The Peripheral Code

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This is the core text of the Code of Hermes. All Quaesitori are expected to be fully conversant with it. A commentary is provided touching upon rulings of the Peripheral Code which are relevant to each clause.

This section goes into considerable detail about the Code, rulings, minutiae and loopholes. In-game, only Quaesitori characters would be expected to know this kind of stuff. It's here for them, and for general interest - you won't need to memorise this stuff for the game. If you need to know it, you should seek out a Quaesitor and ask.

For Quaesitori players - this is a sample of the body of peripheral code and commentary around the law of the Order. There is plenty of room for debate and interpretation, and you will have access to both in- and out-of-character resources to help you at the event.

In short - you don't need to memorise this stuff.

I, [Bonisagus], hereby swear my everlasting loyalty to the Order of Hermes and its members.

While Bonisagus was the first to swear upon the Code, each subsequent magus to take the Code must insert his own name in place of Bonisagus'. It is important to note here the phraseology of Bonisagus' words 'everlasting loyalty'. There is no space for ambiguity of interpretation. Once a member of the Order, a Magus is always a member and can never leave the Order whether permanently or temporarily for convenience to by-pass a part of the Code.

This clause also notes the fact that a Magus swears loyalty to both the Order and to its members.

I will not deprive nor attempt to deprive any member of the Order of his magical power.

This is possibly the most important clause of the Code and it is notable that deprivation of magical power is placed before that dealing with physical injury. To a Magus, magical power is the most important and vital part of their being, and for another Magus to attempt to deprive them of it is a high crime. In this sense magical power encompasses many things: a familiar, an apprentice; personal tomes and notebooks of magic; personal vis supplies. To destroy, abduct or steal any of these things is such a deprivation.

Every magus should have a space that is considered their own: this is called his sanctum and is considered part of their magical power. Another magus should not enter another's sanctum, if they do so then the magus whose sanctum they have entered is within their rights to attack and kill the invading magus, irrespective of the actions of the invading magus. It should be noted that the sanctum must be marked clearly by a recognisable marker to define its extent.

While it is acceptable to construct Wards and defences within a sanctum to protect it from invasion or interference, it is not acceptable to place similar, deadly wards outside the Sanctum. Nor is it acceptable for the magus of the sanctum to injure or attack a magus who is approaching one's sanctum, for that magus may be wishing for peaceful discourse, not of evil intent.

Within the peripheral code, a magus' apprentice is a part of their magical power, and their full responsibility. It is accepted that the apprentice is the full responsibility of the Magus for the duration of the apprenticeship. Whatever acts the apprentice may commit, irrespective of whether they fall within in the Code, the Magus is responsible for, and if the Apprentice causes damage to another Magi's property or magical power, or otherwise breaks the Code, the Apprentice's master is liable for their actions, and may be required by Tribunal to recompense anybody the Apprentice so commits offences against. If an apprentice commits an offence against their master, destroying their resources or otherwise, then the Magus cannot claim recompense when the Apprentice becomes a full Magus, as the fault is deemed to be that of the Magus.

The Gauntlet, however, is a special case. Neither Master nor Apprentice is fully responsible for the actions of the Apprentice during the Gauntlet. However, if the Master sets a gauntlet where mundanes, the Fae or Demons are interfered with, or other breach of the Code is committed, is necessary or even most likely for success, then this is seen as a breach of the Code, and the Master can be punished as the ruling Tribunal sees fit. The Apprentice, even if they carry out the Gauntlet, is not seen as guilty within the Code.

This position of master and 'chattel' means that the Magus may do as they wish to the Apprentice, even the killing of the Apprentice, although House Guernicus strongly disapproves of the killing of Apprentices, as it decreased the magical potential of the Order as a whole. While a magus lives and is not in final twilight, there is no recourse in law to remove an apprentice from the master, unless the master fails to provide the apprentice with at least one season's tuition for each year. If the master is in twilight for over a year then the apprentice should not be removed as long as the apprentice receives tuition the season after the twilight is completed, and the missing season is compensated for within a reasonable period.

If a Tribunal removes the apprentice, or if the master dies or enters Final Twilight, then the apprentice must be reassigned to a new master. If there is only one magus prepared to take on the apprentice, then the matter is simple and the apprentice may be handed over forthwith. If there are multiple contenders then priority is given to those contenders of the same House. If there are still multiple contenders, then the final choice may be settled by certamen in the presence of witnesses, or if both parties are unwilling to take part in certamen, then the apprentice should be allowed a choice of masters. It should be noted that the covenant of the original magus does not have an automatic right to take the apprentice.

Of course, within the provision of the peripheral code, magi of the House Bonisagus may, at any point, and without reason given to the original magus, take the apprentice as their own. It should also be noted, under this proviso, that the magus of Bonisagus need not take the apprentice to become their own apprentice. Indeed, nowhere is this stated, though it is implied. In fact, the magus of Bonisagus may take the apprentice for any purpose, which may aid their magical studies. However, it should be noted that frivolous use of apprentices in this manner, or taking an apprentice from a non-Bonisagus under this proviso, not to teach but to merely deprive the other of, is not approved of: apprentices are a precious resource, and any magi who does not treat them as such is making the Order poorer by his actions.

Magical power can also be interpreted to be the spells and effects invented by the magus. No magus is obliged to share his inventions with his sodales. The exception here is the magi of the House Bonisagus who are obliged to share all of their inventions and advances of magic.

I will not slay nor attempt to slay any member of the Order, except in justly executed and formally declared Wizard's War. I hereby understand that Wizard's War is an open conflict between two magi who may slay each other without breaking this oath, and that should I be slain in a Wizard's War, no retribution shall fall on he who slays me.

The clause prohibiting slaying a fellow magus is a most important clause of the Code, and it is integral to the reasons behind the Order's foundation. To prevent murderous intent was and is still vital to retain the Order's stability.

A Wizard's War is a magical or non-magical fight, usually to the death, between two magi, who have intractable differences. To qualify as a Wizard's War, a notice of intent must be posted to the target on the next night of full moon. The Wizard's War begins on the rise on the next full moon and lasts until the next full moon.

For the duration of Wizard's War, the tenets of the Code with regard to this clause only are suspended and the two magi may do as they will to each other. However, if either damages another magi's property or injures or kills another magi in the course of the Wizard's War, then this is a breach of the Code.

While a magus may declare Wizard's War any number of times, each declaration must be justified. While a single declaration of War may be deemed appropriate, multiple declarations must be reasonable, and in each case the situation must have come to such a point that Wizard's War is the only recourse. A magus declaring unjustified Wizard's War is deemed to have to broken the primary Code and may be punished by Tribunal.

I will abide by the decisions made by fair vote at the Tribunal. I will have one vote at the Tribunal, and I will use it prudently. I will respect as equal the votes of all others at the Tribunal.

A tribunal is a meeting of twelve magi of at least four covenants, overseen by at least one (separate) Quaesitor. Each magus holds a sigil given to him by their master upon completion of the gauntlet, at a special tribunal meeting where the apprentice swears upon the Code. A magus at a tribunal is in charge of their own sigil unless they voluntarily pass it to a colleague. A magus cannot be forced to pass over their sigil even by certamen.

I will not endanger the Order through my actions. Nor will I interfere with the affairs of mundanes and thereby bring ruin upon my sodalis. I will not deal with devils, lest I imperil my soul and the souls of my sodalis as well. I will not molest the faeries, lest their vengeance catch my sodalis also.

With respect to interference with mundane society, much is made of the caveat 'and so harm my sodales' but this caveat cannot be seen as a universal escape clause. While it is inevitable that there will be some interaction between mundane society and the Order, it must be kept to a minimum and with great subtlety. If a magus needs to interfere with a mundane - and 'need' must mean imminent danger to the covenant - then they must do so in a way that will not identify them as a Magus of the Order. This means that either they must kill all witnesses, if they use magic; or they must not use blatant magic at all. The latter use is the most preferable, as the minimum number of deaths will provide less for the mundane forces to investigate. To use blatant magic or to otherwise bring the attention of the mundanes onto the Order is a breach of the Code.

Interference can also be taken to mean the indirect effect on mundane society by a covenant or magus. If by indirect actions, or failure to act in a way to prevent mundane concern, a magus or covenant brings negative attention upon themselves and thus the Order, then this can also be considered a breach of the Code.

There may come a time when a magus wishes to help one mundane force against another. This is a very dangerous situation, and one that often leads to breach of the primary code. Firstly, a main provision of the peripheral code sets a simple rule that cannot be ignored: that a Magus must not, under any circumstances, work for a mundane. The result of failure to abide by this is simple to see: the opposing force, seeing a Magus helping their enemy, will thus see the Order as their enemy also. If the employing mundane loses, they may see the Order as an enemy. Neither situation is acceptable.

A magus may also attempt to aid one mundane force against another without taking such a position, by taking a martial position with the army. If magic is used, then there is no doubt that the Magus has broken the Code. If magic is not used, the matter is less clear-cut. Primarily, the Magus should try and avoid such a situation, but if they find themmself in this situation, they must endeavour to keep their true nature from their companions. To allow the companions to know their true nature is a breach of the Code.

There is no ambiguity with respect to Demons and demon kind. While Demons are not deemed the automatic enemies of the Order it is should be noted that they are not, and never can be allies or friends. Primarily, one should avoid all and any interaction with demon kind. The use of summoning spells, or the striking of deals with demons, is strictly forbidden and there can be no excuse for such action. Renunciation and Wizard's March should be automatic in such cases. If a demon is present, binding or other attempts at forcing it’s behaviour is not acceptable as the threat of the demon should be weighted against the threat from the demon's anger at such action. However, if there is a direct threat, the dispelling of demons is allowable and, indeed, recommended.

Dealings with the Fae are complicated by the fact that the Fae are usually aware of the existence of the Order. The prime concern is that magi of the Order should not trouble the Fae and thus incur their wrath. The most common dealings with the Fae concern the harvesting of vis from Fae sites. While the Quaesitori accept that the harvesting of vis is most important, it should never reach a level, or use a method that inflicts too much distress on the Fae. Any such intrusion is counter to the Code. Again, as in other non-Hermetic interactions, no actions should be taken counter to the best interests of the Fae, except in reaction to direct action by the Fae against the covenant or magus.

I will not use magic to scry upon members of the Order of Hermes, nor shall I use it to peer into their affairs.

This clause includes all forms of magic - including most Intellego spells - to investigate another magus. A magus may allow another to investigate them with permission, but cannot be forced, even by certamen, to allow scrying. Non-magical investigation, though often ill advised, is not banned by the Code. Mundanes can be used for investigation and observation. However, if magic is used in any way to boost the performance of said mundanes, this is also taken to be against the Code.

A magus must also not interfere with Redcaps in the course of their duty. Theft of magus' correspondence from a Redcap can also be seen as a form of peering into their affairs, and is forbidden.

Note that a Quaesitor in pursuit of their duty may disregard this section of the Code if it is deemed sufficiently important. This right, however, is exercised with caution as overuse can be counterproductive. Policing this aspect of the Code was the original duty of the Monitor Internal’s Office in House Guernicus - it is now policed by the Quaesitor Maximus of each Tribunal.

I will train apprentices who will swear to this Code, and should any of them turn against the Order and my sodalis, I shall be the first to strike them down and bring them to justice. No apprentice of mine shall be called magus until he first swears to uphold this Code.

This clause seems to imply that it is the duty of all magi to train at least one apprentice. While this part of the Code is not strictly enforced, it should be noted that magi are strongly encouraged to find and train an apprentice as soon as their skills are sufficient, to enable the Order to grow and strengthen.

If a former apprentice has sworn upon the Code then, while the parent may wish to 'strike them down' they must do so only with the permission of a Tribunal or via a Wizard's War, or they will be breaking the Code as well.

I concede to Bonisagus the right to take my apprentice if he should find my apprentice valuable to him in his studies.

This clause was not spoken by Bonisagus, nor is it spoken by his followers. The Peripheral Code rules that the followers of Bonisagus have the same right as he did to take the apprentices of others. There is no firm body of law around this clause as respect for House Bonisagus usually means it is allowed without question.

There are recorded cases of more politically-adroit Bonisagus magi using this clause to the detriment of their political opponents. However, providing the value of the apprentice can be proven to a Tribunal's satisfaction, the balance of opinion is almost always on the Bonisagus' side.

I shall further the knowledge of the Order and share with its members all that I find in my search for wisdom and power.

Of the Founders, only Bonisagus spoke this provision, and now only his followers take this part of the oath. This clause compensates the other magi for the apprentices taken by Bonisagus and his followers. Note that by the terms of this clsue, Bonisagus magi are obligated to share the results of their researches openly and without favour. This expectation is what makes Bonisagus magi so popular as research leaders and project co-ordinatiors for major magical projects such as those aimed at breaking the Magical Limits or the Longevity Project - the assumption that any breakthrough will be shared openly, widely and immediately.

I request that, should I break this oath, I be cast out of the Order. If I am cast out, I ask my sodalis to find me and slay me that my life may not continue in degradation and infamy.

This clause details the main course of action against those who break the primary code. The term for being cast out of the Order is 'Renunciation' and any magus who has been renounced has no further right to life within the terms of the Code. The tribunal may order a Wizard's March whereby any magus of the Order, without regard for the Code, may with any necessary force, take the life or lives of any magus who has been condemned and renounced by a Tribunal.

Renunciation is not the only recourse within the primary and peripheral Code. For minor infractions the tribunal may require the offender to pay a fine in vis or other services to either the tribunal or wronged party. Often these fines take the form of the suitable reparation: if a magus kills another's familiar, for example, their own familiar may be taken from them; for theft of magical resources, they may be required to work for a season or more at the behest of the wronged party's covenant.

Note: It is the duty of the tribunal, with the aid and advice of the Quaesitor, to decide upon a suitable punishment once culpability is established. A Quaesitor may recommend an appropriate punishment or slate of punishments, but it is vote of Tribunal that decides the matter.

The enemies of the Order are my enemies. The friends of the Order are my friends. The allies of the Order are my allies. Let us work as one and grow hale and strong.

This is a final statement of an ideal to hold the Order together. There is little consensus on who actually constitutes an enemy of the Order, with the exception of non-Hermetic wizards. Non-Hermetics or 'exotics' are uniformly considered to be enemies of the Order because of their refusal to join the Order and the threat they thus embody (see, however, the Treaty of Barcelona, ratifying and recognising the Kaballah as a foreign but formally recognised magical power).

While most non-Hermetics are not of the magical standard of the magi of the Order, there is a possibility of non-Hermetics of considerable power or potential, and thus those magi who refuse to join the Order are considered suitable and necessary targets to destroy if at all possible. Magi of the Order should not interact with non-Hermetics unless it is to bring them into the Order, and should they refuse no more dialogue should be gone into, but the non-Hermetic killed forthwith. It is not necessary to invite the said non-Hermetic into the Order but a magus may execute them without warning.

These terms were fine and acceptable in the Order's heyday, but are applied with more pragmatism nowadays. The Turks have their own magicians, the Mongols brought unknown magics with them, and the Scandinavians have their own traditions that did an excellent job of keeping the Order out of Sweden and Denmark. The days of the Order bullying other traditions into joining it are long gone.

This oath I hereby swear on the thirtieth day of Aquarius, in the nine hundred and fifth year of Pisces. Woe to they who try to tempt me to break this oath, and woe to me if I succumb to the temptation.

Bonisagus took the oath on February 19th, A.D. 767, which is the thirtieth day of Aquarius in the nine hundred and fifth year of Pisces , according to Hermetic reckoning. Hermetic astrologers place the Age of Pisces as beginning in 139 B.C. Each new magus states the current date in place of this one as they take the oath.

It is traditional to use the astrological date, rather than the common one. The Tribunal will be held on 12th September 1198, which by Hermetic reckoning will be the 22nd day of Virgo, fourteen hundred and eighty-fourth Year of Pisces.

The Hierarchy of Punishments

Tradition and legal precedent have set a hierarchy of punishments the Quaesitori can offer to the Tribunal for those found guilty of breaking the Code. It is this sliding scale that Quaesitori can manipulate to ensure fairer judgements. With those at the top the most severe and those at the bottom the most minor, these are the Tribunal's tools for meting out justice.

  • Destruction of the Gift (or Rite of Phobos and Deimos)
  • Death (or Rite of Phobos and Deimos)
  • Destruction of Familiar
  • Destruction (or reassignment) of Apprentice
  • Destruction of Laboratory
  • Destruction or Confiscation for fixed period of Talismans, Items and/or Machina
  • Indentured Service for Fixed Period (generally up to three years, measured in seasonal increments)
  • Fine of raw Vis

Note that this is not an either-or scale; a magus without a familiar can expect to lose both his apprentice and his laboratory if justice demands a punishment of that magnitude. Quaesitori judgement works on Reparation and Retaliation; a magus who has committed a low crime against another can expect to both compensate the injured party (with a tithe of vis, or time spent copying texts or perhaps working in a laboratory – a demeaning service) and to be damaged himself in equal part.

Low Crimes are deemed to be those that break the Peripheral Code; High Crimes are those that break the Code of Hermes and for them, punishment is usually death. Destruction of Gift is a punishment reserved only for the most ghastly and heinous High Crimes such as multiple murder, destruction of an entire covenant or diabolism on a grand scale.

The Basics

Houses - Tribunals - The Code - Titles and Positions - Magi and Magic - Quick Reference

Introduction - The Order in 1346 - A Who's Who of Attendees - Rules and Techniques