Hermetic law advice requested

I have gotten into a situation where I am not quite certain what the Hermetic legal stance might be.

Basically the PCs are trying reveal that an NPC magus is an imposter before other magi, including a Quaesitor.

It appears that the NPC magus is elsewhere committing malicious deeds against the PCs, but has an alibi in that he and his apprentice are attending a gathering of magi, including the PCs. The magical animal companion of one of the PCs has indicated that the NPC magus and his apprentice don't smell of the NPC magus.

They wish to reveal the deception without breaking the Hermetic code. Plan B is to challenge the NPC magus to Certamen, but the players want physically and/or magically unveil the imposter as Plan A. I have tried to convince them that if they are wrong Plann A will get them into so much trouble, but they are also asking if they are right what trouble will they get into, which I am having difficulty answering.

Spoiler, my saga not read further.
The NPC magus actually is elsewhere. The apprentice is wearing an enchanted item to make him seem to be the NPC magus, and a grog has a similar item to make him seem to be the apprentice. The NPC magus can watch and advise via arcane connections. The apprentice and master have vaguely similar casting sigils, and the apprentice is about 12th year so should be able to do the basics of Certamen (unless he needs to know Parma Magica first, hadn't considered that).

Well such deceptions are not covered by the code IMO . So if the PC's managed to reveal a Ruse they would be in the clear, unless the enemy has a lot more political power.

Of course if they try to use magic and fail to prove anything they could be up the creek without a paddle so to speak.

One problem to consider in Tribunal the truth of testimony is magically enforced. So if any part of this matter where to go to trial a deceiver would have to be able to beat out the Quasitors who cast those spells. I assume the degree that this is possible is saga dependent.

My general advice to players in that situation would be go with the Certamen option. Best case situation you trounce him and can use the conditions of the Certamen or your free spell to reveal the truth in someway. Worst case scenario the results of the Certamen should provide more clues as to the identity of Magus at the gathering.

If they are at a tribunal, They can easily bring charges and the queasitor can in investigation require that all spells be dropped. (there are some spells in true lineages that would do that). The lack of parma at all would be another indicator but again, might not be conclusive if the npc taught his apprentice parma before apprenticeship is complete.

The fact that the smell is different is grounds for investigation because either there is a disguising spell on scent for purposes of deceiving mages or it is an imposter. More over, once this is proven, the apprentice has violated code by impersonating a mage which as an apprentice means his master is guilty and this could get him marched.

Finally by magically watching the apprentice and advising via arcane connection, the NPC is scrying on the other mages, another violation of the code and the hint of such is very likely to mean march when this is revealed. Mages do not like to be spied upon.

How is impersonating a magus a high crime? Unless he gets secret information out of the impersonation, it is not a high crime, even if I am sure it can be a low crime (at least).


Using a magical disguise to spy in mages and see what they are doing can potentailly count as scrying in strict interpretaton of the law. Attempting to vote or act as magus without being sworn to the code of hermes is definately issue. Using this to cover high crimes (depriving other mages of their magical power or whatever he is doing to the pcs), makes it very bad.

being disguised as the magus that is supposedly scrying? it is a weird situation really. The offending magus is supposed to be there for everybody to see. if the apprentice is responsible of a crime it is the magus that would need to pay for it, so the crime would be the magus disguising himself as himself to spy on you on plain sight. it gets silly really fast :slight_smile:

In fact I can easily see a Trianoma doing that to his apprentice and make him try to broker peace between 2 or more parties as an apprentice gauntlet. :slight_smile:

I would see that the problem is "what is the REAL magus up to while he pretends to be here?"


If the apprentice does know Parma without having passed his gauntlet and taken the hermetic oath then that's Marching for his master and death for him. Slam-dunk endangering the Order case.

If he doesn't then a low penetration ReMe (not forceless unless you know his mentem score is zero) can compel him to reveal the plot. You can't share Parma through an AC. Also if he doesn't have Parma then he'll have a hard time being surrounded by all the gifted Magi at Tribunal - unless he has an ongoing mentem magic he'll be very uncomfortable and have difficulty concealing his hostility. It's a lesser crime but it will piss off all the Magi present so the PCs can expect to win big on their suit against the master.

If the Magi reveal the apprentice by magic then there may be a scrying case because an apprentice is hermetic property but it's unlikely anyone will prosecute. If they reveal the grog that wouldn't apply but he may not know enough. Taking their suspicions to a Quaesitor is legally safer unless there is a risk that he will dismiss their suspicions and forbid them to act because if they defy him he'll find something to charge them with but I don't think an impartial Quaesitor would shut them down.

It is worth remembering that a Quaesitor can resolve the question of identity swiftly and accurately, and has good incentive for doing so, once the players present their evidence. Completely ignoring the players' cause for complaint with the NPC magus, the Quaesitor will want to know if the magus in question is being impersonated. Once he finds out it is the apprentice, he may not care, but he will want to verify the magus's identity to ensure that there is not, for example, a spy in the Tribunal.

Much of the rest of this is speculation. If the magus has taught his apprentice Parma before the apprentice has passed Gauntlet, the magus is in trouble. If he has not taught the apprentice Parma, the apprentice can still perform Certamen, though it is unlikely to get to that point. Remember that until the apprentice passes his gauntlet, he is not a member of the Order. He is a possession of the magus. Scrying on him is wrong, not because he is a member of the order -- he is not -- but because he is an agent of the magus.

If I were running the saga, and the players approached a Quaesitor and showed them their evidence, the Quaesitor would approach the magus in question, ask for his cooperation, and be refused (because of course the magus and his apprentice know the ruse will be discovered). This will arouse suspicion, and while the Quaesitor retreats to decide what to do, the apprentice flees. By the next morning the Quaesitor has scryed upon him using help provided by the players, and the magus's guilt is clear. Provided the magus has not taught the apprentice Parma, I would punish the magus by stripping him of his apprentice, who would then go to a new master, by default a Bonisagus who could use a few more years of help in the lab.

That's not clear cut at all. Maybe in your saga, but it's not canonical as far as I know.

I'm not sure how you can "physically unveil the impostor" if he is protected by a magical illusion. But if you can, unless the act causes him death or sufficient harm to impair his magical studies or abilities, it does not violate the Oath (though it could violate the Peripheral Code of your Tribunal, depending on your saga).

Magically "unveiling" the impostor, on the other hand, can land the characters in very serious trouble because of the "no scrying" provision in the Oath. Essentially any magic used to gather information about another magus is a High Crime.


p.62 of HoH:TL tells us of a useful Grand Tribunal ruling. Any magus who scries on another, andonlyobtains information about a Hermetic crime that magus has perpetrated or is about to perpetrate, is not guilty of violating the Oath since "The scrying prohibition was instituted to protect magi’s legitimate magical secrets, not their crimes". But obtaining any other information is still a crime, which makes this kind of magical guesswork dangerous in the extreme.

One solution we've seen used in our saga is a Rego Mentem spell that essentially forces the Target to confess all his Hermetic crimes, if any (in an act of grand tears and contrition). Mind control is not against the Code per se (unless of course it is used to violate the Code in other ways). By magically forcing the target to confess all his Hermetic crimes, you are selectively screening out any "unwanted" information.

Looks pretty canonical if you go by HoH: TL anyway. Also:

Maybe not clea cut, but pretty hard to dodge I'd say.

Which section are you referring to?

One thing is what's not done; another is whether it's a Hermetic Crime and under which provision of the Code it falls. I just stated that teaching your apprentice parma is not necessarily "endangering the Order" as you suggest.

Technically there are enough Magi collected to constitute a Trinunal, but if so about a third of the votes will be PCs.
Since Tremere are all great at Certamen from training in apprenticeship, I will have to rule that Parma Magica is not needed for Certamen.
As far as I know, active Parma is not noticeable without some InVi scrying. The disguised apprentice has been reluctant to stay close to the other Magi (Gift penalty), which is why he got close enough to the magic horse to be smelled.

Does smell count for deceiving? I imagine lab activities and lack of bathing can cause Magi to smell pretty strange at times.
The apprentice and grog are wearing magic items made by the NPC magus to cause the possessors to look like the NPC magus and apprentice respectively. So the NPC magus has made a magic item to impersonate himself. The apprentice is following his master's orders and acting on behalf of his master, the NPC magus, and has said nothing to indicate otherwise. The disguised grog has twice said "this is the business of magus NPC", while the NPC magus is known to speak in the 3rd person allowing the disguised apprentice to speak in the second person about whatever the NPC magus magically relays to him.

Thought of that. The NPC magus is watching over the apprentice by speaking to him via the arcane connection on a regular basis, and listening to the replies. Can only hear the apprentice. Though it might be difficult to prove that is the only spell being used. The NPC magus might argue that he could see and hear no more than if he was actually there, which is what it appeared that he was.

The players believe he is getting an unfair advantage over their Covenant, but exactly what and if it is illegal is unknown. All they suspect is that the moderately respected (in Tribunal) magus they have a conflict with is currently providing himself with an alibi. They do not know how the disguise is being achieved, or who is under the disguise.

In a previous session the PCs tried to show off the magical horse to the Quaesitor. There were botches rolled. The players have reason to suspect that the Quaesitor does not consider the magical horse to be in any way reliable.

Also, I have the NPC magus with the ready excuse "I am teaching my apprentice how to graciously accept the dignity and respect accorded to a Magus" for the disguise and his absence.

Can anyone see any significant point of Hermetic Law I am overlooking?

Forceless casting of small area detection spells is a very innocent and reasonably foolproof way of checking, whether a 'magus' has some Magic Resistance. (You would argue, that you expect magi at a Tribunal to be protected, unless they are ungifted Redcaps or such, which you should take care to avoid in the target areas.)
So you need to make sure that your apprentice has all the Forms opened and at least an overall Magic Resistance 0 by them. The question you have to pose yourself is then: "Is the degree of his education known?". Because the Grog impersonating the apprentice will have no Magic Resistance even against Forceless Casting.


My mistake, the actual quote I was refering to was at ArM5, p.66, in the description of Parma as an ability.

One thing is what's not done; another is whether it's a Hermetic Crime and under which provision of the Code it falls. I just stated that teaching your apprentice parma is not necessarily "endangering the Order" as you suggest.
No, the HoH: TL reference is not for p. 50ff (Endangering the Order) but p. 53 (last bit under Apprentices) - not as clear cut as I recalled, but not terribly open for discussons either.

Also please note that we're talking medieval law here, based explicitly not on roman law but on 'barbarian law' (HoH: TL p.45), in which "how things are done" largely gain the strength of law.

Turn the magus hair bright orange or green for diameter durantion (CrIm5). Casting a spell on a magus is NOT as hermetic crime per se (even if might find you with a WW on your head), only scrying or endangering him is. Being able to cast this on a veteran magus without using much penetration should put everybody on its guard. It would not be scrying if it was the magus (his parma would block it). Then you will have a second thing that proves that there is something funny there, and the Quaesitors might start looking into the matter.


Casting Intelligo spells on the "magus" is pretty much out. That's "scrying" and the Order takes a very strict view of that. Also, the fact that the "magus" has a MuIm effect running isn't damning... there are any number of legitmate reasons for that, ranging from hiding an ugly scar to looking more impressive to "I just felt like it."

Randomly dispelling another magus's illusions is simply rude and randomly casting a spell to do so at another magus "just in case" just isn't done... I see it as rather like walking into a party and publicly groping a woman you just met "to see if they're real." Under ordinary circumstances, it would earn you at least a certamen challenge and serious points toward a bad Hermetic reputation.

The only way I can see Plan A working would be to publicly challenge the "magus", accusing him of being an imposter and having no right to be present at a gathering of magi. Essentially, they would be politically manuevering the "magus" into a position where he has to prove who he is to the other assembled magi and, with savvy intriguing, getting the local queasitor to reveal the imposter for them. That could pretty much blow up in their face, of course.

Beautifully constructed!

Why don't tey simply walk through the other magus "by accident"?

Can't they simply intimidate the apprentice?

LuciusT has quite some point here.

I see a flaw in the plan of the magus, though. The servants.

A tribunal will have non magi around. Guards, servants and the like. And they will NOT be bothered by the gift of the APPRENTICE. That can rise some eyebrows, specially if he does smell funny to the magical animals around. That could be used as a chink in the plot to unravel it. I can see a servant saying "well you all seem a bunch of jackasses, except that gentle gifted dude over there and the apprentice in that other corner; it is funny since last time he also seemed a jackass to me"


Look, the Order is, if not a secret organisation, then an organisation with secrets. Its political deliberations are not open to outsiders: only the Magi sworn to the Oath and their trusted friends, servants and what not.

And the Order must during its long history have had at least some occasions on which strangers have managed to penetrate its security. Aegis of the Hearth makes such things less likely but I'm sure that it's part of the duty of the Quaesitors to determine that everybody present is entitled to be there.

So it's quite simple, they swear to the Quaesitor that they have these reasons to believe that the person presenting themselves as the Magus X filius of Y, is no such thing and let the full might of the Law roll over the unfortunate apprentice.

It's almost certainly a Low Crime and could be a High Crime if the intent is shown to be to enable the master to do things to the PCs that violate their rights as members of the Order.

Don't let the fact there isn't a specific bit of text to justify that stop you from taking action that would naturally and logically flow from the situation. You can make up precedents just as well as the next StoryGuide!