[Lion & the Lily] The Hermetic Tournament in Play

I've got my new group of excellent players going to their first Tribunal, wherein the Hermetic Tournament will occur.

A few events seem of vague interest to some of them, and the armored mage blacksmith Flambeau wants to give the joust a go, thanks to a talking horse employed by House Mercere. Others might give the Hastiludinum a try, and perhaps Certamen.

As a relatively young, though somewhat powerful for their years covenant, I noted to them that the goal was not to simulate the contest, but instead to pull some fun stories from it, and enjoy it again in future Tribunals, hopefully doing better and better each time.

That said, what experience or thoughts do people have with regard the concept of the Hermetic Tournament? Any story ideas, tales from sagas, or stories from historic knightly tournaments that come to mind?

Also, I'm wondering how to simulate the Hermetic Joust in game terms. A simple combat with 3 passes? How much of a run-up do you have in a joust?

Any thoughts or recollections would be fun to read and perhaps help me tune my skull for the game next week.


I can share some experience. I story-guided the Normandy tourney for my troupe a few months ago. I was ambitious and I wrote down whole tournament elimination trees for each event, after deciding which teams were most likely good at which events. I admit it was a challenge to run, and we did run into a few problems.

Our PC Covenant had 10 magi, and that gave them starting points meaning that any significant victories would put them among the 7 first positions with a lot of vis winnings. I also did adjust the rules so that quarterfinalists in the most major events would get a few points. You may consider those issues when balancing hope in participating VS game balance/realism.

Second, we discovered when playing that some rules need clarifying:

Hastiludium: Can a shapeshifted magus be the mount? Can you just mundanely carry the mount and the rider on it?
In play, it quickly became very complicated to adjudicate, with lots of magic being cast. Would NPCs be fooled by rego imagonem that moves the arrival line?

Joust: How much magic can be cast in advance? Can it be cast by non-participants? How about enchanted items: does the jouster have to enchant them himself?
I made this a "best 2 of three" contest, using the 4th ed + Ordo Nobilis brawl/unhorsing rules.
The players quickly thought of the non-metal, non-wood weapons trick. So quickly that the NPC specialist's "secret tricks" from L&L seemed lame and obvious!

Dimicatio: We ran into rules trouble here. We tried to clarify the effect of subtle/quiet/silent casting on the difficulty of recognizing a spell. We ended up applying this house-rule formula:
Perception + MT + spell magnitude - voice/gesture penalties (even if a virtue cancels them for the caster) + stress die. We used an ease factor of 6.
It did not work well at all, since it quickly became a totally silent/invisible battle of spells that were rarely recognized by the opponent, and the rounds repeated endlessly.
However, we did like another change we made: that you had to use different spells from round to round.

Mêlée: You really have to clarify what kind of attack success is required to prevent a character from an action like diving towards a ring in the sand to rub it...

For the "Host's choice" event, we had a treasure hunt that was fun. The magi had to collect as quickly as possible a number of tokens that each required different talents or magics.
One was glued on top of a high pole. One was invisible and at the bottom of a pond. One was hidden in a puzzle-box that required int + legerdemain rolls. One was in the middle of a ring of flames. One was unlocked by an enigma written in cypher (which required quickness + artes liberales to decipher). The last one was protected by a chained griffin that you were not allowed to injure.
That event was great fun for the troupe!

As a few final thoughts, I wish I had used your approach of not trying to simulate the whole affair for my ambitious beginner magi. If they don't stand a chance at anything, it's frustrating to play out repeated failures, or else you get soft and they win more than their share...

Good luck on your tourney!

I was pretty much responsible for this as I recall, and feared it would be hated. I'm glad folks had fun with it! I have sometimes wondered if I should try to construct a short-cut system for resolving the Hermetic Tournament so you don't have to play out every event. Or would that spoil it?

cj x

I like it as written-- it makes for a very entertaining series of events, and a good exercise in creating a few ad hoc rules for challenge resolution. I don't think the tournament needs a shortcut, that'd take the fun from it.


I may have sounded overly negative in my first detailed post. I was trying to highlight issues another storyguide should think of before running the tourney.
But globally, my players enjoyed the concept and the challenges. It was mostly I, as storyguide, that was somewhat unsatisfied with the hesitations and difficult adjudications that I had to do. Contrary to Leonis, I believe that a little more "playtesting" might have urged a few clarifications to be included in the rules.

If people really want to simplify the tourney to a maximum, I think it shouldn't require a system: just rank all teams according to roughly perceived overall competence or covenant might, adding a few surprises that would show the random element or specific secret needs for your saga stories.

I could have done that, but I was curious to see where the whole system would lead me. I actually started with a spreadsheet with all teams cross-referenced with all competitions, I gave each of them marks from A to F on each event depending on how good they should be, then I ranked all A's if any, then all B's if any... etc. for each event. I figured out points and number of magi per team, then I added everything to get their final global rank. Then of course I made a nice catalogue of tropaea to choose from, region/amount/type of vis + books + items, striking out those chosen by NPCs in between the PC's choices.

I know, I should have spent those several hours on more sensible activities :wink: As I said, we had fun in the end.

Introducing a ruling that says "this is a gentle-mages contest, so no invisible people around" can solve some of the issues. Imaginem will still play a major role, but not the role :slight_smile:

A quick and dirty method of solving it would not add much to the idea. I like it as written, in fact :slight_smile: If you want to solve it by SG fiat you do just that: you do not need mechanics to solve that kind of stuff.

Seems like Siglorel made quite a job in handling that! :smiley: Well done and great stuff if you had fun :slight_smile: