a heavy wound is a major setback!

In my troupe a grog had a combat botch while fighting against an infernal doggy, which ended with a heavy wound. so he's got a wound penalty of -5 for the rest of this season. The magus casted a "purification of festering wounds" (lvl 15) immediately on the grog.

RAW: it needs 1 season (-5 penalty) to get first recovery roll, then (if improved), it heals to a medium wound (-3) lasting another month. While you have wound penalty -3 to -5, for at least a month in a season, all your study total are halved.

Therefore the grogs gets only half of the adventure XP (because of -5), the season after, he's still one month at -3 , so he still gets only half of the next seasons's studytotal (if its exposure it doesn't really hurt that much). However, for the spell effect, which he needs two seasons in a row, he receives 1 warping point because of half a year with a constant effect. (you cannot "switch off" a duration moon spell after one month..)

Now as the SG I have some remorse playing it like that.. What do you think?
Isn't Ars Magica maybe a bit too limiting and castigating to be enjoyable?

I thought the wound penalty affected totals for die rolls, not study totals, so you don't lose xp from being injured.

Yes, a heavy wound does mean you have to spend at least a season recuperating before you can do much. Given the seasonal nature of activities, this forces wounded characters to take a break. Given how lethal combat can get when supernatural creatures and big spells are involved, a heavy wound is still better than dieing.

If you feel the game benefits from rapid healing, encourage people to take the virtue from City & Guild that allows a crafter to touch their tools to someone's wound, spend a long-term fatigue, inflict a warping point on the wounded person and give them an immediate recovery roll - it allows rapid healing but at moderately steep cost and some risk.

Think about it differently for a moment. This can actually be a fantastic thing.

One of my big problems with D&D is that pain is nothing. If you're not threatened with death, you're not really challenged. So everything ends up being strange from a human perspective. Pain doesn't worry you. This is really because healing is so trivial.

In ArM5, healing takes time or vis. So it's expensive in some way. This makes it so you really don't want to get hurt. That should mean you tend to play characters with more human perspectives, where you try to avoid getting hurt, not just avoid getting killed.

Now, how is this advantageous from the GM/SG perspective? It means you can threaten characters without having to worry about the possibility of character death any time you do so. There can still be deadly threats. They just don't have to be the only real threats. Meanwhile, when players look to avoid injury instead of just being willing to take a beating, they tend to look for more creative and interesting solutions to conflict.

Not quite. Look up ArM5 p.178f Activities While Injured. In Gambrius' case, with Wound Penalty -5, "Study Total is halved".


It is a drastic change from any other RPG, but it is part of the design.
This is the reason why:

  • there is a rooster of grogs - there could be a high turnover
  • mage don't go out without a shield grog, you find it crippling for a grog, imagine how crippling it is for a mage where season/time is the most precious currency
  • companions go more frequently on adventure than mages
  • most covenant will invest in a few lab text with "Ring of healing", to grant large recovery bonus to circle or even whole room.

It takes a while to adjust since in most other games healing is either very fast or happens in between session, thus without impact on the game.
Contrary to the great old one (D&D), combat is a relatively rare occurence in Ars Magica, it is designed to be a risky business that should be avoid at all cost or be done from an overwhelming position. Making heroic stances and prowness something to remember.

As callen mentionned, it gives a unique opportunity to define mage & companion characters by how much they care about their turbula: are they cannon fodder or good friends ? How much risk are they willing to take ? How loyal and heroic would soldiers be when they know they will be sacrificied without a blink ? or on contrary that mages would use their most powerful magics to protect them or even grant magic items to compensated some lasting wounds ?

It also give opportunity to RP different grogs: the one who survived dozen battles with as many scares, each time healed by magic, bearing sigils of four different mages; the group of new recruits assigned to the "Red shirts" company ("Sir, why do they call this company the Red Shirts", "Why do you call me by a number and not by my name ?", "Why do we need to learn Get Down in latin ?").

I personnally don't play the study malus from wounds (at least for light and medium), my group always has a corpus themed magi to negate those maluses.... better to gain some distorsion for them!

I also use a (i think common) house rule for wounds, that is, if they are treated right away by a specialist it allows for a recovery roll. It makes the game a little bit less deadly, but it doesn't help for instant death (and those happen easily). regarding grogs... don't you get to renew your roster very easily ? do they really have names ?

This is true. However I don't see anything forcing a penalty for the grog's story exp for the adventure in which he is wounded. IMHO that is unduly harsh.

However the time it takes for him to heal he is limited regarding seasonal activities. For grogs this is easily remedied byt simply not doing extremekly detailed/season-by-season advancement for them. If you instead use the training packages from Grogs this level of detail becomes irelevant. Also, Grogs are assumed to have 2 seasons on duty and 2 free seasons (as an abstraction of their time). Benign magi should let the Grogs heal on company time rather than in their free time.

Finally, a covenant should have a Corpus-savvy magus invent a recovery-boosting spell. It's not instant healing, it does not cost vis. But recovery can be more or less guaranteed and so only takes the normal amount of time. Heavy becomes Medium after a season, Medium becomes Light after another month, Light is fully healed after another week.

I wrote a long post with nice exerpts of our last gaming session, but sadly when I pressed submit, the forum asked me to log in, and after that my post was gone.. :blush: :cry: :imp:
sadly I don't have time to write all once again.

@darkwing, thanks for the virtue idea: crafters healing (C&G p.71)
@callen & ezechiel: I agree with you guys, that this opens up a lot of storyflavor (loyality of badly treated grogs is an issue) and adds realism (pain is not fun!), and makes combat a serious thing to do..

in our troupe every gamecharacter even the grogs have a name, personality and background. so its not just vanilla grogs you can exchange, when they don't "function" anymore..

thanks for your comments..


Hmmm, thirded?

There is also an optinal rule on Lords of Men, "Mitigating Deadly Wounds", that let the SG trade a serious wound with a lesser one and a Minor Flaw. So if you don't mind having your grogs of choice with some ears or eyes less, you can cut recovery duration quite a bit.

Anyway consider that these people go around chopping other people parts with very sharp iron blades, smacking their heads with hammers and so on: recoveries for these activities when they go wrong have to be long and painful.

So what Callen said: it's good to put this into the table as you put pain into play. And it's also a wonderful roleplaying activity: during the post-adventure seasons when magi use to shut their lab doors and spend that blood stained vis they got investigating these treasures they found, it is a lot more fun to play the grog who is recovering from heavy wounds, eager to go back to his feet, panicked to have loss the favor of the magi and maybe challenged by younger competitors without missing parts than these who just stack XPs by practicing with wooden swords in the covenant's yard.

Intrestingly, I also felt that bisecting the storyxp, just because of the heavy wound, is kind off too much. Isn't receiving a heavy wound and surviving the conflict a very rich experience by itself and worth a certain amount of XP :stuck_out_tongue: (remembers me of the 90ies playing MERP- when you earned the most XP for the wounds/damage you tanked.. -> strangely my players voluntarily wanted to get wounded!?!? :open_mouth: )

However, in the end we want to do nice character development, which is a major part of ArM5. So killing grogs --- only for increased drama (last year the beloved scout-grog got lost- shocked by the frightening sight of a smoothface roaming the nearby mountains- they found his dead body at the bottom of a cliff.) sad but unforgettable..

@ ouroboros: Thanks for the tipp of Lords of Men, "Mitigating Deadly Wounds" -> it comes close to our confidence/storytelling house rule [url]https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/house-rule-confidence-storytelling/11200/1], paying a CP to avoid (a deadly) combat botch. Maybe I can incorporate something like that :slight_smile:

Embrace the disaster!

You could dot healing potions around the place, of course you could. And good on you if you do. If that's what you and your troupe fancy then go ahead.

But I see things a little differently.

Ars Magica, for me, is a game where the consequences are often as notable and as important as the actions. The magus sends the grogs in first and one of them gets seriously hurt by the giants? Well then they have to live with those decisions. How do the covenfolk feel about that? What about the other grogs? Are they waiting for it to be their turn? How come the magi get magical armour and their fighting men don't?

But what if, grog severely injured, the magi take that grog thirty miles up the road to the nearby covenant to seek healing? Possibly at great cost. Or sends word that they need a healing ritual cast. Does that act cement friendship between covenants? Or does it put the player covenant in debt?

And healed magically or not, does that once-grievous wound smart during the winter months? Does it threaten to open up when the Infernal is encountered? Does the grog proudly show off the scar? Or are they affected and resentful?

Ultimately, for me, a character losing out on a few XP over the course of a character's lifetime isn't a big deal. The opportunity to build story and character around the events is what I look for. The story of a once-loyal grog sergeant that harbours resentment over the course of the season while laid-up and in pain is worth losing a few XP for.

By the RAW gaining story xp takes a whole season; you need "the rest of the season" to "consolidate" what you have learned under pressure. This interacts somewhat wonkily with wound penalties. If one is using "genuinely free" seasons, like most magi, then a -5 wound taken at least one month before the end of the season halves the story experience; otherwise it does not, which is not a very natural outcome. If one is using "work and free" seasons, one has to adjudicate exactly which time is "wound time", which gets even iffier.

However, note that the SG is free to determine the exact study total yielded to each character by an adventure, so he can use this freedom to offset in whole or in part the reduction to the study total caused by wounds.

Oh, there's an old error I hadn't caught. You could study for a half a season and then go into a magical sleep for a little under two months and still get 2/3 the study total, but if you're wounded and could still study with difficult instead of the magical sleep, then you only get 1/2 the study total. It should be 2/3 to match the chapter on advancement, dropping to 1/3 if it's longer than 2 months.

Handing out extra Story Exp to offset a penalty for being wounded which you insist on applying seems a very convoluted way of doing things.

Story exp is said to require the entire season to consolidate, nothing more. It is not mentioned as study - which being wounded limits - nor is it a productive activity (labwork, craft) which being wounded also makes impossible. It issimply thinking about what you've learned.
Would you deduct story exp for a magus spending a month in twilight, because he did not ponder an entire season about what he learned on the adventure?
Also, it is a matter of balance. Otherwise an adventure of 10 days or less does not affect the season of study so you effectively cash in double experience. The way things are you're forced to make a choice.
Furthermore, magi on adventures sometimes waive story exp in lieu of the study they had otherwise planned, if it is better. If they are wounded thet may have to drop the study, but still gain the story exp.

As always, do things the way they work for you. I allow Grogs to recover on company time, and don't penalize story exp for being wounded. I see no rules disagreeing with this. And I've yet to hear a player of mine complain.

I have an additional question about wound penalties.

Obviously wound penalties (and fatigue for that matter) apply to attack totals, but do you also apply them to damage totals? RAW are quite clear:

But there could be some room for interpretation here. Since penalties are already indirectly a part of the damage total due to the fact that a character's attack advantage is reduced from wound/fatigue penalties, do you "again" add these penalties to the damage total or not?

I could see arguments to support both views. How do most of you play this out?


damagae is not rolled separately, the roll is in the attack, so that is where the penalty applies. Otherwise you are applying it twice.

Yes, this is true for the situation described.

To add to this for clarity, damage is rolled in some cases, such as Pilum of Fire. And in that case, you roll Soak. I've heard people go both ways on this. I don't apply Wound Penalties to Soak rolls, and I use no botch dice with them.

I don't apply Wound Penalties to dam rolled for a Plum of Fire - the magus does not do the damage the fire does. But the penalty applies to the spellcasting roll.
Also I apply Wound Penalties to Soak rolls! Since they apply to Dfn they indirectly affect Soak in combat. So they should also effect situations where you're hit by a PoF. Also, it makes killing something tough really hard with Magic - unless direct Wounds or very powerful -while a paper cut in combat could kill the same creature, if it had racked up 17 minor wounds!