Certamen bullying

We all know that Certamen over issues that break the Code are not valid.

However, if there was a bully who pushed the limits, what could they bully you with?


  1. your name (too non-Roman, or some other excuse that makes it sound undignified to Magi)
    a) change it to your choice
    b) change it to someone else's choice?
  2. ownership of your (magical) animal companion?

other possibilities...

I am not convinced by those two. In my opinion, there has to be a legitimate dispute for a certamen to be valid. I would place that under the bullying which is banned in almost all tribunals, so I suppose you have a tribunal which is more lenient.

Furthermore, explicitly by RAW, the prizes have to be balanced, so it only works if the bully has an equivalent prize to put up.

Season of lab service? Copy of spells? Perform a dubious but not outright unlawful task? Information?

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Surely there is some scope for bullying, even after the reforms?

I mean I know you can Certamen someone once, and then wait until after they Certamen you back. Just act sufficiently terrible towards your victim, until they cave and challenge you over your provocation. Then they can be challenged over whatever you can justify.

The prohibition is on challenging multiple times on the same issue. If a different issue comes up, you can make a second challenge. [core:89]

The case I can see here is a mature magus bullying a newly gauntletted sodalis. If you certamen over the magical animal companion and similar issues, without an arguable claim thereto, you are essentially just robbing him of his magical resources, which should be banned under the code. I can imagine your getting away with it once on a whimsy excuse, but repeated robberies, I don't buy it.

I really don't see the victim coming back with a futile challenge to a clearly superior bully.

If the bully and the victim are on more equal terms, I cannot quite see the bullying happen. Everybody can botch, at it is not worth the edge if you don't have a serious edge on your victim.

I strongly suspect that you are looking for a specific plot hook here, and I think the answer has to depend on the exact constraints and environment of your saga ...

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Okay, I see that.

However if the victim claims the Magical Animal Companion helps empower him,
could the hypothetical bully try an argument "If it is a Vis source, why let it run free? If it is running free, then I wish to catch it and harvest its Vis"

Strictly speaking, I wish to roleplay a Certamen contest at least once in my saga, but my players are avoiding it like the plague, convinced they are going to be bullied out of everything. I am trying to work out if that is possible.

I have actually been there. Got the T-shirt :slight_smile:

Like yours, my players, at least those who word their opinion, do not find Certamen very interesting.

I ran the story about Hunters' Games hosted by the Lady of Bright Winter from 4ed Faerie Stories, but our setting is Hibernia which does not recognise ownership to vis sources outside an area they can encircle in a days journey. The rivals, the Tremere at Ashenrise, challenged them to Certamen over the right to attend those games at all. It was not that interesting ... the players declined and have stayed away since the first visit.

Your animal companion should work in Hibernia. Magi are expected to protect their property, so unless the Code very explicitly protects the particular piece of property, it is fair game. However, the Hibernians tend to prefer Wizard's War over Certamen.

Whether it works in another tribunal depends on local property law. I doubt you can take the familiar in that way, but an animal companion is really open to local interpretation, local to the saga and local to the tribunal.


I imagine most magi within the first 10 years post gauntlet will probably get to 6 in most techniques and forms, because summaes of level 6 quality 21 should be quite plentiful. That would mean in Certamen, if they got caught out with a weak technique and or form, at least they aren't working from 0.

The person driving for Certamen is more likely to have researched his target, so knows what techniques and forms to avoid anyway, so is unlikely to be caught with a poor technique and/or form, while the recently gauntleted mage will.

A recently gauntleted mage can get completely owned in Certamen. No reasonable person would question a lightweight boxer refusing to fight a heavyweight boxer. Any established magi vs a recently gauntleted magi is in that situation.

If someone say 20 years out of gauntlet is arrogant enough to offer Certamen with special rules giving the recently gauntleted magi of a covenant choice of both technique and form (with the usual 1 right of refusal for technique and or form) then after the technique and form is decided the covenant choose which magi does the Certamen, I'd be in.

That does sounds pretty disappointing.

Your saga may vary here.

Very understandable though. Tremeres 30 years their seniors. They did not have much chance anyway.

Unfortunately, I was not clever enough to turn it into a big conflict between the Order and a disgruntled fairie queen.

related question- I am considering a future game where the covenant is set on the back of a magical being (turtle, earth elemental) which is wandering the black sea, qualifying it as being between the Theban, Transylvanian, and Novgorod tribunal. Obviously the Tremere have an interest in the covenant, but assuming the covenant doesn't want Tremere interference (whether they do or not is a separate issue), would a Tremere be able to challenge them to certamen to allow a member of their house to be a member of the covenant? If so would the covenant choose a champion for a single match or would they have to challenge each member individually until they had enough votes? Also what would the Tremere have to put up counter-offer for each of these challenges?

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Would a defendant at tribunal be able to challenge half of the delegates with Certamen to force them to vote for his acquittal?

Your case, although at a more local level, seems to be similar, in that the Tremere wants to tie everybody's votes.

If there is an empty seat at the covenant, I could see the Tremere challenge every other contender to Certamen to make them withdraw the candidacy. The return prize would then probably be that he withdraws his.

If we do allow the Tremere to challenge the covenant, a possible counter-prize could be the Tremere being banned from all the three tribunals bordering the Black Sea.

HoH:TL p.112f The Final Founder shows, that even Tremere himself and his followers did not just simplistically enforce votes at Tribunal by certamen.

In a strategy stretching over decades, Tremere took control of vast sections of the Order. He manufactured disputes , and then settled them with certamen. Some magi respected him as the final Founder. Others were convinced that they needed a strong leader, by Tremere's fear mongering. His House bound others through through economic convenience and political aid. In the final stages of his plan, Tremere used naked force to subdue key enemies, and cowed others with threats.

Certamen is an important part, but just a part, of Tremere operations. I reckon that the use of certamen after the fall of Tremere and its nerfing is even less obvious.

Considering the history of Certamen as a tool Tremere used to try to take over the order, I always feel anyone abusing Certamen is begging for a Flambeau or Guernicus to put them in their place with Wizard's War.

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That might have to be a Flambeau and a Guernicus. While the Flambeau may be easily able to take out this Tremere, it is not just this Tremere. If it is actually a Tremere plot, there is a more senior Tremere to counter-War.

The Guernicus may be needed to make this out as a matter for the Order at large, so that there is someone to revenge the Flambeau as well.

But yes, you are right. The Tremere know very well that if they make themselves a threat, it is their house against the eleven. They may well be stronger than any two or three other houses put together, but they are not stronger than the eleven.

So how do you believe the Tremere would campaign for a seat in the covenant if it is clear that being Tremere will be a mark against any applicant- and a covenant is not required to fill a quota of seats, especially when it is unclear which tribunal they are in.

I am not sure they would enter where they are not welcome. The seat ought to be very important to make it worthwhile.

Personally, I think the Tremere, assuming that the House backs the project, are more likely to offer to sponsor the covenant than attempt any action likely to antagonise the covenant mates. A dowry of books and lab texts should be very persuasive if the covenant is young and are not already lavishly sponsored by others. Maybe vis and silver too, depending on the situation.

In this case the covenant is in territory they believe should be part of Transylvania tribunal, but that is the option that most of the covenant members like the least because it means surrendering authority to the Tremere. If the covenant has already rejected the gifts, what then?

Personally I'd like to see a scenario on the other side of Tremere generosity- all these gifts have to come from somewhere...

I agree with Loke that it's unlikely that the Tremere would go to extreme lengths to force the covenant to accept a Tremere member. Assuming that you want them to anyway, though, and you don't want them to play nice about it, do any of the existing magi have story flaws or personality flaws that they might know about and be able to exploit? "Yes, I know your Favours are to non-Tremere X, but I've had a word with them and they'd really appreciate it if you'd let one of us join your covenant..."

I don't have a good idea.
If they have rejected the GIfts, I guess a Certamen over the insult could be in order. If he wins, he joins, if he loses they get the Gifts with no strings attached.

My concern is that this maneuver is a hostile takeover, and is therefore likely to create as many problems as it solves. For the Tremere.

Not being recognised by a tribunal, nobody has recorded ownership to any vis sources. Thus every source is contestable. The Tremere could quite simply Certamen over every single one of them, after the necessary intelligence operation which would have to be non-magical, and thereby hope to force them to surrender.

I am not sure which other side you are looking for. The Gifts, as I read Tremere, could easily come from their enormous machinery, quite legitimately.

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No matter how or why it is done, forcing something onto the players that they do not want is not good to the long term health of a saga. If the players do not want Tremere as part of the Covenant, any means of forcing one in will only result in resentment.

That said, using Certamen as a means to force the acceptance of a Magus into a Covenant could easily be a violation of the Code, specifically that it forces all other members to unwillingly give up part of their magical power (less vis, less chance of access to covenant books, less available share of funding to support lab, etc). Whether or not the Tremere brings gifts (vis, books, silver), forcing them into the Covenant would still result in a reduced share for all members.