I'm curious how certamen is used in other people's campaigns. I had one where it was heavily used-- the magi periodically had bouts in part to determine who because Archon or something, but more often just as a periodic way of testing one's strength against the others. But it was also used to resolve fairly significant issues or challenges.
In my other two sagas they came up rarely if at all, and usually against NPCs. (Although my Tremere did challenge a Bjornaer for a preferred room, but that was just to prove a point.)
Almost never did people spend much time describing the phantasmal battle, and often I had to remind people to even decide the form it would take.
I'm curious, though, how, when, and why is certamen used in your saga?
Hmm, in the 16 years the Nurockrah saga has run, Certamen was done ... twice. Against 2 evenly matched opponents. Lasted 10-15 rounds each, with the challenger losing, but impressing the challenged each time. When the end came, it came swiftly, because of lucky die rolls.
The Foxocurt saga, in 4 years, had no Certamen. The 3 Tytali preffered other methods of conflict resolution. The rest of us stood by on the sides...
The Brunnabergh saga has been running for 13 years game time and not once has Certamen come up. To be fair, my players are new to the game so i didn't want to spring everything on them at once. Now they are getting more political however i am thinking of introducing it. In particular 2 of the PC magi, a surly Spaniard and a downright antagonistic Bjornaer so frequently argue i am thinking of recommending Certamen as a way of settling thier disputes.
Its also going to be fun totally trouncing them with NPC certamen addicts (Tremere and such like) and watch them desperately plow xp and training in the certamen skill in an effort to get even.
Vengeance has a name in our saga, and its name is Brunnabergh Covenant.
Are you playing fifth edition? Certamen has changed significantly. One of the changes is that there is no certamen skill.
In the last game I ran, it was 4th edition, and Certamen was almost used to write the Charter when the characters got together. There were 6 magi altogether, and one had Giant Blood (in 4th that gave extra fatigue levels), and he immediately challenged one of the wizards to certamen for his sigil when we met to write the charter. He won, and it was obvious he was going to challenge two more people including my magus (who had no Certamen skill so he would have just simply forfeited). If he won 2 more bouts he would have had a majority of the votes and could literally write the charter himself. Fortunately his pride got in the way, and when he was challenged by the small and female Tremere he accepted without resting between bouts and so started the bout slightly fatigued and lost. Certamen was used with a decent amount of frequency both to solve issues, settle insults, and establish a pecking order. We put it in the charter that disputes over books and sometimes Vis could be settled with certamen or any other equitable means.
To add some more insight to Kryslins answer, we started in second edition and our troupe has always favored role playing over roll playing. During our first Certamin match everyone got so impaitent to get it over with, they opted to leave the table and watch TV or run and get food while the two players dueled.
The second fight was more of the same. Food runs, a movie, I probably did some chores around the house while the two players fought each other. Our troupe simply is not interested in dice rolling sessions.
Beyond that several players would be furious if after giving some kind of overly dramatic mage rant/arguement, they were chastised by a die roll and told 'no, you have to it my way.'
Our troupe has always enjoyed solving problems by bargaining, bartering, and threatening. The premise that dice roll wins just never sat well with us.
Having said that, I think Certamin in Fifth Edition is pretty cool. A portion of our troupe is considering playing a new campaign! Ghads! This new 5th edition campaign may not have our previous campaigns disdain for Certamin. That remains to be seen. I suspect if we can speed it up, it could be included in the game.
For what it's worth, combat is typically rare in our game as well as we simply get bored with all the dice rolls. We typically fight at the end of an adventure and gloss over the other fights.
That's interesting. In the game where certamen was common, all the players were very into it. We played in a class room, mostly, and when certamen came around we had people at the black board tracking numbers, other characters wagering on the outcome, and even other characters considering if they should press issues they've had against the combatants once this match was over to take advantage of their (hopefully) weakened state.
Of course, that was a particularly antagonistic group of players...
We haven't used it yet in mine. However, a lot of people here seem to be averse to certamen because it's some sort of dice-rolling fest. Here's an (at least seemingly, to my naive way of thinking) excellent article on diceless certamen: http://www.durenmar.de/articles/dcertamen.html.