Mundane Interference and the ArM5 Retcon

Hi all,

Over in the Magical Money Issue thread, I got into a "spirited discussion" :wink: with Xavi, Fhtagn, The Restless Kaiser, Cuchulainshound, Direworlf75, and others. I'm splitting this off into its own thread so as not to continue to pollute Vrylakos's excellent story-oriented thread with what is turning into a lengthy and probably pointless debate.

The question I have for the community is: did the Code of Hermes change radically and extremely from 4th edition to 5th and I didn't notice? Because I have a whole chorus of people saying things like:

What this is all getting at is that the whole concept of "mundane interference" as a High Crime is ... gone. My imagination. At the very least, an irrelevant memory from the 15 years I played Ars Magica before 5th Edition came out.

What I am asking is simply: is this really the current and prevailing mainstream view!? Did 5th edition totally eviscerate the clause, "Nor will I interfere with the affairs of mundanes and thereby bring ruin upon my sodales" to the point where it might as well not even be there? (There is still the "I will not endanger the Order through my actions" clause immediately preceding it, which holds.) And if this is indeed the mainstream view, where the heck did it come from? 'Cause I sure missed something that these other guys saw.

Here's what I've found:

ArM5 page 14: "As long as dealings with mundanes do not harm other magi, nor seem likely to cause such harm (emphasis added), they are permitted. Many precedents, however, have established that working as a court wizard is violation of the Code." That is a country mile away from Fthgan's assertion that a magus can provide a sword to be used in a regicide and the Order can't lift a finger to punish him.

Houses of Hermes, True Lineages page 51: "In particular magi need to avoid supporting one faction of mundanes against another." Later on the same page, "Conflict may arise between a magus and a particular noble or clergyman. As long as the magus does not form an alliance with his enemy's rivals he will not be in breach of this provision" Again, a country mile away from saying you can go out attack nobles and clergymen without provocation just 'cause you feel like it.

Then I seem to remember something in Covenants that normal commercial dealings don't violate the Code.

What I don't see is anything to justify what in my mind is a radical 180-degree shift in the Code between 4th edition and 5th, that redefines the Code to say "you can play kingmaker or assassinate nobles till the cows come home and the Order won't bat an eye unless there is direct and substantial harm to another magus." Where on earth did that idea come from?

EDIT: Fixed a couple of typos

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I am not aware of any change between editions. However how to interpret this part of the code has always been very subjective and I think that is the case here.
In general I find the response of the order to any given activity is very dependent on the individual saga and then can depend more on the circumstances of the event. I,e King Bob is persecuting magi and has made himself monumentally unpopular with the mages of the tribunal and is killed by a magic sword verditius mage A gave to a nobleman who then stops the persecution of the orders, Mage A is found innocent by tribunal.
Or King Bob the good is popular and causes no trouble, Verditius mage A gives a magic sword to a noble who kills him, as a result the church calls crusade against the wizards who slew the good king and kill several mages and destroy some vis sites. Mage A is marched by the tribunal, if someone does not kill himbefore it comes to tribunal.

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a) I think that from a game point of view there is intentionally some ambiguity over what is and is not permitted interference with the mundane. If it is clear and unambiguous what is interference, then there is much less story opportunity. If there is ambiguity then characters can make mistakes over what is permitted, or have different opinions over what is permitted.

b) In character, what counts as non-permitted interference is whatever the Tribunal says is non-permitted. It is a political decision. So there cannot be any hard and fast rules about it, when we are talking about the canon in general (even if there are hard rules in a particular Tribunal, in a particular saga). What one magus does might be permitted, whereas another magus doing fundamentally the same thing might be marched. It is all about context. The context doesn't just depend on what is done, but who does it, who it was done to, why they did it, etc. So, if you are considering whether any given action, say, indirectly (or even directly) assassinating a mundane, the answer is always going to be "it depends on your saga".

Of course, the [Tribunal] can punish a magus for such an action. Equally, the Tribunal could consider this action entirely permitted. It depends on who the magus is, and it depends on who the magi who are voting at Tribunal are, and it depends on who the king was. It depends on your saga.

I'm afraid I think it's rosy tinted spectacles from your perspective. The interpretations of the code put forward in the prior thread are actually slightly harsher than the published code rulings. In particular, the Wizard's Grimoire has the largest source of peripheral code rulings and contains such items as:

  • p28 "No magi of the Order shall aid a mundane power 'overtly or with any sort of magic that can be detected by mortals"
  • p30 A crudader who openly used magic to battle the Moors was fined 20 pawns of vis and informed that to keep both his oaths he would need to fight in disguise and without magic.
  • p30 A maga who openly cast spells on several occasions was deemed to have drawn too much attention to herself and fined 1 pawn of vis as a warning
  • p31 Magus Trentus was charged with personally killing no fewer than 100 mundanes in raids and battles with blatant and spectacular magic. It was noted that he allowed no surviving witnesses, however, and so he was acquitted.
  • p33 A magus was found guilty of killing three knights with magic and enraging the nobles of Normandy, and fined 60 pawns of vis.
  • p33 A covenant was found, internal to the Order, to be aiding one noble against another. It was ruled that this aid was acceptable as long as it was subtle, but obvious intervention might lead the enemy noble to see the Order as his enemy.

I would note that I said that the sword were used for regicide, not created and intended for such. Nevertheless, precedent would suggest that as long as mundane opinion was that the hand holding the sword was guilty, not the creator, even that intent is unimportant. No threat to the Order is generated. The Lady of the Lake is not held responsible for the killings of Arthur. If popular opinion (or even mere discounted rumour) is that the noble was a tool of the magus, however, then I imagine fairly harsh sanctions would be levied.

I don't think there's been a shift at all; I suspect that your own sagas have been far stricter and more isolationist even than canon and that that repetition is more memorable to you than the books themselves. Um ... and the only person actually suggesting that nobles be killed in the other thread was yourself. In fact, it was that suggestion which provoked the most replies.

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The code didn't change at all. It seems that you have been interpreting in a fairly different way than what most people read in the canon books during the past 2 editions, though :slight_smile:

What you quoted is in the context of USING MAGIC to help one faction over another., not giving someone a few bucks from your pocket. I hate when people quote decontextualized sentences, since IMO they weaken their overall argument. You can do better than that Andrew. I have read amazing stuff from your keyboard :slight_smile: :wink:

I think that everything has already been said in the other thread, so no biggie. I will keep negotiating with the king of man. Well, in fact right now I am the king and the players are negotiating with me :laughing: ) They are trying to get some land out of me to raise cattle, exploit its forest and buoild a covenant. To get that land I am asking for:

  • taxes (they are giving money to me)
  • a harbor (they are constructing a military facility for me)
  • a lightower (something that will bring revenue to me as well)
  • killing a dragon (a sevice that will make me popular with my subjects)
  • a magical shield to protect myself (I already have a magical sword, but could have asked for a second sword the same)

None of those is illegal in itself, even if it brings wealth that later I can use to attack the Pope if I so desire. The selling of magical items is also legal and that is way more blatant than giving a few poundfs of silver to a dude. In fact the ruling of the Stonehenge tribunal allows a covenant of 50 members to put A HUNDRED POUNDS OF MAGICAL SILVER into the economy per year (4th edition HtM reference since I did not find the 5th edition reference). If handling the money through intermediaries to a noble, and then he using this is a hermetic crime, giving a one shilling almond to the church using said magical money is a High Crime as well?

I am sure that in most sagas Sevferin of tytalus would get a slap in the wrist for maybe one of those points. At most, if at all.

Mundane interference is (IMS at least, and in the sagas of a lot of other people)

  • Blatantly magical
  • Heavy handed
  • Seen by mundanes AND detected as supernatural
  • Have a MASSIVE impact like whipping out the Capetians from the face of ME
  • AND have an impact on how the mundanes react to mages INCREASING their negative reaction. If it improves it or makes them stay equal, it is not a crime (second part of the sentence: bring ruin on your sodales)

In Vrylakos example, the money is not an issue. The mage that closed the door of his brother's castle magically and bltantly can be charged with a breach of the code and could be prosecuted for it. If he is condemned or not depends on a multiplicity of factors.

Your saga in venice would have your Palatini covenant marched on the spot if what you take so strictly was enforced. :slight_smile:

..... hmm.... I did not want to write such a long post, but hey :slight_smile:


Except they´re not. They made a business deal. How their payment is used isnt their problem unless it directly and negatively affects the order.

Never existed in the first place.

Nothing at all changed as far as i know.

Thats rather obvious isnt it. When did the NPCs in question ally themselves in any way with the noble in question? They are neither in opposition to him nor his enemies, just as little as they are in support of him or his allies.

In theory you can. As long as it doesnt cause problems for the order.
I would say that its strongly frowned upon though, due to the risk for problems it adds.

2nd edition? Words to that effect are certainly in 2nd edition at least. And 3rd. And 4th.
Cant say about 1st edition since its the only one i dont have any books for.

As others and myself have said several times already, there are still ways to push for tribunal prosecution regardless, but unless the accuser holds strong political power there, or the presumed offenders are the black sheep of the tribunal, you need a crime that has clearly been comitted.
And an obvious and very limited business deal, performed very carefully through intermediaries to avoid giving anyone even a hint of wizards involved, there´s just no crime here.
They simply can not be made responsible for how their business partner uses the payment they gave him.
Ill repeat myself:
Your argument is equal to wanting to prosecute and convict a used car salesman and a bartender for their customers drunk driving.

Infringing on the PC covenants vis source, yup that seems to be a crime. How they did it, isnt.

I don't think that is entirely fair.

It's more like trying to convict an arms-salesman of crimes against humanity.

There is clearly a case for the magus being responsible for the mis/use of magical weapons he creates. The Hermetic (and medieval systems) are not set-up to allow dubious actions to hide behind legal technicalities. It is the desire and capacity of the Tribunal to do anything about an issue that is the important consideration, regardless of any technicalities one way or another. This is a political question.

Also, note that unlike real life it is easy for the Tribunal to establish intent (if they want to). As the Tribunal can use scrying to question suspects. A magus cannot hide behind plausible denialability if the Tribunal really does want to investigate.

(Also, as an aside, in some modern jurisdictions a bartender can be held legally responsible for allowing customers to drive off intoxicated).

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Ah, well, there's one thing. Wizard's Grimoire is Fourth Edition supplement* and is not canon. Canon was erased and reset when Fifth Edition comes out. I'm fully aware of what Fourth Edition said, but it's not applicable.

  • Wizard's Grimoire is Third Edition. Wizard's Grimoire Revised Edition is Fourth Edition and that's what I presume Fhtagn is referring to.

Ah, I see a pattern emerging here. I meant to say, "Where on earth in canon did that idea come from?" I thought it was common knowledge that 2nd through 4th editions are not canonical any more.

For the record, the Code of Hermes is mentioned in First Edition but is described only in general terms. The text of the Code was not given until Second Edition.

Well, thanks, :slight_smile: And I could say the same about you (amazing stuff, that is).

I have HoH:TL in front of me and the only clause of the Code that mentions the use of magic explicitly is the one about scrying. So maybe that's the difference between you and me. You inferred that the Code restricts primarily the use of magic, and I inferred that it restricts magi's actions, both magical and non-magical. For example I think it would be a breach of the Code to kill a magus with a (mundane) dagger, or to molest faeries by chopping down trees with a (mundane) axe.

If you can point to something from current canon where there's a precedent that the Code only applies to magical activities, then I'll gladly admit you right. Unless you can, I reserve to right to say you're over-contextualizing rather than admit I am de-contextualizing. :slight_smile:


It is worthwhile to remember that what a Tribunal's Peripheral Code says is not necessarily what it is taken to mean, and that a magus can vote to acquit or convict in any particular case because of mitigating circumstances that need not be defined. So, after all the arguments have been made, magi will vote the way they want to, based partially on law and partially on their interests.

It is also worthwhile to remember that a Praeco can keep a case from ever being voted on.

The Code is a great tool for blocs of magi, because virtually all magi can be construed to be in violation of it. Similarly, it offers escape clauses that can excuse virtually any behavior. "We acquit because overall, his actions did not bring ruin on his sodales, and actually benefited us all." (Grumbling Quaesitor, after acquittal: I don't see how abducting the princess and riling the king has benefited anyone other than the magus. (From the backbench: And the princess!))



On account of earlier mis-interpretations I shall prefix this passage with a big fat IN MY SAGA:

I take intereference with mundanes to be considered a crime when magi interfere with great matters in the mundane world. I do not regard this statement as being a carte blanche to do what you like as long as mundanes never notice.

I take it to mean 'Do what you like as long as potential consequences of the actions are not grave.'

Meddling in affairs of state is potentially very bad for the order. If the order is seen to be allied to a particular Kingodm or alliance that could have far wider consequences for magi all over the known world. Messing with nobles is possibly gonna cause problems for your covenant and those in your tribunal. I don't feel you have to get caught red handed to be fined, just caught tinkering with the mundane world is possibly enough. I believe the action is the crime, not the outcomes. Of course it is much easier to prove if their are grave outcomes.

This stems from the various supplement side rulings, many of which I agree are from 4th, and a general feeling that the Order as a whole is very very risk averse. If it were not it would probably be dominating a number of Kingdoms and waging war constantly.

As a side note the ruling on Oaths to nobles is a seperate issue IMO. A seperate oath could lead to a conflict of interest. The only two other major groups one might share an oath with are covered too you will note.

1: Infernal - always bad - no oaths there. No dealings of any kind permitted.
2: The Divine - well Hermetic magic is powerless to do anything about the divine, so no ruling necessary or relevant. Indeed forbidding such oaths might incurr the wrath of God.

I should also note that this is in my Saga.

When the mundane world is considered, I replace 'potential' with 'actual'.

As I said in the other thread, this is the difference between 'thereby' and 'lest'.

However, as others have pointed out, a great deal depends upon the judgement of individual Quaesitors, and, of course, upon the political situation and mood at Tribunal.

But you were asking whether there had been a shift in canon between 4th and 5th.

As in, "The question I have for the community is: did the Code of Hermes change radically and extremely from 4th edition to 5th and I didn't notice?"

So naturally people were answering you with reference to 4th edition.

Hello! In my sagas (from 3rd edition onwards) we've always interpreted the "interference with mundanes" clause as follows: "Do not interact with mundanes in such a way that will negatively impact - or has a reasonable chance to negatively impact - life for the rest of the Order". I think the spirit of the general principle is very clear.

What may be a bit muddier is how to apply it to specific situations. This is great from an in-game perspective because it allows for great politicking, debates etc. In the case of the kingslayer sword - as was pointed out earlier in the thread - the key issue is how this is going to affect the way magi are perceived by the mundane world. If the sword is given in secret - and in such a way that the secret seems extremely likely to remain ... secret - it's no crime. If there is an attempt at secrecy, but it fails ... tough call. In the latter case, if the slain king was a tyrant whose death will not be particularly mourned, and perhaps one who had made trouble for the order in the past, it should be ok; if, on the other hand, the slain king was loved by his populace and his slaying will put a perpetual "the-bad-guys-who-helped-kill-the-good-king" on all the wizards in the realm, OUCH!

But again, this is all open to a lot of interpretation. An extremely strict, but not unreasonable one, would be: "Do not even make the mundanes aware that there is a Europe-wide, organized order of wizards who can slay armies (and raise armies of undead), cause plagues, bewitch entire cities etc. - because such an Order would certainly be perceived as a threat by the powers-that-be." This is what we actually used in our first, 3rd edition saga.



Pick one.

As for things no longer being canon, this is true. The majority of the changes are, however, small and mirror refinements in system. The social structure of the Order has not changed, nor has Mythic Europe itself, the Faerie Realm aside. As such, early supplements need to be carefully considered but they're still a very valuable resource.

First, if you're going to try to avoid another "spirited discussion", try equally to avoid rants and hallucinatory exaggeration that have no basis in fact. You know, you KNOW that the Code was not redefined "to say you can play kingmaker or assassinate nobles" - please, you just said so yourself:

So, you just yourself intentionally and knowing emphasized the passage that clearly illustrates that the majority of your rant is padded with empty rhetoric and baseless hyperbole. And then pretended no one else recognized that fine point. So... a bad start on several levels, imo.

Further, I (and others) have already made several of your "points" that other thread - perhaps we brought it to your attention in the first place:

So, again, we've been here before.

And I said I was out from that discussion (and far too long in so doing), so I'm not going to rehash any of that. Instead, I'm going to take a stab at the root of the problem, that others have suggested above and I think you yourself have highlighted...

Your fevered dreams?

What you missed is that this was never the case in 4th ed, either. The premise of your question is false - there was no change, it's always been like this.

I'm guessing you didn't start to read these boards (or the Berk list) until 5th ed, always taught AM to and played it with others who did not know the game, and so you never had your eyes opened to the significance of the addition of the phrase "and thereby by bring ruin on my sodales". You had the wrong interpretation from word one, and your memory is tricking you into believing that was canon in 4th, when in fact you've been equally far from canon since 4th.

And I'm comfortable guessing that because you strike me as bright and articulate, and so if you had you would have noticed this little discrepancy long ago.

(Altho', your as yet inexplicable leap from "land rights" to "court magi" still haunts me, so...) :confused:

What happened to you is what happens to a LOT of players of RPG's - they either are "taught" how it works from someone else (and that person doesn't perfectly understand the game), or they are an "alpha tester" in their gaming group and are the one to go out and buy a new game and do the initial reading and understanding of a game, and then teach it to everyone else - and so then have no one to suggest a mistake, nor counter-example for comparison, for years. (And with all the mechanics and world-color in AM, Hermes knows there's ample room and opportunity for such!)

And, absolutely, there is always room for interpretation. Back in 4th ed, you interpreted the Code in a very hardline manner. That's fine, that's creative - the fact that perhaps you didn't do it intentionally is irrelevant. It works for you, it works for your troupe, stick with it unless you feel the need to change - our goal, any "pressure" isn't for you to stop, but simply to stop claiming (and assuming!) that "your personal interpretation" is per force "canon".

Because (c'mon, everybody, you know the words by now!)... it is not. :wink:

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You see, that's what I think you are doing -- claiming that your personal interpretation is canon. (And insinuating multiple times that I don't know how to play, which is offensive and childish.) If I am wrong and you are right, throw down. Show me why you think what you do.

Edit: Actually I don't want to be construed as insisting that you justify your opinion. What I insist is that you justify why my interpretation of canon is incorrect.

Replying here to a message in another thread, to avoid my argument getting in the way of someone else's story. Here's the difference between me and Fhtagn:

My opinion is that the crime is risking being seen to do so deliberately, and risking the wrath of their ally's enemies upon the order. I also think there is direct support for that opinion in the rule book (see below).

Many have said, and I agree, that there's a continuum of mundane relations from "perfectly OK" such as paying ordinary taxes, to "inadvisable" such as providing magical items to only one side in a conflict, to "totally illegal" such as conducting covert missions for a baron. Where "financing a war of rebellion" (see the other thread) falls is open to some interpretation but in my opinion it's pretty darned far toward the "totally illegal" end of the spectrum.

Now to elaborate and diverge off into the world of opinion, whether something is a crime, and how serious is the crime, depends on the risk. What is the risk of that harm happening? Fhtgan seems to be saying the standard is that you have to get caught by mundanes, and they have to actually retaliate and do harm to a magus, before the action that provoked the mundanes is crime. I presume this hinges on the wording of the Code, "thereby" in the clause about mundanes as opposed to the word "lest" which appears in the clauses related to demons and faeries.

I think the ArM5 book is clear that actions that "seem likely" to cause harm (p. 14) are also crimes. In other words I think Fhtagn's position, while playable and internally consistent, is non-canonical. The explanation of the Code in the rule book trumps a literal interpretation of the exact phrasing.

There is plenty of room for interpretation of what "seems likely" to cause harm. Those grey areas are where the story potential is. Where I have a problem is when people claim their opinion is "canon" and then can't back it up with a page reference.

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That's a good defense though I think you are taking it too far. I think it would be a crime if it seems likely to affect the Order (see p. 14 of the ArM5 book). Financing a rebellion that is taking place in an area where magi live does seem to me likely to affect magi.

As to the defense "they made a business deal," yes that is a good defense. However, continuing that business deal is helping to keep the mundane conflicts alive, and so one can argue (and I do) that is puts magi at risk.