Creating a New Tribunal

Kindly check my understanding here.

A group of covenants wish to form a new tribunal; they are all attendant to an existing tribunal (so, say, the Lotharingian Tribunal or Tribunal of the Pyrenees). To do this they need a certain number of covenants, with a certain population. They do not need the direct permission of the tribunal they are exiting.

However, they want to attend the Grand Tribunal, so they will need to announce themselves to the Grand Tribunal, and to attend the Grand Tribunal a representative will need to be sent. Someone needs to be proxied enough sigils to be sent to the GT.


If so, I find myself wondering how a brand new Tribunal can form? If there is a Tribunal of the Nile or Tribunal of Africa, how do they attend the Grand Tribunal? Do they form and just show up?

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I am far away from my books and with very little time. But four covenants and a minimum nuber of magi are just a necessary condition to form a Tribunal, not a sufficient one.

Have a look at the creation of the Novgorod Tribunal in the aftermath of the schism war: the seceding covenants intending to form a new Tribunal were subject to everything their weakened neighbours in the Rhine Tribunal could still throw at them. Luckily that was not much, so the Rhine magi after a few (some 10?) years just gave up and accepted the new Tribunal.

Without a catastrophe affecting most of the Order, getting a new Tribunal accepted in the middle of already existing Tribunals takes a decision of the Grand Tribunal. That is the way the Lotharingian magi are likely to proceed.


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Yes! Remember that the Grand Tribunal (or more precisely, the collection of all magi in the Order) is the ultimate "source of law", deriving directly from the Oath. Individual Tribunals can decide on their own matters only because the Grand Tribunal decided to delegate local affairs. Even the fact that you need at least four covenants to form a new Tribunal was a decision of the Grand Tribunal that in theory can be reversed. In practice, it probably won't, because
a) the reasons that made "at least four" seem a good choice then would probably be still be valid.
b) changing the rules of the game always has a cost, so it's not done unless there's a sufficiently large advantage to cover this cost.

So if you want to form a new Tribunal, you just show up with the sigils and say "we'd like to form a new Tribunal there". And if the majority of the sigils at the Grand Tribunal is in your favour, there you are. You'd better have done some groundwork before, though, because the Grand Tribunal will need to decide where borders with existing, neighbouring Tribunals lie. This changes the balance of power, which is something you must game. For example, one of the reasons the creation of Novgorod enjoyed support by virtually every other Tribunal save the Rhine was that the Rhine was perceived as too powerful. If you want to create a Tribunal of Africa, Rome (with its scarcity of vis) will probably oppose you, claiming rights to those lands; Iberia and Levant might oppose you for the same reasons or more likely help you (if it seems like you'll help them push back the Islamic sorcerers by opening a new front against them); most of the other Tribunals will be mildly in favour (expansion means more resources for everyone) though they'll expect you to trade favours in exchange for support; but Tribunals that oppose the creation of a local Tribunal, say the Rhine with the Lotharingian Tribunal, will probably oppose you to avoid an unfavourable precedent.

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Well, IMHO, it's not so easy.

Firstly, the Tribunal(s) where the covenants are located will, at first, consider that those covenants stay under their jurisdiction. So, what about legal proceeds and practical manouvers to make pressure against the separatists ?
Does certamen prevent someone to present a petition before a Tribunal or the Grand Tribunal ? Perhaps it's the case, as if certamen could not prevent you to use the rights guarenteed by the Code, presenting a petition is not strictly speaking one of those rights (that's why a praeco could silence someone in Tribunal, and even expell him from the debates, but could not actually prevent him to vote).
Notice that in many sagas, every covenant is under the jursdiction of one Tribunal. There could be a debate concerning what Tribunal is concerned, when covenant is created, but there must be one of them.

Secondly, Grand Tribunal is not access free. You must be the primus of a house, or one of the three elected envoys of an existing Tribunal (with a mandatory question for the Grand Tribunal). This part is taken from old second edition book "Order of Hermes" IIRC, but I haven't seen any more precise rules in 5th edition canon. In some sagas, archmagi have access to Grand Tribunal.
You could not "just show up with the sigils" at Grand Tribunal.
So, your petition could quite be not examined at all for decades.

And lastly, you must secure a favorable vote in Grand Tribunal, which is perhaps the toughest part of the job. And, shoud I stress that No is No ? That implies that renewing the same petition could be seen as "not respecting Tribunal" in some minor way.

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It's repeated on page 14 of the main book (although without specifying how the three envoys are appointed).

the Rise of Atlantis pbp game dealt creating a new tribunal as an ongoing desire/goal of the story. The game didn't get going into full steam but you might find banter in those threads for some of the issues we discussed while setting up the backstory.

As a player what I found interesting is the how prevalent the views and politics of the to-be tribunal founding Magi impacted the discussions between themselves, and then also in how they as a group tried to approach the wider Order. The in-play discussion were infuriating and it was a credit to the players how much of some of the personalities came through in the in-character discussions.
The mechanics of how the Order responded are very circumstantial as I think it is very different to setup a new tribunal in the middle of known europe, as opposed to going into unknown lands and living there.
As mentioned above I think your characters will need to establish good relationship with the impacted edge tribunals and have something to offer them so that they can agree, otherwise it is logistically easier for the Order to just attach the new covenants to an existing tribunal.

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I realized I was not very explicit. Let me clarify my line of thought here:

Let us say there is a group of magi in Provencal who want to secede and form a Tribunal of the Pyrenees (which is a possibility presented in Faith & Flame). My understanding is that they would need to attend their regularly scheduled pre-Grand Tribunal tribunal and be pledged a sufficient number of sigils to represent Provencal and bring the issue of the incipient Tribunal of the Pyrenees to the Grand Tribunal. If they cannot get at least that much support, no breakaway tribunal.

I wonder if the Grand Tribunal could then block this election?

Furthermore, aside from the question of how a new tribunal forms (Nile, Africa, Thule, whoever), how would two tribunals merge? I can see a possibility that Normandy will want to absorb Provencal.

If it's voluntary, possibly they both send representatives to GT with this issue.

If not, could Normandy force the issue?

(Honestly, I can't see Provencal wanting to merge with Normandy, but if the Pyrenees break away the politics might get rough.)

Each Tribunal can bring up to 3 motions before the grand tribunal. In order to be considered you must somehow convince an existing tribunal to bring this as one of their three questions, which is something that will be voted on at the local tribunal, so simply getting your people elected as representatives on the sly won't get that done. Then you need to secure a majority vote in your favor at the grand tribunal (in addition to making sure you have 4 covenants and the tribunal you are separating from, if you are doing so, also has 4 covenants. How the politics of this works out is extremely situation dependent, so without a lot more information on your campaign I couldn't say much more, aside from the fact that if this is being done by players they had better like roleplaying politics...
keep in mind as well that just because a tribunal has to send a delegation of a minimum of 12 magi does not mean they will only have 12 votes, and some of those votes may have prior instructions attached, so campaigning for the votes for the motion to pass will need to begin well in advance of the tribunal.

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Yes. I am aware. This is why I am curious about new tribunals. There seems to be no accepted way a completely tribunal would be admitted. It seems unlikely an established tribunal would advocate for a new one.

Back to the subject of a breakaway tribunal: if a sufficient number of votes are proxied to a representative and the various other requirements are met (there are not a great many) I don't see that the Grand Tribunal would object.

I don't know where the idea of 'getting your people elected as representatives on the sly' came from.

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Presumably you would have to offer an existing tribunal with few issues to bring something of significant value to bring your tribunal's establishment to the fore.
Probably not a tribunal who shares a border with you and might want to simply claim jurisdiction instead.
Splitting a tribunal can be brought if everyone is in agreement within the tribunal, but generally I would expect the majority to be opposed. Even then other tribunals might object if they saw this as a way for an existing tribunal to gain in influence (since it would then be able to bring twice as any motions before the grand Tribunal)

That said, it would require a blatant power play for anyone to oppose, for example, twelve wizards forming four covenants in Africa, Egypt, Persia, or Scandinavia, or anywhere else where there's clearly no ruling Tribunal. Whether the Order would put up with that kind of power play is a saga call (will the Guernicus Prima respond to an attempt by Rome to claim the African Tribunal by saying that Africa has a right to a voice at Grand Tribunal? Will the other Houses accept her ruling?).

In 1220, founding a new Tribunal might follow these steps:
(1) A substantial group of Hermetic magi learns to live in a social, natural and magical environment that was so far hostile to Hermetic magi.
(2) They found covenants, and in the rules of their covenants they lay down what they have learned about the demands of the environment.
(3) They approach magi in an adjacent Tribunal, and look for allies. They might have their knowledge about the environment as an interesting bargaining chip: so they can offer specific friendly covenants in the adjacent Tribunal help to set up prosperous chapter houses in the new environment made hospitable.
(4) They argue and show, how the specific environment of their covenants requires specific provisions in the Peripheral Code, but they would never, never propose such changes to their neighbours, who have such an exemplary and beautiful Peripheral Code burnished by time and collective wisdom.
(5) So perhaps the adjacent Tribunal, just to establish good neighbourhood, might help them get their Peripheral Code ratified by the Grand Tribunal.
(6) Oh, yes, now that they mention it: having the needed provisions in the Peripheral Code requires an own Tribunal ratified by the Grand Tribunal as well.

What do you think?


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As I understand things creating a new tribunal would be as easy as getting it accepted by a grand tribunal. As the grand tribunal is the biggest collection of voting power in the order. As the general rule is more magi can overturn any decision made by a fewer number. So a covenant can rule over a magi, but a tribunal can overturn that decision. Which in turn can get over turned by the grand tribunal. But not all magi are represented at the grand tribunal. So a very unpopular decision made there might be overturned in the next one (unless there are specific rules regarding such things that I am unaware of).

So the "easiest" step to do this is to be selected as one of the representatives from a existing tribunal, or convince one to raise this question for you, as far as I know each tribunal sends three members. The members who get the most supporting votes. They then take the voting power of their support and go to a grand tribunal.

At that grand tribunal, or slightly before, they would need to lobby the other representatives in order to get enough support for the vote.

As a representative you are limited to the number of issues you can raise as well, if I remember correctly this might be as low as one per person. And these issues also gets reported some time in advance I would imagine, just like with the normal tribunal where the agenda will be known to all covenants ~6 months before hand. I would imagine a similar thing exists here as well. That way you would be able to lobby your representative to vote how you feel is most important.

I assume the representative already got your vote by telling you the issue they would like to raise or by convincing you by some other mean. ^^

Would such a thing cause a lot of commotion, yes it certainly would. Just look at Spain, UK and Canada. Those tree (of the top of my head). They each have parts of them that have/are trying to become independent. OR look at Palestine or Taiwan two "countries" that have yet acquired the official status as countries (not accepted as countries by all other countries).

If your players want, and like, some political intrigue then I would say this is one of the mother loads. ^^

Splitting up already existing tribunals or creating a completely new one in my book would be same same. It all comes down to the vote. Sure some might be more inclined to vote for one over the other. But majority rules either way. =)

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Does anyone have a list of books which have rules for the tribunals and grand tribunal? Because while I know I have read the rule somewhere about tribunal boundaries being defined by membership, the core book also states that tribunal boundaries are geographical and established by the grand tribunal. I also seem to recall it being somewhere else that it states that each tribunal can only raise three issues for vote, and I am trying to look over this entire list of rules and descriptions to get a better idea of how it all works together.

Tribunal material in general starts on p.45 of HoH:TL. Geographic rules are on p.49 - short form, there's theoretically geographical boundaries, but in border areas, membership defines the border. The three-issues thing is mentioned on p.64, but in passing. Not sure it's set down anywhere else in stone.

We really needed The Order of Hermes 5e to lay down just how, exactly, everything worked, instead of making it a subdivision of House Guernicus. :smiley:

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There is a bunch of Tribunal stuff in Ch. 3 of 4e's The Wizard's Grimoire that has a little more detail that might help.

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Thanks for the interesting discussion. Just became interested as our Home Saga got one of our enemy/opposition covenants (Cov1) voted out of the tribunal. Then in retaliation, a different Covenant (CovB) we considered a neutral (but opposed to CovA) got voted out of the Tribunal.

Based on these shenanigans we all assumed that the Tribunal would be considered null and void (as is tradition for Stonehenge in our saga), but to make sure, we somehow got ourselves voted out of the tribunal. So that makes it something like 20 magi voted "off the island."

Then the bastard Presiding Quaesitor validated the results.

Now no one is sure if we are part of Stonehenge... or not. It seems unlikely even in our Saga that the Order will march three separate covenants for non-Tribunal Membership; so right now we are all ignoring the issue. But keep kicking around the idea that we should for a new Tribunal. This discussion helped give some insight into what we might need to do.

Home Sagas are weird.

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Appeal to Magvillius.

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It's suggested in Lands of the Nile, but I don't remember how much detail it had on the necessary vote to bring the Nile Tribunal into the fold and I'm not near my notes.

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The Lands of the Nile book on page 127 says that

This applies to expanding a Tribunals geographical boundaries or forming a new one. It lists various forms of opposition.