I'm fiddling with a little side project, and I was curious what skill ranges people see in Certamen. As I'm running a saga set in the Normandy Tribunal, Certamen comes up occasionally in the Hermetic Tournament, and as a new player is running a Tremere, it may come up even more often.

That said...

I'm trying to work out appropriate ability ranges for Certamen related skills.

Now, I'm wanting to figure out what range of abilities you'd see at each level in general. Not min-maxed, necessarily, but also someone who is at least paying some attention to duelling as a part-time activity, and thus likely seem entering certamen contests, etc. No lab rats who only pump Magic Theory up with experience, but not necessarily a strictly focussed duellist. I'm looking for the "average tournament competitor" at each age range.

Note I am not factoring in potential virtues that might add levels of ability or multiply experience, such as Affinity or Puissant, in this initial consideration.

How much of such a character's exp would be put into duelling skills - Finesse, Parma Magica, Penetration?
Consider these somewhat arbitrary "age" distinctions and my guesses at possible skill ranges:
Neophyte Duellist:: Just finished apprenticeship - most certamen abilities at 1 or 3
Journeyman Duellist: 25 years Hermetic Age - most certamen abilities at 3 to 5
Experienced Duellist: 45 years Hermetic Age - most certamen abilities at 4-6
Veteran Duellist: 90 years Hermetic Age - most certamen abilities at 6-8
Champion Duellist: 180 years Hermetic Age - most certamen abilities at 7 to 9.

Having never had a super-long lasting saga, I'm concerned my estimates for abilities are off. What might you see a magus' Parma get to after 180 years?

After that, I'm trying to consider Arts. 15 years after the start of my saga, many of my magi are approaching Arts at 17-20 in their specialties, with one out of the gate looking at a 24 Terram, though he was a strict Terram specialist. For Certamen, due to the vetoing of arts, I'm mainly concerned with 2 main Techniques and 2 main forms.

Hm, I guess this might be a handy use for Magi of Hermes as a gauge of Arts at different levels among generalists and specialists.

Anyhow, initial experiences/

Hm, in retrospect, I'm inclined to change "Champion Duellist" to "Elder Duellist". I'm looking to reflect age/time spent duelling as opposed to skill.

In the 5th edition, there are no more certanem abitlity as far as I know...

I think he wrote "abilities" instead of "ability" to mean the abilities used in Certamen: Concentration, Finesse, Penetration, and Parma Magica. (Did I forget any?)


Ok, I didn't realise that, sorry

After 25 years of hermetism, I guess I would have those abilities at 6+, specially if I am from house tremere... but that's true that usually my characters have a big librairy


I did indeed mean the abilites such as Penetration, Finesse, and Parma Magica.

Hm, Concentration - used only when there is a danger of the magus being distracted and falling out of the trance, correct?


Hm, all of them? Would the character consider those everyday scores for their age, or higher perhaps than normal due to an interest in Certamen?

I'm trying to figure out what the spread should be from "casual enthusiast/person who happens to have good scores that lend themselve to Certamen" and "dedicated certamen duellist".

When whipping up new "generic" magi on the fly, I tend to assume 8-15xp/year in mystical abilities (parma, finesse, magic theory etc.), 8-15 in Arts, 8-15 in mundane abilities, and one spell/magical item power every year or two. The lower end roughly matches the corebook values, the higher end what I tend to see in our PCs. This means about 2xp/year in abilities such as parma, finesse etc. with pre-gauntlet years being worth about 10 years of study.

right after gauntlet: 20xp -> 2-3 (Parma will be lower immediately after gauntlet, of course)
25 years after gauntlet: 70xp -> 4-5
45 years after gauntlet: 110xp -> 6-7
90 years after gauntlet: 200xp -> 8-9
180 years after gauntlet: 380xp -> 11-12

This almost exactly matches your values at the younger ages, and is just a little higher later on.

In terms of what the specialized certamen duelist would do, in terms of ability and Art spread ... well, it's a very complex problem that my troupe and I tried tackling some time ago (I even tried opening a thread on this, but got relatively little input). The answer depends on many factors, some less obvious than others:

  1. the magical quirks of your characters (a certamen focus, an affinity etc.)
  2. the availability of vis in your saga (willingness to burn TONS of vis makes Arts a more worthwhile investment)
  3. the availabilty of books and teachers (while arts must be taught one-on-one, mystical abilities can be taught to many students simultaneously, making "summer schools on Parma" potentially a really effective way to pass on knowledge)
  4. how often the typical magus asks another magus to champion him
  5. how well known are the magical abilities of different magi
  6. some technicalities of the code (can you challenge the right of someone to choose someone else as their champion?)

What really ended up surprising me were points 4-6, or rather, the analysis behind them. Basically, it turns out that the chances of beating your opponent at certamen depend a lot on how your skillset is optimized against that particular opponent, and whether it's optimized for attack (you choose the Technique) or defense (you choose the Form). It's a little bit like a rock-paper-scissors scenario, with lots of situations where A has a high chance of beating B, B of beating C, and C of beating A. Another way to say it is this:

a. Show me ANY magus with a given xp total for Arts and abilities (with the "standard" virtues & flaws allotment).
b. Flip a coin, heads your magus is the challenger, tails he is the challenged.
c. Based on a. and b. I'll make a magus with just HALF the xps of yours (you do not get to see how I allocate them!).
d. Fight a certamen (for simplicity, without vis)!

The magus with half the xp has (at least) twice the chance of winning (in other words, if I repeat steps b,c, and d enough times, the less experienced magus will score at least twice as many victories as the more experienced one).

I would add that from the analysis we carried out it turns out that:

  1. For Tremere - or at least Tremere duelists - to specialize in two forms and two techniques is not necessarily the best choice. The reasoning in HoH:TL in this regard is not correct.

  2. If a young Tremere really wants his sigil, and specializes to win it from his parens, he does stand a good chance of winning it before he is half the hermetic age of said parens even if the parens does not "pull his punches".

  3. House Tremere may not dominate the certamen scene as much as one might think. Basically, this boils down to three things, in decreasing order of importance: a. choosing who gets to challenge whom makes a crucial difference. b. the pool of non-tremere duelists is much larger, so the chance of finding a non-tremere duelist "optimal" for the challenge is much higher c. the minor magical focus doubles the weaker art; careful pre-duel maneuvering can make that quite low unless a Tremere chooses to be a generalist, which is in general a suboptimal choice.

Because? A short version of your reasoning?

Well, yeah. You can make the perfect opponent since you know how the opposition looks like exactly AND you know who is the attacker.
You put some in one of the Arts the foe gets to pick(if he picks the wrong one, reject the first choice(IIRC)), then max out in two arts he´s got the lowest possible in that you can pick from, OR you can max out in the art the foe has second worst in and then put a little in the one he has lowest in, making him reject first choice and getting slightly better while your character gets a score based on almost twice as much XP.
That way you can always use an optimal combination for 1/2-3/4 of the cost with a fairly good chance of getting full use out of it.

That IS how, or at least not to far from how, you would do it isnt it?

Basically, because there is no "ideal" duelist: the ideal experience distribution of a duelist utterly depends on the experience distribution of the opponents he expects to face, and whether he expects to be the challenger or the challenged. In some cases it's not a two Forms, two Techniques specialization. The math gets quickly mind boggling, but it's not difficult to prove, for example, that the best combination for a Tremere magus to challenge another magus that places all his Art xp between two Forms and two Techniques is to specialize (i.e. only place xp) in at most THREE arts: two Techniques the challenged party does not favour, and ONE form - namely, the specialty of the challenged party with the lowest score.

In general, roughly speaking, you want to "match" your opponent's scores in the art set he gets to choose (e.g. Techniques if he's the challenger) save for his highest score (which you can veto) and not be matched in turn in two of the arts you get to choose (or just one if you are good at bluffing and can take the risk). So if you want to be a general purpose Tremere champion, for example, answering challenges made against your House members, you probably do not want to specialize in two Techniques, but spread your Technique xp evenly among four of the five, and specialize instead in two not widely studied forms (say, Aquam and Herbam). What's your nemesis in this case? Perhaps Tremere circulate Certament problems like this one through Redcap correspondence!

Needless to say, the role of Finesse, Penetration and Parma, vis and instruction availability (including affinities), and the fighting styles from HoH:TL make everything much more complex, but the basic result still stands: the ideal art combination depends very, very strongly on the opponents you will face (and on who will be the challenger), and only rarely is it a two Form, two Technique combination.

Yeah i vaugely recall the thread where you(?) wrote it out. I think mindboggling is a severe understatement. :wink:

Yeah, pretty much what i surmised.
Although any "realistic" character would have to be able to both challenge and be challenged. And cant expect to retailor himself to opponents. Or even know their abilities.

Gah, those styles, once upon a time long ago i read them through and understood the rules, that didnt last long and i dont think i´ve bothered trying to do it again. But we never dropped the Certamen Ability either. :wink:

Quite true indeed.
But the real question must be, if you dont know exactly what opponents there will be, that you can expect to be both aggressor and defender, THEN what becomes the best combination?

Is this changed at all in the Hermetic Tournament system where age determines who chooses Form and who chooses Technique?

While it's very natural to phrase the question in that way, there may be a few issues to consider.

First, you may not know exactly what opponents there will be, but in most cases you'll have some idea. For example, you can make an educated guess, based on another magus' hermetic age, of the total amount of experience he or she has available. You'll probably know the specialties of the other magi of your Tribunal, particularly the powerful and famous ones - everyone in the Rhine knows that Philippus Niger of Durenmar is a master of Perdo. HoH:TL even has a sidebar with mechanical rules for knowing the school and favourite arts of your opponent based on his reputation.

Second, it's not clear what the "best" combination means. Would you rather have a combination that allows you to win 90% of the time against all but the top 10% duelists of the Order, but have virtually no chance against those, or a combination that gave you a flat 50% against everyone? Would you rather win 90% of the time when challenged and 40% of the time when challenging, or 60% of the time in either case? The question should be made more precise before one can answer it.

Third, and precisely because of the two previous points, the "best" art combinations for an individual magus, however you define "best", may not be the "best" for a magus part of a cohesive group that selects the best "champion"to fight any duel of interest to the group (the clannish house Tremere would be an obvious example of this). In other words, it makes much more sense what art choices are best for a team than for an individual.

Now, this all makes things very muddy, so it's really hard to answer the question. However, one can make some considerations. If a Tremere chooses to focus two forms and two techniques, he is guaranteed to have a high art (a Technique if he's the challenger, a Form otherwise), but most likely the other Art is going to be really low. And this is really bad for a Tremere, because it means that their magical focus, which doubles the lower art becomes essentially useless. If you are going to balance challenging and being challenged, it's probably much better to spread your xp a little more. This is particularly true if you expect to be challenged a lot, because spreading over four techniques rather than two is "cheaper" than spreading over nine forms in place of two. The fact that the availability of Summas makes the "early" xps in an Art "cheaper" than the "late" ones only strengthens this.

Let's try with an example. I'll immediately say that this makes a lot of simplifications and assumptions, so it's not meant as a rigorous proof but to give an idea of what I'm trying to say. Traditio and Innovatio are two magae of Tremere, each with 80 seasons (the equivalent of 20 full-time years) of Art study, including their apprentice years. Assume every season of study they can get 15xp in an Art up to level 9, and 10xp later on (this is admittedly artificial, but it reflects the fact that the higher you go in an Art, the harder it is to earn your xps).

Traditio of Tremere splits her seasons evenly among four Arts. She spends 20 seasons on each, which nets her 215xps, for a score of 20(5). This means that in Certamen Traditio is guaranteed to have one Art at 20, and one at 0, whether challenger or challenged; but against an adversary who has a rough idea of what she's good at (and after a few duels it's going to be known) 20, 0 is the best she'll get.

Innovatio of Tremere opts for a broader study of the Arts. More precisely, she spends:

0 seasons on Perdo and Aquam (score 0)
4 seasons on Animal, Auram, Herbam, Ignem, Imaginem, Terram and Vim (score 10)
7 seasons on Creo, Intellego, Corpus and Mentem (score 12(7))
11 seasons on Rego and Muto (score 15(5))

If she's the challenger, he can pull off a 15 (for the Technique) and a 20 (for the form doubled by the magical focus, vetoing Aquam). Her (20,15) combination is then definitely better than Traditio's (20,0) combination. If Innovatio is challenged, she can pull off a 12 (for the Form), and a 24 (for the Technique doubled by the magical focus, vetoing Perdo). Again, Innovatio's (24,12) combination is certainly much better than Traditio's (20,0) combination. I would also point out that Innovatio's distribution of xp makes her a little more flexible in the use of vis.

While this is a very superficial analysis, I think it gives an idea why "two techniques, two forms" is not the best spread if you want to be a "generalist" Tremere duelist (in the sense of someone who tries to balance against all opponents, both for issuing and receiving challenges). Of course, I'll say again that a "generalist" duelist is often not a good choice , in my opinion.

True, but that doesnt mean you know what their strengths or weaknesses are.
And, do you really want to create your own character ONLY on the basis of optimising her against a few likely opponents?

Lol, now THAT is indeed a good question.

Its a very reasonable assumption. You can often get higher still(>20 sometimes) at the lowest levels while the "normal" xp at higher levels tend to fall off a little(8-11) bit but for a limited example, these averages makes perfect sense.

A much better character overall i would say.

Thats rather a poor distribution really. Use 1 season for each "low" art and you instantly get a much better result of 18,10. If we overlook the 1 XP lack, if you move 4 seasons from each of the main 4 Arts you can get 6 "low" Arts with score 5 and 5 "medium" Arts at score 7, while the 4 main ones are still at 17... Drop 2 Arts to near zero and you only have 4 Arts with "low", 7 with "medium", 4 with "high" and 2 with minimal.
So, then you should be able to get 18+14 much of the time and never worse than 18+10, and the potential to get 18+36 at times. :smiling_imp:
While being a far better spellcaster overall.

Moving another 8 seasons(almost, skipping past the 3xp low again) you can have 4 Arts with score 17, 7 Arts with score 9, 1 Art with score 7, 3 Arts with score 5 and 2 with minimal...
This gets you a common total of 17+18. Still with the potential for 17+34. And never less than 17+10.
Mmm, not bad. Getting close to Innovatio though... :mrgreen:

Your Innovatio is still slightly more optimised overall, but lacks the ability to get the VERY high bonus and is only a little ahead most of the time.
I very much doubt that the Traditio style is preferred by anyone though. Far too limited for spellcasting.

2 Tech+2F all alone is a BAD CHOICE indeed. Also from a conceptual view.

The advantage for the generalist though, is that she gets more XP total. :wink:
80 Seasons total, spend 3 each on all Arts to get them up to Score 9.
That leaves you with 35 seasons. End result is 185xp more than if going for the 20 seasons each in 4 Arts.
Mmm, or something like that, hehe. Im throwing around numbers so much im confusing myself. :laughing:

Often you do. This is particularly true for famous, powerful duelists.
Also, it's quite reasonable that Folk Ken will give you some insight when issuing the challenge :slight_smile:

Maybe. If I know that I really have to worry about one senior magus and half a dozen junior ones, because everyone else is "covered" by my housemates (who expect to call upon me to deal with that specific handful of magi)... This is particularly true if it requires only small adjustments to the set of magical competences I'd have anyway.

It just adds one level of strategic complexity to Certamen: before the actual duel, there's the additional stage of choosing your champion (which may be you!). I can totally imagine a young Tremere receiving the instructions "Agent Faber, you have been assigned to the containment of Pyros of Flambeau. Your profile makes you the best suited junior agent in the area for this task, after some training in a small set of critical areas. Please see attached material" <Ignem Summa, level 18 quality 17; 3 Parma Magica Tractatus, quality 13, 13, 11>.

Actually, in this context I meant with "generalist" a duelist that is "good against all opponents", rather than a magus with a broad coverage of the Arts. It's not obvious to what extent the two coincide.

Hmm, I assume this is from Lily and the Lion which I do not own. If you explain a little more in detail how things work, perhaps I can give a meaningful answer.

I assume the older magus chooses the Technique, and the younger the Form (which on average gives an advantage to the younger magus). Is that correct? This would simply change "being the challenger" with "being older" and "being challenged" with "being younger".

But how does the tournament work? Is it "direct elimination", with pairs duelling and the loser of each pair dropping out of the tournament at every round? What prizes are given to someone who does not win, but gets fairly high (say, to the quarter finals :slight_smile:)? This can make a lot of difference.

Can one use vis?

I believe it is eldest chooses Technique, as you note.

you participate on behalf of your covenant, and your standings go into calculating who wins the Hermetic Tournament overall.
There are... 6 events? (Dimicatio, Hastiludium, Hermetic Joust, Melee, Certamen, and Host's Choice) I'll go and check how the final results are calculated, and what the influence of a Certamen win would be when I get home.


Don't worry, I also thought exactly the same thing to start out. I reread it a few times and decided that the referral was about a general category of abilities.