How Effective Could the Code Be?

Reading through various books with an eye to how hermetic justice is despensed has lodged a question in the back of my mind. I was hoping that HoH:TL would resolve it in the Guernicus chapter, but the mystery was only deepened:

Quasitors are assigned to regional tribunals, where they are free to conduct investigations of possible violations of the code. If they find violations, they can prepare a case, publish it at least three months prior to the Tribunal, and then prosecute the case at the Tribunal...which happens once every seven years. And the defendant can simply not show up and instead be tried en absentia.

See the problems here? Its a system of justice where the detectives have no arrest powers and the courts only meet once every seven years.

If one is secretive in laying groundwork, one could be far along in some plot of high crime, dealing with devils, molesting the Fay, endangering the order, or whatever some villian can cook up, before they cross the line in an overt way that prompts discovery. If the Quasitor who discovered the violations of the Oath then had to wait 3 months - 7 years before they could present a case, a determined villian could do a lot of damage to the order.

By the time they were summoned to tribunal, they might have no further need for the Order, or be prepared to take it over, or have secretly corrupted it from within, or whatever. I know my PC's, they will exploit this in terrible ways.

Related question: I thought I read somewhere that quasitors are allowed to break the "no scrying" rule to gather evidence; if they can prove a charge they can't themselves be charged with scrying, but if they can't, they could themselves be accused of a hermetic crime. But now I can't find the reference.

NOTE: I realize that questions about the Oath, the Quasitors, and hermetic justice in general are very much YSMV. For those who prefer a toothless Order, this question obviously will not bother you. But I prefer a more active and structured order, and I've got a PC who was mentored by a demon, and has magic summoning/infernal these things will matter.

If it's that bad, you can always do an emergency Tribunal. I'll go Noble's Parma on the condition for quorum.

He's barely out of gauntlet. I'm just thinking ahead...

I would support Tugdual's suggestion about Emergency Tribunals.

I cannot remember where it is written but there are rules about how many Magi are required, and it s not as many as you might think.

Also the Quasitor could just go vigilante. If he does encounter a miscreant who is breaching the Code with demons (itself a breach of the Code) and he feels he cannot wait until the next Tribunal he might feel justified in taking direct action himself.

At the end of the day any ruling on a breech of the code come down to a vote at the Tribunal. The Quasitor could just turn up at the Tribunal, declare what he has done, explain why it was nessessary, say mea cupla, and ask for retrospective authorisation. After all, we are talking about demons.

Or Quasitor could declare a Wizard's War himself (if he was feeling confidant against a murderous, demon commanding mage). I am not sure if there is a rule forbidding Quasitors from Wizards War.

Or the Quasitor could just hire a bunch of assassins and then deny everything at the next tribunal. Remember the Golden Rule of Tribunal Law, You're only Guilty if you get caught.

I would encourage your players to try to dominate a Tribunal. It would lead to some great stories of intrigue and deal making. Gaining a political concensus over the independant minded magi of a Tribunal is a lot like herding cats. A lot of work for not a lot of payoff. Great of many many stories.

I think it is important that if you have a player who wants to run a mage who likes to skirt the edge of the Code, is not to squash him with the full force of the Tribunal as soon as he steps over the line. I have played in games like that and it is not fun.

OTOH, I've seen the reverse, and it can get ugly.

=> Hoping your player was warned beforehand, you must be fair to him.
If he is cautious and lucky, he shouldn't be caught.
This will be difficult: To hermetic magic, his powers register as infernal, and, although some of his abilities can be duplicated with Hermetic Magic, some can't, and someone with Infernal Lore will probably be able recognize these for what they are. So, first and foremost, he must hide his powers, and avoid attracting suspicion.
If he ain't, and gets exposed as an infernalist, he should be marched. He should be conscious of that, and that this will probably mean death at the hand of more powerful magi
=> With great power, comes great risk.

For the record, know also that these powers can be quite powerful, especially when you substitute Rego and Vim.
IIRC, your players are munckins, are not above abusing/stretching the system, and know how to wrap this in good storytelling. Look at Ludovico in the Light of Andorra saga for what you should expect at worst (although he also benefits from VERY favourable HR), this should help you prepare.

It's on ArM5 p. 14: for a legal Tribunal you need 12 or more magi (including an overseeing Quaesitor) from at least 4 covenants.

If a Quaesitor anticipates having to call an emergency Tribunal (provided you allow them IYC - I find only the emergency Grand Tribunal at the begin of the Schism War as a canon example) or even just declare an immediate Wizard's March (see HoH:TL p. 63) some time, he can establish communication paths with eligible magi - especially Hoplites, Milites, Legionnaires of Mithras and Redcaps - beforehand, and get it gathered in a month or two, once needed. The Tribunal might look more like a posse comitatus then - but in the end that's likely to be its purpose anyway.


I think of regular tribunals as mostly dealing with "felonies", charges that are punished by fines or, at most, light punishments (equivalent to a few months in prison, perhaps). These are the kinds of "crimes" that can suffer delayed repercussions. Most of the time. Remember that in the real world trials take years too; sometimes even 7 years. Even trials that send people to jail, and - for minor crimes, unless there is a significant flight risk - the accused are not kept in custody until they are found innocent or guilty.

For more serious or immediate cases, the Quaesitors use an assortment of methods. In cases where restitution can be made, such as theft, they lean on the accused to accept a "plea bargain", and on the accuser to accept it too, and present a "done deal" in tribunal. I think Trianoma magi do a lot of such haggling, bringing peace to the Order.

In cases requiring a Wizard's March, one way is to conduct an Emergency Tribunal. I reckon a posse of hoplites, the tribunal's quaesitors, the Praeco, and a few archmagi or other notables could Hermes Portal at a moment notice; not all the people will always show up (depending on what they're currently doing), but it should be possible to convene a quorum quite rapidly, and set out Marching on the spot. It is a rare case where a March is declared in regular tribunal; most often, this is done by imprisoning/chaining the offending magus by a senior Hoplite or Quaesitor in lieu of such an ad-hoc March, which in some tribunals would be standard practice (Thebes) and in others (Stonehenge) unheard of.

When all else fails, the Quaesitor can act on his own or with a self-recruited Hoplite posse, and hope the tribunal will affirm his actions after the fact. It almost invariably will, except in tribunals where the Quaesitors, or this particular one, are in poor standing (Rhine). Just like police officers almost always aren't accused of murder when they shoot someone down, and tend to get only a "slap on the wrist" for errors of judgment that result in offences that would send citizens to jail (there are exceptions, of course).

All that said, there is always room for nefarious magi to operate "below the radar" of Quaesitors and the Order, but I actually would pull some Divination shticks to forestall any serious scheme from proceeding far without Quaesitors coming to sniff around. There are plenty of ways to divine the future in canon (although I'm critical of the mechanics of some...), and there is no reason House Guernicus won't employ some to look after the Code, Order, and Tribunal (in this order...).



You forget 'forfeit immunity'!
If a magus is seen to break the Code, he is no longer protected by it. The Quaesitor, a Hoplite, or actually any magus at all can declare that the culprit has forfeit immunity and take action. This more or less means that a single magus decides the culprit is Marched and may kill him. Of course he must face the music himself at a later date, to explain his actions and prove he was right and the other party broke the Code. So a Quaesitoriel investigation may occur, or the case may be brought up at Tribunal. If anyone cares, that is! I know that even in an open-and-shut case where a magus who obviously is a Diaolist is killed, who has no friends or allies, enemies of the magus killing him may clutch straws and demand a trial. And if said enemy magus has enough friends the magus who thought he righteously killed a diabolist may be in trouble.

I know YMMV is a poor answer if the person asking expedted a straight answer, but this is the answer! Your saga decides which kind of stories you want to tell, how the hermetic society is: Toothless Order versus Hard justice, fair trials versus corrupt ones, evidence and truth versus politics and personal support, crimes being committed and tried every other month versus barely any cases at all.

I think this kind of "justice" is a feature. The Magi are very individual, and many have tight loyalties to various conflicting groups (House, Cult, Lineage, Order, Group, Covenant, Country, etc. etc.) These divided loyalties, the natural isolationism, and fractiousness of the magi make it very difficult to take over the order or even create sweeping changes to even a region.

hells yeah bad stuff goes down between tribunals. lots of high crimes, and many many low crimes. for the moment part the rough justice Wizard Marching takes care of this. and the exceptions make history. whole covenants or cults in the order flourish only to be caught years and years down the line. but so few magi want to give up their freedom it is the cost they pay, and just as long as it is too damaging to the Order Magi themselves it is likely to go unpunished for a wile.

The order survivals, but is designed (from a game perspective) to be an engin of intriuge, cults, and terrible terrible breaches of the law. good times.

That's ok. The important thing is that you don't have to wait 7 years.

All of these are good answers, but most important is not to write yourself into a corner by making a precedent that will come back and bite you. More players tend to be lawbreakers than Quaesitores and Hoplites in my experience, and rely on the 'Due process' requiring a tribunal vote to save them.

There are far more magi brought to tribunal for offences that might lead to marching than actually get marched because they act with a knowledge of their political position in the tribunal, and know how much support they can expect. An emergency tribunal being called of a small minority of the tribunal (One shot mentioned 12 magi from 4 covenants to be legal) to vote on casting out a magus leaves needing to make only 6 enemies who can convince 6 other magi to attend a meeting with them and you are dead. That is a very low bar to reach. Emergency tribunals must be a real emergency, with a real deadline expected to justify why it cannot wait until the next full tribunal, and the attendance of all the covenants.

As for the other questions:
I would guess a quaesitore can call a wizard's war, but he would have to get a different quaesitore to sign off on it in my opinion, and I would think the other quaesitore would expect more of a justification for the war from a fellow official of justice than for other magi. Upholding the principal of neutrality and all that.

I think quaesitores are only allowed to scry if they are on official business, ie carrying out an assigned case. They cannot just breach privacy on the off chance that the magi in question might have done something. If they want to scry they have to go and get authorized, probably by either a tribunal meeting agreeing to an investigation or by the senior quaesitore who then takes the heat if nothing turns up and the offending/offended magi complains. I can see Tribunals voting to award vis in damages to magi who have been scryed due to Quaesitorial paranoia.

That's a good point. I think that in most sagas though such action would really only be safe for Infernalism or situations where the guilty party is certain to be marched. Taking the laws into your own hands for a crime that would usually result in a lesser punishment, like a hefty vis fine, would probably get the vigilante into more trouble then the code breaker.

Well there are always the guys who run Quaes and Hops because the want to play detective and/or soldier and hunt down enemy's to the order. Of course almost as common are the players who want to play judgmental zealots, tattle tales and political backstabbers who spend their efforts policing other players.

Did you mean Wizard's March here?
By canon (HoH:TL p. 63) "in the most extreme circumstances a Quaesitor may decide to declare a Wizard's March, independent of any Tribunal. ... As magi who cooperate with a Tribunal are so rarely cast out, in practice the majority of Marches are called this way. ... At the Tribunal the Quaesitor will have to justify the action. The evidence presented is expected to be compelling. Were the Tribunal to be unconvinced, the consequences are likely to be dire."
So a Quaesitor is well advised to ask not only for help, but also for second opinions from magi in positions of power before calling a March. But in the end he is responsible, and letting an infernalist go free because no second Quaesitor was available in time might be seen as his personal failure as well.
Yes, bureaucracy would be a protection for little officials here as everywhere - but the Order appears to have none in this case.
Though individual campaigns may vary.


Nope, I was responding to this quote and getting confused by previous sagas rather than actual rule text. I thought that Wizard's War declarations could only be sent if they had been authorized as due to a valid reason.

Sorry for getting confused and the confusion.

I am pretty sure you don't need a reason to declare Wizard's War. Just as long as you deliver the warning at the correct time all should be good.

Anyway I 'm sure that you could argue that a nearby demon influenced miscreant was a good enough justification.

No justification needed. Social pressure is likely to prevent people from doing this regularly, though. otherwise a bigger fish in the pond might decide that you are not worthy of being alive any more.


Wizard War needs no justification. You can declare it because the other wizard killed your parens or because you don't like what he said about your new hat. But to be legal it needs notification of a month which isn't what you want in a 'hot pursuit' situation.

Declaring a March without Tribunal authorisation is clearly the last resort but is going to happen in extreme cases.

But in less extreme cases, where one magus is persecuting another or is risking the wrath of the mundanes or the fae but has got away with it so far... The Hermetic system isn't so good. I'd be happier if there were annual Tribunals to deal with cases that have come up since the last one. But as written this doesn't happen and no-one in the Order has heard of 'justice delayed is justice denied'.