Imprisoning Accused Magi and other tricky subjects

Assuming you identify a wizard consorting with a demon, according to the Code (AM p 14) you kill them. Of course if you're not in front of the full Tribunal at the time, or accompanied by a Quaestitor, and someone later complains about the murder you better hope you have sufficient evidence to present.

So - assuming you've rendered the diabolic mage unconscious for now and you want to keep things nice and tidy you send off for the Quaestitor to bless the whole affair before you carry out the death sentence.

How do you keep them from casting spells for the week until the Quaesitor arrives?

Or how do you keep them on ice until the next Tribunal?

And is it even legal according to the Code because you're potentially depriving an innocent mage of his freedom?

What's a law abiding magus to do?

Primarily, it's be prepared.

The answer is going to be on the nature of the specialist(s) available to the capturing side, and the capabilities of the diabolist. A Mentem specialist would keep the magus asleep. A vim specialist might put them in a room and then cast an effect that destroys all magic in that room. My general guideline is that killing is the best way to keep them from casting spells. Otherwise, I'd go with a layered approach of a high level Aegis, putting them in a cavern with no doors by the Terram specialist, surrounded by a circle of something that can be used to power a circle spell that destroys all magic within it surrounded by another spell that wards him against corpus, preventing him from leaving. More than likely, you can't accomplish all of these things, because you're not prepared for this circumstance.

Optionally, declare Wizard's War if you are concerned about evidence. Yeah, you give him time to prepare, but you also solve some of the preparedness problems you would have otherwise. It might also cause him to go to ground and expose him to others.

Gag them, so they can't communicate and most will have a big penalty to cast spells. Tie their hands together and shackle them to prevent hermetic gestures and make escape difficult. Blindfold them so it's harder for them to target you if they can cast spells. Make a chastity device with spikes on the inside to discourage sudden movements....

and THAT'S why our covenant has a dubious reputation. Still, it usually prevents escape.

Serious anti-escape magic takes a lot of work unless you have a handy regio to use as an oubliette. Alternatively, you can act like medieval nobility and trust their honour if they have a good reputation. If they have a bad reputation, act like medieval nobility and take hostages or insist on having leverage. "While you were subdued, I took some blood as an arcane connection. When you surrender to the quaesitors, I will gladly hand it over to them. In the meantime, I would not recommend escape for one of my covenant is very skilled at arcane tunnel spells"

Wizard's War, for one thing, though those are arguably easy to survive. For the capture itself, it depends on the character, but I find that waiting for their Parma to fizzle and then applying generous quantities of Perdo helps. PeMe so they're too stupid to remember their magic, PeIm all of their senses since non-Personal magic requires sensing the target... If you're feeling especially cruel and happen to have that one Merinita flaw that makes all Perdo temporary, break every bone in their body and blind/deafen them so they can't move at all. If that much evil isn't up your alley but you're still a Perdo specialist, Perdo Ignem can, with attentiveness, keep them indefinately unconscious from Fatigue.

Of course, unless your evidence is "he was conducting a diabolic ritual right then," it'd be better to get Quaesitorial sanction prior to making any move on the diabolist in the first place.

There's probably an article or two to be had in how to bind, control, or imprison rogue magi...

My understanding of imprisoning men/women of status is that on the whole it was akin to house arrest rather than locking them in a dungeon. And if we're talking about magi of the Order then my starting assumption is that you're going to treat them as persons of status. So I'd say much of it might be taken on trust, i.e. the accused/imprisoned is expected to play a part in their incarceration. They might have conditions placed upon them, such as not to leave their covenant grounds, not to receive visitors, to refrain from certain magics. Or they might be told to reside in a neighbouring covenant within an Aegis to which they are not granted a token. Again, restrictions on movement and communication would be likely.

They might also have some kind of bond placed upon them. Their apprentice, familiar, or talisman might be held ransom against their good behaviour. Either way, they can be certain that sufficient arcane connections will be retained.

If there is sufficient reason to suspect that the magus has really been up to no good and that they may pose a danger to others or to their own immortal souls then a period of enforced incarceration could be justified. However, I can't see that being for very long. It almost certainly wouldn't wait for the next scheduled tribunal meeting and I'd imagine that Quaesitores and Praeco alike would convene a council to hear the matter at short notice.

In such cases, the magus would certainly be stripped of his magical accessories, held within a strong Aegis, perhaps one purposefully cast, restricted somehow from casting the Parma Magica, and likely watched over by Hoplites and Watching Wards.

Bottom line is, there is virtually no means by which a magus able to call upon all the Art can be incarcerated without some chance of escape. After all, who knows what powers might be aiding the magus from outside all those clever barriers you might think were proof against his magic?

I agree, and if the magus is intending to argue that they are innocent at Tribunal, then they will probably co-operate with reasonable conditions that the Quaesitors might place on them. On the other hand, if the magus suspect hasn't yet been found guilty by the Tribunal, then it isn't clear what authority the Quaesitors have to place any conditions on the suspect. So, the Quaesitors probably won't be too onerous on suspects, unless (as you say) it is an emergency situation in which case it won't be for long as the Quaesitors can quickly convene a council if they want.

Otherwise, while you are waiting for the Quaesitors, then regiones with limited, controlled access points can be useful prisons; although potentially the suspect can still ReCo his way out.

If the bishop (or archdeacon) is co-operative then churches (esp. cathedrals) are also good places to incarcerate relatively young magi. The casting penalty due to a strong Divine Aura can be pretty problematic, especially if the suspect is also suitably bound and gagged.


You don't imprison a diabolic magus. You kill him. There is no effective way to prevent him mentally commanding his infernal familiars, even if he's kept unconscious.

Keeping him unconscious is a foolish risk, for which you'd be critiised by any sensible quaesitor, IMO.

Of course, murdering even a guilty magus is a sin. Demons are tricky.

Assuming a covenant and magi not heavily specialised in hunting dangerous renegade and non-hermetic threat, I would go with darkwing suggestion: blindfold, gag, handcuffs (there is a variety called "poucière" in French, holding both thumbs thightly, making it even more difficult hand gesture).
Then strip him naked to deprieve him of any magical items or arcane connection he could have. Be suspicious about tatoo and strange marks.
I would add to keep it in small cell where it is impossible to lay, stand or sit - it should prevent the magus to recover from exhaustion, hence making spontaneous casting unlikely to happen.

Keep in mind that all those options are non-magical, hence do not need to penetrate and can be known by mundane, skilled witch-hunter.

Then, if you are in good term with the local clergy, see it is possible to keep the prisoneer on holy ground. Every bits help. Probably a simple and crude way to imprison him if there is not adequate cell, would be to bury him up to the neck in a holy ground, gag him and blind him and keep him in total silence (a PeIm around him, but not necessarly on him - so no need to Penetrate), so he has no reference and has heavy penalty on any power use and cannot know where he is.

The way I could see it done is a buried mage, neck deep, in the church backyard, gaged, with a bucket on his head and a grog sitting on the bucket. "Hello, mam' How do you do ! Me ? 'am just keeping the priest's apples from being stolen. 'ave a lovely day mam'." (yes, I have a cartoony imagination).

Finally, the last non-magical means I can think of are drugs keeping the magus drowsy, incapable of focusing or downright knockout - but you need to find a way to feed him or he would die from starvation if kept for too long.

Once you have access to magical knowledge, taking sample of arcane connection is a good step that every magus would remember to do. InVi on tatoos, marks and overall to see if despite being naked there is still something magical somewhere.

Otherwise, you need to rely on spells or magical items:

  • Making all the items used to neutralised the prisonner impervious to magic (ReVi of some sorts). It could be surprisingly effective: with a magus at -15 on all his casting attempt (unless virtues like Silent Casting, deft form and such), with only one Fatigue level left, Penetration total should be quite low, making even small MR quite challenging to overcome.
  • Mu spells are quite useful: most animal or plant form are incapable of speech and gesture, even movement.
  • Obviously Mentem spells are useful to prevent use of magical or surpernatural ability, as long as you know what you want to mask/make him forget. Keep in mind that such spells could interfer future InMe during investigations or could be use by a clever defendant to say that his client's mind has been altered with fake memory and he is not able to discern the true event from the fake, and the magi are putting on him the blame for the actions that they did.
  • In Mages of Hermes, there is one Flambeau magus who has a contraption design to prevent spell caster to use their ability. The base spell can be used to design effective nullifying spells - but this is for truly specialised magi.
  • There was debate if Circle and prison wards were able to prevent the trapped creatures to use its ability - you might want to have a look at the topic and bring the discussion with your troupe to see what will be your guidelines on that one.

Because most of those spells requires to Penetrate, they are potentially less efficient than the mundane tricks.

In fact, against non-hermetic powers, magi are not well suited to efficiently prevent their magic from happening. To be trully effective, the magus designing a counter spell should know the source of power (which realm it is aligned with) and a good understanding of what it does (summoning, entrancement, curse...). So it is unlikely that generic magus are prepared the first time they encounter such issue.

Of course, after that, it all depends on the power/spell/virtue combo the imprisonned magus has access to. If he has mastered Leap of Homecoming, Turn to Mist and deft Corpus, tough luck, you've got a slippery one. By the way, if you design a diabolist to be a magus enemy, you should consider what would be his plan to escape in case of being capture, but avoid a full-proof escape artist, it will feels to much like DM fiat.
Like in most case, given enough time, even junior magi can come up with efficient ways to keep a neutralised hostile magus from escaping.

It's been over a decade, and the details of most of it are hazy, but a maga captured an enemy magus by turning him into a frog. This reduced his voice and gesture to zero, and to make sure he couldn't focus she shook him every few minutes to keep him distracted and off-kilter. I don't think we kept him prisoner for very long - he was rapidly tried and executed; I think he may have been previously marched.

More effective to keep for trial would be to turn him to a statue or other inanimate object, but the penetration might be troublesome.

Oh, Penetration's a breeze, just double your lowest Art with Chthonic Magic!

... What do you mean we aren't the diabolist? How boring.

Only real problem with the "just kill him" answer is that if your proof isn't good enough you're the one that'll get tried and possibly Marched. Sealing him still deprives him of magical power, but then you just have to, like, pay him a bunch of vis and hire him a doctor or something.

Penetration really shouldn't be too hard, in any case, since the Parma falls at sunrise or sunset. Long as he's unconscious at those times, you've got a window where you only need to overcome his Form. And I'd argue that since the PM is a little ritual, he probably can't do it if he can't move or speak. :slight_smile:

In our case the capture and transformation were a single act. I seem to recall a maximal use of vis to hammer through his Parma.

Penetration, generally, is not a problem in Ars if one is devoted to their primary "combat" spell."