I'm likely to start yet another Ars group pretty soon with three more or less experienced Ars Magica players. Since I'm set to be the storyteller yet again, I'm trying to come up with ideas on where to set the next game. And I figured: Why not ask you guys? The final outcome won't necessarily be binding (it has to appeal to the players as well), but if it works out I'll try and post something like an actual play on here.
Caveat: I'm currently participating in two other Ars games, both set in the Rhine Tribunal. The first as a player in a 4th edition game ca. 1163, the second as a storyteller in a 5th edition game ca. 1222. I took influences from the former into the latter, so I'm not opposed to do crossovers with my running games.
The forum only grants me ten poll options, so I have to (or rather get to) ban three tribunals out of the 13 from the poll. These will be:
Hibernian Tribunal: I'm already set to run a game there for two other players, and I don't want another so soon.
Iberian Tribunal: ... just don't like it, that's all.
Transylvanian Tribunal: I'm currently not interested in running a Tremere-heavy game.
This leaves the following candidates (along with short comments on each):
Loch Leglean Tribunal: I planned on visiting this in my running 5th edition game, so setting another game there might allow me to flesh this out further. My primary interest here are hedge traditions and threats from the Order's past.
Normandy Tribunal: Normally I have a dislike of pretty much anything French (pardonne-moi), but as far as Hermetic landscape goes, this one seems pretty interesting. The open nature would make interactions with mundane lords a story focus and the ambitions of the players would be the primary concern. Lots of bad French accent is bound to happen.
Novgorod Tribunal: I hardly know anything about this tribunal. So this would be a chance to fix that... and how could I pass up the opportunity to do "Russian magi"?
Provencal Tribunal: This doesn't have its own book yet, but there's material on this in some older edition books. I might get rid of Mistridge, but as an avid oMage player I'm really fond of Doissetep. Besides interaction with powerful covenants I would like to focus on the Albigensian Crusade.
Rhine Tribunal: It's obviously my home turf, so I know my way around there. The game I'm running already is set on the border to the Greater Alps Tribunal, so that leaves lots of space. Nonetheless if I want to do crossovers, it would happen pretty frequently - probably too much so to be practical.
Roman Tribunal: The tribunal book is in serious need of a rewrite, but nonetheless this is a Hermetic hotspot and rife with potential. I would have to redo a lot of stuff, but it might be worth it. With Harco and Magvillus around, this would make Hermetic interactions the primary story hook.
Stonehenge Tribunal: England pretty much dominates my impressions of medieval times, so it would be nice to go "straight into the middle of it". No major story elements immediately spring to mind, but it might make for a nicely balanced game because of that. Also: Merlin - 'nuff said.
Tribunal of Thebes: Crete is being dominated by Venice and it's a tense environment in which magi could play either side to their advantage. I also like the idea of housing a Hermetic covenant in the Labyrinth of Knossos.
Tribunal of the Greater Alps: Actually my personal favorite so far. The proximity to the other game's location makes for easy crossovers, but being in another tribunal makes it easy enough to keep the tribunal's major (N)PCs apart in everyday politics. The culture is also close enough to home to make it easy to associate with and I already have some nice ideas for NPCs... just struggling to find an interesting location there for now.
Tribunal of the Levant: This is also set to be of some importance in my other game, so crossovers are likely to occur sometime. The proximity of the Suhar Sulaiman would be an obvious story choice, but I'm really into the mundane politics in the Latin Kingdoms as well. Probably a lot of cloak and dagger action bound to happen.
... so that wraps this up. I'm really interested to see where this is headed. Go for it!
I think all the activity of Provence makes it a great tribunal to run a saga. Levant comes in second, simply based on all of the access to the rest of the ancient world in that space and the action of the Crusades.
I have no idea on what kind of game you want to SG, so it is difficult to help you here. maybe you can point out a pair of plot hooks or saga arcs that you want to play through? Cattle raiding in the highlands and political manipulation in Venice are quite different types of saga, after all
I think Transylvania gets a bad rep. While there are a lot of Tremere there and it is best if you go along with their thinking, there are not many, if any other, Tribunals that you can just hand out stories/adventures from the Praeco. Since everyone must have a residency agreement and the Tribunal is supplying resources, it is no problem writing into the agreement that the Praeco can call on any magus in the Oppidum to perform a mission in the best interests of the Tribunal. Talk about a great tool to pry the magi out of their labs
Otherwise I would agree with Ben on Levant and Provencal. I like Greater alps as a personal favorite.
@Xavi: The kind of game I will run will depend on what tribunal the game ends up being set in. I'm quite flexible when it comes to that. I've tried to provide the story hooks that seem most interesting to me in the respective tribunals in their write-ups up there. The poll basically boils down to which tribunal you want to see me post an Actual Play about. (Assuming this forum supports stuff like that - haven't seen any of them around.)
The Dragon and the Bear is perhaps my favorite tribunal book, so I vote for that It's a wonderful setting to explore relations with Faerie-worshipping pagans and their struggles with the Church. The Mongols are kinda of an annoyance, actually, as they ruin that. I'd either basically ignore them (perhaps letting the PCs beat them out in some minor story arc) or ignore the whole pagans angle and focus on the war with them instead.
You would need to do some conversions/decisions to use tDatB in ArM5. I'd make heavy use of RoPF myself....
P.S Since people here are into that question, I'd mention that the Which Tribunal to Choose page on Project Redcap could use extension ! Especially in regards to the Iberian, Loch Leglian, Normandy, and Provencal tribunals, as well as Mesopotamia (The Cradle and the Crescent) and Africa (South of the Sun). So if anyone knows enough about them to help fill their entries up, he's more than welcome to do so !
For Novgorod, The Dragon and the Bear does a fairly nice job IMO. The basic feature would be
large expanses of tundra, deep forest and great rivers as highways for transport.
No stone fortresses at all. everything is made of wood.
The Big Stuff will be the Mongol invasion (1223 IIRC), so I'd recommend starting a little bit earlier than the canonical date.
Hermetic frontier, probably with more supernatural interaction and less social interaction than in other sagas if you want that.
For Loch Leglean and Hibernia remember the clans. They are a CENTRAL feature in both settings. Family and feuds are very important and likely to impact in the OoH as well. The fact that you are a magus does not mean that you are not kin. So you can find yourself attacked by clansmen of your last victim in a WW easily. And they do not need to respect the Code at all. And viceversa. A feud between HERMETIC families is something that can be ubber cool. I did not think about this when we played our own Loch Leglean saga ourselves, but it sounds really good. Normandy can be kindegaten play once blood feuds enter the hermetic landscape. Davnalleus is our fav bad guy from all time, so you will always get a thumbs up from me if you go Loch Leglean. Careful with gruagachan, they can be quite a bunch of bitches if they start using their powers with Group targets to affect trained groups of grogs.
For stonehenge, the conquest of Wales is quite a thing. The marcher lords are still that, since most of Wales is unconquered. A nice place for a covenant, really, if you want more savage regions than what England is supposed to be.
If you want a multiplicity of stuff, the Levant might be a way to go. Frontier attitude, a more than wortthy foe while unsupported from the mainland, politics, switching sides, exploration of the unknown (assuming the magi are European in origin), the silk route, raids and counterraids, contest for resources and cedrtainly backstabbing between hermetics (pklenty of different Latin factions!). A nice way to have intra-covenant conflicts as well, since a >Venetian and a Theban magus might not get along well while being both in the Levant. It is a pass area: plenty of magi can be around for short periods of time and disappear, like crusader armies did. I can see the flow of hermetic influence come and go with hermetic pilgrims and hermetic crusades.
I voted for Levant as that is where my first ever Ars campaign is set (only three real years old and still running). However I am SG for a new campaign set in Iceland (mainly to be far away from the other campaign)
As already mentioned is a great gateway to other lands and traditions, also holy influences, hermetic infighting hasn't really reared it's head yet, but that could be due to either: The players not noticing it yet or b: the SG not being that interested. The sheer number of possible actors is a bit overwhelming though.
The great draw for me when chosing Iceland, is that it's my first time as a SG and therefore wanted somewhere which was tenously connected to the mainstream. This meant I could bring in actors and charcters as I saw fit, and not have to remember lot's of detialed politics. I'm growing as a SG, and I'd be more confident now, but it was quite a nice safety net. I'm playing in ArsM5 but using the 4th ed source book Land of Ice and Fire, and also a downloadable extra called Icelandic Wars (linked to from http://www.redcap.org/page/Land_of_Fire_and_Ice. I'd quite recommend it.
I picked Thebes because I like the tension between the Latin crusaders occupying Constantinople and the Greeks, Bulgarians, and Turks ruling just outside their walls. I also like the bound titans buried in the hills around the tribunal.
I also picked Thebes because you ruled out Transylvania. It's a really cool area. I didn't know that until I began the research for the tribunal book, but after reading books about Romanian and Bulgarian myths I was hooked. The history is also very cool and very dynamic at the start of a canonical saga. Transylvania is a perfect setting for a heroic saga, I think. There are tons of clear enemies and millions of opportunities for the magi to perform heroic deeds. I understand your dislike for a Tremere-heavy saga; I'm not crazy about House Tremere either. But I like the ArM5 portrayal of them as good-guy-soldiers instead of world-mongering-schemers. You could always ignore the Tremere dominance. Make a covenant (or oppidium) comprised of magi that your players want to play. If there isn't a Tremere in the group, fine. Then, if you don't want tension between your oppidium and the rest of the tribunal, say fine, and the rest of the Tremere happily accept your group. Then you can outwit a giants' mothers (who can shapechange into flaming wheels - how cool is that!), battle five-headed Infernal dragons, and ride flying horses to your hearts content. That is, if you are into that sort of thing. I am.
One pretty awesome thing with Thebes, especially in Greek areas is the fact that Grogs and magi share the same language. There aren't any "wasted" xp in languages for grogs. Magi might have to spend 30 xp in Greek (native tongue) to be able to read Classical Greek. It's 20 points less than they would need to get Latin at commensurate level for reading. 20 points is an Ability at 5 and an Art to 5, at gauntlet. That's a pretty big "bonus."
Oh, it's not that I don't like House Tremere itself - actually quite the opposite (especially given their 5th edition portrayal, I agree). It's just that I don't feel like restricting the Hermetic landscape around the players to primarily one house at the moment. Once I have a group of more experienced Ars players around me and have read up on the tribunal book myself, I wouldn't mind running a saga in the Transylvanian Tribunal at all. Just not for this group right now.
It might actually be easier to run a saga for new people there, because the entire Tribunal is almost like an older Autumn covenant with PCs playing the Junior magi. The magi who are there are at the invitation of the Tremere/Tribunal. They have their support in a lot of things. You can direct their actions a bit. As they grow into the game, you can move outside of the Tribunal, too.
Because it has some very rich opportunities to play a non-Tremere, indeed a non-tremere-focused covenant ... well, opidum ... no, covenant...
Argh! Just go read pages 15-18 of AtD, with focus on the Foederati (p. 17-18).
Again: I don't doubt that it's possible to play an entirely non-Tremere covenant - but that doesn't change the fact that I, as a storyteller, have to present a primarily Tremere tribunal. I'd just prefer to have more House diversity in my everyday NPCs at the moment.
I think any other tribunal you mentioned has what you are looking for: a good mix of magi from various Houses. I think it then depends on what kind of stories you want to run. If you want political stories, pick a tribunal whose politics you like. If you want faerie adventures, pick a tribunal whose myths you like. Mundane involvement? Pick a tribunal whose history excites you.
I default to the Hibernia Tribunal because I like it. I know Irish history, medieval Irish culture, and tons of Irish myths. Those things ignite my imagination and its easy for me to lead stories set in Mythic Ireland. I also like the Rome Tribunal because its violent, and I like violent sagas. It helps that I know a bit about medieval Florence (took a university course) so again, its easy for me to tell stories based in 13th century Florence.
Essentially, it is a lot of work running a saga. If I am going to be the alpha storyguide then I want to save myself as much work as possible, so I go with areas I know. That is what makes the tribunal books great, I think. Other people to the research and work for me. And if the authors are clever, which many of them are, then they come up with really cool ideas for that area. I don't have to use their ideas, but I certainly benefit from their hard work researching an area.
I suggest talking to the troupe and figuring out what kind of stories you want to play, and then see which one of the published tribunal books best supports those type of stories.
I'll chime in with more support for the Novgorod Tribunal, because I think the cultural interplay in that area is fascinating and also because I think the kinds of stories set in a "wild frontier" region like that will be more interesting to read than stories of intrigue or research in established areas.
There are so many places that are pretty interesting in each and every tribunal.
Example, in the Greater Alps Tribunal there is Mount Pilatus which has nearby to it an old Mercury Cult Temple. The interesting aspect of it, there is constant supernatural attacks coming from it, which would lead to all sorts of adventure. There is also the fact that the Tribunal itself is elder country, and so there is some political issues that can crop up.
Anything in Thebes would be cool, especially as every covennat site must have a magical or faerie guardian, which leads to all sorts of cool story. Plus you could choose the island of Crete, which has a giant chasm and ravine that could be built in.
In the Levant you can a covenant in a Pyramid, which is a really cool and fun idea. Plus the whole Holy Ground battle arena.
I spent an entire day reading over all the Tribunal books that were made (for both current and previous editions, I have all but the Novogrod one, I cannot find it anywhere, and I looked) and the amount of story seeds and plot ideas and possible locations make for a thousand games.
So yeah, wherever you decide you will totally find interesting stories and plot ideas to choose from.