The Hermetic Market for Gifted Children

Hound - I believe the Hermetic code is based in large part on Germanic law and the idea of wergild - the payment of monies for the loss of life or capacity.

In context, the quote is as follows, in the context of Opening the Arts:

In the scenario you describe (with the grogs), the full legal scenario is that the property that has been taken from you may be demanded back (along with maybe a fine of some sort), or failing that, have wergild paid in its stead.

The same scenario applies to a Gifted servant/hanger-on: you may demand them back, or failing that may have wergild paid in its stead.

Except that the apprenticeship clause above explicitly states that you CAN'T demand them back. If someone took a Gifted lab assistant, and used them only as a lab assistant? I would agree with you. The scenario you describe is valid. But once they become an apprentice, the legal relationship changes - they are not bound to the original magus (and any legal obligation the original paren may have made on their behalf), but instead to their paren.

I'm pretty sure that's what "legally bound" means - in both directions. The Magus has the property of the apprentice, but the apprentice no longer belongs to anyone else, either. And if the legal bonds associated with "this was my biological child" can't survive the apprenticeship agreement, then a mere contract likely wouldn't be able to, either, regardless of how much magical power is implied. Otherwise, every single paren that has a Gifted child would set up a similar scenario - get together with a sodales, agree to a bajllion vis in exchange for the child at some later date, and then reneg on the agreement when they actually open up their own child's Arts.

Basically, your scenario sets up a sort of Golden Parachute scenario, whereby finding a Gifted child means that a magi could put some sort of legal contract on them, making them invulnerable to apprentice-snatching. "I was going to sell that lab assistant for a five queens of vis. You have deprived me of that power!" Or something sufficiently high. And if you have a sodales that actually DOES have five queens of vis in reserve, they can act as your legal justification to keep a Gifted lab assistant for as long as you want. But from the Code's perspective, apprentice-snatching explicitly breaks any sort of legal bond the apprentice had.

Therefore, you'd have to argue that you can't demand them back, but you can still demand wergild. Which is prima facia a non-starter, IMO: wergild in place of 0 is 0.

You might be able to demand payment for the service of training the other mage's apprentice. I suspect you would need a lot of friends on the tribunal for that however.

That's mentioned in the "Delaying Opening the Arts" section of Apprentices - in the context of "why would you want to?" And the answer is "get the child trained up in Latin and Artes Liberales before apprenticing him". However, it then goes on to discuss that the child could be snatched, and that your only real recourse is to snatch back (before Opening can begin) or try to buy them back, or to start a Wizard's War. No mention of demanding payment for services rendered. Otherwise, you could claim "we taught him his native language and how to cook/eat/wipe his arse! I demand payment!" Which isn't mentioned anywhere.

Again, I think that's what "legally bound to the paren" means: all other legal obligations on the apprentice (ie, any contracts made on their behalf) are, from the context of the code, null and void. The legal process for challenging a theft of magical property is:

  1. Show that the offending magus, by their actions, has forfit immunity (HoH:TL, pg. 45).
  2. As compensation, demand the property back, plus (potentially) a fine. If you can't get that,
  3. Demand payment to compensate for the inability to do #1.

Once the Arts have been Opened, The Code places an absolute prohibition on #1: ie, you can't demand the child back. (EDIT - and that the magus/apprentice "has full protection of the Code - so it seems that forefit immunity cannot be shown, as per point 0). So you can't demand payment for something that the magus is under no obligation to return to you. Otherwise, you could go around demanding payment from any magus, for any number of reasons.

"I demand that you give me your talisman!"
"I am under no obligation to give you my talisman."
"Then I demand that you pay me in vis for the debt I need to pay with it!"

And in looking at it from a different angle: if a hanging debt of vis on the child is enough to prevent an apprentice-snatching, then one could prevent such an activity by having a friend "hire" you to "train" a Gifted lab assistant for 1 pawn of vis for 30 years. Any attempt to rescue the Lab Assistant? Sorry, that's a theft of magical power. And if that's sufficient, then you could demand the return of the assistant, INSTEAD of the 1 pawn of vis of payment.

But, again: the code expressly prohibits the original magus from demanding the return of the assistant. Therefore: you can't demand the vis payment, either.

Or to push it farther: why only a hanging debt? Say I train a child, then sell him for 2 rooks of vis. The transaction is done. Then, before the Arts can be opened, another magus swoops in and grabs the child from the child's new owner. The former owner could claim "that apprentice cost me 2 rooks of vis: he is now considered part of my magical power." The fact that the power was in the past (ie, the transaction already has occurred) is just as relevant as if the power was in the future (ie, the transaction has not yet occurred).

Once more: if that was the case, then someone could "sell" a lab assistant to someone else for 1 pawn of vis, and then make them forever immune to being snatched.

In thinking about it a bit more, the claim that another magi can cause a 3rd party to forfit vis due to a completely legal action is silly. For example:

  1. Magus Alphonse has made some hot-crossed buns, and then left them sitting out in the kitchen to cool.
  2. Alphonse then goes to visit his friend Magus Beatrice, and they get to talking about pastries.
  3. Alphonse makes an agreement with Beatrice: in return for bringing her a hot-crossed bun from the kitchen, she will pay him one pawn of vis.
  4. In the meantime, Magus Claudius has come across the cooling buns, and in accordance with the Covenant rules of "first-come-first-served", eats all the hot-crossed buns.
  5. Alphonse comes down to the kitchen, and in despair, claims that Claudius now owes him a pawn of vis, in payment for loss of magical power.

Conclusion - the fact that Alphonse and Beatrice had an agreement is irrelevant. Claudius was acting completely within the Covenant pastry code when he ate all the buns. If Alphonse didn't want the buns to be eaten, he should have not left them sitting out, but instead should have taken them with him in his visit up to Beatrice.


  1. Alphone and Beatrice make a bet: if Claudius walks through the door, Beatrice will kill Alphone's familiar. If he doesn't, Beatrice will pay Alphonse a pawn of vis.
  2. Claudius walks through the door.
  3. Beatrice kills Alphonse's familiar.
  4. Alphonse attacks Claudius for robbing him of his magical power.

Conclusion - the fact that Alphonse and Beatrice had an agreement is irrelevant: setting up Claudius as their patsy in a stupid agreement is their own falut - not his for walking through the door.

In other words: you can't use the consequences of a private agreement to claim that an unrelated party has forfeited their immunity.

Agreed. That's why politically ones best chance is to preemptively establish that a potential is like other things magi consider part of their magical power. Once you get the Tribunal to believe that then you have the protection of the code.

Imagine a situation where Redcaps regularly seek out gifted children under contract for other magi. (An option I believe is mentioned in Cannon somewhere)

Now what should happen if a Magus came upon an Ungifted Redcap traveling with a gifted child and just took that child as an apprentice. Does the Redcap have no recourse. Tough luck it's not part of the Redcaps magical power even if it is worth vis.

Okay now think of the same situation but replace "Gifted Child" with "Ignem Summa". Don't all the same factors apply. It's worth vis but it's of no use to the Redcap so it can't be considered part of their magical power.

In fact comparing potential apprentices to books is a pretty good political strategy for getting the kids considered part of "Magical Power". I think most Magi would like to consider the texts in their possession to be part of their magical power. It's just a matter drawing the parallels. Books represent a potential increase to power or if your not going to use them they are still valuable to trade.

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Not as I see it. Replace the Redcap with a maga, who still has not opened the Arts of the child.
By the examples we have of the Code in play, the would-be snatcher can snatch the apprentice, but not the summa.

There's definitely a grey zone about what a magus' "magical power" encompasses, with different Tribunals, Quaesitors etc. interpreting it differently. But its uncontroversial that until he has his Arts opened, an "apprentice" is fair game, while books on the Arts are protected, I think, even in Normandy.

The issue is not whether the apprentice has value as magical property. It's just that you can't make a claim to him until you have opened his Arts - until then he's "unowned" property. Just like you can't say "all vis sources that will be discovered in the Tribunal over the next ten years are mine!". Sure, they would be valuable magical property, but they aren't your property yet.

Maine75Main - while I agree that doing so would be a valid strategy, that runs into the absolute claim of "stealing a Gifted Child and opening their Arts grants full protection of the Code." It's essentially TOO GOOD a defense. Consider Other defenses:

Hiding the child with some faries - trying to get at the child may cause "molestation of the fae".
Fostering the child with some nobles - getting at the child may trigger "interference with mundanes"
Putting the child behind numerous wards inside your sanctum - getting at him may cause an actual destruction of your magical power (enchanted items, one-shot ritual effects, books getting destroyed, etc.)

All of those, IMO would actually be legitimate things to do, because those are defenses based on physical activity, rather than legal definition. However, by defining a Gifted child as Magical Power, there is no way to NOT steal that kind of magical power when kidnapping the child. And at that point, the defense is absolute. "If the taking of the child is by definition a theft of magical power, then by definition such a theft of power is protected by the Code. See 400 years of rulings saying that it is permissible."

Or to put it another way: Deprivation of magical power, even if you're found guilty of it, can be punished with anything from "nothing" to "give it back" to give it back plus fine" to "huge fine" to "Getting Marched." In contrast, Opening the arts of a Gifted child can be punished with "nothing". There is a technical overlap in those two Ven Diagram circles, in the "nothing" category. So even if you got it defined as Deprivation, the legal punishment would be "nothing," as it has to match up with the complete protection from prosecution that taking an Apprentice has.

As an example of this, the "mother refusing to give up her Gifted Child" scenario in the HoH:TL book suggests exactly this as one possible resolution. "Yep. She's guilty of not giving up the apprentice. As punishment, we in the Tribunal decide....nothing. Next case!"

The In-game reality you seem to be missing is that the Law in the Order of Hermes is based on direct democracy. It doesn't matter if you have 400 years of rulings to cite. If a savy operator can convince the magi at that specific Tribunal that previous rulings where wrong or don't exactly apply then those ruling don't matter. And the people you are trying to convince aren't professional judges or impartial juries they are interested parties that might easily benefit from ruling in your favor. In fact it is perfectly ok to pay them for their votes.

Ideally what you want to do is convince people that they want to vote in your favor. Because it is just (whether it is or not) because it is traditional (whether it is or not) and because they will benefit from the ruling (whether or not).

Then you convince them that they can vote for you. Because the precedents against you don't really apply in this case, they are correcting the mistakes of the past, and they are honoring the true intent of the rulings. The precedents you cite however are of course perfectly applicable in spirit and form.

There is strong precedent against this issue in most saga's so I'm not saying it would be easy to overcome that. But it is also an issue that benefits almost any magus who thinks they might like to take on an apprentice. As I said before who wouldn't want some extra prep time for apprentices.

And yes because of the shortfalls of Hermetic Law I suggest exploiting establishing this case doesn't mean the next tribunal might not overturn it. But at least in this case your likely to deliver on many of the benefits you promise. Some benefits even realized by those who voted against you. Also it will take the voting body a long time to change population and issue inertia will mean opponents will have a much harder time using these tactics to obviate the precedent you established.

If soft diplomacy doesn't look like it will work, before Tribunal you can declare wizard's war on one of your political enemies (doesn't have to be this issue) Hunt him down and torture him to death. Then trap his spirit in an enchanted device that subjects it endless eternal torment in a hell of your own devising. Then you can stride around Tribunal with a locket that softly projects your enemy's eternal weeping as a reminder that a vote for you is a vote for everyone's well being. Because that's allowed to in Hermetic Politics to.

If you hide the apprentice within your sanctum you could ask for a fine due to their having penetrated your sanctum without declaring a wizard war...

Not really. It is not a crime to enter another's sanctum at any time. You simply forfeit the protection of the Code while inside of it.

Maine75Man - that may be the case. But if so, then asking about the law is pointless.

For example: if there WAS a direct prohibition against claiming that Gifted Children were property, if such a prohibition was enshrined in the Code itself, and if Bonisagus himself laid down the proclamation... your response could be "eh, only until next Tribunal. I've got implied torture up my sleeve. That'll change the vote!"

If the law doesn't actually matter, then we need to stop talking: you've answered your own question. For any question about the Code (peripheral or otherwise) the answer is "it doesn't matter, if you've got power."

Quite the defeatist attitude. My impression isn't that these discussions are here to tell other people what the forgone conclusions of their own stories are. But to discuss where challenges and solutions might lie. And perhaps wax philosophical about a fictional fantasy world.

Well that's an interesting statement, which highlights more or less what I'm trying to say. I'm not saying that all things are changeable The Orders legal authority derives from the Oath all members swear. Anything it specifically requires is open to far less discussion then the rest of the code. It's just that the oath isn't really specific. It's built to leave room for lot's of interpretation. Partially so you can play The Game and make A Game out of politics if you chose. And as a game it's important to figure out how difficult things are to do.

Trying to get people people to ignore a specific prohibition in the Oath very hard. Trying to get people to liberally interpret what one term used in the oath means to there own benefit easier. Remember there is a specific prohibition to molest the fay. But it's perfectly ok run into a fairy regio guns ablaze and steal every pawn of vis not nailed down. And I know the argument why that's "ok". But it only works if you play it a little loose with the meaning of lest. (Or reeeeeally loose with the meaning of molest.)

No I'm not saying the Law doesn't matter. I'm saying that for the purposes of these sort of stories it matters where the Law comes from. What is the nature of the legal system how are laws passed, judged, and enforced. I'm also saying that it really matters that P.C.'s do have the power to affect the process. Though they should be challenged and success is by no means assured. Whatever strategy they choose players need to be given the chance to invoke change. Or do you believe that all that power should be held by the storyguide and the NPC's.

In jest I like this. I'd really hope this never occurs in any game I'm involved with though. And that Magus is a total douche, and IMS they'd find nobody willing to openly associate with them. Redcaps? no way. trade? nope.

There should be significant social and political pressure upon any Magus even willing to imply they'd do something as gauche as this.

I think after the month's end you might have to release him, the code is a bit unclear on this, since his spirit isn't really his soul and it isn't clear whether he has rights at that point or not.

It seems to me that if you are preparing children for being apprentices, your best bet is to be Bonisagus. Then if someone takes your student and opens their gift, you can just take them back.

Thankyou it was mostly in jest of course. An exaggeration really, to highlight how different Hermetic law can be.

In tribunal your talking about a legislative process and/or the equivalent of Jury trial where parties can freely and publicly buy votes. (Or gamble for them by making votes a stake in Certamen)

My example was over the top but the threat of wizard war is has almost certainly used to bully votes out of individuals. Not to mention the potential to preemptively remove Magi that might vote against you through wizard war.

I believe the general thought in RAW is that spirits and other magical creatures are without rights. (Ireland is the exception) Wild game or domestic livestock to be exploited by what ever magi can catch them. I tried to propose a situation where the magi did nothing illegal just to show how deeply weird the law is. Sure the guy would be treated up like a tatted up neonazi at a school board meeting. At least in ArM5, I could imagine wearing lockets containing the tortured remnants of your vanquished foes becoming a fad in 2nd or 3rd.

In general yes but in the mysteries it describes a living ghost as being something that is ambiguous about rights and membership in the order.

I agree 100%.

But anyone should - your question begs its own answer, because the question assumes the action is "completely legal", end of statement.

There are examples in the Peripheral Code where a mage commits legal action X, which directly causes questionable action Y as fallout. The Tribunals rule that action Y is still illegal - claiming that "action X is legal" is irrelevant.

Two examples that I've found:

1151 - Durenmar has a legal right to vis sources, but over-harvesting causes enmity of the Fae - guilty of the latter, regardless of the former.

1194 - William FIreheart legally kills a mundane, and in so doing accidentally damages a lab. The killing was legal, the damage not. Guilty of the latter, regardless of the former.

( )

The relevant pattern demonstrates that altho' the claiming is legal, it still cannot then break a different part of The Code. And in no counter-example that I've seen is there any suggestion that the plaintiff proved that the apprentice was worth vis, nor asked for compensation based on that, nor cared for such - ONLY that they should have/keep claim to the child.

If the issue is not raised to the Tribunal (and the Tribunal does not mention it in their findings), then the Tribunal is not ruling on that issue, but a different one.

Lastly, these 2 entries...

1188 Provencal: Magus Teslil of Jerbiton finds a Gifted girl and, having his own apprentice, sells her to Magus Gentric of Jerbiton.
1194 Provencal Tribunal of 1333:...Magus Teslil claims that the former apprentice of Magus Gentric, 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 . (emphasis added)

I submit that you cannot "give up all claim" unless you have "some claim" to begin with. If the mage selling the apprentice "had no claim", the Tribunal would have simply said as much and in so many words.

These are by no means "proof", but they do support my position to some degree. However, if you feel that other rulings re Claiming also rule silently on my position (without ever specifically saying anything about it), that's fine.

This thread has still, quite inarguably, given me a definitive answer on that point at least (and among others) - that this matter is not clear, and if it were to go to Tribunal it could be completely unpredictable. :wink:

Hound, the examples you give are areas in which two separate legal activities are occurring at the same time. That is, the legal implication is that it's POSSIBLE to harvest vis without molesting the fae; therefore, when one engages in one's (rightful) ability to harvest vis, one must make care not to molest the fae. Similarly, it's POSSIBLE to (rightfully) kill a mundane without destroying a lab. Therefore, when killing mundanes, one must make sure not to destroy labs.

And were someone to blow up a lab while snatching a Gifted Assistant out of the lab, it would fall under the same category. That's the magus performing two separate actions - one of which he didn't have to do. It's the whole "the right to swing my fist ends when it hits your face" idea. That's basic law: a right stops being a right when it violates some other law.

Your argument inextricably links "magical power" and "Gifted Assistant" (or "child with vis lien"), thus making it impossible NOT to take one without also taking the other. That's not a strength of the argument: it's a weakness. It's argument by definition, rather than by evidence (which is what you just presented).

By linking the two, your argument says that it is impossible to (rightfully) take a Gifted child (or a vis leined Child) from another magus without robbing them of magical power - no matter how a magus approaches the scenario. But the Code says that you can do such an activity, inasmuch as you don't violate any other portion of the code (ie, you can't summon a demon to snatch the child for you, or kill a king to take the child, or cause the Wild Hunt to run through your opponent's Covenant.) Your argument means that that the very act of saying "will you be my apprentice", with all the legal rights and obligations that doing entails, ends up as a violation of the Code. (Despite the Code saying that you cannot be prosecuted for that specific action.)

Regarding the girl: I honestly can't address it - there's not enough information to do on. For example: did the original magus open her Gift? In that case, it was his apprentice originally, that he then sold to another magus. In that scenario, talking about rights when sale is meaningful - as it suggests that the whole "who opened the arts, and thus who had first legal rights to her as an apprentice?" has already been addressed. And in THAT scenario, then the case is actually interesting, as the original magus DOES (at least at first glance) have some sort of claim that the Tribunal needs to address. That would be my assumption, but we simply aren't given enough information to go on.

Going back to the hot-crossed bun analogy:

If Claudius had broken into Alfonze's lab and burned it to the ground (say, by accidentally knocking over the stove somehow) while taking the hot-crossed buns, then Alphonze would have cause to claim "loss of magical power". But that's because Claudius burned the lab down, not because he ate the buns.

You're trying to claim that the buns, by virtue of someone making a private "vis-for-bun" trading agreement somewhere in the covenant, can restrict Claudius's explicitly-stated-in-the-charter right to eat any pastry that is left sitting out.

Claudius was not part of the private agreement. Therefore, he cannot break it. He can potentially be proscecuted for the act that caused the agreement to be null - for example, if the Covenent rules say "you can have one pastry", and Claudius ate them all. But that has nothing to do with the bun-for-vis agreement that Beatrice and Alfonze had.

For clarification: we're not talking about Gifted children here - their claim as "magical power" is explicitly dismissed in the rules. A magus specifically can NOT ask for a gifted lab assistant back. So really this has nothing to do with the Gift or apprentices, and everything to do with a vis lien.

The claim is that a vis lien can make ANY activity a break in the Code, regardless of whether or not the person doing the activity was involved in setting up the lien.

And just to be abundantly clear: ANY ACTIVITY. See my "walking through the door" example, prior. The claim is that activity X, because there was vis involved by a 3rd party observing the action, regardless of the knowledge or intent of the actor, (or even if they were involved in the agreement) now becomes a challengeable action under the Code.

Lots of luck getting that passed in Tribunal.