A Matter of Hermetic Law

Here’s the situation:

A small, poor spring covenant ran into some local trouble and all three Verditi magi spent a few nights in the local lord’s dungeon. A visiting magi came by, talked his way into the local covenant, killed the autocrat, stole some books, vis and magic items and burnt down the covenant to cover his tracks. He was operating under the assumption that the three magi were going to be killed.

Well, they weren’t. They got out and discovered that someone burnt their covenant down. This wasn’t too surprising considering the situation they were in. What was surprising is that the stairwell to the basement, which housed the library and supply rooms, had been sealed up—clearly by magic.

It will not be hard for the Verditi to figure out who did it. In fact, they already know, they just aren’t certain, but with a little confirmation from the Quasitores that won’t be a problem. Tribunal is in a couple seasons and I want to bring the matter up then.

Is this illegal? If so, what would be an appropriate punishment?

Now, my players seem to think that they won’t be punished, since the Verditi couldn’t defend their covenant, but I’m not so sure it works that way, and even so the head Verditi will have the political skill to get some action. (And there are a lot of uncovenanted magi who will side with the V.) And they think the V. won’t want the Quaesitores involved because they may have broken the Code in the matter that got them hauled off to the dungeon in the first place. But to my mind, this is pretty clearly depriving the V. of their magical power.

Any thoughts?

Were the Magi actually dead?
Until they are dead, or in final twighlight...
Deprivation of magical power..pretty clear from where I sit.

If a Magus was in twighlight for a couple of seasons, and his sodales raided his sanctum for his stuff. When he returns and finds his goods missing...
Loss of power...

A group of Magi out on an adventure for a couple of seasons...they return to find a visiting redcap has taken all the covenant Vis and books...he told the autocrat it looked like they weren't coming back, so he was 'protecting' the magical interests of the order...come to find out out he sold it...

Now...consider. A local covenant is destroyed by a demon (ouch). The neighboring covenant recovers what it can from the shambles (two seasons later).
This isn't a problem...
Now...one of the Covenants members was in twighlight from fighting the Demon, and just returned...
This is messy...
I would say the second covenant owes the magi something...perhaps extending membership (careful there) and a quantity of Vis...but something IS in order.

The crime that got the troupe thrown into jail is seperate an unrelated to the crime that they experienced.

One could argue that by actually sitting in jail and doing their time, they followed mundane law. Having done this, they did NOT breach the Code (interfering in mundane affairs) as fighting the inprisonment with magic would likely be seen as drawing attention if not interfering in mundane affairs.

Again, that someone took advantage of them while they 'maintained the peace' with the mundanes by servine their time is a gross exploitation of thier situation. Any competant Q could argue that should the perpetrator be set free, then any magus who leaves his covenant accepts that another magus has the right to pillage their property. This of course will not fly.

Furthermore, the guy didn't simply sack the covenant and steal a few books. He essentially leveled it. Based on deprivation of magical power (times the number of magi affected), I can only see the 'fair' punishment being death.

Seriously, as a victim who has lost not only all mystic revenue, but all revenue all together (food included), would you settle for anything less than death? As a 'neighbor' who didn't want the same thing to happen to one self, would you want to establish a precident that allowed this to possibly happen to one self? I think everyone of the Tribunal, and likely multiple Tribunals would consider the destruction of a covenant a High Crime.

Furthermore, TL suggests that Q's don't want to be bothered with 'the little things'. This seems pretty cut and dry. I suggest the covenant assaulted declare Wizard's War on the Magus who robbed them. If they don't feel they can handle the magus by themselves, call for some Hopolites (essentially a posse) to aid in the guys death. Waiting for a Tribunal seems absurd. Kill the guy and argue that he would have been found guilty anyway. Pay the Hopolites for their time and they will support your version of things when a Hopolite checks it out. Unless your hiding something from us, any reasonable Hopolite will dot his i's and cross his t's and move on to something that isn't as cut and dry.

So crack those knuckles, stretch those arms, and go kill yourself a covenant-wrecker.


If you read carefully, it seems to me that the Verditi who spent their time in jail were the NPCs. The Players were the Covenant raiders.


Yep. Sorry, I could have been more clear on that. But it does make the OOC situation more difficult. I really want to punish both the character and the player for his actions, but deciding how is a challenge. And the next session is going to be Tribunal, so the Verditious wouldn't really have much time to act before then anyway.

The player has both a familiar and an apprentice. Perhaps either or both should be stripped from him/killed as punishment.

He should be Marched.

Given Guernicus's own history in TL, I don't see him getting any sympathy from the Quaesitores, nor from the Tribunal. That's precisely the kind of things the Order was formed to prevent.

Yes that makes things harder, unfortunately. :frowning:

What restitution does he have to offer? Can he single-handedly rebuild the covenant?

That's not all black and white.

The reckless magus could later argue, that he only helped the three Verditii to keep their Oath of Hermes: these could no longer prevent their neighbours, who had them jailed, from searching and ransacking their covenant, finding Hermetic books - perhaps even on Parma or Order of Hermes Lore -, Hermetic correspondence, magical apparatus and so on.
And having your mundane neighbours in this way get a lot of good sources on the Order of Hermes would certainly be endangering Tribunal or even Order by most dangerous meddling with mundanes. Killing the autocrat could be interpreted as removing an unprotected witness. Sealing up the basement could be interpreted as hiding evidence which could not be removed. And so on. (Just think of the clean up man from 'Nikita'.)

Your magus will need allies at the Tribunal to pull this off, but might find them especially among the older magi adverse to fools who get themselves caught or even found by mere mundanes. They might still have him pay through the nose in terms of favors and obligations, though. His actions will certainly not endear him to younger magi - so a bad reputation 'old magi's pet' might be in order also.

Kind regards,


Just curious: why punish the player? I don't see that going very far...

How about this: run a session where the players (get a few extra if you have to!) play the Verditi, discussion the situation. What do they decide? Covert retribution? Wizards War? Wait for tribunal? Call on the offender and demand retribution? Sit home and sulk? Call on their house for help?

Whatever they decide, this has several nice features: the player gets to see the ramifications of his characters actions much more clearly then if he is just visited by the consequences; the player cannot blame you for the misfortune that results;it is oodles of fun, especially if you get in a couple of visiting players that have no mercy on the regular players.

The biggest hurdle is getting the regular player(s?) associate themselves with the Verditi for a while, and not worry about the consequences for their regular characters. Even if you don't think your players are capable of this, I'd suggest you ask them if they would like to do this. If they say "Hey, cool!", then things are likely to go fine. In any case, if the result is something you cannot live with, you can always declare the episode a wishfull dream of the PCs...

Futher random notes:

  • I think killing either the apprentice is a horrible idea: they are an infinitely valuable resource -- the future of the Order! Taking the appentice away sounds much better, but it also sounds like waay too little. Burning out the Gift would be more in proportion to what he has done, if you don't want hime renounced and marched outright!

  • How many people know about what has happened? I would think that very few mages are going to be willing to let the rogue enter their covenant anymore -- or even let him know where it is. A reputation of "Murderous Thief of Magical Power" seems the least that can happen.

  • Perfect opportunity for an infernal contact: "We're the only ones who can help you now..." (For extra pugnancy, get the character to sell his soul, but make the help he gets too little and too late -- so he ends up both dead and damned.)

  • If the character realizes the shit he is in, best options for him might be running away (Flaw: Renounced Magus coming up...) or begging for mercy.

  • How set in stone is the "next session is tribunal" bit? Can you inject restrospectives or sift focus elsewhere? What is the in-game timeframe? How much time have the victims had between discovering the situation and the upcoming tribunal?



Death is the only fitting punishment for the terrible crime the character has commited.

You need to make the player very much aware of this.

Next you need to offer him the only out that reasonably exists. I.E. strike a deal with the three Verditii. And the only reasonably way to do this is to become more useful to them alive than you would be dead. Realistically the player will have to offer enormous compensation to the magi to atone for his crimes. I'm talking a staggering amount of vis and books, over and above the amount stolen, and the funds to rebuild the covenant to a "better than before" condition. Also, some symbolic and deeply painful/humiliating atonement would be needed, such as working for a year as the the servant of each of the magi.

Even with all of this, he needs to be extremely eloquent and persuasive as the Verditii are likely going to be really mad at him.

Death of familiar and loss of apprentice are guaranteed. By his own hand would be a nice touch. Basically he is totally at the mercy of the mages he wronged and its in his best interests to convince them to spare him rather than kill him.

Now, in my experience, PC's generally are far too prideful for this (mine are at least) and having the PC marched would be appropriate.

In Hermetic law he is certainly deader than dead. This is the whole point of the order after all, it exists to stop this kind of attack.

Oh thats nasty. I like that.

In fact, this could take the saga in a whole new fun direction. The player sells his soul and escapes justice but is nearly kicked out the order, heavy penalities, massive nasty reputations. The only guys that seem to understand are the demons he has allie himself with. The start of a slippy slide into hell, dragging as many other magi with him as possible.

Oh the angst!

Because I want to not reward psychopatheic behavior. More or less on a whim he murdered an autocrat, stole some vis and burnt down a covenant. That's not a behavior I want in my game.

Interesting idea. I don't know if they'll go for it, but I'll consider it.

Sorry, I meant stripping him of his apprentice (he is a Bonisagus) and killing his familiar.

Heh, well if he doesn't lose his apprentice over this, the boy has been infernally tainted (they don't know this yet) so this has strong merit.

Pretty set in stone. He went to the Verditious covenant in the fall, Tribunal is the following Summer. With various fall out, the visit has strethced into three sessions: his arrival and torching, the companions saving the Verditious (he didn't tell any of the PCs what he had done, so the local lady went and rescued the Verditious from their certain doom, thus complicating his brilliant plan of letting them die), and then the Verditious coming to the player's covenant asking for aid.

I don't want this to drag on much longer, but if I had a suitable idea I'm sure I could push Tribunal back another session.

You could torment him with an Angel...or the spirit of someone killed in the fire...

A returning dilemma: letting a character survive vs. the integrity of the setting.

Why a dilemma? Otherwise SG wouldn't be so reluclant to kill of characters. Which is of course good, because the players have a lot invested in their characters - it might make a big effort for them to get under skin of their next character and because their deaths should never be meaningless, since that would be a very disappointing closure to the time you've enjoyed playing said character.

You could also say it like this:

The same certainly applies to invested role playing characters. Accident or for no good reason is a shitty way for your character to be finished off (pardon my french). That's why SG are often very reluctant to off PC's.

But... then there's the integrity of the setting! An important part of a role playing saga is its believability. Not that most of us, I presume, believe in medieval magic wielding Orders, but the fact is that given the presumtions of the setting, it should seems cohesive. Why else having a lot of stories with plots about staying clear of just solving your daily challenges by transgressing against the Code? To do role playing we all have to engage in something called a "fictional contract" - among other things that our imaginations are all in "tune". That the world of Mythic Europe is believable to exists independently of the little corner of it we portray in our indivudial sagas - and that the Quaesitors enforce the Code - this sound simple, but it's a cornerstone of making the fiction believable.

Therefore, if we grossly set aside the setting because of our understandable reluctance to kill PC, the setting and ultimately the role playing experience might suffer.

My own take on your situation would therefore be, honestly not knowing if I would have this reflectivity if I were in your shoes, to offer the character (player) a tight loophole (I would prefer one of the non-Infernal, because it is almost to obvious, and if you use one of the Hermetic loopholes the consequences of not honoring it will seem much more direct), but also stressing the gravity of his actions and the certain consequences.

I also think that the loophole should at least entail losing familiar, apprentices, resources, reputation and prossibly his dignity.

And finally, if he doesn't follow the details of the loophole I would minister swift, unwavering and unavoidable "judgement". Thus you've secured the integrity of the setting and if the character doesn't oblige, his death will be of his own conscious chosing - and then it can't be Accident or for no good reason.

Aye definatly give him some flaw that will follow him for a LONG time if you decide not to march him.

Supernatural or not, make it something he cant ignore.

Personally I'd have him marched, but to be fair give him a season (or to the end of the season) to put affairs in order before the hunt begins.
With some work he may be able to get some sort of support and continue on under an assumed name with dark secret. (one more strike and he's toast, and he'll know it)

fake your death, then masqurade as a hedge mage that wants to "join" the order is the 1st though on how I'd do it. You'd loose a few seasons as you were "taught" parma and made to learn the code

Is this typical behaviour for this player?
It might be better to ask him if he wants to continue with this character.
Going behind the other PCs backs ,
and plotting murder (that they might have been implicated in) ,
seems disruptive.

He may well see having an Infernal Pact as a good thing ,
it gives him less reason to work with the other players
and more reason to backstab them.

Have him work as an indentured Lab Slave for the NPC Magi.
Make it 02 out of 04 Seasons every year.
If he is allowed to improve , he can make restitution that much sooner.
A magically binding oath could be placed on him ,
his Familiar being used as an arcane connection.
The Familiar is not killed , but placed in a stasis of some kind.

Possibly even have the Familiar replaced with an Infernal Double.

I am afraid as a GM I would let the character be marched. Not only is it a Hermetic crime , there was no real effort to cover it up . Qualifies as Blatant idiocy to me and I would kill the character, I would have made sure he knew what he was doing but then

A good occasion to use those nifty Guernicus rituals like The Will of Alatheia.

Ok, I think we all need to take a step back and reevaluate this situation.

Yes I misunderstood who was who. Essentially one character is the 'bad guy' having sacked and destroyed a covenant?

The various contributors have addresses many issues. The continuity of the game world. The stability of the table top world. RaRodger has made it clear he has no interest in rewarding psychopathic behavior.

First the table top world. How do the players feel about this particular player and his character. Does the player get along with the other players? If the player plays trouble makers, causing stress in the game, is this 'game' stress or 'player' stress? I make a distinction because I feel there is one. Essentially some characters are headaches for other characters, but the players get along quite well. That's 'game' stress. When one player through his actions or his characters actions cause the PLAYERS stress, that's Player Stress, and this needs to be resolved.

I focus on this, because the GM not only moderates the gaming world, but they moderate the table and you need to have a happy troupe. Your resolution needs to work in a manner that satisfies you as well as the troupe. It need not satisfy any one individual, but the TROUPE needs to see it as a reasonable solution.

Second the gaming world. I think numerous contributors have suggested that in a world that makes sense, this sort of crime can not be ignored. While my first answer quickly said kill em, that's because I got confused on who's who.

The player character should be killed off if their story has been told or if their death will resolve table top problems. However in terms of roleplaying it may be more interesting to keep the character alive.

First, I like the idea of a special session. A majority of the troupe plays NPC's who need to decide the fate of the character. This will not only put the fate of the character into the hands of the players, but it will allow them to articulate reasons for that fate. Finally, the characters get to play other characters for a session. That sort of break can be refreshing. We've done this in the past and it's always fun. Forget about stats, it all about personality for that session.

I think Master Berengar layed out a perfect plan to keep the character alive. Print it out and follow it word for word. This would involve heavy roleplaying on the part of the killer turned defendant. He would need to aggressively roleplay to keep himself alive. He would have to argue and convince his peers (the players) that his actions helped the Order. This in ingenious and would require a great deal of acting, and possibly some bargaining to boot.

If the arguement presented is believed, it's possible to walk away from this experience without suffering any sort of punishment at all. Hopefully the process of nearly dieing and saving oneself through roleplaying and barter would clarify to the player why such actions can't be done in the future. This may solve your problem of not wanting to severly punish the player, but to make him understand this behavior is unacceptable.

Another alternative presented was the diabolic deal. A demon could work a trick altering the circumstances in a manner that allowed the defendant to be found innocent. But now the character is demon plauged and carrying a dark secret. This sort of roleplaying opportunity shouldn't be dismissed. This one act, could define the character the rest of their days and the demon simply won't go a way, and the magus can't ask for help as such an admission would lead to the character being Marched.

I think there has been plenty of ammunition to clarify why the character should die. I think roleplaying should clarify why the actions were wrong, but I also think roleplaying could save the characters neck and possibly be the source of future stories depending on the punishment inflicted or avoided.

Tuura speaks well. I'll address another angle further.

As Tuura points out, the distinction is between player's whim that doesn't fit the character, and an actually sociopathic character. I'll assume that the first is the case, since that is the trickier situation -- all the medicine on the table so far is eminently suited to dealing with the second.

The question is, what do you want? Get rid of the player without explicitly kicking him out, or make him mend his ways? In the first case, punishing the player is exactly the way to go, but in the second I'd recommend against it.

Assuming you want to make him to (1) never do it again and (2) understand why it was not OK, you need to find out why he did it. Question is, does he know he did wrong, and does he know why it was wrong? People can be both astonishingly stupid and incredibly astute at times, so if he was my player I'd just ask, even if I was sure I knew the situation.

If he was aware that what he did was not acceptable, and is one the same page with the actual reason for it not being acceptable, then "WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO IT THEN, YOU TWIT?" would be my next question, followed by rescinding his invitation to the game. ,-)

If there was some misunderstanding on his part, then I'd explain the situation to him from my perspective. If he doesn't get the message (or gets it but doesn't care), then kicking him out is the only reasonable action in my book. Most people (in my assumption), however, are not likely to engage in deliberately disruptive behaviour: either they mend their ways easily enough when they realize what the shared goal was supposed to be, or they realize that this is not a game they actually want to play.

Of course, if he is a buddy outside the gaming context also, then kicking him out can be socially awkward. The best you can hope for in that case is probably to get him to "resign" himself, saving face, etc. AKA "Not My Kind of Game Guys, I Hope You Don't Mind" solution.

(Obviously, I'd not hold this discussion in front of others, but privately.)

As for in-game repercussions, I'd talk to him about them after resolving the possible misunderstandings. If he was under some wierd misapprehension, and it really seems that he would not have done this had he understood what kind of game you are trying to play, then I would try to minimize the situation. Maybe he was under some sort of spell from a malignant fairy-lord, who wanted to get one of the books from the covenent? Whatever. Water under the bridge, etc, provided the player is less of a problem in future.

Out of curiosity, what did the other players think of his escapade?

Not Ars, but sort of on-topic still:

Robin's Laws of Gamemastering

has lots of good, sensible, down-to-earth stuff about communication between players and gamemaster (and more).

As a secondary point, I sometimes play "troublesome" characters whose actions should cause them a world of hurt, and every time a GM is lenient and lets the consequences slide, I am deeply frustrated: I wanted the consequences! I wanted to get the character into deep trouble! ...so I'd say that if this was all in character after all (the character just happens to be a murdering SoB), then toasting him is what I'd want, if I was the player...



I completely concur with Tuura's points (exept from one point, that I don't think killing PC are the best means to solve table top problems). Foremost try to find a way to make some memorable roleplaying out of the situation. I also like the "special session" model (playing the verditii or a gathering of guernici) and we have had very great experiences doing somethings similar to it. And keeping the character alive (here's to you d31m0z!) is certainly a better avenue to interesting sessions, even though as earlier described I wouldn't hesitate to outline the stakes!

If my former post was a bit grim, it was mostly because I got derailed by an interesting topic IMO: PC deaths being meaningful and true to setting vs. for no good reason. I presume good relations between the players as a prerequisite for good sessions, so my draconic means would only be to curtail characters, not players. And to keep the fiction alive 'n' kicking. And foremost to have interesting intrigues ahead of you; to inspire more great role playing!


I'm not interested in driving off the player. He's a fine guy, but he does run a little "kill them and take their stuff." My goal is to teach him that this has severe consequences when done lightly.

Now, my problem is compounded because... the other players are backing him up on this. The theme seems to be that since the Verditious were on trial, that it was less-bad than if they were just out of the covenant. (And they think that the Verditious wouldn't press the issue because they will be in more trouble than Gaius.) And they certainly seem to be suggesting OOC that they don't think it should be a marchable offense.

Which astounds me and makes me question if I want to keep on in this group.

At the moment, I'm leaning towards letting Tribunal sort it out. The Verditious will press the issue, after having secured alliances. They will be calling for him to be Marched. The players don't have any political ties or clout yet (in fact, the little political bonding they had done was with their former friends, the Verditious), so they will have to build a power base right quick if they want to defend the PC. Of course, they will have the option of throwing him to the wolves if not.

Since I know it will be asked: The Verditious sold an automaton to a nobel through their vendor. It was a toy-- a doll. The noble's daughter showed it to a clergiman who used it as evidence that they were binding demon familiars.

And also, since it came up, I've been talking with the players, and one who knows the group better than me (I'm the johnny-come-lately), believes that the player in question knew his life was in danger when the Verditious came back asking questions... and worked out that the fact that since he had TWO fili and an apparent age in the 40s that he might be a problem. So, I'm inclined to give them an honest chance of saving him... or blowing it and getting him Marched. It will be curious to see what happens in that event.

Thanks for all the advice, and above all for reassuring me that this was a pretty wrong thing to have done. When every one else at the table is all "What's the big deal?" and "Well, I woudn't have done it, but I see where he's coming from" you can start to wonder.

Group think can occur on many levels and in various situations.

When I met some of the people that would go on to be apart of my Ars Group we were playing AD&D2. Chain Lighting has a certain range, and anything less than it's firing range cause the bolt to sort of bounce around the room. The rules are quite clear on this,but no one seemed to pay attention or follow that rule. I didn't play a wizard or anyone who used that spell, but even reading the book word for word the group would sort of say, "No it doesn't work that way."

Only when we tried our first AD&D2 video game and they saw Chain Lighting kill the entire adventuring group was I vindicated.

In our troupe, we have a history of slaughtering the Latin Language. VEEEM instead of WEEEEM, ect, ect. When a newbie joined our group and was using correct Latin, there were numerous attempts to 'correct' the Newbie.

In one of the other threads they discuss Pentration 2 or 5. In some troupes 5 was grossly misused. In others it was hardly used. These sort of traits become unique to individual gaming groups.

I think it's understandable for a troupe to support one and other even if it leads the group to a 'wrong' conclusion. It makes sense as "johnny come lately' for you to look at the troupe and wonder how they can not see the seriousness of this crime.

What would be interesting is to repeat the senario all over again, but with the tables turned. For instance, the defendant is found guilty and punished or found innocent and let go. The End.

At a later date, one of the other characters is detained as the Q's think them guilty of a crime. While they are being detained, an NPC comes in and sacks their lab because they assumed the magus would be found guilty and killed. Now they are the victim of the crime! Their previous logic would dictate that no crime was commited. Do they stand by their opinion and let the NPC go, or do they change their tune and call for justice?

If this is to cruel, a Q could simply retell this tale while making a case to prove the defending PC guilty. :smiling_imp:

Again, I hope that my Scandinavian sodalis is refering to the characters life being in danger, not the player.. :laughing:

Nevertheless it sound as if your troupe could benefit from an easy off-game eye-to-eye to sync in your views on the setting.

Seeing it from the sunny side, if the other players agree with the "culprit's" player, then doing an alternative session playing whomever decides on the characters fate might prove be even more challenging and interesting! Disagreements put aside, playing against your opinions and gut feelings are almost always interesting, if not to say enligtning. :unamused:

Good luck!

Another bit about the 'side session'.

These 'other' magi that the players play for one session. They need not go away. These are magi of the Tribunal. In addition to allowing the players to be another personality for a session, these characters should from time to time return and make themselves known. This is a great and natural way to introduce NPC's that possess complicated personalites and a history that GM NPC's can't always have. I'm not trying to criticise any particular GM's skill, but the players always out number you. If you get them to play the NPC's they are going to bring 'something' you didn't anticipate had you played all the NPC's yourself.

Well, I suppose I should apologize to Roger before I even start...

I know this group... well.
Unless I miss my guess, I KNOW the player who did this (Well, I could be wrong...).
The last game he was involved in degenerated into a screaming match between the players because he went behind their backs and did something that in the long run (as per the SG) would have killed three of the five Magi of the Covenant. The arguement was because he didn't see anything wrong with what he had done...
In a previous game, his actions got one Magi killed, himself and another renounced. They fled before death could catch up to them... I guess he didn't see anything wrong there either...
I guess thats all I can say on this subject without getting into the other similar things that happened in RL.

Sorry for the News article, but I see everyone making comments about how the player does, or doesn't deserve a certain action. A little 'inside' info should put things into perspective.

Again, I apologize to everyone.


I am one of the players in Rob's game. I read these boards regularly, but only discovered this thread tonight.

And sorry Mark/Urien, I am not the instigator of the trouble. Nate's character "Cerasus" is the one on the spot. For all the rest of you, please know that Mark and I seem to be like Oil and Water, so there's history shading his comments. But let's not get into that...

Without retelling the whole story, perhaps the most useful addition I can make to the discussion is this...

Our local Ars Magica group has a tradition of seeing Mythic Europe as a very "might makes right"/socially Darwinistic universe (which we believe is the intent of the game designers).

So, when Rob says he's surprised that we don't seem to think what Cerasus did was all that bad... well, it's a tough world out there. I'd say Berengar's comments early in the thread capture our perspective well.

In Cerasus' defense, I will say that I disagree with Rob's characterization of some of the actions as "psychopathic" and "on a whim".

We watched as Nate struggled with the decision. He was literally squirming about it:

"What do I do?...

"If Cerasus just walks away, then when the torch-and-pitchfork mob comes to burn the place down, all these magical resources will be lost."

Was his solution warm and fuzzy? Clearly not. But Cerasus didn't have the skills or magic to convince the covenfolk to let him "hold on to the precious magical stuff for safekeeping." He tried. It was either take them by force or walk away and risk losing them to the mob, or at least to another magus who came by to take advantage of the situation.

"Well, those three Verditii are gonna burn for witchcraft, and there's nothing I can do about it without seriously breaking the Code. If I don't take this stuff, someone else will. Better me than some other rapacious magi, and way better me than letting the mob get it."

If you're away from your covenant and some other magus just walks into your sanctum and takes your stuff, is that a Marchable offense? Almost certainly.

But let's say you've been publicly dragged into the dungeon on witchcraft charges and are probably going to be killed in a matter of days. Some other magus is right there on the spot, able to 'rescue' your magical resources and keep them out of the hands of the mundanes and the church. He ends up killing one or two mundane covenfolk to do so.

Do you really think a majority of magi at Tribunal will see this as a High crime?

How many magi would be of the view "they had it coming, inviting the wrath of the mundanes like that"?

How many magi would be of the view "The Vis, tomes and items from the labs of 3 Verditius magi? I'd have done the same thing if I was in that situation!"?

One final thought:
Cerasus used magic to block the underground stairs leading to the labs and library for two reasons:

  1. So the mundanes couldn't get down there.
  2. He could only carry so much out alone. Perhaps he'd have the opportunity to come back later and claim the rest.

So yes, Cerasus was acting not so much to cover his tracks, but to prevent the mundanes from gaining access to the sancti.


By the way,

If any of you are curious, you can see some snippets of campaign material here:

swa-gaming.org/modules.php?n ... forum&f=28


Even though i appreciate the gesture my danish friend... 'twasn't me! Honest! Two sep'rate groups, the burning I spoke of was something else entirely :open_mouth:

Seems to be a lot of burning going on.

Anyway, over to the case at hand. If I'd been the SG here, Cerasus would die. Kicking, screaming and begging for his pathetic little life. All the might of the Tribunal would descend upon him and make the pounding hard, continous and totally without remorse. The resoning is quite simple; there are some inviolate rules within the Order, and one of the is Sanctuary. Of course, the player could then be allowed to continue playing his 'prentice. Also consider that even if the character was aquitted, what would the Verditii do? I somehow doubt that they would accept a precedent that would allow people to again start to pillage the works of the Artificers.

btw, which Tribunal is it?

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxim culpa! :blush:

I realized it somewhere down the road yesterday - especially when the "ball" seriously began to roll on this thread. I'm sorry for any inconvience or accusations I might have broad on you head. If you grant me free passage I shall endavour to untangle any entanglements!

(But I still think you hair seems alight...!) :laughing:

[size=200][color=darkred]Then prepare yourselves to meet the might of an angered and roused Order of Hermes.......!!![/size] :imp:

My point being that magi don't just follow their Code out of the godness of their heart - many do it exactly because it IS a tough world and because the combined will of the Order IS mighty. Therefore you actions are perfectly well to define your charaters and their actions (no critique there) - that's why we roleplay - but it IS NOT an argument to why the Order should not come administering justice on your heads! :exclamation: :exclamation:

As an out for your player in trouble, I would go with the best defence is a good offence

  • Charge the verditus with the crime of endagering the Order by encuring the wrath of the Church.
  • Make clear that the player thought he would be guilty of the hermetic crime of ignoring Bonisagus duties if he did not act to safeguard the verditus books and power. For other houses there is no law requiring them to act to recover 'lost' magic and power, for Bonisagus they swear an oath to do so. "I shall further the knowledge of the Order and share with my sodales all that I find in my search for wisdom and power"
  • Return the verditus property before being asked to do so, and offer them use of labs in the players covenant until they have time to rebuild their own covenant and labs. Therefore they are no longer being deprived of power, and you can work on persauding them to stay longer in the covenant. 3 verditus are after all an asset to any covenant.
  • Above all else, bribe other covenants to vote in your favour.

This sounds like he is trying to run a different game then you are trying play, which is, IMO, a losing proposition all around.

While divergence of vision is quite common and many people run games where the visions diverge wildly with great success, I've always personally found that games go much soother and are more fun, if everybody agrees to play the same game.

Same game doesn't mean "Ars Magica", but "Ars Magica where Order is strong/weak/unimportant/whatever, tone is serious/humorous/grim-with-occasional-silly-bits/extremely-historical, etc".

Arguments can be made that as the latecomer to troupe he should run the game your way, and arguments can be made that since he is the GM you should be playing the game he is running -- but either position is essentially meaningless: the only thing that matters is the desire to play the same game, and doing the amount of talking necessary to arrive in a consensus, or alternatively recognizing that your visions differ and deciding to live with it.

I think the acid test of this as a defence is his first response when the Verditi talked to him (assuming they did, but I'm under the impression that they did):

"Yeah, of course your covenantt is burned! I saved your collective asses by burning it before the mob got there! Now, ask nicely and you can have your books back when I'm done copying them..." might, just might, fly.

"What? Someone burned your covenant?! That's terrible! Did you lose much?" is not going to sound good in court...



Sounds a bit like the PCs want a "No Real Consequences" Game.
They want cosmetic challenges that they can respond to ,
and the appearance of danger ,
but no actual threat to whatever they choose to do.

My gaming group, and I suspect others at this forum also hold to the might makes right mentality. It's a reoccuring theme in Ar. My initial post involved rounding up a posse, I mean Hopolites, killing the culprit, and having a Q make a judgement after the fact.

I think that's pretty much might makes right. However there are ways to survive this. I think a clever magus can get away with murder. However such a fact, in terms of storytelling, ought to be explored in depth. Ars is also about reprocussions. If a mage gets away with murder, a saga can't ignore this point. Over the course of the saga, this point should come up over and over.

I play a Tytalus that capped the Primus. I barely survived that one, I may get killed in the future, through desperate roleplaying and a solid arguement I was able to justify and explain my crazy crazy act. This isn't to say there was no reprocussions at all. My character is forever changed by the event.

I think it's possibly for the character and troupe to survive this experience, but it's equally reasonable to argue that somewhere out there is a mage who doesn't care a bit about the senario, but wants to participate in a Wizard's March either to A)get some spoils B)Legally hunt and kill another mage C) All of the Above.

If the campaign exists in a world where outside forces can influence the group, one can set aside ethics as motivation for punishing these characters. In fact the might makes right mentality suggests to me that some powerful magus would be eager to legally hunt some foolish magi, kill them and take thier stuff.

While I've witnessed and participated in table top screaming matches, those problems are likely beyond this forum. In theory, Ars is a game played between friends for fun. I'm at an age where all the drama in my life comes from roleplaying. If the people you surround yourself with are causing you stress on a regular basis, I suggest you reevaluate both yourself and those relationships. It's simply not healthy to place yourself in circumstances that cause you stress and unhappyness.

I utterly and completely concur with this point! I've tried both, but luckily our present saga falls into the second group. Under any circumstances it's important to explixitly discuss and adjust your mutual expectations. Especially if you have some clear diffferences.

I agree - tried to say something similar in my last post, but didn't really get to the point (Serf's Parma - some people even have to work on saturdays...).

It could appear that way, and this might be why I've been somewhat biased in my arguments in this thread in favor of the SG's case - besides from the point that the SG's take on Mythic Europe is closer to my own (and most of us here, it seems...).

Differences, resolved or not, between players and SG or even inbetween players are relatively common in role playing groups - even though my experience is that it's less true among the troupes that decides on playing Ars (but maybe that's just a positive prejudice). I guess most of have experienced it at some point, mounting to actual table top screaming matches or not. I think that mostly it's quite destructive, even though it might fuel the intensity of the game, simply because if you get dragged into a lengthy in game disagreement on rules or the setting. Then the rules and setting will become something that creates a gap in the troupe, alienating players and SG's alike instead of being a vehicle for the story. Positions become defensive and trust in a common goal: the great story, is diminished. Rules/setting should be used to propel the role play not vice versa (creating fuss and distrust) - that's also why SGs sometimes have to bend the rules/setting to reach a higher goal: the great story!

Finally, it would be so refreshing if the tables were turned more often - that the players would enter into heated arguments with their SG to have more dire consequences to their character. Or in other ways ask for more "hardship" for their characters instead of less. That would appear so much more genuine then this attempt to wiggle out of the consequences of their actions - and it would demonstrate a willingnes to sacrifice some of a PCs precious power/success/etc to head for the big prize:
a greater story with opportunity for greater role playing....

The thoughts of this have haunted me a bit - in a positive sense, staying with me. I see many potential interesting plot twists here. Both in terms of the relations within the covenant but especially regarding the companions. Things I would myself relish to elaborate on in coming sessions, hopefully resulting in intense role playing, if I were in your shoes:

I) How does the "torcher" feel on the actions of the companions - his plan seeming to have been to let them die?
II) How does the involved companions, if they are in the know, fell about the actions of the magus/magi?
III) What ramifications might it have for their continued association?
IV) How did the magi react to the initial plead for help from the Verditii?
V) Did the Verditii actually also ask for help before they were thrown in the dungeons? - how would that fact play in a quaesitorial inquiry?
VI) The "torcher's" plan of letting the Verditii die, is it known by anyone? This could either lead to an interesting game of treading around the subject and possible blackmail/dependence between the "torcher" and the ones he might have confided in... And how would this fact, if presented (whether it's true or not), play in a quaesitorial inquiry?

Very interesting indeed (jealousy can be detected in my voice) ! :wink:

So the Verditii were charged with witchcraft by the local bishop, were seized, and the bishop started an inquisition against them?

One further question to clarify the circumstances: Didn't the bishop immediately send - or have sent - a legate, clerk and a handful of guardsmen to seize the home of the Verditii, too, and search it for traces of witchcraft? (After all, with the lords of the manor imprisoned, he could expect the cooperation of the servants.) What did happen to this seize-and-search group? Who deceived, diverted, neutralized or killed it? Or did it arrive late enough at the covenant to only find smoking ruins?

Kind regards,


Well, that would have been a useful thought to have had before the adventure. :wink:

The PC arrived a night or two after the Verditious had been seized, and before the Count or the Bishop could respond to the local summons.

YR7: Please note what DC has said about reading the board and lurking. Note that it takes a perceived insult to get him to post...


DC: You should make note of several things:

  1. I NEVER said it was you. If you reread my post, you will see that my description fits the shoe mentioned perfectly. Plus: since I know so many people involved in the saga, I do hear snippetts from time to time...
  2. Oil and water: Thats incorrect- I like you fine. You are personable and quite intellegent. The problem is that every time I turn around, there is another hole in my back and a pile of insults at my feet.
  3. Please recall that the last 'discussion' revolved around you, Cerassus' owner, and two other players. My involvement in the situation was minimal.

Thats very incorrect. The AM3 game we played together was very touchy. That game was a game of paranoid fear..Good heavens, what will happen if a mundane sees us do magic! :open_mouth:
It was YOUR attitude (after being told not to) that started that mess in the last game. the problem was you dragged others into that one.
5) Note: I didn't use any proper names.

As I have read the other posts, I have seen a wide lattitude of opinions...
Everyone could argue this one forever...but in the end its Rogers decision.

Yes, when an adventure is later talked over in a forum, new aspects of it can appear.

So the bishop's men, with proper writs, came to seize and search the place of the Verditii a day or two after the covetous PC magus torched it? And if he hadn't done so, nothing would have stopped the bishop's men from finding the devil-doll-labs and 'infernal' library of the Verditii, to seize the autocrat, the librarians and craftsmen for questioning, to put a bishop's or count's steward in charge of the place and to catch the next passing Redcap?
That could indeed result in a very strong position of the PC magus at tribunal.

Kind regards,


Well, thats a pretty good arguement, but I think you are missing something Berengar. The Bishop shows up and they start looking around...they find a passageway they can't go down..."My lord, here is a set of stairs we can't seem to go down!"
Either the Bishop can get in or he can't...but there is still evidence of Magic.


...but that never happened. (yet anyway)

The other thing to point out here...

If the Bishop hears about the Covenant burning, he may decide to investigate THAT. He might then find evidence of magic...and since these magi were in his custody, then who did it....ahhhh those ones over there...and they DID something HERE!...
Said magi would have:

  1. Deprived of Magical power..(the Verdi)
  2. Endangered the Order (more specificially his own Covenant); when the Bishop shows up at THEIR door...
    So by burning the other Covenant down, he might have made the situation WORSE.

    Rogers decision there...


Okay, here's how I would be tempted to deal with this. Make the Verdi active rather than passive about it, not merely relying on the Order for their revenge. I assume all the PC Magi will be at Tribunal - if not this plan won't go far.

Also, if the PCs arrive with the attitude of "Here's the stuff we saved from the Church - sorry about the inconvenience & misunderstanding," this won't work too well.

Have one of them turn up to Tribunal, with the others' sigils for voting. He makes alliances, talks to people, pushes for punishment. Let the players counter argue, etc. In my mind, they are probably convicted - especially if the Verdi are being quite lenient in their demands - all they want is the Tribunal to accept that they get a shot at the PCs' covenant without risk of retribution, so long as they do no more damage than was done to their own.

This is, of course, already happening. Or perhaps starts withing minutes of the Tribunal ruling, with the Verdi's friends being informed by a spell or magic item that allows simple messages to be passed.

PCs get home to a smoking ruin... carefully and exactly as badly damaged as the Verdi covenant was, any vis stocks above the return of the stolen vis + the same again in recompense set carefully aside, the same with books and so forth. And the same number of mundanes killed.

See how they like it.


note that I have to build the case from what I get from this forum. So unless I make this a fulltime job for Roger and me I needs have to make some assumptions I could not verify before.

From what I have heard so far from Roger, the passageway was sealed off, but it was stated nowhere how that was accomplished. The easiest way in terms of spell magnitude involved would have been to have the staircase to the labs cave in: a magic use easily detected by Quaesitores, but not by the bishop's investigators. So that's something Roger and his group can adjudicate, but not us.

I had of course to assume also consistent NPCs. A bishop accusing somebody of crafting devil-dolls, but then failing to at once have the accused's home searched for the workshop, is liable to read mass with his undies over his head as well.
With such NPCs in a campaign, everything and nothing is possible. So players like the one of the greedy magus are hard to blame if they don't get a grasp on the gameworld.

This requires that
(a) the bishop's men find evidence of recent magic use at the Verditius covenant site and can tag a date to it, and
(b) they already know of of the PC magi, and how these are liable to use magic.
Nothing I read from Roger so far leads me to infer any of this. If just (b) were true, quite independently of any recent actions the PCs would have to either quickly neutralize the witchhunt or leave the area for a few decades. Otherwise they would verrry likely be its next targets.

The most important open point here would be, whether the covenfolk of the Verditius covenant are around when the bishop's men show up. If so, they will be questioned, and somebody will talk. What he will tell will most likely fan up the fires of the witchhunt even higher, and might allow the bishop's inquisition to identify our greedy PC magus. Reasonable covenfolk would, however, leave the area latest after the magus killed their autocrat.

Kind regards,


Jus about everything else you have said is reasonable, but I would have to disagree with this one...
Consider: The Covenant is their home. The reason that they are here is that they didn't have anywhere else to be... While certain individual would certainly leave post haste, most would stay put. Even in the the thirteenth century, people would have the tendencey to stay around.
New Orleans- Look at all the people that choose to stay even though there were reports that a second storm was coming in...
Or the people that live in any flood zone..they rebuild their homes and year after year they flood out again.
Consider the worst slums in any part of the world...people get killed, and their families stay...
Look at Iraq...people are getting killed ...the're not leaving.

There would be people around...the Bishops men would find them. They would point to another magi...(who used magic they could see). The Bishop certainly might not know of the 'other' group directly (because they are in another Bishops district), but I am certain the other Bishop is knowledgeable about them.
You are certainly correct in that they would have to vacate or stop the mess in a hurry...

Considering that a not very sociable magus just tried to explain to them that their masters had been seized on witchcraft charges ( https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/investigating-creatures/112/1 ), and then killed their autocrat and run off with what he could salvage, reasonable covenfolk would look for independent confirmations of the magus' claims, and then start figuring out what their fate will be if they stay.

But if no authority figure to organize a decision and its execution is left at the covenant, I should also assume that some covenfolk would still stay behind - not a reasonable but a plausible and understandable reaction.

Kind regards,


The role of the storyguide sometimes involves making the gamers smarter than they are.

This player was faced with a dilemma and hit panic button. Ok, it can happen to the best of us if we are faced with a group we dont know. But that is why this is a game of having multiple classes. We play one powerful mage capable of murder and mayhem, but who has been tutored for 15 years in the proper way to do things. (why didnt an covenant archer put an arrow in his back, when he murdered the autocrat, or left with the loot!)
A character capable of interaction with the world in different ways. and a character for blasts, greed and stupidity.
This balanced group can interact with each other. Compainions giving words of advice to the socially incapable mages. And generally can act as voices of reason. Or give the covenant a grog with commensense.
And dont hand out dilemmas to mages that cannot handle them. It really seems like that at some point a groupstyle of chatter took over, and they decided it was the best thing to bend the rules.
You really need to talk to the group about your style of playing these things, and in the future take steps to insure that they know it is a world of concequences. That powerful mages use their power to solve issues by using their status more than anything. And let the companions bicker about getting the power.

These mages HAVE power, they HAVE wealth! Because they have cooporated into covenants and because there are guidelines, so that the archmages dont just kill off everybody for their resurces.
The mages have gone beyond the limitations of the gift with their parma, so that they are not influenced by jealously and mistrust and envy. Your playing group have to be mature enough to play without the same issues.

The social darvenism style of playing can work, but it must be subtle. Blatant aggression will get you hunted down. And should rarely uccur since it almost never have happened in the order anno 1220. So move it to year 900 or earlier. Have them meet and defeat hedgewizard. Not engage in the complex world of order politics and dilemma. Some players dont have the maturity to play that way.

I am sorry if I am dissing anybody here.
All I am saying is that arsmagica is a slow paced game, where drastic actions most likely are the wrong ones.
If your players want to play a guild of mages making grasps for power then place them in a high fantasy setting, where good and bad is easier to grasp. If they are not making decisions the way you like it, start by letting them make personality rolls. Then they will learn to define how they are playing the game. If the mage in order wasnt greedy then he would act greedy. And try and make let them make real persons, ok their gift may warp them into monsters, but the order knows this and rightly fears mages that may go mad from twillights. Another trick is to let the other players stats be a secret.
That might cure some tendencies of powerplaying. Since they might be drawn to the story rather than bettering each other.

Have a storyguides face. Players look for clues to what is ok to do and not. So dont talk yourself but have them look for the answers. That is what npcs are for. That way when they screw up, they should know what they did wrong. The logics of your story must show itself in that story.

For the current situation talk things over with the player in mind. Tell him how the order might see these things. Then let him make a choice of trying to make up, if he doesnt have him hunted down, oh and the players will in that process have his lab raided. So that they will know that they must play subtle. (To keep the mask on, have a quasitor arrive and make points of law.)

Keep develloping your bag of tricks. Without it every game would fall apart.

How'd this thing play out in the end? (if indeed it has played out)

I'm very excited I am...

Happen what did?

Tell us you must...

Glad to see somebody is as sleepdeprived as I am... :wink:

Course... you prob'ly explain it away with work, yes?

Just got back from the session that more or less concluded things.

We cheated some stuff to get things moving in stead of dragging it out another seven years to the next tribunal (which was an option).

Basically, the Quaesitores were able to determine the character was responsible. He took an active defence, namely that the Verditious forfit their immunity when they brought the wrath of the mundanes upon their heads.

The Praeco (a Tremere exarch) called the guy into her office and said, "The Q. think this should go to trial. I'm pretty sure if it did it will cost you your life. Give me a reason to help you. And make it good." (She's all about Law & Order, but didn't particularly want to make this mess public.)

He thought hard and long and said, "I'm a good teacher. I can train an apprentice for you."

I thought that was a pretty good offer, and about the only thing he had that she couldn't get somewhere else. (I mean, she'll have an extra soldier in her troop, one likely to have pussant Magic Theory, no less. Although she will have to make sure he's appropriately indocrinated into the Tremere mindset.)

Tribunal concluded and charges were not brought against him. The day after he was brought before the Praeco and the Q. and put on "trial." He was found guilty and lost his familiar (and has to return what he took from the covenant). The Praeco did this because there are a lot of non-covenanted magi in our game who would want the character's head if they found out what he did. This way, if someone does find out what happened, she can say, "Yeah, we found out about it too late to bring it to Tribunal, but we tried and punished him."

And now he's pretty much the Tremere party's toadie, and has to give his apprentice over to them when they ask for it.

All in all, I think I traded up in the story-worthiness of things. He's indebted, involved in politics against his will, and is going to pay for taking that apprentice many times over before all is said and done.

Ah, nice one! snickers evilly :smiling_imp:

Poooor lil' bugger... But what did the Verditii feel about this solution? Did they gain anything from it?

Can one deside such a serious punishment as loosing one`s familiar whitout a tribunal? I mean for a Magus that is not that mutch better than dying. If the familiar was left alive and just painfully seperated from the mage, both would be in missery for some time, and many mages would rather take their chances whit a martch than having to kill their familiar. Dont serious things like that have to be desided upon by a tribunal?

I seem to remember reading that any "council of magi" may make decisions, even decisions like that I would guess. The question is one of whether the Tribunal later supports that decision or not.

It opens up some nice storytelling possibilities where the wounded party appeals to a Tribunal to look at his case again.

Of course, for that, he'd need to be alive so losing his familiar while harsh at least gives him his life and the opportunity to be heard at a later date.

One can march another mage, on the asuption that it is what the tribunal wil do, however it is frowned upon and if the tribunal find the desition to be wrong you can bet the one that unlawfully killed another mage wil be punished for it. I guess one can do somthing of the same whit other punishments as well. Poor familiar.

Probably not, but consider it this way. This entire resolution was a 'behind closed doors' solution. The alternative was charges are made, he goes to Trial and he's killed.

So does the magus bitch about his familiar being 'illegally' killed and in the process go to court and end up dead, or does he take his punishment and like it.

I think it's a great solution. The new books sort of establish that a lot of legal precedeings are 'resolved' before they get to Tribunal. I think this is an excellent solution. It establishes that there are reprocussions, that laws exist, that laws can be broken, and that 'getting away with it' still has consequences.

In addition to loseing the familiar the character needs to train an apprentice. More than that, there is a secret between the character and a variety of NPC's. Some powerful characters worked outside the law, but revealing that information puts the characters life at risk. They are all carrying around a dark secret of sorts now. Saga worthy stuff. Kudos!

Yes I to think it was a wonderful in game solution, I was just wondering if they could acutly do that, but yes when they put it that way it is quite understandable.

Thanks for giving us the update! Nice to hear of your final solution. I like the way you played it!

I'm curious how come the rest of the tribunal hadn't heard or didn't know of the incident? - even if the culprit wasn't generally disclosed I would still have expected the burning of a covenant to be an important issue at the tribunal and at least a persistant rumour. So how did the characters succeed at the tribunal to bury the case and/or the magus' involvement?

And finally I hope you keep the Verditii in the playing field - working on their own little getting back at the magus who burned their covenant. Of course they might have to work subtle if the matter has been officially settled, but vengence might still be an issue. Perhaps the best way to keep the magus on his toes, on top of his newly established role as "Tremere-toadie", might simply to have him learn or imply to him that they surely think of vengance with capital V - might even let him hear it through the rumor mills of the tribunal - and then let them disappear or keep very low profile. I reckon that would be more frigthening than to have them make immediate and open actions.

Besides that it's also always nice to have some nasty future plots/surprises in store for the troupe.... :smiling_imp: