First Covenant Conflict

Long time GM, first time Story Guide

Just starting out my first Ars saga. The players have a small villa that produces wine (parents of one of the magus PCs owns the villa). One night at supper the senechal (not sure of the Italian term) mentions to the PCs that he was informed by the vintner that the first three bottles of wine from the fall harvest/pressing are reserved for sale to someone from outside the village. The players think this is odd and with a few spells find out that the the wine is a vis source. When a couple of people show up to pick up the wine the PCs tell them the wine is not for sale. Puzzled, the men leave.

A few days later a Tremere magus from a nearby autumn covenant, and her entourage, arrives at the player's covenant. She produces a trade agreement that states that the player's villa agrees to trade the wine to the covenant. The trade agreement is valid for 10 years. The magus whose parents own the villa tells the tremere mage that the villa is under new ownership and the agreement is no longer valid.

I figure the Tremere magus, and the autumn covenant, does not want to give up a vis source. But, figuring the new villa owners have the right to void the contract, the Tremere magus decides to simply push to have the agreement honoured this year because of a lack of notification. The players refuse that offer as well.

My inclination is to have the Tremere magus challenge this decision as well. After all, this is just an insignificant spring covenant. And, they are interfering with the covenant, and Tremere, from securing valuable resources.

The HoH:TL book talks about taking things to tribunal. But if I understand things, tribunals are every 7 years. So if the magus decides to file a grievance against the players covenant, how would that proceed?


  1. was the vis source registered with the redcaps as belonging to the autumn covenant?
  2. How close is the autumn covenant?

It is possible that the vis source might be awarded to the spring covenant as being brewed in their lands but they will need to get a lot of support to carry this.

It is very likely that the Tremere will get contract upheld and spring covenant will have to turn over the appropriate amount of vis of the right technique at minimum and might have to turn over a slightly higher amount as a fine. Especially in the answer to the first question is Yes.

I did not think about registering the vis. Since I want the PCs to have the vis I guess I'ld say the autumn covenant did not register the source.

The autumn covenant is about 80 miles away.

Then the covenant needs to quickly register it with a redcap and get it dated.

The contract might still be honored under "I will not deprive or attempt to deprive any member of the order of his magical power." It might just cause the covenant to lose out on the remainder of the 10 year contract before they claim it.

I'd imagine the Tremere would just challenge you to certamen for it, rather than taking it to Tribunal.

Depends on tribunal. A number of tribunals have tribunal law of rights to vis, espectially since it plays into part of the main code. Certamen can not be used against anything that is tribunal set law.

The civil contract between the Tremere's covenant and the brewery is of little consequence - mundane law is irrelevant when it comes to Hermetic law. However, assuming the PCs haven't registered the vis source what you have here is a contested resource - neither side has registered it, so it is open to grabs.

As the Tremere, I would therefore challenge the PCs to Cartamen over the raw vis they have collected and the right to register the source. If they refuse, he can use it against them at the next Tribunal. I will also have my friends at the local Mercere chapter be ready to log in the source as soon as possible.

This requires some means for your PCs to somehow win a certamen against a skilled Tremere magus. If you can't think of such a means, think instead of a reason why the Tremere won't insist on it; perhaps he wants to try the case at Tribunal so that he could pressure the covenant to assist him in some other vote, for example.

The autumn covenant would start a wizards war against the spring covenant if this resource is important for them. So it isn't. The Tremere may want votes or lab assistants for a long time.
The wine resource is a good idea!

Certamen challenge for me as well. After all this is a contested resource and both sides have some rights to it. probably the PCs are a little bit better sinc ethey are now in the Villa, but the Tremere has mundane law on his side.

When was the contract signed? If there are only a few years left of the contract, like 4 years, you might be better off going to the tremeres and say "OK, you have it during 4 years, since we want to be friends with you, but remember that we agreed to this in the future". It can protect your ass better than simpluy antagonizing a tremere covenant.

After that period, you are perfectly happy to claim the resource. Register it as a vis source in your lands and grant the tremeres its exploit during the remainder of the contract and there you go.

before doing that I would investigate when and how was this mundane contract signed. Was it under coercion? Did they cast spells on the mundane part? Was it granted to the tremeres by the parens of the mage? This is important to reach a final decision here....


Wow. Great ideas everyone. Thanks. My little "Hey, there is a covenant not far from you" story has, apparently, got some legs.

To help me understand things better... Say the Tremere mage does not wish to have a certamen contest. Does "going to tribunal" mean that the dispute remains unresolved until the next tribunal in 3 years?

As to the story... There are three years left in the agreement. It was the previous person who was looking after the vineyard, on behalf of the PCs parents, that signed the agreement. When the group arrived at the vineyard they found her, the villa's treasury, and a large portion of the stocked wine, missing. They tracked her down and recovered what they could of the resources she stole.

The main PC has decided that he does not want the covenant to look like it can be pushed around, which is why he is not willing to concede anything to the Tremere magus. I believe he will argue that the person who made the agreement with the other covenant did not do so in good faith. Even if that was a defensible claim in civil law, I am not sure that it would work in Hermetic law.


He can also get a Quaesitor to pass judgment, but that will take some bribing since there is urgency here. The PCs would be fined proportionally anyways, so it works like interest - the longer he waits, the more he'll end up earning... He's essentially making a certain % as profit on a three-year investment. How much % depends on circumstances, but if he's powerful at Tribunal he perhaps can get as much as 100% profit. So what's better - collecting 9 pawns in this and over the next two years, or collecting 18 pawns in three years' time? I'm thinking maybe the Tremere would be glad to let the foolish magi keep the raw vis until the Tribunal puts them in their place...

Generally, mundane gear and contracts aren't that important under Hermetic laws. It depends on the Tribunal's traditions, but most likely the only thing the Tribunal will care about is whether the raw vis source is registered and if not who has rights over it. If it will turn out that the Tremere's covenant does, the PCs will be obliged to give him the wine or equal compensation in raw vis regardless of any mundane law - the vis is his under Hermetic law, and if the PCs interfered through mundane laws to make him unable to collect it they're depriving him of his Hermetic rights.

Talk to the parens. if you can put him on your side, claiming that if he had known about the vis source he would have NEVER allowed the agreement and you might get your point through. The issue is... do you want a tremere covenant as an enemy? it is quite an important decision, there.

And yes, the issue remains unresolved iuntil tribunal. If you lose you are likely to have to pay what you owe the tremeres AND a fine. How big the fine depending on how much political support you can get, but going vs tremeres I would say that maybe the fine can be as much as 5 times what yu really ought to give them. If for something, tremeres are famous for being able to summon overwhelming resources (including votes) against you.

Plan B is to make the enemy covenant a SMALL (read: spring) tremere covenant. They might summon the support, but their elders will consider them to be below-average members of the house if they do, and so they might opt for other settlements. Certamen or a negotiation might work better here. That would put the enemy covenant on par with your PCs on power level, maybe slightly superior, but not by much.

Those are important decisions. it is a settled 8summer or autiumn) covenant or a starting one (spring)? How powerful are its mages, do they control the votes of other tremeres or not? basically, tyou need to decide the potential foe/ally to decide what is likely to happen.

In any case acting like a donkey tends to be counterproductive in such issues, especially if you ar eonly giving them the vis for 3 years more. MUCH larger problems than what 20-ish (or less) pawns of vis will give you.


A lot of settlements are done just before Tribunal. If your PCs push this, and it gets taken to Tribunal, you can have everyone meet in a closed room before the actual Tribunal takes place. The Tremere can make them a deal: he continues with his course of action and brings up the matter at Tribunal, which is likely to lay a nice fine on the PCs, OR the PCs can do a favor for him instead, thus continuing the story. There are a lot of things a Tremere might want, votes, support, or to add to the story, the Tremere wants the covenant to do something, which will be unpleasant and/or dangerous, for them.

About mundane law, it is NOT irrelevant. Magi are not immune to mundane law at all, specially when it comes to resources. Mundane propriety goes a long way towards ensuring hermetic propriety as well if the later has not been defined yet.


My estimate is that under 13th century civil law, the Tremere could successfully bring an action against the PC's father (I understand he's mundane, is that correct?): The Tremere doesn't have to bear the cost of the father's flawed judgment in appointing an agent: she didn't know and didn't have to know, so she can rely on the terms of the contract. Pacta sunt servanda and all that. Good faith is used in Roman law, but only as a tool for interpreting certain categories of contracts, not as a reason as to why they don't need to be observed.
However, medieval courts didn't usually rule that the terms of the contract had to be fulfilled. Instead, the grieved party was awarded damages. The Tremere can sue, and if she does she will probably be awarded damages amounting to the price of nine bottles of wine. Dad can reclaim this from the renegade of course, if he can find her, as she is ultimately liable.
It might be potentially harmful to the reputation of the villa if the Tremere sues, but not much more.

Please keep in mind that the prior owner was not Parens (as in mage that trained them) but Parents as in mundanes in biological senses that had a gifted child.

The tremere made deal with a mundane to secure a vis source in such a way that there is no interference with mundanes violation. I know that if I was queasitor and there was Autumn covenant in prime of its voting power with legitimte claim to the wine, I would recommend that spring covenant yield the resource for 3 years.

The tremere if he is smart would basically say "I have rights, it would be upheld in tribunal and I would get fine of three times as much vis. You can hand it over to me or give me some equal compensation that my magical power is not diminished."

If your previous experience is anything like "typical", that can be a huge jump.

AM works best on short, tight plotlines, since "adventures" that last many nights do not produce more "experience" than ones that last 15 minutes. The story of the Covenant is what is important, not the loot/body tally at the end (unless that IS the goal of playing for your players.) :wink:


I have little to add that hasn't already been said, but I will say this - your players are extremely short sighted, extremely greedy, are gluttons for punishment, and/or simply do not yet understand how the Hermetic world works (I'll charitably assume the latter.)

A senior member of a MUCH bigger establishment just offered them a very generous way out of this mess - and they spit on it. This does not bode well for their political future.

Even if the Tremere has little claim, they could have made a good neighbor - but now they've most likely started a feud, at some level. How clever of them.

As a SG, you should keep that in the back of your mind, and either 1) avoid any politics/legal matters in the future (because they just don't have the chops), B) expect any such matters to go ~VERY~ poorly for our heroes, or iii) both, and hope for a steep learning curve.

Many new players to Ars have the "Wild West" mentality of some other games, where they are the only law for themselves - this is not one of those worlds, and that should be made clear OOC, before it becomes a real problem IC.

The biggest issue is just trying to digest the gaming world. There is just so much information, and it is spread across so many books. A rich world setting has a steep learning curve for a newbie. The system itself is fine, or at least will be when a treatment for the combat side of things is published. :slight_smile:

As to player motivation, the situation is a little bit of not fully appreciating the world flavour and mostly playing to character. The main PC is proud and out to prove himself. He is the one mostly driving the conflict. Two of the PCs want to take a more conciliatory tone and want to smooth things over. The last PC is a rustic mage whose main position is "Contract what?" The guys are great at playing their characters. Sometimes it gets them in trouble. It is almost always entertaining. And I believe the player with the main PC is already pondering a new character. :slight_smile:

2 things:

  1. I agree with CH.

  2. I wouldn't be using anything not published in the core book. Ars Magica 5th edition has a tendency for rules creep in the setting that don't really add much to the basic mechanics. They can easily sidetrack your learning of how the game should be working to start with. Once you control the "pure" hermetic setting et al, you can introduce other stuff. Don't be too greedy here: there is plenty of stuff to chew in the rulebook!! :slight_smile: Use the other books as inspiration for stories et al, but do not use the rules there.

I just ran a saga with mystery cults and some infernal influences and beings. I think I read the infernal and the MC books once and took plot ideas from them. After that they were stored in the shelf and have not left that position. The basic rules provide anything you need most of the time.

Just my 2 cents.



I personally love the supplements. Both in some excellent setting ideas and for most mechanics (can't love them all). I'm more prone to want to make alterations to the supplement's mechanics or reject some setting elements in them, however. At any rate, there is no need to take it all in in a single gulp - working with just the core book is great too, move on to the supplements if/when you feel like it.