Hey guys, I've got some questions as to the Code of Hermes. I've been scoping out the countryside for a good, permanent location for my covenant. Right now we're in an orchard with a weak (+2) aura and a paltry sum of vis every fall. It's fine for a couple of magi fresh out of Gauntlet who haven't even been recognized as a covenant yet, but for an archmagus? Not so much. Ideally, I'd love somewhere that would thematically match my love of fire and flames, as well as my hunger for power. So the spot I'm looking at is Hohentwiel- in the 1200's it's a fortress on top of a dormant volcano, perched above the town of Singen. I want that damned mountain, I want to reactivate that volcano (Awaken Sleeping Giant, Hermetic Projects pp.13), and I want to craft a mighty ebon spire in its newly awakened heart. This will involve the murder of the noble family of von Singen-Twiel as well as the entire town of Singen.
My question is as follows: how the hell do I get away with this? I feel like the Order would probably not be too keen on me murdering a township and its nobles, as this would probably cause us to draw a lot of undue attention. But I was thinking.. perhaps the volcano could just.. awaken in the middle of the night. To the mundanes, it would seem like a horrible natural disaster. To the Order? Well they'd probably suspect something fishy, but as long as there are no witnesses, they probably wouldn't care that much, right? Thoughts?
Just bought my first Ars book! I inherited most of my collection from my SG, but he didn't have the hermetic projects and I neeeeeeeeeeded it
Objectively you could possibly get away with awakening the volcano and then moving in afterwards because you were interested in the now active volcano that you "just learned about".
But you're playing in a game with a story guide, in a setting where there are real for real demons after your soul and actual angels that might come down to smite you. As a story guide, a callus mass murderer that does not suffer for his crimes is not something that I'd like in my narrative. I'd bring down the consequences on your character and see him suffer. If this isn't the sort of story that you want to tell speak bluntly with the storyguide(s) about it and make certain that they're all ok with the sort of story that you do want to tell.
If you want to tell a story of your unrepentant character gaining more and more power and riches and they want to tell the story of your unrepentant character suffering eternal torment, everyone is liable to become frustrated with the game.
Why do you have to murder them? Why not just use magic to control them? I know these aren't your favored Arts, but you do have other magi in your covenant, right?
But, whether murdering a village is a crime depends on whether it triggers the "thereby bringing ruin upon my sodales" part of "Nor will I interfere with the affairs of mundanes." This clause is hotly debated at tribunal gatherings, but, were I the SG, the more overt the interference the stronger the outcry. You might even trigger Wizard's Wars with other magi who were working with the noble, while they begin the legal machinations against you.
Oh I plan on fully communicating my plans to my SG; he's the one who introduced me to roleplaying games, and I often seek his council on my machinations and their possible repercussions. I wouldn't just surprise him with a mass murder.. and while I'm positive I'll cause SOME sort of trouble, as long as it's nothing I can't handle with some more murder I don't see too much of a problem. Best case scenario is I awaken the volcano, 7-league hot-step my way back home, then returning shortly after to claim the space. I recently met Philippus Niger briefly while in Durenmar, and I plan on joining the Ash Gild once I am recognized for my greatness, and gaining his support by completing his challenge and becoming an archmage myself. The Ash Gild believes that magi should have dominion over the land, so I think his views would probably match mine, assuming I can gain his favor. With Philippus Niger on my side, surely no one would dare mess with me?
Jonathan- awakening the volcano will destroy the town below and anything within a moderate radius (I haven't done the math yet but it's outline in the book, I think a volcano 3x the size of this one would destroy anything in a 20-mile radius, so this one would probably destroy anything in a 6-8 mile radius). I plan on turning this area into a hellscape; a worthy throne for the king of dragons >:)
But, the Order's idea of a crime is it's only a Crime if you're caught and someone presses a claim that you deprived them some magical power or perhaps brought ruin upon the Order somehow. And then it's only a crime if the majority of your peers agree with that claim...
Oh I'll relocate them alright... STRAIGHT TO HELL.
Is being guilty of murdering mundanes REALLY being guilty at all? I'm just putting them out of their misery by ending their pitiful existence. They should be THANKING me, and doing so with heads bowed in reverence. It seems like as long as I don't piss off any magi with more clout than me, and my SG doesn't bring the wrath of the divine down on my head, this plan should work? I'll have to discuss it with him.
If you are in a place ruled by nobles they will come inquiring about the lost village.
If the noble can somehow link you to it then he will seek justice.
You will have to either kill him or ReMe him.
Then his lord will come to see what happened.
Then the local Jerbiton will come and see why you are killing nobles...
Then the local Hoplite will come and it will be less funny
Well, depends on the relationships they have with other magi as to whether you're depriving other magi of some power or something. Maybe the noble was bribing another covenant, and now that covenant has lost an income source and is destitute. In Normandy this would be totally legit move, as mundane resources are not part of magical power. In the Rhine, I'm pretty sure that this will not be viewed favorably.
If the liege of the noble comes and investigates and finds a magus of the Order caused this, because he has a court hedge wizard who knows stuff, manages to get an army together and start raiding nearby covenants, well, you've brought ruin upon your sodales...
My plan involves killing the von Singen-Twiel family (the local nobles) as well, since they live in the castle on top of the mountain. I don't like the paint color in the bathroom so I think I'm gonna redecorate with some molten lava. And I wasn't just gonna loudly stroll about announcing my plans to murder a couple hundred mundanes- in the dark of night I was going to climb the mountain and perform the ritual to awaken the volcano. I can then 7-league stride back home and show up a day or two later like "oh hey cool a volcano what a great coincidence!"
The whole thing is meant to be dismissed by the mundanes as an unfortunate natural disaster, and as long as I'm not stepping on anyone's toes by offing the von Singen-Twiel family, I don't think the Order would mind enough to start throwing hoplites at me.
Jonathan- I hadn't thought about another wizard tattling on me, but I also hadn't planned on letting anyone who didn't NEED to know about it know about it. Everything of course depends heavily on my SG, so I've got to discuss it with him first.
Magic of such power leaves signs, signs that a Quaesitor can investigate, and basically identify the caster's sigil.
So, other magi who notice the now erupting volcano might come to investigate, and just detect some Hermetic magic was worked here. They might want the same thing you want, the active volcano and might just trump up a claim, too.
Could this covenant create a border dispute between Rhine and the Greater Alps? There are some bad-ass mofo's in the Greater Alps. Did this destroy a vis source? Or create a vis source that is nominally within their borders? These are some of the questions I'd be contemplating as an SG.
Is the entire covenant of yours on board with this? Stories will reflect a combination of a lot of different factors, without knowing your entire troupe, the characters and the history of your saga, all we can do is spitball.
Yes, I was worried about leaving my sigil at the scene, but as we talked about as long as I don't actually anger any magi who are stronger/have more political clout than me, I should be fine I think. And as I don't plan on making this move until I can become an archmagus, I think I'll probably be safe in that regard.
As I understand, Hohentwiel is firmly within the Rhine tribunal's jurisdiction (in the black forest- took a lot of googling to figure it out). It would most likely create a bountiful source of Ignem or Terram vis, preferably the former (for obvious reasons )
The covenant... ohhh, the covenant. The actual players will follow me, for sure. One of them is more aloof, and as long as he has a roof over his head and a sword to swing he doesn't care much about anything else. The other is a childhood friend of mine, crippled in a tragic riding accident. He wants this as much as I do.
As for the rest of the covenant? Well, I plan on impregnating a ridiculous amount of women (either myself or using the help of a friend I made in Durenmar who's sperm is literally vis, seriously look him up they wrote that in the frigg'n book), rounding up the gifted, weeding out the weaker ones, and indoctrinating the children into the school of magic I will be founding in roughly 80 years. I plan to have a small army of fiercely dedicated apprentices who will obey my every command.
Doogy- you thought he was a psychopath before... muahahaha you have no idea yet
Of course, my plans could all fall to shit in a single season, but you can't blame a guy for planning ahead, right?
The covenant of my current saga happens to be housed on the Hohentwiel as well, so I have gathered lots of details about the local environment for the Ars timeframe.
The Hohentwiel is not just any castle, but used to be seat of power for the local duchy and - while there are no records of its extent in the 13th century - will be the biggest castle ruin of all Germany.
The Twiel family holds the castle at the moment, but not much is known about them. Singen itself is beholden to another family, the Friedinger, and doesn't have any actual ties to the castle at the moment. (There's a tiny hamlet called Twielfeld at the foot of the mountain though.) The lords of Twiel are most likely pretty poor, as the castle will be sold to another family by 1267. The lords of Twiel are currently busy building another smaller castle that's easier to maintain on another mountaintop to the south (on the Rosenegg near Rielasingen, which might be their actual seat of power as they later redub themselves lords of Rosenegg). The entire area is riddled with mountains due to the volcanic activity of earlier ages, and lots and lots of castles have been built there.
If you have any questions about the era, feel free to ask. It's pretty much the campaign setting of my choice that I've invested quite some time in. Here's a map of the area around the late 8th century.
Toa- wow that's great news for me. I've been driving myself crazy looking for info about this, I'm glad I have someone to speak to with knowledge on the subject. I have to talk to my SG about my plans, but I'll be sure to take you up on your offer in the future!
Hmm. A passageway to hell opens in the ground, destroying a whole town, and that same time (plus or minus a few weeks) marks the arrival of a bunch of scary folks with dark, sorcerous powers who take up residence at the very gates of that doom. "Coincidence" is not the first idea that would come to the mind of the average peasant.
As several others have pointed out, from the Order's point of view it's not strictly against the Code. However, an event of this magnitude has a fair chance of creating side effects that are against the Code - from depriving sodales of magical power, souring their relationships with mundanes etc. The more political clout the perpetrator has, and the more trouble he takes to minimize these outgoing ripples, the less likely is that a case will be brought against him.
Another point that should be mentioned is that such an act, regardless of its legality under the code, is the stereotypical act of villainy. Heroic magi and non-magi alike who discover the truth are likely to take up arms and try to rid the land of such evil - this is certainly an act likely to incite declarations of Wizard's War.
Ultimately, I'd say this is the perfect example of a Covenant Hook.
Eye of the storm(Minor or Major). The covenant is widely associated with some cataclysmic event, such as a plague, a military invasion, or a dark curse. The covenant may or may not be responsible, and may or may not be blamed for it, but the event has attracted attention which generates stories. A quaesitor may investigate or claim the Code was breached; a knight may seek to scourge the land of the evil wizards; a holy man may bring the Divine to bear on the problem. This event may have taken place in the past, or may be scheduled to take place in the near future; any collateral damage, such as destruction of the covenant's source of income, requires separate hooks.
The hook is major if the covenant is known or believed to be the cause of the problem, and the attention it attracts is hostile; otherwise it is minor. In the latter case the covenant may still be responsible, but might have successfully deflected attention so far (bribing or misleading snoopy quaesitors, convincing mundanes that the covenant did not cause the cataclysm and instead prevents its recurrence etc.); or it may itself be seeking the truth. The hook may be Unknown.
It all comes down to what your group wants to play through. There is intentional leeway in Hermetic law and politics and in the setting to allow this to work with ease or to bring you down in a hurry.
Personally, and if the players didn't care which way things went. I would make this an Infernal event. In my book, such extreme evil simply is Infernal, whether the PC intends so or not. Otherwise 'evil' loses all meaning. I would make the area develop and Infernal aura, put the castle in an Infernal regio, and have the demons there bow to the PC as king, giving him a high Hierarchy score, and use a powerful demon there to try to convince him to add Infernal powers and servants to his repertoire. I'll possibly give him Cthonic Magic for free, too, just for being so excellently evil that the universe stopped and acknowledged it.
Correspondingly, I'll have pesky Divine knights come seek to cleanse the world from the evil infestation. Which could very quickly bring about more Divine attention, maybe even a crusade.
But that's just my personal taste. Have fun doing wahtever works for your group.
Legally, if the mundanes don't blame it on magi, then its not a crime. But that doesn't mean that you won't get prosecuted. Idealisitc young Quaesitors who do not share your contempt for the mundanes might regard mass-murder as inherently a danger to the Order and investigate. They might even subtly whip up the mundanes against you to ensure that they have a case.
Yeah, this seems like one of those things that leaves large infernal auras and demon infested Regios. On that basis alone I would call it endangering the Order. The SG may decide that won't happen though. Medieval times sucked and killing a village probably isn't a particularly notable slaughter.
Secondly the massive spire rising out of the volcano will certainly tell mundanes that this is NOT natural. Furthermore, the sentiment it whips up could hurt the Order "EVIL DEMONS ABOUND BURN WITCHES!", and unless you are a self-sustaining covenant (or use lots of teleportation) the stuff you ship in will be obvious and mundanes will no longer trust people with similar purchases. (Namely the entire Order of Hermes.)
If the act of mass murder doesn't spawn demons, mundanes didn't realize it was witches/demons/magi, and it didn't cost any magi magical power you are innocent under the Code. The other magi in the Order may convict you or declare Wizard War regardless. Even so, I don't think that would be the case here.
Finally, why not make the volcano active without killing everyone. Just have this friendly liquid hot volcano! Sell mundanes heated baths, separate the elements in magma to produce metal, provide excellent lab supplies to other magi etc. Hell, if you play it right you could even convince the mundanes you are keeping the volcano from exploding! Nothing like giving the mundane world an image of the Order of Hermes as the guys who keep mountains from randomly exploding.