Covenant Charters and Legacies (Securus Magnum Players Do Not Read)

Has it been common in your sagas (or referenced in a book) that covenants register the charters with the Tribunal? Do the local quaesitors have charters on record in a similar manner to how local government functionaries record property deeds and the like?

Following on from that, if a covenant's charter includes a "will" directing the dispersal of assets among members as others die/Twilight does the Tribunal consider this legally binding?

I am toying with a story idea regarding the will of a covenant that was destroyed with no survivors (supernatural attack or superduper Lab botch). The "if all meet their fates simultaneously" clause that is included in the chartered will either mandate their surviving assets be divided among covenants who do answer the call to attend a Special Tribunal, or, possibly more controversial, be auctioned off at said Tribunal.

Any suggestions anyone may have to help me refine that are appreciated.


I think generally covenants don’t have wills but that individuals have wills and if they don’t have one specifying a specific beneficiary their things usually get dispersed to their filii.

IIRC there is one tribunal where the canon thing is that charters are part of the peripheral code of that tribunal but I can’t remember which tribunal that is and it may be something from one of the tribunals detailed in a book from previous editions.

Oh!!! I know this one, since it is where I have been playing my current game for the last few years. The Provencal Tribunal requires that the charter be notarized by a Quaesitor, which makes it legally enforceable under the Peripheral Code. This has the result that internal squabbles at some covenants are brought to the attention of the whole tribunal rather then being solved by certamen or covenant council.

This actually would allow most of the things the OP is asking about to be done there. It also leads to the situation that anything you do not want public, do not put in your charter. Side effect is that our charter gives the "resident Magus" information (things you don't mind being public) while our covenant mystery cult has everything else.


Thank you, Troy. You've pointed out a Hermetic "legal precedent" that allows me to justify having the same practice in another tribunal.


So, in the case of a covenant destroyed with no survivors and no living filii (all still resident there), how would the Tribunal handle, say, the covenant's claimed vis sources? (I plan on those being registered with the Tribunal Order-Wide in our Saga) Would those sources be "first come-first served" for other Covenants to claim? Resulting, presumably, in a free-for-all between multiple covenants that results in a Special Tribunal being called to settle disputes and claims for damages, etc.?

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I assume it would be on a case by case basis with the nearest covenants jockeying for the rights to each vis source and the outcome being a factor of the proximity of the vis source to each and political might of the covenants vying for them. I doubt covenants that have a politically strong covenant between them and the failed covenant site would have much claim. The covenant in between would have to be so weak it could be taken as a client-covenant to snatch vis on the other side of its territory.

@Chad the question would be (1) if the Tribunal has any peripheral code rulings about this, and (2) how seriously they are enforced. You can have all the rules on the books (Mexican Gun Control is in fact far stricter than America on paper) but it doesn't work if no one will enforce them.

@Heaven_s_Thunder_Ham Your first point adds yet more saga prep to my to-do list:) Point #2 can likely be answered pretty easily once point one is taken care of, as I'll give myself a better feel for our political environment creating peripheral code materials.

So, in an Ars Magica saga that looks and plays like an urban fantasy novel, what would be some likely additions to the peripheral code?

Off the top of my head I think firearms would have been addressed in multiple tribunals during the Renaissance and more recently Information Technology and the like would have related rulings.

Like, for example, does hacking a magus's Google Drive violate the prohibition against scrying if no magic was used?

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I would argue that it wouldn't, since in standard Ars terms, a Google Drive could be compared to a library, in which you keep books, notes, etc, and if the viewing of the contents of a library through magic could be considered a breach of the Code, then a Magus/Maga who used a spell to improve failing eyesight while they read a book could be considered to be illegally scrying upon the owner of the book.
That would certainly be my defence at Tribunal.


The Oath of Hermes prohibits using magic to scry upon other members of the Order of Hermes.
It contains no prohibition on using non-magical means to spy upon other mages.

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Thank you both for the (accurate) replies on Peripheral Code for an alternate setting.

Do you think it would be worth while to start a separate thread for the subject or would there probably not be that much interest.

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In the Rhine Saga that I ran, the party had to deposit a signed copy of their charter along with the written endorsements of the mages, as part of their application package. But the charter and its writing didn't really get my players' engines revving so it never really was a big plot point.

In another game, the GM had the covenant of Legnica get destroyed in the background, and while it seemed like the mongol horde might have done it, our Covenant and another young one came to investigate and so the division of the spoils became an issue.

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Make sure to find a good reason, why in that case the remaining goods are not distributed among the filii (and so on ...) of the defunct covenant magi!

Write your tribunal's peripheral code in a way that is good for generating stories. You can add some "handwavium" to get whatever results you want. :wink: Don't worry about literally the whole thing, just that how covenant's resources get distributed is in such a way to be interesting to your players for a story.

A covenant is supposed to be a collegial institution with an indefinite duration. I doubt if its charter would contain a set of instructions about 'what to do if the covenant fails' as it could fail quickly or centuries hence or not at all. There might be a provision for donated land to be returned to the person or the family of the person who gave it as a condition of allowing the covenant to be built there.

But there definitely should be, if not Tribunal Law, at least decisions of the Tribunal that laid down some precedent. "When the Covenant of the Two Birds failed, we held a competative auction for who got the resources, the funds raised going to the Tribunal.... When the Covenant of Archon's Folly failed there was a certamen duel to decide who got the library..."

I imagine that Quaesitores would keep individual magi's personal wills though, especially if they didn't trust their Covenenant mates to do a proper job.


All good thought, Michael. The only reason I quoted just the one portion is to emphasize it to future readers. Magus wills were a detail I'd never considered so others may need that pointed out as well.

As to the covenant failure in question, my mind has given it more form since my initial post. There was an attack on a Bonisagus covenant in 1688 with no survivors. A subsequent Tribunal ruling deemed that Bonisagus magi must "ensure there are provisions in the charter of any covenant they live and work in to share their works, both incomplete and complete, with surviving members of the Order in the event of their untimely demise".

Now we have a more recent case, not clear yet if it was an attack or a spectacular lab botch with vis. What I do know is that this covenant, like the one lost in 1688, was all Bonisagus magi.

I feel like someone (cough Tremere or Tytalus cough) is going to emphasize that, yes, we have a precedent for the lab texts and original summae, etc. But, what of their lands? Their buildings (all intact). Their claimed vis sources?

I like these as well. I could even imagine (if I wanted a lot of work as SG and a messy storyline) two competing covenants declaring Wizards' War on each other en masse and to the victor go the spoils, never mind about the dignified memories of the deceased.

This is modern law and might not be the case where you live, but here I believe that if you start an organization that owns something - anything - you have to define in writing what happens to said property when the organization is dissolved.
Wanna start a charity for under privileged children? You'd better figure out what to do with any money collected if your charity fails somehow before you start collecting.

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Any plans for disposing of the assets of an organisation should be relevant and achievable: time is likely to make mock of the fine plans of the founders of a covenant, especially if the covenant lasts for centuries.

The will I made about fifteen years ago had one of its clauses invalidated when the organisation I planned to leave my gaming material to ceased to exist. Fortunatly the alternative I specified then is still going.

And it's just more sensible to have procedures embedded in law that will deal with intestate organisations. Now given the miserable state of Hermetic jurisprudence I would expect most Tribunals to have very politically driven and dog-eat-dog procedures but there may be better arrangements in place in some parts of the world. I'd advise taking a look at the background history of the Tribunal in question and figure out how they were likely to have reacted to each failed covenant and what precedent that leaves.

Stonehenge, looking back at it, seems to have had a large number of covenants that just vanished. A couple eaten by dragons, some who just faded into the mists of their own regio and never to be seen again. I suspect that people waited a while and then went and posted large signs saying 'this belongs to us now' on the vis sources registered to the departed.

1688? Future set campaign? Alternative history? Time Travel?

Whatever. I think the Bonisagi should have kept their duty to the Order up to date so that as little as possible was lost in any lab accidents or other TPK. If you really are setting this in 1688+ then you have both the printing press and the precedent of the Royal Society's PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS to show you how to do it.

I would imagine that House Bonisagus organises task forces to go to destroyed covenants (their own and those where hostile House authorities aren't shouting 'Keep out!') to recover researches and other documents that might otherwise be lost forever. (Hmm, there's a campaign frame if you like...)

The first or second description fits our saga best. Our setting emulates the setting of the Dresden Files novels since the whole troupe are fans (and thus familiar with supernatural creatures common in that world).

The Tribunal ruling I mentioned in reference to the 1688 attack (AKA Crawford Notch Massacre later) is part of the background Peripheral Code I'm writing for the North American Tribunals as suggested by @Heaven_s_Thunder_Ham .

Our saga is currently playing out in 2008, with Covenant Securus Magnum having been founded in 2006 in New Orleans, LA, USA. Ostensibly as "investment and development to help in the recovery and resumed growth of the city in the aftermath of Katrina." In actuality, "to aid the Order of Hermes in protecting a vulnerable mundane city from a likely influx of supernatural predators."

Shield grogs are so much more effective with assault rifles and shotguns:)

In the context of a modern setting I think @Tellus hit the nail on its head.

An organization that owns property, at least in modern times, must provide a key to how its assets will be distributed when it ceases to exist.
Compare with a person who dies. Even if that person did not write a will there is law regarding how the dead persons assets will be passed on to any heirs. Likewise an organization that fails to describe how it wants its assets distributed will likely have the passed on according to some predetermined scheme.

I would venture that even in the middle ages there is some procedure for how the property of an organzation or collective is divided when the group is dissolved. E.g. if a monastery fails the church likely takes possession of the assests, if a noble line dies out without any heirs the lord of said lord can pass the land on to anyone they please.