Having read and re-read the Certamen rules section, as well as the examples, while an NPC and a PC were trying it out, we still ended up with some minor questions:
It's only rolled once, and the winenr is always the first one to go.
So the faster contestant decided which Art to attack with and which to defend with.
But how is this chosen? Double-blind? Or does the faster contestant initiate, and call one, letting the slower contestant, react to this?
And is Fatigue loss (and the resulting penalties) applied immediately? So the faster contestant can tire out his opponent, before the counterattack comes? Or is it applies only at the start of the following round? So the slower party won't be penalized ever, in his first round.
Finally a derived question of the above: If Fatigue loss isn't applied untill the following round, and both contestants manage to render their opponent unconscious, who wins?
I sort of see the solution as applying Fatigue loss immediately. This avoids the "who went out cold first" problem. And also gives the faster party a little benefit, otherwise winning initiative only matters for choosing which Art to attack with first.
I always imagined the Art assignments are done double-blind each round. And the Fatigue penalties are applied immediately (this actually happens in the example Certamen from the AM book), which is indeed a perk of winning Initiative, just like mundane combat.
The way I would handle (harder online) but I would take two index cards for each person.
Each player would write a technique on one and form on the other.
I would then at start of the round, have each put out the cards face down. Say to the left is the attack and right is defense. Once all four are out, flip them up and we can then do the rolling. High into going first.
Fatigue is applied immediately so being fast off draw means a good roll could badly penaltize your foe before he even gets to act. In fact if yu get enough attack advantage, it could be over in the one attack. (a two or three 1's and a 9 and it is lights out)
In all ways, choosing Arts double blind does seem the most fair. If it's a PC vs. NPC one could assume the SG has enough integrity to mentally choose, and then have the player tell his choice. Sadly some Killer DMs are still out there. But since PC vs. PC Certamen also happens, some kind of choosing system could just as easily be implemented universally.
Apart from writing the Arts on index card, you could simply use two different coloured d10s. Once the Tech & Form are agreed upon - assign each of them a die, hide them in your hand, choose one (perhaps under the table) and stretch out thet closed hand. Adn reveal simultaneously (like the Initiative system of 'The Riddle of Steel').
For an online game, have a neutral third party be the Ref, and both contestants mail him their Atk and Dfn Arts, and he publishes the results.
And for it to make any sense, to have winning initiative mean anything, Fatigue loss should be applied at once. That also avoids a drw, where both contestants KO the opponent in the same round. One should just view it as combat.
I'm a little confused as to why there needs to be any kind of blind. As pointed out by the instant application of fatigue, going first gives an advantage, that being the case being able to choose Arts in response to the aggressor's attack can help the defender mitigate some of that advantage.
I wouldn't do anything different. Once the Arts are chosen before the contest begins and initiative is established then the person that goes first chooses which Art he attacks with, by default leaving the other Art to defend. The other player then chooses what Art to defend with and the remaining Art they attack with. To me that seems to balance it out nicely.
Blinds add to the excitement! Need I say more. I play in a group were bitching each other it rather common. So every now and then we use certamen on each other. We use a deck of cards, with the score in arts as the applicable card and use red for attack and black for defense. The card are laid open and rolls are made. We like it this way..... Just find the way you like best.
Because when you are in a duel, you do not know round to round if your opponent is going to use their good art to attack or defend or even what they have.
If you certamen where person with init has tech 10, form 4 and other has tech 9, form 6. If
everything is open, 9 will always be pitted against the 10 and 6 against the 4 since that gives best chance of victory. The key is that you shouldn't know until the attack starts which is being used for the attack that errors can occur.
OK, I can see if both players know the others stats (which is likely between PCs), having a blind can add an element of strategy and surprise to it. Initially I wasn't seeing that, if both players know the other's stats already, a blind wouldn't seem much use, but now I see that makes it the only thing aside from the die roll that they don't know.
Even if they don't know the stats exactly. They have order of hermes lore and find out someone is known for his rego magics and end up in a rego certamen. They are in thier choice form which is high. THey are randomly guessing is the rego going to be used to attack which they perhaps should be defending with form or is the rego on defense in which case they should use their good form as attack to perhaps get past the defense.
It adds the element of strategy to certamen even if you only have vague ideas of person's strengths and weaknesses.