The system of Honor Debt within the Vargoss Empire is very complex and one of the main reasons the Empire functions so smoothly. At its core, an Honor Debt is a contract that a person is honor bound to fulfill. Failure to repay an Honor Debt can lead to imprisonment, death at the hands of the person owed the debt, but at the very least loss of social standing and the ability to enter into any other Honor Debts. This is the one thing that the state will become involved in enforcing as the system is fundamental to the success of the Empire.
At its highest level the Honor Debt system is used by the Barons and the Emperor to distribute power. In return for being given the right to rule their barony, a Baron swears an Honor Debt to the Emperor. This Honor Debt is what requires the Barons to provide troops and support to the Empire in time of war and to insure that they do not become petty dictators, as the Emperor has the power to revoke the Honor Debt and replace them. The Emperor cannot use this to avoid a challenge to his power by a Baron, as anyone that thinks they can rule the Empire better has the right to challenge the current Emperor to an Honor Duel. This challenge must be answered, by the Emperor, but he/she is free to choose the terms of the duel.
As the Honor Debt system is formalized, when two people enter into an Honor Debt, a Writ of Debt is written up. It spells out the obligations of the parties, what the person incurring the debt receives and the repayment terms to the person granting the debt. These terms can be very specific, or can be loose, such as a request to be fulfilled later. The courts in Vargoss give great leeway to the debt holder, so the less exact the repayment terms the more room the debt holder has to get what he/she wants. This Writ of Debt is what is used to acquire a Writ of Default when the Honor Debt is not repaid according to the terms. With this Writ of Default the person holding the debt can use any means necessary to get his repayment up to and including the death of the debtor.
Along with the Honor Debt system, there is a concept of the Honor Duel. This is what keeps most conflicts from getting out of control. An Honor Duel occurs between two individuals, the challenger and the challenged, over an offense to the challenger. This can be an insult, a failure to fulfill an Honor Debt, or the desire to take the position of someone higher. With the exception of a challenge for failure to fulfill an Honor Debt, the person challenged chooses the nature of the duel and the victory conditions. Under this system, those obviously superior are to show restraint in the issue of challenges, particularly to those of lesser station or power. Losing an Honor Duel, costs the loser a great deal of respect within his community, and if it the person is a Baron, government official, or the Emperor they can lose their position if that is the nature of the challenge. When the challenge is issued to replace a person in power, the person challenged is honor bound to accept the challenge and defend his/her right to continue in that position. If the challenge is related to an Honor Debt not being paid then the Writ of Debt or the Challenger determine the nature and victory condition of the duel. If the indebted person is challenging the debt on the grounds that repayment being required is not covered in the writ, then they name the nature and victory conditions, but they must get a Magistrate to agree with them before they can issue the challenge.
This system predates the Vargoss Empire and it is how the Baronies have kept relative peace between themselves even before the Empire was formed. The system works very well in keeping everyone honest in their dealings, and making sure the disputes of powerful and influential people do not divide communities’. This system grows out of the belief that the individual should be able to take care of them self and handle their business.