A Notice-ment: Combat Spells

Having read posts by a lot of people, and having started a couple myself, I have often been faced with the following notion:

Magi don't engage in combat. Most never leave their labs.

The first bit is frankly amusing. Looking at AM5's core rules, the number of direct combat or combat-useful spells is quite high. It's not D&D or anything, where there are almost NO non-combat spells, but it is a substantial minority (I haven't taken a count yet, but I'd guess something along the lines of 40% of spells are combat-worthy. Exact numbers to come).

The plethora of combat spells leads me to what I think is a logical conclusion. Many magi spend their lives in the lab, but many others (again thinking of Tytalus, Tremere, many Bjornaer, and the fun-loving Flambeau) do not huddle in towers probing the mysteries of the universe. They are the go-getters, as it were, the people who not only understand power, but let it out of the house to have a run around the block.

Sure, most magi hope they never need to harm a fly, but there are always threats, are there not? Nasty magi, faeries, supernatural beasts, bandits, crusaders, rabid priests getting their God on, practitioners of non-hermetic magic, and the like. One has merely to look at the spell lists and wonder why -- if magi live their lives in their labs and never engage in combat -- are there so many combat spells?

Now my maga I'm playing, a Bonisagus lab rat, knows not a single combat spell. I think she's pretty typical of the maga driven to push magic theory as far as it will go (she's got affinity and puissant, for a total of 7+2 in Magic Theory. Woof!). Not much in the way of Arts yet, and deficient Perdo too. So she's definitely not the combat monkey.

But there are Hoplites and Quaesitores and the like out there as well. There are conflict-oriented Tytalus, the troublesome Tremere, and predatory Bjornaer.

What's bothered me is that I'm noticing a tendency to generalize and make sweeping statements about twelve houses with very different philosophies. I've put up some spells that my character would never use, like the helmet with spikes on the inside spell. Sure, killing mundanes isn't a priority, but sometimes it's necessary. And despite remarks about it being easy, I haven't really seen that, especially given the amounts of damage the body can't take. One good roll with a weapon hit and you're dead.

So pardon this ramble, but I'm still confused on a number of issues (and have slept very little tonight given a failed burglary attempt on my home last night as well as finals in school), so if I'm bouncing all over the topic and seem a little snarky, please take it as the ramblings of an over-tired mind.


In the games I've run there has been very little combat. In fact, most combat is more properly huntering as the magi and their grogs and companions sought out beasts to slay or, on one occasion, a pesky Merenita.

Further, killing mundanes is trivially easy for a magi who has time to make preparations. A turning point for one of my characters came when the covenant called upon him to slaughter a boat-load of mundanes... and he agreed. The sailers littlerally never saw it coming.

I think one of the things that happens is a group has to decide if it will be a combat happy troop or a combat-light one. If one player makes a major combatant and no one else does there will be limited opportunity to use that combatant.

Historically I've seen combat about one out of every three to six sessions depending upon the saga. I disagree with RARodger in that I believe that if one player makes a combat magus when the rest of the group do not make combat magi that character is likely to see a great deal of combat. A situation will be presented to the magi and if they're not playing a sphynx style game the covenant will probably choose one or two magi to take care of the story hook. If the story hook screems combat then they'll send their combatant.

So a covenant with a single violently aligned magus may have that character seeing combat in a higher proportion of stories than a random magus in a covenant entirley full of combatants.

Nothing wrong with combat, the wizards and the Order acknowledge that it's a dangerous world. Physical might is often the yardstick by which people are measured, the middle ages was certainly no different. If the game is merely about what lab activities a magus does, the game gets boring quickly. By the same token it shouldn't be like a D&D dungeon crawl every game session.

Balance needs to be put in. I know that if a campaign I ran had no conflict, then they'd want to quit. At the same time, they do realize that it's safer and easier to get more powerful by staying in the lab, thus I'm challenged with getting them proper incentive to leave the safety of the lab. That's usually not too hard, as all the studying in the world is nowhere near as satisfying as getting out and flexing some magical muscle.

I would think that most Magi would encourage their apprentices to learn at least one or two spells that could be used to defend themselves, it is a dangerous world after all. And while Magi are powerful and more than a match for most small groups of armed men, even one well placed or lucky shot can make an ex-magus, especially with the new rules. Wound penalties seriously affect spell casting. Basically it should be acknowledged that while a magus can kill several times their number of people, there are likely far more people than the Order could possibly kill, and that there might be even more people that are magically resistant (through Faith, Relics, and the miracles of their leaders) than there are Magi in the Order. I believe the Order acknowledges this detente, and so will only go so far to punish wizards that are a little kill crazy, and that mortals (in the know) are also concerned, and so will not think to attack the Order outright, but individuals maybe.

What I have seen, is that most combat is against non-mundanes. Why? because a mundane that attacks the group and suddenly starts seeing fireballs flying around is likely to plnic andf flee. hence, most of the combats I have engaged in have been one sided and 2 rounds short 8more or less).

Now, igf you go against a band of faeries or a monster things change, but if you do not need to be discreet in your magic ussage (ie: you are NOT in a city, castle or an other place where blatant magic can cause problems) then combat is short and brutal for the enemies of the magus. That happens even if the magus is not a combat worthy one. make somene sprout anthers or become green, turn his armour into rubble with a flick of your wand.... and they will panic shouting "socery!" as well.

But to answer the question, yes we see combat aproximately once a month, playing every weekend.

An other point about the original post, is that formulaic combat spells have a reason to exist: you cannot spont in combat. PaulM cited it in an other thread correctly: you cannot rest in combat, so having formulaics that you can cast without fatigue is a must in a combat. Hence, combat spells should be common in the libraries of most covenants. Simply because you need to learn them to be safe out there in the world :slight_smile:



That's a good way of looking at it, Xavi, at least as far as I can tell. I've only cast one spell with my maga thus far, and other than that have studied a bit of Intellego (with Secondary Insight spreading a few more points around). Like I've said in a few posts, I'm about as noob as it gets.

I was thinking that against mundanes, some clever use of Imaginem seems just as effective as frying them alive, and doesn't hurt anyone, either (which is much more in her style). She can already do the Wizard's Sidestep trick, which itself seems a great boon in most combats (though she may never use it, being the lab rat that she is). Still, it's good to know that she has some protection when she leaves the covenant.


My take is that if you are a lab rat, the SG should put you in situations that require combat...ie play to the characters weakness. It always fun to make the characters struggle, and doing so makes the game interesting. Its also fun to watch the combat monkey (with little utility spells) try to work out a problem instead of blowing it up... :laughing:

Oh I think you can get more new. My small little group is just getting started. A couple of us have read some of the books, but this is our first foray into actually playing. I ended up running the story as I had an hour and a half more experience than anyone else at the time. :smiley:


That's cool, Rooster. Glad to see others taking an interest. I've playtested the 5th Ed rules, but that wasn't the same as playing. That was more trying to break it (and probably why I notice the bits I think of as broken still). And I've got a veteran as a SG, which really helps.

Ah, the veteran SG. That must be a covenant boon not listed in my book.


IMC combat is relatively frequent but has recent taken a very strong turn towards assassination. The Magi have local enemies just waiting for them to foul up and enjoy a truely awful reputation at tribunal, they hence cn't really afford to be seen slaughtering people with fireballs and lightening bolts.

Most of the recent conflicts have involved carefully crafted "accidents" that seem to befall their enemies. We are finding this great fun as actually offing someone and making it look natural AND making the timing natural (i.e. no "he met with these weird scholars today, had a flaming arguement then oddly died of a heart attack two hours later") is much harder than it first appears.

Combat against mundanes we like to throw in every couple of months, just to make the magi happy by reminding them how badass they are. Every since the magi started travelling with heavily armed shield grogs though, bandit attacks have been rare.