Random Thought on Certamen..

Hi all,

Was walking home yesterday when a random thought struck - some think there is bit of a problem with certamen in RAW, as it has little negative consequence for duelist, so no risk and i pretty sure there are/have been suggestions on how to fix that and if what im about to suggest has been put forward before on these boards, sorry.

The short version: duelling inflicts wrappping.

The long version: Using the current rules, replace the fatigue levels lost with wrapping points inflicted. And the first magus to fail to avoid twilight loses.

Why: No magus like wrapping, so duelling has consequence. Secondly, it somewhat balances older magi vs younger magi, as old magi would have better art totals, but would have alot more wrapping, so find it more diffcult to avoid twilight, whereas young magi have lower art scores, but very little wrapping.

What do people think?


Sure it does: you could lose.

The consequences are social, not mechanical.

Why would it make your game better to have a high cost of entering a certamen? They're frighteningly rare in my sagas as it is. I'd think that if you add an additional cost folks are more like;y to forgo certamen and head straight to violence.

What's your angle?

The last mini saga i ran, one of my players played a tremere duelist and he was unsatisifed with certamen - yes their are social consequences and legal ones, but he felt there wasnt enough actual danger involved (prehaps it was just because we had come off the back of an L5R campagin where you can quite easily die duelling???)


It is a strange one. To me, Certamen now comes across more as a languid debate than a duel. I'd like to see a new treatment of certaman, one that paints a more dynamic and dangerous picture. The warping idea is one way to increase the threat slightly.

My first thought was that it takes two minutes of concentrated effort to avoid Temporary Twilight. So after each landed "blow", the recipient would then have to roll to avoid Temp Twi and the attacker would stand there waiting for him, which doesn't sound that dynamic to me. Of course, if you are inventing rules you can always change how long it takes to avoid Temp Twi.

I agree that certamen isn't dangerous and we've discussed this in the troupe. One fellow really liked older edition versions, specifically the one in which the winner could follow up his victory by casting any spell on the defeated magus. I think it might still have been limited to the Tech + Form of the certamen. In ArM5, the winner's spell can't do any permanent or real damage or the winner breaks his Oath. Not so in the older edition.

I'd like to see it as more of a duel, one in which the loser could die. I'd also like to change Wizard War, upping the scale of that so that it is more dangerous than certamen, with both being potentially lethal. While it's out of practice in the 13th century, I'd like certamen to mimic the Judgment of God (or trial by god or whatever it's called - it's early morning here) in which two people can step outside the law and fight each other to determine who is right. Now that I think about it, House Flambeau has some kind of tournament dueling that could do this, maybe.

Matt Ryan

I think there's such a richness in the fifth edition, in terms of historical research and the depth of detail on the houses and the order, that you could devise any number of contests and each could be broadly called certamen.

But yes, I'd like to see the threat upped. Certamen should be able to cover a friendly contest, in the manner of a game of chess or a ball game, to a fight to the finish. Somewhere in between those extremes is what the current rules define as certamen. Chances are, a duel to the death is more likely to use actual spells and will be a straight fight, and a friendly contest could be arranged such that a "forceless" approach is taken such that there are no tangible effects or consequences.

Just a minor point on the warping points and twillight, if using the warping idea I'd wait until the certamen was over before applying warping points. It's only then that a fight for control is required. That should let the contest flow while keeping the danger of twilight intact.

This is how we've played certamen, and it does add a little uncertainty to a contest, a bit of fear. Not much, though, really. Certamen is a gentleman's duel--the other conflict is called Wizards' War--and as such it has rules of "form" and tradition and such. We don't think much of "bad form" or bucking tradition in our modern society, but remember that back then tradition and social responsibilities were hugely important. People killed themselves for vague notions of "honor" that were, to them, as real and solid as their tombstones. So breaking a social custom or tradition was never done lightly, on a whim. And once a mage earned a reputation as a dishonorable duelist he would find himself the subject not of more certamens, but feuds and vendettas, not to mention general scorn and cold shouldering. In the middle ages being outcast was worth than death.

We've had very few certamens in all our sagas and no one's abused the one free spell to the winner rule, although a lot of very funny effects were generated.

But that's what Wizard War is for. Certamen is intentionally designed to be low risk, to make it useful as a dispute-resolution mechanism and avoid messy Wizard Wars or even messier Code-breaking. If it becomes more dangerous, or seriously risks your life or power, then people will not use it.

I like Certamen being harmless, for several reasons. If your desire is to kill, cripple or otherwise harm your opponent, then you have the alternative of Wizard's War (or of course, breaking the Oath). And should Certamen be harmful, then it wouldn't be any different from Wizard's War (other than in the direct method), and so it wouldn't be the political tool it is as written. If EVERY conflict must either be brought to Tribunal or result in a violent confrontation, the Order as it is couldn't function. There is a reason why dueling was banned most places after all. Frankly, Certamen is what you do if you're not willing to bring the confrontation to a violent confrontation, that's what Wizard's War is for.

There were some expanded rules for Certamen in HoH:TL but I do not have that book, and cannot recall what they were, so that might or might not help.

As I've read them (I currently play a Tremere), those extra rules are for specializing your Tremere in distinct 'schools' where you trade one thing for the other. Exampli Gratia: School of the Hoplomachus - the practicioner always loses initiative, and may subtract up to his Finesse score from his Attack, but adding twise this value to his Defense. In effect, by trading in the initative, the practicioner can duel very defensively, to begin with, and perhaps guage the opponent's strength, to adapt his own fight.

My ideas some time ago, about certamen, was that I wanted it to be a lot more like Dimicatio. Instead of using the same 2 arts every round of duelling, with only which one is for Atk and which is for Dfn as variable, I'd want all arts to be possible. The Tremere still have a Focus with this, doubling the lower of the relavant arts. And magi good at various attack and defense spells will do good in this duel.
Magi in the duel use a 'shadow' form of magic, one that does not damage or affect the enviroment, like regular magic does. Either Spontaneous-like magic (but not halving for fatigue use, dividing by 5 for not - something else which I haven't quite figured out) or Mastered Formulaic spells, where the magus took the a mastery called 'Certamen' Perhaps even a two-tiered ability, where you need Mastery 2 with both Certamen Use and Certamen Attack for it to work. The idea is for the 'Formulaic' spells to be better than 'Sponting', so I need some divisor/penalty for totals when sponting, but not /2.

So initiative is determined as normal. Faster magus attacks, slower magus needs to try and whip up some defense. He needs to obey the normal rules for fast-cast defense, reagrding Form/Tech vs. what the attacker did. Perhaps there should be some bonus if using a Formulaic spells known with the Fast Cast Mastery, as well as Certamen Use. If an attacker lands a spell on the opponent, it deals Fatigue loss, rather than the normal spell-effects from normal Hermetic spells. This fatigue loss ought to be based on Penetration, because this forces the attacker to make tactical decisions. Should I cast a high level spell, which is difficult to defend against, but less likely to Penetrate, or deal much Fetigue loss? Or should I try for maximum Fatigue, but risk having the opponent defend?

I'm still struggling with these ideas, and think best 'aloud'. I apologize to the OP for going OT.

But to adress this, perhaps Warping is too steep a penalty to suffer. House Tremere would IMHO be seriously nerfed.

Timothy has over the last few years brought me around to his method of thinking regarding the Tremere certamen expertise: namely it's a bad idea.

Some effort is always made in formal duel to ensure that the duel is "fair". Yet the background of the game seems to accept that the Tremere have a great advantage over other houses in Certamen. I don't see the rest of the order sticking with certamen when it's rigged against them. There'd be three certamen alternatives suggested at the next grand tribunal and they'd all pass. Certainly some people were better at duels than others but there are also sets of dueling pistols and matched swords created to ensure that skill alone made the difference.

I've house ruled in a different house virtue for the Tremere and I don't regret it one bit.

We play certamen like magical combat.

  • Attacker choses a Form that the defender will use. The defender can use any Technique with this form. Both in attack and defence
  • Defender choses a Technique that the Attacker will use. The attacker can use any Technique with this form. Both in attack and defence
  • You can use any trick up your sleeve.
  • Damage is 1 Fatigue level per 10 points that your total passes over the enemy MR (so you can damage the opponent with Intellego Auram) Parma is not used in Certamen, but MR provided by forms is. Fast defences and counterspells can be used as well.
  • Bonus of up to +5 to your total if you give a good description of what your phantom image is doing and make a thrilling cronicle of the combat development.

Totally non cannonical, but it is more challenging that way than the rather dull (and fairly cumbersome) rules for certamen in the rulebook. Still, not much certamen in our side of the pond.


Since long time back, have a "small" number of virtues that characters of each house can choose from.
And "house flaws" as well, both of which can be taken up to the same level as with Ex Miscellanea (-3/+4).
(having an extra major virtue was a bit too "juicy" to ignore while creating a lot of characters)
Anyway, the "Tremere issue" was one of the reasons for this change.

I would be interested in that list. Do you have it somehwere so we can consult it? :slight_smile:


Well i guess might try to REproduce it rather. Its on paper only for now, and sort of bilingual(ie. messy).
Dont hold your breath waiting, but ill make sure to post it sometime soonish.

That sounds very interesting. Consider me as another person applying good natured pressure on you to see this list :slight_smile:

So Magus1 in first round chooses tech and Form to attack with. Defense by Magus2 must 'answer' to the Form, but with his own choice of Tech? When Magus2 counterattacks, he still must use the same Tech, but may choose a different Form? Which Magus1 must defend with?

I like that, it takes a lot of the initial pressure on the choices of Form and Tech away. Sometimes, the whole duel is decided because of particularly good or bad choices, before it even starts.
This new way, you can get around a lot of arts. A good duellist will be well rounded in a few choice arts, which he will try to use most. But he should not dump all other arts, since opponents might bend the duel towards his weak spots.

Working on it, Bjornaer, Bonisagi and Trianoma has become "computerised" sofar...
Should have it done in a few days or so, depending on how much free time i get.
Have to solve the problem with how to handle HRs and nonstandard V/F as well.

Not exactly what you described. Our system is less dynamic than yours. But guess what, I like your idea A LOT :smiley:

In our original design Magus1 has a fixed Technique, that he can combine with any form. Magus 2 has a fixed form, that he can combine with any technique. This is used for both defence and offense. Fast cast generally get a "drama bonus" (read SG fiat +5 to +10 to the roll) in our certamens, so that the magi are not fatigued so easily and use lots of fast casts to hinder the opponent's move (dispelling spells), or use the fast cast to strike unexpectedly to throw the enemy off balance

Your system is more dynamic than this one, and makes for nasty turnarounds to force the opponent into a weak position, so it is a cool idea. Well thought ultraviolet :slight_smile:

In either case any of the 2 systems is way more interesting than the current RAW certamen rules IMO.