Certamen Style: Gladiatrix et al

I'm confused by True Lineages's Gladiatrix Certamen school. It says: "Those fighting in the style of the Gladiatrix can create the visual effect of the battle on the chess board, and can summon phntasmal boards, but cannot read their opponent's opinions."

Isn't this just a fancy way of saying "There is no reason to fight in this style unless you are a member of the school?"

It also indicates that "any magus trained in the School of the Sword can fight in the style of the gladiatrix without further training."

Does this mean as a follower of the Gladiatrix school or as a dabbler (= worthless)?

Other questions on this section:

Why would the Order feel Certamen is rigged if they thought the Gladiator style allowed a magus to use Vis to better effect? All the other styles give an optional advantage, leaving Gladiator as the least likely to be used. What would you suppose the bonus would be, if it existed? Burning Vis is a pretty expensive way to win a Certamen. (I'm guessing +4 to Attack or Defense or +2 to each).

IF Saggitarius had a dedicated follower, what would their ability be? (Perhaps 3x Finesse as a bonus to Attack and only 2x Finesse as a penality?)

When a Bjornaer uses the Bestiarus style as a dabbler, do they add their Heartbeast score to their Reisitance only during Muto Corpus or Muto Animal duels, making it a useless dabbling form under any other circumstances?

I like the Styles, these just had me a little bamboozled.

[size=75][color=red]I'm confused by True Lineages's Gladiatrix Certamen school. It says: "Those fighting in the style of the Gladiatrix can create the visual effect of the battle on the chess board, and can summon phntasmal boards, but cannot read their opponent's opinions. Isn't this just a fancy way of saying "There is no reason to fight in this style unless you are a member of the school?" " [/size]

There's no reason to fight in the Gladatrix style except the pure aesthetic of doing so, which is pleasant, indeed almost sexual, for many Tremere. Certamen is a social thing.

[color=red]It also indicates that "any magus trained in the School of the Sword can fight in the style of the gladiatrix without further training."

Does this mean as a follower of the Gladiatrix school or as a dabbler (= worthless)?

As a non-dedicated pwerson, yes. I feel sorry for you that only combat effectiveness is worthwhile in your games.
[color=red]
Other questions on this section:

Why would the Order feel Certamen is rigged if they thought the Gladiator style allowed a magus to use Vis to better effect? All the other styles give an optional advantage, leaving Gladiator as the least likely to be used. What would you suppose the bonus would be, if it existed? Burning Vis is a pretty expensive way to win a Certamen. (I'm guessing +4 to Attack or Defense or +2 to each).

The concept of Certamen is that a form of dueling is incorporated as an alternative ot powerful magi attempting to harm each other. If certamen is rigged, so that it gives comparatively weak Tremere magi advantages because of their secret techniques, then it means the Hermetic legal system no longer works properly. As to it being "the least likely to be used" on the contrary: the gladiator sytle is the most likely to be used.

[color=red]IF Saggitarius had a dedicated follower, what would their ability be? (Perhaps 3x Finesse as a bonus to Attack and only 2x Finesse as a penality?)

Whatever you like: in the vanilla setting they don't exist. The Saggita form is designed to mock the concept of certamen. Dedicatedly studying it misses its point.

[color=red]When a Bjornaer uses the Bestiarus style as a dabbler, do they add their Heartbeast score to their Reisitance only during Muto Corpus or Muto Animal duels, making it a useless dabbling form under any other circumstances?

It's not useless: iot means they don't need a Finesse score, pretty much ever, which is useful for many Bjornaers who empahsise shapeshifting and thus do not have a Finesse score for pretty much anything else. It's also useful for duels within the house.

[color=red]I like the Styles, these just had me a little bamboozled.

The basic problem you habve is not seeing that certamen has a social context. It's not always about just hitting the other guy until he falls over. Medeival duelling wasn't like that, and modern sport isn't, among groups of peer-practioners.

I'll try not to take your assumption about my games as insulting.

In fact, most of the PCs in my game are quite unmunchkin-like, and many encounters we have each session involve pure character interaction.

I can see how you'd feel that certain styles of Certamen could be used simply for friendly duels. Certainly among Tremere this is a pass time, however, I"m not sure that many other houses feel the same way. Perhaps they do.

Those who do use Gladatrix style certainly have a gigantic advantage in these friendly matches. They can use Certamen as a way to find out important things about their opponent (mostly at the cost of actually winning the Certamen). However anybody attempting to use Gladatrix style as a dabbler in a deadly serious Certamen is simply not making a wise choice.

I do know why Certamen is used, but guess what? Without getting a Vis bonus the Tremere already have a gigantic advantage over anybody of equal experience. And it's probably one most mages know (since Tremere aren't required to have a Dark Secret), the Focus in Certamen. I imagine many magi feel certamen is a necessary evil, and begrudgingly accept it as a superior alternative to Wizard War or the disintegration of the Order. I can't believe that non-Tremere are happy about their disadvantage in it. In fact, if the Bonisagus could come up with an alternative that the Tremere weren't a leg up on, I bet most of the order would love to vote it into (and Certamen out of) the Peripheral Code.

Many of the Certamen Syles give very nice bonuses to certain situations in a duel, I don't know why you find it amazing that one could think that most Magi who wish to win a Certamen would choose to use one of the styles that grants them a bonus as opposed to one which doesn't.

I see what you mean about Saggitarius style, point well taken.

I think for some reason you're keying on my use of the word 'worthless", lets try a question in another phrasing:

When a Bjornaer uses the Bestiarus style as a dabbler, do they add their Heartbeast score to their Resistance only during Muto Corpus or Muto Animal duels? Do they get no bonus during any sort of other duel, or in fact do dabblers get to add their Heartbeast score to their Resistance in all duels, making it superior to dabble in some circumstances? If so can a Follower of the style choose to use the dabble bonus? I suspect it is simply a needed clarification that the last sentence should be joined with the second to last with a semi-colon.

But in fact, even Followers of the Bestiarius style DO need Finesse if they intend to be great duelers, since they can only use their Heartbeast score in very limited circumstances. To whit they can use it in duels in the Muto form, or involving their own bodies (does this mean Corpus or Animal; or perhaps it means duels where the phantasms deal with changing ones own or each other's bodies).

Thank you for taking the time to answer.

You are assuming that most certamen matches always involve a member of House Tremere.

Certamen clearly works as a fair, non-lethal alternative to Wizard's War when used by two non-Tremere (ie, there is no "Certamen focus" bonus). I know that if I were a Merinta or Bonisagus in conflict with a Tytalan or Flambeau, having the non-lethal conflict resolution of certamen would give me a fighting chance, rather than a purely martial contest.

And, as you say, most magi would know that the Tremere are particularly "skilled" or "talented" in Certamen - they would be less likely to frivolously allow important political matters to be determined with Certamen (as opposed to, for example, a Tribunal vote).

-Alex-

I haven't read them in a long while, but if Gladatrix doesn't provide an advantage in Certamen it may be useful as a humiliating tactic. Using Gladatrix is like saying "I can beat you up with one hand tied behind my back". (If it furthermore allows to intuit stuff about the other's secrets by evaluating his play, that is a great advantage.)

I agree that they will never be "great" duelists simply from the use of this style. For their own social purposes, however, it stops finesse being a point sink.

I think you may not be considering that Certamen is not the prefered method of dispute resolution because the Tremere are good at it, but that the the Tremere are good at it because it is the preferred method of dispute resolution.

If the Order decides to change the method of dispute resolution, then House Tremere will simply begin focusing on that instead of Certamen, and instead of the free House Virtue being Minor Magical Focus (Certamen) it will become Minor Magical Focus (New Thing).

If the Order chooses to employ a non-magical means of resolution dispute (dueling banjos, perhaps), then House Tremere won't get a magical focus any longer, but you can bet they will get something that continues to give them an edge, whether it be a Puissant Ability or something more powerful. Their skill in Certamen is a matter of House philosophy and focus, not some issue of lineage that they inherit that makes them good at it.

I wasn't acutally assuming that at all, but you do make a very valid point, and that is Certemen is an important part of the order, and phrased it very well. I don't even have a problem with Tremere being really good at it, because it takes up their "focus" slot, making them somewhat weaker than they could be.

Except when they can't. Tribunas are few and far between, and taking Certamen is a recognized as a dispute resolver, that you can't turn down without losing in the eyes of the Tribunal. Sure, there are some things that you aren't expected to resolve with Certamen, but not a lot.

Thanks

I'm not sure what you're talking about here. Is this about something I said in another thread? I don't remember seeing and can't find by searching a thread that was talking about characters you had created. If I insulted you about something, I assure you that wasn't my intention. As in this thread perhaps I simply used friendly shorthand, ie "worthless" equates to "not quanitativly valuable within the meta-game rules".

Sorry, I don't follow. I didn't mean it was an odd choice, we must be be miscommunicating somehow.

Hah! Great quote!
Again, I was speaking only in a meta-rules quanitative sense. I personally love some of these guys "flavor" stuff, it seems that sometimes however it's just as easy to put a quanitative bonus to something as not.

What? What have I missed? Do you mean as a Mystery Virtue? Or during Character Creation? Still, there has been some talk about gaining a second Focus, and I thought the prevailing wisdom was that you simply can't have one.

Except the rules don't say it is simple to learn, especially in the "meta-game" where you inherit your master's style "for free" If you don't know it you have to spend a season to learn it. Many of the other styles have "optional" abilities that you don't have to use if you don't want to, so they are no disadvantage.

In fact I would say, given the low threshold for Minor Flaws it would be easy to imangine one for "Disadvantageous Certamen Style" instead of making all the standard ones of different utility (again, in the Meta-game). Also "Advantageous Certamen Style could be a Virtue.

Thanks again for your replies,

Very good point, but one the greatest minds in the house might address. If the dispute resolution changed to "Rock, Paper, Scissors" it would be difficult to imangine a way to gain a large advantage. If it was, more likely, an all together different sort of duel, at least the current Tremere wouldn't be at an advantage until they had time to make all the adjustments to the new style. Wiping out generations of advantage might be very attractive to some in the Order.

If the new ability were based on a new skill (like it was in all the previous editions) perhaps their advantage could be limited, since you could take the Focus out of it.

Still, don't get me wrong, I'm happy with Certamen. It makes interesting stories, and a different sort of combat upon occasion. I like that Tremere have a big advantage, and I see the balance is that the Order will only put up with it as long as it doesn't come off as a problem. I imangine a Tremere abusing Certamen would be quicly reigned in by the rest of his House before he caused the Order to make changes in the Code in response.

Or, hell, maybe they wouldn't. Such is the stuff of good stories.

I mean you can get a Mystery Virtue really easily, if you sacrifice your old focus. It's harder if you just change your old focus into Potent Magi,c but still very doable.

This isn't in the rules, since these things were published out of the order that makes these mechanics explicitly possible, but its a clear and easy thing to do, and I rather hope one of you, for the Atlas open call, is going to do a Certamen deuling master who might be suited to be a mystagogue for this sort of thing. I'm not pitching for that open call myself, but a Tremere or Tytalus master duelist with other odd powers might be a lot of fun.

On all major issues, particularly justice/criminal matters, the Tribunal has ultimate jurisdiction.

In any case, there is a limit to how much the Tremere would "abuse" their focus (even assuming that their opponent's arts aren't high enough to give a fighting chance against the Tremere) without becoming a regular punitive target for Wizard's Wars or malicious Tribunal rulings.

The Tremere are NO LONGER a bunch of manipulative, control freaks whose sole purpose is to screw over other magi. They are now much less likely to use Certamen for person benefit. They aren't bullies anymore.

-Alex-

Indeed, in my point of view they are now something like a noble wolf clan with powers from the dead AND the fearies, defending the order from evil. Serving it, the code and their house with honor and pride.