Advanced combat

Hi folks,

I'm thinking about writing up some extra rules for combat. These rules will consist of modular options one can use to make combat more detailed, play faster or even a combination of both. The idea is that you can pick and choose what rules you want to include in the Saga. These will go into a document, and I will share it here when I'm done with the first draft.

Note that these rules will only expand on, not change, the rules in the books published so far. :slight_smile:

So I would like to ask for two things. First, what kind of house rules, if any, are used in your Sagas when it comes to combat?

Second, what kind of combat options would you like to see?

I'm mostly writing this for use in my own campaign, but I want to share it with anyone who's interested.

The ideas I have so far involve:
-Formations and tactics in group combat (shield walls, spear walls etc)
-More detailed mounted combat
-Fighting with two weapons and other fighting style
-Larger fights
-More detailed weapons

Anyone want to expand on these? :slight_smile:



The combat rules are a mess, Ars Mag was never noted for it, I don't think this is even worth saying...

So I encourage you to make houserule for them.
Since you ask what are our houserules, I will say that our preferences go strait opposite from you.
We would like to see less detailed weapon, for instance!
There is no real rules for social interaction as it stand now... this is more of a problem for us (well, we manage, of course !)
To each his preference !

We didn't took time to make a complete set of houserule, but any such rule people have here would be interesting for me to check.

Currently, we use the system as it is, but minimise the impact of an organised group. I feel the bonus should be +1 for each member of the groupe after the first. Not +3 as it is now ! A group of 4 is not that disadvantaged encountering a group of 5. Skill should matter most.

Appart from that, we have problem with how magic work into combat, this is unclear.

  • If a mage cast a spell, when does being attacked count as needing to make a concentration roll for it ?

  • It seem from the fast cast rules that you can cast, within a round, a normal spell and as much fast cast defences as your finesses rolls admit. If I can fast cast a spell as a defence, why couldn't I fast cast any other spells ? I mean, casting Pillum of fire as fast cast is a preemptive defence ?! :wink:

I agree with this. My ex-crusader character has the puissant leadership virtue (powergamer!), giving him a score of 7, with speciality combat this results in 8. Given the correct group this adds 24 to the combat rolls (and he has such a group). Some time ago, he and his group killed a faerie-queen with 8 arrows each dealing 54 damage! With those totals, you can almost kill a dragon...........

Well, one idea I had was to eliminate some of the dice in combat. I have not tested it yet, but in group combat or with grogs, I'm thinking about making one of the options to make the rolls static. For me as a storyguide, I don't need to roll as many dice, but the players like it.

So the idea would be not to make rolls for non-important NPCs, and rather assume they get 6 on each roll. So if a NPC has +8 in Attack and +6 in Defense, for example, he would get +14 and +12 in these scores. The variable comes when the player is rolling defense or attack against the NPC. This makes the storyguide's job much easier and quicker. The non-important NPCs can't botch or roll critical successes of course, but that's the trade off.

The idea I have with group combat is to make the combat scores static, as above, even if the group is controlled by a player. I think an average result is better in a group. Again, this is not tested in play.
Rather, I would like to add "tactics" which can be trained with the leadership ability. Whenever a character gains 5 experience points in leadership, he can trade these off to learn a specific tactic (the rules for learning these are taken from learning True Names of demons with Infernal Lore and formula for reagents and such). Leadership can then be specialized in a tactic. Tactics give bonuses and penalties, and are used instead of just adding a huge bonus to either defense or attack. Shield Wall, Spear Hedge, Cavalry Charge are tactics from the top of my head. Also, some tactics lets the group be larger or smaller when compared to Leadership.

I rather like what the the book is trying to do with combat, but it needs a lot more work. What I won't do is to make rules for combat maps, or god forbid, combat grids like in d20. :open_mouth:


Dexterity gives bigger advantage than strength. But in the history you read 'John the strong' type heroes and not 'John the agile'.

The weapon description should mention when certain weapons appeared IRL. E.g. warhammers, two-handed swords.

The armor values are silly. The lamellar armor and the chainmail were roughly equal in defense and certain types of leather armors were far better.

In later eras knights didn't used swords in combat because it was ineffective against metal plate armor. They used warhammers and maces.

The thing I'm working on now are the group combat rules. I'm making them much more dependent on the tactics the group are using, and less dependent on the die roll.
Also, I'm adding different tactics, and these modify the maximum bonus on either Attack or Defense one can get from the Leadership ability of the group leader. Each tactic also modifies the maximum number of members a group can have.
So for example, the tactic Shield Wall only allows a maximum bonus equal to the leader's Leadership (not multiplied by 3), but the Defense is Leadership multiplied by as much as 5. Also, each tactic has other advantages and disadvantages, but these rules are only modification of the existing rules. I don't like to add completely new rules that much.

Also, it will take a round and a Leadership check to change tactics. In this round, the group is vulnerable. That means a group can be "trapped" using one tactic while facing another group. How vulnerable the group is depends on the result of the Leadership check. A great leader could change tactics while the group is in combat with little problems.
I'm also making some rather abstract movement rules.

The tactics I'm working on now are:

-Shield Wall (large group, high defense, low attack, slow movement, and the group must always attack last against groups not using this tactic)

-Spear Hedge (large group, average defense, lower attack, slow movement and the group attacks first against charging enemies)

-Skirmish (low defense against enemy groups in close combat, high defense against ranged attacks)

-Foot Charge (high attack, high movement, low defense)

-Cavalry Charge (high attack, high movement, moderate defense, mounts count as group members)

-Reinforcements (low attack, moderate defense, no movement, the group has backup members to replace casualties)

-Strategy (the leader of the group commands other groups in addition to his own)

The reason I'm making these rules is that my own campaign will include a lot of mundane conflicts, knights and politics. :slight_smile:
Any other tactics I should add? They shouldn't be too complicated or detailed.


If you want to handle battles the most important thing is the moral of the troops. The weaker will run away. And this is the point where the veterans are far better and not simply their weapon skill.

You should represent loose and tight formations. It is often determined the battle.
When the formation breaks the soldiers will soon run away.
IMO 20% or more casualties should be rare.

The Skirmish tactic is the loose formation. The others are basically tight. I'm going make morale a part of it too, but I'm trying to find a way to make it easy and playable. I don't want to have to refer to a table.

These rules gives a clear advantage to skilled soldiers with good leadership. I wanted to make the Cavalry Charge especially dangerous too :slight_smile:

So far, I have this. This is the basic concept. I'm open for ideas which builds on this. :slight_smile:

For each of these tactics, Leadership is used for three ratings. First it decides how many members of the group that can benefit from the tactic at one time. The second and third ratings are for Attack and Defense. Each tactic represents these with a multiplier.
As an example, Shield Wall can include a number of group members equal to the leader’s Leadership Ability multiplied by 2. When using the bonus granted by the group members, the maximum bonus granted on attacks are the leader’s Leadership Ability, not multiplied. But on Defense, the bonus granted can be as high as the leader’s Leadership multiplied by 5.

Learning Tactics:
Whenever a character gains experience points in Leadership, he can choose to use 5 points to learn one of these tactics instead of using them to increase his Leadership Ability.

To calculate the maximum distance a creature can move in a single round, take the creatures Quickness, add its Athletics Ability then add 10. Subtract any Wound Penalties and Burden the creature has. If the creature has four legs, multiply the result by 2. If it has wings and is flying, multiply the result by 5. The final result is the maximum speed the creature can move in a round and still perform an action.

Each tactic is has a movement multiplier. When using the tactic, multiply the movement of the group with the multiplier for the tactic. This is the maximum movement allowed for a group using the tactic.


Group Multiplier: x2
Attack/Defense: x1/x5
Movement: x0.5
Special: All members of this group must use a Round Shield or Heater Shield. When in combat, the group using this tactic will always loose initiative against any group not using this tactic.

Group Multiplier: x2
Attack/Defense: x2/x3
Movement: x0.5
Special: All members of this group must wield the same weapon, either long spear or pole arm. If the group using this tactic is being charged, they will always win the initiative against the charging group.

Group Multiplier: x1
Attack/Defense: x2/x1 (x2/x4 ranged)
Movement: x1
Special: Use the ratings in parenthesis for ranged combat. The group can use this tactic even when running.

Group Multiplier: x2
Attack/Defense: x4/x2
Movement: x2
Special: The group must move at full movement rating the round it uses this tactic.

Group Multiplier: x1
Attack/Defense: x5/x3
Movement: x2
Special: Every member of the group using this tactic must be mounted. Each mount also counts as a member of the group when determining Attack and Defense bonus. The group must move at full movement rating the round it uses this tactic.

Group Multiplier: N/A
Attack/Defense: x1/x3
Movement: x0.5
Special: A group leader who knows this tactic can have a number of reinforcements in the group up to his Leadership multiplied by 5. These do not take part in the fighting and don’t count towards any bonuses gained by the group. Whenever one or more active members of the group are wounded, the Leader can use this tactic to change him with one of the reinforcements.

Did some house rules on Morale. Might be a bit cumbersome for some groups, but I haven't streamlined them enough yet. Anyway...

Morale and Fear:
Morale is the winner or the looser on the medieval battlefield. Only in extreme cases will a group of soldiers fight to the last man, and this is often contributed to fanaticism, religious fervor or downright insanity.
Like Wound Levels and Fatigue Levels, Morale is also represented in Levels. The Morale Levels are, from top to bottom, Eager, Steady, Doubting, Shaken, Wavering, and Broken. When a Morale Test is triggered, the character or group rolls Personality Trait: Brave with an Ease Factor of 6. Like Fatigue levels, various Morale Levels have different penalties to actions. Unlike Fatigue Levels, the highest Morale Level carries with it a bonus to all actions.

• Eager: +2 to all totals
• Steady: no modifiers
• Doubting: -1 to all totals
• Shaken: -3 to all totals
• Wavering: -5 to all totals
• Broken: the character or group breaks formation and flees in panic. Fleeing characters can only use Dodge for combat values. I leader can try to rally the group with a Leadership check with Ease Factor of 15, modified by the Morale Modifiers below.

In most situations, the starting Morale Level in any confrontation is Steady. Some situations might push the Morale Level above Steady, to Eager, granting a +2 to all totals for the character or group as long as no morale levels are lost.
To check for Morale, a character rolls a Brave check. The Ease Factor is 6, and if the roll fails, he loses a level of Morale. If the modified result is above 15, he instead gains a level of Morale. If the Morale check is a botch, he loses two levels.
The Storyguide determines when a character or group must check for Morale. There are so many circumstances that that can prompt Morale checks, including being charged, losing the group’s vanguard or leader, being outnumbered, facing magical attacks or overwhelming force. Here is a list of modifiers and examples of what they might include. The modifiers are cumulative:

• +9: Enemy surrounded, reinforcements engaging the same enemy, heroic vanguard or leader, supreme supernatural assistance, strong tactical advantage
• +6: Significantly outnumbering the enemy, nearby reinforcements, strong vanguard or leader, strong supernatural assistance, superior weapons and armor, good tactical significant advantage
• +3: Slightly outnumbering the enemy, reinforcements in sight, better weapons and armor, superior weapons or armor, slight tactical advantage, subtle supernatural assistance
• +0: Balanced forces, no significant losses to either side
• -3: Being slightly outnumbered, enemy reinforcements in sight, enemy has better weapons and armor, enemy has superior weapons or armor, enemy has subtle supernatural assistance, enemy has slight tactical advantage
• -6: Being significantly outnumbered, nearby enemy reinforcements, strong vanguard or leader in enemy group, enemy has strong supernatural assistance, enemy has superior weapons and armor, enemy has good tactical advantage
• -9: Being surrounded, engaged by enemy reinforcements, heroic vanguard or leader in enemy group, enemy has supreme supernatural assistance, enemy has strong tactical advantage

Examples of Morale Modifiers:

Tactical Advantage:
• Strong: cavalry armed with lances attacking infantry with brawling weapons, troops armed with missile weapons attacking from unreachable position, spears set against light cavalry
• Good: cavalry charging footmen not armed with spears, troops armed with missile weapons attacking from a distance, attacking from behind, spears set against heavy cavalry
• Slight: attacking the flank of the enemy, missile troops attacking regular troops with no cover, attacking enemy downhill

• Surrounded: The attackers are at least four times as many as the defender, and surround him on all sides.
• Significantly: The attackers are more than double in number than the defender
• Slight: The attackers have a slight advantage in number, but not as many as double

Arms and Armor:
• Superior: Expensive gear vs. Inexpensive Gear
• Better: Expensive gear vs. Standard gear, Inexpensive gear vs. Standard gear

• Engaged: The reinforcements are currently in the same fight
• Nearby: The reinforcements can get into the fight in less than three rounds
• In Sight: The reinforcements can be seen by the combatants

Vanguard & Leader:
• Heroic: The vanguard and/or leader has relevant Reputation of 6+
• Strong: The vanguard and/or leader has a relevant Reputation of 3+

Supernatural Assistance:
• Supreme: Dragons, giants, earth-shattering spells, magical infernos
• Strong: Bolts of lightning, clearly magical attacks and defenses
• Subtle: Enchanted weapons and armor, magical plants to hinder opponents

Interesting indeed.

One big problem though is that this kind of "emulation" tends to get complicated and detailed simply because its such a complex matter in reality.

Reserve might be another one for you, another step behind reinforcement where people can rest much better by being completely outside any actual combat(because even the reinforcements are close enough that it put pressure on them).
They should be at massive disadvantage if anyone actually gets to attack them, because they´re not really ready for it.

Closed ranks archers(or other ranged weapon users). More effective than skirmish formation but less maneuverable and even more vulnerable to close quarters fighting.

You may also want to make a difference between a "shallow" and a "deep" formation as that was one thing that mattered much at the time. With equal number of soldiers at the point of contact, a shallow formation is unlikely to hold "forever", but if they hold long enough that side might have enough troops left over to wipe out the others reserve and then envelop the deeper formation.

Also, the power of a cavalry charge is NOT that its superpowerful, its that it can easier attack where the enemy isnt prepared for it. A cavalry soldier, charging or not is only slightly more effective than an equally trained soldier on the ground, but he has the speed to mess with the other side´s preparations and expectations.

More like, how many GROUPS can benefit from that leader.
Otherwise you will be forced to rely on multiple levels of leaders and that adds one BIG chunk of extra bookkeeping.

That might be a bit cheap. Might want to consider allowing a leader to learn tactics as an Art and using the score as a bonus for that formation. In reality all individual soldiers would need the same but again that becomes far too messy for your average gamer


How about a simple +2/+1/+-0/-1/-2 and minus -5 for broken?
Its probably much too dramatic shifts otherwise.

To those should be added bonuses from being in any closed rank formation as well, as that was one big part of the reason for closed ranks, the support from having "your own" people all around you was a major factor.
It was indeed considered such a big factor that this was the main reason that troops in WWI still moved in close formation, even advancing in open ground against machineguns.

If you want some interesting reading on the matter i might suggest: ... 0275949723
and any of these:
although i most certainly do not agree with the site owner about the value of Liddell Hart, as in reality just about nothing he actually came up with personally was ever used successfully in warfare, and a few that were tried in warfare was shown to be absolute disasters. And at the same time, the man added praise for himself in his translation of Guderians book, praise which isnt there in the original in German. And he argues the blessings of "indirect approach" far beyond reason, often disregarding problems and politics that the real commanders of historical campaigns had to deal with to prove himself correct. Not quite a charlatan nor useless but far from the oracle some praise him as.

Oh buggers, "invalid session, please resubmit form", i just hate when that happens... Just because i take some time writing sometimes... :slight_smile:

Edit: Ops, seems I had posted the tactics list in this thread already, so I'll take it out. :blush: