What spells count as Scrying?

This has always been a source of confusion for me. I was talking today with a fellow player (Hi, ladyphoenix!) about getting my character Eyes of the Eagle, but I assumed I couldn't use it to look at magi outside of Wizrd's War or a March, but she felt it wouldn't be scrying because the spell would only affect my maga. Is this true? On page 73 of HoH:TL Aura of Rightful Authority is listed as scrying, which I wouldn't have considered before, so I'm not always sure. Is there a list somewhere of spells that are considered scrying? And how do other people handle this in their games?

My understanding is that the Order takes a very strict view on the "Scrying" clause. Any use of any kind of magic to - intentionally or unintentionally - learn the secrets of another magus counts as scrying. So being invisible in a hallway while another magus walks by muttering to himself about his latest project could be considered scrying by the Tribunal... even if you intention was not to eavesdrop on the other magus.

Edit: Of course, as with all things in Hermetic law it really depends on the majority vote of the Tribunal (and as with all things in roleplaying, it really depends on how you and your fellow players wish to play it).

If you use your magical authority to gather information through questioning, through gaining access to areas where secrets can be discovered by impressing guards or through even voluntary, unsolicitated offers of information when someone is impressed with your authoritative presence, you have commited scrying.

Any spell that helps you gather information can count as scrying, so yes, Eyes of the Eagle count. However, if you use it to look at a valley from a mountaintop and just happen to see a magus walking openly along a road, well technically you are scrying but not Tribunal is going to condemn you for that. You are still expected to look elsewhere or end the spell, or announce your presence so the magus knows he is observed.

I would take a much less strict approach on the 'Scrying' clause. The members of the Order would not want to ban everyday magic like Eyes of the Eagle, or the Cat, or shapeshifting spells or to put a Magus at risk of inadvertantly violating the Code every time he uses a useful spell like this.

I also don't buy the idea that everything is undefined until a Tribunal votes on it. The Order is a body of highly literate people who have been holding Tribunals for nearly 500 years by the canonical time. There's no way that there's not a substantial body of case law built up by this time. Again, members would not find it in their interest to have everything undefined and only decided after the fact by a popularity contest vote. Magi want to know what's licit and what's illicit.

Canonically, what you're talking about is the Peripherial Code... the body of recorded Tribunal rulings down through the centuries. However, again canonically, the final determination of guilt or innocence for any Hermetic crime comes down to a vote by the Tribunal. The Peripherial Code provides a framework upon which to build arguements before the Tribunal, with the expectation being that a group of rational and scholarly individuals will vote in accordance with precedent and logical arguement... but in the end it still comes down to a vote.

I don't argue with that. It's quite appropriate and medieval for the Tribunals to have the authority to override case law when they have their reasons. But there should be precedents within the Peripheral code that create a common understanding that's far more sophisticated than the one sentence component of the Oath. Exactly what thoses precedents and that understanding are is of course in question. I would argue that Magi would evolve the Peripheral Code in ways that make licit the sorts of magics that are useful everyday activities for wizards, such as seeing for miles or in the dark, or walking around in animal form.

That depends on how strict your tribunal is with the term. If I cast a Harmless Muto Imaginem spell to turn something blue for a short period of time, but through the spell forcelessly, then I have determined that person has magical resistance.... I have therefore technically scryed.

How far the issue is pushed is up to the other party and the associated politics involved.


And you can do that in your saga. Current canon however takes a far more "wizards are paranoid" line... probably related to the Gift's effects. Any use of magic that gives you access to another wizard's secrets is considered scrying and could get you called before the Tribunal. I didn't write it and I don't entirely agree with it... I take issue with a lot of what the current edition has done to regarding the Order... but nevertheless that's my understanding of the current canon.

Thats pretty much how the Hermetic Legal system works. Precedent is a huge part of prosecution and defense. It's just that all peripheral rulings haven't been published and it's up to your troupe to fill in the gaps. The trick is the SG or whoever is deciding what cases have gone before has to "roleplay" the order as a whole.

For instance running into a fairy forest stealing any piece of vis not nailed down and running back to your covenant isn't considered molesting the fairies all by itself. Why? cause most every mage and his apprentice wants to be able to do it. If however you rile up some fairy king and he takes his rage out on another covenant then you'll probably face a judgment at tribunal. Why? Because no one likes cleaning up someone else's mess.

Now Magi are pretty paranoid about scrying so this clause is according to cannon very strictly interpreted. But that doesn't mean that there haven't been acquittals because the charge was totally trivial. If the scrying seems completely accidental and the damages trivial or non-existent I don't think it would be in most mages best interest to find for the complainant. After all it could be you up there next. Magi want to do magic and don't want to have to constantly worry about tripping over the code.

That being said if you get caught actually spying on another member then you better be able to totally prove that you used no magic what so ever to do it. Or you better show that guy was breaking the code himself and is a total jerk that no one should trust anyway. Because no one wants to be spied on and everyone will want to convict you if they have an excuse.

These acquittals will make it into the Peripheral Code and eventually create a more sophisticated understanding of the clause. There will be plenty of precedents like "Herman was just swimming in his Otter heartbeast form, as he does every Friday. It's not his fault he happened to see Otto sacrificing peasants to the water demon" or "Of course Alboin was using Eyes of the Cat on his midnight ramble around the covenant grounds. You want him to bump his head? Thudimir shouldn't have been molesting that fay in the first place for him to see".

It's curious that several of you see Magi as paranoid in this edition. To me they seem on the whole to have better adjusted personalities than in previous editions.

Do you remember that the scrying is only forbiden when it comes to legal affairs of magi? So scrying a diabolist... it's fine! Do it!

Unless that Diabolist is also a member of the Order of Hermes. Remember, just because someon'e in breach of the Code doesn't give you the right to breach your Oath in your behaviour towards them! You run risk of conviction if they're also a member of the Order and have not been expelled, even as they're as they're made all crispified by the kindly local hopolites.

Well you can justify in tribunal: You had no other choice, and present your proofs. Of course, scrying at random is dangerous. Scrying when you already have a beam assumption... is better.

Well, if you scry the diabolist while he's engaged in diabolism then you can probably claim he has forfeit immunity...

Still, the two big points with scrying are:

  1. being spotted doing so
  2. having the tribunal support the prosecutor

The first one is a biggie. If you are casting eyes of the eagle and happen to see a magus on the road, chances are extremely high that said magus (or anyone else for that matter) is never going to know of the scrying attempt. If no-one knows about it, there's no case to prosecute.

The second one is something most magi will work out before even engaging the legal process. If, in the above example, the eyes of the eagle was a variant cast on a grog who was a covenant lookout and he watched the magus approach then the magus is very unlikely to prosecute. If he chose to, he'd have a real uphill battle even getting it heard by Tribunal, let alone actually winning. No magus wants to establish a precedent where they can't use magic to protect their own covenant.

That's a good point. My examples are imperfect because the scrying magi actually detect Hermetic crimes, which as you say makes the scrying moot. However consider if Otter-Herman or insomniac Alboin had merely witnessed something embarassing while taking the same actions. I would argue that a tribunal is likely to acquit both of them and thereby create precedents for innocent, inadvertent, or harmless use of magic. Why on earth shouldn't a Bjornaer walk around in beast form or a magus who can see in the dark do so on a midnight walk?

That's another interesting situation, since (unlike in my examples) the guard is certainly deliberately using magic to scry on the covenant surroundings. And, as you say, I think most magi would be ok with that.

The Guernicus chapter in Houses of Hermes: True Lineages expands upon the scrying provision of the Code of Hermes (upon all the provisions, in fact), and it specifically discusses scrying-type magic used to monitor one's own covenant as something that no serious Quaesitor would ever rule against.

Yeah Hermetic Law and the character of the order has changed quit a bit in 5th. It used to be that the code of Hermes was a lose lose document designed specifically to make sure player characters couldn't help but break the rules at every turn. Every other Magi in the order was a power mad sociopath with the emotional maturity of an adolescent crack head. If your case went to tribunal everyone would vote against you because the don't like your smell. You could always buy their votes with ridiculous amount of vis, your soul, or favors to be named later. But you know that wasn't really a problem because you never would make it to trial because Quaesitors were basically mythic Judge Dreads who went just making up reasons to march people so they could take all their stuff. (for the good of the order)

Ah Good Times. :unamused:

It's better now. The Code is more sensibly interpreted. Other Magi seem to have more complex motivations and at least act like moderately intelligent people. At a tribunal the merits of case actually should mean something, or at least your skill in presenting it does. Quaesitors generally don't call a marches on there own unless they're absolutely sure and it really can't wait. In fact marches will almost never happen to a Magus who actually cooperates with the the Tribunal. Yes much more sensible setting now.

When I said Magi are paranoid about scrying what I meant was it one of the parts of the code the don't take lightly. Like denial of magical property magi do not want it happening to them so it's harder to talk your way out of the charges innocent or guilty. But it's still a breeze compared to earlier editions.

However, consider if Otter-Herman or insomniac Alboin were to witness another magus in deep conversation with a local Folk Witch discussing the principles and methods of brewing potions to restore fatigue. This magus is working on a Hermetic Breakthrough to develop Energy Magic... and because of Herman/Alboin's use of magic, he has learned the secret his soldales project. I would argue that a tribunal would absolutly convict, expel and march Herman/Alboin in this case.

Remember that scrying is a High Crime and the only available punishment is death. In the case of "harmlessly" stumbling across a minor embarassing incident, a lenient tribunal would probably only impose a fine or other minor punishment to drive home to the point that the magus needs to be more careful about his use of magic... something on the order of "you did wrong, but it was "innocent, inadvertent, or harmless" so we won't kill you but we will punish you because you should be responsible and careful in your use of magic.

To be sure, but this would probably come down to the details of the incident. Herman happened to see Otto talking to a known witch and apparently looking for plants, then walked on and went about his own business? Probably no big deal. Fourth degree scrying? On the other hand, if Herman stuck around, listened in, and then started telling his friends about this fascinating use for wolfsbane he just discovered, a march is in order. The Tribunal would determine the facts of the case.

That's the situation I'm reacting against. It never made sense to treat the Code as something that ensured Magi were always lawbreakers and always had to fear Judge Dread. Despite fearsome judicial language, medieval polities were never actually anything like police states and it certainly didn't make any sense that the Order would allow itself to become one.