution for criminals, needs to be able to be trusted even more so. More to the point, they need to be trusted to be fair and impartial mediators of the dispute. Otherwise, the wronged parties will never agree to them being used. All of this basically means, that a Man of Honor is absolutely worthless if they're not a man of their word - or at least not perceived as one.

Arbitration is Key
Once both parties have agreed on a man of honor, the actual resolution works out like any other arbitration. The grievances are laid out to the Man of Honor, who then helps the two come to an agreeable arrangement for how things are going to be worked out. In return, the Man of Honor gets a fee that is split evenly between the two parties.

Typically, this is all that is needed. The two parties are sat down, they hash it out, come to an agreement, and then both follow through on that agreement. If, however, someone doesn't follow through on the agreement, than it is up to the Man of Honor to make sure that they do. This doesn't always come down to violence, in fact, violence is one of the last things the Man of Honor will generally want. After all, his work is based on his reputation, and having to do violence to enforce an agreement doesn't help him out that way. Still, if despite the Man of Honor's best efforts the person still won't play ball, then it is time to go a bit harder. This could be violence, or it could be using contacts to make sure the person doesn't find work. It could very easily be both, depending on the nature of the transgression.

Bottom line here though, no one is going to stand for their reputation being tarnished. Especially not the Man of Honor.

You'll Never Work Here Again
You hear this line a lot in movies and fiction. The scary thing is, it can actually be true for crime. Crime is a fairly close community, and the people with the connections have the power to screw with someone's reputation. When a Man of Honor says you'll never work in his city again, what he means is that he is going to tell everyone he knows - and he knows a LOT of people at this point - that you're no good. That you're a liar, a cheat, and a promise breaker. With something like that from someone the people in power trust, and it quickly becomes hard to find work. Word will spread too, even those the Man of Honor doesn't know will hear about the black listing, and they'll hear about the whys, and then...well, unless someone is looking to hire you just to piss someone off, you're not going to be high up on the 'get a job' line.

This is usually where you need to leave the city, pull up roots, move and start over. Only, this is becoming harder in this day and age. The world is only getting smaller after all.

As a last resort, violence may come into the equation. A Man of Honor isn't any good if they can't enforce agreements they help make, and as such they will often have access to the muscle that works the city. Despite what TV may want you to think, this generally is a last resort. Most disputes are monetary ones after all, and someone who has a broken leg can't work as well as someone without one. Still, it is a mistake to think that last resort means that anyone involved is reluctant to do it. Being caught trying to dick people around is a great way to get your ass handed to you.

The thing to remember here though is that the muscle is very rarely the Man of Honor themselves. They have other skills. They're more of a "people person" than a hired muscle, and they're too high up and have worked too hard for too long to be doing simple hits. This fact becomes more relevant when talking about Men of Honor from a game perspective, but we'll handle that on Thursday.

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