Been batting this around as an alternative way of making Tremere "Good" at Certamen. It hopefully fixes the problem of the clan being too good at Certamen, while still keeping some of the flavor of the house being a bit over specialized.

The first core change is that Tremere Wizards don't get Magical Focus Certamen as their house virtue. Instead they get a virtue that funtions a bit like a fairy sympathy trait mixed with something like Skilled Parens or Guild Training. My tentative name for this Virtue is Certamen Trained.

As far as crunch goes Certamen Trained provides a +2 bonus (or maybe +3 still debating) for any Ability total relating to Certamen. This obviously includes the Initiative, Weakening, and Resistance Totals of an Actual Certamen as well as potential Concentration checks that occur during the Duel. It can also be applied to ability checks related to Certamen out side of a bout, like Intrigue, Guile, and Etiquette checks for establishing the terms of a challenge or even Code of Hermes for legal matters involving Certamen. It also provides it's bonus to the Teaching ability when using Certamen as a Teaching tool. (More on this in a minute) Like fairy Sympathy this bonus functions like a specialization bonus only larger. As such the bonus provided by Certamen Trained can not be used at the same time as a normal ability specialization or a fairy sympathy.

Also Certamen Trained provides 90xp (60 or 120?) However another feature of these rules is that House Tremere has greater requirements of it newly gauntleted Magi. Parens are expected to ensure their apprentices develop what the House considers the core skills of a Magus as well as abilities important for good citizenship. Newly gauntleted Tremere are required to have a score of 2(3?) in the Core Certamen Abilities Finese, Concentration, Penetration, and Parma Magica (Yes Parma, I know). Plus the abilities Teaching, Code of Hermes, Hermes Lore, and Tremere Lore also need a score of 2(1?) as well.

The fluff of Certamen Trained is thus. More than any other House and even most other Magi House Tremere reveres what they consider to be the Core abilities of a Magus Concentration, Finesse, Penetration, and Parma Magica. House Tremere holds that there founder's inspiration for developing Certaman is as a test of these abilities. That while he could not match his sodales in RAW power Tremere believed the true measure of a Mage was in the skill and cleverness in using that power. And so Certamen is a purer expression of Magus's understanding of their Magic then even Magic Theory. This connection in understanding is even considered a two-way street. As Tremere use Certamen as a powerful teaching tool. And just as the act of Certamen shapes individual Magi its believed the ritual of Certamen shapes the order. In short house Tremere is totally crazy obsessed with Certamen.

A further rule I've added into this mix to make it come out a little better is the idea of Certamen Teaching. Essentially there is a method known throughout the order but esspecially favored by house Tremere For teaching Arts and the Core Abilities via Certamen. Certamen Teaching is a one on one teaching method where master and pupil engage in Duel after Duel over the course of a season. The Master chooses what Art or Ability to highlight and explores these in a series of controlled duels. But this method is much less focused then traditional Hermetic Instruction so it lacks the normal +6 bonus for one on one instruction. Instead the student gets and additional 6 ep which they may divide up among the other core abilites and teaching. No more then 2 of these bonus points can be put in one ability in a given season but are not otherwise affected by the instructors level gain limit.

These rules assume that you can apply points to the Parma Ability without actually learning to raise a Parma as per Apprentices. Also if Apprenticeship is being played out and the rules for aquire one's House Virtue from Apprentices are being used then only the bonus +2 will be acquired. It will be assumed that the Parens bonus to Certamen Teaching and Generally higher teaching score should account for the extra x.p,

Why not just give them "Potent Certamen"? +6 to their totals, like they had Potent Magic in it, as a little Mystery virtue for the Tremere? It seems in line with the rules, and is quite powerful, but not overpowering, and opens up "Magic Focus" for them.

The thing to watch for, though, is the Tremere magus who uses these rules and decides to take a minor magical focus in Certamen.

The result is someone who is borderline unstoppable in Certamen, so if you're going to adopt this with a mind to making Certamen a slightly more even play field, you might want to consider blocking that virtue.

I kind-of like the magical focus. In my mind, it's counterbalanced by the support a Tremere magus gets. Note also that a Tremere magus can acquire a magical focus later in life as part of a Cult initiation or similar. They'll have to give up their Certamen focus, but that's just how it goes.

I Call it Certamen Focus, it operates like a magical focus, but it isn't a magical focus. This still allows the Tremere to take a magical focus should they wish to do so.

IMO, the support that the house provides is balanced by the duty it requires. 1 season a year is quite a bit. When you pile on another season of covenant service that is often necessary in many sagas, he has two seasons per year to do advancement or pursue his own lab projects, at the expense of advancement.

Potency for a +6 would be a Major version of the Virtue, wouldn't it? OTOH 'Potent Certamen' has a weakness compared to 'Potent Magic' because there are no spellshere to invent separately with a Potency bonus.

Also, for purposes of balance, using 'Potent Certamen' as Tremere house virtue should be accompanied by the additional rule that no Magical Foci affect Certamen, co 'Certamen Focus' is not allowed anymore.

Edit: Also, if 'Certamen Trained' gives a flat bonus to all the totals used in Certamen AND all secondary abilities regarding Certamen (etiquette, tactics, knowing opponent's weak Arts) AND gives a lump of exp to spend on abilities relevant for Certamen...That's a lot for a Minor Virtue. In fact, it sounds like 3 Minor Virtues to me.

Although I like both the idea of the broad, flat bonus as well as the 'amount of exp for a limited group of abilities'. But the first concept really sounds the most Tremere-ish to me. They use Certamen for the sake of Certamen, they excel at it to use it. They don't practice Certamen because it is good training in Finesse, Penetration, Parma Magica etc. which are useful in other endeavours - this latter way sounds more like FLambeau to me.

My solution would be:

Tremere has a few different schools of certamen that gain their bonus (in either attack or defence roll) from a certain skill (it's the same as the skill value): Leaderhip, Awareness, Athletics , Melee (a house rule skill), Brawl or Bow (hosue rule). It's a way for Tremere to identify and reveal/hide their skills to each other, but magi from other houses have no clue about the difference.

Yes I go back and forth a lot on the flat bonus. It might be a bit much. There are a lot of factors that make me think it's a worth a bit less than an "Average" virtue on it's own.

My general design philosophy for this change is two fold though. First is that the having Certamen Focus as a house Virtue is too unbalancing to the whole concept of Certamen. But I still wan't to keep the concept that as a whole Tremere are noticeably better at Certamen then any other house. Just not so much better that no sensible Magi would duel a Tremere.

The second part is that most of the time a Magus's house virtue has some sort of broad influence on their character concept but there are still numerous interesting ways to do that for each house. But a house virtue, focus or not, that applies only to Certamen just doesn't seem to have that potential.

Or to put it another way IMOHO their are dozens of unique character concepts for every house that use their own House Virtue to good effect. But there really seems to be few Tremere concepts that are distinct from each other but still distinctly Tremere.

I also dislike the certamen focus. Makes it very unlikely that the order would still use certamen after a few high ranking magus realize the unfair advantage the Tremere have...

The simplest solution we have found so far was two fold. One replace the focus with the option to chose between cautious sorcerer or puissant intrigue. Second we moved certamen into a mystery structure where each house have their own little twists granting +1 here and there after reading the script. The Tremere just happen to have a few more that are readily available within the house.


I think that's a pretty workable solution. It sorta moves the Tremere out of the position of House Certamen. But as you point out that position if held to strongly would break the usefullness of certamen.

One Idea I've also looked at is having a choice of virtues like Jerbiton. Instead of being virtues themed twoards 'scholarship, art or soiciety' say it's some thing like any General Virtue that applies directly to some aspect of Certamen. So any skill Affinity or Puisance for relavant abilities. Great or improved characteristics or skill point pools.

But remember that House Tremere only has a throretical advantage in Certamen with their Focus. It all depends on the Arts chosen for the duel, whether or not the Focus is decisive or not. A young Tremere with low Art score, even 0s in some, needs to be very well prepared and clever in order to be guaranteed a victory against an older opponent, or someone with more luck regarding Arts chosen.

Sure, an older Tremere who has grounding in all Arts - like you need to train an apprentice - won't risk duelling with a single 0 in his totals. But I still think an equally old magus from a different house, with comparative Arts has a fighting chance. Unless he is overly specialized and the Tremere knows this. Arranging for a Certamen using your favourite Arts is an even bigger boon for a Tremere with this focus.

So by and by I'm beginning to think the Tremere Focus is less of a problem in Certamen than the huge impact the potential of mumtiple 1s on the stress die has. It's simply too random, especially for younger magi with low Art scores, typical for spring sagas just starting. And if you experience this a few times you may get tired of Certamen and just not want to use it for the remainder of the saga. Plus it's not really that exciting (unless you really work for it), and kind of static once the Arts are chosen.
But I don't have any better ideas, things would get too complicated fast.

IMO, 90 xp plus a fixed bonus in certamen is a bit too much for a free house virtue.

If you want to replace the focus in certamen with another virtue, why don't you give them a "secret" certamen ability, that could be used as a bonus, either in attack or defense (magus choice round by round) ? The former editions of ars magica had this ability, it was removed in 5th edition.
As a secret supernatural ability, a beginning tremere should have a free level one in the ability (and the player could buy a higher level if wanted).

Having said that, IMS I trashed any secret of the Tremere concerning certamen. They only have a talent in penetration and usually specialise in "preferred arts of magi" for the Order of Hermes lore ability. With this small bonus and this knowledge, they are able to take an advantage in many certamens.
And of course, for each important certamen you have the right Tremere (in many tribunals, they are strong collectively).

IMO, granting a simple bonus to Arts (in certamen only, obviously) or attack/defense that can scale to remain valuable is clean and easy as long as you also disallow certamen as a Magical Focus. It's easy enough to jack most Arts and Abilities through the roof in AM5 RAW that such a bonus should be enough.

I homebrewed a Tremere Certamen Training minor virtue that added what amounts to a form bonus to any Art when it's being used in certamen. I.e., for every five points in an Art (or part thereof), the magus or maga receives an additional +1 for attack and defense rolls.* You can grant bonuses on the back end to Weakening, Resistance, etc., but granting bonuses directly to the Arts means they'll go into attack/defense and be rolled into the Weakening/Resist anyway. Players are used to calculating form bonuses/mag, so it's relatively quick to add into any roll. If a Tremere completely neglects an Art (i.e., a score of 0), it's not going to do anything for them, but it gives them a small edge even with low arts and a significant bonus with Arts they focus on. For dedicated duelists who have relatively balanced Arts, it helps them be flexible against more specialized magi, especially if used in concert with various HoH:TL certamen schools.

  • Full disclosure: I homebrewed an entirely different set of rules for certamen so these values may not seem that compelling for the RAW.

I like the virtue Skilled Parens for the Tremere. It represents a rigorous training systematically implemented into the house. They can invest some of those 60 extra xp in certamen-relevant skills without completely unbalancing the odds. This, plus an easier access to special training, lets them keep an edge in duelling.

While I sort of appreciate certain aspects House Tremere's deliberate focus on a core aspect of Hermetic Magic (according to their Founder) and how it prevents any member having any other magical focus to make them outstanding from the rest of the House, I also see some appeal in removing mMF: Certamen.

Instead of Potent Certamen, have you considered the House virtue should be named Special Circumstances: Certamen. Still gives you the +3.

Or for something more esoteric, and involving more number-crunching, a special House Virtue called something like Affinity with Certamen. It would mean that whenever you engage in Certamen, treat your Technique/Form combo as if each Art had 50% more experience than to reach its current score. And by current score, I mean after any Affinity and Puissanrt Art had already been added in.

For example, Newby of Tremere is engaged in Certamen using a Technique he has an effective score of 9 in, and a Form whose effective score is 4.
9 represents 45XP. increase by 50% and it is 67XP, which is an effective score of 11.
4 represents 10XP. increase by 50% and it is 15XP, which is an effective score of 5.
So rather than a Te + Fo of 9 + 4 =13, Newby would enter the Certamen match as if his Te + Fo were 11 + 5 = 16
An effective bonus of +3.

The bonus would slowly increase as Art scores increase.

Naturally these bonuses would be less than a mMF: Certamen, so House Tremere would not win so many Certamen matches, but it is an alternative to consider.

Yeah, I was thinking something along the same lines. However, to make it a bit more useful, I would argue that this could be pushed out to Special Circumstances: Magical Duelling, which INCLUDES Certamen, but also allows the Tremere to be good at what Certamen is supposed to be training you for: fighting other wizards. (EDIT - yes, I know it's supposed to be a replacement for Wizard's War - I would argue that it can act as much as practice for the tactical fundamentals of WW as it is a replacement.) This would include related non-magical abilities, as well - such as the logicstics of setting up a Wizard's War or the politics surrounding a March.

I would argue that Affinity with Certamen, while a (relatively) simple game mechanic, is probably a bit fiddly - in that you need to calculate the Affinity score quite a lot. I think I would prefer that it be a separate Ability or flat bonus. (such as Puissant, or the above Special Circumstances.)

EDIT - or alternately (has has been suggested previously) have a Certamen ability that acts as the Weapon ability for when you cast spells (Regardless of whether or not you're in a duel), in terms of Initiative and damage rolls and whatnot. Just having the Tremere have an Affinity/Puissant in that would probably be fairly useful, but not unbalancing.