So I'm going to start as primary ST for a Rhine Gorge campaign, with one of the players offering to be guest ST once in a while.
Now that I am starting my preparations in earnest, I am wondering if people have any tips, recommendations or lessons learned from running it.
I have found twothreads dealing with this topic, but considering that it one of the standard set ups, many of you might have experienced it.
What are the (meta) problems you might have encountered? Where did you have to ignore or go against the pre-written material? How did you fill in the blanks?
So, the Rhine Tribunal is actually pretty vanilla. Compared to the likes of the Normandy or Thebes tribunals anyway.
Still, a few things to remember:
Not all men are created equal. And in the Rhine, not every magus/maga is equal either. Masters have twice the votes and Archmages even more. This makes for a fairly conservative political scene.
The same does not have to be true for your covenant though. Voting within the covenant (if any) is solely governed by the covenant charter, and could be fundamentally different. In a large covenant, there could even be a political schism between those who want the same votes as at the tribunal, vs those who want to retain (or make even more extreme) the system enshrined in the charter.
Apprentices. It may just be us and our play style but many of us have enjoyed having apprentices. In the Rhine, only masters (and Archmagi) are supposed to have apprentices, and being a master when less than 20-30 years out of your Gauntlet is unusual. For us, having gone without apprentices for 20 years now, has been nerve-wrecking!
Speaking of Masters, we've had to formalize parts of the reputation system (as seen here), because that one of the requirements of becoming a master.
Gilds are fun, and sort of simplify tribunals (you can largely expect most magi to vote according to their gild first, covenant or house second and anything else third), but also makes for more multi-leveled politics, since magi can get into politics inside their own gilds as well.
Gilds are awesome, because they keep reminding you that you have to see each problem that comes up at tribunals from multiple angles, not just two.
There's no system for forming a new gild, or even much information about what is expected of a new gild when it is formed. You may want to give that a few thoughts. Certainly that has featured in our current saga.
The Rhine is a good tribunal for hermetic politics, and if you do a bit of homework (@Christian_Andersen might be able to help you there), a good place for meddling with mundane politics as well. Sometimes you can even escape punishment by claiming to be protecting the Forests, potentially a valid excuse in the Rhine Tribunal.
Peregrinatores. It's a good idea to think about what terms your covenant offers peregrinatores, before the first one arrives. We wanted to get involved in politics and so chose to offer hospitality as cheaply as possible. This has given us a number of guests, but few that we've actually liked very much. This has been great fun, but we've only really used them much on arrival and then ignored them for years. Meaning it would've been nice to be able to offer 'contracts' shorter than 3 years.
I sometimes wonder in a 'peregrinatore saga' would be cool, but it would potentially be very different. It would probably not work well with a large troupe, since that's a lot of magi suddenly visiting a covenant, especially if you don't want to split the party.
There doesn't appear to be much reason for covenants to not simply recruit peregrinatores as new members, other than tradition, so the whole idea of magi traveling from place to place, trying to find a home can feel a tad... forced at times. Probably historically correct, but a bit forced.
Worse yet, it makes recruiting new PC magi feel weird. "Why are we recruiting this one, when we turned down the last five?!"
Are your players planning on founding a new covenant? Because in the Rhine Tribunal, that's restricted. We had a lot of fun just trying to appease enough magi to be allowed to settle.
Chapterhouses might well be a much better solution.
Very early on, give thought to how much you want the Great Library at Durenmar to affect the saga, and adjust availability accordingly. Otherwise the availability of lab texts and decent books on Arts can become trivial, thus removing one common 'loot item'; access to good book(s).
I play in a Rhine saga - as @Tellus may have mentioned - in a setup somewhat like the Rhine Gorge Saga: We expanded the area of the Curse from just upstream of Cologne (IIRC) to cover downstream to the Low Countries plus tributaries. We have also incorporated the covenant of Collem Leonis from Through the Aegis.
A key point for me, for any saga that is, is to avoid isolation and incorporate both hermetic and mundane interaction. Don’t be afraid to actually do things, don’t let the Code keep you from action, don’t let being a junior magus keep you from having an opinion on politics.
For Rhine specifically don’t let politics be too stale don’t let magi be too conservative. If nothing ever can change it becomes boring to me. Sure, old surly magi keep shouting “Let’s not listen” from the back of the debate, but a significant amount of magi may be open to new ideas and slight change. See how Fengheld in some way a challenge the establishment and Durenmar, how some magi Bonisagi would rather have had Occultes as Primus, how Waddenzee in a way is challenging Occulus Septentrionalis regarding the North, how Heorot is pushing the boundaries of the Rhine. This is a major point for me
Decide on a theme for the saga, examples are Wind,Wave, and Ice about Order of Odin, or maybe the Crintera Schism. Or the potential Lotharingian Tribunal. Whatever the players want and the bulk of magi and companions will take action about.
There's one thing about the Rhine Tribunal that should not come up as a surprise in a saga - unless characters are stranded there by a teleport gone wrong or such. You find it in GotF p.24:
... in any dispute that could otherwise be decided by certamen, a higher-ranked magus automatically has priority, as granted by the Rhine’s Peripheral Code. Thus, if a master and a journeyman quarrel over ownership of some vis in the woods, the master automatically has the right.
You should inform players up front of it and discuss it, as it puts political maneuvering in the Tribunal way above certamen: the one who has an Archmage on his side wins.
As someone who has run a Rhine saga, here's my 2 cents:
I like the Rhine Gorge because it can easily be divided into small bits/chapters (unlike Calebais).
Start with an action scene, like wolves attacking in the black forest. It's more fun than just writing: You are all assembled at Durenmar. This intro is not about putting the characters in any real danger but more about giving them a platform to introduce themselves.
Make sure to adapt and vary the requirements by the chapters. Adapt those challenges from the book to give each of your players a chance to shine (a Merinita might need a Fairie Forest, a Guernicus might need a legal debate, a Flambeau might need a monster, a Jerbiton a city etc).
I'm definitely down with 1&2, these are good common sense ones. What I'll start off with is the Gauntlet challenges for the two magi of the less experienced players so that they can test things out and let them respec a little of they feel that they put points in the wrong place.
I'm not sure why not have a charter debate. We did it for the game I play in (rather than ST), and we have this great 100 ish point charter. But we didn't do it in session, instead posting between sessions.
Two things to keep in mind as far as PC houses are involved.
Redcaps cannot become archmagi, but they can become masters, and they typically do so at a younger age than Gifted magi. A lone master redcap can automatically overrule every journeyman magus in any dispute that would be normally resolved by certamen!
From what we read, the Rhine has only a handful of junior Quaesitores, and in general neither house Guernicus likes how things are handled in the Rhine, nor does the Rhine like interference from house Guernicus. A PC quaesitor is likely to be in a much more "politically interesting" position than PC magi from most other houses.