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Basic Information

Parole, derived from the French word for "mercy", is a form of open arrest in which a prisoner is released from imprisonment under a specific set of conditions, breach of which will result in a return to full captivity.

In the modern era, parole is most commonly encountered as part of the judicial system, whereby criminal offenders are released from prison early under licence, usually under the supervision of a government employee or other nominated person who is meant to guide their reintegration into mainstream society and encourage them not to reoffend or breach the terms of their licence. This kind of parole is usually meant to be a reward for well behaved prisoners who are visibly contrite and who have made significant efforts towards reform … but is not infrequently used by overcrowded prison systems to dispose of lower risk or "short term" offenders in an attempt to free up space. Sometimes an offender may receive a sentence which is served entirely on parole - either directly on the orders of a court or as a result of calcualtions made by the prison service.

Historically, however, parole was far more commonly associated with prisoners of war - usually officers (or nobles in the pre-professional era) - who, having undertaken not to engage in hostilities against their captors, were allowed relative freedom of movement - or even to return home. Generally parole would extend until the end of hostilities, until a ransom was paid (where applicable) or where an exchange was made for a captive of the officer's own rank held by his nation (who would also, quite likely, have been paroled). Parole was very much a courtesy and not always extended or accepted - and in the modern era, most militaries forbid their officers to give or accept parole.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Being a parolee could be a valuable disadvantage for a modern character - as long as having a parole officer to report to isn't going to cripple the game.
    • This could potentially allow a criminal PC to join a team of law enforcement (or at least state controlled) characters - paroled into the custody of a suitably qualified character in the public interest.
  • Likewise, someone being out on parole who very clearly shouldn't be and/or who is in no way supervised can be a pointer that the criminal justice system in those parts isn't working properly.
  • In a historical campaign, an offer of parole should be something of a moral dilemma - PCs with a sense of duty to their men may be unwilling to see them marched off into prison whilst they are sent home on parole, and likewise those who will attempt to escape should refuse parole due to the public disgrace inherent in breaking their word by violating it.
    • Sick or wounded men may find it less of a dilemma - if you can't escape anyway, accepting a confinement in a cleaner and safer environment might make sense. Note that the severely crippled and dying were frequently released without the need for parole anyway except in particularly bitter conflicts.
  • Offering parole to enemy captives should also be a significant act - bearing in mind that the PCs may then run into their former prisoners around town.
  • Technically a parolee is as subject to being rescued as any other prisoner, but what they can count as a rescue without being suspected of violating parole may be a serious matter of etiquette.
  • Historical parolees can be an interesting part of the local society in the correct setting - quite possibly hob-knobbing with fellow aristocrats and gentry (to whom they may well be related) in relatively fashionable locations. Friendships and even romances may arise and military PCs may find themselves changing ends as the fortunes of war dictate - the French or Spanish officer who was accustomed to take tea with your family at Bath during his captivity may be inviting you to dine in his local cafĂ© or bodega when you are taken in your own right.
    • Also, sides may change and a former prisoner may become an ally.
    • It may also be used as background "my character learned French from a parolee naval officer - this should give him an advantage in understanding the military terminology in the French dispatches that we have just captured" (which the GM then remembers when the same PC tries to pass as a French peasant later - his upper class accent may well give an equivalent penalty).
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