In my Provence-Saga, lately one Player-Magus of House Bonisagus claimed an apprentice of another Magus, Member of a different covenant.
Now I consider to flesh out the seed to a story. Perhaps you have some ideas, that could help me. Here are the facts:
The apprentice is 15 years old, no child anymore. His former parens was a Tytalus Magus.
The covenant of the players has some might, but it is mainly politically gained. There are no earthshaken magical powers at the players covenant. Some Magi have good developed Arts, but no one (including the covenant building - a castle on a rock) is nearly invincible (or something like that).
The covenant, that had to disclaim the apprentice is Doissetep: very powerful, but no Bonisagus Magi are living there.
I think it is possible to develop the apprentice as a thorn in the side of his new parens. Maybe it is possible too, that Doissetep seeks a kind of revenge for losing the apprentice. Because the incident is inside the code of hermes, I´d like a possible revenge to be inside the code, too.
Wizard War is inside the Code, and the Tytalus doesn't even need to list a reason to start one. But I'm guessing you don't want to go that route.
Now, when a Bonisagus takes an apprentice from a Tytalus, the first question to ask is: was this apprentice suited to becoming a Tytalus in the first place ? Not everyone is, and if he wasn't, then the Tytalus is duty bound to find the apprentice a more suitable parens (Tytalus magi don't torture their apprentice for the fun of it, they do it to make them strong, and they don't take apprentices who can't take the regimen).
But you want to make it a story, make the apprentice a thorn to his new parens. So I'm guessing the answer to the question is, in fact, yes: the Bonisagus was just lazy and poached a promising apprentice off of another magus instead of rescuing a poor abused apprentice out of pure goodness. Which means the apprentice did in fact learn something under his first parens, like the value of conflict to test and hone oneself evil smile. What if the Tytalus magus were to make regular visit to his former apprentice's covenant, and take every opportunity to drop a few hints ? Turn the apprentice into the worst mischief-maker in the Tribunal's history ? Is the Bonisagus prepared to deal with that ?
And keep in mind, any crime an apprentice commits is the direct responsibility of his parens under the Code, since he is legally his possession. In fact, if the apprentice kills the parens, legally that counts as suicide under the Code (and successfully passing the Gauntlet in House Tytalus). So here is a possible endgame: if the Tytalus can convince the apprentice to try to kill the Bonisagus, and the apprentice succeeds, the Tytalus can then immediately claim the newly orphaned apprentice, declare him to have successfully pass his Gauntlet, and welcome him as a full magus of House Tytalus... and it's all legal !
A few questions are very important before we can really determine what can of stories could result from this.
Why did the Bonisagus take that apprentice? Was it because he manifested some specific abilities related to his Gift? Was he very intelligent? Was it a political move to weaken the Tytalus? Was it because he was ready for an apprentice and didn't want to bother searching for one? Did he simply want to have a productive apprentice right away?
Was the apprentice suited to becoming a Bonisagus? Or a Tytalus? What did he want to become?
How hard is it to find a Gifted child in your saga?
All of these have ramifications on any potential story that can be told about it.
The apprentice could run away. All the time. Now, the Bonisagus might be able to invent a spell, a ward to keep him in the sanctum/lab, but it will still take some time. And I think it's reasonable to say that using the apprentice to help invent the spell is going to be a detriment, rather than a bonus to the lab total. If there isn't a lab total for Ward of the Curious Scullion, for example, it could be a long time before the apprentice is contained, also be aware that this spell has been corrected in the errata, and isn't as low level as it's published in Covenants.
But answering Arthur's questions could really make the possibilities more vibrant.
Another option, in terms of game mechanics, is to have the apprentice 'goof off' when they're supposed to be helping the magi in the lab. For example, my current character, by the age of 16, had a Lab Assistant total of 18 (High Int + Inventive Genius + etc.) - however, he was resentful of his Paren, and so split his Pool by 3, (giving his paren a bonus of 6 in the lab each season), and used the remainder of that time to sneak into the library and study the Roots. (He had the Memory Palace ability, and so memorized a page out of the summa every day, and practiced it on the sly.)
Assuming there's a high enough lab total, it would be difficult for a paren in-game to figure out what's going on, other than the fact that the apprentice is being sullen and easily distracted and not as helpful as they think the apprentice should be.
The former parens of the apprentice is a Tremere, not a Tytalus (bad memory... sorry). I liked Halancars Tytalus-Idea very much, but - alas - it is no Tytalus.
The other questions are easy to answer:
The main reason for the Bonisagus taking the apprentice is: Weakening Doissetep and strengthen himself. Doissetep is the rival covenant of the players covenant (...but the Bonisagus Magus is eager to have an apprentice irrespective of this, too.)
The former parens is a remote acquaintance but not really an important NPC. The apprentice is unknown to the players up to now. All they know is: there is an apprentice of this Tremere Magus and he is 15 years old. Now our Bonisagus has taken him.
To find a gifted child is not easy in my saga, but if you really want an appretice, sooner or later you´ll have one. This minute half of the Playermagi have one.
Perhaps it is possible to play the former master as a recurrent nasty visitor at the players covenant, even if he is a Tremere and not a Tytalus... I liked this idea very much.
Why not have the Tremere secretly train the apprentice through telepathy or dreams (and arcane connection taken from the apprentice) and secretly influence the apprentice to go against his new master.
Afterall, many Tremere excell in the art of metem.
Yes, I could do things like that, but it would mean, that the former master had to penetrate the Aegis of the covenant everytime he is acting. This is the reason I like the unpopular visitor more... and the roleplaying opportunities are more colourful than vague hints about something the apprentice could influence.
Even more than that if he is ever detected it would almost certainly be considered scrying and call for a wizard's march. On the unpopular visitor, he can just be banned from setting foot in the covenant.
It is not scrying as he does not actually spy, he just incites the apprentice to act in a erratic or wrong way. I would have the said apprentice start doubting hisnew master (as the dreams tell him to do so) and thus subtly showing the Bonisagius that something seems to (at first) bother the apprentice as he seems unfocused, but it might be that the apprentice is just unfamiliar with his new surroundings. But as the effects worsen, the apprentice might make rookie mistakes and even consciously wrong things in the lab, which will make the Bonisagius more aware that something is definitely wrong.
Also, if the Tremere had access to the apprentice before, he can have a whole pile of sympathetic links to the apprentice to have a ridiculous penetration towards the apprentice.
After all, in a few years (at max 7) there will be a tribunal and then there can be a really good exposure of said plot to play at the gathering (if the players have not decided to make a wizard's war), and even though he has not broken the code, he is pretty much in the grey zone and will not be hard to take down politically, if played right.
It is an attack, yes, but not magical spying as he is not gaining any information or knowledge through the magic.
If the Tremere isn't gaining any information its going to be hard to manipulate the apprentice. Telling the apprentice he should slack off tomorrow doesn't work if tomorrow he gets to play with the masters kitty. Plus its still could be argued as an attack. Mind control crosses pretty hard into the depriving of magical power category.
Its a petty revenge scheme that will likely explode in the old-master's face. Plus unless he already has arcane telepathy spells he'll be using the intangible tunnel. That could literally blow up in his face. Or he can waste seasons inventing them. The Tremere gains nothing, and probably gets in trouble.
What about the other covenant starting a campaign of defamation in the tribunal, for instance suggesting to other magi with apprentices that they may be next, and that the Bonisagus magus had no valid reason to claim that apprentice ? There would be high expectation for the apprentice to produce great work, and the Bonisagus could be pressed by his sodales within the covenant to spend more time forming the apprentice, and making sure that he appears very talented at the next tribunal, or that he is involved in a high deed.
Until the apprentice shows innovative magic, the covenant and especially the Bonisagus Magus would suffer bad reputation within the tribunal.
The Bonisagus doesn't need a valid reason to take an apprentice, under the Code. In practice, of course, they should. But, every Bonisagus should get one for free, or the benefit of the doubt, if you will. If they turn out a string of mediocre magi, or worse, they turn up dead later on during the apprenticeship due to a magical mishap. This appears to be the first time the Bonisagus has taken another's apprentice.
Anything done needs to be done carefully, because it's essentially challenging a Bonisagus's right under the Code. A defamation campaign, doesn't have a basis in fact, by definition, and could be problematic. Certainly if the source is known, and if it leads to certain deals falling through, and it can be proven, you're getting close to depriving a magus of his power for something he's entitled to do.
In my opinion, there should be subtle repercussions, but if anything is directly orchestrated by the Tremere, he's putting himself in danger of violating the Code. He's better off declaring a WW, to be honest.
Wizard's war is clearly what I would do if I was said Tremere magus, but Chiarina seems to say that there is no way for his players to resist a proper wizard's war (and I would assume a Tremere will do things properly).
I don't know how far one could go to criticize and defame a sodale before exposing himself to the code. Of course, outright lying about someone else is dangerous, but I wonder if FUD, fear-mongering among other magi with apprentices and such behaviours could be formally connected with the loss of business. It would be natural, for instance, for a former master to publicly express his concern about his former apprentice being used as a free lab worker, and to challenge him in a certamen at the next tribunal "to make sure his new parens teaches him correctly".
Besides, a rule of the code that gives Bonisagii such a great power with few formal restraint will probably be subject to unsaid, social rules. I would expect that a magus that uses this power in a distasteful fashion to be held in contempt by his peers. That is up to each SG to decide, of course, but I doubt that Bonisagii would be tolerated if they just rolled around hijacking apprentices.
I don't dispute that a Bonisagus who abuses his right under the Code would be held in contempt by his peers. It goes back to this, is the first time the PC has exercised his privilege due him under the Code. Sure, people don't like this, they may think House Bonisagus generally abuses this privilege, but that's different from the case of one Bonisagus repeatedly taking apprentices from others.
PC or NPC a Bonisagus should get one for free. The more often the character moves to take an apprentice from another, the reason had better be a good one, or some political and social repercussions should be expected.
As far as a WW against the Bonisagus, the Tremere might just do it. And woe be unto any other member of the House who takes an apprentice, in this manner, and is unprepared to defend himself. Does it open a huge can of worms, because you have two competing parts of the Code that are both valid? Is this an issue to be settled at Grand Tribunal? Much like Supreme Court cases in the US, take forever to move through the system, such an a case could be interesting a lot of fun to play. It could be that the Tremere declares WW, kidnaps the apprentice, and lets it expire, without killing the Bonisagus. Who is the legal master then?
By the time it's decided at Grand Tribunal, the issue may be moot, and it might not even make it on the docket (although since the Prima Bonisagus sets the docket...)
Then there's the issue that House Tremere generally prefers alternate methods to WW (this is coming from Against the Dark), and his House might find his behavior reprehensible individually, but think that House Bonisagus exercises this right with too much frequency, and should be required to be held to some kind of standard.
But spreading FUD or outright lies seems beneath a Tremere, generally, and outright lies (which is what defamation is) are probably eligible for prosecution under the Code, if such lies can be demonstrated to have caused a deprivation of magical power. Nothing certain here, but the Code is such a bendy thing, and it's up to how the magi of the Tribunal vote, and politics to make anything actually a violation...
Defamation would work. It might not be lies, but arguments to make the magi look bad. Spinning the truth. Certamen to ensure the apprentice is taught right would work. There are some laws protecting apprentices it could be argued to be an expansion on that. More general Certamen bullying would probably work. A straight up WW would be a possibility, but if this is a first time deal House Boni is gonna frown on it pretty hard. The Tremere might end up facing a wave of retaliatory WWs. House Boni pays for the right to apprentices dearly by letting everyone have access too their research. Circumventing it, while legal, will tick them off something fierce. Similarly House Tremere frowns upon Wizard's Wars preferring Certamen, and they frown on ticking off other Houses. At the very least this Tremere will face a lot of frowns.
So, a sneaky attack is probably out. Its not the Tremere way, is pretty and could end up costing the Tremere a lot. Bad mouthing is probably in. Pushing for the Boni actually doing something with the apprentice is probably in. Certamen bullying is probably in; its the Tremere way and it will get the Tremere magi something.
Defamation, by definition is based on lies.
You can't challenge someone to Certamen over the way he teaches his apprentices. That's depriving one of their magical power, a violation of the Code.
There are almost no laws protecting apprentices, they are the property of their magus. He can kill his apprentices if he wishes.
What do I think about Wizard´s War? It´s not sure, that the Bonisagus will lose. He is in his fifties and not too weak. With a Wizard´s War my saga would develop quite dramatically. But I admit: It´s not very Tremere-like and it is the first time the Bonisagus uses this privilege. Maybe this minute a reaction too tough...
So, why not use the rules about Certamen? Of course the Tremere will not use it to challenge the Bonisagus over the way he teaches his apprentices. But perhaps he could win recurrent admission to the covenant of the PC´s. Perhaps he could win the recurrent possibility to lead extensive conversations with his former apprentice? Maybe once in the covenant, he begins to map the building... (at a purely mundane way, of course).
Perhaps I´ll try it this way: with a combination of the nasty visitor and the certamen idea.