I'm about to get Tribunal'ed, need legal defense

So, my character interpreted the hermetic code in a somewhat liberal way and now the French Tribunal wants to headclunk him for it. While it hasn't happened IC yet, I figured it was inevitable, and the storyguide has stated it will happen soon enough.

What I did was hire several covenfolk laborers, out of pocket, and equip them with a toolset that aids in the freezing and transporting of big blocks of ice. While it's technicaly on loan to them, it's an item that I could legally gift to a mundane as my One Item a Year. Between that item and some good old fashioned manual labor, they are able to produce a significant amount of crushed ice per season.

Acting through an intermediary (a covenant millita member, and a translator), I struck a verbal deal with some Venetian, French, and English trade guilds to sell this ice. My workers could produce it for less then it cost to store up to summer, so they bought a good amount, and I made a few silver.

And now it seems someone went and complained.

While I don't know the exact charges yet, their likely to be one or all of the following three. I need to know if these can be made to stick, or if there's a way out of them.

Charge 1) By striking a deal with a mundane that contractually obligated me to do something for him that involves magic, I am violating the stricture against being a court wizard. This is punishable by being Marched, or more precisely, death.

My Proposed Defense: "This charge is absolutely ludicrous, and can be dismissed on any number of three clear reasons. First, I have neither promised nor given anything that is the fruit of my labors. What I'm selling is the result of the sweat off my employees backs, not a product of my lab, my magic, or my skills. Second, as our informal agreement concerns only the items my employees produce, there is no way I could possibly be called to do something that could remotely constitute "Court Wizardry." Finally, as the agreement is strictly verbal, informal, and subject to immediate renegotiation at any time, I would not be obligated to so much as lift a finger if he demanded it."

Charge 2) The ice is produced by magic, and therefore constitutes a magic item. This is a clear and flagrant violation on the one magic item limit. Furthermore, (my charachter) again violated the code by selling it directly instead of through an intermediary.

My Proposed Defense: "I should preface this by admitting some fault. While I did work through an intermediary -- my shield grog as well as my translator -- I should have remained a more discreet distance away so as to avoid any accusations like the second. I'm one of those Magi who doesn't trust a subordinate unless their looking over his shoulder.

That said, this charge is demonstrably false. Over covenant employed magical tools to clear the roads that our loggers use. Our wine comes from magic-warped trees. Our grogs, Warped to a Pattern, arguably count as magic, and so any products or goods derived from their warping-granted abilities would be magic. In covenants with aura's stronger then our own, such is often the case. And even in covenants in weak aura's, if the covenant is particularly old or the magi within particularly generous, it is not unheard of for there to be a grog or three with a magical item to aid their labors. Are all of these goods also magic? Is this tribunal prepared to declare every export of my covenant, as well as the exports of the majority of covenants throughout France a violation of the code?

The clause against excessive magic items sale is there for many very good reasons, but this is not my wizard's craft I'm selling. This is mundane business, pure and simple. To outlaw this would be to make Magi's item a year their only source of income -- or to chain them to their covenants as they have no other way of acquiring silver. Yes, magic items are involved in production, but that does not make the goods magic any more then this grog being warped makes him a Magical Creature."

Charge 3) Interference with mundanes.

My Proposed Defense: "I cannot prove that I have not interfered at all, that is impossible. Whenever any Magi interacts with mundanes in any way, they interfere to a limited extent -- on that charge, we are all guilty. By our mere presence, we alter their world. We could argue for hours -- weeks -- about the exact meaning of the word and it's place in the code, but all I would learn is your personal interpretations of the Oath. I see no reason to waste the time of everyone here by playing that tired game.

However, I can prove that what I do is no worse then many established, legal forms of Magi-Mundane interaction. It is the sale of a mundane good through equally mundane distributors, something at least half the covenants here and perhaps a fourth of the Magi engage in. An unusual mundane good, to be sure, but a mundane good nonetheless. It has not brought ruin, or even minor inconvenience, upon the other covenants of this Tribunal, and I find it unlikely Ice will be the downfall of French civilization."

So, suggestions? Do I have a chance here or am I screwed?

You are totally innocent of anything. The only reason someone might bring a charge against you is 1) if they are exceptionally anal, in which case you might get the tribunal to fime him for wasting their time, or 2) someone is gunning for you specifically. Find dirt on them and turn the tables.

I actually can't see a crime there. Unless you are the most unpopular magus in the tribunal I don't see a case to answer. Even if you are the most unpopular mage in the tribunal there will be a lot of people who do not want to set a precedent with a case like this.

I play a traditionalist Quasitor who enjoys marching wizards and hates associating with mundanes and they would throw this cae out as silly.

I would assume your enemies have either faked some other evidence of crimes or discovered a dark secret of yours and thats what they are going to charge you with.

I can think of at least 3 published covenants who do worse than this without any secrecy at all .

Your only weakness would be if everyone knows it is magically created ice rather than just someone with a good supply of ice. Even then you are in slap on the wrist territory .

The absolute worst I can see is a large fine and being told to cease and desist.

You've done nothing against the code, since the important clause is and has always been "bring ruin upon my sodales".

  1. The Court Wizard. You're not in a position of authority not seen to be dictating towards those in power. This then cannot bring the Order into disrepute.

  2. The magical ice. It's not magical. It is created with the aid of magic, but it is no more magic than the snow you might otherwise have packed into an ice-house (which could also have been kept cool by magic).

  3. Anyone bringing such charges up against you had better hope that they've some other way of communicating than House Mercere since they'll find themselves in poor standing having broken the back of the most mercantile house by claiming any and all business deals are classed as "interfering with the mundanes".

That said, if your rivals at tribunal can pay bigger bribes than you can, you're a dead man walking. I suggest blackmail and planning and perhaps sending some supporting letters about, and making agreements to aid, other's schemes. It'll create stories and keep your fat a little further from the fire. God bless Hermetic injustice.

How exactly does one go about bribing a hermetic tribunal? I'm unclear on just how openly corrupt it is? Also, is there any chance I could get out of this with my trading intact.

The tribunal is a popular vote of all attending magi on wether you are guilty or not.
So if they have a good reason to not convict you such as

  1. You gave them 5 pawns of vis
  2. You have offerred to vote for something else they want
  3. They hate the person who wants you convicted
  4. They think after this precedent is set their trading could be closed down by one of their enemies
    5 they think you are innocent

Any of these they won't convict you.
There is no hermetic crime of trying to bribe memebrs of the tribunal (bribing the quasitor investigating you may get him and you introuble) , also there is no obligation for them to do as you ask though.

It is not so much corrupt as just different from modern legal process, you are only guilty if your fellow magi think you are and they also set the punishment so you should be fine in this case

The tribunal is as corrupt as the members, who're the ones voting. The ones who like you will vote to acquit you of something trivial, and vote for minor penalties for greater crimes. The ones who hate you will bay for blood. Being seen as "on our side" by as many people as possible for non-mutually exclusive reasons is a good thing. If you can arrange to be tried late in the tribunal, you can work out who to support based on whose ideals you agree with and, by voting with them and calling on their support, get them to throw in with you later in the hopes of further support.

It's all about politics, as much as proof. Getting the other trading magi and covenants on your side would be a good start. Possibly, for instance, by introducing them to your merchant friends and negotiating a discount on covenant supplies. Mind you, for the truly mercenary, "I'll give you 5 pawns of Rego vis if you vote in my favour" will probably do the job too.

You forgot one thing.

You used magic to produce wealth, although indirectly. Problem is, if your servants were very blatant about it and produced huge amounts of ice, this may produce problems, disrupting the economical balance in the area, and bringing the wrath of usual ice-brokers upon them, you or your sodales.

IMO, this is gonna be the angle of attack.

...hmmm, I somehow doubt there's an ice-merchant mafia. But your right, as long as that's a possibility it's a ground for legal attack.

You think I could make the argument that that's true of any raw material a Magi sells in bulk, and demand they prove that this hypothetical scenario is actually likely to occur?

simply find out who is bringing these charges against you and have them quietly assasinated.

Don't get caught or implicated though! Do it the Tytalus way and find a scape goat.

Going by precedents in recently published material, the only things you are doing that could be considered illegal are producing product for sale in a blatantly magical way or severely disrupting the local economy (both of which are covered in the peripheral code of most tribunals). Unless this leads to greater breaches of the Code, you shouldn't get more than a slap on the wrist.

However, each Tribunal's peripheral code is a large and difficult to work with mess. If you are not an expert on the Code (and especially if you have an enemy who is up on the local peripheral code), I'd hire the Hermetic equivalent of a lawyer and find out if you're missing something...

Sit vis vobiscum,


It's the only thing I can think of if your servants have been going around in public waving magic items around and cackling "see the order of hermes will put you out of business evil ice merchants!!!" that may be trouble otherwise I can't see a crime

Whilst I concur with just about all that my esteemed sodales have said above, I would add the following...

Tribunal hearings, just like the chrages that such tribunals are called to adjudicate, are always political affairs, though only sometimes strictly legal ones. for this reason, regardless of the legitimacy of the claims which may be brought against you, I strongly suggest your character retain the services of a reputable Guernicus advocate as well as possibly those of a Trianomae Bonisagus. (Think of the Trianomae as your solicitor and the Guernicus as your Barrister, in the parlance of good ol British jurisprudence).

Next, and concurrently I would say, have him send letters to the domus magniae(pl, latin?) of Houses Jerbiton, Tytalus and Verditius outlining what you have said above and suggesting to each that the repercussions of a successfuly political contrivance against you may mean the following to each House:

  1. To Jerbiton, that dealings with and through mundanes will be all the more be subject to political threat by reason of the precedent for the overly-flexible application of the peripheral code this will establish in Hermetic case law.

  2. To Tytalus, remind them that this challenge reinforces the position of the draconian authoritarian element within the Order to the detriment of those who would desire to maintain the status quo of "a community of voluntary association" amongst magi and who would further wish to discourage any precedent which might allow the authoritarian element greater intrusionary powers into the private affairs of individual magi for purely political reasons.

  3. To Verditius, that the circumstantial elements of the case revolve around the application of well established regulations on the sale and use of enchanted devices, established by the Verditus Primus in accord with House Guernicus through longstanding Order-wide custom. That as such, the plaintiffs in this case are in principle if not in substance, seeking to undermine House Verditius' authority to oversee its own practices and products.

Playing these political cards will relieve you of some degree of personal necessity to bribe others within the tribunal to your cause as it will highlight selective repercussions bearing upon the existing causes important to each of these Houses and their members. This will undoubtedly provide more than a few of the most influential from each of these Houses within your tribunal with the impetus to enlist their own political allies to your cause either directly or indirectly, either way they should (if matters ARE as you have clearly stated them) wish to see these charges defeated or dismissed and the antagonist(s) dealt with harshly.

Thats how I would play it anyways :wink:

Hope it helps :wink:

Could you - for the sake of the non-british - tell me the definitions/differences between "solicitor" and "barrister" in the parlance of good ol' British jurisprudence? :slight_smile:

Anyway, the Hermetic dealings of charges and rulings regarding justice at tribunals seem to be less regarding truth, justice and crime and more regarding politics and intrigue.
This case is very weak IMHO, if this si a crime, then the courts will be packed for a long time after this. But someone might have it in for the "offending" magus.

The wonders of google:

A solicitor is entitled to represent a client in the County (Civil)
Courts and in Magistrates' Court (a lower court in the English court
system). They are also the main legal representation for the majority
of people and companies in England and Wales: if you were buying or
selling a house you would engage a solicitor to carry out the
necessary legal niceties; a solicitor could assist and advise in
will-making; and they may also initiate private prosecutions or assist
clients against either public or private prosecutions.

A barrister is a legal professional who is qualified to represent
clients in Crown Court or the Higher Courts -- they can be considered
roughly analagous to American "advocacy lawyers". Much of their
training and abilities will lie in the courtroom skills of
cross-examination and rapid thinking. Regardless of whether they
represent the prosecution or the defence, a barrister never deals
directly with his or her clients -- instead they will be briefed on
the facts of the case by the client's solicitor, although they are
free to allow the courtroom proceedings to carry on as they see fit.

While technically the punishment for violations of the Code is renunciation and death (unless you can survive a Wizards' March), it's usually reserved for the most heinous crimes - murdering other magi, diabolism, selling the secret of the Parma Magica to the Venetians, that sort of thing. It's much more common for the Tribunal to ask the magus to submit to a lesser punishment, like a fine or a season or two of service, and then to bring out the hoplites if the magus refuses.

In this case... I suggest making an eloquent defence, spending Confidence Points and getting good dice rolls.

Thanks Crispin! Yes indeed my dear sodales, it takes but a moment to do a google search on unfamiliar terms :wink:

I always find that term:definition as a search criteria will result in the information I seek.

As to the suggestion directly above, I would agree that in terms of the mechanics of the proceedings that is the way to go in this case, but in terms of the roleplay prior to the actual proceedings I would advocate my suggestion as to what the character should do to engage a wealth of potential allies to his defence at Tribunal.

I would agree with others here. You should only be in trouble if it is known by the mundanes that the ice you are selling is produced by magic.

I don't know if the saga you play in rules that the ice is still magical after being produced, but is it possible that it is causing warping amongst those who have been eating food stored in it for a long period of time? Causing warping amongst the mundanes you are selling to would be bad for your reputation both mundane and hermetic.

It's entirely possible they know he's a Magi should they have the right Lore skill, but he certainly didn't tell them. They natural asked where he got the ice from -- he said something believable but vague about alchemy and the ice being treated with a humor of Oil of Vitrol, and then declined to say anything further about it on the basis of Trade Secrets. In any case, while his distributors might know, there's no way the final customers actually know. That is rather the point of having a middle man who knows how to be discreet.

And no, the ice doesn't cause warping, although it does show up as an item under the effect of PeIg magic because of the way it's produced.

The problem is, my character has only a rank of Charm and no Guile to speak of. I'm worried that no matter how eloquent my argument, the storyguide may just say. "Make a Charm roll....well, with that total, it looks like you just punched out the judge's mother. He's going for the death penalty."

Hyperbole, obviously, but you see my concern. Is there any way I can negate this? Possibly by hiring some manner of legal expert to speak on my behalf?

Given my Charm modifiers, the last one will be key. The only thing I have working in my favor is that my character has neither concealed his activites nor been evasive about them when questioned. He's acted like what he's doing is legal, so t here's no "You look guilty" penalties.

Of course, my Charm is only 1 better then my Guile, so...

Assuming that things are as you described...
Assuming that charges are actually going to be leveled against you despite the lack of overt criminal action...
Assuming that the charges will not be dismissed during the preliminary proceedings of the Tribunal before going to the full Tribunal for a vote...

Several things become obvious.

  1. Your character has a powerful enemy or enemies.
  2. Your character is generally disliked in the Tribunal.
  3. You need help and no one is going to give it to you without some appeal to self-interest.

I'd go with what I quoted above. It seems your best hope... :frowning:

Just out of curiosity, what did you do to get yourself into this mess? :laughing:

Sit vis vobiscum,