Casual Spell Use, Causality, and the Code against Scrying

[size=150][color=darkred]"I will not use magic to scry upon members of the Order of Hermes, nor shall I use it to peer into their affairs..."[/size]

So states the Hermetic Oath.

Yet, what is the limit of such? Is the important phrase "use magic", or "to peer"? Is this judged merely by the presence of magic, or by spirit and intent?

If the mage is checking the safety of the arrival sight, and not specifically "to peer into the affairs" of other magi, that should not be a crime, right?

Even if it innocently reveals something personal? If an innocent Intellego spell is being used, but it reveals another mage or "their affairs", does that same action then become a crime, merely because of an accident of chance, of what was observed?

If that is the case, then what of travel spells that take you rapidly to another Covenant, where you then, as a matter of merely visiting and arriving days earlier than mundanely possible, see another's affairs?

A group of magi are travelling in the dark- Eyes of the Cat are handy, but also would allow a mage to casually notice other magi more easily, and their actions and spells they cast - is that then a crime?

What of spells that protect you from the elements during mundane travel (horseback/hiking), that allow/encourage travel to other covenants, making it easier, thus facilitating "peering into their affairs"? When does magic make the difference, or should it?

It is not so important to address each example, but to take them as illustrative of the larger question- where does the Order draw the line?

It would be typically medieval to ignore any question of intent and simply judge the action, but, if it is merely a matter of the magic, rather than the intent, then, as illustrated above, "using magic to peer into their affairs" is painfully flawed in its lack of limitation. Then, technically, any spell ever cast that led to a later mundane observation could be a breech- and that's just not practical to enforce.


As you point out, it's big enough to drive a truck through. So let
the local peripheral code sort it out. What do you want? Personally,
I'd leave it all vague and let it be a political debacle at the table.


Smells bad, looks bad, don't need to step into it.

Hey, I know how ~I~ would run it- just curious about the spectrum of opinions. 8)

Scrying is definitely a no-no, but otherwise I'd say it depends mostly on the intended use. You are not to use magic to peer into the affairs of fellow magi - e.g. to use invisibility to spy on them. If you use magic to fight invisibly and it so happens this lets you overhear some conversation between magi - you aren't really using your magic to peer into their affairs. You'd be fined at most, and that too only if you were careless with the application of your magic (e.g. not being caerful to avoid other magi while your Sun-duration invisibility spell was still in effect).

The prohibition is against peering into magi's affairs, not against detecting them or so on. If interpreted along these lines, even powerful or specific effects (such as spells that detect how much raw vis a magus' has on him) aren't in violation. Spells like eyes of the cat allow you to see clearly the magus; this isn't peering into his affairs, it isn't a violation. Using the spell to peer into his affairs - e.g. to follow him through the city, to see where he is going - would be a violation.

Even very informative spells would be considered only a minor violation if cast with forceless casting, and with no intent of revealing information regarding magi. This is out of sympathy for the magus at hand - he has taken precautions not to capture magi in his spells by witholding penetration, the other magus was careless in lowering his magic resistance, so while the first may be technically guilty of scrying the punishment would be very mild.

Interestingly, you can still legally obtain information on other magi's affairs through mundane channels. If you bribe a servant to spy on his master, or insert a spy into the rival's covenant - that is actually legal. If you use magic to pay for this, however, it won't be - you are using magic to peer into their affairs. If the servant or spy uses your own magic this probably won't do too, but what if he uses another's magic items, which he obtained independently? Are you using magic - his magic - to peer into the affairs of fellow magi?

If "use of magic" was the key here, then there would be another big hole:
you would be allowed to use mundane means. Spies, bribes etc...

The intent of this rule is to protect a mages Lab-work.
So I'd go with "intent". Even though intent is sometimes debatable: "i didn't mean to..."

Obviously, all that counts for hermetic justice, is the amount of sigils at the tribunal to vote in your favor. So why should you care for an actual use and meaning of any of those laws? those who can afford it break em. thats it.

So simply stick to the dont-get-caught-doctrine, and everything will be ok.

True, but...

Magi vote according to how they would like to see things, according to how they would like to be treated. I think most magi would not want other magi to use magic to augment mundane spies, so would be inclined to interpret things in a way that disallows this. They would, on the other hand, like to be able to use Intelego magic without fearing being brough to trial for scrying, so would interpret such magic to not be "peering into the affairs" of other magi.

When it comes to magi using mundane means to spy on others, they would generally find it deplorable but since the laws don't prohibit it they won't say the Code is broken. They would be likely, if this repeats itself and the magus being spied upon doesn't look incompetent (who can't protect his secrets from a mundane?!) pass a Peripheral Code ruling to make it illegal, though.

That's how I see it.

how do they know they were scryed upon? A mutocorpus effect to change your sight doesn't have to be resisted because your looking at the species given off. Does a long range scrying effect display your sigil at the far location (I'd say no)? So how will they trace it.

If you detect 1 scrying spell for a few seconds would you really go to the trouble to track it down? I dont think most mahi would unless it happens more often.

(Agnar - Different discussion - we're simply discussing legality- proof of violation and then enforcement are separate practicalities.)

The concept of "voting with a mind toward establishing a precedent" is an important one, and often overlooked in discussions about "Tribunal politics in voting" & etc. It would be a Phyrric victory to put a political rival in hot water while creating a judicial minefield for the entire Tribunal.

In RL practice, often the difference between "legal" and "illegal" is simply whether the Prosecuting Attorney feels like prosecuting that day - two people commit identical acts, but one has a long record of petty crimes - they get prosecuted, while the other skates free. Sad, but a fact of life. Similarly, perhaps, in the OoH - if the Quaesitores feel you're an upstanding pillar of the community with a Good Rep and a well established Parens, well, no harm done- but if you're that tainted-with-evil Hedge Mage who's always whining that he's just being Judged Unfairly, then we'll just nail you to the wall, and it serves ya right, ya oathbreaker! (This is where those virtues/flaws really come into their own, for better or worse!)

Mundane means are allowed, since, quite conspicuously, they are not prohibited. (but see comment re Wizard's Wars, below)

As for the intent, I'd suggest it's much more far-reaching than that- a Bonisagus may not care a bit about his labwork- it all has to get shared at some point anyway. It's anything that a mage considers private, as an echo from times when wizards would prey violently on each other, and weaknesses and vulnerabilities are far more valuable than one's latest spell invention. Also, the political maneuverings of a Covenant as a whole- I can see the Tremere having a meeting or two that they would prefer not to have scried upon.

With an eye to that last, it depends on the mage. Some would make it their life's work, and then to make an example of said interloper. (We're talking about "Magi", right? I mean, Hawaiian game fish wouldn't, no.) 8)

As far as "mundane means", I've often wondered about Supernatural Abilities - they're not Magical Abilities, so, I'd say, a mage could use those with some impunity?

Also, while "legal", such mundane espionage, whether done personally or through proxies, is grounds for Certamen or a Wizard's War, even one declared by an entire Covenant against the offending party/ies, or from more than one Covenant if more than one has been so maligned. Remember that there is room in the Code for street justice as an alternative to waiting every 7 years for a Tribunal's Judgment, and an over-inquisitive mage cares less what the Tribunal rules if he's a smoking crater by the time they pass their vote regarding his death. :wink:

Now I'm not saying every spell sigil has to be big and shiny, since that is usually an experimentation accident. I do think however, that when you cast an AC range spell, your sigil should manifest both where you stand and where you target.

My magus has a nice leap of homecoming. His sigil is steam. When he teleports, a misty depiction of him will stay behind (and then disperse rapidly) and when he arrives he's covered in water (oops, warping in my lab), but that water also steams for a brief moment.

Is this too blatant for your tastes? (ignore the arriving all soaked, that's a side-effect)

As for scrying: anyone peeking into my covenant is crossing the line. Is that scrying spell an arcane connection to the caster? (so I can use an intangible tunnel at him and start blasting PoFs, or directly teleport to him to tell him what I think about it)

I'd say supernatural abilities count as "magic". It says "magic", not "Heremtic magic". :slight_smile:

Regarding sigils - I'd say generally Intellego spells don't manifest the caster's sigil at the area being scryed, or rather manifest it in a very subtle way. It would take an Intellego Vim spell to recognize such a sigil, and most likely to even realizee that such a spell is in operation. However, someone resisting such a spell might notice it.

Anyone peering into a covenant is definitely risking wizard war, against the whole covenant perhaps.

As for the scrying spell serving as an arcane connection.... yes, I would allow that. I'd even allow ReVi spells to "hold" the offending spell (sustain another's spell), to prolong the connection.

I remember from an earlier incarnation of Ars that there was an example of the scrying law enacted: A covenant had sent spies to check on a rival and equiped said spies with invisibility magic. They where found to have used magic to scry on their sodales. The other side had also sent spies, but used no magic. They were found inoccent, and the victims were adviced to simply kill such spies.

Yep. But my question was more- what if the spies traveled invisibly, to avoid local dangers, then did their spying mundanely, and then escaped invisibly again for the same reasons? Magic clearly aids the spying, but just as clearly has nothing to do with the act in and of itself. And the answer, I'd think, has been made above by several- you're playing with fire.

In language louder than words... 8)

At first glance I'd agree, but then I wonder- the H.O. doesn't march troubadors with Enchanting Music, regardless of the power they hold, nor the seer in her cave nor the witch brewing herbal potions that rival the Healers of the Order. Does the OoH, as a practice, prefer to view "magic" as something above such paltry parlor tricks? Are they called "super-natural" (literally "above nature") because they have not yet attained the status of "true magic"? Dunno- but it'd be a basis for a defense. :wink:

Yup, that's perfectly allowed, in fact, if you can detect the spell, pretty much any direct spell such as that can be used similarly.

I designed a quite nice greater invested item at one point, a mirror which detects all scrying within a room, and as soon as it detects something, it rings one of the bells on top of it, opens up an intangible tunnel to the scryer, and also scries right back at them, turning the surface of the mirror into a scrying portal, which you can also cast spells through.

I never got to make it in the end, but it was a nice item, and I can only imagine the surprise on the face of the scryer in the mirror ^^

You know, it would actually be kind of cool to make a portal based ReTe teleport in a similar fashion, that would then you let throw knives and such through the mirror at them, or even just step through ^^

But yeah, you can do all of those things easily.. the only downside with such a thing is that the intangible tunnel (and arcane connection) are through the actual thread of the spell, so if they can instantly cancel their scrying spell, your connections through it will fail too.

A good reason to make scrying spells concentration duration, if you're a scryer rather than a scryee :wink:

Obviously, it's a very saga dependent thing, and also (even within a single saga) it might also depend on who the characters are. The code might not enforced equally throughout the tribunal, for example. So, powerful or politically savvy characters might be able to get away with more than other characters.

However, I think scrying is scrying. If you scry a location and in the process scry on a magus, then that's tough. Even if it was an accident you've technically committed a crime.

Of course, the other magus might not know, or the other magus might not care; and so it never arises as a tribunal issue. For example, your covenant sodales might not care if you scry on them, particularly if it was "accidentally". Then again they might.

On the other hand, you can avoid the issue by forceless casting when scrying. That's what forceless casting is for.