the Code & Nobility

One of my players proposed to me an interesting catch-22 scenario that I didn't really have a good answer to. At heart, the question is, are gifted ever born amongst nobility? Since 1 in 10,000 has the gift, at least some are likely to be nobles. Do these gifted nobles ever join the order of hermes? Again my answer was, it seems likely. Ok then, the player said, what happens if the gifted nobleman violates the code? Wouldn't a wizard's march against him be interference in the affairs of mundanes?

Considering further, I responded that since the order prohibits magi from swearing mundane oaths of fealty and from ruling distant lands (beyond 20 miles) it would probably be standard practice for nobles to renounce their titles before joining the order.

Ok, he replied, but what about an heir? Example: a child with descent from the byzantine imperial family is fostered at a covenant and discovered to have the gentle gift. He claims to have no interest in his position in the line of sucession and is apprenticed. Some time after passing his gauntlet, he sucessfully locates and posesses the battle standard and the Hagka. He defeats the Latin Emperor in battle, has other potential rivals' eyes blinded, accepts the purple, and has a new crown personally made for himself by the imperial goldsmiths.

He is now the Byzantine Emperor. Heck, even if he doesn't have noble blood, he could now be Emperor (see the Sundered Eagle p135), with all the powers of a Christian ruler (as per RoP:tD p42-43).

Sure, there was a lot of mundane interference along the way, but if he survived to this point, who is going to try to march him now? And how would they kill him without themselves interfering in the affairs of mundanes? I imagine assasinating the Emperor would be likely to "bring ruin upon sodales."

What if he didn't even seek the title, but circumstances cause him to succeed to the position anyway? Wouldn't refusing to take the throne be likely to cause some problems with mundanes as well?

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The Jerbiton section of Houses of Hermes:Societas talks about this to some extent. It doesn't go quite as far as you do, leaves it a bit vague. This of course is the beauty of troupe play. How does everyone want it to play out generally? Then you hang stories off that, which progresses the saga from the beginning to the end.

If you want hard and fast answers, you're unlikely to find them, there aren't any.

Oh, and Vrylakos has a saga going through some of the questions you've brought up...
He's posted about it a couple of times.

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I don't yet have the HoH books, but I'll look at that source when I do get them. I would have expected that the quasitors section of Gurnecius would have something to say about that, but they are so dang coy about the code!

Sigh. I knew someone would say YSMV. I get that. I've got plenty of gaming experience. If I read something in a book and don't like it, I have no problem changing it. I find it frustrating, almost a copout, when writers rely on "its your saga, you decide!" That could be said about any bit of fluff or RAW in any gaming book. Something like the basics of the hermetic code seems pretty central to the game, it continually surprises me how little source material exists on it.

I've somewhat frightened my players with tales of being marched if they go too far, and now they quite reasonably are asking for some details. Sure I could just make it up myself. I could also invent a setting and a set of rules. Given that my players are cunning rules lawyers, it usually works better for me to start with published materials, and if I find any weaknesses or stuff I don't like, I change or toss it. Starting from whole cloth myself suffers from a lack of playtesting, amongst other faults.

In this case, it has to do with a single player's concept and goal. Not something I necessarily want to leave up to the entire troupe.

Well, I can share some of the frustration of YSMV, but what you are asking is a story issue. If you're not interested in those stories, you need to find some compromise with the player. If everyone else wants those stories, you need to consider the consensus of the troupe and how you can integrate it into the saga.

The Order is a human institution to manage magi. Nobility is a human construct for managing (mundane) peoples. Where they intersect is where all the interesting stories lie. Each of the tribunals, as written, seems to have differing customs with what is interfering. From what you've written previously, if I recall correctly, your saga is in Provencal or Iberian areas, Iberia has a book from PDF, it's from White Wolf originally, and is really heavy on diabolism.

The Guernicus section of HoH:TL doesn't define what is against the code, it provides an outline of the code that is a bit better sketched out, and suggests some ways of running an investigation and trial.

So, in your area, you may have a zealous Quaesitor who employs a broad network of agents and prosecutes infractions. Since a prosecution is before a tribunal, if the characters are politically connected, they might be able to avoid prosecution.

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The simple version, "tread carefully". Technically it´s against the code, and it wont happen often, but reality will interfere and require acommodations for individual cases.

The common ruling i generally use is that as long a noble also part of the order does not use magic in the role as noble ( emergencies can be excepted ) their dual positions can be overlooked. But unless located somewhere far away from anything important, they will almost certainly draw a very high level of scrutiny.

If he flaunts magic before and after achieving the position, the order will likely make sure he is stopped permanently, one way or another as it´s too dangerous for them to risk letting him destroy their reputation.

What you are basically asking is: if a magus of the Order finds himself in a position of mundane authority (whether by his actions, someone else's, or simply happenstance) doesn't removing him forcibly from such position constitute interference with mundanes and thus a breach of the Code? The issue is that you have (potential) interference with mundanes of the Code whether the magus is removed or not. So it's an issue of what's the lesser evil.

In general, the Order will prefer to remove the magus, for several reasons. First, removing him is a one-time-only interference; whereas leaving him where he is has potential for recurring interference. Second, a violation of the Code to redress a previous violation and set things right is generally considered a "lesser" violation, if a violation at all (this can be surmised from various examples both in the Mercere and in the Guernicus chapters of HoH:TL). Finally, a magus in a position of mundane authority is a terrible precedent that will encourage other magi to seek similar positions.

However, how such removal is effected -- and the possible consequences of not effecting it -- should also be evaluated.
A landholder magus who blatantly uses his magic to cause trouble with other nobles and the church, and who can be discreetly removed by a team of hoplites arranging a "hunting accident" is one thing. A pious magus who becomes Pope, forswears the use of magic himself, but fosters a climate of tolerance towards magicians within the Church is another thing entirely (not the least because any attempt at removing him has the potential of calling down a catastrophic retribution from the Divine).

Finally, note that the first responsibility in finding a solution falls squarely on the magus' own shoulders, whether he chose the position or it was thrusted upon him against his will. Generally speaking, it's fairly easy for a magus to e.g. feign his own death, so any magus who keeps a position of mundane power is most likely not choosing the path of least interference -- so he's technically violating the Code and should be Marched.

Much more fun not to be so binary about it.

I wanted to touch on this a bit more. In the material that is written, it is all carefully crafted to allow the SG and the troupe to explore stories at any level. For example, in the saga I'm SG'ing here on the Atlas games site, I've taken House Guernicus and turned it upside down[1]. They don't uphold law and order, the uphold their Order, and the Order as a whole has been little more than a fiction. It began shortly before The Sundering.

If a house based on law and order decided it has a right to be an executioner... If evidence of wrongs that have been done is commonly destroyed after a Tribunal renders a verdict... If the Duresca Scrolls were true... Every conspiracy theory about the House is true, but few know that to be true. Some in the Order, and even their own House are blind to it. Some are complicit in it, either directly or indirectly, and some have just now been made aware and have to figure out how to fight them. All their actions have been designed to prevent any one particular House from gaining dominance, except theirs, of course. Tremere were strong, and then came the Sundering. The corrpution of Tytalus may have even been a Guernicus trick. And finally, the grandest trick of them all. The Schism War, where they manipulated the Tremere into declaring war, watch them grow week in defeat after defeat, attempted an emergency Tribunal where the ex Misc Primus travelled mundanely with sigils to side with House Diedne only to disappear, there was a slim majority for House Tremere, and the entire House Diedne was renounced.... And the Diedne representative ritually murdered in rituals only the House has...

The spirit of what I'm doing is probably not canonical, though everything I'm drawing from is. I just took the conspiracy theory element and turned it up to 11. That's what vague "story" and background rules allow. Yes, House Guernicus is violating the Code. Who's going to prosecute them? And who's going to judge them?

Another point in the question was the fact that some nations and empires ruled under divine law. Therefore your inheritance of the throne is by Divine Right, for example the pharoahs of Egypt and the God-Kings of Sumer. They couldn't denounce the throne because to do so would have been incomprehensible. Also the empire that saix character stands to inherit is in fact a network of magical regios that overlay actual cities(in some cases). So it could be said the mundane world also does not necessarily know of their existance. I know...complex but if you're not going to be creative why play at all?

Offered without further comment:

  • Rear cover text: Against the Dark.


a noble man in middle Europe has not necessarily to swear a oath of fealthy. If he was lucky (?) he was owner of an Allodial titel, which means that he was the real owner of his land and not bound to any other higher noble. Many of these "free" nobles were not so wealthy as they had no support from her lord. But hey, they were free ...


Given that lords are in dire financial straits quite commonly, buying a small parcel of land (specially if it is an undevelopped backwater) should be fairly easy for a covenant. Not if you want to buy a large tract of land, but a small one with the promise NOT to buy a castle there AND removing the debts of the king of France towards the Templars? Sure, why not?


(Cough) Speaking of interefering with the affairs of mundanes...

I know, I know! I don't know which upcoming release to be more excited about, AtD and Grogs both look awesome. I now have C&C, tSE, and hermetic projects. Once I have L&L and the Rhine book, and my players have completed the sky-ship project, I think I'll take them on a grand tour of Europe - France, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Anatolia, and then perhaps on to Persia and points beyond...

Now how about a book about the Provencal Tribunal?

What sodales of your is ruined because of this?
I was going over the top (a little) but you get the idea :slight_smile:


I don't know, it just sounds fishy. Where'd you get all those mythic pounds? Limits on silver production, yada, yada. :wink:

It's good to be da King.

Anyway, this is the Normandy Tribunal, and never forget it's only illegal if you get caught and prosecuted.

I do recommend getting Houses of Hermes: TL, because it provides the framework for discussion. You can get PDFs of it from e23 for $15. I'm absolutely in love with PDF versions of game books. They can go anywhere my smartphone, iPad, computer go, and I can search for things within them. When PDF versions of the hard cover books come out, I've been picking them up, for example the Ars main rule book.

The oath that must be broken is: "I will not interfere with the affairs of mundanes and thereby bring ruin upon my sodales." If you can interfere and not bring ruin, well, you haven't broken your oath.

That ruling is a peripheral code ruling in the Stonehenge Tribunal, and, if I recall no similar ruling exists in Normandy. Although, I think it has been discussed.

Ha Ha! If luck is with me ( I may have to spend a confidence point) my copy of this order will be at the local gameshop today, my day off and payday! If not, I know the shop has a copy of HoH:S, which I also need.

I'm (mostly) kidding. I get those circumstances. The character that the player was proposing has an heir story flaw and a demonic background and some goetic arts, although she doesn't mess around with demons these days. She was taught these things as a young child, the future heir to a group of witch-rulers of a magic regio co-existant with a mundane city. The OoH wiped out these witches, but kept the gifted child. She is just about to pass her gauntlet, and aspires to be a hoplite...