I'm currently acting as a guest GM in my freind's Scotland Campaign, where I have run the first half of the story - and intend to run the second part next week.
The player's Magi are causing some trouble for my NPC Magus, by helping a Lord deal with the terrorism and blackmail that the NPC Magus has been aiming at him and his peers for a while now.
In order to solve this 'problem' the NPC Magus has to deal with the player's Magi, and he is currently considering declaring Wizard's War against all 4 of them at the turn of the next full moon.
And this makes me as a GM consider, is this actually legal within the Code? And are there any previous examples of this or Tribunal rulings on it?
On how to handle the situation, i guess the NPC would send out letters to each Magus individually - and within the same full moons naturally.
This must result in a situation, where although the player's Magi are not supposed to aid their sodales in Wizard's War, they can indirectly help each other defend themselves against - or even attack - the NPC without breaking the Code, right?
What's a bit unique for this story is that I don't intend to make the NPC survive to affect the campaign in the long run, so if he crosses an invisible ethic line of this or that Quasitore somewhere it's not a big problem.
I just don't want this to be overly silly, so can you give me some advice please?
I have only been in one Wizard's War before, and that was as a player, so please bear with me.
I don't know of any legal reason under the Code that forbides this... just the practical common sense notion that being in open Wizard's War with several magi at the same time is fairly hazardous to the health. Of course, if the NPC magus is confident/arrogent enough in his abilities there's nothing stopping him.
I've actually done this myself in a saga. A single, powerful magus declared Wizard's War on the entire PC covenant and came very close to crushing them (literally, Rego Terram can be nasy)... until he got a little to close to the Bjornaer and discovered the close combat with a bear is not wise.
There used to be considerable talk about entire Covenants going to War with each other. It seemed like a fairly common thing in earlier editions. I never did understand how it avoided spiraling into something out of control.
That was a wizards march not a wizards war, and it was probably only retroactively legal.
My opinion, and I can't remember if it is something I have inferred from the books or merely what I have assumed is that a wizards War is one on one. The order want's to keep such violence as a minimal safety valve and also create an image (illusion?) of fair play, so that makes most sense to me. But whilst I'd imagine the laws ought to be strict I dislike treating the Quasitores as an overactive police force.
By this I mean that if you violate the code (unless it's something pretty severe) someone has to actually care enough to prepare a prima facie case and then contact the Quaesitores. So if you violate the rights of Magi in poor standing the Order generally does not care too much.
It is not illigal per the code, although I beleive there were some Tribunal rulings charging magi who indulged in escalating Wizard's War(s) judged unnecessarilly troublesome for the rest of the Tribunal. If it is further disclosed to the Quaesitori that this NPC's motive came from him taking offense from the PC's interfering in his... own interference with a mundane lord - a high crime - he'd risked being marched by the whole Tribunal.
Even if the NPC is powerful & arrogant, I'd say that declaring multiple WW without having tried at least another option first do seem highly risky, if not bordering on sheer stupidity/desperation. Four magi also means four individuals having each the possibility to call on some favors in urgency (or even endebts themselves if they are youngs and unexperienced) to be better armed for this war - staying in the legal process themselves by doing so if they are careful.
You didn't mention if the PC had already clearly identified this NPC as the figure behing the lord's problem or not, but since he is powerful and seemed devious enough to use blackmail, I'd imagine that he could try and intimidate and/or turn the PC's attention towards some other minor crisis (resolved in one game session) that mages nevertheless typically tend to consider as "urgent"... at least usually more than helping a mundane (even a lord, whose gratitude might indeed be useful).
Like stealing their vis source (or some other thing a bit less overdone... ) AND leaving false clues to lure them in a gross trap (nearby faerie troll/goblin nests, that's a classic). Or since he's arrogant and apparently a bit violent, he could provoque the faeries himself in a hit and run strike, in a way that would point the finger to the PCs.
Nothing too elaborate, deliberatly (besides, they're probably not worth more of his attention, in his arrogant outlook :mrgreen: ), but which could serve his purpose by occupying the PC at least long enough for him to finish his personal vendetta against the mundane (especially if the PC are the "bit too careful" kind).
Clever PCs should not have great difficulty to avoid this trap, whose purpose for you as a GM would be focused on leading them to some interesting roleplaying once they realise the NPC connection between apparently two distinct crisis : do they reconsider their priorities between mundane and magical ressources ? If not between their moral code (if the Lord is considered a friend/ally) and the (usually slightly selfish) "higher" concerns of mages ?
Anyway, just thinking out loud, sorry it was a bit longish.
But such a move by the NPC could also be justified by him thus testing their mantle to further evaluate the strenght of those hermetic "meddlers", before declaring WW against them, which was my point, I guess.
There may be nothing in the Peripheral Code because it's legal at face value - it breaks nothing of The Code, so one would be hardpressed to find reason to bring a complaint to Tribunal in the first place. One mage "picking" on several is hardly "unfair" (altho' repeated use of such could be seen as "bullying" - which is not technically illegal in itself, just frowned upon and often interpreted as breaking other parts of The Code).
However, your formal precedent(s):
899 AD, 1038 Age of Aries - Stonehenge Tribunal[list]Blackthorn covenant declares Wizard’s War on Rosalba covenant. Rosalba is destroyed and all the magi killed.
1003-1012 AD, 1142-1151 Age of Aries - The Schism War
The early stages of the war are simply chaos, with no known trigger. Mage battles mage, assassinations are performed, covenants turn on themselves, forests burned, plains wasted, and cities leveled in the war between Houses and Covenants.
The war ends with a declaration of Wizard’s War by Primus Cercistum of House Tremere on House Diedne. House Guernicus validates the declaration by Renouncing House Diedne.[size=85](from the timeline collated by the illustrious Mssr. Eric Tyrrell.)[/size][/list:u]
If one mage declaring WW on an entire House is not enough, I don't know what is.
(However - for the Devil's Advocates in the house, I'll point out 2 things - 1) Stonehenge Tribunal is usually inquorate* and so valid complaints may never get heard, much less ruled upon, and 2) the Schism War is hardly a "normal situation" and rulings during that time were often expedient (or even desperate) rather than traditionally weighed and validated. There could, quite possibly, be wiggle room in here for a legitimate complaint, altho' it would probably require politics more than legal grounds to get a conviction.)
(* Meaning they don't have enough magi show up every 7 years to legally make any rulings! This makes the threat of "Tribunal" much less real, and many crimes go unpunished, if not utterly unreported/unrecorded. Stonehenge is very much a "wild west" Tribunal, and hardly the best basis for "legal precedents", esp in the eyes of more stable Tribunals.)
He could spread them out, but I can't see where that'd not be a mistake. If several mage are WW'ing a single mage (as your PC's might to follow), they can spread it out - and so when one WW ends, another starts - tag-teaming the target, giving them no rest time! But here - yes, all receive them at once (and far more dramatic that way!)
A RedCap (or Quaesitor, if he could find one) would be required to deliver the notices reliably and accountably.
It's not illegal to help with a WW, it's just illegal to attack/scry on another mage, or "deprive them of their magical power", or otherwise break The Code. Other than that, it's all fair game.
What makes this interesting is that usually a WW is against 1 target, and the "Covenant" as a whole is off limits (except the Sanctum and anything in it - don't loan library books to mages in a WW!). And a sodales can find excuses to attack a strange, uninvited and unannounced mage in their Covenant! Here, the NPC is declaring WW against the entire covenant, so all property - inc. grogs/specialists/companions, all apprentices/familiars, the library, vis sources, etc etc. - all property is fair game and vulnerable, and any visitors should be aware that it's "open season" (even if they are technically protected).
If this NPC does his homework first, he can really mess them up and come out with some great doorprizes!
Oh, don't just kill him off! That's unfair to the Players! A good, hated enemy is a blessing to any Saga! He needs to survive so they can get really pissed off, and take him out in some climactic encounter!
I've actually gotten the same impression from AM5 materials. I'm not sure why and I don't think it was ever intended by the authors that Wizard's War be a duel rather than actual war-is-hell War. It might be that the dueling image comes from the fact that Certamen has been rather slighted recently. That's the real analogue for a duel, even if the current rules take away its lethality.
The impression may also be from the fact that AM5 presents the OOH as very rule based and orderly, to my mind at least. I have trouble reconciling the image of either serious Quaesitor investigation or Tribunals debating the fine print of the Peripheral Code with the image of entire Covenants going to all out war with each other and nobody stepping in provided the formalities are followed.
Thanks for alle the great answers. It seems like my NPC can 'safely' (from a politican view that is), declare this multiple WW against the players.
As long as he does not make a habbit of all those declarations of war, which might upset/annoy some of his sodales as stated by Tellus (and mentioned in the core rulebook).
As Lucuis T. correctly concludes this is a rather hazardous move by an arrogant Magus, who is confident in his own abilities and actually has a Hermetic age equal to the 4 players combined.
Hitsumei points out the player's possibility of calling in favours, but their Covenant has yet to be accepted in a Tribunal, and they have no powerful allies to speak of.
Also Hutsemei is spot on, calling the NPC desperate as he is under a very tight time schedule: he needs some effects from the before mentioned Lord - in order to go on a quest for an artifact, that he has stolen the directions to.
The player's know that a Magus is behind some of this, but they do not know who. Thus, the divert option is a good one, but one he has already tried twice, and he is running out of time...
Still thanks for the great tips Hitsumei - i'll give it a thought, and maybe have him attempt one last quick diversion that includes effects owned by the player's (starting some random fires in a nearby village didn't keep them away for very long last time).
Thanks for the historical precedences Cuchu. You are certainly right, that political consequences for minor breaches of the Code are not very severe in our current Tribunal - one of the reasons for the main SG to place his campaign here.
The letters will be delivered in the simultaneous (and dramatic) way, for reasons of time-pressure and style... and also to stress the fact that this is a darring move.
The NPC actually has a focus in letters, which he has used for innuendo and blackmailing of the Lord for a longer period.
This focus he could try to use this to his advantage later.
I am currently considering throwing the players four more letters (after the WW letters) with waiting spells as soon as they are out of the Covenant (assuming they dare) - one of them might be stupid/curious enough to open one.
And rest assured that i will not kill him off easily Cuchu. The main SG has just asked me to tone him down in the saga for a while as a conclusion of the next session, to fit his main plot.
He will return, more bitter and arrogant than ever ;D
More comments are always welcome
I think the official canon answer, if there is one, is to look in the Societates book under Flambeau. There's a whole sidebar on WW and the different ways it can used and such. Assuming you don't already have your answer.