how could a tribunal restrict the ability of magi to wage wizard's wars

An (almost) hypothetical question.

The scenario is this: The saga takes place in a tribunal, either a newly formed one like Lotharingia or a tribunal where the PC's have created a significant powerbloc and they want to change the culture and peripheral code in such a way that magi are forced to seek peaceful resolution to conflicts.

Ideally they would forbid Wizard's Wars entirely, but they dont have the support to have the Code of Hermes changed.

What kind of rulings could a tribunal pass to make it harder to wage Wizard's Wars?

So far I have been able to come up with the following:

Require a longer period of preparation:
As I understand it, the customary period of 1 full moon cycle from the declaration of war to the beginning of the war is specified in the Peripheral code rather than in the actual Code of Hermes. So a peacefully minded tribunal could require a longer period of preparation.

Stricter conditions for a valid declaration:
For a declaration of Wizard's War to be valid it must reach the target of the declaration of war so that they are aware that they have been declared war upon. Currently the customary system to ensure that the target of a declaration of Wizard's War is to pay a redcap to deliver the declaration and have the redcap witness the declaration. However I see nothing to prevent a tribunal from passing much stricter rules for what constitutes a valid declaration such as requiring the presence of the presiding Quaesitor or multiple witnesses, or even requiring that both participants sign a document declaring the war together at the same time.

Another possibility is a system like in the Rhine tribunal where each guild has a combat capable magus with a standing threat that any declaration of Wizard's War upon a guild member will be met with a retaliatory declaration. AFAIK the system in the Rhine tribunal has made Wizard's Wars exceedingly rare.

Would it be legal to require magi to try to settle their disputes via mediation with a neutral third party and/or require them to try to settle via Certamen before a valid declaration of Wizard's War can be issued?

What other option does a tribunal have to limit declarations of Wizard's war?

In Tribunals like an hypothetical Lotharingian, where magi interact more freely with mundanes, more precise rules are required anyway to prevent leveraging mundane relations in conflicts among magi - vulgo "detrimental meddling with mundanes".
Preventing atavistic wizard's wars could be a side effect of such rules.

Formulating joint interests of the entire Tribunal with respect to mundanes could be a way to clearly define - for later sanction - most of the "detrimental meddling", and result in a Tribunal Inc. with every member magus being a stakeholder. And of course one doesn't wage wizard's wars against fellow stakeholders: it would be like pistol duels in a board of directors.

If an old-fashioned magus then wishes to wage a wizard's war against another Tribunal member, he could always relinquish his stake in the Tribunal's interest among the mundane world first: in other words, return his share of the capital.

Just an idea ... :nerd_face:


Shortening the time window for the wizard's war. Limiting it to a day, for example, would make it very difficult to execute effective attacks.

Requiring all magi to periodically serve all other magi in the tribunal in some way, in the form of community work. Thus someone killing another magus, even if through a lawful wizard's war, could be accused of deprivation against all members of the tribunal.

Establishing a special position: a hoplite (or preferably, a small group of hoplites, like 3) who is required by his office to declare Wizard's War on all tho delcare it on anyone. Arguably this is dangerous for the hoplite, but the fact that this position is a tribunal office and has the full material support of the tribunal (vis, mundane agents, enchanted items) should be a serious deterrent.

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if you look at the Hibernian tribunal, it requires a public declaration of Wizard war- while other aspects of the system make wizard wars much longer and easier to declare, the idea that it 1) needs to be a public declaration (distributed through redcaps to the entire tribunal, at the cost of the declaring magus) 2) must be witnessed and confirmed by a redcap by the magus for whom it is declared against 3) time for the war to begin is determined by the witnessing of the respondent, not from time of declaration, and will begin on the full or new moon following the witnessing, whether the declaring magus has been informed of the witnessing or not and 4) any magi may respond with declaration of alliance with the challenged magus, beginning a separate wizard war between themselves and the original declaring magus, with the same rules for start time as if they were the challenged magus.

That should reduce Wizard wars to an act of last resort.


Why would you want to?

From an OOC perspective such changes to me would make the setting feel less medieval and mythic.

From an IC perspective it would seem to take away one of the safety valves and limiters of conflict in the Order. In a world where prowess and magical power are claims to being the better mage and having right of way this would make Certamen the focus. And above that would lay only unlawful conflict for irreconcilable differences. This is undesirable among the figures of such power and ego as Magi. It allows conflict to either fester or become something hidden and denied/unacknowledged.

The safety valve function of both Certamen and Wizard's War are that they prevent both that and the resulting general tendency of grudges and conflict to escalate. While still giving the ability for Magi to test their power directly against one another in something short of open magical warfare.

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they didn't say anything about removing certamen. Certainly the Transylvanian tribunal has greatly reduced wizard wars...

Even if you don't require alternative methods being used, strengthening them would be likely to reduce the incidence of Wizards Wars anyway. Strengthen the importance of Certamen as an alternative to War (culture in the Translyvanian Tribunal expects you to act as though someone who beat you in a non-trivial certamen could have killed you but didn't), or beef up the Peripheral Code for the sort of offences that tend to get people declaring Wars.

Both of these have their downsides, though - strengthening Certamen will strengthen the Tremere relative to other Houses (which said other magi won't like), and the Peripheral Code risks getting very dense and ending up favouring more powerful magi.

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The canon history says why Certamen can not be the main conflict resolution. It will be abused.

Magi are selfish, like most people with any degree of power in Mythic Europe. In Mythic Europe, laws are less about justice and more about justifying what powerful people can get away with.The Order of Hermes aren't any better. The fear of a Wizards War is a good balance to unfair abuse of political power.

Whatever method takes precedence, it is likely some of the more martial wizards types will be annoyed by Magi they perceive as lawyers and certamen weenies screwing them out of resouces, and attack them, if a wizard war is permitted or not.

It could be an interesting story arc, and it could cause as large a conflict as the Diedne schism if you wanted it to.

For clarity, the Tremere encourage the abuse of political power...

Are you thinking of the modern Tremere, and if so in what ways? Sigil holding and block voting? Those aren't clearly abusive to me (and they're not really encouraging it in anyone else, except in so much as they tend to encourage other bits of the Order to develop more structure).

That, and the way they organize the Transylvanian Tribunal, where they heavily discourage wizard wars and maintain tribunal rules which literally encode the ascendancy of their house into the laws.

Collect a tax on Wizard's Wars and collectivize the Wizard's belongings, either to his/her covenant if the Warring wizard isn't part of it and the Warred wizard isn't the last member or to the Tribunal. Pushing the tax and arguing its merits would make for a good Tribunal.


I am not sure where you get this. As I read the hermetic history of Certamen it was abused because there were no limits on what you could challenge people to Certamen over, meaning that you could demand that others break the code if they lose the Certamen, thus putting them in a situation where they either break the code by living up to the terms of the Certamen or break the code by not living up to the terms of the Certamen.

It is my impression that after the code was changed so that Certamen explicitly does not allow the winner to force the loser to break the code then it has worked out fine enough. Or as fine as a system of justice by trial can.

@Salutor you make some good points about how strengthening the weight of other methods conflict resolution in the tribunal, is itself a way to discourage WW's.

In making the the OP I was thinking along the same lines as you are getting at by talking about beefing up the punishment for the kinds of offenses that happen when people declare WW's, but I am not so experienced in what kind of offenses that is.

@Oneshot it is a really good idea to implement a sort of pact or contract (or covenant if you will) with a deposit of valuables, that a magus must sign to be considered a resident magus of the tribunal, and have that pact forbid WW's between co-signatories. That idea is high on my list of potential solutions.

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This is a very important issue and another one that I have little solution to. Obviously it would not do to replace WW's with Certamen as it would be almost akin to handling the Tremere the proverbial keys to the kingdom. I dont know how to solve this though and any ideas would be more than welcome.
One of the primary reasons I want to reduce WW's is to reduce the ability of the powerful to bully (and kill) the weak, which means that Certamen is also not an ideal conflict resolution mechanism, at least long term. But it is also my intention that this will be a progress. My saga has mostly magi who do not care for violence and are trying to break free of the authoritarian structure of the Rhine tribunal by forming the lotharingian tribunal. Thus non-violent conflict resolution

My best solution is to hold tribunal more often and have the tribunal behave like a city court. Possibly to have the tribunal give charters to interest groups of magi, or guilds if you like, to allow them to settle smaller matters internally, through a similar process to how tribunals solve such matters, namely through voting coupled with @OneShot's solution.

Thinking of potential reasons for Wizards Wars:

  • The target has done something vile to a magus that isn't actually against the Code. This one can probably be dealt with to at least an extent by widening the Peripheral Code, although people will still come up with new ideas you hadn't thought to legislate against from time to time.
  • The target has done something vile to a non-magus which isn't actually against the Code. This is basically the same as above, but likely to be harder to legislate against as magi are less supportive.
  • The target is a political (/religous/etc.) opponent in a matter that you care about enough to kill over. You might manage to make some headway in enforcing Certamen for this, but you're probably mostly looking at bumping up the costs of doing so.
  • The target betrayed Mystery Secrets or otherwise annoyed a cult. Likely to be hard to come up with alternative dispute resolution if no-one wants to tell those outside the cult what's going on.
  • You don't actually want to kill the target, just scry on them for evidence of Diedneism / prevent them from turning up to tribunal / bully them into making some concession to you / otherwise take advantage of the fact that it's not just the "will not slay" protections that get suspended during the War. This is probably actually a group of different reasons, with different solutions - bumping up Certamen arguably helps, but also makes bullying less risky, and you almost certainly don't want to put the ability to break the Code back into it for the reasons discussed earlier.
  • They're a Tremere who has knowingly failed to muster in a time of crisis without very good reason. There are a few different ways you can go with this - persuade the Tremere to soften their reaction (by just declaring the culprit Orbus, for example), or write some version of "failed to abide by Tribunal witnessed oath" into the Peripheral Code.

One of the problems with writing things into the Peripheral Code, though, is that you can only call for a Wizard's March for High Crimes (HoH:TL pg 46), so you're limited in the sanctions you can apply. It would probably take a Grand Tribunal ruling (and a lot of work) to change this, should you want to.

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Thinking about it further, one potential issue you could run into if you're trying the "retributive declaration" approach is the line in the oath "...and that should I be slain in a Wizard War no retribution shall fall on the magus who slays me."

Now there's precedent for that to still allow individual magi to declare Wizard's Wars in response, but once you start making it official tribunal policy that such Wars be declared I think you're getting onto shaky legal ground.

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That is a good point.

But what if the retributive declaration is made not as a response to "my slaying" part but in response to the declaration itself? If I were the grand tribunal I would not let the solution of institutionalized retributive declarations of wizard's war stand, but perhaps it would be possible to prevent the grand tribunal reaching a verdict on the issue for a prolonged period.

The system of retributive declaration of wizards war is already the standing policy of the guilds of the Rhine tribunal so there is at least some precedent. Perhaps it could be possible if the tribunal required resident magi to sign a charter where the signatories pledge to not declare wizard's war until they have tried to resolve their differences through mediation, and where the tribunal hoplites pledge to declare wizards war upon any magus who declares wizard's war upon a charter signatory. In essence forcing the entire tribunal to behave like a single Rhine tribunal guild.

The difference with the Rhine, I think, is that it is not an officia policy of the Tribunal itself. It is a "gentlemen's agreement" amongst the gild, which newcomers to the tribunal are discreetely informed of.

IMHO trying to directly enforce less WW is not the way to go. Punitive action goes against the Code. Indirect paliative measures would provide greater benefits. Someone suggested greater frequency of tribunal meetings -- something like that might work.

Another possibility would be something like a "conflict resolution board" that meets whenever a conflict arises. This would not work for all conflicts, as noted previously.

I thought Tremere, as the last surviving Founder, was abusing Certamen to lock in political alliances, resources, etc, to try to make the order united under Tremere. His major lieutenants got assassinated, and he learnt his lesson. It is interesting that Tremere's major allies were assassinated, not marched.

I may have the history wrong, but I'd be surprised if Guernicus let such an obvious abuse of Certamen get past him. He was portrayed as a lot more legally minded than that.

I am sorry to say that you do have at least part of your history wrong. Guernicus did not let such an obvious abuse of Certamen get passed him, in fact he vetoed it, but the other primi overruled him.

Here is an excerpt from HoH:TL - Guernicus (page 55 the big text box insert), explaining how the ruling was changed. Note that until 868 AD there was no legal limit to what you could demand in a certamen:

At the Grand Tribunal of 868 AD , after much consultation with House Guernicus, the certamen ruling was amended and reinstated. Certamen could not be used to defy a Tribunal judgment, make a magus break the Code or ignore a Code violation.
If a magus believed he had been challenged to certamen over a Code protected issue, he might refuse it. This would technically forfeit the dispute, but if the challenge was illegal it would be unenforceable. If the challenger believed the challenge was legal, he could publish a case for failing to respect a certamen result.

In other words originally you could challenge someone to certamen over anything, even if it meant the loser would have to break the code to comply with the result of the certamen. Presumably you could even prosecute your victim for the same code violation afterwards. Guernicus was not happy about it, in fact so unhappy that after the ruling on certamen passed he never left his home again(!).
I might add that Guernicus was also a against allowing wizard's wars (HoH:S - Flambeau, p 8-9).

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