I'm preparing to run a story revolving around the tribunal meeting in the Rhine Tribunal in 1221 AD, and I'm making up a list of issues that will be discussed.
The players in my campaign are all new to Ars Magica, and don't know alot about the setting, and I want them to take a more active role outside their covenant. So I'm making a list of issues and letting the player characters participate in the discussions in the forum in Durenmar, cast their votes, generally making a big deal of it, and making the players familiar with tribunal politics.
I'm making a list of issues, but so far it's pretty short, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. What issues could and should be included and voted over?
The player covenant has magi from Flambeau, Merinita, Guernicus, Verditius, Bjornaer and Ex Miscellanea (Witch of Thessaly).
The declining power of the Rhine Tribunal in the Order as other Tribunals are gaining power through alliances amongst themselves, perhaps.
The problem of dwindling Vis supplies in the region and what to do about it?
Hmm Perhaps the perceived threat of the Order of Odin and the call to amass a force to root it out and destroy it?
Encroachment of mundane settlements/cities into strong aura areas and how to slow it or roll it back (good issue for the Harmonist/Wilderist dichotomy of House Bjornaer to come to the fore)?
Those are off the top of my head.
Well, a Wilderist/Harmonist issue involving Crintera or its offshoots is, I believe, very appropriate. Perhaps a Bjornaer magus is being accused of an overzealous protection of the wilderness? The classical "he chased off the noble" brought by a Jerbiton from Lubeck against a Bjornaer from Crintera is an option. It would be best to have the accused bear some relation to the Bjornaer PC, preferably as a political opponent of some sort, to make things not so trivial.
Another case where the players will seek to not protect the wilderness will be a nice contra. Perhaps a case of magi - perhaps even Bjornaer again, or perhaps Durenmar - molesting the faeries, to garner the interest of the Merinitia PC.
As a backdrop, have two rival magi each start to promote their own side of a conflict for support, and have it escalate as the Tribunal goes by. And have it end in wizard's war (well, end with everyone knowing that one magus will declare by the next new moon) or even an unprovoked fight. In the latter case, the PC magi may need to, or want to step in, and either stop it or take sides.
Have issues, several of them, perhaps just concerning the rights to hunt vis in certain border areas, between several covenants be subjects of debate. Representatives of all involved parties might contact the PC magi seperateky, for support. Using intrigue, bribery, promises or even stooping to blackmail, to gain the support. This is especially good if these representatives get personal support of the PC seperately, instead of the support of the entire covenant, making for some chaotic and unpredictable votes and results, and making new enemies and friends.
Roleplaying-wise, this is difficult, unless the PC magi are approached as a group, since someone will be in the limelight, and the rest passive. By doing a little more work, have the inactive PCs play the parts of the NPC magi at the Tribunal (only the ones who have political agendas that can't possible foul up any long term plots of yours). Write up cue cards for the different NPC magi currying for favors, with some personality, goals, possible methods (e.g. what they can blackmail with or bribe with), and a few key abilities.
And find some very large political agenda, where the covenant are forced to take sides, and whatever they do will affect all their future. It might be that the Praeco is unable to fulfill his duties, and a new one needs to be found. Who will they support? Or perhaps some other power or focus is aboiut to shift from an old and almost decaying covenant to a new, fast-rising star. Everyone has dark secrets and has made some great sacrifice in the way to the goal. Have their support of either party reap large enough benefits to make viable, and let the reprecussions of the other side be thought lesser than they quickly become, after the decision had been made. And have some facts, unknown at the time of decision, turn the tables afterwards - not maing any decision a bad idea, but just sow enough doubt to make them nervous.
Well, the things I know I will use for the Tribunal is the Crintera Schism and several questions about the rights to vis sources. The balance of power between Fengheld and Durenmar should also appear. And I want to show off House Tremere and their particular structure. I've only skimmed over the Tremere chapter in True Lineages until recently, and I must say that after reading it in detail, it has become one of my top three favorite houses (the others being Bjornaer and Ex Miscellanea).
Anyway, the player covenant might be a big issue on the Tribunal, as it is on the south bank of the Rhine, on the shared border to the Greater Alps Tribunal. Maybe some representative from that tribunal could show up. Hmm..
For a more mundane approach, I have always thought that the oculus Septentrionalis/Waldenzee (spelling) conflict offers loads of potential. After all Waldenzee is much more powerful when it comes to raw killing power (loads of warlocks there) while Occulus septentrionalis is stronger as a mundane organization.
Having the "usual bad guys" (AKA Wadenzee) charge Occulus Septentrionalis with meddling with mundanes to try to destroy their covenant (helping organize mundane anti-piracy expeditions) might be interesting. And Occulus will demand the return of all the stuff that wadenzee has stolen from the, a magical ship included. Might be quite an interesting debate.
Make someone blackmail the characters about one of their breaches of the code of hermes (they MUST have broken it at some point) for help in an other field.
Have one of the PC grogs wake up with a nasty hangover..... without having drunk anything strong the night before. Mind reading by an uncareful maga? happens all the time. it might be scrying or not, depending on who the IntMe maga is.... And if it was mind reading (was it? really? Do you have any proof?) what did the peering magus want to search for?
Thanks alot, some good ideas here. I'd like to go for mundane issues too, so the Waddenzee vs Occulus Septentrionalis-conflict will be used. I hadn't thought of that one yet.
The interesting bit here is that the ones that would be breaking the code could easily be Occulus Septentrionalis. However, they have a much stronger political fanbase than QWaddenzee, so it can come down to show the players that rightousness does not necessarily mean that you win in your trial.
And can put Occulus or Waddenzee (whichever the PCs favour) in a bad light. That is always interesting. Pure good and pure bad guys are not that clear cut in the OoH as they are in other gaming system cliches.
I think I will try to get a list done of how every attending Magus will vote on some of the issues. I've already made a list of all the Magi attending. It would be great to have a vote on the Tribunal thats so balanced that the player characters would be needed to tip the scale in either direction.
The reason I'm doing this Tribunal in such detail is to get the new players more involved in the Order, and to let them have a blast roleplaying their characters to the hilt.
Simple trade is also interesting, and also happens at rituals. Not everything is court issuesn at tribunal!!! A tribunal is like a fair IMO, not a penal court. At least most of the time.
Bargaining for that book you really want et al is great, and a lot of inter-magi/intercovenant relations develop from such trades. Finding a new percaminarious or asking around for good grog sources (if that count has surplus soldiers that would be capable to be trained to face huge lizards et al...) or simple gossipping (have you seen how badly the magi from Drakwald dress? On the other hand, those merinitae are sooooo fashionable....) is good for character development.
I'm also planning to have the Flambeau set up a tournament in Certamen and the other competitions detailed in Societas, with a nice price for winning each, of course.
Trading is a good idea. Might be mundane or magical.
And of course, every story revolving around this need some big intrigue or unforseen disaster.
Thread resuscitation as the Grand Tribunal 1165 draws near in my Saga.
What sort of issues would the Grand Tribunal have then? I expect much less of the petite Magus x Magus vis issues and so on.
Tribunal borders? Wizard wars?
At the time, both the Wilderist/Harmonist and the Transitionalist/Traditionalist issues will be brought to Grand Tribunal for the first time, so I expect these two to be the main topics of discussion but then, what else?
Vis is always a problem in Rome, so this will not differ earlier, recent mundane political issues and their reflections on the magical world (like the crusade against finland, and Barbarossa) would be pondered. I seem to recall the area's of tribunals were marked by mundane area's, so the new holy roman emperor would make the rome tribunal a little paranoid, and who gets the north italian area? will the greater alps, will the rhine do so, or, in a very bold move, will the rome tribunal claim all the roman emperor has?
Any ideas for the rest of the tribunals anyone?
Hibernia, Loch Leaglan, Stonehenge, ProvenÃ§al, Normandy, Iberia, Levant, Transylvania and Thebes? What sort of issues would their members bring to Grand Tribunal?
On the topic of the Rhine Tribunal, Prima Murion of Bonisagus is noted for her dislike of exotic magic and this may be reflected in how she attempts to steer the Tribunal meeting as Praeco. Perhaps an existing covenant, or a group of magi hoping to set up a new one, naively decides to dedicate itself to seeking out other magical traditions and incorporating them into Hermetic theory. It requests a Tribunal dedication, and Murion does everything within her authority to make the vote go against this.
For me the most fun storyline is the Black Forest spirits and the change of Praeco, and how those can be connected.
To start with, have all visiting magi travelling by forest road to the tribunal attacked by dark Fae. Have Dankmar announce that they will be bringing new charges against Durenmar of having drawn the wrath of the fae on their sodales, and trying to gather votes. As the tribunal begins have one of the delegations who are allies of your players covenant have not arrived. Perhaps they went astray, perhaps they were wiped out. Investigation is hampered by large numbers of fae moving in the forest not far from the aegis edge.
The twelve magi due to slip out from the tribunal and head for the Fane of Founders to perform the ritual are worried as their safety is threatened, but asking additional magi for help will compromise the secret and risk security of the ritual in the future. Whatever happens at the ritual the faerie threat to the tribunal passes before the end of the meeting, puzzling those not in the know as to what was the point of the harrassment.
Fengheld jumps on the Dankmar proposal, they try using the issue to get the tribunal to declare that Durenmar has not done enough to secure the safety of the meeting, as it's mistakes have compromised it's ability to host tribunals. They demand opening up the debate on whether praeco and thus right to host the tribunal should be removed from the Bonisagus and be granted to the oldest member of the tribunal as elsewhere. This would get support from every covenant with a member old enough to be considered, from those whose covenants ally with those in the running, and from all those who just want to hurt Durenmars power. Add in the normal political maneurvering and bribes. Then have the Quaesitores threaten to declare that vote illegal for reasons they will not reveal.
As the tribunal comes to an end the players realize they have seen the edges of conflicts, rituals and secrets unknown to them, but threatening the future of the tribunal.