Some in my group don't like the free Tremere virtue of the minor focus in Certamen. I've reaad it here as well (so this post might be a re-hash), and I'm trying to come up with an alternate free virtue that still gives the Tremere an advantage.
If the focus is dropped, then the Tremere can get other foci instead, including from Mythic Blood. I suggest we replace it with a Supernatural Ability: Certamen, all Tremere would get it for free and have appropriate Specialties (typically an Art or perhaps a School). The Ability can then be raised (or not) to the Tremere's content. This makes Certamen somewhat like a Mystery ability for them, and it allows them the ability to truly focus on it for decent benefits. It's not that they couldn't focus on it before (they could for example raise all the Abilities involved in Certamen and take the specialty 'In Certamen' for them) but this may narrow the focus and perhaps add gamesmanship. While all magi know how to engage in Certamen, the comparison between a magus and a Tremere in Certamen is that of a hobbyist perhaps vs. a professional.
Some ideas for how the Ability can work and benefit the user.
- It can replace any one of the Abilities that are used in Certamen, such as Penetration for offense.
- It can be added directly to an Attack or Defense total each round (essentially it can be added twice if used to replace one of the other scores and then added here, but in some cases the user might not use it to replace the other scores; the other scores are actually better, but they'd still get to add it one of the attack or defense totals)
Using both of these might be enough. If it is not, here are some additional (a focus can add a decent amount if there is a high disparity in the Arts involved)
- It can increase the amount of Vis that can be used in a Certamen by 1 pawn per point, above the normal maximum of your Arts.
- If you spend a Confidence point to aid a Certamen roll you add +3 and your Certamen score, even if it was already added.
- For every 5 full points in the Ability you get an extra 0 Fatigue level which are removed first, before real Fatigue is lost.
- It adds to your Concentration to avoid being distracted and losing the bout.
With these additional bonuses, it might be more appropriate if they were learned separately, almost like Mysteries, but a bit more minor, with slightly easier scripts (often service to the House and the Order as directed by the ranking Tremere). A Tremere out of Apprenticeship would know Certamen at 1 and gain the first two benefits, then when raising it to 2 seeks out his old Master or another Tremere and provides some service in return for learning the 2nd option (extra benefits from Confidence). This qualifies as a Mystery Initiation lasting 1-2 seasons, and would logically involve certamen displays as well as loyal service.
By incorporating it as an Ability with varying applications it seems a bit more dynamic perhaps than a mere Minor Focus (which can't be studied or improved as readily). And it allows Tremere to improve in different ways and at different rates in their Certamen skill. Plus this eliminates the unexplainable reason why only Tremere can have a minor Focus in Certamen. With the Ability they have to actually police it, as it is a secret they must maintain.
Finally, regarding the Schools, keep them as is (they might take some modification, I'd have to check them again) but say that you can only learn a new School after receiving X level in the Ability, such as on every odd level of the Ability (1, 3, 5 etc).
How does this sound?