I'm considering whether to allow a player to use Summoner from the ROP - The Infernal book. Such a character would be a member of House ex Miscellania as a non Hermetic member of the Order. However the question would come up of which powers such a Summoner would be able to use without breaking the code.
Summoners can use their powers on spirits, ghosts and incorporeal creatures other than demons, using the spells to summon, bind, command and steal their power. By itself none of those seem to be in breach of any of the code, but I would appreciate a second opinion (as well as third, fourth etc.)
The key laws to worry about would be 'Deals with Devils' and 'Aiding enemies of the Order'. Dealing with Devils is written in the HoH TL as making agreements with Devils even seemingly innocent agreements. Aiding enemies of the order bans magi from maintaining friendly relationships with declared enemies of the Order. Breaking either would be a fatal mistake. However non diabolist Summoners have absolutely no need to make agreements with devils to force them to serve him, and the Order has refused to name all devils as enemies of the Order to avoid arousing their wrath.
Ablating also needs to be considered as it is by far the most powerful ability of the Summoner and can allow him almost complete immortality and a variety of personal powers. However such power would be tied to the infernal realm including any might he gains. Technically it would not be illegal for a magi to have infernal might, but that might not prevent nastiness.
Situation 1 err on the side of caution: If the summoner was to avoid all creatures of the Infernal entirely in his magics, instead summoning only magical spirits and ghosts, and was relying on binding to get his service out of the spirits. The summoner would also not learn ablating to avoid that tricky facet.
Situation 2: The summoner doesn't summon any creature he knows to be a demon, but would summon anything else and make agreements with them.
Situation 3 stick to the letter of the law: The summoner would summon, bind, command and ablate freely. Knowing that making agreements is the only thing forbidden.
Which would you think players could manage without being marched, if any?
It really depends on the circumstances. The thing about spirit Summoning is that it's tainted, so that any magus with Sense Holiness and Unholiness can figure out that you're doing evil things, and once another magus suspects you it gets a lot harder to prove you're not dealing with demons and endangering souls. It's sort of a built-in Dark Secret. Ablating isn't as subtle, since Hermetic magic can recognize its evil nature, but it's basically the same problem.
Really, it's not whether or not you can actually avoid breaking the oath (I don't think you can, as having Infernal powers is probably proof enough that you've dealt with devils to get them), but whether or not you can convince others that you haven't broken the oath. That's really hard to do when they know that you have evil powers, so you basically have to convince them that you don't have them, and practice them in hiding if you must.
Really if somebody is in his sanctum, you could argue that he is scrying you, and that make him guilty of a Hermetic Crime, but you in the worst of case are suspect of something really hard to probe.
Summoning is a grey power, but some necromantic wizards teach betwen his Traditions, then isn't really a crime the use with magic and faeric beings.
If I scry on you and by scrying provide evidence that you are guilty of summoning demons, then I am in the clear (as I was investigation), and you still get marched. However, the trick here is to catch me doing some scrying that doesn't turn up anything, you get me convicted, and in the future others will not be so reckless about investigating you.
So even though the law only mentions making agreements with them, that is a pretty much definate. No summoning demons and remaining a magus in good standing.
So infernal taint being detected would lead to being marched? I would disagree as the Chtonic magic leaves you tainted but isn't an automatic death sentence, but that is the key argument about whether or not a Summoner would be a useable character. Although infernally tainted I don't see any specific law against magis being tainted, and there is a fair amount of other spirits to summon, and other powers to steal without dealing with demons at all.
It is a matter of semantics. In English, "Dealing with Demons" means more than just making agreements with them. Dealing can refer to any interaction with the Infernal, agreement or coercion or even just willfully communicating with them. Technically though, hunting down and destroying demons is also a form of dealing with them. I can imagine some fussy magi making this claim, worried that antagonizing the Infernal may cause trouble for the Order down the road.
It's like a Dark Secret, in my opinion, so yes. Or rather, it depends on the person doing the detecting. If a magus believes he has come to grief because of another magus dealing with demons, and the investigation shows that the accused does deal with demons, a March seems likely to me. I suspect few magi will be sympathetic to a defense of "Yes I have infernal powers, but I don't use them for evil."
I doubt anyone would charge a magus with dealing with devils just because he has the spirit Summoning power. Well, maybe if he has a lot of political enemies. If someone catches him using a tainted power, however, he's probably going to be remembered as someone to question if there's reason to suspect diabolism.
Interestingly, I wonder about Sense Holiness and Unholiness being used as evidence of diabolism. Technically, it's scrying, isn't it? A quaesitor could possibly use it in connection to a specific investigation, I suppose, but for the most part I suspect the summoners would be very careful to challenge anyone snooping around them with divine powers, as it's so dangerous to them.
Possibly...but an infernalsist is an Enemy of the Order, so you can do what you like (scry on them, kill them, etc). The problem is scrying on someone you suspect is an infernalist and discovering that you were wrong; they are not an infernalist.
On the other hand, using Sense Holy/Unholy on a magus (who isn't an infernalist) just indicates that they are not Unholy...i.e. are not an infernalist. You haven't gained any knowledge about their magical secrets via scrying. The worst case, would be if you detected that they had Holy powers --- then you have learned something about his magic secrets via scrying.
The problem is, that looks very suspicious. I think that the summoners are probably much better of to keep a long away from everyone (Divine powers or not)...set up laboratory in a regio that is difficult to enter and say that you're not home to visitors.
It really would depend on the tribunal. If you look in HoH: S, Tytalus was a necromancer that did compel non-infernal spirits in his battle with his Paren.
It would be relatively easy to prove that you are not diabolist and use power on others than devils by getting hit with multiple demon's eternal oblivion spells to insure he is not possessed and InVi to prove no protective spells and then frosty breath of spoken lie.
The purge of House Tytalus may have occurred because of the infernal taint of the Goetic Arts. The Tytali claim that the so-called 'diabolists' of their house were persecuted not for their actions, but for the taint of their magic (there was also a political motivation as well). HoH:S makes it clear that Tytalus's native tradition was (or similar to) a Goetic one.
Of course, records other than those of House Tytalus (Guernicus, for example) presumably have direct evidence of "deals with devils" rather than just a suspicion via an Infernal taint. Or perhaps that taint is all that is needed.
I was imagining degrees of taint, like there are degrees of Faerie taint on various merinita. Just like creatures can be infernal without being demons, that there are fairly nice and innocent wizards whose magic is dark enough to be tainted. I had also imagined degrees of taint like someone using tainted magic to demon hunt (cthonic), someone who uses tainted magic neutrally for their own ease (Summoner), and those who outright serve Hell.
Saying that all infernalist (someone who uses magic tied in any way to the infernal realm) is an enemy of the Order seems overkill. In 5th edition at least the HoH TL seems to imply that the Order is a lot more careful about naming anyone an Enemy of the Order and refuses to even declare all demons as enemies.
However the general consensus here seems to be that, while it is not technically illegal to be infernally tainted, you can still get marched because of it.
I'll echo all the points made so far about the taint of the goetic arts having issues -- but I'll add something you may have overlooked. Namely, balance issues. The balance of Summoning is extremely questionable, but Binding is decidedly, horribly overpowered. Ablation is vaguely familiar with balance as a concept, but wouldn't know, never actually having been anywhere near it.
If you give your players Summoning, you must make them pay for it. Spirits should be devious, clever backstabbers and the taint of the word "Sorcerer" should follow them through the order like a vile stench. It defeats much of the flavor of the game if there's an easy, consquence-free path to power.
As for the other virtues (binding, ablation, banishing, etc), I recommend not allowing them at all under any circumstances. They are a license to print all the XP, Vis, and Might you'll ever want -- a virtual "I Win" button.
The issue of marching someone just for being tainted doesn't strike me as likely. There would likely have to be some more proof than that. The only way I could see a wizard marched for such a taint is if they have a lot of enemies with a lot of pull. Wizard marches are not that common and no wizard wants to make it easy to march since the next time it might be them.
That said, I too would still make them paid for any use of the abilities and talents. It is not meant to be easy and in cases, a demon would be easier to deal with since they want to speed the person to hell and have lots of time to influence the person.
Also keep in mind that what goes for the summoner using infernal arts on non-demons, can also be applied to divine character using abjuration. (we have a mythic companion, kabbalist with kabbalah (abjuration) in our saga and it is going to be interesting to see how we have the order react to him. (he is not order member but also character is just starting off).
Which probably is the point, more or less. Unlimited power! At the small price of your soul, friendships, etc. and eternal damnation. Probably going out in a blaze of terrible glory in fewer years than you would like, reviled and feared.
Well, I'd make the point that eternal damnation is not actually a cost, because costs, when describing game balance, are not costs ot the character but costs to the player, and the player does not pay any cost for what happens to his character after death.
As such, damnation's not actually a flaw worth anything.
By that same logic, immortality isn't a state that should be paid for because, on the scale of any given game, it doesn't matter unless you can't be killed, whereas resistance to aging would be extremely valuable. Virtues and Flaws aren't perfect and don't fully descrribe everything, nor can everything important to a game be encapsulated in the rules.
I'd argue that if, for you, immortality was the end state you were seeking, then its a Win to get to it, and as such it has value.
I'd note though that immortality is the default state for the religious in Mythic Europe, and as such it's not all that valuable and isn't represented by a virtue. You only pay if your version of immortality allows you to stay in-game when the average character would have left the game.
Which is to say, I agree: immortality of itself is not a virtue.
IMO, that's why, by the RAW, while Summoning may be affiliated to other realms, the other Goetic Arts are always infernal abilities, thus making them a true Dark Secret, as you gotta be careful when using them.
Making them a non-infernal, simply "tainted" magical/faerie power greatly lessen this curse, and reduces them to just another kewl power.