Rhine Tribunal 1221 AD: You can make it rock!

... and I'm not talking with a Terram requisite.

My players, in their last year of apprenticeship, will soon go the the Rhine's 1221 Tribunal, and I want it to be memorable. As apprentices, I don't see them engaging in a lot of politics, though I see the following happening:

  1. The Gilds begin to feel them out and possibly explain their purpose.
  2. They possibly begin probing around for possible covenant sites once they pass their Gauntlet and finding out what their fellow covenants would want to get their support in founding the covenant - since you have to be allowed by ALL the other covenants in the Rhine.

Now, my goal is to make the Tribunal a place of wonder. I'm going with the "Tribunal as Fair" model - purveyors of exotic wares attend since wizards are a big consumer of glassware, food vendors, strange gems and unusual items. More medieval fair or exotic market than Harry Potter, but hey...

  • any suggestions for this fair model?

A Vis Market, perhaps.

A handful of very old mages, perhaps archmages, with lots of Twilight Scars - sort of a cautionary tale wrapped in a 'Wow!" factor.

*Anyone have any cool elder mages with interesting Twilight Scars that might show at such an event?

There'll by various avenues the players will be able to choose form when they decide to start their covenant. It looks like the Rhine may well be where they decide to live, in which case needing to be approved by all the other covenants will be an issue.

I have in mind a centerpiece for the Tribunal: an archmage, tired of all the politics and infighting, decides to spurn all the rest of the tribunal. He writes The Ultimate Summa on his particular art of focus, and offers it up to the group of apprentices who will undergo their Gauntlet that year who can complete a series of tests he has devised - a show of cooperation and comradery. This book will be the best thing a hermetic mage can produce with the Covenants rules - resonances, illuminations, the works...

*Any thoughts on what the most sought after Summa might look like? Might be about? Corpus?

Such a book, if the PCs manage to win it, will be a fairly useful bargaining chip to gain the favor of certain covenants. They'll have a little under a year to prepare. The favor of an archmage would likewise be a potent advantage to have. Heck, he might even move in with the youngblood mages if they found a covenant.

Failing that angle, I'll also use the ones provided in the Rhine book - Murion's offer to sponsor them in defiance of the Rhine Gorge's Curse, Fengheld's offer to make them a chapterhouse, and so on.

Any tribunal thoughts would be appreciated! Whatever might make it interesting and memorable...



I might get a book thrown at me, but does anyone watch Saturday Night Live? I'm as loyal to that show as I am to Ars. Anyway a few weeks ago they had a skit on for a used Unicorn Dealer. It was like a Used Car Dealer. If your playing in a high mythic setting, this would be a perfect drop in.

"We's gots your unicorns and hippogriffs, griffons, and flying snakes. This one here just came it, goes by the name of Twinkle. How can you refuse? Look into those eyes. Buy it right now and I'll toss in an saddle and bag of hay!"

One of the things I always thought would happen to apprentices about to finish their training is a combination of Pro-Sports Draft, College Interviews, and Networking, as the various Apprentices and Tribunals jockey for the "best" combination they can get.

And if you think that doesn't involve politics, you're not thinking it through- altho' their Parens would be as much or more involved than they are.

If they are to gain a Covenant, all the groundwork is being done now- the allies, the resources, the permission for them (as opposed to any other group!) to claim that location in that particular Tribunal, debts promised and deals cut to gain those impressive libraries and lab equipment (or not!), etc etc. If older magi are to be included, they may be the center of one or more of these efforts, but, just like the first day of playground at recess, there will be an ongoing scramble to make the best "team" you can gather around you. And this would be cross-tribunal- not like there are so many apprentices each 7 years that each tribunal only picks from their own.

Offers, rumours, backstabbing and double-dealing, all can be part and parcel of this event, and then of any visit to or from other magi until their gauntlet. (The story may have the Rhine as final destination, but others could still try but fail, just to create the illusion of free choice.)

Nice idea, but don't let it end there! ANY such mage is then a plot thread that can come back later- they disappear, they reappear, they come asking a favor or declaring a War, something later that ties back in to what is seen at the Tribunal. Plot ahead, and foreshadow those events!

Well, the 5 Techniques are, arguably, more useful than any of the Forms, but Corpus and Vim could be close on their heels.

Rather than "the best book ever"- which would be quite a prize for ~any~ mage, and perhaps something too valuable for a Spring Covenant to easily hang on to (there are thieves!), instead a great series of "beginners" books, from 0 to 15 or so? The type of thing young magi can really use.

You don't only want it to be "memorable"- you want those memories to tie in later into future stories- insights into magi, strengths/weaknesses/tendencies, or older Covenants and their politics or past (dirty?) dealings, etc. The "Aha!" factor cannot be over-valued in on-going storytelling.

Maybe a Certamen duel, off in a private garden? Two elder magi argue, and one grabs one of your apprentices to act as witness? (Then, years later...)

Or a Wizard's War declared, or a March voted on by the Tribunal- more fireworks for later sessions, and a lesson for the young'uns to consider as they enter the Tribunal...

Or just some censure, a fine or penalty, an apprentice stripped from a Parens, or other hard justice- maybe even unfairly, so they see the dark politics and are wary of them.

They witness something that seems trivial at the time, but later, when Quasitores/others come asking, is realized to be significant, tossing them into an adventure, or opening the door if they want to pursue it on their own...

Excellent ideas, Rameau! Thank you so much! Some are similar to things I'm considering, and many are cool things I had not considered. I'll be printing this for my notebook as I brainstorm.

The Ultimate Summa, or set of books (perhaps both), will indeed be a storyhook all its own. This Tribunal is meant to, as you say, not just be memorable, but also be the root from which many stories will grow.

hoo... anyhow, thanks again!


I originally thought of this for an apprentice based game, but have been thinking about importing it to the more mainstream game I'm running... a sporting event for apprentices a few years away from their gauntlet.

Basically it's soccor/football with the rule you cannot physically connect with the ball. Teams of apprentices must use their magic to send the ball down the field and through a goal post.

I imagined it as being organized/hosted by a Tytalus who would point out that while good-sportsmanship is appropriate, they have yet to actually swear the Oath of Hermes.

There also is the "team certamen" mentioned in True Lineages. Maybe some Tremere finally managed to develop it and is itching to try it out on a large scale. That could be an alternative to RARodger's sporting event. :slight_smile:

A border covenant might decide to join/leave the tribunal, leading to more politicking than usual.

A prominent church official who happens to also be a natural magician/have holy powers/whatever comes to the tribunal. Why? Is he just shopping? How did he learn about it? What are you going to do?

A nobleman comes to reclaim his eldest son, who had been kidnapped and is now mid-way through his apprenticeship.

Two magi are heatedly arguing on the tribunal floor when one of them suddenly passes into (temporary) Twilight. Accident or attack (there are spells that cause warping and potentially twilight). Bonus point if the Praeco or leading Quaesitor are involved. Extra credit if either is responsible/the victim. Jackpot for both.

A diabolist's apprentice is revealed, the master is nowhere to be found.

An apprentice is selling vis for mundane money -- where's the catch?

A Flambeau magus formally joins House Criamon ( :open_mouth: ).

It starts snowing in the middle of summer.

A magus is publicly rebuked for failing to properly gauntlet his apprentice after 15 years. The Quaesitors organize a (theoretically) fair test. The apprentice fails it. What now?

The characters stumble into a mystery initiation ceremony and ruin it (ennemy flaw, anyone?)

A rain of frogs.

The characters are sent to recruit "their first grog" (beware The Gift).

The characters arrive early, nothing is ready to receive them.

A Bonisagus presents his Breakthrough. A rival challenges him (you stole my research!) or someone denounces him as a fraud.

A pair of young Verditii working together is taking commissions.

Negociations for the character's votes, either before they take the Oath, or once they're magi. It's always fun. :slight_smile:

Someone plunders a sanctum in the covenant hosting the tribunal.

(edit- crosspost)

Some of those would work, but some are Waaay above the heads of apprentices, where the very first and last thing they do is run to the nearest Quasitore. Any plotline is more fun if the characters are the main actors throughout, not (effectively) just becoming spectators before the end, but some of those could still be good color or background. Not every Covenant is run like Hogwarts, where every problem is left to the apprentices to solve. :wink:

No prob- thank you for thanking me.

Other ideas-

That book, rather than just being "the most useful" Art, is an extension of the interests of the Elder Mage who writes it- Vim if a Bonisagus, Muto if a Criamon, Ignem if a Flambeau, Rego if Tremere, etc etc.

I was part of a team that just won a "perpetual" trophy IRL, and we (ok, one of us) had to sign away their life to take possession for the year. If the book was similar, some rotating prize/prestige symbol every 7 years, and the apprentices were to lose it...

(Inspired by a recent suggestion elsewhere)- A Parens is busy with social/formal activities, and asks the apprentices to find out X information without using magic - or, some subtle Mage merely comments offhandedly in their presence "I'd give (a huge reward) if I could find out X"- up to the apprentices "how" to find out, and whether or not they break the Code.

Flip side of that- the apprentices are framed/set up/falsely accused of breaking the code, and the Quasitores give them a hard time for it. The actual perpetrators are only suspected (some smug, annoying elder apprentices who had given them grief earlier), and thus begins a long and rewarding enmity...

Among those magical merchants are con-men, and the Apprentices are taken in a quick scam - up to them whether to swallow it and look stupid for all the Tribunal to gossip about, or be creative and achieve their own Justice without disrupting things too much. Maybe they lose something valuable that they were supposed to hang on to (the book? It would have to be a good scam, but some are, especially ones that ambush, dazzle and distract for the moment rather than a long con...)

Make alliances with apprentices that are forming another (not too distant?) Spring Covenant- there's a half dozen NPC magi who can be helpful, deceitful, competitive, annoying, sympathetic, or just plain pathetic.

Ooooh, I did want to have a bit wherein Phillipus Niger brings forth someone for judgment with the Wizard's Bridle.

Hmmm.... infernal apprentice?