Case 7: The Case of the Healing Blankets

Since I love the "Thirty Tribunal Cases" thread, and cj.23 has mentioned he's not sure he'll manage to keep up -- in fact, he's not posted a new case since Monday -- I hope no-one will mind if I take upon myself to post Case 7. I'm striving to keep the same format of cj.23's great posts.

EDIT: For the purpose of this case I am assuming that magical Rings can be incribed on surfaces that can be folded (e.g. pages of a book) and that they are not disrupted by being folded, or even slightly soiled (as long as they remain unbroken and clearly visible). I believe this is actually according to Ars Magica canon (in particular, MoH), but if you don't, just assume that the magus in question can produce such effects -- possibly through some Minor Breakthrough.

Case 7: The Case of the healing blankets

Magus Prospero of Tytalus stands accused of selling to Joan, countess of Flanders and Hainaut, a thousand magical blankets with the power to accelerate healing. In particular, he stands accused of interfering with the affairs of mundanes, given the recent history of involvement of Hainut in mundane wars, and the likelihood of the blankets to be used in said wars. He also stands accused of violating the ruling forbidding magi to be court wizards, and of violating the Tribunal rulings of 1061 forbidding the sale of magical items directly to mundanes, requiring that any item sold to mundanes should eventually lose its power and limiting the number sold to one per year.

Prospero eloquently argues that all charges are false and unjustified, and brought against him by enemies who would sow discord within the Order, thus endangering it. In particular, he claims that it was not a sale, but a gift, for he did not ask any compensantion to the countess. A gift of piety, in fact, meant to heal and reduce the horrors of war, rather than to aid in battle, for the blankets only allow for slow recuperation rather than immediate healing.
He also says that he dealt with the countess under his persona of Antonio, a Venitian merchant with no ties to the Order, claiming to have acquired the blankets through trade with the Levant -- so it should not count in any way as direct sale, acting as a court wizard, or even intereference with mundanes (based on the numerous precedents that a magus can even fight against mundanes, as long as he does so in a mundane identity).
Finally, Prospero points out that the blankets are not magical items. Instead, each is simply inscribed with a Ring Duration, Circle spell that aids the recuperation of anyone resting within the Ring. He also notes that the effect will eventually fail due to the natural wear and tear of the blankets.

Do the mundanes understand that the items are magical (or supernatural at least) in origin and use? Do they know they are Hermetic in design?

OOC: I'm not sure these items would work - the user's entire body woiuld have to be within the circle; and I think it is up to the troupe whether or not a circle spell will affect new targets who enter the circle. Plus folding the blanket, let alone washing it, would (also in my opinion) disrupt the spell. Some troupes might be even more restrictive and declare that moving the circle would end the spell.

But, if we assume they work as described:
Gilarius ex Jerbiton (cough not Diedne at all cough) says: 'I think that Magus Prospero is guilty of interfering with mundanes, and of violating the limit of one magic item per year, on two grounds. Firstly, his defense might apply if he had supplied a few of these Healing Blankets rather than a thousand. The quantity allows for an entire army to be significantly enhanced which warrants the charge of 'interfering'; also a thousand items are rather more than one. The prohibition on quantity does not depend on the type of magical item - any magical item counts, be they lesser enchanted, greater, charged, single-use, or produced in any other manner. These blankets are items that are magical. Is anyone from House Verditius willing to clarify this?'

Secondly, he is clearly feeling so smug about thinking that he has evaded and nullified the code in this manner that he deserves to be found guilty.'

What is the basis or support for the fact that there are a thousand blankets?
Sounds like an impossible/baseless accusation to me... Or at the very least, a collection of magi need to be brought up on charges, if only to determine their culpability, whether they knew these blankets would go to a mundane, be used outside of a covenant...

Prospero, in his persona as Antonio, has made it clear to the countess that the blankets are allegedly miracolous. Each is blue, with a very fine circle made by a single white thread "inscribed" in the blanket (the circle is large enough to hold a man confortably). Antonio told the countess that allegedly the white threads are from the Holy Shroud, so that a man resting inside within the unbroken circle formed by one such thread will benefit from the Shroud's powers of healing, and recuperate faster.

Virtually no mundane is really aware of the notion of "Hermetic magic" as opposed to other magical traditions.
These blankets have already seen enough use that most people aware of them actually do believe they are miracolous, even if they don't always work (in game terms the user may simply fail or botch the recovery roll despite the hefty bonus). Most people who know about the blankets (including the Countess) believe they are indeed minor Divine relics, with some believing they are Infernal artifacts, creations of the Fair Folk, strange magics of the Orient, or simply ordinary blankets hawked as supernatural by a wily merchant. It's really the same reaction that you'd expect with minor relics without flashy powers.

OOC: The Circle is large enough to hold a man confortably. These are large blankets, square, two and a half paces to a side. The Circle's diameter is just a hand smaller. The Circle is clearly visible, since it's a white thread woven in the otherwise blue blanket, and it's allegedly that single thread that comes from the Holy Shroud and gives the blanket its powers. This means that the users know that a) the patient should rest within the Circle and b) that they should be careful about breaking the thread. But as long as the thread remains unbroken, so does the Circle. With continuous use, the thread may remain unbroken for a few years -- maybe decades with a lot of care (this is from my mundane experience with blankets and tablecloths :slight_smile: ).

It's canonical, from Magi of Hermes, that Circles and Rings may be inscribed on the pages of a book and not be disrupted even when said pages are moved, turned and bent, nor is there any evidence contradicting this in the core book or in other supplements. Of course, many troupes regulate Rings and Circle differently with house rules, but I'm using this interpretation for this case.

Prospero does not deny it -- his (or rather Antonio's) gift was public, Joan publicly accepted it and thanked him, and most of Joan's court has heard of it. That's how Prospero's accusers, who have agents in the same court, have heard of it and verified that indeed there are a thousand blankets (well, maybe a few more or a few less, but that's roughly the number). A magus can cast a score spells in a single Diameter; so, assuming that he can cast them without fatiguing himself and that he has some assistance for the mundane aspects of procuring, unfolding and refolding the blankets, it would take him about two hours of solid work (maybe a day at a more relaxed pace) to cast one spell on each of a thousand blankets.

Keeping a person completely covered in a blanket from head to toe is difficult... I don't really like my head under covers, even when we lost power during the Sandy event, and our house dropped into the low 50's upper 40's. Just sayin'.

This is the problem with designing cases, the facts do matter, a lot. I have a lot of admiration for the writers of procedural drama, it's not as easy as it looks. This isn't a slam against the case/device/effort. It's more of a commentary that the facts really need to be tightly established and carefully examined from a lot of different angles. In short, these cases should be a team effort to be really tight. :smiley: Or, someone needs to write them, put them away for a long while and come back to them later with fresh eyes.

The circle is routinely broken when it is folded up for storage, is it not? (IMS, I would rule this way).
Of it's not broken it becomes filthy, and how do you convince a sick patient to keep entirely under a filthy blanket.

You don't have to be under the blanket, you can just lie on top of it, within the circle...

This would obviously be a YSMV case. I, too, would have a problem with those blankets lasting a long time. I'd say that, at most, they would be 1-shot uses (1 patient spoils one blanket, on average).

OOC: it could easily be seen that the circles/rings were broken when the blanketys were folded for transport, so I am not sure the blanket would work as a plain Circle spell. A blanket that is a magic item and as such casts the effect whenever it is unrolled and the circle is unbroken (easy enough trigger) would work 100% IMS, but when folded? not much. Since it is just a spell, not a magic item, the blankets would be nice but void of magical power when in the power of the Countess of Flanders

HOWEVER, the same case can be brought to court regarding the power of a brazier that has the same effect on a Structure (touch range). the structure can hold quite a lot of people, so it would be far from irrelevant. It would be a single item, even if then it would clearly be a magical item. Expiry in 70 years, no biggie. The impact on mundane politics would be similar (read: massive increase in military capabilities) without breaking any hard limits on the Peripheral Code. Might be wrong here, though

Probably, yes.

Ah, but filth can/will break the circle as well.


This would be me, and so far I refuse to use a reference from MoH as 'canonizing' an option. :slight_smile:

Actually, Prospero's accusers have managed to smuggle one of the blankets to Tribunal, and after examining it, Prospero freely admits it's one of them. Anyone who wishes to examine one with a spell like "Sight of the Active magics" can verify that, as Prospero said, there's a second magnitude Hermetic Creo Corpus spell that affects anyone within the Circle -- the blanket itself is not really magical.

(Prospero is a middle aged Corpus specialist, so it's not unreasonable that he could enchant these blankets spontaneously: with an Intelligence of +3, a Corpus score of 27, a Creo score of 12, working in a level 5 Magical Aura and calling upon the +3 Corpus bonus from the Amber in his talisman, he reaches the level 50 casting score necessary for 2nd level non-fatiguing magic -- Base 3 "Give a character a +6 bonus to recovery rolls", +1 Touch, +2 Ring).

There's nothing that says it's broken. It's canonical that at least partial folding can be tolerated without disrupting the Circle (in particular, Circles on the pages of a book). You could rule that any substantial folding breaks the Circle, but then all you'd need would be to keep the blankets flat, with a light wooden frame or just a ReAn level 4 spell (Base 1, manipulate items made of animal products -- in this case keep them stretched flat, +1 Touch, +2 Ring, +0 Circle). It would be exactly the same case, just less "elegant".

Again, this would be a house rule. A ring spell is broken if the Circle, which can be preexisting (e.g. "a band laid into the ground") is "physically broken". There's nothing that says that a Circle is broken if it just gets dirty. Anyway, the fact is that Prospero can pull it off. If in your saga Rings don't work exactly this way, just assume that Prospero has managed a Minor Breakthrough allowing "foldable", "washable" Rings that can resist getting a little dirty. Let's discuss the case!

One could argue that if you distort a circle, you are breaking it so it is no longer a circle. An oval is not a circle, and cannot support a D:Circle spell.

Any folding breaks the circle. Picking up the blanket breaks the circle, for that matter, as the movement of the fabric distorts it.


It doesn't invalidate the case, as this could have been done using a more rigid support. But it would have made it much more difficult to provide the enspelled objects.

Still, a clear (if minor) case of interference with mundanes. The noble (what'shisname?) will expect the so-called merchant to obtain additional such exotic objects for him again in the future, essentially treating him as a court magician.

Fine the magus a few pawns of vis and move on. Admonish him that if further offenses of the same nature happen, we won't be so lenient.

Prospero protests saying that in his persona as Antonio he is a merchant, not a magician; and that he made it clear to countess Joan that this was a one-of-a-kind find. If a merchant brings to a noble a splinter of the True Cross as a gift, the noble can't really say "Hmm, nice product. Yeah, I guess I'll order three dozen more for my courtiers -- do I get a discount?". But even if such expectations were created, they are not forbidden by the code: a Verditius who sells a magical item every year to a noble through intermediaries is certainly creating an expectation of more magical items to come, but is not violating the Code.

Actually, if it's a T: Circle spell, it's a lot easier:
The target (non-capital t) has to be in the circle when the spell is cast, ArM5, p. 112.
The entire discussion above has to assume T: Individual, otherwise it's irrelevant.

For the sake of this discussion, we can assume that it works, but please don't transport it to your sagas and assume it works people.

Tellus, this has been discussed at great length in the past in the forum. The passage you quote "Circle: the spell affects everything within a ring drawn by the magus at the time of casting" can be read in two ways. The one you are suggesting is "Circle: the spell affects everything that, at the time of casting, is within a ring drawn by the magus." But there's another one: "Circle: the spell affects everything within a ring. This ring must be drawn by the magus at the time of casting".

The second reading is actually preferable according to the grammar rules: one should tie an expression to the closest element of the sentence to which it may refer. Let me give an example. Suppose I say: "I like walking when the sun is setting on the western hills". I clearly mean that the sun is setting on the western hills, not that I like walking on the western hills. If I meant the latter, I should have said "I like walking on the western hills when the sun is setting" or "When the sun is setting I like walking on the western hills". Similarly, if the passage you are quoting meant what you said, it would have been better expressed as "Circle: the spell affects everything that at the time of casting is within a ring drawn by the magus".

There are other reasons why, in my opinion, the second reading ("The ring must be drawn at the time of casting") is preferable. It leaves no doubts about when the ring can be drawn. And it matches the meaning of the almost identical description of Ring: "The spell lasts until the target of the spell moves outside a ring drawn at the time of casting".

Ultimately, however, it appears there are some "area" spells (with Target Circle, Room, Structure, or Boundary) that affect everything that, at the time of casting, is within the area of effect --and persist even when the area is abandoned; but there are also other area spells that affect everything while it is in the area of effect, whether it started in or out of it. Thus, the general consensus seems to be that both interpretations are valid, and that either can be used when designing spells. But let's return to the case at hand!

So we can agree on 2 things then.

A) Circle needs a re-write for clarity.
B) Let's return to the case at hand.

Yes to both :slight_smile:


"I am not aware that giving away magic items - and these are magic items, least as they are - to mundanes is a crime. It seems strange that Prospero would give such a gift, and I frankly find his explanation of it questionable - there surely better ways to alleviate the ravages of war, ways that would not benefit one mundane lord over another. Yet, we have not been presented with any evidence of a give-and-take here, so this does not constitute being a court wizard or interfering with the affairs of mundanes. I remain unconvinced that merely supplying the items would contribute to expectation of more, and even if it did that that would constitute a violation of the Code. In short, I find Prospero innocent. Until new evidence arrives, at least."