As the title says. If a Magus leaves House Tremere to another House, do they get their sigil back?
If they want it, yes. Technically they merely allow the holder of their sigil to vote on their behalf by proxy, the holder doesn't have any legal claim under the Code to it. It's a custom, not a law. Refusing to abiding by the custom would get you punished or even kicked out normally, but if you were already leaving the House point is moot.
Sure, you just have to go to Transylvania and submit your case that your sigil needs to be given to you. Or get another tribunal to take up the issue at the Grand Tribunal, potentially decades later. Of course if you live in another tribunal they have to bring the sigil there to vote in your name so that is leverage...
Exactly. AM, the law is only as good a the ability to enforce it.
However, saying that, one does not need to be a strong and powerful magi threatening wizards war to get ones way, one just needs another strong and powerful mage or tribunal willing to thwart the mage or tribunal messing with you.
Theoretically, they just need to ask for it back. However, I'm sure the house leadership would try and persuade you to stay....and Tremere elders are notoriously persuasive.
Would they give you it back calmly, or would they make a show of having a large group of Tremere turn up, have the most senior destroy your sigil in front of your face, say "We no longer have your sigil. You are no longer one of us. Make yourself a new one and register it with the Quaesitors" and then have all the gathered Tremere publicly turn their backs on you and walk away to show how much they regard you as a non-person for quitting the house?
I like to think the Tremere would have a ceremony especially for this rare event.
(In older editions, you wouldn't leave because they held arcane connections to you. If you asked for those back, they would say "Challenge the house champion for certamen if you want the house's property back." If you can beat a Tremere certamen master, you're powerful or sneaky enough to go where you want.)
There's a bit more or less explicitly addressing this in the Guernicus chapter of HoH:TL (pg 48), albeit from the opposite direction, which I think Bittergeek is alluding to. Quoting it explicity:
The Tremere practice of holding the sigils of filii is a free proxy. Therefore under Hermetic Law the decision of a Tremere magus to make his parens (or whomever) his proxy is entirely legal. In principle a Tremere magus can demand his sigil back at any time. However, membership of House Tremere is not a Hermetic right and the leadership of the House can cast out any member they choose for whatever reason. Therefore, Tremere magi who demand their sigil’s return are effectively leaving the House.
It's worth noting that the Tremere are generally relatively law-abiding (they do tend to try to influence what said law actually is to their benefit, but as part of that they then want it to be the norm that laws are actually obeyed), so I wouldn't expect a magus who was leaving the House anyway to have to go to great lengths to get their sigil back.
Depending on the person in charge at the time I could see them a) destroying the sigil, b) making you defeat a newly gauntleted apprentice in certamen to maintain house forms, or c) simply handing it over. I could also see the house using it's coordinated influence to make your life miserable for having left.
As stated by others above the process of giving away your sigil as a Tremere is in theory voluntary, and thus you can demand it back at any time, legally speaking. If the house refused to hand over a sigil they would exposed themselves to being sued as a house and it would allow the other houses to strike against house Tremere and sanction them.
I think that the Tremere would hand over the sigil without much fuss. To refuse to hand over the sigil on behalf of the house would be to explicitly and unambiguously breach hermetic law, something which house Tremere either cannot afford to do or at least would be very reluctant to do. It would make it very easy for enemies of the house to paint the Tremere as tyrants which runs counter to the current (5e) tremere ambition of being seen as law abiding and constructive citizens working together for the common good.
Naturally noone would expect the new magus orbus to be treated with any great love by his former house mates and it would be more expedient for the Tremere to simply wait a little and then try to sanction their former house mate in whatever way they see fit.
A sigil can be represented by a physical thing, but this is custom not law.
If a magus left the Tremere, he could vote anywhere he liked with his sigil with the possible exception of Transylvania where the other Tremere might be difficult about it.
Anywhere else, as long as he was a legal resident, he can vote. His sigil is merely the token he uses, if at all, to represent himself. Even if the Tremere didn't give him back his original token, he can make another.
No other house is bound to recognise the customs of the Tremere. And if the Tremere protest the magus could essentially declare "I'm not a member of your house, I don't consent to you holding my sigil therefore you don't hold my sigil".
I'd imagine the Tremere would probably not make a big deal out of it. After all, if someone wants to leave that badly, they clearly aren't going to be adding to the unity of the house by forcing them to stay and making a big deal about it in tribunal will just make them look petty in the eyes of other houses. Better to return the token, abandon all claim on the sigil and then spread rumours and gossip about the magus behind his back.
or return the token and declare multiple wizard wars or...
a lot really depends on the character of the Tremere in your game.
I like that interpretation.
My vision of Tremere is a group of frustrated control freaks, who know the order would be so much better if they did things the Tremere way, but understand they aren't in a position to make that happen.
Tremere are biding their time, setting a positive example.They are trying to make themselves look indispensible. When things go wrong, they will be there to help the order sort it out.
That control freak aspect, makes me think leaving the Tremere family is a bit like the way the mob is portrayed in the movies. The only way to leave Tremere is in a bag.
The person leaving Tremere should be prepared for a lawfully declared Wizards war. I would think the magis Parens would likely be the one to instigate it.
I agree with you fishy that the tremere are like the mob in many ways including that they would really rather that you could only leave the house by going for the next life (i.e. dying).
However I think that like the mob, the Tremere cannot be too obvious about that policy since the rest of society will not tolerate it.
If the tremere had a policy of declaring a wizards war on any defectors, until the defector is dead they are de facto declaring a wizards march, and opening themselves up to all sorts of harassment and defamation which would undermine their operations. Much better to orchestrate a horrible fate for the defector down the line once the wider community has forgotten about them or make sure that they die in an unfortunate accident with no tremere for miless around to be suspected.
A policy of killing all defectors would also remove the possiblity for tremere to strategically "defect" from their house to infiltrate other groups as they would be obvious moles for the fact alone that they are not being immediately killed. If there was a rumor that the tremere sometimes defected strategically to infiltrate other groups this rumor alone would make life very difficult for tremere orbi (is that orbus how i pluralized?) because everyone else would suspect them of being a mole.
I hadn't thought of the double agent angle. True. You need a few real defectors, to allow the possibility of double agents to infiltrate other houses.
There are definitely canon examples of former Tremere who have left the House and survived at least a while - for example*, HoH: S (pg 28) mentions that Ramius was a mid-ranking Tremere who defected to the Flambeau (and then founded his School). That was right after the Sundering, so you can argue that things were different then, but I don't think there's any direct canonical evidence that the Tremere do go about routinely declaring War on everyone who leaves.
*I have a feel there are others, but can't remember what they are off the top of my head.
There probably would be circumstances in which they would, but I would expect those to involve significant provocation above just wanting to leave; e.g. "We're in a crisis and need your skillset (which we've spent resources helping you build up) urgently to save the lives of your sodales" "No, that looks dangerous, I quit".
If a Tremere were foolish enough to leave the house...and if another house were interested in risking the displeasure of the house by taking them in (yes I know some would out of spite)...that magi would look forward to a future of political of harrassment, at the very least.
If the house appears to let a Magi go without a fuss, you can assume its all arranged and should think twice about accepting him into your house.
Of course they KNOW you would expect these two outcomes...so can you trust either?
I could see that happening, frankly, but I think if the Tremere were too open about harassing the other magi, they would run into a lot of problems with the other Houses and it would cost House Tremere a lot of political capital that it might want to otherwise have.