Tribunal Books

I have now five 5th Edition Tribunal books. Five tribunals where I am going to tell my group, "Yeah, I don't think we want to put the covenant there"

It is not that I don't find them entertaining books. It is just that the effort to make them entertaining keeps them from being places any magus I would want to set a covenant in.

Pillage these books for ideas and make your own Tribunal.

Or simply don't use all the information presented. For example, in our current game (set in the Black Forest, in the Rhine tribunal), we don't bother with the whole Guild thing. We also don't even use the map. (our main GM got one off the internet before anyone purchased the Tribunal book itself). Mainly we use it as a sourcebook for stuff - the split spirit of the forest, and for Duremar's library, and Dankmar's witches. Anything else? Eh, if someone wants to throw it in that's fine, but if not no biggie.

Sorry to hear that. In your opinion, what is is about the Tribunal books that creates that challenge? What is it they do to get in the way of a saga? And what would your ideal Tribunal book do?

To be honest, I don't share in that point of view. I've bought all the Tribunal books so far (barring Hibernian, which I'll get soon), and each one of them has had the opposite effect on me. They all made me wish I was running just one more game, so I could run a covenant set in there. Particularly with the Theban one, which I was quite doubtful about, and ended up shining brighter than the rest (IMHO). So much so, that we decided on it for our current saga, and we haven't had a single regret. :slight_smile:

Seconded, with the possible exception of Normandy, and even that's mostly because I can just imagine all the work necessary to run those tournaments

Yes, all Tribunals grant some unique and different to any other same category book. Maybe no option likes you, that is not a bad feeling neither, all depends on the importance about the setting than your group gives to her. If you and your group care much about that, but you aren't well with the Tribunal books, then don't buy them, neither.
Like it's said: make your own or don't do it anything with them. Languedoc being the "default" setting is not really explored on the Core for example.

Though it's hard to imagine Languedoc as the default setting anymore since the standard starting date was moved to 1220, with the Albigensian Crusade going on and all that...

Provençal is not the default setting anymore. I would say that this role corresponds to the stonehenge tribunal.

I loved each and every Tribunal book published for the line. Of course there are things that don't fit in many sagas, but the sheer amount of research work and the specific flavor given to each Tribunal more than makes up for these minor "flaws". You can take and use whatever you want, there are so many options...

As somebody said before, I always finished reading each book and thought "Wow, it would be great to run a saga here!".

(Where's that Amazon Redcap with my Contested Isle book?!!!)

When I first bought and read Ars Magica, it was 2nd ed and Provence was the standard setting. I did not play until 4th ed was well published, we started with only the core book, in a Stonehenge saga. When Heirs to Merlin came out we were initially excited, but then again we already had our saga and tribunal set and did not want material changing this. Never bought it during this time, but have since collected it 'just because'.

Speaking of only 5th ed Tribunal books I really enjoy them a lot. We played a saga more or less based on the Lotharingian Tribunal plotline outlined in GotF, and used some of the covenants from GotF and L&L.

We also played a saga set in Thebes Tribunal in Constantinople, started up before TSE was even in playtest, and the published material varied a bit from where our saga went. Not a lot though, and it was a great resource.

We tried running a saga in Rhine completely after the book, but it failed to achieve a lot of our intended goals and there was an attitude towards a new saga I'm sad to say - just as I was finding a niche for my maga and getting somewhere with it. We had previously seen that players create 6 magi of different houses with different goals and little syngergy. Mystery Cults are hard to run stories with as the secrets are closely guarded from other magi. But it did not work out. Another thing we realized was that while some players love to have a complete Tribunal book, with all the necessary details, read and remember it, and play along with it some players just don't have the capacity for all this. Some players want to start out in a covenant and know of a few other magi and covenants - perhaps just a list of names - and introduce the rest during play.

So the newest saga is set in Loch Leglean, using bits and pieces of the old Lion of the North as well as some elements from The Contested Isle.

Pick and choose as you wish.

I think that is stated on that way on te Core, but agian can be Stonehenge too, i can be tottally wrong. But again my point is that the least stablished is more, only bicause the differences pointed on the other Tribunal books.


Sorry to hear that. In your opinion, what is is about the Tribunal books that creates that challenge? What is it they do to get in the way of a saga? And what would your ideal Tribunal book do?[/quote]
To be clear, I am not saying that the Tribunal books are badly written, or uninteresting or that they are not good products. I would certainly consider them as places to visit.

However, the tribunal books emphasize how each tribunal is different from the Order as a whole. Obviously, if there are differences, they should be brought up. But maybe not every Tribunal has to have some wacky feature that the rest of the Order looks at them as crazy for having?

So, in the Hiberian Tribunal, you have to have some magic item and protect it or you are not a covenant. In the Normandy Tribunal, it doesn’t break the code if someone steals your gold or crops. In the Rhine Tribunal, most everyone is part of some magical guild and you get extra votes at tribunal if you get particular status. By having all of those features in the tribunal, the story becomes about the Tribunal, not about the characters which the players made and are advancing or about the covenant hooks which were chosen.

The parts of the tribunal books I enjoy are the short location descriptions which give a hint of something interesting that can happen someplace. What keeps me from wanting to use those tribunal books are Tribunal wide descriptions of how the Order works so differently here.

I realize that I am in a minority position on this board. I will submit that those who participate on this board are more likely to immerse themselves in the game world, so that variants to how the Order of Hermes works seem more interesting. For those of us who are trying to start new games, it makes things more difficult.

Ah, if it is only that I would tend to agree. :slight_smile: I dislike the lack of a core set of parameters to the tribunals. yes, they are there but they are so weird in a lot of other aspects that you end up with tribunals quite messed up. The Rhine is the one that is the least deviated from what we understood to be tribunals in previous editions IMO. The extra votes for powerful magi make a lot of sense since the order is a meritocracy by all but name. Might makes right in the OoH. :slight_smile: the formation of guilds is also fairly normal: people tend to band together with likely minded people. I would also prefer the changes in tribunals to be minimal and not so wide ranging in scope, but well, that is a feature of 5th edition. No biggie really, since tribunals are given a lot of scope in the book (after all it is a book about a tribunal both political and physical, and the piolitical bit needs to be taken into account), but their real impact in 99.9% of the sagas is minimal. :slight_smile: Unless you want to shake the foundations of the tribunal, it will not mean much in most sagas.

Except if you are in crazy Normandy. In that case you are screwed because the "tribunal2 can come calling really easily when your crops are destroyed.


My understanding is the opposite. If your crops are destroyed by a rival covenant, tough luck. They aren't part of your magical power...

Well, that is what I meant :slight_smile: "Tribunal calling" meaning that you are screwed because you cannot complain despite having to spend 2 years solving the economic crises and famine of the region that the crop destruction has caused via magical means.

I'm very sympathetic to the OP. If we accept the Founder Guernicus' principle (HoH:TL) that the Code exists in order for magi to work in peace and unmolested, then Normandy and Hibernia are places in which the Code, and by extension the Order, has failed. These are Tribunals where conflict with other covenants is open, acknowledged, and even encouraged. I get that conflict makes for great stories, but when attacks from nearby covenants are not only expected, but open and regular, you start to wonder why you're in the Order at all. It starts to look like a crap sandwich we eat because the alternative ("Join or Die!") is even worse.

Thebes downplays internal conflict within the Code, but the shards and tokens system is so alien to veteran Ars players that it is rejected outright. I love that Tribunal, but I tried explaining to one troupe I play with that, in some Tribunals, vis is so plentiful that it no longer functions as currency and is more like food: necessary, but not especially valuable. I was, quite literally, laughed out of the room. To many players, that is not Ars Magica. It's some other (and inferior) game.

Tim and the others did an outstanding job making Transylvania about more than House Tremere, but that Tribunal remains a tough sell even if marginally less so now.

Xavi is right: Rhine is the most traditional of the 5th edition Tribubals, but it remains pretty hostile to new covenants and young magi, who would probably prefer to leave. Unfortunately, the choices are all alien, insecure, or dominated by a House that wants to take over the world.

I haven't read Transylvania and Hibernia; only Rhine, Normandy, and Thebes. With that in mind - I tend to agree that the major restructuring of how politics works in each and every tribunal is not to my taste. The major consideration when choosing a tribunal, however, is (for me) the kinds of stories it supports. I think the different choices do work rather well to support different stories for every tribunal:

  • I hate Thebes' politics/economy system. But it works well to make it stand out as distinctly Greek, which is great if you're working the "Rebuilding Constantinople" theme. It's still clunky, but if I were to follow this theme I'd invest in learning a bit about Greek political systems and modify it rather than abandon it; the basic idea of having a more-Greek tribunal works well for this theme IMO. The patron system likewise serves well if you're pursuing the "Greek Mythos" theme; if not, I'd probably jettison it as utterly irrelevant.

  • I hate Normandy's tourney, and weird vis laws, and raiding, and vassalage.... But the raiding and vis laws work well to support the "Vis War" theme, and the vassalage and tourney work well to support the "Knights-with-robes" theme.

  • I hate the Rhine's gilds, although I do like the idea of breaking down the tribunal's politics to factions, but they serve well to assist in handling the tribunal-wide political issues that it seems to be set-up to consider (the Lothargian tribunal and wilderists vs. harmonists, mostly). The perks of elder magi don't really serve anything, but I like them.

So I'd say - consider if the storylines the tribunal book pushes are ones you want to pursue, and if so consider how the tribunal's unique structures supports them. Remove or alter to suit your taste; but for my money they do offer some interesting ideas to support the "obvious" mega-stories for the tribunals I've read.

I think just accepting the tribunal's structure and deciding if you want to play there is wrong-headed. The structure probably won't serve you well if you're after a vanilla saga, and you should ignore it and consider the setting without it. Likewise, if you're just visiting from afar you may want to ignore the structures. These structures are there to support particular storylines, or at least that's how I see it. They should be considered from that perspective.

Thanks for the feedback. And you don't have to submit to anything. You have an opinion and you have reasons for that. Nothing wrong there.

I can only really talk about Hibernia as that's the only one I've been involved with. What you'll see there is that the covenants do have to protect their cathaigh, which implies that others can freely make attempts upon it, but that's actually a small part of the culture in that Tribunal. You will also see that most covenants keep bees and the making and exchanging of their own honey is a source of pride. Sure, they send out their young for a year or so of blowing off steam and exploring the world, but they also allow the mystical races a vote at Tribunal, Wizard War is an expression of feud not murder, their highest sanction is generally exile, and they preserve Connacht as a place where the ancient magic of Hibernia thrives.

The elements of conflict are there for two reasons. Firstly, it does provide players with a more overtly action-oriented setting, where feuds rage for years, young magi raid Connacht and encounter legendary heroes, etc. But secondly, it also stands in stark contrast to what other Tribunals might consider good governance. It should make some stop and ask why a Tribunal of perfectly sane magi would allow the potential for such conflict to persist.

Therein lies the biggest conflict of all; if you're happy with the Tribunal processes, if you embrace that culture and those traditions, then you're Hibernian. It doesn't matter whether you were born and raised there or you just arrived. And if you see the danger in those traditions; if you cannot stand by and let Connacht go to hedge wizards, then you're part of the English faction. Again, it doesn't matter whether you are recently arrived or can trace your lineage to the founding of the Tribunal. These are political lines.

But I think Hibernia is fairly standard, when all is said and done. You have magi in covenants. Each magus gets one vote. There are no chapter houses and no lieges or vassals. Magi study, exchange learning, quarrel, form alliances, attend Tribunal, pursue their own agendas, and build their covenant through the seasons of its life. You found your covenant once (probably), which involves story and adventure, and you release your apprentices into the wild and fret over them, and you have enemies at Tribunal who want to impose their policies on you.

So, for me, everything you need in a Tribunal is wrapped up in Hibernia. We've built in a few more points of possible conflict along the way, including the large political divide between those who want to follow the old ways and those who want to reform, but like any covenant in any Tribunal, you learn to become a good neighbour and reach accord with those around you.

I would have to disagree, if you'll allow. I tend to like that no Tribunal actually fits within what a "normal" Tribunal is meant to be. It kind of rings true, pushing forth the notion that the "standard" Tribunal is just the common assumptions that many Tribunals share, even if each of those assumptions is untrue somewhere, and if each of those Tribunals doesn't meet some of those assumptions. It would mean, to me, that the "standard" Tribunal is just an idealization that no actual, real Tribunal quite completely lives up to, much like it happens with a lot of things in real life, making the setting much more believable to me.

And it also resonates, to me personally at least, with the way Magic Theory is how Hermetic Magic is supposed to be, but no magus actually fits in perfectly, as reflected by the fact that every magus is compelled to have at least one Hermetic Flaw, and also receives one Minor Virtue from his choice of House, which is usually (though not always) Hermetic, as well. Thus, no magus actually fits perfectly within the framework of Hermetic Magic (core rulebook, page 30).

So, for me at least, the fact that no Tribunal actually fits perfectly within the "standard" definition of a Tribunal, and deviates slightly in some way, is something that fits the game perfectly. For me, this is one of the selling points of Tribunal books, rather than a turn-off.