Alternate Tribunals and borders

So there have been discussions on the discord in the past weeks regarding the Tribunals, in particular the over representation of the British isles (3 Tribunals, for a small population compared to Novgorod being literally everything East of Lusatia) in comparison with the rest of Europe. As such I suggest the following (rough) redrawing of Europe into new/alt Tribunals:

I realise that this would require a complete rewrite of Canon, and would invalidate the Tribunal books of previous editions, but I do feel like it would be a more balanced representation of Mythic Europe.

One conceit for this redrawing to work would be regular (each Grand Tribunal) re-approval of some of the borders, based on pre-agreed upon rules/definitions. It has the advantage of encouraging Tribunals to set up new fresh Covenants on border regions to try and grow at the expense of the neighbour. I see this as a feature (plot hook) rather than a bug.

  1. Andalusia
    Formerly covering much more of the Iberian Peninsula, it is gradually shrinking, as the agreed partition between Andalusia and Catalonia are the domains of Christendom and of Islam. The last redrawing at the Greater Tribunal of 1179 used the Tagus river for the western border and the Cuenca mountains and Castellon as its Eastern border.
    The Tribunal is dominated by native Ex Misc Sahirs and Criamons who moved in, several high profile Guernicus have made their residence on the border regions in the past decades to follow more closely on the rumours of Flambeau meddling with mundanes. They are opposed to the Catalonian Tribunal.
    In order to make up for the ground they are losing on the Iberian peninsula, they have established a thriving Covenant in the Rif and plan further expansions into the Atlas mountains, where many mystical animals, such as white, auram aspected, lions are said to live.

  2. Baltic Lands
    This is not a Tribunal per say, but a no man's land agreed between the Tribunals of Kiev and Czech & Lech. The Rhine and Greater Alpes were key to brokering this agreement as the local population were neither Eastern nor Western Slavic, which had been the broadly agreed border criteria between the two. The mages of the Rhine sought to leave this area free to colonise it themselves or at least to send off their freshly gauntleted apprentices as the German Vis sources are growing rarer, while at the same time, circumventing the need to approval to set up a new Covenant.
    While this area spend decades largely ignored, on the back of the Baltic Crusade and the foundation of a Mercere House in Riga, a number of young mages from the Rhine, the Alpes and Roma have migrated to capitalise on a number of unclaimed vis sources that they could only have dreamed of in their home Tribunals. Whether they will seek the protection of their home tribunals, the neighbouring slavic tribunals or seek to form their own at the next Grand Tribunal remains to be seen.

  3. Catalonia
    Catalonia was a rump of the old Lotharingian Tribunal which grew to the Pyrenees and then southwards under the impetus of house Flambeau.
    Catalonian Covenants have been expanding ever since and are claiming freshly evacuated lands as allodial and Terra Nullis, in order to set up new several spring Covenants or chapter houses. They are following hot on the heels of the Reconquista, and even are often accused of supporting the christian crusaders unlawfully.
    The Flambeau are heavily represented in this Tribunal along with house Jerbiton. They have viewed the Albigensian crusade suspiciously as an encroachement of the Norman onto their territories, however in the absence of new Norman sponsored tribunals, they have refrained from getting involved as their eyes are turn south.

  4. Celtic
    Once covering all of the British isles thanks to Pralix, the tribunal fragmented and has been riven by dissention, largely between the more populated English realm and the smaller tribal Celtic ones. The main factions (Stonehenge, Loch Legan and Hibernia) endured extended hardship during the Schism war as not only Diedne were hunted but old scores were settled. These tensions kept escalating under the reign of William the Conqueror and many traditional Ex misc Celtic traditions saw grave hardship during the Harrowing of the North, which many saw as an attack by the Latin leaning southerners against the Northern autochtones.
    This second civil war was averted by the Compact of Broceliande, where Brittany seceded from Normandy, under a strong Tytalus impetus. Hadrian's wall was agreed as one border, owing to it's lay lines and Mercurian significance. While Wales and Cornwall joined the Celtic Tribunal, these sparsely populated regions have since fallen under the yoke of the King of England and the locals are being subjugated by the Anglo-Norman rulers, some allegedly supported by the Stonehenge faction. If rumours are to be believed, two or three older Covenants in Normandy have been accumulating young mages to form new chapter houses both in the Welsh marches as well as to reclaim Tintagel for Normandy, while the local Tremere are pushing for a redrawing of the Tribunal border to represent the English crown lands.
    The Tribunal is dominated by the Tytallus, Ex Misc and Merenita members, though strong regional characters keep the three main factions (Hibernia, Loch Legan and Breton) at each other's throat rather than working together (some might think this deliberate on the part of the Tytalus). The few Guernicus struggle to maintain any order as these regions make the northern and western frontier of the Order, with only rare visits failing to stop famous decades long wizard's war.

  5. Czech & Lech
    This is a dangerous and wild Tribunal, while a buffer zone in Ruthenia separates its mages from their rivals in the Kievan Tribunal, there is no love lost between the Polish and Czech mages of this Tribunal and their neighbours. They still hold on to some of Pommerania, thanks to the strong influence of Crintera who laid claim to registered vis sources there, which is the most proeminent Covenant in the Tribunal, hotly followed by the Irencila in Bohemia and Leykza in Poland. Owing to the presence large numbers of Merenita and Bjornaer spreading from their Domus, the Tribunal is seen as strong despite its small population. The border between it and the Rhine has been delineated with a large number of magically marked stones, which are regularly inspected by mages of both Tribunals, lest the other move them. A mage caught harvesting Vis across the border can expect little mercy from their neighbour.
    This Tribunal was founded by splitting from the first Novgorodian Tribunal, due to the terrible dissention between the Polish and Russian mages. The two bohemian Covenants of Irencilla and Roznov were keen to join, as they had felt like outsiders among the more Latin descended Rhine Tribunal. Cintera's adhesion was a last minute affair, which led to a more complicated border drawing, but fearing that the heirs of Bjorna's enemy might be integrated into a neighbouring Tribunal, they joined Czech and Lech, to keep hunting down their ancestral enemies with a minimum of outside interference.
    In countrast its Eastern border is much more nebulous, the area south of the Baltic lands (broadly the Minsk-Pinsk corridor) does not have any settled Covenants, though both sides would be keen to establish new Covenants in order to lay new claims.

  6. Greater Alpes
    No major change. The Borders with Roma is since its inception are the Po and Polcevera rivers. While Venice was expected to join due to its location, the vote was swayed by the large number of Roman chapter (trading) houses based there.
    Its borders are considered the most quiet, having only changed once, to absorb the duchy of Provence.

  7. Kievan
    The Kievan Tribunal is a wild place, pretty much the old Novgorod Tribunal, but with different borders. Also, does not lay claim to Scandinavia, per the mediated split with Czech and Lech.

  8. Levant
    The Levant Tribunal does not have formally agreed upon borders. The Toros mountains make a de facto border with the lands realistically claimed by the Theban Tribunal, and the recent siege of Damietta by German Crusaders has led to the Easternmost branch of the Nile being claimed as its other border with Africa, while the establishment of a new Covenant there or in the Sinai has been discussed, it has yet to manifest.

  9. Lotharingia
    Not a Tribunal, however wishing to avoid the bad luck of being the 13th Tribunal, its members both in Normandy and the Rhine seek to ally themselves with the Baltic Tribunal faction to establish both Tribunals simultaneously.

  10. Norman
    The Norman Tribunal covers most of the Territories of the Kingdoms of France and England, with several factions hoping for a merging of the two crowns in the coming years. The border with Catalonia is volatile, partly based on the old roman split of Gaul and party on subsequent redrawings. With the Stonehenge faction abandonning the British Tribunal in favour of Normandy, Aquitaine was brought along to correspond to Realm borders, as well as to attenuate tensions between the large Sorginak tradition which had been locking horns with zealous Flambeau.
    The Tribunal is highly tumultuous with a large number of Tytalus and Flambeau mages seeking to further the influence of their Domus in neighbouring Tribunals. Its borders with the Celtic tribunal are seen as good testing grounds for young mages who wish to experience the frontier and to test their magical might.
    Its North-Eastern border with the Rhine could well be redrawn as the Flemish and Champagne based covenants seek more peaceful interactions with the mundane world and less open conflict and raiding.
    The Tribunal is highly populous with only Catalonia rivalling it in sheer number of mages, though strong regional factions prevent cohesive actions on a grand scale, instead an ever shifting web of alliances (and sometimes of allegiances) determines who holds the most power at any time.
    The regular tournaments offer not only Norman mages, but their guests as well, the opportunity to challenge other mages without the fatal consequence of wizard's war.

  11. Rhine
    No major chance compared to the book, except its eastern border is with the Tribunal of Czech and Lech. This border was formalised at the same time as the Novgorodian split. It's southern border are the alpes and the Donau with the Greater Alpes, and the old Lotharingian border with Normandy. Several younger covenants in its West seek to reform Lotharingia to escape its stiffling rules, which terrifies the older Covenants, as they risk, in addition to a vis penury, a great loss of prestige and a reduction in numbers which would put them far behind the Norman Tribunal.
    The Ash Gild is keen on establishing a new Covenant in Denmark to claim the whole Kingdom as part of the Rhine, if not at the Grand tribunal of 1228 then at that of 1277.

  12. Roma
    Much as the books, agreed a northern border with the Alpes as the Po/Polcevera. Venice still is part of it, not that the populated city generates vis, but it is an active trading center binding the interest of most of the Roman Tribunal who have trading chapterhouses there.
    Several young magi want to reclaim the lost Covenant of Carthage with had been established during the Sicilian invasion of Tunisia under Roger II. It's loss to the Sahirs is yet to be confirmed and many speak of untapped vis sources there, which are cruelly missing from populous Italy.

  13. Thebes
    No major change. They maintain a Covenant near Cherson as a last bastion of the Empire, though long seen as a winter Covenant buoyed by trade, the sack of Constantinople has led to several active magi taking refuge there and reinvigorating the old site. The Caucasus mountains are an agreed upon northern frontier, though as of 1220, there is no active covenant past Trebizond due to the marauding Turks. The Tribunal is vis rich, thanks to a plethora of Greek mythological sites, which has not driven many mages to defend its eastern border against the steppe horse archers and their hedge tradition. They are much more occupied thwarting the plans of Roman mages who see the latin Empire as a reason to expand their interests eastwards, with Crete as a prize.

  14. Transylvania
    No real change.

I welcome feedback.

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Really great idea.

I would suggest to add another tribunal: The tribunal of scandinavia.

In my opinion the storyline about scandinavia being a pagan land outside of the comprehension of normal magi and a place where only the daring go, is about 200 years out of date at least.

In current setting of 1220 the danish kingdom is a fully christian kingdom (as much as most other european states) the same goes for sweden and norway even iceland has become a mostly christian society. The scandinavian countries are just regular states at this time fully enmeshed in the political landscape of europe.

There is really no reason to treat them as savage lands beyond mortal comprehension.

It is of course an option to treat scandinavia as part of another tribunal. But if we are to redefine the tribunals entirely then it is better to make it into its own tribunal and do away with this strange situation where Ars magica treats scandinavia as if the viking age is still going strong.

Other than that: Great work. I think you are definitely on to something in that many of the tribunals seem strangely defined and ill fitting to the setting.
I really like the idea that borders are defined by the current state of certain events rather than being defined based on some past state, imagined or real. It allows for stories about pushing the borders without having to trigger a full scale intertribunal war.

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The only reason the canon Novgorod Tribunal claims so much land is that there currently aren't any other tribunal claiming that land. In actuality, much of the land claimed by the Novgorod Tribunal doesn't have any Hermetic presence at all.

Agreed about a Scandinavian Tribual. It is overdue to happen, and it is really only paranoia about the Order of Odin which has stopped the OoH from establishing covenants there so far.
While official canon has avoided making any explicit statements about if the Order of Odin really exists or not, reading between the lines the message seems to be that there isn't any Order of Odin as the OoH thinks of it, and probably never was.

I would also expect covenants to start establishing themselves down in Africa. I could easily see either a North African Tribunal getting established along the north coast of Africa and/or a Nile Tribunal for Egypt and the rest of the area around the Nile down to Ethiopia.

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I considered adding Denmark to the Rhine, especially as a way of balancing the loss on it's eastern border. But yes, with Holgr Dansk being one of Charlemagne's Paladins, adding Jutland and the islands (if not Skane) to the Rhine seems totally reasonable.

I don't think that 13th century Sweden/Norway were some kind of uncharted uncivilised wildness (that would be Finland), but limiting its hermetic settlement would be reasonable, for historic reasons. Having 3-5 Covenants in coastal areas each depending on another Tribunal would be a cool set up for a Saga: one from Normandy and one Celtic one, as people tracing their ancestry to Norway seek to return to their magic roots, plus one from the Rhine and one from a (or each of) Slavic neighbour. Having some kind of Great Game where the OoH is chasing down the Order of Odin (which I personally find cooler to exist, even if it is on its last leg).

I agree. That's why I would have Andalusia bleeding over into the Rif, and possibly further into North Africa under pressure of the Catalan Tribunal. The two main limits to the Order, and especially the Levant and Roma's expansion into North Africa are, in my view:
1- having enough people to do so
2- resistance by the Order of Solomon.

As a young Italian mage, I would not stick around Rome begging for scraps of vis, but pack my bags and go somewhere Vis rich, possibly to exert a a migratory pressure on Thebes (piggy back on the 4th Crusade).
From an OOC perspective, I'm not sure that I would want to run a game about being a European colonialist setting up shop in North Africa and claiming it from the less magically powerful local tradition at CrIg-wand-point. Playing this kind of colonialist story in Sweden would feel safer.

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The Order of Solomon are somewhat scarce in North Africa. The natives there don't much like them (or other foreign magicians) and have been doing a pretty good job of keeping them out.

If you go up to the northern parts of Sweden (or Norway or Finland) and start claiming land there at CrIg-wand-point from the native Sami people - well, that should make you feel just as uncomfortable OOC as doing it in Africa, and for much the same reasons.

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Yeah, the same got a rough deal. One nice in period thong was that other Scandinavians delayed their christianisation because the same made the best seers. So maybe reskinned Settutens.

Not Settuten. That is a very specific magical tradition based around destruction as a central theme, that don't really translate well to other regions.
Cunning-folk or reskinned Gruagachan would probably be a better fit for Sami magicians - who did indeed have a reputation as powerful magicians.
Further south in Scandinavia you would mostly have Viktir and Folk witches as the native magic traditions.

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I'm not 100% convinced that the arrangement of the tribunals as it stands is really a problem - any more than the difference in size of mundane kingdoms is a problem. Certainly not to the degree that it's worth tossing out the whole set of current tribunal books.

But to play along, if there is a problem here then the way to think about the "natural" borders of tribunals has got to be in terms of administration and cohesion. If a tribunal gets too stretched out, either geographically or because of political disagreement, then it'll naturally split into two tribunals.

Because of that I think that the problem would be less that the British isles have too many tribunals, it's that the rest of the order has too few. The physical size of Hibernia/Loch Leglean/Stonehenge is a much more practical administrative unit compared to the whole of Iberia, or the vastness of Novgorod (or the Rhine for that matter - way too large to be practical).

Some of the merged tribunals here seem very unwieldy in the same way. Take for example the Celtic tribunal - what does a magus in the Loire valley have in common with a magus in Caithness to make them want to be in the same tribunal? Is it even practical for magi to attend tribunal meetings considering the geographic spread and limited mundane infrastructure between the different parts of the tribunal? It would seem to make more practical sense to combine Loch Leglean and Hibernia (which are actually heavily interconnected regions) and leave Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany connected to the tribunals they actually neighbour.

I suppose what I'm getting at is some of these suggestions instantly make me think "if I was a magus at one end of that tribunal I don't know if I'd even bother travelling to tribunal. And I bet the post would take forever to arrive.". Make every tribunal the size of Stonehenge and have twice as many of them seems a better solution to me. We're already talking about a full re-write so we might as well go all in! This has gameplay benefits too imo - a small-medium sized tribunal is easier to run stories in. It keeps the cast of magi smaller and more focused. Plus those books would have a tighter focus and be easier to produce.

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I think so too. This is why I split Novgorod into Kiev and Czech & Lech. I also think it would be an interesting event In Character, so the Norman tribunal splitting into France/England would be a good plotline, much as I found that Lotharingia was interesting enough to have the split happen in the Rhine saga that I run.

Well, canonically there are only two Covenants in Brittany (Exspectatio Fudarus), and they would be united in their dislike of the Norman Tribunal. Also, they are connected by sea to the rest of the Celtic regions which makes travel and communication comparatively easy, especially to those who can control the waves or the wind. And would share a closer culture and native language, as well as the high importance of the sea in their lives (which the Breton would not share with a Champenois or a Bourguignon).

The problem with any border is that anyone is likely to have more in common with their neighbour right across the border than with the people at the other end of the Tribunal/Country/Empire.

The answer boils down to can the trip to the Tribunal be done in 10 days each way to avoid losing a season.

But I don't like the "too small" tribunals, Loch Legan with only 3 canonical covenants verges on the "inquorate to count as a Tribunal", and thinking that it should be merged with Hibernia was the first step in my redrawing of borders. Considering the rate of the Gift being present and the chance of a gifted child going unnoticed, Tribunals need to be of a certain size to sustain themselves, even accounting for migration from more populated by vis poor regions. Mythic Scotland should not really be able to sustain a full Tribunal (the population of Scotland didn't 1 000 000 until the 1700s [wiki]).

I deliberately tried to keep the number of Tribunals comparable to the actual one, because I see the resulting too many books becoming a barrier to entry. I have only gotten my hands on some of the books through friends, and in general I prefer to keep things tight rather than an avalanche of splat books which will be used once and never again(in Uni, my sci fi and gaming society ended up acquiring such fantastically useless book as the expansion for were-cats in a specific white wolf game, which was never used).

Size-wise, I like the Rhine, as it offers a good variety of Covenants and a large enough cast of background characters that there will be something for everyone and for more than one saga (I chose to run the Rhine Gorge because I live in the area, but "Renovating Rethra" is something that would probably be good fun).

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I'd argue that Venice is in Thebes. I know it is geographically non-contiguous, but the Doge is a duke of the Eastern Empire, and was never part of the Western Empire. I'm basically not sure why it's in Roma at all, other than that the person who originally drew the map took modern borders and pushed them back through time.

In the gamer period the Doge of Venice seriously considers upping sticks and ruling the Republic from Constantinople.

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They certainly would be connected to them by dense maritime trade.

I'm not dead-set on the map I proposed (Brittany could easily return to Normandy and Stonehenge be its own Tribunal), but I do think that some Tribunal redefinition should take place, especially if there is a 6th ed.

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Iā€™m 90% sure the original Tribunals map was based on the classic board game Diplomacy.

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I was a Diplomacy champ at my university. The Sanctuary of Ice maps were originally done on the paper Diplomacy map. 8)

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I think you overestimate the connections and shared language/culture between these areas by a significant amount. Ireland and Scotland are very interconnected in this period and do indeed share linguistic and cultural aspects so Loch Leglean+Hibernia makes perfect sense. But when you compare those two to Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany none of them share a language (Goidelic languages are not mutually intelligible with Brythonic languages at all) and there isn't really any shared cultural aspects except some very broad bits of shared mythology.

More importantly the landscapes and problems faced by magi in the different parts of this Celtic tribunal are radically different. A Breton magus' problems and concerns are going to be much more closely aligned with a Norman magus than with a Hibernian one. It lacks a well defined boundary or shared culture or set of concerns to keep it together. The much enlarged Norman tribunal strikes me as having similar problems.

It's much like if you included the eastern coast of Iberia in the Roman tribunal because they both speak romance languages and have a sea connection.

I'd stick with Hibernia+Loch Leglean (because they are weirdly low population to be seperate tribunals and have very strong mundane ties) but leave Stonehenge as is, or alternatively just lump Britain and Ireland into a single Brittanian tribunal (insular magi have common problems, and a shared geography). .

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The question to me is about how the tribunals formed way back, not how we think they should look in 1220. After all the first division of tribunals was before 1066, where the whole of Britannia would likely be a single tribunal. When the Normans invaded did that change the shape of the Gaelic tribunal? If so why does the same rule not apply to Thebes in 1220?

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For a smaller rewrite, I'd definitely go for this.

I agree with all the points that you raise and I had not considered the story potential about exploring wilderness and claiming it from foreign wizards.

Although I stand by my claim that there really ought to be a scandinavian tribunal in 1220.

The way I would handle it is to create a scandinavian tribunal, make it relatively young with a diverse mix of covenants and magi with equally diverse aims. I would say that all of Denmark, and southern and lowland sweden is pretty solidly controlled by the order. These areas are the most densely settled and easiet to control for an outside force, due to their flatness and dense population. I would make it so that the order controls the coastline elsewhere, i.e. norway, northern sweden and southern finland, as well as the city of Reykjavik.

I would treat the interior as being claimed territory of the tribunal but where the tribunal has very little or no presence, allowing for all sorts of native non-hermetic magic to exist there among the populace. I would treat it much like how the USA claimed its west and interior long before it was able to exert any real authority there. These areas would be refuges for the remnants of norse magicians trying to organize themselves into the order of odin, but also for disgraced hermetic magi, ancient magical and faerie creatures that have been left alone and all sorts of other things.

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Perhaps not Finland :slight_smile:
Finland and what is to become the Baltic states had not yet been fully christianized in 1220. During the 12th and 13th centuries there were a series of crusades against those areas which eventually succeeds in making them officially christian.
It is also during this period that Sweden conquers and incorporates Finland into Sweden were it was to remain until 1809.
Early 13th century should be an interesting period for southern Finland - and one which is very poorly documented, so people can basically make up lots of things without contradicting any known historical facts.

Exactly. Ars magica takes place at the beginning of the 13th century, meaning that the process you describe has already begun, and as such it would, IMO make sense to find hermetic magic riding the coat-tails of swedish settlers into finland. Likely this would be more along the lines of going on adventures, buying property in coastal settlements, establishing chapter houses and fighting for vis sources near the coast.

I personally think you could get a lot of play/half a saga's worth of politics out of the islanders bickering over whether they should be one big "Tribunal of the Isles" (and then try and get Iceland as well) or if they should be two separate tribunals (Hibernia+Loch Leglean vs Stonehenge).

It's still not resolved today, after all.

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