Code of Hermes and Companions

Am running a campaign where the party sends the Bard Companion into a nobles castle as a spy to gather information nothing else but that. Once he is in though he takes it upon himself to magically enchant all the nobles to start fighting amongst themselves which will make the trade in the region go to all hell effecting another covenants access to Lab equipment.

Does this mean the mages have broken the code of hermes DEPRIVATION OF MAGICAL POWER or as they didn't order it or do it themselves are they fine?( I am inclined to think they hold responsibility as mundanes are treated as property but am uncertain)

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So a mundane does something to other mundanes away fron any covenant. I don't see any breach to the code there. In most trials mundanes don't even testify and when they do nobody cares, and there are a lot of mundanes implied there. The only way I guess the prosecutor could spice things up would require him to prove that the bard was ordered by a magus of the first covenant to go there and kill the merchants with the sole purpose of disrupting trade so the second covenant couldn't have access to that lab equipment. Given that you have to prove two things that didn't actually happen, it should be so easy to dodge.

Not all mundanes in the covenant are treated as property. Apprentices (and I guess maybe custos) do, but for as far as I know that's with the purpose of determining what happens when they get hurt or killed or whatever by other magi, not what happens when they hurt or kill (or disrupt trade) other magi. When the latter happens, well, shame on you. If you come to my house and hit your knee against a chair you aren't a victim, you are just being clumsy. Unless you can prove that I was attacking you with the chair, of course.


Generally mundanes living in a covenant are not property of the magi by the Code. Apprentices are - but they are not mundanes. Still, magi can be held responsible for actions of their underlings under many circumstances. See e.g. the Perthean Compact of the Normandy Tribunal (TLatL p.19ff), p.25 Mundane Interference.

Issues of deprivation of power strongly depend on the Peripheral Code of a given Tribunal. Look for example again at the Perthean Compact, p.23 Mundane Resources:

The appeal was dismissed as spurious by Quaesitor Celestin, who remarked that "the mundane resources of a covenant cannot be considered to contribute towards the magical power of its members." This ill-considered remark was enshrined in the Peripheral Code of the Normandy Tribunal, ... the tradition that mundane raiding is not a Hermetic crime in and of itself is now too deeply entrenched in the Peripheral Code of the Normandy Tribunal to be easily excised.

Other Tribunals will see this differently. An example is Heirs to Merlin p.116 box The Peripheral Code on Financial Matters, considering causing an inflation at least as interfering with mundanes.


You ask the question as if the Code of Hermes is a penal Code, where the question is guilty or not guilty.

I do not think this is a marching offence. Taken to the extreme, it could be, since the deprivation of magical power is forbidden by the Oath, but there are too many uncertainties to make the March plausible.

That does not mean that the covenant could not be liable for damages caused, and required to repair damages.

The way I play it, a companion may be either a retainer in the employ of the covenant or an independent professional. Mechanically, the difference is whether they are part of the covenant finances or not. Narratively, the difference is if they spend two seasons/year working at the covenant, or if they earn their living elsewhere (say as an itinerant bard).

If the bard is a retainer it is going to be very hard to argue that they did not act on the covenant's behest. In this case the covenant may be expected to reprimand the bard and pay reparation, and/or restore the supply chain. If the bard is an independent agent, merely spending some time at the covenant at more or less regular intervals, the argument that they act on their own is a lot stronger.

There is one complication though. The code is a personal oath, and I am not aware of any canon precedence of taking a covenant to trial. If it were my saga I would have to look this up.

To conclude, I would expect such an incident, if the details become public, to end in the covenant reprimanding the companion, apologising to the sodales, and probably do their best to restore supplies. If they don't, I find it quite likely that the tribunal take action against them, but we should think of it as a Civil rather than a Criminal case.


I understand that the bard used something such as enchanting music or entrancement? Or another reasonable mean pertaining to himself?

If he used a magical item created by a magus it would be easier to pin that magus as guilty, or at least partially guilty, depending on the other circumstances.

As written, I don't really think we have any way to ascertain if there was a breach of the code until more information is obtained. But a group of nobles suddenly turning hostile to each other is reasonable grounds for at least a quesitorial investigation (if there are available quesitores on the tribunal).

Also, even if it is proved that the bard is completely independent, this doesn't mean that he won't suffer attacks from the other covenant, either for vengeance or to ensure that the situation does not repeat in the future. If he alone has the means to turn the nobles against each other and disrupt commerce, the local magi would want to either keep him in check or get rid of him.


and that, I think, would be the case for the delegates at the tribunal as well, and thus it boils down to politics ...

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Whether they have technically broken the law against deprivation of magical power is as mentioned by others highly debatable.

But be in no doubt that the other covenant will find out that their supply of laboratory equipment has been disrupted. If they find out that the disruption is caused by a companion of the other covenant who wielded magic, they might still be able to retaliate without breaking the code of hermes.

Lets say for example that they confront your players over this. Your players then have two options:
1: Claim that the bard acted on his own and that he is merely an acquintance of theirs and kindly dont involve the player covenant in troubles that have nothing to do with them please.

In this case the opposing covenant are then well within their rights to simply murder the bard who fucked with their studies of magic.

2: Your players can claim that yes the bard is their companion and that as such he is under their protection.

in case 2. the opposing covenant can then sue them for a blatant attack on their magical resources (if the tribunal permits). If the peripheral code of the specific tribunal does not permit suing over lost access to lab equipment (e.g. normandy) then there are lots of other options available for the opposing covenant to retaliate, such as by staging a counter raid on their own.

They can also simply make it public knowledge that your players staged such a blatant act of (presumably) unprovoked aggression, which in turn is likely to damage their reputation, in particular it is likely to make other neighboring covenants wary of them, since they are people with a demonstrated willingness to strike others while trying to skirt the code. There is also the option for the opposing covenant to declare wizards war over it, if they feel like they can win.

There are practically endless option for aggressive action a covenant can take in retaliation that dont violate the code of hermes.


I should specify that the OP contains no context and that the context is extremely important.

questions like:

Is the situation in the OP an act of naked unprovoked aggression against a previously netural party?
Do the two covenants have a history of animosity?
How powerful are either covenant?
What is the hermetic culture like in the area where they are located? (e.g. does it take place in one of the canon tribunals or a homebrew one?)
How powerful are the magi in either covenant?
What assets do either covenant have at their disposal?
What is the reputation of both covenants like?
What is the relationship between the aggressor covenant and the bard?
How capable are the aggrieved covenant of pursuing an investigation to its conclusion?
How many and what allies do either covenant have?

The list of potential questions and the context that their answers imply is nearly endless and the conclusion to the question to the OP really spans the entire range of possible conclusions depending on the answers to those questions.


Which Tribunal you're in also changes the responses, as others have mentioned... And anything being brought to trial at a Tribunal is going to be heavily dependant upon which covenants are involved and the current political chaos.

For example, in Stonehenge, who's allied to Voluntas, who's allied to Blackthorn, who's neutral.

This particular situation is a great chance for your players to be forced into Hermetic Politics, if you feel it's enough of a gray area.

And as a measure of last resort, the wounded covenant could declare a Wizards War on one or two people. (I'm currently envisioning an elder Criamon magicking his way into a player's sanctum and just teleporting all his lab equipment away before escaping, causing no other damage)


You have made a point, that I too tried to make, only you made it better.

The point being: You can declare wizards war without intending to ouright murder the person you declare on. If some junior mage has stepped on your toes and you dont wanna go through the trouble of pursuing a dicey legal action you can declare wizards war, show up at their doorstep and simply expect them to be smart enough to flee, in which case you kick the door in, trash their lab, steal all their stuff and then, having made your point you wait for the WW to expire.


Thanks for all the replies it has been very helpful am now of to look through some books to see how Hibernian tribunal feels about this act or maybe my players are breaking new ground and some precedent can be made an they can crawl through all the political problems about to hit them.

My quick thought about how Hibernia would respond is that the aggrieved covenant may take offense and go more quickly to Wizard’s War or Certamen for restitution but that the peripheral code would probably not view this as an “illegal” attack by the covenant the bard is linked to. Also of note is that bards are a somewhat protected group in Hibernian culture so just wiping the bard out in retaliation is probably only something the “English” magi might do.

ADDITION: Remember, stealing vis from a source outside of the protected area of the covenant is not considered depriving of magical power in Hibernia.

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Do you care to provide a few more details, if only to sate my curiosity about the situation?

more details the players are mainly all irish mages they came across an English noble secret society which was using there influnce to rob Irish people of as much silver as they could not just through tax's but other means as well. They sent the bard in to gather more information at a party for these nobles the bard spotted an English mage of hibernian tribunal at this party but then he waited till the mage wasn't around to use enchanting magic to make the nobles to come to odds against each other against his orders the mages had given him. Unfortunately the bard did not notice the other gentle gifted mage from stonehenge tribunal attending the party who noticed a magical effect hitting his parma and captured him. He was then interrogated by the mages posing the silent question when they found out who he was and who he was working for and several other secrets of my players covenant they ended the interrogation and left him in the dungeon. When he was rescued by a high level fae and taken to arcadia forever never to be sean again because of some ridicules dic rolls in previous incounters. The English mage from the Hibernian Tribunal has brought this complaint to the head Quaesitor and this is where i am now in the game.

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In the Hibernian tribunal this might be considered a marching offense for the English mages who tortured a bard.
I don't believe they would be able to prosecute the covenant the bard was from, or any of the magi of that tribunal.

"Wizard War must be declared against a hedge wizard before attacking him, just as for a Hermetic magus. Slaying a hedge wizard outside of this declaration is the crime of assaulting the allies of the Order."
Admittedly they did not slay him, but they did attack him, so it comes down to making the case that the bard qualified as a hedge wizard.

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No torture just cast a spell on him and detained him in a dungeon

i did not realise that i always thought you could just kill hedge wizards

They have not sworn the Code and as such are not members of the Order of Hermes and not protected by the Code. Ireland is sort of unusual in that respect.

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Normally you can, but Hibernia is special ...

This is a very unlikely tribunal case in Hibernia for two reasons. To make a case of interference with mundane you have to prove damages. To make a case of deprivation of magical power, well, possession is really limited to the covenant's proximity.

At the same time, Wizard's War is a lot more likely in Hibernia. Adding it up, it really swings the odds ...

I am not convinced that a bard qualifies as a hedge wizard, but I would have to look that up. If the tribunal recognises his powers as magical, they would not prosecute the magi, but the magical companion personally (assuming grounds for prosecution, which I don't think we have here). The hedge wizards are represented at tribunal, even if they have only one vote.

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Yeah, this story is why my favorite rule for planning Ars Magica games -

"The question is not whether the players will succeed at their task, but what the fallout for their chosen answer is."

I admit I don't know much about how Hibernia is run, but it is always good to remember that troublesome magi can always try to affect the mundane workings of a covenant with little legal repercussion if they're careful.


I'm also not fully aware of how things go on Hibernia, but the English magi can probably claim self-defense since the bard tried to enchant one of them.

Maybe the English magi can try to bring charges of interference with mundanes against the Irish covenant, since the bard was under orders of the Irish magi? Again, not sure how things go in Hibernia.

Generally the quesitor would try to settle the dispute before things go to Tribunal. The English magi can always press charges. At worst, if the claims are not valid under the Hibernian Peripheral Code, they would be accused of bringing petty matters to the Tribunal. It would be a nice way of establishing that they don't really understand Hibernian law.