Which is the best Tribunal setting?

As in the title really. Based on gaming experience, the quality of the sourcebook, the theme and mood and/or the potential personal inspiration......which is the best Tribunal to base an Ars Magica Chronicle in?

I think we have actually had a supplement released for all of them now, over multiple editions:

  • Lions of the North - The Loch Leglean Tribunal (3E)

  • Tribunals of Hermes - Iberia (3E)

  • Tribunals of Hermes - Rome (3E)

  • Blood & Sand - The Hermetic Tribunal of the Levant (4E)

  • The Dragon and the Bear: The Novgorod Tribunal (4E)

  • Heirs to Merlin: The Stonehenge Tribunal (4E)

  • Sanctuary of Ice: The Greater Alpine Tribunal (4E)

  • Against the Dark: The Transylvanian Tribunal (5E)

  • The Contested Isle: The Hibernian Tribunal (5E)

  • Faith & Flame: The Provençal Tribunal (5E)

  • Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal (5E)

  • The Lion and the Lily: The Normandy Tribunal (5E)

  • The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal (5E)

There is also Mythic Scandinavia, Mythic Africa and Mythic Middle East that have sourcebooks too, of course. However, let’s just stick with Mythic Europe for now! Which is the best?!

If you ask about the setting, this is a classic, debated at length not long ago, most recently (AFAIR) here: What is your favorite tribunal, and why?

If you ask which book is the best one, your question is a little more novel.

I think it is uncontroversial to say that the books have gotten better with each edition. The 5ed books spend more space on story seeds and ambience, and less on dry historical fact. Admittedly, the dry historical fact was more relevant when less information was available on the Internet, but even so, it has to be adapted to stories, and each edition does a little better than the previous one.

Loch Leglean is the odd one out, clearly better than the original 3ed line, but bogged down in annoying graphics, which makes it hard to get a fair impression of the actual text. It feels more fragmented than the 4ed books, so I count it as 3½ed.

I cannot judge between the 5ed books without repeating the last thread.


I really like the Mythic Africa book tbh, especially if you use it in concert with some of the material from the west Asia book


Which do you mean by "the Mythic Africa book"?

The 2e book "South of the Sun"?
The 5e books "Lands of the Nile" (covering Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nubia) and "Between Sand and Sea" (northern Africa west of the Nile)?

Oh, the sand and sea, I don't have that 2nd edition book and I forgot about the Egypt book tbh

Provençal was the default Tribunal for a long time, though I do not believe there is such in 5th. For a generic "Ars Magica" game that sticks close to the average of all the books not talking about a specific Tribunal it is the best bet. It is the one I would recommend most people have their first Chronicle in.

For everything else, it really depends on what you are trying to get from an individual Chronicle. Because all the Tribunals vary in minor and significant ways from the "default". The age of the Covenant makes a huge difference in many of the Tribunals.

Then you also have the "Personal Experience" bias. That is, many players have visited or live in the areas covered by different Tribunals. Their personal experience with the area often leads to them favoring games taking place in that area.

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It depends on what the story you want to tell/have told is. The stories from Hibernia are quite different than the ones from Thebes.

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If you speak spanish or even remotely care about the amazing history of the Iberian peninsula, the best book is Finis Terrae: The Iberian Tribunal.

If you don't, either Provençal or the Rhine are the best books to start a standard saga, in my opinion.

Assuming we're talking about the best Tribunal sourcebooks, as I agree that the "best Tribunal" is pretty subjective: my favourites are Guardians of the Forest (especially for a new troupe), The Contested Isle, and The Sundered Eagle.

Guardians of the Forest (The Rhine) is a very "classic" Tribunal, with lots of old & powerful covenants, as well as a big blank space for your covenant to make its own (a lack of these, imo, is a problem in some other tribunal books). I also just really like the history and folklore woven in, as well as the emphasis on nature vs civilisation.

The Contested Isle (Hibernia) is just great fun, with magi in open contest with each other in a very magic-rich setting. Hedge wizards and supernatural creatures are much more integrated into the life of the Order in Hibernia, which can make for a really fun dynamic. Irish folklore is also second only to English folklore in terms of accesibility for English speakers.

The Sundered Eagle (Thebes) is really cool for being a setting that is culturally distinctive (in both mundane and Hermetic culture) while still a definite part of Mythic Europe. Unlike, say, the Mythic Africa books and Cradle & Crescent, which while really cool are explicitly outside the usual "stomping ground" of the Order of Hermes. The medieval Christian East is a fascinating setting and, like Hibernia, very magic-rich, but also benefits from more cooperation within the Order.

The ones I would least recommend (which have 5e books) are Against the Dark (Transylvania) and Lion and the Lily (Normandy). This is not because these books are bad, but because they require very specific kinds of saga. Transylvania is dominated by the Tremere, and Normandy is very magic-poor and dominated by mundane power (leading to more mundane-centric sagas than I tend to like).

Running a 1st Crusade campaign in the Levant Tribunal is one of my most enjoyable successes with Ars Magica to date. Extremely detailed and rich history to draw from, with lots of recent advances in from historians as well.

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I think this is as true for Thebes and for Hibernia. The difference is the nature of their special twist. It is just that more players would take an abundance of vis in Hibernia over the vis-poor Normandy, and the idealised democracy of Thebes over the authoritarian Transylvania.

Each setting takes its own mindset, and if you cannot adapt, it falls apart. Even after 3½ years in Hibernia, we have not quite managed to handle the Hermetic feuds and raiding practice.

In short, it is a question about the style you prefer.


This is perfectly true - I have a subjective preference for games which focus on interactions with magi and other supernatural beings over mundanes, and which enable the player magi to grow in power with relative ease. A saga with no mundane interactions would be missing something, but it isn't what makes the game sing for me

I answered earlier with general information that should apply to anyone, but here is a breakdown from games I have actually played in.

  • Loch Leglean Tribunal: Is overloaded with Gifted. Between Magi and Gifted hedge wizards there is many times over the ratio that is standard (pop around half million, Gifted 500~1000 vs ~50 at ratio). Much of it is lower tech and more violent than other areas of ME. Has one of the most interesting hedge traditions and Big Bad in Ars Magica. Great if you want to deal with hedges, small scale (insurgency) conflicts, or fighting one of the most powerful enemies the Order has ever had. Really wish a book was released.

  • Rome Tribunal: Outside of a few adventures, there is only hints in other books about what this Tribunal is like in 5th. For an area that is such a critical part of the Order, you have to do a whole lot of work yourself to run a game here. It has three Domus Magna, is the center of the Enchanted Item trade, and was the heart of the organization that predated the Order. There have been several fan attempts to compile a 5th edition source, but none have gone very far (search the forums). Over all Vis poor, lots of strife, conflict with the Church, intense politics, and lots of places of historical interest to the Order. Great if you want a game with lots of politics, but it will require lots of SG work. We only did visits in game, though some lasted several sessions.

  • Novgorod Tribunal: The edge of the world and beyond to the Order. Actually has 3 books (the Dragon & the Bear, Land of Fire and Ice, Ultima Thule) Games set here will have little to no contact with the rest of the Order. A Covenant could easily be so far out that the Redcaps can't even visit it regularly (if at all). Because it is so dangerous and at the edge of the Order, the Redcaps won't set up Mercere Portals. There is massive amounts of Vis and Supernatural entities. The Magi will in general be weaker and have to do everything themselves (little to no access to books, enchanting services, etc). Great for playing a game where the Order has little to no impact.

  • Greater Alpine Tribunal: My favorite. There are only six Covenants and actively hostile to new ones. Everywhere else is a Chapter House belonging to one of those six. While they are some of the most powerful Covenants in the Order, PCs will not have much access to that power. Actually a good Tribunal for new players if having powerful support and direction is important to the group. Run an outpost of a powerful Covenant, able to mostly do what they want as long as they meet the goal of the outpost, and have conditional access to powerful Magi, books, and items if the need arises. However unless you run a really long game the players will never really be in charge.

  • Provençal Tribunal: My most played by number of Saga, total games, and total time going back to 3rd edition. There are source material going back to 2nd edition and a Covenant that has been around since 1st edition (Calebais). Standard start date is right in the middle of the Cathar Heresy and the Albigensian Crusade. So start a Saga earlier, later, or in a carefully selected area if you don't want to deal with that as a major focus of your game.