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Basic Information

A criminal is a person who commits crimes. In strictest application the word does literally mean anyone who commits a crime (or at least, anyone caught and convicted1), but is often used as a shorthand for those for whom lawbreaking is habitual and non-trivial: it's relatively hard to live in modern society without breaking one law or another, but very few people would consider themselves criminal on the strength of that2 and would reserve the appelation for those who are guilty of "serious" crimes. On the flip side, there are certainly quite a few people guilty of serious crimes who don't consider themselves criminal. Where you draw the line and how much thought you give the issue would normally say a great deal about your character.

If an act or item is criminal, it means a law proscribes a punishment for those who perform the act or possess the item.

See Also:

Criminal Types, Tropes, and Characters



Game and Story Use

  • Criminals can make great villains.
  • A few subtypes of criminal can make for good Player Characters. See Social Bandit and Gentleman Thief, for starters. Let's not forget the person who's wanted for crimes he didn't commit.
  • Although to be honest, most of the things that will take place during any moderately involving RPG scenario are likely to put PCs on the wrong side of the law if strict reality is applied.
  • Exactly what things a given culture considers criminal will give you a lot of insight into that culture. GMs can use strange or harsh laws to great effect when characterizing an alien species or exotic culture.
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