The Hermetic Market for Gifted Children

Was thinking of a character who sought, procured, (perhaps trained, perhaps not) and then marketed Gifted children as apprentices and/or lab [strike]slaves[/strike] assistants. I've kicked this idea round the Troupe in question, but I was thinking about it again and was mulling over several sticking points, thought to throw it out to the general populace here.

(And to any of my Troupe & SG who might read this - not holding anyone to any opinions or citations offered here - we've covered it amply imo. Just more grist for my creativity mill.) :wink:

The legality doesn't worry me - some Tribunals may disapprove, but none go so far as to outlaw the practice.

References (that I can find) in Peripheral Code (see below) imply it's "discouraged but not illegal" (my wording), and GotF describes that Coeris practices it (insert, p 102 - see below). So it seems that opinions would differ, with some just not caring, some (tacitly?) supporting it, and a (politically irrelevant) minority condemning it.

So everyone can opine, here are the references that I have found.

  1. Guardians of the Forest (insert p 102)
    [style=Times New Roman]
    [size=120]The Slave Trade[/size]

[size=120]Prague is home to a large slave market. The word “slave” derives from “slav”... The Church forbids making Christians into slaves. The trade in slaves is controlled by the (corrupt) Knights of the Sword, and is a lucrative source of income... They transport the slaves to Prague and sell them to Jewish merchants, who then transport them to Muslim lands and sell them again...

... a trusted companion of Roznov covenant (see below) uses his Magic Sensitivity to spot and filter out any Gifted children among the slaves. They then find themselves delivered to Coeris, the domus magna of House Tremere in the Transylvanian Tribunal.[/size][/style]

  1. Then, from the (4th ed) Timeline posted * on these boards...
    (* by Erik Tyrrell : https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/hermetic-timeline/1003/5 )

1188 1327 Provencal: Magus Teslil of Jerbiton finds a Gifted girl and, already having an apprentice of his own, sells her to Magus Gentric of Jerbiton. [WGRE] See 1331 for additional developments.
...
1192 1331 Provencal: Magus Gentric dies. His property is disposed of in the manner of his covenant, and his apprentice taken by Magus Alarmon of Tytalus. [WGRE] See the Provencal Tribunal of 1333 for additional developments.
...
1194 1333 Provencal Tribunal of 1333: Magus Teslil claims that the former apprentice of Magus Gentric, who died 1331, should be granted him, as Gentric had been of his House and he had found the girl to begin with. The Tribunal rules that Teslil, having sold the girl, had given up all claim. [WGRE]
Regarding Magus Teslil, the Tribunal noted its disapproval of selling apprentices, but did not forbid it.

(WGRE = Wizard's Grimoire, Revised Edition)
And that's about it.

(There's also a 2nd or 3rd ed adventure about a particularly Gifted child being sold by slavers. It's more complicated than that, but I don't know if any of it's relevant here as I can't find the text atm.)

So, in short, it seems that The Order does not see taking apprentices "as slaving", and so to be "endangering The Order" that way - if it did, there would be chaos in the Tribunals. The "Slave" info is included to show that Coeris, as a House-supported effort, has an active search machine in place full time that relies directly on the mundane slave trade, and not because any particular mage is searching for an apprentice of their own, but just "on spec". (Whether or not this is "common knowledge" in The Order may be a different matter.)

//////////////////////////////////////////////

The specific points that still nag at me are:

  1. The Code - How best does anyone, mundane or Mage, offer a gifted child for sale without risking another magus simply "claiming" them as their apprentice? How does one maintain their "personal property" (a slave) and yet have a Gifted child that is not currently their "apprentice"?

How to prevent House Bonisagus from claiming them under their particular right?

(I would hope that the "deprive of magical power" clause would suffice, coupled with the fact that the child is being actively inserted into the Order in general and not being kept for personal use. Thoughts?)

  1. Fair Market Price - What might the price be for a generic +0 Int child w/ The Gift? For a +2 Int with some training in Latin and Magic Theory? What is the price for someone truly "special", like with a heartbeast or strong Fae blood or other House- or Cult-centric Virtue?

  2. "Who is behind this?" It has crossed my mind that if a mage acted openly and frequently to pander such merchandise, they put themselves at risk on a number of levels from inside and outside the order - from ostracism and prejudice, from theft of the merchandise, from political or clerical action (valid or nuisance), perhaps from vigilantism, even revenge from one of his previous sales. They risk a dubious reputation, if nothing else.

3a) Would a Tytalus' "Personae" be about the best way to create a distance between mage and "procurer", to best prevent anyone from making the connection?

3b) Custos - In your opinion, could a mundane (of some stripe), working with and augmented by the mage, be the "front man" for these sales? Or would it almost have to be a Hermetic Mage himself, as only they would have the adequate status to not be "robbed" (one way or another) by other Magi, with or without* the aid of The Code?

(* Technically, if a mundane were "robbed" of a gifted child, they would have few ears to turn to. A magus in whose name they were acting could appeal to Tribunal, but...)

  1. Practical Security - The Code aside, how best to prevent individuals or competitors from simply stealing "my merchandise" before they hit the market.

  2. Over-stock - What best to do with additional Gifted children who do not sell? (A less important consideration, but it crossed my mind, so I'll toss it into the pot.)

In a word, secrecy.
They can only claim the apprentice if they can find them. Cut in a redcap for part of the profits and have them be you face man. Nobody else sees the child until payment is made, and they are delivered by the redcap. Ideally nobody else will even know who you are. Because while the code may not forbid the sale of gifted children, it also does nothing to protect it.

Opening the Gift is the start of apprenticeship. So, to claim the child as an apprentice a magus must (start to) Open the child's Gift.

On the other hand, hanging onto Gifted children for slave-trade could be considered to "deprive other magi of magical power" (perhaps). As ever, depends on context. I think that a slaver would ensure what he was doing by a combination of having political allies at Tribunal that found the slavery trade convenient, Certamen and (perhaps unspoken) threat of Wizard War.

Saga dependent, as it depends on the rarity of Gifted children (or the rarity of Gifted children with specific traits). If any magus spending a season travelling around the Tribunal can discover one or more suitable apprentice candidates, then probably only a few pawns of vis.

Whether people are bothered depends how convenient the slave trade is to everyone else (i.e. other magi). Mundanes might not be too alarmed either. Although slavery might be frowned on in parts of Mythic Europe, it is not unheard of. Besides a peasant child is probably much better off, in the general scheme of things, if he is sold as an apprentice (or even a lab slave) than living his life as a peasant. Also, his birth family might well be paid something, the effect of the Gift probably means they will be thrilled to get rid of him, and they might imagine (rightly or wrongly) that he will eventually be able to use his new station to favour his family somehow.

Having political allies at Tribunal that found the slavery trade convenient, Certamen and (perhaps unspoken) threat of Wizard War. Perhaps, by dealing with "reputable" clients (like established covenants and Houses) who are likely to want repeat business, and hence are less likely to try to screw you on a single transaction.

And, like in any hostage scenario, you should collect payment before revealing the location of the child.

Donate them to selected magi/houses/covenants. Hence why you have political allies at Tribunal that support the slave trade.

realistically nobody is calling it slavery either, it's a 'finder's fee' with a possible upcharge for preparatory training.

Yeah, the more I think about it, the more this has to be a shadow operation, even from sodales in the Covenant (easier/safer for all concerned).

I keep forgetting that by AM 5 some Redcaps have in many respects become the "black market" of most anything outside the normal purview of the Order, in many ways a separate entity unto themselves and often winking at awkward parts of the Code and sometimes even operating entirely outside it - but always for the betterment of the Order. Of course. :laughing:

Yeah, but even that is poorly defined, legally (at least by modern standards).

A mage quests to find an apprentice, brings them home, and announces they will open their Arts first thing the upcoming season. But until the first day of that season, the apprentice is legally just another grog - nothing more, altho' one with great potential. In short, a complete wild card if any matter need be brought before a Tribunal.

(And, yes, you've seen this before - shame neither of us could stick with that Saga. I'm giving it a swing now.)

Altho' no mage worth his vis would buy an apprentice sight unseen, exept perhaps on the word of the most trusted of Redcaps, and even then "subject to approval". (Starting to sound like... well, like any black-market deal you care to name... 8) )

Redcaps as intermediaries are sounding better and better.

Probably better than any other idea that's crossed my plate, and among the simplest.

I'd say you keep any for-profit "proto-apprentices" the same way you keep any other proto-apprentice: when other magi stop by, you push the child into your sanctum. As long as your coven-mates don't claim the apprentices for themselves, there's nothing a visiting magi can do without risking being killed by your sanctum's defenses.

There's an explicit plot seed in the Bonisagus section (or is it Gernicus? I forget) dealing with the more above-the-board version of this: a Gifted mother was waiting for their Gifted child to grow up a bit before Opening their Gift - and another magi swooped in and claimed the child as an apprentice. Technically, there is nothing wrong with this, although everyone at the Tribunal (if I recall the story seed correctly) agrees that the latter magi is being a complete a-hole. The point being: there's nothing against keeping a child with the Gift that hasn't been claimed as an apprentice yet - as long as you're willing to accept the risks involved.

And I agree with Silveroak - there's no way this is going to be called slavery. The apprentice process is a form of medieval slavery anyway, and this is just a for-profit pipeline into that process. As an example: how many apprentices to you have to kill before it comes up at Tribunal? 2? 3? The fact that the number is "greater than 0" indicates that the Declaration of the Rights of Man are a few centuries away from being widely accepted.

Now that it's been brought up - I'm thinking of having my PC create an InVi "Detect Gift" enchanted item (from Apprentices), and get someone along the slave trade as an agent to peruse the wares, and to buy up anyone who seems to have the Gift.

EDIT - Serf's Parma, but I seem to recall that "slavery" was mentioned as one of the explicit ways of gaining an apprentice in the core rulebook: ie, you gain custodianship of the child through persuasion, coercion, outright kidnapping, or simply BUYING them from the parent. So... the more I type this out, the more I ask "why is this a secret? It's probably a well-known way of getting an apprentice if you don't want to bother searching for yourself."

Ah, yes... those sanctum defenses... so vast and formidable... ah, indeed... :blush: :laughing:

For all the reasons you are defending the practice against.

Not everyone is going to be onboard, and only a Tytalus (ahem) or a fool (double-ahem) would wave the "I slavery" flag from the battlements. One senior mage, one kindly village priest, one disapproving Covenant cook and your life can become miserable very quickly. :wink:

Just open the Arts and sell the child whenever. Rinse and repeat. You're trying to sell them, and keep them for yourself. Yes, Bonisagus can still come and swipe a magus, but no other magus may do so.

To be fair, none of my magi have any set up - but they're pretty easy to set up - and, of course, one of the defenses being "the magi". :slight_smile:

But to address the specific questions:

  1. How to offer a child for sale: do it the other way around. Have prospective clients approach YOU (or post in a public area or something), rather than market them. I could easily see this as a "Oh, Magi X stated in Tribunal that he's in the market for an apprentice, and is willing to pay a nominal service fee for anyone who may find one for him..."

It was either on the forums, or else in one of the books, that stated "if you don't want to make a story out of finding an apprentice, assume that the Tribunal has an agent that can find one for you in a season or two. If you want to make it a story, go ahead." That former option could very well be someone like this: word goes out via Redcap, who knows exactly who to talk to.

Re: Boni-snatching - be upfront about the process. "it's my job to find Gifted children. If you interfere with that, you simply won't see any more apprentices enter the order in this fashion." According to the Bonisagus write-up, they don't use their boni-snatching ability unless there really IS some sort of unique ability going on, or unless the paren is being a complete deuchebag.

  1. Fair Market Price - from what I recall of slavery in the American South...they were considered basically farm equipment, such as a combine or tractor; as such, they weren't cheap. So the modern equivalent of 20k-40k. Which is a lot, but for a magi that's one or two pounds of silver.

  2. "who is behind this?" - I'll disagree with you on this one. There is likely someone employed by the Tribunal whose JOB it is to do exactly this, as it's an efficient way to get apprentices into the order. After all: once they become apprentices, they are no longer slaves. (technically) So if anything, the individual in question is FREEING them from a lifetime of slavery. They're merely the last stop in the process, and deserve to be compensated for their time.

  3. Re: a custos? Sure. But again - my interpretation is that such sales are probably going on with the full and taict approval of the Tribunal.

  4. Stealing the merchandise - storing them in your sanctum. If it's only a couple of pounds of silver each, then it probably isn't worth the trouble to steal them from another magi- easier just to buy them. (assuming there are enough Gifted children to make this lucrative enough to deal in volume, of course. If this is just one or two children a year? The math probably changes.)

I imagine there may be a markup on that: Opened (and thus worth a season of a magi's time), versus unopened (at best, the work of a couple of month's work of your grog Agent in Prague.)

I do agree that's probably the "safest" route. And once that's established, it's really just one step away from having unopened children around.

Well, sure. But that doesn't mean someone will say no. Open Arts? Can read Latin? How many pawns did you want? Time is the most precious commodity to a magus. Things that save the magus time will command a premium.

That somebody has started to Open the Gift is (probably) something that can be discovered via InVi. You should be able to identify who Opened the Arts via a sigil trace.

Opening the Arts yourself devalues the merchandise. As you will be Doing It Wrong, from the perspective of many potential buyers.

Only with Gifted children with a Supernatural Ability/Virtue that may need to be preserved/transformed.

If the Order considers apprentiship to be better than slavery, then this is, if anything, "buying the poor children out of bondage". The individual in question probably considers themselves morally justified in doing so, as they are saving Gifted Children from a lifetime of oppression, and likely an early death (due to the negative effects of the Gift.)

Because, at the end of the day: the children ARE being set free. There's just money that changes hands when it occurs.

Of course, that's the ideal. The practicalities are such that...yeah, it's the slave trade. But in the Order, I can't see this as being anything more than slightly questionable.

Not only that. Even if it makes no game-mechanic difference who Opens the Gift, it makes a big difference in-character.

No one else will want an apprentice whose Gift has been opened by a hedge wizard from Ex Misc.

The apprentice can't be sold into a True Lineage if anyone outside the House Opened his Gift.

And while it may be technically possible to join a Mystery Cult, they would probably prefer to do their own secret idiosyncratic thing (to a greater or lesser extent depending on your saga) when they Open the Gift.

I see the apprenticeship as more fluid. Opening thr Arts is 1/15th of the required training. I don't see anything preventing them joining a True Lineage. We're that the case there wouldn't be any Bonisnatching.
Mechanically and in character, it takes 10 seasons of interaction to impart the House Virtue, so Opening the Arts hasn't defined the apprentice much at all.
And if that magus is capable of preserving Supernatual Abilities/Virtues when the buyer can't? All the better. Hermetic magic is Hermetic Magic, and if Opening the Arts is the only thing done,,well that's a time savings and I have 14 years to properly indoctrinate the apprentice into the House.

I am quite certain that many magi will not see it that way.

And you can say that with such certainty because... you've talked to them?... :wink:

In your Saga[, sure. But unless there's something in canon to support that...?

InVi to find such a child would be considerate, so the InVi to open the Arts in such a case should not be too much of a stretch.

For that matter, he might well be able to do what the prospective Parens could not - and that would be a plus. (Those silly Bjornaer and their InVi totals...) :unamused:

Not that he'd go there, at least not with every prospect - it would all depend on many variables.

Those are some very bold, absolute and sweeping assertions, especially the first two (that last, less sweeping and absolute). Anything in canon to back any of that up, beside the occasional individual character profile/personality write-up?

This I agree with 100% - except for the "if" part re game mechanics - it makes zero diff RAW, afaik.

Sure, there are going to be some who demand they open the Gift themselves, but for every one I'd guess there are many more who would welcome the time savings and be willing to pay for a job well done.

The sole obvious exception would be if the apprentice has a Supernatural Ability that would be better converted to a Hermetic Virtue - that would be custom and highly personal to the Parens, but could be arranged with the buyer (if the price were right, and both sides amenable).

Of course, the first one is hyperbole. But nonetheless many Ex Misc. are treated as little better than hedge wizards by magi of many other Houses. This seems ample reason for most magi to be prejudiced against apprentices that have been ruined by whatever the Ex Misc. hedge wizard did during Opening the Arts.

The definition of a True Lineage is that a magus was trained by a magus, who was trained by a magus, who was trained by...who was trained by the Founder. This clearly precludes taking an apprentice trained by another House; Opening the Arts is the beginning of training. I am aware that Bonisagus magi nonetheless can take the apprentice of magi from another House. However, Bonisagus practice is explicitly noted as an exception to the practices of the other Lineages (see HoH:TL, page 17 "Another Magus's Apprentice").

Also magi are humans. Everything I know about humans would suggest that many magi will be prejudiced against the possibility that other magi (especially those of other Houses) have done the job of Opening the Arts properly. How many people do you know who are prejudiced against buying a car, say, made in the wrong country?

I do like the color, and there should certainly be some magi who would adamantly feel that way, if only out of pure tradition or hubris - "blind prejudice" by any other term.

I haven't read Apprentices (guilty as charged), so I don't know to what extent the Opening of Arts is personal or simply mechanical, nor to what extent the Opening constitutes "training". Nor how much, in-game and in-character, such an act "colors" (for better or worse) the rest of one's apprenticeship and relationship with their (ultimate) Parens.

But most previous descriptions that I remember go something like "First the Arts must be opened, then the actual Training starts"... or words to that effect. Tho' that may simply be a rhetorical device, and/or now be revised by info in Apprentices.

Well, because I live in Southern California, I'd have to guess fewer than if I lived in Detroit or the American South. But California has it's own prejudices, so I hear what you're saying, and agree in principle.

So it's just a matter of degree. For me, I'd say that for every mage that is ruled by such prejudice, there' are several others who either just don't care, or who are torn between that prejudice and the crunch of having only 4 seasons/years - never enough time.

(And on that note, I doubt my mage would be doing this very often - he'd definitely be of the latter bent. But everyone has their price...)