Making A Certamen Specialist

What makes a good Certamen specialist? What virtues and flaws, attributes, abilities and arts do you think a starting Magi should have if the plan is to become a Certamen Master? What advancement plans should he try to use? To keep things simple I just want to focus on stuff from the main book. True Lineages has adds a lot of stuff (and complexity) to Certamen but I just want to think about general strategies for now.

Order of Hermes Lore --- so that you know the good and bad Art Scores of your opponents.

A good spread of Arts Scores, so that you don't have any abysmally weak points yourself.

If you want to effectively win on a first strike, you need lots of Quickness and Finesse so that you go first, and lots of Confidence and Vis to expend on the first Attack Total. If you get a good solid first hit, then you can either win outright straight away, or at least seriously damage your opponent before he gets started.

If you going to try to win via attrition then lots of Stamina and Parma Magica is the way to go. This is so that you can weather your opponents attacks, and rely on the occasional lucky good hit to wear them down.

Being able to shapeshift into another body-form that has more Fatigue levels is a good trick too (which is why it is handy to be a Bjornaer with a bear Heartbeast, for example).

Minor Magical Focus: Certamen is the obvious one.

Secondary Insight is a useful one for ensuring that you can keep a good spread of scores at reasonable levels.

Affinity/Puissant Fitness/Penetration/Parma.

Improved Characteristics for higher Qik/Pre/Per/Int/Sta.

Certamen specialties for Fitness/Penetration/Parma.

Order of Hermes Lore, maybe a speciality in certamen so you know the other duellists in the Order.

In addition to anything else that helps you get the most out of books/teachers.

As for advancement, Te > Fo, dump the secondary insight XP into things you don't have books on.

If your SG believes in roleplaying the more subtle aspects of human interaction, you could also invest in Folk Ken, Guile and/or Awareness, to bluff and see through bluffing the way that poker players do. Unless an opponent has their Technique or Form locked in, you could, in theory, bluff them into making the wrong choice. But this is RP, and not just pure game mechanics.

Many Certamen contest start with a verbal exchange - it's here that one might lure their opponent into making the wrong choices.

Or Intrigue, to disseminate the appropriate disinformation before the fact. Again, it all depends on how deep your SG is playing.

First strike sounds like a good strategy, but mnot something new to the Order, so it might be expected, specially if it is your duelling mark. After a few uses it will be common knowledge.

Personal vis source is a good way to improve your vis usage.

Puissant parma is also useful, and it can be great user in other situations as well.

Can you Certamen while in whale form? :laughing:

Intrigue to be the one challenged instead of the one challenging is also a good ability.

Patron or favors (being the one that can call the favors) works great to have an ace up your sleeve in case you cannot beat a biggie: just call the heavier artillery.

Order of Hermes Lore.

If you know who your opponent is and what they're good at you can make more intelligent choices about what arts to choose or whether to veto their first choice.

Harenarius virtue (HoH:TL 143)

btw I think the best style is hoplomachus

strong-willed/clear thinker (depends on your sg)?

Enduring constitution?

Spreading broadly helps, but I'd favor 2 techniques (for challenging) and two forms (for being challlenged), preferable odd ones like aqaum

I'm not sure where else you could apply Puissant Parma. The bonus only applies when the ability is rolled right? Affinity in Parma though sounds like a good idea. Puissant would be a better match to finesse, penetration, or concentration. Also having the specialties in any/all of those abilities be Certamen would be worthwhile for someone who engages in a lot of challenges.

When I SG I love to see players do stuff like this, and if I have a good rapport with the SG when I'm the player I always try. This is one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of the HOHTL stuff. I think there is more then enough game in basic certamen.

EDIT: The book seems to suggest that vetoing your opponents first choice, while allowed, is frowned upon. If that is the case in general it does change the game a bit.

Btw, I always take puissant parma into account for MR, since you use the score to determine the MR. No problem with it, and it's one of the most loved virtues in my sagas.

Greater/Lesser Potent Magic: Certamen

As for Puissant X, it does not only apply to rolls. Read the errata for clarification.


Wow yes it does. My new favorite minor virtue :slight_smile:

I'm not sure that it matters much if your opponent knows you are going for a first strike strategy.

Either you are quick enough to get in the first strike or you aren't.

One maga in our saga was designed explicitly to explore the concept of a certamen specialist. Some things we have learnt so far, and confirm what the other posters have to say:

  1. Certamen "specialization" is very much a rock/paper/scissors game, in the following sense: given a magus specialized for certamen, one can always "create" another magus with half the experience out of gauntlet that beats the first magus in certamen most of the time. So it could easily be the case that A almost always beats B, that B almost always beats C, and that C almost always beats A, and thus it's extremely important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your adversaries, and pick your duels accordingly -- Order of Hermes Lore, Guile and Folk ken are crucial skills.

  2. Vis can play a crucial role -- its effects can be immense, even though its costs can be truly staggering. So staggering, in fact, that in many cases we've seen magi agree to avoid using vis altogether, because they knew that, if vis were allowed, there would probably be two losers rather than one. Because Certamen can be so vis-expensive, and you have to spend the vis without knowing exactly if you'll need it (or if it will be enough), knowing your adversary and bluffing can be, again, huge issues.

  3. Botches! Certamen rolls are stress, and there's quite a few of them. We've seen more than one duel decided by a botch. And if you start throwing in vis ...

  4. Parma can be really important, particularly if the adversary is the one choosing the Form. It takes 5 xp to raise 5 Techniques from score x to score x+1. It takes 10 xp to raise 10 Forms. It takes 5 xp to raise Parma from score x to score x+1, and if you have an Affinity... Vis makes Parma less important, because only the Arts dictate how much Vis you can use.

  5. There's many ways to avoid fatigue -- from Endurance of the Berserkers, to having a familiar or a fellow magus transfer you fatigue etc. Very useful, and very used in our saga.

  6. If foranyreason you lose concentration, you have lost the duel. We've seen many, many, many dirty tricks employed in this sense.

  7. Something like the following happened in our saga. Names and circumstances were different, but the spirit is very much the same.
    Tremere: "I'll challenge you to Certamen for ownership of the Book of Mighty Incantations -- I propose Perdo!"
    Iurisconsultus: "Sure, but the duel will be fought in fifty years from now."
    Tremere: "That is ridiculous!"
    Iurisconsultus: "Then, I'll challenge you to a preliminary Certamen bout to decide when to hold the main Certamen -- I propose Creo."
    Tremere: "Hmpf -- a META-Certamen? So be it. Corpus?"
    Iurisconsultus: "Alas, no, you'll have to go with Aquam".
    Tremere: "Nope, you can veto Corpus, but not propose Aquam."
    Iurisconsultus: "Says who?"
    Tremere: "Hey, it's tradition, study up your Order of Hermes Lore!"
    Iurisconsultus: "I don't know, traditions evolve. I think we should bring the matter up at the next Tribunal, if you really want to avoid Aquam."
    Tremere: "No, no, no! You know perfectly well the next Tribunal will laugh at you. You are just stalling for time. We'll fight right here and now! If you veto Corpus, Mentem will be the Form."
    Iurisconsultus: "Shall we have a META-META-Certamen about whether to fight the META-Certamen here and now, or bring the issue of Art selection up at the next Tribunal?"
    Tremere: "AAAARRRRGGG!!!"

Ezzelino, you really should copy paste that in the "best real game sentences". It's... totally awsome :wink:.
Thanks for sharing!


Certainly one way to help the other side loose concentration...

As the Tremere in that situation I would let the issue go to tribunal. At Tribunal I wouldn't just settle for the other Magus to be laughed out of court. I would demand damages far in excess of what I lost for not getting the book in a timely fashion. Since the Magus was attempting to debase the time honored tradition of Certamen that house Tremere is built on I would imagine they would lend me their full support. Perhaps they might send their very best debater to litigate on my behalf. Since canonically most magi seem to believe certamen is a cornerstone to peace within the order I'm sure making an example out of the other magus would not be a tough sell.

Honestly it's quite likely situations like that have occurred before, so stalling tactics like that might already be prescribed by the peripheral code.

Still a hilarious :laughing: exchange.

Awesome :smiley:
I'd go with Tremere: You know what, never mind, Wizard's War right now. :smiling_imp: FOOM :smiling_imp: Oh wait, you have a point of order about the timing of Wizard's War? We can take that up at the next Tribunal ... unless you'd prefer a preliminary Meta-Wizard's War right away to decide it? :smiling_imp: FOOM :smiling_imp:

Exar has a saga going right now where a Water-Bull Bjornaer has what I've always felt is the right attitude towards Certamen:

(Tremere confronts Bjornaer in his woodland lair)

"I challenge you to Certame.... AAAGGGHHH MY FACE! You've impaled my face with your horns! Oh the pain!!!"


"I challenge you to Certamen!"

"No need. I concede. See you in one Moon"

"What happens in one Moon?"

"The Redcap will explain."


In all seriousness, the best Certamen expert would likely be a Bjornaer Wolf with:

Secondary Insight; Minor Focus: Certamen; ; ; Puissant Parma Magica

The Heartbeast of Wolf has base Stamina 3, Perception 2 and Quickness 2. As the heartbeast is a second "natural" form, its an easy Tribunal win to argue that being in Heartbeast form does not count as an active magic effect. That makes "Heartbeast: Wolf" a way, way more appropriate virtue than any Puissant (Ability) or "Improved Characteristics" virtue.

If he's Clan Wiliks which, as a disputant he likely would be, he easily gains Cautious Sorcerer through initiation, which I believe applies to Certamen as well, meaning fewer botch die. With strong Presence (always good for Mystery Cults and someone dealing with political squabbles anyway), he could be the Houses' Certamen master, responsible for defending a House notoriously weaker at Certamen from the intrigues of Tremere and Merinita.