Random Thought on Certamen..

I like most of these ideas, particularly the dynamic Te/Fo switching. We hardly ever, EVER use certamen primarily because it's usually a foregone conclusion at the start, unless you have the rare case of two magi of equal power in the arts used. The most interesting part is the "dramatization" ("How are these two going to describe an Intellego Vim duel?"), the actual results not so dramatic...usually. The only characters who ever use it are Tremere, and that with each other. But giving it more of a dynamic ebb and flow just might breathe some life in this old dinosaur.

Regardless of the system, my current magus still says certamen is for sissies.

I'll see if I can't get these ideas somehow integrated with my previous ideas, and summarize them in some coherent form. I'll need to work out a lot of things, run some numbers...It's not inspiration or ideas that elude me, it's the time and the act of pulling myself together to actually do it. There really isn't enough time...

Could you perhaps share that house rule? I'm also in the camp of "Tremere magi should get as much of a bonus in certamen as Tytali get in debate: none, except that they'll train more for it and be on average better than non-house members". Given the Tremere virtue now, Certamen would have been abandoned the second after the Sundering.

Granting them "Puissant Certamen" would be enough: +3 to rolls involving certamen sounds OK to me. And allows to have a magical focus, that is something everybody should have just for the diversity and amazing flavor it introduces to the setting. But that is me :stuck_out_tongue:


I use a batch of xp like skilled mentor or guild trained to represent great care that the House takes to ensure that the nws members that it inducts into its family are sufficiently skilled to do the House's bidding. I couple it to the support of House Tremere rather than the support of a skilled mentor or a Rhine guild naturally.

That is definately a usable option. While the Focus in Certamen can be mightily powerful, you have to take great care to not have any dump-Arts, where your fabulous virtue lets you add twice the score of 0. A constant bonus is nice, and easier to use. Although this way, the Tremere only have a beginning advantage, compared to his sodales from other houses. As time goes, he will advance in Certamen ability in the same rate as others, assuming a similar rise in Arts. But with the Focus solution, every point in Arts matter more and more as time goes by. And a +3 difference really isn't a lot.

I do see the social implications and problems, in the Order. Because why would everybody else accept a method of solving differences, that heavily favours the Tremere? Nevertheless, this is RAW. Never much of a problem in my Sagas.
Not really used very much, I think I only did it twice. First time in 4th ed a Tremere pissed off my Criamon maga, because he stole some wierd artifact, which could have offered clues to the Enigma. She promtly walked up to him and challenged - this took him off guard. She won desicely in a Perdo mentem duel, and subsequently Black Whispered his arse. Hey, that was legal back then, and it only had Dur:Moon.
Second time was quite recently, in 5th ed. A Mercere was angry that my Tremere blatantly insinuated and genuinely thought the Mercere was lying about some vis use, and that he had stolen it from the covenant's meagre stores, to heal himself of a trivial wound. It later turned out to be true (the consequences of this was recently discussed in thread about punishment etc.). The Mercere demanded an apology and that I stopped accusing him, I in turn wanted a truthful answer if I won. I guess he thought he could win by using his good arts and forcing me to use poor ones. But the duel ended up as Rego Imaginem, and I had all advantages. So I cooked him. Unfortunately I went briefly in Twillight, but with no more concequences than all our species changed person. So to the others, it looked like the Mercere won over me. Had he not been out cold for 2 hours, he would have shamelessly used the fact that he looked (and smelled) like me, and tried to trick the rest by admitting defeat. But I had ample time to redo the Imaginem effects, and make us normal before he woke up, to avoid this.

To nitpick, it can't technically be 'Puissant Certamen' since there is no Certamen Ability or Art. :slight_smile: But make it a Virtue granting a flat bonus - like Method Caster - to a certain activity, and this'll make it integrated with the rest of the system. Call it 'Tremere Training' or 'Certamen Mastery', and have it be restricted to House Tremere. Or should it be open to others? This will devaluate the Tremere and remove their 'thing' But is 'Focus in Certamen' restricted to Tremere in RAW?

BTW, back in my 4th ed days, when Certamen was an Ability, Tremere magi often had a Knack with Certamen (info for non-4th ed people: Knacks offered a +1 to +3 flat bonus, for a Virtue costing the same amount). But the main problems IMHO was the use of vis granting +5 per pawn, so even a master of Certamen would be trumped by 3 pawns vis used.

If I recall correctly, Timothy Ferguson's point was that, for Certamen to be accepted as a (non-lethal) proxy for Wizard's War, it should reflect the "power balance" of Wizard War - i.e. between two magi, the most likely winner of a Wizard's War should also be the most likely winner of a Certamen bout. If this were not the case, one of the two parties (the one better at Wizard's War than at Certamen) should have an incentive to eschew Certamen in favor of Wizard's War.

There are a few things to consider here, however.

  1. While Tremere are more powerful at Certamen than their Art scores might suggest, they are also more powerful at Wizard's War than their Art scores might suggest - since their House is so organized, militaristic and cohesive. So, in some sense their advantage at Certamen does reflect, at least partially, their advantage at Wizard's War. As a side note, the same argument can be made to defend the use of raw vis in Certamen, which some people see as "cheating": it simply reflects the advantage of having more magical resources (and being willing to spend them) in a War.

  2. Certamen is a handy tool to resolve disputes. It's fast, non-lethal, and it's widely accepted. Also, as long as neither or both contestants are Tremere, it is quite fair (in terms of reflecting the relative magical prowess of the contestants). Few, if any, other means of dispute resolution enjoy all four advantages. The fact that it favors the Tremere somewhat should be weighted against these advantages. I mean, between a lawsuit with a 50% chance of winning, and a duel to the death with a 55% chance of winning (and a 45% chance of death), which would you choose to settle the damages that an employee owes you for violating an NDA?

  3. Tremere are constantly spending a considerable amount of political capital to maintain Certamen as the means for non-violent dispute resolution. This "pressure" can balance a limited amount of remaining (after points 1 and 2) unfairness. If your boss was constantly raving about how good a certain "incentive-based" salary system is, and it causes you a loss of 10$/month ... are you willing to start an argument about that, or focus instead on getting a promotion, his daughter in your bed, or approval of your vision for the company's development strategies?

EDIT: I try to stress this last point in my games, particularly from the Tremere's side. If you are a Tremere, you should strive support Certamen above all other forms of dispute resolution, even in those cases when it means a (modest) personal sacrifice. Use certamen in favor of debate, even if it means you'll probably have to burn some raw vis. Offer to fight a Certamen in someone else's stead "for free", even if there is some minor risk of warping involved. The House is more important than the individual magus, and continued, widespread acceptance of Certamen as the premier means of dispute resolution is important for the House.

While I agree that there should be an element of this to Certamen, I don't think that it has to follow that the most likely Certamen winner has to be the most likely Wizard War winner. In the real world we tend to favour using a "legal system" to solve disputes rather than, say, "shooting people". This is true even though the "legal system" and "shooting people" favour different people, and even though the "legal system" is quite unfair and weighted towards certain groups of people.

The fact that Certamen is considerably less risky, perhaps more predictable, and more moral than Wizard War should mean that it is the favoured system of routine dispute resolution. The fact that it is not necessarily equivalent to Wizard War in terms of outcome and the fact that it may be weighted towards the Tremere is not really relevant. It's not perfect, but it's better than war.

Inspired by this discussion, I've added the following to the wiki; any comments/edits are welcome...

Also, are all here familiar with David Chart's certamen house rules? His phantasm option allows magi to change the Arts in mid-contest, and - more importantly, for me - grants real meaning to the description of the battle via phantasms. However, I'm not sure how to implement it using the normal ArM5 certamen rules, or if David's rules work well as a replacement to the normal certamen rules.