A question about Certamen

I don't have my books with me, so apologies for not having the exact wording of the rules to hand..

My understanding is that:
Certamen can be used to give a binding resolution to a dispute.
If one magi challenges another with Certamen, and the 2nd magi declines. The 2nd magi is considered to have automatically lost anyway.

  1. Before I go any further, am I right in both those understandings?

The question which arose during our last session was based on the following situation.

Tenebrous (senior magi) collected a vial full of the blood of that Vienta (newly gauntletted maga) had carelessly spilled on the floor. He refused to give it back.
Santiago (senior magi, and Vienta's paren) challenged Tenebrous to Certamen for the return of the blood.

Which seems clear, except that Tenebrous gets nothing out of this deal if he wins.

  1. At this point, if Tenebrous says "no, not unless you offer me something in the event I win", is he considered to have refused, lost the duel, and therefore be obliged to hand over the blood?

What actually happened was that Tenebrous accepted the Certamen, and said "Ok I accept your challenge, if you win I return the blood, but if I win, I want a vial of your blood too".

Santiago decided the odds were too great, and declined.

  1. In these circumstances, by refusing, is Santiago considered to have lost the challenge and would be obliged to supply a vial of his own blood?

In the end, the two mages agreed a compromise, Vienta's blood vs 2 Vim. My question though is what should have happened from a strict legal adherence to the laws of Certamen.

No certamen = no direct consequences. Certamen is a way of resolving a dispute. Kind of a civil court case. If you refuse to accept such arbitrage, you can go to other mediums to resolve the disopute (tribunal, generally) buit the thing is pending. Declining means that you might lose some face, but not that you lost.

Puting forward a counter-demand if you are askedd for something is quite reasonable. The case outlined above is a perfect example of this. Unless you consider that giving your blood is a high crime somehow, in which case he cannot ask for it.

So, "yes" to your first assumption. "No" to your second one. You might lose face and be considered a whimp if you repeatedly refuse certamens (and so, your political influience and reputation as a weakling will suffer accordingly) but you do not need to accept it.


It also states that both parties should get an equal gain from the certamen. Of course this doesn't have to be totally equal (a tribunal can later decide on this matter by the way).

In the example, you state that Vienta spilled some blood. Tenebrous saw this and ?quickly? picked it up. So in all honousty you could say it was Vienta's property. You could also agrue that it was still Vientas, she was going to pick it up in a minute.

I know a different example form my game, where a maga claimed that an artifact held (for decades) by the Irencillia covenant was hers because of her mythic bloodline. This is a difficult situation in any court. It probably comes down to politics within the order, instead of actual justice.

Such long and tedious debates can of course be settled by a common fight. This would however upset the order of the Order and is therefore forbidden. But what if both parties would rather fight than go through the lengthy discussions with Guernici and tribunals etc? There certamen kicks in: if both parties agree to settle the matter with certamen, they decide the stakes and the winner takes what's coming to him in the end. A ruling by tribunal can nullify a certamen judgement afterwards (for instance if it was very, very unbalanced).

Just compare certamen with now-a-days settlements in court: if both parties agree to settle the case in soe way (duals are no longer allowed in many contries), there is no need for trial unless the judge finds something really fishy.

Um thats in direct conflict with what the rule states....

Really? That must have changed then. We have been playing since 3rd edition, and we have a quirky way of performing stuff IMS sometimkes, that might conflict with later cannon from time to time.

IMS the mage that picked up the blood would face social pressure to drop it or certamen over it, but would not be compelled to return it if he refused the certamen. he could be charged with not accepting certamen over a legitimate issue, but that would fall into the next tribunal arena, not in a moment's notice.


P. 89 - "One need not accept a challenge to certamen, but that is the same as conceding defeat."

Note also that "bullying" by certamen is a low crime, and a mage cannot make a second challenge on the same issue.

So, like lawsuits (in the U.S.), you can push the issue over anything - whether the other party takes that to a higher court, and the outcome of that, is another issue.

As per pg 89 of the main book, you are correct.

Actually, he does. Tenebrous gets to keep the blood free and clear. The challenge is over ownership of the vial of blood. The winner becomes the owner and the loser forfeits all claim to it. IMHO, that's an equitable situation.

Again IMHO, Tenebrous was seeking an unequitable condition. As such, Santiago could have flat out refused to Tenbrous' terms and reiterated his challenge as being over the ownership of that one vial of blood and that Tenebrous' gain in victory is confirmation of his claim to it. Instead, he got bluffed and backed down. If he'd have stuck to his challenge, he could then have appealed to a Quaesitor and forced return of the blood and/or restitution from Tenebrous.