Tribunal Cases

I've got a tribunal coming up which thanks to a combination of ongoing plot and PC shenanigans has quite a few legal cases coming before it. I therefore thought I'd run them past the forum to see how people thought they'd go. Some of them may be more clear cut than others...

The game is set in a version of Stonehenge, although it's been tweaked a bit from the default (in particular, Blackthorn are the dominent political force, with various sections of the tribunal not being well disposed towards them, but are 5th Edition Tremere rather than 4th Edition Tremere).

Case Group 1 - Coenwulf of Bjornaer of Horsingas (Loch Leagan) against a Stonehenge Flambeau and Tremere

Coenwulf: Attempting to Slay a Magus, Interference with Mundanes
Flambeau: Attempting to Slay a Magus
Tremere: Attempting to Slay a Magus, Deprivation of Magical Power, Scrying

The facts
Rumours had been passing through the Redcap network that a boar was attacking mundanes in an area in the north of the Lake District. The Flambeau suggested to Blackthorn that this was something that should be dealt with, and a member of that covenant travelled with them to the location of the attacks. Both magi claim that they didn't know that the boar was a magus, but admit that they knew it was a possibility, Horsingas having been responsible for a number of crossborder raids in recent years.

Having located the wood where the attacks were occurring, the Tremere sent magical birds to scout for the boar. Once found, they set out to confront it. The Flambeau was a Ramian, and therefore dressed as a mundane knight, and upon sighting him the boar immediately charged him and attempted to kill him. The Flambeau being as tough as you'd expect a Ramian to be, the boar largely just bounced, and was then incapacitated by the Tremere (who had followed a little way behind, such that they were not immediately visible upon the boar coming across the armoured knight).

The Tremere and Flambeau then had the opportunity to kill the boar, but instead transported him back to Blackthorn, where he was treated with True Rest of the Injured Brute, but not ritual magic, and not released until the Quaesitors intervened.

The defences:
The Tremere and Flambeau argue that a) they can't be accused of trying to slay Coenwulf given that it was clearly within their power to do so and they didn't, and b) Coenwulf had forfeited his immunity by his attacks on mundanes, which have grown to a sufficient level that they had heard about them from half a country away.

Coenwulf does not attend the tribunal. Instead, his (maga) wife, Ealwynn, argues that a) the Stonehenge tribunal does not have the right to try Aonghas (as she insists Coenwulf should now be named), as alleged crimes in border areas should be tried in the defendant's home tribunal, b) the mundanes Aonghas was attacking were in the process of destroying an area of pristine wilderness, and there are significant precedents in the Order as to the importance of protecting such areas (for example, the Guardians of the Forest ruling in the Rhine tribunal), c), Although there were rumours of him attacking people, they were of a boar doing so and not a magus, and no ruin was brought upon his sodales, d) Aonghas did not know that the knight he was attacking was actually a magus and e) in any case the Flambeau had forfeited his immunity by coming to attack him.

Case Group 2 - The Stabbing of a Tytalus, and the aftermath thereof

Ex-Misc Pharmacopian (Gently Gifted): Attempting to Slay a Magus
Tytalus (Normally Gifted, Inspirational, new to the covenant): Interfering with Mundanes, Endangering the Order

The facts:
The ex-Misc and the Tytalus had been on a mission to slay a magical beast that was raiding their vis source. In preparation for the fight, the magi had created a defensible position around the vis source whilst they waited for it to be harvestable. When the magical beast arrived, the more reckless of the grogs ran outside the defenses to attack the creature directly, and was promptly swallowed. On seeing this, the Tytalus ordered another of the grogs to go and rescue him, and when he flatly refused, used Enslave the Mortal Mind on him to mindcontrol him into doing so.

The Ex-Misc followed the mind-controlled grog out, and levitated him out of the way. The reckless grog successfully cut himself out of the magical beast and slew it, in recognition of which feat the Tytalus "knighted" him.

At sunset, Enslave the Mortal Mind wore off, and the grog was suspicious and confused about what had happened up until the Ex Misc told him exactly what had happened, at which point he punched the Tytalus. The Tytalus demanded his hand in retribution, which the Ex-Misc refused to allow him to take, offering his own hand instead. However, after the Tytalus only grazed him with his inexpert swing, he told him he wasn't going to give him another ago. At this point the Tytalus challenged him to Certamen, demanding that he be allowed to take the grog's hand if he won, and offering to forget the incident if he lost. The Ex-Misc refused to fight a certamen with the grog's hand at stake. [A case of failing to respect Certamen was settled outside the tribunal.]

There was some back and forth, with the Tytalus continuing to demand the formerly mind-controlled grog's hand, and the ex-Misc warning said grog that he knew the Tytalus' type, and that if he wasn't very careful he'd end up killing him, and probably his family as well, and that really if the Tytalus was going to continue to demand that he had the right to take his hand he should just kill him.

At which point the grog stabbed the Tytalus, and came within a hair's breath of killing him. The "knight" grog hastily defended him, and the Ex-Misc hastily protested that he hadn't actually meant kill him when he said the grog should kill him, and stabilised him. They then went back to the covenant where the mind-controlled grog was rapidly sent far away from the covenant, and the magus ritually healed. The Ex-Misc then went on a pilgrimage to Canterbury to the shrine of Thomas a Beckett. He therefore missed most of what came next, other than the trial at the end.

The Tytalus told the "knight" grog that he had returned from death itself "and you know who else did that, don't you?", before talking about the great divine work he needed to carry out. His grog then went out and recruited a small cult dedicated to the second coming of the messiah, and arranged for the magus to come and talk to them. Unfortunately in his enthusiasm (and recklessness), he wasn't very careful about who he invited, with the result that the church found out almost immediately afterwards. The covenant is sited in the middle of church lands, and usually has a fairly close relationship with the church.

The rest of the covenant responded by trying to co-operate ferociously with the church, and painting the Tytalus as one bad apple rather than reprensentative of magi. A senior maga in the covenant then took the "knight" grog down to explain to the church quite what had been happening "I'm not supposed to talk about how he promised to make me a bishop", and the Tytalus was sent his first summons to a canon court, which he ignored. The church started preaching sermons on False Prophets. The Tytalus was ordered by the Guernicus who had come to investigate the Ex-Misc issue to resolve the issue now, and that the church would want him to repent, before hiking off to try to find the Ex-Misc on his pilgrimage.

The Tytalus insisted that this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out if the abbot would just come to the covenant for a chat, and holding an evening with free beer for the local townspeople (which ended up having relatively few people turn up who, due to some combination of the sermons and the church presence there). The abbot refused to see him anywhere other than the abbey, and he eventually turned up, attempted to persuade the abbot that this was all a big misunderstanding and then, apparently, cast something on the abbot that failed to penetrate his divine protection.

He did turn up to his third summons (having been warned he'd be tried in astentia if he didn't), at which most of the rest of the covenant (or at least, those who were Gently Gifted) gave character witness statements that were unflattering to various degrees. He defended himself by pointing out that he never actually claimed to be the Messiah, and that he just meant that God had a purpose for him, which he felt sure was his life's mission of helping the poor. "And if helping the poor is blasphemous, then yes, I am a blasphemer".

He got excommunicated.

The defenses
The Ex-Misc argues that he hadn't actually meant the grog to kill him when he said to kill him, having only said it for rhetorical effect, but appreciates that it was a terribly poor choice of wording, and throws himself on the mercy of the tribunal, offering to pay any penalty they set him (save that he has already agreed with the church that he will spend the next year doing good works).

The Tytalus argues that he's been horribly misunderstood, but has proven his good nature by not bringing charges against those magi who blackened his name to the church.

My take:
group 1, all acquitted on attempting to slay a magus, acquittal on scrying (this was a forest being scouted by visible magical birds, not a covenant being infiltrated by an invisible magus), acquittal on deprivation of magic- an apparent enemy was held, no long term magical power was taken. Interference with mundanes a fine of (depending on frequency in your campaign) 4-20 vis, held over for adjudication at the grand tribunal as this is an inter-tribunal issue.

group 2
Ex Miscelania did not attempt to kill the Tytalus, regardless of his speech to the grog. acquittal
Tytalus has not only interfered with mundanes but has arguably supported the infernal, as demonstrated by his excommunication and lack of repentance. Marched.

Does it make a difference that they were magical as in "created by Creo Animal spells" rather than "had Magic Might"?

Acquittal is more lenient than I'd expect on this charge - "I didn't mean my underlings to actually do the thing I said" wasn't a defence that worked all that well for Henry II.

regarding the birds, the fact it was magically created is irrelevant- they could just as easily have taken over native birds in terms of the "scrying". The point being that magi cannot be expected to forever avoid using magic to sense things on the basis that there might be another magus arround. Certainly in this case they were looking for a dangerous animal, which the mage was transformed into in order to try and conceal his actions. Actions which could, in principle, be taken as an act of war by mundanes had they not been concealed.

regarding the second charge, my understanding is that it was a mutual underling, not just an underling of the magus who made the statement, and that the statement was intended more as a warning to the reckless mage as to what consequences his actions could have rather than being a directive being given to the grog. Just because magi can control the weather does not mean "looks like rain" is a threat.

The relevant scrying section from HOH:TL points out using Intellego and related spells to defend your own territory is acceptable, but it does sound like the Bjornaer wasn't in the other covenant's territory directly. This is definitely an area where the peripheral code of the tribunal is going to come in, I think. And this ruling is probably going to rely on (or create) precedent rulings in your Stonehenge because of it. There is an implication that ANY use of magic is considered scrying, including invisibility (and possibly summoning birds and reading their thoughts). The big point against the Bjornaer is this:

If the Bjornaer was found to be doing something against the code of Hermes, then the other Magi are no longer prying into his legal affairs, but his illegal ones.
If the assaults were in border areas, then I believe Ealwynn is correct that the crime should be tried in their home tribunal, but I would think Stonehenge can give the Tremere and Flambeau a pass if they decide that Coenwulf/Aonghas was not acting legally - and most importantly, none of the Bjornaer's secrets and magical works were discovered by the alleged scrying, so any punishments should be minor at best.
It is clear they did not attempt to slay a magus, as the disabled Bjornaer was not slain after his capture.

Case 1

In all times and cultures courts of law are jealous of their power, and there is very little as likely to earn a poor verdict as saying "you have no right to judge me". I assume this would colour the Stonehenge reaction. So, this is how I'd see the tribunal ruling:

Stonehenge has the right to judge the case, thank you, it was Stonehenge land. Stonhenge decides how to defend it from the encroachment of mundanes, just as the Rhine decides about its own land. Strong proclamation about Stonhenge being boss here!

Coenwulf is guilty of interference with mundanes. While (apparently) the boar attacks have not been linked to a magus of the Order yet, it's far from certain that it won't happen -- and some holy man, hedge witch, or other supernatural agent can easily find out and bring the wrath of the mundanes upon the Order. It's one thing (and still sort of borderline) to kill a small band of mercenaries in one shot, leaving everyone in the dark about what happened, and nobody really interested to find out. It's an entirely different thing to terrorize an entire region. Penalty: make sure that the word spreads about the boar having been killed by some hero or other, solve any other problem that might later arise from the reckless actions, pay a moderate vis fine for the trouble caused (2 years worth of vis income), and stay out of Stonehenge for 14 years after the last bit of trouble has died out. Fail to comply, and it's a Wizard March!

Coenwulf is also guilty of attempting to slay a magus. Sure, he did not know the "knight" was a magus, but an attempt was made on his life nonetheless. If you start killing left and right without reason or restraint, it's your fault if you kill someone you should not have killed. Because he did not really know that the magus he attacked belonged to the Order, the Tribunal leniently commutes the penalty from marching to a moderate vis fine (2 years worth of vis income), a severe reprimand and a reminder that the next time it's a Wizard March!

The Tremere is not guilty of magical scrying, even though he may have sensed Coenwulf via the magical birds. Note the asymmetry and apparent contradiction. The Tremere is not guilty of scrying, because he was not really attempting to scry on a magus known to him. Coenwulf is guilty of attempting to slay a magus, even though he was not actively trying to slay a magus known to him. The difference lies in the fact that the Tremere used restraint in his magical exploration, balancing the risk of inadvertently learning his sodales' secrets (very minor) with his need to defend himself from nearby hazards. On the other hand, Coenwulf did not use restraint, and instead rushed for the kill without good reason. A few experts of Hermetic Law seem unconvinced by the logic of this argument, but everyone appears to consider the outcome fair, so there is no real opposition to it.

The Flambeau and the Tremere are not guilty of attempting to slay a magus. They defended themselves after being attacked. In fact, they should be commended for taking it upon themselves to rid the region of the danger, and for avoiding the use of lethal force when they could easily have used it. They even healed the Coenwulf! Some magus even proposes awarding them a portion of Coenwulf's fine, but it gets voted off when an old hoplite points out that defending your Tribunal is "the duty of every mage and its own reward".

Any time Coenwulf spent recuperating does not count as deprivation of magical power; in fact, any time he would have spent recuperating without magical healing is considered forfeit. On the other hand, if Coenwulf was detained for several seasons, Stonegenge grumbingly levies on Blackthorn a token punishment for deprivation of magical power, no more than a pawn of vis per season of imprisonment, awarding a fraction of it (no more than half) to Coenwulf.

Case 2

This is how I'd see the Tribunal ruling:

The Ex Miscellanea is guilty of attempting to slay a fellow magus. After all, if you encourage a servant to kill a fellow magus, that counts as attempted slaughter, whether that servant is a grog, an apprentice, a familiar, or a bound spirit. However, there are extenuating circumstances. The Ex Miscellanea did immediately lend his help in healing the Tytalus, and part of the responsibility for the situation rests solidly on the shoulders of the Tytalus; indeed the grog might have decided to kill him on his own. Some young magus notes that treating servants poorly put all magi at risk, but this immediately invites a caustic "are we no longer our servants' masters now?" and some generalized grumbling. The fact that the Tytalus comes out as an unrepentant troublemaker is also a strong if "unofficial" extenuating circumstance. There's a proposal to fine the Ex Miscellanea with the year of good works he is undertaking anyway, and to commend him for having appropriately chosen his penance, and one that puts the magi in good light with the Church. On the other hand, some other magi argue that debasing yourself in front of mundanes is actually harmful to the reputation of the Order, and might give the Church strange ideas about being able to control the behaviour of magi. This is somewhat controversial. In the end, the ex Miscellanea gets a light vis fine (1 year of vis income) plus the command to "explain" to the Church that the reason he is undertaking penance is that the powerful congregation of magi he belongs to has levied it as punishment for attempting to slay a fellow magus -- a rare crime punished either by death or by temporarily "lowering" the offender into mundane society, which is a dreadful humiliation every sane magus with a shred of dignity loathes. This compromise seems to be more-or-less acceptable to everyone.

The Tytalus is blatantly guilty of interfering with mundanes, and of endangering the Order. He is ordered to pay a hefty vis fine (7 years of vis income) and to disband his cult, and is banned from Stonehenge lands in perpetuity.

I like the idea of Coenwulf's punishment including a period of banishment from the tribunal - it has the advantage (from Stonehenge's point of view) that he automatically forfeits his immunity whilst doing anything similar in future.

I agree with Raccoonmask that just because magical birds were used to scout an area rather than Intellego spells focused on a magus, that doesn't mean it's not scrying, given the breadth of the definition of scrying - but also that with no magical secrets and a decent argument that the Bjornaer had forfeited his immunity it's probably unlikely to lead to a serious punishment, if it leads to one at all.