I made some searches looking for Grand Tribunal issues, but what mostly came back were local Tribunal issues. I've got a pretty good grasp of the things that come up there, but I've got a Grand Tribunal session coming up (1228) and I'm wondering if folks could tell me the kinds of things that you had going on.
I'm familiar with the conventions of the Grand Tribunal, that there are only three issues per Tribunal. I've got one issue that will come up, but I'm hoping to give my players (all first-time Ars Magica players) a feel for what the Order brings to the table every 33 years.
I'm guessing that some of the big storyline arcs get played out at your Grand Tribunals -- like new Tribunals that magi try to carve out, or Order-wide threats like the Mongols, but what are the less Order-is-going-to-die kind of issues, but larger than a local Tribunal?
There are some obvious candidates. In particular, the struggle between the two factions of House Tytalus is likely to come to a head at Grand Tribunal, for the simple reason that SOMEONE has to get the vote and sit in the chair, and both candidates can't do it. Similarly, House Verditius has a struggle over the location of its Domus Magna, with the House divided.
THROUGH THE AEGIS presents a Tytalus sea-magus who wants to form a Tribunal of the Sea. There are other new Tribunal struggles, most notable the Lotharingian Tribunal discussed in the Normandy and Rhine books.
Grand Tribunal is a good place for Order-wide projects to be announced or begun, like the much-discussed "magical school, an expedition to found covenants in Egypt, a Lewis & Clark style expedition into the Magic Realm, or the establishment of a research covenant to break some long standing Law of Magic (though since the Laws have been around a long time, these covenants have probably all been founded, so you might be looking at the results of one, or a refounding if the original has collapsed).
In my opinion, if your PCs are fresh-from-Gauntlet in 1220, the 1228 Grand Tribunal will be largely over their heads unless they've been intimately involved in a particular question. If they're not in Normandy or Rhine, the Lotharingian Tribunal issue will be decided long before they get there. So consider that issues are likely to be more color than substance.
One thing that might come up is the Hibernian Tribunal in general - remember, the Tribunal is nearly in anarchy. If things are bad enough in your saga that magi aren't bothering to declare Wizard's War, you have a local Schism and the Order had better intervene (or else consciously isolating the Tribunal and preventing other magi from getting involved). If in your saga, another Tribunal has collapsed (Flambeau has gotten involved in the Reconquista in Iberia, and pro-Islamic magi are fighting against them?), that should be a front-and-center issue too.
For smaller issues, maybe a local Tribunal (under Transitionalist and Tremere influence) has made the laws against Hermetic vagrancy stricter and forbidden House Ex Miscellanea from locally taking in magi orbi. This isn't expected to fly, but it might be an opening shot in a bid to strengthen the power and authority of the Houses over their magi. Alternately, maybe Provencal is complaining about magi in Normandy providing support to nobles fighting the Albigensian Crusade (since in Normandy, what they're doing is perfectly legal, but Provencal Tribunal isn't as cool with fast-and-loose interference like that).
Other than that, don't forget that Grand Tribunal is a huge fair for magi. Items and Lab Texts for trade, impromptu contests sponsored, archmagi named and big projects announced. If a maga hasn't made a Longevity Potion yet and wants a Gifted child, maybe she can try to meet this Petrus Virilis guy she's been hearing about. Maybe they want to rub a few elbows with big-shots, or maybe you want to introduce someone who will totally be important later. Don't make the whole thing be about issues that the players don't have the clout to be involved in yet.
I play in a Rhine saga where we just played through regular Tribunal of 1227, which decided on the issues the Rhine brings to Grand Tribunal.
Since the saga is a spring saga the focus on our part has been to gather support for founding a new covenant. we're too young and inconsequential to affect anything or even be invited. In effect the Grand Tribunal is more a backdrop of the saga than something we have a direct effect on. However decisions made can affect us eventually.
The issues for Grand Tribunal 1228 are:
-Can House Bjornaer (taken from 'The Crintera Schism' saga ide in GotF) invite unGifted Pomeranian Shapeshifters into their ranks and therefore the Order? A matter of principle, the issue is mostly about whether a Prima's soverign rights to rule her House can be challenged by Grand Tribunal.
-Active offensive into the North, for the Order of Odin. Philipus Niger and elements of the Ash Gild are more adamant on this issue than most, and at Tribunal of 1221 Prima/Praeco Murion made statements to appease this faction about the need for activity on this front. It is however not a great priority of hers. But in order to not get left behind in the race if someone else rallies the troops Murion wants the Rhine (and untimately Durenmar) in the lead. So by addressing the issue at Grand Tribunal she announces the Rhine's intent to increase the effort and asks that no one else interferes or inadvertently sabotages the Ash Gild's plans and actions. She hopes this will bring in the best and brightest magi interested in the issue as well as their resources, and by more or less officially makes Philipus Niger in charge she hopes not not only keep Durenmar in the midst of things and in charge, but also to keep Philipus Niger too busy to cause other trouble.
And these issues are bound to cause other issues at the next few regular Tribunals and eventually make the Grand Tribunal in 1261 interesting.
The Lotharingian Tribunal saga arc is also interesting, especially for players in a Rhine or Normandy saga, but I've chosen to not throw this story line in there as well - plenty of other things going on already.
If you want to involve a little bit a young magus into a grand Tribunal maybe he is the heir of an Archmagus, but the will of said Archmagus was/is contested and considering the items/books/notes an older apprentice of this magus is challenging the will.
Possibly House Bonisagus or Verditius as well. One is claiming that such knowledge should not remain the ownership of one young magus, but shared with the whole community (under obviously the benevolent and unbiased eyes of House Bonisagus), or arguing that there was a verbal agreement that in exchange for such and such favour, the Archmagus would grant House Verditius this legendary item.
Maybe even House Guernicus could be interested in the diary of this magus because he is an hoplite or on contrary, was suspected of certain crimes involving other members of the Order (who might be surprising allies to the PCs who wants them to have this diary, to negociate or steal later from them).
There is no obvious crime, so nobody will risk death, but the prize is so interesting that many people or covenant are trying to grab something. And because of his fame, the value of his legacy, maybe because he moved Tribunal a few seasons before is passing, it cannot be sorted out at Tribunal level, but need to reach the Grand Tribunal.
The Grand Tribunal and the seasons prior to it will be used to secure allies during the final vote. It could be a nice way to start a Spring covenant: a large donation from an Archmagus (possibly with the promise that certain activities or research will be carry on) allowing to settle a Spring covenant, and some allies and enemies linked to how the negociations were done behind the scene. Obviously, try to minimise dice roll, because unless characters are uber optimised, they are unlikely outsiders against a century old magus (unless in mundane skills outside of his interest). Gauge success on their idea, initiatives and strategy. They might not get much, but they won't get any enemies and even get sympathy from other other would will help them, or they manage to keep the whole Will untouched, but gains many enemies. In both case, it will be a good start for a Spring covenant.
An obvious issue is the Theban Tribunal is excluding mages from participation in the local tribunal- most especially ones from "invading" countries following the 4th Crusade. The tribunals who established these chapter houses may well petition to force Thebes to allow their mages to participate if they now live locally, or possibly to force the Theban tribunal into a more traditional model...
It's a very good question and I'm glad to see some discussion of Grand Tribunals. To my knowledge, GTs have not been addressed in detail within AM5, although there is some information dating back to AM4.
Here's a point that I think could benefit from clarification - voting at the Grand Tribunal. Are issues decided on a consensus basis or do they really come down to potentially close and divisive votes? If so, how do the votes get counted?
We know that each Tribunal sends three representatives and that the House Primii also attend. Is there one magus one vote or does each participant bring a big bag of sigils to count? If so, how are they collected and how is their authenticity verified? What happens when one Tribunal has different rules on sigils, such as the Rhine ruling on Twilight magi?
The "emergency grand tribunal" just prior to the outbreak of the Schism War seemed to make its decision by counting Primii, without reference to anyone else. Of course, that process resulted in War, not the peaceful settlement of disputes that Tribunals were set up for.
What we know regarding topics handle at the Grand Tribunal, they need to concern the whole Order, they cannot be handled at regular tribunal level and they need to be selected amongst the three topics that each Tribunal can submit and which are discussed during the last Tribunal before the Grand Tribunal.
Introduction of the printing press for Arts (we are two centuries ahead, but maybe the idea percolated already in a magus' mind but was forbidden until rediscovered by Gutenberg).
Border rivalry between two Tribunals (likely link to a Covenant settling close a border and claiming to be from one Tribunal or the other). If it is a large covenant, with powerful magus, it might upset the local political forces.
Answering a request from the Holy Seer to have the pope's legate meeting representatives of the Order (and selection of thereof) - possible negociation of a full Order immunity from Church interferences in exchange of support during Crusade
Expanding/creating a new tribunal in North Africa or more Easter to Novgorod and the more general question Is there an official border for the Order of Hermes.
Presentation of a major Breakthrough that some mages wanted to keep for themselves, but that was leaked (movable Aegis, parma's fold...) - it does not require a vote, but a Tribunal driven by a strong coallition might wish to make it public to prevent some mages to have an advantage in coming Wizard's War (or to weaken House Bonisagus or whichever House came with the Breakthrough).
Not all topics need to be about life and death, but they will have a long impact on the Order politics and might be important for some senior magus when most other don't care. It is also about making a point and showing your influence, supports and friends to your enemy. Putting one or two more "frivolous" topics can make the Grand Tribunal more bearable.
Voting at Grand Tribunal: I don't k now how this is supposed to work, or whether it has ever been defined in ArM, this edition or previous ones.
IIRC a long running 4th ed saga of mine a long time ago had some assumption that the 3 magi chosen to go to GT were the ones who had the most support from their own Tribunal, so the ones who could get most proxy sigils promised to them. Dunno if there ever in 4th ed (or even earlier) was something said about this. But it sort of made sense to us: A Tribunal sends their most politically powerful magi to ensure they have maximum influence on the issues the other Tribunals bring up.
Aha! Thank you, I thought I remembered how the voting worked, but I couldn't remember where I read it.
Thank you everyone for your responses, I think I have enough to chew on for now to figure out how to present it to my players and see if there's anything of interest for them. Possibly there's not, but there's always the 1261 Grand Tribunal to see how much of a mess they make.
There are some issues which should have been settled in past Grand Tribunals which are not outlined in the background which should e determined- for example can a tribunal march a magus who does not appear for their own defense and lives in another tribunal? Two tribunals have rule which interfere with the bonisagus right to take another magus apprentice (Transylvania and Thebes) if bonisagus travels there from another tribunal are they bound by those regulations? Does a tribunal have the right to prevent a magus from visiting (Transylvania)?
Then there may be cross tribunal charges of code violations- for example if a magus in Normandy is accused of interfering with mundanes, and is acquitted because it did not endanger any covenants in Normandy, but led to the destruction of a covenant associated with Cathars in Provence...
House Tremere recognises a lot more Redcaps than House Mercere does. That might split the House and cause the Prima to use her issue to settle it.
The current Doge of Venice is seriously considering moving the capital of the Republic to Constantinople. The Jerbitons hate this and want to stop it. Other parts of the Order want it to happen. The Guernicus want a ruling that lets the hopolites kick heads. Tytalus want them to fight.
Several voices on these forums have suggested Ex Miscellanea is too small—at 180 magi—to sustain all its many traditions. Well, what if the answer is that the House is simply much larger than everyone thought. I find this pretty plausible, honestly. If Ex Misc was revealed to have twice or three times as many magi, and this was revealed at Grand Tribunal, the results could be explosive.
Suddenly, Ebroin’s former House becomes very important and everyone starts paying attention to it. Tytalus is the obvious candidate here, considering that House’s long connection to Ex Misc; choosing to leave House Tytalus in order to take over Ex Misc with basically no support is exactly the sort of thing a young Tytalus magus would do! The other likely candidate, a Tremere plot, is less plausible only because a Tremere agent would not be as unprepared for the role as Ebroin is, but this could be an instance of plausible deniability on the part of Coeris.
In any case, a 500+ strong Ex Misc faction is suddenly the most powerful voting bloc at Grand Tribunal, and before everyone dismisses Ex Misc as never agreeing on anything, what do you think that census was for, if not to collect proxy votes from wandering hedge magicians who never interact with the Order and don’t care how their votes are used? Ebroin or one of his rivals on the Council of Four could show up with a sack of literally hundreds of proxy votes. Trianoma magi would go berserk!
How many traditions and how many people per tradition is what it comes down to? I don't think I've seen a game with over 20 traditions defined for ex miscalanea- that would allow an average of 9 magi per tradition, probably more like an average of 8 per tradition with the rest being pralix… keep in mind that a hedge tradition could join the order but then fade away...
The two regions that would define the situation best are going to be Iberia, where the hermetic Sahirs exist in decent numbers but are under assault from a faction of flambeaux, and in the three tribunals of Great Britain, where the ex miscellanea began.
The Tremere want a vis tax to fund Order wide projects or projects to help the Order. It is in AtD, which I do not have in front of me at the moment. They are big on strengthening the Order as a whole and everyone working for the good of the Order.