running my first tribunal

I know there was a thread dealing with this earlier, but can't seem to find it. Any help would be great.

thanks in advance.


There's a published book that is all about a specific tribunal, with a bunch of packaged personalities. It looks like it's mostly meant for one-shot games, so it might not be a perfect fit to a tribunal involving established player characters, but it might be good for inspiration.

Thanks, that is one of the few books in the Ars catalog I actually don't own yet. I just thumbed through the 2nd ed. "Order of Hermes" and the 3rd ed. "midsummer" books today at lunch, and there's some good ideas there.

I know that thread from about 3 months ago was good, too.

The players didn't quite get to some of the plot hooks that I thought they'd get to by the time tribunal came around. So now the players are going in without any of the political issues that I had hoped to set up. Therefore, there'll be very little tension, I fear. There'll be fun when the characters meet the NPC magi, but they'll have little stake in the arguments. Not sure what to do about that. I don't want to just play both sides, and have the PC's just watch. That's boring.

Tribunal is a wonderful place to get them mixed up in politics, simply for voting/abstaining on an inflamed issue.

Do they take bribes/blackmail for their vote, even though they have only superficial understanding of the issue and its undercurrents? Do they stick together and vote as a block, or is it every covenant member for itself? That will influence how others see their covenant...

Are the grogs questioned on opaque topics by shady characters or talking squirrel familiars? Do the grogs get into trouble by way of a sneaky familiar provoking them? (What are the grogs up to at tribunal? If you have no big story to run for the magi you might just use the tribunal as backdrop for another story)

Did an issue suddenly drop off the agenda for no apparent reason? Why? (remember, the praeco sets the agenda ... if he dislikes a proposal, he can quite legally make it disappear and silence/throw out protestors)

Sudden prophecies from an inoffensive Criamon mystic? Milked for all it's worth by a scaremongering Tremere cameoed by one of the players?

Add a Tytalus or two, stir gently... watch the fun.

You could have the political issues come to light at the tribunal itself. For example, if they're a spring covenant of newbie magi:

Stranger: "Salve sodales. I haven't seen you at tribunal before. Where are you from?"

Players: "Domus Novus Newbius."

Stranger: "Where is that?"

Players: "Outside of Whoville, next to the ancient Spring of Apollo."

Stranger: "WHAT?! How dare you establish a new covenant in the middle of our richest vis-source territory?"

Players: "Our primus's parens bought the site for us from the Baron of Whoville, who didn't want his peasants going near the old Spring of Apollo anyway."

Stranger: "Who is this fool of a parens to intrude into our territory?"

Alternatively, you could get them involved in someone else's political battle by having competing factions bargain for their votes in an upcoming issue:

Mundane in green uniform: "Pardon me, magus, may I have a word with you on behalf of my masters?"

Players: "I suppose. Speak."

Green: "My masters are having trouble with some local knights who doesn't know the difference between faeries and demons, and is hunting down any faeries that stray out of a forest that is a rich source of vis for my masters. My masters are on good terms with the forest's faerie queen, who grants them unmolested passage to gather vis. She has demanded that my masters put a halt to the knights' faerie hunts."

Players: "I see the problem. They're caught between the Code's prohibitions against aggravating faeries and against interfering in the affairs of mundanes. But how do we come into it?"

Green: "It seems that some other magus has a grudge against one of my masters, and has secretly encouraged the knights' new hobby of hunting faeries. My masters want your votes in tribunal in declaring the other magus in violation of the Code, for influencing the knights and indirectly molesting the faeries."

Players: "So, what do they have to offer us for our votes?"

Then later:

Mundane in purple uniform: "Pardon me, magus, may I have a word with you on behalf of my masters?"

Players: "I suppose. Speak."

Purple: "My masters wish your support in an important vote this tribunal. They are accused of interfering with the affairs of mundanes, and indirectly molesting faeries. The charge is baseless."

Players: "We heard something about a case like that. What is their side of the story?"

Purple: [Long explanation.]

Players: "It looks like they have a case. But taking sides on an issue like this is risky for our own status in the tribunal. Can your masters compensate us for taking a chance on siding with them?"

Hmmmmm. (glimmer of light gets brighter on the horizon) I'm starting to get it. Thanks for that.

Do independent magi have a vote in tribunal? My players have yet to establish a covenant. That's one of my big issues, and the main thing I had hoped to accomplish by this time.

(the two players and I decided to experiment with this game, and start off as independent magi, and wander for awhile. They wanted to get a feel for Iberia before figuring out where to settle. It's been successful, and not. It's been a hell of a lot of work for me, constantly creating new things to explore. The magi have few roots right now. It's been hard to constantly come up with new NPC's every few games for them to get involved with, then leave.... On the other hand, my world is quite populated now with well-rounded characters.)

And then the damn fools split up! I've got one magi who'll be at Tribunal, and the other player will play a companion. The other magi is learning Arabic at the School of Translation in Toledo, and skipping tribunal. But he was my main hook into the next plot stuff, so I'm left a little hanging for the Tribunal.... Oh well.

I think I'm going to get the mage at tribunal tangled in a few webs, and see what happens. The companion will no doubt excell at a swordsmanship competition, and be offerred a little side job by a tremere.

This will also be a chance for them to hear of a few new magical sites discovered, which could lead to them exploring these locations for a potential covenant site.

It's all very daunting, though, I have to say. So many NPC's in one location....

Thanks for the help guys.

Have charges brought against the missing Magus...
See how fast he can get back to answer them (you might have to provide help)

Have the players brought under pressure to join a Covenant...several suitors of Winter Covenants...Lots of Vis, lots of Promises...Some quarelling, then introduce the competition...Hints of charges being brought if they can't decide (doesn't matter if the charges will be legal, just the threat)
Maybe a Certamen to settle who will go where...
Perhaps get the companion injured to take him out of the mix for the rest of Tribunal...

Any magus can vote, other than Tremere magi whose parentes hold their voting sigils. A magus can vote by proxy, by lending his voting sigil to another magus who he trusts to vote his interests.

You could include several plots in the same tribunal. The opposed magi competing for the player characters' votes could be one. Their establishment of a covenant could be another.

In the case of the covenant, you could have one or more than want the player characters to join, for reasons that the characters won't know until they make a decision. (And you don't have to know the reasons unless they choose to accept an offer.) You could have one of the opposed magi factions offer to set them up with their own covenant as an inducement to take their side in a vote.

As for the magi who are absent from the tribunal, you can get them there if they have reason to show. Suppose the apparent vote on the opposed magi issue appears to depend on the votes of the absent magi. To "help" them participate, you could have a powerful magus lend the Companion character his Boots of Teleportation, and give him orders to use it to find the missing magus, and deliver the message that he needs to use the Boots to get to get to the tribunal promptly. If the vote turns out satisfactorily to the owner of the Boots, he'll even let the magus return to his studies in Toledo, as long as the companion comes back with the Boots.

And then, just for an ironic twist, have the vote go heavily in the direction the characters were bribed to vote. Then the losing faction will put them on their enemies list (but it's a long list, so it's not a big problem for them), and the winning faction will resent the characters for accepting their bribes when the vote could have been settled their way without their help. Finally, the owner of the Boots is annoyed at the Companion, because his big feet stretched out the Boots to the point that they need attention from a cobbler to fit their owner properly again.

Hmm, is this right? I remembered that a magus may only vote if he is a member of the Tribunal. He may always be present and speak, subject to praeco veto, but only members of the tribunal may vote. This is to ensure that a magus won't get to vote in several tribunals.

Now, I'd suggest any magus recognized as passing his gauntlet by a member of a tribunal automatically belongs to that tribunal. And that other peripheral code rulings may grant magi automatic membership in other circumstances - such as being an accepted member of a recognized covenant, swearing before a Quaesitor that he votes only in this tribunal, and so on. But I could definitely see certain tribunals pressuring magi to exile to maintain a small population, or maintaining a small number of covenants, by denying voting rights.

Lots of good stuff here, so don't let me derail too much, but if you do a search in the Ars Magica forum for Tribunal, you get a lot of good threads. Here's a few:

Good luck! Hope this helps.

That was my intended meaning. I assumed that firth5's players' magi were members of the tribunal in question.

That point suggests another plot line for a tribunal. The magus Lapis Inmuscosum* is present at the tribunal, with no issues of his own to advance. However, he's actively offering to sell his vote on any issue for anyone with an issue who needs the votes.

Most of the magi present recognize him as a member in good standing of Estáncia es Karida, having recently moved from Leczyca (Novgorod), his covenant affiliation during the last Grand Tribunal, where he was known to be considering changing covenants. The sticky point is that since that Grand tribunal, some magi claim that he also appeared at the Loch Leglean tribunal as a member in good standing of Horsingas, and at the Levant tribunal as primus of the newly established Persepolis covenant.

As it turns out, the magi who are asserting that Lapis is presenting himself as a member of covenants in several tribunals also disagree with some of the positions where he has already committed himself to a particular vote. Are they defaming Lapis because he's sold votes to their opponents on some issues? Or is he pulling off a scam by selling votes in several tribunals? Because other votes could turn on whether Lapis has standing to vote in this tribunal, the Praeco has set that issue first on the agenda.

  • Get it?

Thank you SO much everyone. This is SOLID info, and I'm feeling much better about the prospect of running my first tribunal.

I've decided to delay the tribunal for just a little bit, for this plotline to occur. Please see my latest posting to this old thread:

Have a good one.