Code of Hermes Minutiae

Hello, everyone. Today I have a couple of questions concerning the Code of Hermes and the extent to which it should be applied.

First question: is there official legal precedent in Ars Magica for the Hermetic, secular, and canonical laws regarding territory disputes where regiones are concerned? From what I understand, regiones are effectively pocket dimensions. As such, if a covenant is founded within a regio whose previously unknown gate lies soundly within a noble's undisputed territory, does the noble have a secular or Hermetic claim to that covenant's territory? If a covenant builds within a previously unknown regio whose gate is located within St. Peter's Basilica, does the pope have a Hermetic or canonical claim on their lands? If a covenant builds within another covenant's regio, but on a higher level, does the second covenant have legal Hermetic claim on the first covenant's lands?

Second question: to what extent are magi allowed to legally defend themselves from the mundane nobility without being marched? To what extent does the clause "Nor will I interfere with the affairs of mundanes" permit noblemen to bully magi into compliance? The core rulebook states on page 15:

Few nobles are stupid enough to mount a direct assault on a covenant, and those who are tend to die, but equally any covenant that deliberately wiped out a noble rival would be hauled before Tribunal and Marched, post-haste.

This implies that if a noble were to invade a covenant, the magi would be marched for crushing the invaders in self-defense. This seems to put magi in a very precarious situation, where they must dance to the nobility's whims, and shrewd nobles knowledgeable in the Code of Hermes could weaponize the Code against magi. This could render the entire law self-defeating: "Do what I say, or I attack; and if you defend yourselves from my attack, you'll be marched." That just sounds like swearing an oath of fealty but with extra steps.

Third question: is brutal treatment of harmless faeries considered a violation of the "molesting the faeries" clause? A few of my players have floated the idea of finding, kidnapping, and enslaving brownie faeries to serve as a cheap workforce that needs not sleep, food, or shelter. Brownies have no recorded lore of summoning righteous fury upon ne'er-do-wells, and since that is not within their glamour's programming it is unlikely they will be seeing powerful faeries causing problems.

The troupe has also floated the idea of kidnapping whole communities of faeries in order to imprison them within wards and slowly siphon their vis. Since Might Score slowly regenerates, they figure that so long as they don't siphon the faeries to death or allow them to escape, they will have near infinite sources of vis with a large enough menagerie of faeries. In such a case, is the "molesting the faeries" clause only violated if one of the faeries escapes and wreaks havoc on their sodales? Or is the very act of imprisoning and siphoning them of vis the violation?

Not really. There is a "deliberately" in "any covenant that deliberately wiped out a noble rival". This is like today's jeweller in most of Europe, who can shoot an armed robber in self-defense, but must not shoot him in the back, once he turns and flees with or without loot.
Of course, tribunal courts tend to heed reputations - so a Flambeau reputed for constant trouble with mundanes might be considered less favorably than a Quaesitor reputed for mediation with a covenant's neighbours.

Doedn't that sound like: "I now hold my breath until I die, and you will be guilty, guilty, guilty!"

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This makes sense to me. Thanks!

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The magus can also carefully explain to the impudent noble that while the mage may be eventually Marched and killed, tribunals take time. And during that time the mage can and will kill not only the offending noble, but his family, friends, allies, neighbors, pets, random passerby, and every living being that has ever had a kind word for him. If he is going down to defeat, he will take a massive honor guard with him into the lands of death.

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There are some who would argue that not defending yourself against a nobleman who is so aggresive is what would violate the code in that case. Since you are sending a clear signal to the nobleman that he can freely bully magi into submission.

On a more moderate note you can definitely defend yourself. The mundane interaction clause tends to come down to the "...and thereby cause trouble for my sodales" part. In other words if you case trouble in the mundane world and the mundanes as a reaction bother or endanger other magi then you are in trouble. This means that both action and inaction can be a crime. You cannot rely on always doing nothing. Also the clause does not prohibit reasonable self defence.

The same goes for faeries. There is no rule against enslaving faeries. If you case trouble for the faeries and they in turn cause trouble for other magi as a result then you are in trouble. Also be aware that few magi would want to establish a precedent that killing faeries and taking their vis is illegal since most magi do it, you are unlikely to be sued over warring with faeries.

As for the plan to enslave brownies, IMO the obvious counterargument is: A brownie is probably a terrible laborer, since it has no conception of what it means to work. It will be distracted frequently and will need lots of oversight even if magically coerced. After all no matter how much you threaten a donkey it will never be able to copy texts for you, likewise a faerie is likely to be incapable of doing most jobs that your players want them to do.

As for imprisoning faeries and siphoning vis off of them, you are likely to run into a similar scenario. Might does slowly regenerate over time, but, and its a big but, the rules for might regeneration assume that the creature that regenerates the might is engaged in normal behavior for whatever type of creature it is. You could easily argue that a brownie regenerates might by just lounging around and doing whatever brownies do most of the time. I would analogize it to a human recovering health over time, and say that this only happens if the human can be reasonably said to rest and recuperate, something which is not the case for a human who is strapped into a device designed to slowly drain them of their lifeforce.

But that said imprisoning a faerie and siphoning vis off of it is not strictly speaking a crime. You have caused no harm upon your sodales. Unless you pick a faerie that is allied to another magus. You better not let the merinita find out though.


Skipping over the part already covered by previous replies, I would like to cover some of the other areas. Specifically the Code of Hermes.

The Code of Hermes does not provide any rights, protections, or benefits to non-Magi outside of ones which are a side effect of protecting Magi from each other. The parts about not interfering with mundanes and faeries are specifically to protect your fellow Magi from you doing something stupid.

Those non-interfere parts also are generally applied to mundanes and faeries as a group. Actions against a single mundane/faerie will not raise to a violation unless the one you are messing with is exceptionally powerful. But then, that exceptionally powerful example is effectively a group.

The Pope, while a single individual, is also the controller arguably of the most powerful group in Mystic Europe. So a Magus messing with the Pope is interfering in the affairs of mundanes to the detriment of his sodales. However if the Pope decides to start burning Magi at the stake, not taking some action could be considered a violation of the Code. That action does not have to be "kill the Pope", in fact it most likely should not be (without a lot of discussion by Magi). However alerting the Order and destroying a force preparing to/already attacking Magi would be appropriate actions under the Code.

Say you mess with a mundane to hell and back to the point that he somehow figures out where/when the next tribunal is, shows up at said tribunal, and attempts to lay a charge against you. However your messing with that mundane has caused no trouble for other Magi. Unless there is a political reason for a fellow Magi to take up the charge (you are unpopular, they want something from your Covenant, etc) then there is no chance of the charge even being made. The mundane would not be allowed into the Tribunal.

EDIT: That Noble you listed in the first question would have no Hermetic claim, since the Code provides nothing for him. He might have a secular claim, but he would have to know about the Regio and actually have some means of entering it in mass. The secular claim would be close in effect to a mountain in his lands. While the peak might be his per say, he has no way of enforcing it (or even knowing if something is there).

Most likely the Order would counter that Regios are not part of the mundane world, but are part of their related Realm. A Magic Regio is part of the Magic Realm, thus not part of the mundane. Most older Tribunals especially have a vested interest in keeping Regios separate from the mundane, such as Rome. Regio are their last bastion.

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The second Covenant (that built within the others Regio) would never be approved by the Tribunal. Getting to the higher levels requires going through the lower levels and thus the first Covenant. They are also ether passing through or still in the first Covenant's AotH (depending on if you rule it having to be cast on each level of a Regio or it being able to effect every level of a Regio).

If you want to see a marchable offense, you are looking at one here. The second "Covenant" is trying to steal/take over the first through direct action. Several Tribunals would find them perfectly within their rights to drop a shooting star on you without even consulting the Tribunal at large/laying a charge. The Order tends to take a grim view of direct actions against a Covenant without declaring a Wizards War on all members of said Covenant.

Regarding regios- I think these are generally not recognized under secular law, but if there is, for example, a divine regio in a church then it belongs to the church. Faerie regios explicitly belong to the faerie causing them to manifest. Infernal regios nobody wants to claim...

Nobody who understands what they are anyway. I could certainly imagine a gold mine which is a (subtle) infernal regio, that everybody wants!


Lots of people may want to control it or utilize it without wanting to claim it. Claiming the infernal mine means paying taxes, incurring jealousy, and admitting to the source of income, as well as raising all these questions about how you managed to have possession of the mine... in a lot of campaigns people who don't know about the various realms tend to assume infernal first.

Such a nobleman may have a short life ahead of him, or otherwise be soon to suffer a magical restriction of some kind.

First, magi do not like it when mortals try to game them. One that tries will be no merry fellow; the Order will fix the situation in some way, ranging from invisibly subtle (wake up dead or mute or with a mixed memory) to extremely obvious (spend weeks painfully on fire), depending on the personalities involved.

Second, whoever informed the nobleman on the Code will suffer a similar fate.

Noblemen and the Church are generally aware of magi, and that messing with them is dangerous, and that leaving them alone is usually the best course, unless they overstep bounds.

Not necessarily. The order has no ban on mundanes knowing the code and as such letting a mundane know of parts or even the entire code is not a crime.

A magus is not generally responsible for what a mundane chooses to do with information given to them. The obvious exception here is if the mundane acts on that information causes harm or bother to other magi. I doubt however that a magus would be killed or marched over letting a mundane lord known of the code even if the lord in question decides that they can use the code against a second magus.

IMO the harm caused is too indirect and unpredictable to justify a death penalty and the magus who inadvertently caused the trouble is more likely to be fined or something similar than to be killed.

We can have covenfolk who study the Code, and nothing says that knowledge of the Code is for Magus only. Sure, if they can find who taught the noble, they might charge him, due to it being used against a fellow Magus, but it would take extremes circumstances for it to lead to said Magus being Marched.

I seem to remember in one of the books that they described a situation where there might be a conflict over territory with a nearby noble and if the noble was wise they would likely leave the covenant alone but if a magus incited the noble to attack, thereby being able to wipe out the noble house with relative impunity, that might be a crime if these machinations were discovered. A magus convincing a noble to attack a covenant might rightly be seen as a danger to the order or fellow magi of that covenant. Whether it was a marchable offense or a low crime I don’t remember.