The Rhine Tribunal
The Rhine Tribunal consists not just of the valley of the River Rhine, but extends, broadly speaking, over all the lands of the Holy Roman Empire north of the Alps. To the north it is bordered by the Jutland peninsula (Denmark), which is nominally territory of the Novgorod Tribunal, although the Order of Hermes has scant presence there. The eastern border, that with the Novgorod Tribunal proper, has been contentious, subject to ﬂuctuation and dispute — the boundary is very roughly approximated by the River Oder, with Poland belonging ﬁrmly to Novgorod. To the south, the Rhine Tribunal extends as far as the River Danube (an old Roman border), beyond which lies the Tribunal of the Greater Alps. The notional western border consists of the mouth of the river Schelde, the Ardennes, and the Argonne — beyond lies Flanders and France, territory of the Normandy Tribunal. The Rhine Tribunal is home to approximately 130 magi, almost a ninth of the 1200 members of the Order of Hermes, making it the largest as well as the oldest of all the thirteen Tribunals. Magi here descend from a mixture ofRoman and Germanic traditions, with an addition of Slavic and Scandinavian inﬂuences. Here at the historical center of the Order of Hermes, home to the Grand Tribunal, are to be found within the forests some of the most ancient covenants, including the domus magnae of Houses Bjornaer, Bonisagus, and Merinita. Other, newer, covenants are to be found within mundane lands or even cities. The landscape of the Rhine Tribunal is also littered with the ruins of failed covenants, those that have fallen prey to enemies Hermetic or otherwise.
An overveiw of past and present covenants is given here.
Customs of the Rhine Tribunal
Several unique customs of the Rhin Tribunal have been written into the periphial code:
- Laws of hospitality and the Peregrinatores
- On the founding of covenants
- The Guardians of the Forests
Several different languages are spoken in the Rhine Tribunal. You can read about them here.
Upon Being a Rhine Magus
The Rhine Tribunal has four recognized ranks by which it classes its members. In the early years of the Order, these ranks were based on those of the Roman priesthood, and this tradition can still be seen in the older covenants. While most of the Tribunals abandoned this archaic practice, in the Rhine it has mutated into the craftsman ranks of apprentice (Latin discipulus), journeyman (tyro), master (magister), and archmage (archimagus).
The Gilds of the Rhine Tribunal
The magi of the First Tribunal are formally divided into factions, called gilds, describing political points of view that transcend House or covenant boundaries. The importance of these gilds to the political life of the Order in the Rhine Tribunal is such that individual covenants rarely have a single political agenda, and if they do, this is because of the dominance of a single gild among its members. When they occur, covenant issues at Tribunal are short-term tactical issues; whereas the gilds monopolize the long-term strategy. Unfortunately, six gilds with differing or opposing agendas explains why little gets changed at Tribunals, and why a general air of apathy and resignation infects many of the younger magi of the Rhine. Each gild broadly corresponds to a single, long-standing agenda. They are organizations to further a political cause, and have no magical function. However, some gilds (the older ones particularly) might have unique ceremonies that relate to that gild only; but these have a symbolic rather than ritual purpose. Belonging to a gild involves a commitment to the agenda that the gild stands for, and a magus is expected to place his vote with his faction when requested to do so. Nevertheless, the Oath of Hermes forbids any mechanism to coerce a magus to vote in a particular way, so dissension cannot be punished; but the rebel should expect to be victimized — even ostracized — by the members of his gild. In an extreme case, a gild may expel one of its members, who will acquire the (Gild) Enmity Flaw, although this is rare. Leaving a gild is a risky business, as this is seen as displaying a radical shift in political stance, and many magi will not trust a magus who has turned his back on his gild. Membership in a gild is open — there is no approval process to join, as most factions are only too willing to recruit new members. Membership is also public; although one’s political afﬁliation may not be widely known, it cannot be kept a secret. Gild membership is not compulsory, although the great majority of Rhine magi choose to join a gild. Those that do not do so within seven years of their Gauntlet or their arrival in the Tribunal generally acquire a reputation as a loner. These few magi either believe strongly in the principle of their political independence, have no interest in politics, or simply do not care.
There are beneﬁts to membership in a gild. All inexperienced recruits to a gild will receive tuition under one of its senior members, usually at the covenant of Durenmar. Characters who opt to take this training before their Gauntlet get the benefit of the (Gild) Trained Virtue. While a magus remains an upstanding member of his gild, he may make reasonable requests for assistance from his colleagues, and expect that they will be honored, on the understanding that a similar request may be levied on him in the future. Members of a gild expect to have reasonable access to the leader of their faction, and the leader is expected to support his members politically. Finally, gilds serve a limited function as pacts of mutual protection. All gilds forbid Wizard War among their members, and if a magus of another gild declares a Wizard War on one of their members, he may typically expect that a champion of the gild will retaliate in kind. For this reason, Wizard Wars are relatively rare in the Rhine Tribunal, except on magi who do not belong to a gild and therefore lack Hermetic allies. There are currently six gilds, although there is no mechanism that regulates the number, other than the fact that a magus may only belong to a single gild. According to tradition, all the gilds are named after trees, and in the German language rather than in Latin. The reasons behind the names of these gilds can be seen in the mythical qualities attributed to the trees in question. A quarter of the Tribunal’s magi are members of the Oak Gild, and nearly a ﬁfth are members of the Linden Gild. Less than a tenth belong to no gild at all. The remaining magi are divided between the other four gilds, with the Hawthorn Gild being the smallest and the Apple Gild the third largest.
The gilds are
Associated Virtues and flaws