I have hoped to find a book or something more about Tribunals and Grand Tribunals (and I really hope that you would consider writing a book about it - as they define very much about the life of the Magi of the Order)
I need things to flesh out the upcoming tribunal and coming grand tribunal in my sagas, so please fill this thread with ideas that I can toss in (small adventure/social hooks, interesting conflicts, interesting visiting characters, things that could happen)
A covenant wants to start a great project and is looking for supporters, offering rewards for help. e.g. some magi want to set up a centre of bookbinding and illuminating, collecting expert bookmakers and various magic items to help in production of vellum, inks etc. For help in setting it up, they offer binding services or discounts on expertly produced books. Some other magi might object to this as they might lose their experts to this centre of excellence. If you do something like this, there are story options later as the great project (which can be far away from the player covenant) starts to take form and makes changes throughout the tribunal or even the order.
Tribunals are an ideal setting for many different types of story.
- Magi vote on legal matters leaving room for politicking or Marches.
- Bonisagi publishing their research to accumulate prestige.
- Flambeau tourneys.
- Jerbiton parties.
- Grogs getting up to no good.
In my experience the best approach is to take a - Tribunal book as a base. There you have the actors of the Tribunal gathering every seven years detailed, and the general issues, major conflicts and local Tribunal procedures elaborated.
Then the tricky issue is, what of that to throw at your players' characters. Typically some boxes in the books suggest minor or major scenarios, aspects of which can be brought to the Tribunal gathering. But the older the magi get, the more devious and twisted they turn: you need to find out for yourself, what level of intrigue, subterfuge, arm twisting and bribery is adequate for your troupe. If you are not sure, have one or two elder magi perform as - more or less (dis)interested - mentors for your players' characters.
Adventures at a Tribunal gathering have the potential to introduce subjects involving your magi for many years to come. So better play them in an open fashion, look at the players' reactions and allow them to choose their characters' tasks and problems to some degree.
Sub Rosa #5 has a whole article on running an arc at Tribunal, and Sub Rosa #12 has a grog-based adventure set at Tribunal.
You can quickly access the reviews for both issues off this thread.
If you can get your hands on mythic perspectives issues 1-4 there is a series of articles "The Tribunal a closer look" that is my favorite treatment of tribunals. (Of course getting your hand on 15 year old fanzines might not be as easy as all that.)
Because there are so many NPCs at a Tribunal -- a situation which can confuse players and slow down play -- and because Tribunals are rare and you want to make them feel special, they are the perfect time to host a Live Action Role Play. Invite a dozen of your friends over, everyone brings a medieval dish (bread, cheese, and fruit suffice for those who can't cook!), wear your favorite bathrobe, and voila.
I usually run games with a Tribunal being the final set piece, and usually use a quick recap of Tribunal in the first session of the next campaign.
I used to use Tribunal as a rather boring legal thing but nowadays I skip over that for the most part, unless the PC's are particularly involved or I want the players to see something legal.
Nowadays I do a bunch of different things - Tribunal itself takes place after the Tourney and Fair usually.
I always have my players take the roles of combatants or NPC's dealing with the players as opposed to doing it all myself. We usually use it as a fairly diceless roleplaying thing.
Fair. Hermetic books, magical item contracts, some magical items on sale. Vis brokered, loaned and so on. We have a Verditius in the group and he enjoys discussing magic items he can make for people.
Academic demonstrations: I let people make skill checks to run little 'training' sessions, which allows them to gain reputation points. If people have Hermetic rivals they may heckle, making an opposed skill check.
My setting is based in the Provencal tribunal, so I have a House Flambeau tourney every Tribunal. (Canon it takes place more often, but I only use it this often.) This involves Certamen and Dimicatio, as well as melees and the like. I usually have magical items or books as prizes.
House Flambeau have their Make the Biggest Fire competition where every mage worth his ignem score gives it a go (Again with reputation points.)
House Flambeau only have their tell the most outrageous but vaguely true adventure stories competition (House rep)
Covenant alliances and deals are always negotiated at Tribunal.
There is a welcoming of new gauntleted magi into the order always held at Tribunal.
Hermetic games. Basically getting some opposed Concentration (Try to hold a feather on your nose with magic with a weasel in your pants), Finesse (Horseshoe thowing) and the like. Chess or checkers games, all of that stuff. Usually there's a vis cost to play and a vis prize, usually pretty low amounts.
Not always, but there's often a plot happening between various wizards. My campaign has two covenants who have been at war with each other since their founding (Unrelated to PC covenant). They often try to involve the PC wizards in their games.
The one time (so far) we had a Tribunal meeting, it was for Stonehenge in 1208. I made up cards with each attending magus' name and house, and color coded them by covenant. Different players took on the role of voting blocks (with Blackthorn and Voluntas being the two main blocks). The cards helped us keep track of who was in which block, and I would move some individual magi back and forth. Among other things, we had a vis source ownership discrepancy, a discussion about what to do with the Interdict, and the PC covenant was accused of interfering with the mundanes. I told the players the basic outline of how a voting block would be likely to proceed, and then the PCs had to do some wheeling and dealing to get various magi to switch sides.
Oh, and if it's Normandy, don't forget about the Hermetic Tourney (but it's a lot of work!). I could also envision Iberian Tribunal having some sort of contest, although it might not be specifically to allocate the Tribunal's vis resources.