Order of Hermes
Next Grand Tribunal: Summer 1227
The Order of Hermes is the single largest group of magical practitioners in Europe, with an estimated population of about 1200 members. The Order was founded in the year 767, following on the efforts of the wizard Bonisagus to develop a scientific system of magic, and of his former apprentice Trianoma to meet other wizards throughout the continent and convince them to join forces.
There have been several major crises in the history of the Order, but the greatest of these, and the one that still colors relations between magi even today, is the Schism War of the early 11th century. This occurred when increasing tensions between individual magi eventually led to House Tremere declaring total war against House Diedne, under some pretense of diabolism. Houses Flambeau and Jerbiton openly joined forces with Tremere, and many magi from other Houses took part as well; Diedne, on the other hand, received little support from outside and was eventually destroyed after being officially renounced at an emergency Grand Tribunal.
(for a more thorough description of the Order and its history, go here.)
The Order is divided into twelve Houses. While all of the Houses practice Hermetic magic, each has a different philosophy that affects the aspects on which they focus, and determines the common strengths and weaknesses of its members.
- Bjornaer – transformation into animals
- Bonisagus – research and political leadership
- Criamon – a cryptic philosophy focused on solving “the Enigma”
- Ex Miscellanea – a disparate collection of minor traditions with no single focus
- Flambeau – fire and combat magic
- Guernicus – law enforcement within the Order
- Jerbiton – art, beauty, and relations with mundane society
- Mercere – messengers – notably, many members of this House do not actually have the Gift, though they may have some other special qualities
- Merinita – integration of faerie magic into the Hermetic system
- Tremere – proto-Machiavellian politics
- Tytalus – growth through conflict
- Verditius – expert enchanters
Most magi stay in the House in which they were apprenticed, but it is possible to change (and sometimes necessary, if one is expelled for whatever reason). The Houses of Bonisagus, Guernicus, Mercere, and Tremere are “true lineages” and will not accept anyone who was not trained by another member of that House, but the others tend to be more open as long as the applicant shows some genuine interest in the work that House does.
The Code of Hermes
The Code is the body of law governing the Order, to which all magi swear an oath when they graduate from apprenticeship. The central tenets are:
- Remain loyal to the Order
- Do not deprive another magus of the ability to wield magic
- Do not kill another magus, unless in a legally declared Wizard’s War
- Respect the decisions made at Tribunal
- Do not endanger the Order by interfering with mundanes or faeries, or by having any business with demons
- Do not scry on other magi
- Train apprentices to uphold the Code, and take responsibility for those who do not
The Peripheral Code is the accumulated body of law that has formed through centuries of Tribunal rulings. This also includes rulings made by regional tribunals, which are only binding within the tribunal in question. Rulings made by the Grand Tribunal, on the other hand, apply to the entire Order.
The Limits of Hermetic Magic
The Hermetic system evolved from a combination of several older traditions, distilling their core elements into something compatible that could be easily studied and applied to a wide variety of situations (well, as much as magic can ever be called “easy”). Nevertheless, there are certain things that cannot be done under the present system. The two major limitations are that Hermetic magic cannot affect the Divine, and cannot change a thing’s essential nature. Several other limitations derive from these two – Hermetic magic cannot…
- …halt or reverse aging, although it can still slow it
- …affect a target without sensing it, either directly or through an Arcane Connection
- …permanently create anything without applying raw vis
- …restore lost energy (i.e. Fatigue or Confidence)
- …see through the deceptions of the Infernal realm
- …affect the lunar sphere, or anything above it
- …create or restore a soul
- …alter or see through time
- …affect true love, true faith, or similar feelings that are part of one’s essential nature
Additionally, as was pointed out in the first game session, the Hermetic system does not currently allow for collaborative spell casting. There is one exception to this – Wizard’s Communion, a Muto Vim spell that remains from the ancient Cult of Mercury and does not fit neatly with Hermetic theory. This allows a group of magi (who all must know Wizard’s Communion) to join forces on a ritual or formulaic spell, but not on a spontaneous spell.