Code Ruling from Play: Merciless Wizard's War

A local covenant has made itself a general annoyance to the Provencal Tribunal, and recently one of the members made a showy effort to bully a maga through certamen. This same covenant is widely suspected of covertly acting to undermine and possibly destroy other covenants sheltering Cathars - their mission is to destroy the Cathar heresy.

Menacing Joia de Lua of Jardin was a mistake, though; a coalition of 15 magae, led by Dama of Merinita, declared a wizard's war on the four members of the covenant, saying that their presence was intolerable and that if they were still in the Tribunal at the next full moon, the start of the war, they would be destroyed. They should not return.

We have a quaesitor in our covenant, and she was summoned to the emergency Quaesitorial Council to hear the appeal for invalidating the declaration. This matter was discussed around the table and the conclusion was that:

The appeal to fairness was no bar: being outnumbered 15:4 does not invalidate the war.

The Code does say that Wizard's War is between two magi. The appeal that the 15 magae had declared war in a single message was no bar: this is merely a condensation of form. For all practical purposes this was 15 individual declarations against each of the 4 magi. There is precedent in the Peripheral Code of Provencal for inter-covenant war.

The appeal that such a declaration was an effort to deprive the magi of their magical power, in the form of books, devices, and vis stocks and sources was generally not a bar. Most of these were chattel goods: portable. The magi could take them along if they (wisely) departed rather than stand and fight. Unmovable property damage and denial was simply a cost of the war. However...

The PC Quaesitor pointed out that the effort to provide mercy, Get Out or Die, and the implication that they would not chase them beyond the Tribunal, would forcibly separate the magi from their vis sources if they departed. This was a weak point but potentially a cause for Tribunal review. This was reluctantly agreed to by the other players in NPC quaesitor roles.

So, on the next full moon, a more simply worded declaration asserted that the magi were intolerable, and that the undersigned magae would destroy them, beginning on the follow full moon, and reworded to clarify that the magae were each declaring war on each of the magi. This did give the covenant an extra lunar month of preparation...

I thought people might be interested in this spontaneous in-play opinion. My plot: it surprised me a little.

Interesting plot.

Regarding the point of separating magi from their vis sources is an interesting interpretation. It is generous to give a choice to leave the Tribunal, avoiding the consequence of the Wizard War. And in a Wizard War, all mages properties is fair game, so it could have been argued that because the Wizard War, the vis sources can be plundered. Leaving the Tribunal would have protected the magi from being chased, but their whole property can still be targeted.

Two things come to my mind:

  • this ruling was passed to make sure that nothing could be held against those declaring the Wizard War - kind of being "holier than the Pope";
  • somebody manipulated the Quaesitors to give more time to the mages to prepare their defenses, maybe to have some guest visiting them, making the Wizard War more tricky since the visitor cannot be targeted (or maybe visit of a nearby clergy) :smiling_imp:

In all honesty, I do think the postponing is a breach of the code in this case: during a wizard's war you can do whatever you want. You could destroy your enemy body, their mind, their resources. Whatever. After the war, they are safe... but maybe they have nothing more (no life? no mind? no resource?)
The concept of mercy do not even appear. They may show mercy, they mut not.

If the attacking magi do not mind the postponing, then this is fine. But they could make that a grand tribunal case later if not.

I'm wondering if a Wizard War can be unilaterally postponed? Is it legal?

I mean: you send a declaration to the target magus covenant shortly before the beginning of lunar month 1 and the war is to begin in lunar month 2, but I feel that it's not sufficient or even acceptable to cancel during lunar month 1 without common agreement between the two parties.

Maybe I misunderstood something (because of my poor English understanding), but to me, the initial wizard war is still valid, and unless a quaesitor states otherwise, the 4 target magi could attack any of the 15 others during month 2 without notice if they feel to take the risk.

EDIT. Sorry, I just realize I paraphrased ExarKun.

To the best of my knowledge, no.

But other than that, the whole thing is ... odd to me.
The whole point of Wizard's War is that both magi step outside the Code to settle their diferences. All protections under the Code are temporarily forfeit. Normally, you do not destroy Vis sources and the like as they belong to Covenants, not individuals, but that's about it. In this case, all of the magi who might lay claim to those Vis sources are under Wizard's War, so anything they own is fair game.
If they choose to leave the tribunal, they have chosen to forfeit their claim to those Vis sources.

But perhaps as importantly, why are the Quasitores validating a declaration of Wizard's War? Especially Post Facto?

  • The Code of Hermes requires no justifications for such a declaration. You can legally declare because "it's tuesday" or without any reason at all.
  • House Guarnicus has no such legal powers unless the peripheral codes provides this to them - Quasitores are not judges, however much they'd like to be. All judicial authority lies with the Tribunal. It might make sense to pass it by the Quasitores before sending it, to make sure the victims have no leg to stand on if they sue at the next tribunal, but once thedeclaration is sent, that's it.

Apparently I was unclear.

The declared-against requested a stay, in some desperation. The chief quaesitor invited other quaesitors to a council to offer legal opinions on this. Most of them did attend.

After a relatively incoherent opening, the CQ suggested the declared-against seek legal advise, if one of the quaesitors was willing. The PC Q offered to advise. The declared-against mage blundered through several scattered points, which the PC Q sifted down to: the only, weak point that may call the declaration's validity into question was the potential of a lasting separation of the surviving magi (if any) from vis sources.

The quaesitors did not forbid or invalidate the declaration. They were not validating it, they were responding to a request for a legal opinion. It could have gone forward. They advised the parties of their opinion and the declaring side suspended action (you don't have to attack; the declared-against could have attacked as well), followed by a better crafted declaration. They also more formally and carefully crafted the pairings (We the undersigned individually declare...)

The Tribunal probably would have been perfectly fine with the original declaration as it stood, but given that the Praeca of the Tribunal was involved, they wanted their standing perfect and unassailable.

All of the players went in fully expecting this desperate plea to go nowhere at all, and so did I.

Most of the parties are probably expecting the covenant, with two Tytalus and two Flambeau magi, to wisely withdraw.

And yes, someone is being "Holier than the Pope" here. For some reason there's a desire to avoid more than a cursory examination of the case.

I have to second what others said.

You need no justification to declare Wizard's War, and during such a War, neither of the parties involved is bound by the Code in respect to the other parties. So each party may freely slay, scry upon, or deprive of magical power the opponent(s). It's also perfectly legal to "bully" others into giving up their rights by threat of a Wizard's War. A Tribunal may have specific rulings limiting the declarations of Wizard Wars, of course.

What I think is interesting here, is that you can't technically declare a Wizard's War "conditionally", nor may you "revoke it". You either declare it, or you don't, and once declared, it runs its course. So, the declaration of Dama "Begone by the next full moon, or we'll slay you" should be understood as: "We are declaring a Wizard's War on you, now, with the War starting on the next full moon, as usual. However, let the following be said, between you and us and without any legal effect: we only want you gone, so we won't pursue you beyond the Tribunal borders." This is important because if the four mages leave the Tribunal before the full moon, then Dama and her allies declare themselves satisfied, and three days after the full moon the four exiles treacherously slay in some fashion Dama and her allies, the exiles have not broken the Code: the War was in effect at the time.

Additionally there is nothing to prevent them from returning after the wizard war is over, and if this is in the Normandy tribunal, the possession of vis sources by covenants is part of the tribunal's peripheral code.
Legally speaking they could exit the tribunal for a month and hire a mundane assassin to take out any or all of the 14 mages while they are gone, or simply steal their stuff!
Ironically if the challenging magi thought they could revoke the wizard war, the covenant magi could ambush them during the original declared time, and if attacked during the postponed time period argue that it was illegally declared because they had just finished a wizard war which they failed to act upon, and there is a requirement to wait a month before declaring another one.

I'm not sure where this concept of a revocation of a wizard's war came from. Electing to not pursue a course of action is not a revocation.

It might make an interesting point at Tribunal, though. Some mage has a fit over the validity of revoking a wizard's war, to the bafflement of the magi involved.

This is useful feedback, though, as it gives me points for an NPC quaesitor to ask the PC quaesitor about, following on Ezechial's observation about this being holier than the Pope*.

*Need a more Hermetic turn of phrase - more doctrinal than Murion? Arguing higher than Guernicus himself?

What if the targetted covenant accepts a new member and that member gets access to the vis sources, and is lend all the magical and mundane resources for their important research.

The attacking covenant will not be ave to target vis sources as the new member has no wizard war upon them and they are not allowed to deprived this new member of his or her resources. If the same new member has all the stores in their lab/sanctum, these may not be targetted either. Then it is just for the Jardin covenant to stock up on suuplies and take a few books with them and head to the covenant regoio / magical garden for a study session during said month as the attacking magi cant affect them with spells while in the rego.

The defending magi might even invite other magi/church guessts to stay at their covenant during said month, so that the buildings cant be razed

In my understanding a covenant's charter of Provencal Tribunal covenants is backed by/has authority of the Tribunal Peripheral Code, so if the new member is admitted consistent with that charter, this could work. Taking the general purpose charter in Covenants as a guide, a mage can be admitted as a Protected Guest, and the covenant then must make every effort to safeguard that mage - if magi attack the covenant the guest is then placed in danger, goes an argument.

I don't think bring on new members will work, for a few reasons.
1.The guest mage probably knowingly places themselves in danger. This will generate no sympathy at Tribunal.
2. If the defending magi brought this guest mage in without informing him of danger, the defending magi are more in the wrong.
3.The attacking magi can expect that, having declared this war very publicly (the announcement was made to every covenant), no mage can be unaware.
4. As has been pointed out, the Code is suspended during the wizard's war. It might be argued that, in this Tribunal, this means the ordinary processes of the covenant charter are halted while the wizard's war is in effect: guest magi cannot expect safe sanctuary from the magi of the covenant. This also means no Probationary Members can be initiated.

That might make an interesting wrinkle or two.

It's occurred to me that the magi might re-register their vis sources during the wizard's war ... but the registration process is a Code-defined matter, so it is probably won't have any backing until the war is finished.

Retreating into shelter or sanctuary has limited protection. There's no reason I'm aware of the declarers could not simply maintain the war, moon to moon, having Redcaps deliver a years worth of declarations to be read every full moon, until the last mage on a side is dead. You can run, you can hide, but you can't show your face again.

There are various methods of screwing with Wizard's War declarations. The most obvious is simply hiding in your sanctum on the full moon, and placing your Sanctum someplace that your attacker can't reach or would be lethal to said attacker. Even just making it too annoying for Redcaps to reach you is a serious hurdle, since they would need to come in person which exposes them to significant mischief*. Arcadian Travel is particularly effective at this, but so is a nice Regio, or simply not having a real entrance. "What? This isn't a broom closet! This is the glorious entrance to my Sanctum! See, I put the marker and sigil here and everything!"

Next up is adding a new member to your covenant, or for that matter having an MIA person on it. This works extra well if said person is really powerful and might actually still be alive. "Quendalon is totally still a member of the covenant! But seriously, if you really want to declare war on him his Sanctum is two doors down on the right." That prevents them from targeting the covenant resources. You may need to find a hedge witch to conscript since this would be a pretty stupid thing to do for the newbie if they can't withstand a wizard's war.

Go a few thousand miles east. Open fire first. You need an arcane connection, and a mastered arcane range attack spell, but roll enough quality dice and you'll go straight through that Parma.

Out of time me, but the final note is the tribunal's response may very well be politically based. If you've pissed everyone off legal technicalities won't get you squat. If the attacker has ticked everyone off, legal technicalities can be a death sentence.

*By mischief I mean outright murder. They come inside your Aegis and cripple their magic? Seriously, just kill them, destroy the body, and erase your memory of the matter. Or even better change your memory to you creating an illusion of you murdering your opponent and destroying the body. That way if someone was scrying on you'll have a perfect excuse.

This is an NPC on NPC war, so I'm not going to be too bothered about the finer details of how the targeted covenant copes. I'm more concerned about the plot potential for the player magi - so far the response has been "There is not any way we are offering sanctuary to any mage in this, and especially not the four under the hammer."

As mentioned earlier, adding a new member is not likely, but they can find sanctuary. Other than a strong offense, the best defense is with a mage not involved in the war.

Much of what is going on in the background is political and social - it started with an anti-Cathar pro-Crusade mage demanding Joia of Jardin expel her Cathar servants, backed by a threat of Wizard's War. Dama of Merinita was not having that and now a massive response has followed. The third domino will fall shortly after. Politics, an expanding war, and Tribunal arguments will follow in due course.

Back to the legal point that started this thread, I have drafted a letter of opinion from the CQ stating that although the form of the declaration appeared to be a Wizard's Council, it was simply a condensed list of declaring magae, and accordingly the quaesitores have no legal power regarding the matter. The declaration is valid, but survivors may have a weak point on which to claim damages, should they live to do so at Tribunal. This is not quite what was concluded at the Quaesitorial Council, so that should raise an eyebrow.

Minor quibble, since I'm in a Quaesitor mood while slowly working on a sheet for a Quaesitor. There are mentioned precedents in the books for Quaesitores attempting to negotiate a settlement to a declared Wizard's War. So it's entirely possible (saga determination) that there's Peripheral Code rulings to the effect that a negotiated settlement allows for mutual cancellation of a Wizard's War, or that a War can be declared conditionally.

And if magi do agree to settle, then whatever the technical status of forfeit immunity, it's going to be extremely bad form to violate the agreement. If a Quaesitor witnessed and sealed the settlement, they might be able to argue (depending on the sympathies of the Tribunal) breach of contract with them and claim damages.

I suppose that any kind of settlement can be attained in every conflict. However, it looks a bit weird to struggle for a agreement after the war was declared. It would require a lot of pain and effort for a Quaesitor to attain this goal, since both parts would be very reluctant to meet each other in the month before the war begins. Of course, I suppose a young Quaesitor could be interested in such a achievement in hope of gaining good reputation as a mediator.

Wizard's War forfeits immunity, but it does not obligate attack. A mage might declare Wizard's War to force negotiations where discussions have locked; threat of death or some other horrible fate may break the matter open. Quaestors then can be brought in to negotiate a pact. That's diplomacy with a sledgehammer, but might work. (This resembles the plot I am currently running.)

Side thought: A more powerful elder mage could terrorize a young mage by declaring Wizard's War each month, indefinitely, not attack, and demand compensation to drop the declarations. "That's a real nice life you got there. Be a shame to spend the rest of it as a frog." (Why an elder would do this is beyond scope of the example.)

Abuse of WW: Declare war on a mage; capture that mage and transform into an animal. Retain the mage as a prisoner indefinitely, declaring war on a regular basis, which maintains the suspension of the Code. I think this would be condemned at Tribunal, if discovered (the Code refers to Wizard's War ending in death), but I can see where some personalities would try it.

I agree with WWs used as political tools to pressure a less powerful magus. This may actually a point of the rule. You don't always need or even want to kill the opponent, sometimes is is just as good to have him hiding for a month (or even already during the month pf preparation!).

As for continuous WWs:
Noble's Parma, but isn't there a clarification that you need a month of pause between Wizard's Wars? So you cant send a declaration each month, you have to wait for the WW to be over, before sending the victim another declaration. This is likely somewhere in HoH:TL.
So the war can't continue indefinitely.

The exception is in Hibernia where The Conflicted Isle tells is the periphral code here allows for WWs once declared to go on until a treaty is made, or one side is killed.

HoH:TL p. 47-48 - Hernis was charged with endangering the Order by using Wizard War to seek political domination, and found guilty. ... The case is seen as exceptional.

So, yes, there are controls on this, but a mage has to go to extremes. Charges could be brought if the declarer is not careful. Good to know.