A Matter of Hermetic Law

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,