I (like some of the rest of you) use a house rule in my game allowing Tremere to have a second magical focus in addition to certamen.
This works fine for me, but recently I was thinking that it might be more fun to give the Tremere a different sort of certamen bonus and refrain from amending the focus rules .
So, what would be a respectable certamen virtue?
I had two thoughts
The ability to exert in Certamen to double an attack or defense bonus
Being able to certamen switching between multiple techniques as if they were the character's native technique rather than just fighting "in the style" and starting off a character with 4 certamen styles.
Both of these are weaker than certamen focus, should I bundle them as a single virtue called Tremere certamen training (which might actually be stronger than the certamen focus)?
Allow the Tremere to force Certamen with a low-level effect:
The Honorable Duel
ReVi 15, R: Voice, D: Special, T: Special
This spell binds the caster and a single target in a wizard's duel, certamen. None may cast any spell until their duel is completed - by one side falling unconscious from the certamen. The winner may then cast a single spell at the uncoscious loser which bypasses his MR, and the honorable duel ends on the following round.
If the target of the spell is incapable of engaging in certamen, the spell fails.
It is recommended wards and protective spells be cast in advance before casting this spell. A level 20 variant with a Corpus requisite also binds the opponents where they stand.
(Base 1*, +2 Voice, +1 Concentration, +2 Group +1 non-standard parameters)
Due to Tremre's design of the certamen ritual.
I actually like the certamen-only focus. Of the suggested options, I'd prefer simply to allow them another focus over the suggested variants, but the "choose any technique" option seems interesting too.
The basic problem I see with the idea of giving the Tremere a sort of fantastic capacity for certamen is this: it makes the Hermetic legal system a mockery.
Certamen only works, as a way of preventing war, if two wizards who engage in it feel that its outcome is likely to be representative of what happens if they go toe to toe. If you let wimpy Tremere win too often against powerful magi from other Houses, they will just give up on the whole idea of duelling. That is, if you make the system so that it gives Tremere a fixed advantage, then what you are doing is paving the way for its removal from the Hermetic justice system, because the short-term advantage you give your PC is at the expense of more powerful NPCs who are not, actually, forced to stick with the Certamen system regardless of results.
The Tremere focus is, IMO, a fault in this edition of the game. I realise others may disagree, but it contains three problems. It means Tremere PC magi are never the best in the Order at anything, because they lack useful focuses. It means that if you have two player characters who are both Tremere they are required to have an identical focus, which is boring. It damages the versimilitude of the Hermetic justice system, because if Tremere has rigged the game, then I'm not sure why others bother to play it.
If this bothered me, I think I would go back to the Certamen skill, and add it to all duels, giving the Tremere an Affinity or Puissent, perhaps even their choice.
I also like Tremere being able to switch between multiple techniques, but I'd need to play test the exert to double a bonus thing. I agree being able to switch is a pretty slight advantage, but I'm pretty sure stacking both switching and exertion is better than a Minor Virtue. I would feel more comfortable starting at 1.5 and increasing it later if you found it to be too weak.
However, I think the fact the Tremere are weaker as a whole in everything but Certamen is something pretty ingrained in the 5th Ed world, and I like the back story it gives this house as much as I like the Criamon changes.
Good points. I agree with angafea regarding the supposed weakness of the House, although I'm not sure this answer works in practice (the disparity can be just too large to make up for it in numbers and cooperation). The other points still stand strong.
Slightly off topic: There was a certamen variant to ArM4 that used the phantasms to change form and technique. So if your CrIg phantasm was a giant with a flaming sword, you could try to force a shift to (say) Creo Corpus. I thought this added a lot by making the players describe the battle, inveting phantams to let them shift the battle to their preferred Arts. I really liked that.
One might equally say that taking The Gentle Gift does the same.
Anyone who does can never be the best in The Order at anything.
Though they could take a Minor Focus.
This is a YSMV option , imo.
Tremere players all have the same focus ,
but can distinguish themselves by choice of Major Hermetic Virtue.
Use of Mystery Initiations will further differentiate individuals.
I suggest allowing players to take Skilled Parens as their free virtue, to reflect extra care on the part of the House to turn its members into competent magi, for the benefit of the whole House. Alternatively, the equivalent of Gild Training would probably be equally appropriate. Considering how the House provides support to its members, it is unthinkable that it wouldn't ensure apprentices are properly taught.
It doesn't mean all Tremere magi have to be Certamen monsters. Even given the choice between two virtues, Focus in Certamen will continue to be significantly more frequent among Tremere than in all the other Houses combined. But they have to move on, since the time when Certamen was the key to dominating the Order, and it certainly isn't the answer to each and every potential threat. It won't help you one bit when you're out facing hostile hedgies, for instance.
And it does give a choice to the player while freeing up his one magical focus slot. Granted, it will be a social handicap among Tremere magi. shrug. I think we need to offer an option that plays to the other strengths of the House as reimagined by Timothy, rather than keeping it Certamen-centered.
I have covered the extra XP that House support during apprenticeship might provide, but there are other options. Considering how the House seem to favor specialists, you could require that all Tremere magi take a minor focus, although not necessarily in Certamen, in a domain that reflects the needs, goals or values of the House. Puissant Leadership is also an option.
Before I read the suggestion about guild trained or skilled parens,was intendingon posting the idea of giving Tremere two less than minor virtues rather than 1 minor. The first virtue would be something with the certamen schools to give the Tremere a slight edge but nothing really big. The second was to give them a house support virtue allwoing them to have access to support from their house as detailed in True Lineages. .
I agree that the Tremere magical focus of certamen is pretty limiting. In our house rules, we used to have Tremere with a free minor virture of "Pussiant Certamen" which would give a +3 bonus. With the new Potent Magic virtue of Mysteries, we will substitute a minor potent magic viture for certamen. That way the house animal, necromancer, ... specialists can take a focus if they want.
Does that +3 bonus go to one art in the certamen match or both?
I like this idea, but "Puissant Certamen" is useful under far fewer circumstances than "Puissant Art," so I'd consider upping the bonus to +6 (for a single art) or allowing the +3 bonus to be used on both arts in certamen.