The Society Of Natural Philosophers

Rationale For the Term Natural Philosophy

Scholars and practitioners of magic style themselves natural philosophers because they study nature, and magic is a part of nature. This is a recent and perhaps radical viewpoint, since in the past magic was usually regarded as mystical or supernatural or otherwise in the domain of that which could not be analyzed and understood. They are philosophers because they use their intellect to find information and develop understanding. They distinguish themselves from other philosophers who study religion, or history, or abstractions of ethics or other subjects not concerned with nature, by the appellation natural. Nature involves many mundane principles, such as the force of water and wind, agriculture, construction of large buildings, and the nature of life (all of which might be manifestations of a magic foundation), but the most important aspect of nature, in their view, is magic. Generally, a natural philosopher is a combination of one who studies the nature of magic in an academic sense and one who practices magic, though there are those who are academic only or practitioners only. Natural philosophers whose field is magic sometimes refer to themselves as wizards or mages.

The Charter

The SNaP holds a charter from a previous ruler* of the city. The original charter grants the Society protection by the crown from persecution from any source, and granted, at the time of its founding, ownership of a building large enough for an auditorium. Public oral presentations are regularly made to a small audience of 50-150 in the auditorium. The SNaP, by the terms of the charter, limit themselves to the pursuit of knowledge and remain aPolitical and non-profit. In return, the SNaP provides advice and information regarding nature, especially magic, to the crown whenever required. In practice, the king calls in whomever he deems suitable if he requires magic, rather than calling on the SNaP.

Would there be a minister of magic, or perhaps a court wizard, independent of the SNaP or SOMM?

The charter came about as follows: Historically, when the ideals of a group of natural philosophers emerged and became publicized in the years before [name*], there was serious opposition, to the point of attacks on persons and property. The opposition was made up of other wizards who objected to “opening up” the secrets of magic and of others with religious, economic, and political agendas. These same groups were often inimical to the crown. By granting the charter, the crown gained a possibly useful ally while thwarting to a small extent the activities of some troublemakers – all for the expense of some trivial real estate and a promise. Any able king knows how to graciously ignore a promise, if needful.

  • If we know the names of previous rulers and the years of their reign, this detail can be filled in.

The Chancellor

The activities of the SNaP are nominally under the supervision of a chancellor appointed by the ruler, who holds office for 3 years and cannot hold office more than once. This is, of course, a means for the ruler to stay informed in an open and public way about the society’s doings, to influence the Society, and to limit any accrual of political power by an individual by the means of association with the SNaP. It also brings considerable prestige to the crown. Nobody minds, because the office is always bought from the crown by a wealthy noble or merchant who has pretensions of being a scholar and encourages the wealthy to be generous with patronage.
The Work Of the Society

The work of the SNaP is the collection and reporting of information relating to nature. The information is primarily about magic, but not exclusively. Conducting experiments with performing magic is one means of collecting information, but is not done as a SNaP operation. There are no laboratories, or areas for experimenting with magic, that belong to the SNaP, because the organization is not wealthy enough to obtain suitable space. The buildings granted under the terms of the charter are not large enough nor suitable for laboratories, and the SNaP, as an organization, is too poor to buy more. Patrons had rather sponsor individuals than a bureaucracy. Also see Library below.

The Work Of Natural Philosophers

Natural philosophers, who might or might not be active in the SNaP, conduct their researches, including experimenting with the practice of magic, in places of their choosing, usually their own houses. Very few of them are wealthy enough to afford suitable houses – or to own a house at all – or to afford some of the paraphernalia required by some types of magic. Natural philosophers cannot look to support from the SNaP because the SNaP is too poor to help them. The most successful and productive natural philosophers are provided funds or space by merchants or nobles in the role of patron, unless they are wealthy enough to provide for themselves. The work of the natural philosophers is not done under the auspices of the SNaP. The SNaP has no authority whatever over the activities of any natural philosopher associated with it. Most natural philosophers do attend reporting sessions of the SNAP and maintain contact with their colleagues. There are, of course, factions and friction. The SNaP is a network of natural philosophers and little else, except for the library.

The Library

As the SNaP became established and accepted, those seeking information about a variety of subjects not related to nature looked to its officers and members. Examples are trade routes, geography, the layout and customs of foreign places, where valuable materials might be found in foreign parts. Eventually, appropriate members of the SNaP convinced [name, the son of the charter giver*] to grant them a library where written information could be stored and made available to qualified readers. [Name*] gave them a modest palace taken from a traitorous noble, considering that it was better for the crown to provide patronage than an ambitious noble. The library is the only operation that can be cited as an operation of the SNaP as an organization.

Structure Of the Society

There is a secretary, who keeps track of who’s who and of the ambiguous list of natural philosophers who come to his notice, and their accomplishments. There is a treasurer, who keeps track of whatever financial issues there are. There is a speaker, who conducts meetings where reports are delivered orally and schedules meetings for presentations of work. There is a librarian, who keeps track of reports and findings brought to the society by its members or other respected scholars or wizards, and maintains the growing collection of books and other written materials on many subjects. All of these officers have the assistants they deem necessary.

Membership In the Society

Anyone is welcome to attend the oral reporting sessions of the Society, or to attend any other gatherings at the Society’s building. Membership is by invitation and is based upon either scholarly contributions or by demonstrated proficient at performing magic, or both, theory. The exact qualifications for membership are not specified, so of course tend to be arbitrary, which causes friction. The selection of new members is not formal. Someone undeserving might receive membership because of patronage while the proposed membership of an accomplished aspirant might languish because he lacks influence or has offended an influential member. The Old Guard (see Executive Authority) informs the secretary of a proposed new member. The secretary posts a notice. The Old Guard observes the general reaction and then either confirms the nomination or postpones it.

Executive Authority

The chancellor, by charter, directs the activities of the SNaP. In practice, his authority is almost nil, and he leaves the boring administrative work to the officers. The natural philosophers go along him if they don’t object to his ideas. Otherwise, they ignore him and there is little that he can about it. This situation encourages factions and friction.

There is no other executive authority in the form of a person or council. Things are run by the Old Guard informally, not as an official council. The Old Guard knows who they are, members know who they mostly are, and you cross them at your peril. The Old Guard is composed of a dozen or so scholar/wizards of outstanding accomplishment, mostly wealthy, with important connections to wealthy and powerful merchants and nobles. Excelsius is an Old Guard. Individually, their power is limited. Taken collectively, they can be a formidable lot, depending upon the issue, because of the backing that they can elicit, including, on occasion, the crown. When they do act decisively, it is as a coterie of individuals, not as representatives of the SNaP. The Old Guard are not always in agreement among themselves. The SNaP, as an organization, can take no significant action at all (other than collecting information). When it is said that the SNaP favors this or that, or did this or that, the statement should always be translated to mean that a group of wizards, usually the Old Guard, favors or did this or that. The crown likes it this way, and so do the Old Guard.

The Community Of Natural Philosophers

Most members of the SNaP regard the SNaP as representing all natural philosophers in The Visage of Strife, including transients, who have the goal of increasing the knowledge and practice of magic in an open and unrestricted manner. Any who are not members are regarded as belonging to a community of natural philosophers, with the SNaP the center and guiding light of this community. Natural philosophers who belong to other organizations, including ones devoted to magic, are included in this community if they have a compatible outlook.

The SNAP According To the Rules

Using Andy’s guideline, the Society Of Natural Philosophy could be like this:

Size 1 (50-100 people)

Scope 1 (the Study Of Nature (particularly magic)

Aspect: Power Is Knowledge. The phrase is a play on words, reversing the usual phrase, knowledge is power. This phrase refers to the fundamental principle of the Society, that magic (power) can be understood in a rational way by collecting and analyzing information about magic, rather than relegating magic to mysticism, the supernatural, ancient folklore, or other mysterious causes.
Aspect: Power Protects Power. The phrase alludes to the charter, whereby the crown’s political protection of the Society is matched by the power of magic and information provided by the loyal Society to the crown.

Aspect: The Old Guard. The Old Guard is a small of group of accomplished wizards, who have significant influence in the merchant and political spheres, who run the SNAP in an informal way.

Skill: Academics

Stunts: Library, University
(University in the sense that some of the members of SNaP are tutors of aspiring wizards and scholars. This is part of the fuzziness and ambiguity attending the SNaP. It is a virtual university because some of its members provide the functions of a university.)


The Tainted World TheGonk