Court Wizards?

While the Peripheral Code prevents Magi becoming Court Wizards, is there anything preventing other magical practitioners, of which there seem to be quite a few, becoming a nobleman's court wizard?
In ME, surely some of them aren't charlatans, but the real deal.

And that leads to the question of mundane nobles, and their armies, employing magicians.

I am currently following the Japanese light novel/manga/anime "Youjo Senki" - with the official English title of "The Saga of Tanya the Evil". Set in an alternate world where WWI starts in the late 1920s, and involves "Aerial Mages" - magic users who have dogfights over the trenches and perform rapid deep strikes into enemy territory. But otherwise with 20th Century tech, and mechanical aircraft starting to match Aerial Mage ability.
According to the backstory, a few centuries beforehand, a friendly witch began forward scouting on her flying broomstick for a local army, and proved so useful that soon every noble's army tried recruiting flying witches.
By the 20th C, many armies have companies of magically able soldiers, who are magically trained just enough to use "computational orbs" (think standardised produced Swiss watchwork Babbage engines capable of running assorted "magical formulas") to allow them to fly, observe, attack, defend, and perform other tactical tasks.
The protagonist started her career as a flying artillery spotter.

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Not very much.

As long as they don't really catch the eye of the Order or of the Church, that is: then it quickly becomes either "Join or Die!" or (Exodus 22,17) "Thou shalt not let the witch live."


As @OneShot said, as long as the Order of Hermes does not mind ...

I ran such a story in Hibernia. A group of hedge wizards helped chieftain from Conacht take over Killaloe. A certain PC maga did mind and has now embarked on a quest to revise the existing treaties to curb the hedge wizards further. We have had many interesting IC discussions over it.


I had forgotten the biblical prohibition, and had been thinking that the Court Wizards might be non-Gifted with some Supernatural avoid the Order's attention.

But what would happen if a lovestruck witch offered to fly errands and scout for the handsome prince and his army?

It depends entirely on the errands. Sufficiently low-key, nobody cares (if they even notice). Sufficiently high-key, and every wizard, priest, and lord is going to consider you a threat.

Thus, where the Order of Hermes is powerful enough to practice magic openly, the hedge wizard will have to hide.

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Eventually the Order would hear rumors about someone providing magic assistence to nobles and would investigate to make sure this isn't a magus work.

The prohibition of mundane interference is to avoid bringing ruin to the Order, and a witch assisting a prince could lead to a strong backlash to all magic users, including the Order, so I believe someone would try to stop the witch (or make the assitence less conspicuous).


Should be OK as long as she is really discreet, like:

  • taking messages from and leaving them with at most half a dozen trusty underlings of the prince,
  • and scouting at night without light, or at day flying low under the cover of trees.
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I read something a long time ago suggesting that medieval maps were so poor that armies sometimes got lost trying to reach their targets, flank each other, or even reach their rendezvous points.Would a flying scout providing directions be "too much"?

A few story seeds:

  • a quesitor brings the rumors to your attention and asks you for help with the investigation since it's close to your covenant (you are actually suspects)
  • a rival noble comes to you asking for similar assistence
  • a bishop denounces the prince based on the rumors. There is risk of things escalating. What do you do?
  • a vassal of the prince comes to you, concerned that the witch has cast a love spell on his liege
    • what if she hasn't and the prince is really in love?
    • what if the prince is just using her? Do you tell her? How?

Not if they go unseen ...

Conceivably, one king commanding flying scouts would inspire his enemies also to seek out supernatural aid. Since the Order of Hermes does not hide (in most interpretations of 5ed), the kings would soon come to them to conscript their lawful subjects to war. This is exactly what worried the magi when the Oath was first made. While the king probably does not have the power to force a magus to obedience, he would normally have the power to make life considerably less convenient. The Order would have to take action against the witch.

IOW It might or it might not.


Well that's sort of the Augustan brotherhood's thing (except in the Muslim areas of the Levant, where it is the Order of Seuleman's prerogative). Presumably they already have rules and restrictions amongst themselves to prevent drawing the ire of the church, and probably frown on anything much in the way of serious competition.

Well, the emperor Friedrich II himself (allegedly) has one.

In 1220, the hedge wizard, famous philosopher and astrologer Michael Scotus returns to Palermo and becomes court magician for the Emperor.

Scotus, among many other things, has written "Every astrologer is worthy of praise and honor, since by such a doctrine as astrology he probably knows many secrets of God, and things known to few." It is said that the legendary Michael Scotus feasts his friends with dishes brought by blessed spirits from the royal kitchens of France, Spain, and other countries. He is also rumored to have petrified a coven of witches, the "Tall Meg and Her Daughters" stone circle in Cumbria.

I guess the Order carefully refrains from messing with him - on account of not getting Holy Roman Emperor eyes on themselves (or do they? Fun story seed right there...)

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The Raudskinna compact deals with how Scandinavian hedge traditions work together and how much they charge mundane folk. (Rival Magic p106)

Personally I think the Emperor, as the wonder of the world, would have multiple court wizards, in fact about as many wizards as I could fit players around a gaming table. How else is he going to entertain foreign guests, commit intrigues, impress visiting Arab scholars, and excavate ancient cisterns?


Story, stats and saga use of Michael Scotus as a Learned Magician you can find in sub rosa #20 Franciscan Doubts and #21 The Hill of Hell. He works as a scholar, spy and trouble shooter first for Cardinal Ugolino, then for the Emperor. So he is verrry discreet with his magic and well connected as a scholar.


It seems that the consensus is leaning towards court employed hedge wizards are Okay, unless they are too obvious/flashy.

The flashy hedge wizards either get the Join or Die option fron the OoH, or disposed of. All to prevent Mundanes seeking out OoH members with (non optional) offers of employment.

The hedge wizards can only escape this if removing them from Court would involve more "interfering with mundanes" than is warranted.
The more flashy, the more mage effort is warranted.

It is ridulously unlikely that a hedge wizard would become accepted and required by enough mundanes fast enough that they can avoid the OoH intervention

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Being court wizard for another noble (or Church official) look like "normal" work for many hedge traditions (and one rival).

I have pet theory that Order actually "encourage" nobles go to "hedge wizards" to free themselves from attention - nobles want magic anyway, so better them draw hedges in their schemes then bother Order (who make great effort to distance themselves from mundane things).

And Order already sell magic items to mundanes so increasing interest from nobles to services can be welcomed by different groups in Order - like many Jerbiton and Verditius mages.


The other constraint besides the order is the Church. Keep in mind that the Church has some very real Divine powers of its own and if a court wizard becomes too much of an issue they can and will do something about it. A court izard is generally considered to be an advisor to the throne, and if that advisor appears too powerful then that will jeopardize the authority of whichever priest or bishop is also advising that particular noble.
Unless of course the hedge wizard is a priest, but then they are more likely to be scrutinized for heresy if they conflict with the establishment.
And of course there is always the Augustinian order who d act as court wizards, believe in subtlety, and have an agenda that they don't want anyone getting in the way of.


I'm afraid I think you have that backwards. Becoming a court magician would seem to about 10% magic and 90% politics. Staying alive as any sort of court functionary certainly is more politics than anything else. I think it's ridiculously unlikely that a hedge wizard wouldn't have made himself accepted and required enough to survive the Order's attention before he ever became a court wizard because that's how you become a court wizard.


I may be having a biased and overly romantic viewpoint of a hedge wizard being seen to be magically useful and then being invited to Court.

Rhodri is correct that that is not the usual route to becoming a wizard at Court.


I would tend to expect Court Wizards to be either low power, incompetent, or restraining themselves enough they do not draw either magical or political attention to themselves. Anyone becoming famous as a Court Wizard for the "wrong" reasons (actual magical power and using it) in the eyes of the Order threatens to draw Mundane attention towards the Order. Whether just from being interested in magic in general, to wanting something to counter or augment what that wizard could do, the potential is there. The other concern however is more direct in that Magi see serving Mundanes as a Court Wizard as beneath their proper station and to undermine their independence and the separation of the magical world from mundane society. A sufficiently powerful Court Wizard is worth dealing with regardless of their political connections to the Court / Monarch exactly because they create and/or validate the perception that wizards can and/or should be ruled and give service to Mundane authorities. The whole concept of prohibiting Mundane Interference is meant to prevent undue entanglements with mundane society which could lead to conflict and/or demands that are avoidable. By existing the Court Wizard undermines this broader goal of the Order by and for itself.

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