Prisons in the Order of Hermes

I'm putting together a PbP saga that will follow a group of magi who are convicted of high crimes and imprisoned in a penitentiary covenant.

The Code of Hermes requires some rewriting to permit justice-by-incarceration rather than justice-by-marching. I want to create a convincing backstory for the change to the Code and figure out some of the subtler nuances that add detail to the prison culture. Please share your suggestions.

In terms of legal changes, here's what I have so far :

The Ferrum Carcer Amendment of 1227

“My good parens Solon,

It is as you feared. The Grand Tribunal adjourned last evening after the most eventful and tumultuous proceedings in two centuries. Fueled by fear and superstition the tribunal enacted much of the Transitionalist agenda, including some bizarre proposals from their lunatic fringe which passed as amendments in the wee hours of the morning.

Our ‘beloved’ new primus Acheron acted as Presiding Quaesitor while the wretched Bonisagi Primus Murion sat like a spider in her web, spinning intrigues. Acheron demonstrated his vaunted prowess in Muto, for as if by magic, all solid precedents melted into air, rules twisted like snakes, minor scuffles swelled into behemoths, and high crimes became veritable sacraments.

Two broad changes to the Code of Hermes stand out for particular mention, the expansion of Quaesitorial privileges during investigations and the Ferrum Carcer Amendment. Acheron and Murion must believe that the only way to uphold the Code is by breaking it. What else could explain the new guidelines for Quaesitorial investigation? Quaesitors may now use mentem magics during interrogation, search sancta with a warrant from the inner council of Magvillus, and scry with impunity. We shall offer a poor example to the rest of the order behaving more like the dominion’s High Inquisitors than law-abiding magi.

The Ferrum Carcer Amendment was the strangest outcome of the tribunal. I do not believe that Acheron and Murion truly desired it. It began as a modest proposal put forth by a cunning Tytalus to demonstrate the absurdity of the Transitionalists innovations. But it caught the imagination of the gathered magi, and in a daft, simplistic way expressed the Order’s fear that too much authority had been given to the Quaesitors. In sum, the amendment decrees that rehabilitation rather than retribution must be the goal of hermetic punishment.

To accomplish this goal, House Guernicus will construct a Hermetic prison to house the most diabolical and corrupt oath breakers in the Order. Instead of losing their lives entire, convicts will be sentenced to a term of years during which they are subject to the ravages of age without magical aid. Outlaws will be housed within a supposedly ‘escape-proof’ facility where they pose no danger to their sodales or any others in Europa. Should a convict escape, they will be subject to forfeit immunity, fair game for any in the Order to slay, torture or enslave as they wish.

If only you could have attended. Your wise counsel and respected voice might have swayed a few crucial votes that our coalition needed. Alas, in your absence our allies were disheartened and fell to petty bickering. Curses upon they who brought this twilight upon you Solon! I shall not rest till your assassins stand before the bar of justice. There was a time when the Code of Hermes set such a bar; no more. The villains will find no tender mercy from my blade or my Arts, all sharpened by your tutelage.

This I swear to you with blood and vis.

Fallon fillia Solon ex Guernicus “

Minor point, that only matters if you care about it: This is anachronistic, if your saga follows history. The Inquisition didn't exist in 1220 (or 1227).

From a practical point of view, how do the quaesitors enforce this?

An important decision will be whether the quaesitors make any real effort to ensure that the facility is 'escape proof', or whether they just rely on the fact that escapees are effectively Marched. Also, do the Quaesitors try to prevent other magi entering the prison and slaying the imprisoned magi?

Seems a bit unlikely that The Order would allow someone to legally torture or enslave a magus. The escaped magus is effectively Marched, the only legal response should be to kill him.

Unless tribunal is willing to put up a lot of vis for construction of this prison, it won't be escape proof. Just one seven league stride and person is out.

THe ravages of age part is easy to do. PeVi spell that destroys longevity potions.

I would think the worst offenders would still be marched, it is the mid level offenders that might be marched but are given chance to change ways that should go to prison (the lower level offenders would likely get vis/familiar/apprentice etc fines like always). The jail though gives options for contempt of tribunal, those that refuse certamen (but do not concede the issue to sit in until they accept, etc).

"Get out and you are toasted" is quite a deterrent. It is not that you cannot get out. It is that you do not WANT to get out :slight_smile: Not with people noticing, at least :wink:

There can easily be a couple of items in the prison that tell the Q's if you go out. And you do not need to know they are there. Not all of them at least. Quite a few of them do not even need to be magical, so detection might be an issue. Quaesitores randomly dropping there via teleport to check that everybody is there and to collect arcane connections to the prisoners is also a fairly easy option. It is annoying but werll, you are in prison after all, and life is not for you to enjoy :stuck_out_tongue: :wink:

You just made a disgusting house of people that put their noses where they shouldn't into "the new 3rd edition tremeres" :stuck_out_tongue:

This system changes the Order of Hermes quite a lot, so be aware of it. Quaesitores will have to be combat capable. to start, since they will be first targets in any violent encounter. Hatred will run high, and we are not talking about powerless targets forthe Q's buit people that can easily outstrip the whole house of their right to invade the privacy of others: as well as granting privileges, the tribunals can remove them. That is if there are any quaesitores alive when house tremere decides to simply whipe them out of earth and the other houses join in for Schism war II. FUNNY!


Magi are persons of status and as such should be treated as befits that status. So confinement is unlikely to be of the dank forgotten dungeon type, but rather a sentence to serve a period of time within a given covenant, perhaps providing certain services. I could well see that kind of "community service" being handed down by a tribunal. So the magus would spend his time in somewhat controlled custody, his freedom of movement and of action restricted, but not to the extent that they are debased.

But I guess that's moving away from the core idea of a magical prison that effectively strips a prisoner of their magic. Remember, there are PeVi spells that lower a target casting total. You could have a room or a structure (or even a set of chains) that directly and constantly affect a given target or group of targets. There could be a room that rewards the attempted casting of Parma Magica with excruciating pain and unconsciousness. You could have effects regulating the target's actions. Effects that temporarily removed all knowledge of Latin (which, I think, should at least make using your magical knowledge more difficult - if silent casting provides a penalty it's because the words themselves are important) could be employed. Perhaps privileges, such as eating and sleeping, could be tied to whether or not the target has attempted to use magic during that day.

Funnily enough, I've given some thought to this recently.

I had not considered "contempt of tribunal" or refusal or certamen as a reason some magi would be forced to cool their heels in prison for a season. Thanks for that idea! It solves my problem of how to introduce visiting magi-npcs and ensures a good flow of traffic through the covenant.

I agree with most of your analysis that mid level offenders would populate the prison. If someone is too powerful to contain, prison would be off the table as an option. But I think some egregious and powerful offenders would be confined. I came up with several npc prisoners as a test of concept for the saga. Probably the nastiest and most powerful is a Verditius maga with a major magical focus in Faeries and the Inner House Mystery "Bind Magical Creatures." She led a campaign against several faerie regios for decades before being discovered and captured. And the fae she seized were subjected to gruesome lab experiments. But she wasnt marched because, (1) she has a legion of sympathizers throughout the order and the Quaesitors don't want to provide a martyr to her anti-fae movement, (2) the sheer volume of her crimes will take many tribunals to unravel. I see her as a Milosevic-at-the-Hague figure.

How do you stop them repeating their longevity ritual, once it is destroyed? Are you going to continuously scry on them?

Why not? They are basically under forfeit immunity anyway. Or cast a PeVi effect on them every 6 months and there you go :slight_smile:


I thought that the intention was that they were only under "forfeit immunity" if they escaped.

Also note that for an elderly, and powerful magus there is likely no difference between "being executed" and "having his longevity potion suspended for a period of years"; i.e. he will almost certainly die of old age during his imprisonment. This means that the most powerful Hermetic criminals have no incentive to co-operate with the sentencing regime.