Help choosing tribunal

Hi all! I´m new here on the forum, and new to the game. After many years of playing other rpgs I´ve come to the conclusion that AM might just be best for me and my friends right now. We are 30-ish and don´t have time for very many sessions each month (maybe 1 or 2), and would prefer "low intense" gaming where we could handle some of the saga progression by mail or such.

For our first try at a saga I would like to use a premade setting book. Which one do you suggest? I haven´t had time to read them all, but the ones I am thinking about primarely is:

  • Stonehenge tribunal
  • Greater Alpine
  • Rhine
  • Normandy

Pros? Cons? (Feel free to mail me privately if you don´t want to post spoilers.)

We would prefer a setting where it´s easy to throw in premade scenarios and we want it to be distintive to "classic AM" (ie, we don´t want to use much material outside the core rules to start with).

Thanks for any help.

It depends on

a) where you live
b) which languages you speak
c) if you want the Order of Hermes as an institution to play an important role (if not go to the fringes!)

Welcome to the boards!

There are so many variables for a Troupe - playstyle, high-/low-fantasy preference, social/wilderness locale, freedom of action, etc etc. And then AM-specific elements - the Fae Realm, Hermetic politics, new vs. established Covenants, etc etc. At one level, anything can be anywhere, but at another diff Tribunals do tend to lend themselves better to one or another...

  • Stonehenge tribunal -
    One of the more "wild west" of the Tribunals. Isolated and isolationist, it often sends no delegation to any Grand Tribunal - it minds its own business, and prefers the Order to do likewise. But several large Covenants tend to dominate the Hermetic political scene - hard to appeal for "justice" if you don't invite that Law at other times. Local politics are interesting if you want to go there - Anglo-Saxon vs. Norman French vs. Welsh, etc. Old stone henges and dolmens, iron-age hillforts and Roman ruins mixed with little "modern" castles everywhere. Classic stuff - and most English-speakers will recognize parts of the history if you want to insert it.

  • Greater Alpine -
    Nice and central to all of Europe, with several central (Roman) roads that lead to adventures anywhere. THE central crossroads of Europe, for more far-reaching adventure hooks. If not on a main road, there are some hidden valleys and backwaters in the Alps off the trail. Snow and ice and mountains, sealed up in the Winter, but green meadows in the Spring. Politics tend to be old and conservative (to the point of discouraging "new" Spring Covenants), so the PC's would probably(?) be joining an existing one - altho' exceptions always exist.

  • Rhine -
    The Black Forest - need we say more? Magical critters and locales, the Fae. Uncharted wilds, majestic and far-reaching rivers, isolated castles, or great cities if you want them. Order of Odin to the north.

  • Normandy -
    Very crowded (in a Hermetic sense). Mundane politics, mundane neighbors, mundane wars. The Church, and church politics. Paris, in all her 100,000-population glory. Virgin wilderness and new vis sources are hard to find, and Tribunal matters are often ones of disputed claims of territory, influence or interference. (Note that "mundanes" can be gateways to the supernatural - the Infernal, the Divine, non-Hermetic traditions, court magicians, etc. etc.)

I'll bring up another factor - languages. If you play "realistically", then there are many, many languages across Europe, and things like "French" or "German" or "English" simply don't exist at this time. Stonehenge has 3 basic languages (Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, and Welsh) until you get up toward Scotland - this may be one of the fewest. (The Alps has only three also, Alpine-specific versions of German, French and Italian, but then the roads lead directly to a spectrum of other tongues.) Stonehenge also has harder boundaries, the water discouraging travel outside the immediate locale.

Otoh, if you handwave that all away - nm.

Here's the "official" spiel from the downloadable 4th ed pdf - things haven't changed that much...
(I'll just copy/paste the whole thing and highlight the ones you named - easy enough.)

Tribunal Geography

The Hibernian Tribunal, which consists of Hibernia and some nearby islands, is a small tribunal at the edge of Christendom. The land is wild and magical, and most magi live in isolation from the population of the land. Nevertheless, because of the relatively small size of the tribunal, a great percentage of the magi in the tribunal are involved in tribunal politics.

The Loch Leglean Tribunal covers Scotland and the northern islands. This area is also highly mystical, and has the distinction that the local populace is generally more accepting of magi than folk are elsewhere. The majority of magi here are of House Ex Miscellanea. A great wealth of information about the Loch Leglean Tribunal can be found in the Ars Magica supplement Lion of the North.

The Stonehenge Tribunal covers England and Wales. The domus magna of House Ex Miscellanea, Cad Gadu, is located in this tribunal. The Stonehenge Tribunal is disorganized, in part because many of the tribunal’s magi live in isolation, and in part because of the rapid clearing of land and forest deprive them of the opportunity of live apart from society in magical areas.

The Iberian Tribunal covers all of the Iberian peninsula, including land currently held by the Moors. The politics of the Iberian Tribunal are chiefly concerned with the Reconquista, though there is certainly nothing that could be called agreement among the magi. At least two covenants routinely side with the Moors against the Christian forces. Although conflict is common, many covenants have a great wealth of both mundane and occult knowledge, plundered from conquered Moslem libraries and gained from Moorish scholars. You can find more information in the Ars Magica supplement Iberia.

The Normandy Tribunal covers France, including Burgundy and the Low Countries. It is home to Fudarus, the domus magna of House Tytalus. As the land here becomes more and more crowded with mundanes and the influence of the Dominion, the covenants of the tribunal must become more and more hidden and isolated. Remaining apart from the mundanes becomes a more difficult task with each passing year.

The Provençal Tribunal covers Languedoc, including Gascony and the Pyrenees. It contains Val-Negra, the domus magna of House Flambeau. The Provençal Tribunal is the cultural center of the Order, and perhaps its political center as well. Magi of Jerbiton are quite active here, and so relations with the mundanes are quite good. Many old and powerful covenants are found within this covenant.

The Rhine Tribunal consists of the lands of the Holy Roman Empire north of the Alps—Germany and the Rhine valley. Within its boundaries lie Durenmar, domus magna of House Bonisagus; Crintera, domus magna of House Bjornaer; and Irencillia, domus magna of House Merinita. Once the center of the Order, the Rhine Tribunal’s power has decreased as the area has become more and more densely populated with time’s passage. Some magi have started to involve themselves in the politics of the Empire, much to the displeasure of the quaesitores.

The Tribunal of the Greater Alps holds sway in the region around the Alps, including Bavaria. It is home to Valnastium, domus magna of House Jerbiton, and the Cave of Twisting Shadows, domus magna of House Criamon. The old covenants of this tribunal strictly enforce the status quo, allowing no new covenants to be formed within its borders. This lends the tribunal peace and stability, which its members enjoy.

The Roman Tribunal covers the southernmost portion of the Holy Roman Empire—the Papal states, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and even has one covenant in North Africa. Harco, domus magna of House Mercere; Magvillus, domus magna of House Guernicus; and Verdi, domus magna of House Verditius are found here. This is the tribunal where magi are most involved in the world— living in cities, having political relationships with aristocrats, and selling their magical wares to mundanes. Most of the members of the Order here are quite cosmopolitan, and spend a great deal of time in the great cities. Some do not belong to covenants, or do so only in name. Relations among the covenants and magi are a nightmare mass of Byzantine political machinations. More information can be found in the Ars Magica supplement Rome.

The Tribunal of Thebes consists of the Byzantine Empire—Greece, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Aegean Sea. This tribunal includes the great city of Constantinople; one covenant is even found within its walls. The lands of Greece, though they fell from glory long ago, still have a great deal of magic to offer to those who live here.

The Transylvanian Tribunal consists of the kingdoms of Bulgaria and Hungary. The domus magna of House Tremere, Coeris, is found here. This area is perhaps the most magically potent of the tribunals, for the power of the Dominion is still quite weak. Although this makes the Transylvanian Tribunal one of the fastest growing in the Order, it also means that outside magical threats also abound. The Tremere have total political dominance in this tribunal.

The Tribunal of the Levant governs the magi of Christian Palestine, as well as a few covenants scattered throughout Egypt, Asia Minor, and Syria. The covenants of this tribunal have managed to find great knowledge both in the remains of earlier civilizations and in the Muslim scholars and sorcerers who live in this area.

The Novgorod Tribunal is the farthest eastern tribunal in Christendom. It consists of the Kingdom of Poland and the Russian Principalities, as well as the Nordic and Slavic lands of the North. Vast amounts of unsettled land and little competition among Hermetic magi for magical resources make this area attractive, but problems with pagan wizards and Mongols can be severe.

For a "vanilla" setting I would say that Stonehenge is the best one. For books dealing with specific stuff, the others you mention are perfectly kosher. But I would say Stonehenge is the "normal" tribunal. IMO they have differentiated the tribunals a tad too much (in Hermetic terms) for my liking, but that is how things are in 5th edition :slight_smile:


No one has mentioned the Theban Tribunal, which has The Sundered Eagle book out for ArM5.
One nice thing about that environment is that you have the whole tableau of Greek Mythology as a backdrop. Additionally, vis is plentiful

(The OP listed those 4 - not sure why, but...)

I'm not sure there are any "vanilla" Tribunals - Stonehenge has less influence of The Order in it, and is more isolated. (I would have suggested Provencal, if anything - lots of early AM material was situated there.) Each has its own personality - altho' one can ignore any part that isn't welcoming and re-paint to suit. There's very little canon material that "requires" a certain quality/aspect in a Tribunal to work in a Saga.

Welcome Necross!

I'll just add that some of the Tribunal books you mention were written for the 5th edition (current) rules, and some were written for older editions. If it's your first time playing Ars Magica, it's probably a good idea to choose a Tribunal book that matches the edition of the core rulebook you have (presumably either 5th or 4th). The list of small changes from edition to edition is really extensive, and it might be off-putting before you have some experience with the line.

the stonehenge tribunal book contains no statistics at all, so it is no problem wjen it comes to changes in the game.

Of the ones listed, I like the Greater Alps. It is not set up for a new Covenant like the Rhine or Normandy but it does have hooks for starting one. Or move the players into a Winter Covenant and basically have them take over ( old mage die/go into twilight). It is very magical with many vis sources. And not many games are run from there :slight_smile:. It would not have the politics of the other Tribunals but that can be a plus.

Careful with vis, though. We have run a high vis saga, and it has been the most extreme in terms of magical power that we have ever run. Real fun if you are into the BIG things (hunting dragons, moving mountains et al) but not so good if you want to put some limits on the power of the magi.


I would second the Stonehenge Tribunal for the following:

  1. Medieval England is pretty, well, it's a simple setting for most folks familiar with RPGs.
  2. The 4th edition book is helpful but not needed, it lacks stats but gives LOTS of color. It's available from Atlas and others for cheap.
  3. Medieval England is VERY easy to research via Wikipedia if you want to mess with things.
  4. As mentioned above, it's a bit less strict, not dominated by a major Domus Magna (House headquarters), off the continent and away from major supervision. You have Scotland and Ireland, both mystical and wild places, for good adventuring.

Yeah, I would go Stonehenge... in fact, for my tabletop group (if we ever get around to ArM5) will be the British Isles for all of the above reasons. I want my folks focused on getting into the game and that helps when the setting is so familiar.

The new Tribunal books are excellent from what I've seen of them. I'm looking forward to Theban Tribunal (yay, Christmas! Love my wife!) and already own Guardians of the Forest. Both awesome books with lots of great information.

My own spiel in the Wiki:

Haven't done Normandy yet. I'll probably get to it, eventually...

All of the above is just my own opinion. As the other's posts illustrate, other's opinions may vary...


My take is that every tribunal should offer a different play experience. I think each book should offer something new. Every tribunal develops its own culture and while magi do communicate across borders, the way a Kochi leaglean magus lives will be different from their Norman cousins. They'll share some concerns, but local situations prevail - you deal with what's on your doorstep, after all.

I would take one of the tribunals which have been made in the 5th edition such as normandy, rhine and teban tribunal

Thanks for all replies!

I feel a bit embarrased that I didn´t read the "Which tribunal to choose?"-article before starting this thread :slight_smile:

Well, still not easy to choose. I´ll might return with more questions.