Revised Parma and Certamen


I'd like to share my thoughts on this topic.

My intent here is to make Certamen a real combat method as well as a dueling method. I have also made Parma stronger in order to make the Certamen tactically favourable in more circumstances.

Anyway tell me what you think.

Revised Parma and Certamen


Parma creates a magical ward about the caster or a group which includes the caster. The Parma Magica ritual has a casting time of one diameter and duration of Sun.

A Parma Magica ward provides a base magic resistance of Parma skill level x 5. In addition, the Parma caster's Form score that corresponds to the incoming effect is added to the Magic Resistance. These Form bonuses do not provide Magic Resistance independent of Parma. Without Parma the magus has no magic resistance.

If the magus considers himself in immediate danger of magical attack he can go 'on guard'. In this state the Parma Magica surrounding the magus (or group) becomes visible as a faint cloud extending about a foot from his body. The cloud swirls with colors corresponding the Forms and Techniques. This cloud generates no light itself; therefore its visibility depends on local lighting. Maintaining the 'on guard' state requires a fatigue test every minute.

While 'on guard' the magus automatically adds his Technique score that corresponds to the incoming effect, to his Magic Resistance.

The magus can also make his Magic Resistance particularly affective against one Form. He can spend a Fatigue Level to double one Form bonus. This extra protection lasts for a diameter, but only one Form enhancement can be active at any one time. He may also expend a Fatigue Level to prevent his Parma collapsing via a Certamen attack; doing so restores is to full function.


The Certamen ritual is method of casting a spell that first acts to dispel any Parma Magica the Target may have. All Hermetic magi can employ this casting method.

The Certamen attacker first decides on a spell. The spell must affect the Target directly, rather than through a medium, but otherwise any spell may be cast via a Certamen ritual. The caster must first successfully cast the spell, fulfilling all necessary conditions of the spell, such as range, line of sight or arcane connection. If the spell is successfully cast a Certamen phantasm forms and the Certamen combat begins the following round. The phantom takes on a form appropriate to the spell it embodies.

Casting a spell via a Certamen ritual creates an obvious visible affect, as the Certamen phantom forms before the caster. This gives alert opponents the option of generating their own phantom the same round; this allows for simultaneous engagement the following round. Alternatively the magus can trust their raw Penetration and simply cast a spell normally. Spells like Wind of Mundane Silence may also be used to dispel the phantom directly.

If the Target (or magi within the Target) has no active Parma Magica the spell proceeds as normal. If the Target does have an active Parma a Certamen combat proceeds.

A Certamen combat may be one-sided. In a one-sided combat the defender does not have a Certamen phantom to contest the field. A one-sided Certamen attack consists of a phantom battering down the defender’s Parma Magica uncontested.

The defending magus may fight back however he chooses, using either normal casting or Certamen phantom; he may even attack physically if he chooses. However, he cannot escape a Certamen phantom by moving out of the spell’s range or line of sight. Once it has begun the Certamen ritual maintains the link.

If the defender(s) decides to counter-attack via a Certamen phantom, he needs to spend a round conjuring the phantom; as the attacker did. The phantom then engages its opponent the following round. Unless the defender started conjuring his phantom in the same round as his opponent, the first Certamen round is one-sided.

When both are conjured the phantasms battle to and fro between opponents. In the case of Arcane Connection Ranges, a window of sorts appears before each combatant through which the phantoms battle. If he is being attacked at Arcane Range he may attack back with an Arcane Range spell. The active Certamen ritual provides the defender with a useable Arcane Connection for such counter-attacks.

Each round the Certamen attacker and counter-attacker(s) generate a Penetration total for their spells (the phantoms); this is the strength of their Certamen phantom. The strengths of the opposing phantoms are compared and the difference determined. This difference is subtracted from the Magic Resistance of the magus with the weaker phantom, representing the damage done to their Parma Magica. If a magus’s Magic Resistance ends the round at zero the opponent’s spell takes effect. Additionally the Parma Magica ritual is completely dispelled and needs to be re-cast. At this point the magus has no Magic Resistance.

Unless a defending magus is incapacitated or unconscious he is automatically considered ‘on guard’. At any time he may also choose to expend a Fatigue Level in order restore any damage done to his Parma Magica by Certamen attacks. The restoration can occur after all phantom attacks have been resolved; thus he can avoid complete Parma failure (note that a magus may find himself facing multiple phantoms).

A Certamen attack continues until one of the following occurs: the phantom is dispelled, the spell takes effect, the caster is unable or unwilling to continue, a failed concentration check or a botched a roll. If this happens the corresponding phantasm disappears and the Certamen combat becomes one-sided or ends. If they are still able, the magus can re-join the Certamen field by conjuring a new phantom. A magus may decide to abandon a phantom in order to change their spell. Whether they lose a phantom willingly or not they are left undefended for at least a round.

If the Target contains multiple magi with active Parma Magica, the Certamen attacks are run in parallel. The spell only takes effect if all Parma based Magic Resistances are reduced to zero.

Normally, in a formal Certamen dual, the first magus to land a spell successfully wins. However, the dual may continue for any number of spells until one party concedes or cannot continue.

At first (and second) read through, the rules feel a little too complicated for my tastes. But I think you're right in the underlying assumption that there may be better ways to do both of these things than ArM5 currently provides.

Parma, for my troupe, has always felt a little "all or nothing". It's very passive in that once you cast it, you have a consistent and reliable magic resistance.

Certamen also causes problems for my troupe. It tends to feel a little too detached from the magi. The nature of the phantoms means it automatically distances the action from the magi themselves. Now, if the magi could summon and use their own favourite and/or most powerful arts... that's a certamen I'd like to see. Nobody wants to see two compromise Intellego Auram phantoms kick off, but I'd pay to see the Flambeau take on the Terram specialist.

We've already got some working rules for fast cast spells, and frankly I'd go for an adaptation of those.

So you like the idea of added combat options for Parma and spellcasting, but more simple?

Tbh I can't see your complication issue. Compared to the existing Certamen there doesn't seem much in it imo. Compared to the sort of stuff found in the suppliments its primary grade. Perhaps its just badly written?

Certament should, for my tastes, be quick easy and decisive from a play perspective. If there's scope for the thing to roll on for rounds on end then it stops being fun.

And if you're going for a rewrite of the certamen rules, why limit effects to those that only affect the target directly? I'd prefer certamen to be a kind of twilight state where the magus can call upon his full arsenal of magic effects (even items, why not?) against his enemy. But, being in a disconnected state, the effects are non-lethal. That should allow the magi to contest the dual by both doing what they're best at.

Sure, as a political gesture, the magi could agree "weapons" up front, but I've never bought the common "phantoms" as an integral part of the certaman process.

As for Parma, I don't like the magic force-field idea. Never have. Why does it have to be a field that extends around anything? Why does it have to extend even a millimetre from the caster? Shouldn't it just be something absolutely intrinsic to the caster (and those he chooses to protect)? One of the dangers of such a thing is that the way you describe it might sound really cool and dramatic to you, but it leaves me cold. And I don't like the adding of technique or the doubling of form etc. It starts to get too clunky for me.

Form resistance should be the always-on constant resistance that we currently have. But personally, I'd like the bonus applied by the parma magica to be used in the same way as a combat defense. I.e. you have it available at your command but you have to consciously use it in order to defend against magic.

Of course, that's just an idea and I don't know how that might translate into fair and robust game mechanics.

The ideas I had, were to somehow make Certamen something to use. The thought of not having to agree upon Arts, and to not use the same Arts through the entire duel. And something where the phantasms actually mean anything, where you need to make tactical choices every round.

So I seem to recall somebody's old House Rules back in my early 4th days, where Certamen is fought using "shadow versions" of the spells and magic normally used. After reading the Dimicatio rules in 5th ed, this has started me thinking:

Suppose Certamen is actually just fought with non-lethal "shadow versions" of spells? With the magnitude of magic being the "damaging" part ("Shadow damage"), as to not nerf the non-combat spell users.

When Certamen is agreed upon, test for Initiative. Fastest magus decides upon a TeFo combo, and casts as per Spontaneous Magic, the other magus must then use apporpriate magic to avoid, deflect or disrupt the attack. Perhaps one could rule that the defence must be of the same Form (por even same Technique) as the attack. If the defender fails to somehow circumvent the attack, it lands. Perhaps giving Fatigue loss based on Magnitude of attack+Penetration "soaked" by Parma+Stm or something.
I also had the idea, that we should invent "Certamen Use" as a Mastery Ability, allowing the duellist to use this spell in "shadow version" in Certamen, instead of Spont'ing.
We should naturally look at the balance of things, whether or not to use regular Spont rules (/2 for Fatigue use and /5 for no Fatigue). But I like the idea that one can choose to spend Fatigue to boost Attack and/or Defence, but at the cost of missing that very Fat lvl if an attack comes through. Perhaps allow attack/defence totals to be the full TeFo combo, and Fatigue use giving further +5, like Life Boost. In that case, make sure there is still some advantage of using a Certamen Mastered Spell (apart from Mastery Ability added to casting total).

To not make things impossible, one should not allow the use of Multi-Casting. But if a Formulaic Spell is to be used as defence, it should be Fast Cast, something the SPontaneous magic can without need for Mastery. It would make some sense to allow Penetration and Resistance Masteries to function, but how about balance?
Naturally all bonus from Foci or talismans should function. As should Similar Spell bonus, if you know a spell doing what you're Spont'ing (but haven't the needed Masteries to use it as Formulaic).
So what I get down to, is that you need Mastery 2 (Fast-Cast and Certamen) to use a Formulaic Spell as defence, but only Mastery 1 (Certamen) to attack with it.
And why not Multi-Cast? Since it seems to be Casting Totals and not Spell Levels that are important, even if using a "Certamen Shadow Spell", it doesn't really help to cast multiple copies, since they'd than have to split the casting totals...So each copy would be a lot easier to defend against, but the defender could only defend against more than one, if he had Mastery 3 (Certamen, Fast-Cast and Multi-Cast), not by Spont'ing. But all copies would "damage" with a correspondingly lower magnitude, and thus easier to "soak" by the defender. So perhaps this makes it so inefficient, that it's not used. And henceforth perhaps not even integrated from normal Hermetic Magic into Certamen, which explains why it's not allowed.
But having Mastery in Penetration with an attack spells still only gives a lot of bonus, if you already have Penetration Multipliers, so that might not be broken. And having Resistance Mastery with an atatck spell just used on you, makes it eqasier to "soak".
I still need to figure out how the differences between Spn't (only having a Casting Total) and using Formulaic (having both a Spell Level and a Casting Total) works...Perhaps this is how the Formulaic has an edge, even if the "Spont'ing" uses full Casting Total, instead of the /2 or /5 for normal improvised magic...using Formulaic as attack, the defender must match the higher of the Level or Casting Total? It could be universally used that way, using the better of Level or Casting Total for attack or defence, and the damage magnitude is calculated on the higher as well...However this raised the point, that in normal magic, it gives a better Penetration to use a low level spell, because of the higher number left over from Casting Total. OTOH if you pull off a spell of higher level than your casting total (but not missing by more than 10), you effectively spend a Fat lvl to get an attack/defence/damage total 1-10 higher than normally possible. But by casting only a low level spell, you risk no Fat loss, and just use the Casting Total. Which would you do?
Alternatively the attack/defence is Casting Total-Spell Level, but the damage is just Spell Magnitude. So using a high level spell means the attack is somewhat easier to defend against, but the damage is high. And a low level spell is difficult to defend against, but doees less damage. This is like regular spellcasting. Only for attack though. If you're defending, is it your Spell Level or Casting Total-Level that you must match against the attack? So an attack difficult to defend against (using a low level spell), should it either require a high level or a low level spell? I'd be tempted to say that defence just uses straight spell level. The higher level spell you defend with, the higher risk of fatigue loss, or even failure. Of course, you can always use Spont.
But how does this latest rant correspond with the Spont way of duelling?

Is this making any sense?

I know there are loads of things to decide upon and balance out, but those were my general ideas.

Avid Certamen Duellists will make sure thet have Certamen Mastery with som attack and defence spells, in order to do well. It's still just duelling, so the "softer" magi won't fail miserably - like an Imaginem specialist might risk against a Terram magus in a stand up fight (sure, he might do okay, if he's good, but most low level Im spells are beat by the lethality of low level Terram or Ignem spells).

Plus you get a combat method unlike regular magical combat, where one - or both - sides can be souped up six ways from sunday with booster spells (like Cat's Grace and Bull's those...) and magical devices.

To continue on my previous train of thoughts...

Perhaps the problems of Spont vs. Formulaic could be solves with saying, that if the Formulaic spell was wast succesfully (with or without Fatigue loss), you may add the magnitude of the spell, to the relevant attack or defence total, including Mastery Ability level. But if it fails to work? Having the attack or defence action fail completely may seem harsh. Perhaps subtract the magnitude of the unsuccesful spell, making it a greater risk to use a spell which fails, but also a greater advantage if it does work.

I still haven't figured out whether to make this Certamen system mosre like Combat, where the excess of attack minus defence (plus some bonus) acts as the damage total. Or to just do like Dimicatio, where if the defence fails, the entire attack hits. Something to be analyzed and balanced out.