The Apprentice Gauntlet in Ars Magica is the last event and potentially the biggest which a starting Ars Magica Magus character will have before gameplay begins. For some Houses this is just a formality and for others it is an arduous or horrible test. In some sagas the character background is not complete until the player has detailed the gauntlet, and that’s an approach I strongly encourage. The members of House Tremere use the magical competition called Certamen as this test of skill and capability.
The Houses of Hermes book for House Tremere describes a Certamen event between the Master and Apprentice which the Apprentice can lose and usually will. It is ceremonial in nature, and as in many other aspects of a Magi’s life are more complex, I’m imagining that often there is more to the process than a single round of Certamen.
Here are notes from a play-by-post game in which a Tremere character is arranging the gauntlet of his Apprentice (thread on the forums).
Master Vocis is making taking a number of actions in preparation for Micaela’s Gauntlet. Starting in early 1239 to perform the Gauntlet in 1240.
Part 1 – Briefing Micaela.
Stopping her readings one morning Vocis will sit with Micaela and give her the basics of the year to come.
“It is time for you to prepare for your Gauntlet. ”
“You will be tested in the traditional way, that of Certamen. We have practiced many times with each other and I ask you to continue this practice in the coming seasons so you are properly prepared. I expect you to recall all your lessons on schools and forms, and to remain within the battle and not overwhelmed or excited by it. We seek to prepare, control, and learn. Victory comes from this and is a step taken on a path of sustained growth.”
“Aside from our obligatory formal bout you will also face two other bouts from Magi from within this covenant. I recommend you study all the Magi here over the year and see what you can glean of their preferred Arts, aspects, distractions, and tolerances. Your additional opponents could be any of them.”
“You must also complete for me several other tests and tasks. These will distract from your wider study, which must be accommodated. ”
Part 2 – a Traditional task.
“Additionally you must also bring to me a special branch which will become your voting sigil. Seek our House lore for the particulars of this device. Many bold and inventive choices have been made by the Tremere through our history. The choices and locale are yours to arrange. I will need that within three seasons. ”
Task 3 – a Special enclosure.
The test of Certamen will follow the ceremonial traditions. Starting with rounds to demonstrate each of the schools and techniques which are intended not to prove the more powerful participant but to confirm gone knowledge of schools and methods. Where other Tremere magi would be interested or invited he will do so (no idea if that is traditional). Then Micaela must duel three combatants, Vocis and two others selected from Vocis’s allies and friends in the House.
(I’m uncertain if House Tremere keeps these proceedings private. If not Master Vocis would like other Magi of the Andorran covenant to assist.)
He will find a place within his tower (preferably) or perhaps on covenant grounds if more space is needed and build a small covered amphitheatre. Or a specially re-decorated hall or chamber. Traditional House colours and sigils, with threatening and gracious artwork.
Part 4 – Master Vocis’ gift.
Vocis will arrange for a copy of some useful utility spells and copies of some of his own lab texts to be made, and presented in a case. Given its a few years out that shouldn’t be difficult to slip into the work orders for the scribes.
Part 5 – The apprentice must choose a new name.
“Lastly if you succeed this Gauntlet you will have the opportunity to choose your Hermetic name. Again the choice is largely yours. Choose well Micaela.”
From that multi-part fluff a large part of the play was a series of Certamen dice rolls which showed the real advantage of the Tremere mMF in Certamen. There is no substitute for having useful Finesse, Parma, and Penetration scores (approx 4+ in all) when expecting Certamen, however the ability to level the playing field somewhat using Arts is very advantageous.
We pbp roleplayed the transfer from Apprentice to Magus, and then hand waved a lot of the particulars that would have been played out in a face-to-face game, as it wasn’t going to change an outcome from another player character, and was basically a guaranteed outcome.
If it were part of a new character’s introduction I think it would have been a great kick-start.