assistance in Certamen

On the principle that you can have Lab Assistants, and casting rituals can be multi-mage affairs, Can a Certamen contestant have somebody aiding them?

Also, during the Certamen contest, apart from the two contestants, who/what can be in the Certamen arena?
The mage's Talisman?
The mage's Familiar?
The mage's Apprentice?

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Certamen is explicitly designed for one-on-one duels, so you cannot have anyone aid you in certamen, and if anyone interferes by, for example, casting a spell on either participant, then the result of the duel should be considered invalid.

If they have talismans, the magi should be assumed to be wearing/wielding them at all times unless specified otherwise, but they will be of limited use for a certamen duel.

People or familiars presumably can be in the certamen arena, but shouldn't be there, and their presence may again invalidate the contest.

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Agreed with ErikT that interfering in a certamen would invalidate it unless someone managed to somehow do it without being spotted, and typically certamen is designed not to allow it (nor is hermetic magic designed to boost certamen scores with MuVi). Talismans are essentially useless in certamen, as well. I think, pretty much, the only thing that I can see that would have an impact in certamen is ways to transfer Fatigue levels, which is somewhat easy to do for a familiar, and which would be hard to do for a third party without being spotted in the process.

Let me add two things.

First, the certamen "arena" is "virtual": there is no known way to bring a third phantasm into the duel.
There certainly can be other people/beings observing the certamen however, for example to bear witness to its outcome and to the absence of foul play.

Second, many aspects of certamen are typically negotiated. Vis use, the possibility of vetoing an Art, etc.. It is certainly possible that two contestants might agree to some unusual terms, e.g. an apprentice casting helpful supporting magics on either party. There are some "defaults" that apply if no agreement can be reached, but there are also a number of areas in which there is no clear regulation. Can you enter the duel shapeshifted? Under a mystical effect that cancels/reduces the effects of fatigue? One that enhances your characteristics? I do think there should be no difference in whether those effects come from a familiar bond, a talisman, or just a pre-cast spell; and since some cannot be "turned off" I believe they would generally all be accepted.

That said, ultimately the key is that certamen is supposed to be a test to determine the outcome of a dispute; anything highly unusual that one party may bring to the table allows the other party to claim foul play; at which point it will be Tribunal politics that decide the outcome.

I have to disagree.
There are many ways in which you can make someone more effective at Certamen, via Hermetic magic and not. Stuff that boosts appropriate characteristics helps. Shapeshifting into forms with more fatigue levels than a "normal human" helps. Effects that help you ignore fatigue penalties (like Endurance of the Berserks does) certainly help, If you use the special techniques in HoH:TL something like a Familiar silver cord that helps a magus pass a Bravery-check (inflicted by an Essedarius) helps. The same holds for something that heals a magus from wounds inflicted by Bone-Biting (again HoH:TL) or by the powers of a Leper magus (HoH:S). Magi who have special environmental conditions that boost or hamper their magics might get help from that, too. Fatigue can be restored via mundane tonics (A&A), or via non-hermetic magic (see e,g. HMRE). Of course, once you allow non-hermetic magics to enter the picture, there's a whole lot of options, from stuff reducing botch dice to stuff boosting crucial abilities such as Finesse.

Ironically, one thing that may not work is a "vanilla" familiar transfering fatigue levels to its magus via the Gift of Vigor instilled in the bond (or into an enchanted device) - that's because it would be the bond itself or the enchanted device that would have to provide the fatigue levels, which it generally cannot. Of course, a living talisman could; so could a Familiar capable of learning Hermetic magic; or one with special non-Hermetic powers of its own.

You bring a lot of good points in terms of effects that can help in certamen, and I agree with you that most of those effects can be useful. However, few if any of those meet the criteria of being subtle for a third party to do on you while providing a benefit that you can't do yourself - bearing in mind that anyone that gets spotted interfering could arguably get condemned. That was my point but perhaps not clearly worded. Endurance of the Berserkers, healing spells, and creating environmental conditions arround the certamen to influence the results all fall into the category of stuff I wouldn't try to do for fear of the tribunal calling it a low crime, because I'm pretty sure none of those effects are likely to escape being spotted.

Almost sounds like in the terms of Certamen you need to determine if the participants are permitted to carry their Talismans during the contest.

But that led me to wonder what other bonded personal property my be permitted. Leading me to think of Familiars and Apprentices.

The fact that Certamen is a magic ritual working in its own highly codified way, means, I think, that you have a lot of leeway in houseruling away every complication which you do not want to cover in your narrative.

Certamen may very well be set up to work in its own pocket of the twilight void or the magic realm, where only the two contestants can enter. Even if the contestant carries his familiar and his talisman, it does not mean that they enter the magic pocket with him. Quite plausibly they simply cannot be used without another Hermetic breakthrough.

I kind of like such solution because it will save the troupe the time to debate how a given effect may affect the Certamen.

I kind of dislike the solution because my basic assumption that all activities benefit from the familiar cords. Not beneitting from the Golden core would be pretty harsh.

It is obviously possible to rule that familiars and/or talismans join the magus into the certamen space, while magic devices and other people do not. That gives scope to invent novel magic effects specifically for the purpose. And it also means that leaving the talismans and familiars out of sight, breaking many but not all magic benefits, may be part of the duelling conditions.

When it comes to people, I am sure certamen is frequently fought with a lot of spectators, but they, not even the apprentice, are magically linked to the contestants. They can attempt to distract the contestants, but I think most people would consider that to be cheating. I would assume that they could not magically affect the duel without a Hermetic breakthrough or equivalent.

An equally important take on your question is of course what is legal, given that it is possible, and what is cheating. Now, cheating is a very interesting story hook, and I think rules must be interpreted to make the hook work as well as possible. It would be very interesting to see the hook and the interpretation spelled out together ...

In short, I do not think careful reading of the rules is going to give any useful insight, but poetic analysis of the story is.

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I don't know if the power of a Spirit Familiar work in a subtle way and with Range greater than Touch but they have the Shared Fatigue Power that let them spend Might Points when the Magus would lose Fatigue. That may help in the certamen.

I don't like the idea of certamen taking place in a special magic place preventing external interferences. I prefer it to be open to the possibility of cheating, as it permits more interesting stories.

As far as I know we do not have explicit certamen regulations, so it may even be a peripheral code thing and subject to some tribunal differences ?

What about having an intangible tunnel to one of the two contestants and using it to help or hinder him or her ? An alternative version of the gift of vigor could be a virtually bottomless source of fatigue for one of the two contestants with a sufficiently well prepared third party.

What if one of the two magi is using a ligature from Arts & Academe p69 ? Would it work ? How specific would it need to be ? Would it be considered cheating ?

The help of someone else can also be indirect, as knowing the best/worst arts or the best time to challenge an opponent can also be a great help.

Well, let's take an effect granting a magus a +1 Stamina bonus.

What's not clear to me is if you think
a) it should be banned outright
b) it's ok, but only if cast by the magus who competes in certamen
c) it's ok, if produced by some magical resource of the magus (e.g. a talisman, familiar, apprentice)
d) it's ok no matter what.

One thing to consider is that someone may have such an effect permanently enchanted in his familiar bond, or created by some Item of Virrtue embedded in his flesh via Blending with Substance (TMRE p.69), so I think it's difficult to go for a) or b), At the same time then, it seems strange one should go for c) and not d).

As I said, I suspect this is a somewhat murky point in Hermetic law & tradition too. The fact that you can generally ascertain which magical effects are active on a magus if you commit the crime of magical scrying suggests that there may well be a lot of stuff going on that would be perceived as ... iffy if brought to light, but which is never brought to light and hence never explicitly regulated.

Add to this list the distinction between casting it before or during the Certamen.

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Or have a Reginaebacatus Discipulus Tremeris write at the very end of the 9th century a booklet about how to properly do Certamen, with all the fine point explained: and lo, it was well enough written to become the authority in most Tribunals.
And then write these rules for your saga.

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I've always thought Certamen would be a negotiation. Anyone can refuse Certamen.

"I challenge you to Certamen".
"Not really interested".
"What are you, a coward?".
"Name calling is it? Are you willing to risk a wizards war after the Certamen? Play with your pretty lights if you want to. If I have a problem with someone, I will have a proper fight.[a pregnant silence] Yeah, that's what I thought."

Obviously the above exchange would be for wizards of similar power and one has a degree of aggro. If someone wants to bully young magi, they can, and the young magi have to take it or call in strong friends.

I've always considered the Certamen rules as a starting point.

Say a 30 year old is taking on a 60 year old. The 30 year old could offer, I'll only Certamen if I choose the technique and the form. You have the right to refuse the form choice once and must accept the technique.

That may well make it fair. A 30 year old taking on a 60 year old for anything meaningful is insane otherwise.

Anything could be negotiated in my opinion. Accepting preparatary spells, or banning them, accepting existing effects, or requiring the acceptance to use Vim spells to suppress existing effects for the duration of the Certamen. Everything could be acceptable, and everything could be removed from the table also.

I would consider the general thought, unless explicitly stated in the Certamen negotiation, any spell or affect of less than moon duration is off the table.

While anyone can refuse a Certamen duel, refusal means your challenger wins automatically by the standard rules.

Was it "automatically"? (don't have my books in front of me)

My understanding is that Certamen is similar to the Magus equivalent of an honourable combat by knights. Refusing Certamen brings your honour into question, which is usually bad news if the issue gets called in front of a tribunal meeting.

OTOH Certamen bullying is frowned upon, if not punished, in many places, so when the contestants are obviously unequal, it is probably wise for the "bully" to bide their time, and use Guile and Intrigue to maneuver the "victim" into a circumstance where the "bully" is "forced" to declare (or even accept) a Certamen challenge as the least dishonourable course of action. I think of it as a Western where the master gunfighter reacts when the other guy draws on him first (as it appears to witnesses).

If the proposed stakes are out of balance one can refuse and would likely have a legal leg to stand on but if they are balanced (or close to it) a refusal is legally the same as a loss.

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That was what happened the one time Certamen came up in our saga. We played the Hunters Games from 4ed Faerie Stories set in Hibernia. The PCs preferred to insult the faerie queen by not attending her games again to accepting the challenge from the senior Tremere. Good choice probably, but a dangling story hook either way.

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Of course, the challenger needs witnesses, a Quaesitorial Endorsement or such to prove his victory to the Tribunal.
Also the Certamen lost must be legal: its stakes certainly must be balanced, and (after 865) not impinge upon the rights and duties of the loser as an Hermetic magus, also those defined by pertinent Peripheral Code.

It occurs to me this thread is drifting to become a generic Certamen ettiquette thread, rather than investigating a mechanics edge-case.

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