Ars Magica 2 vs Ars Magica 5 weapons, armour and combat

Hi all,

I have played Ars Magica 2ed but never 5th ed. Nevertheless, I own all pdfs from the 5th edition. After reading the Core and Lord of Men books, I have seen that in 5th edition, as compared to 2nd edition, weapons have their Damage value reduced while their Attack bonus has been increased; in such a way that the value of Attack + Damage bonus is more or less the same in both editions.

Out of curiosity, is there a particular reason for this change in 5th ed?

Also, I have noticed that amours in 5th ed have a decrease in their soak value as compared to 2nd ed, although in Lords of Men this decrease is minor once you add a helmet, greaves and a surcoat.

Again, out of curiosity, which is the reason behind this change?

Finally, I have heard complains about combat in Ars Magica 5th. Why is so? I don't see it that different from 2nd ed, and I love how lethal combat is in Ars Magica 2.


Keep in mind that 5e is not based directly on 2e. Changes were made between 2e and 3e. More changes were made between 3e and 4e. And finally a bunch of changes were made between 4e and 5e.
So the developers of 5e probably did not look much on 2e when writing 5e, instead they made adjustments based on what they felt needed changing from 4e.
The exact reasoning behind each and every change is probably lost in the fog of time by now - it has been 20 years since 5e was written.

As for complaints about combat in Ars Magica 5e, why don't you tell us? It is you who have heard these complaints and might know what they were saying, not us.

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Honestly, I have only read about these complains in another thread about "What would you change/add in a Ars Magica 6th edition".

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To be honest, I find the system for combat to be a little bland, though I should spend more time studying LoM for ideas. The whole point of the game is playing with magic, so that's undestandable, but oftentimes the fights tend to either be very, very short, or drag on until someone botchs.

In your experiences, what makes the fights last long (when they do)?

If the skill matches are relatively balanced, or the enemy is tough, it tends to turn into stacking up light wounds until someone gets a lucky shot.


Also here

Please note that there are significant differences between 2nd and 5th ed combat rules. In 2nd ed you rolled attack vs defense, and then if you hit you rolled damage vs soak. So separate to-hit and to-damage rolls, more dice rolled, mor risk of Botch or exploding dice. You could roll an exceptional attack roll, hitting for sure, but then rolling a Bleh damage roll or even not doing any damage.
In 5th ed there is only one roll for each side, if the attack beats the defense, the carry-over is added to Dam bonus and compared to Soak score. The attacker already had 1 die in his attack total, and the defender already had one die in his defense total. I don't know why it was chanhed, there are many reasons, but I like the simplicity.

So when looking at a weapon, it doesn't matter if it as a huge Dam stat, if yiu don't hit. And weapons with higher Atk bonus are more likely to hit, and therefor more likely to cause damage. And a really, really good attack with even just a dagger can potentially be a killing blow. This may be an abstraction of combat, saying than sometimes you strike that lucky blow, hit that chink in the armour, sever an artery etc.

Combat plays a minor role in ArM as I interpret it and how we play. It deson't need complex, simulationist rules. Sometimes I could wich there were more tacticla choices, but overall I'm satisfied.

If you want combat to be more than just consequetive rolls of dice followed by simple math, build a narrative into the combat situation, use the environment, be creative.
Make the scene about more than just combat between armoured fighters.
If there are magi involved, they must be protected, otherwise they will fail their Concentration rolls in order to cast spells.
If there are rival Hermetic magi as opposition, imagine an ongoing Certamen where both sides' shield grogs tried to distract the opposing magus while protecting their own.
Have non-combatants going for other objectives during the fight: seach and find something, disable or activate a portcullis etc

Don't fight on a field or empty courtyard, fight up or down a staircase, along the battlements of a castle, or between two moving river barges etc. Make situations where the environment can be used actively, is a risk for Botches, or limits choices for advancement or retreat.
I once ran a fight in a Rhine saga against the Boglin, an under-swamp-water tentacle monster. The troupe encountered it while searching a swamp, at the edge of soft ground with trees bordering a large body of water. Retreat was a slow walk in mud along the water with the monster, forward progress was blocked by a waterway.
An archer grog climbed a tree to get a vantage point for firing arrows. The magus cast Bridge of Wood to enable crossing the waterway, but it was just barely long enough and not anchored properly. The rest of the grogs ran for the bridge. But the monsters tenctacles not hitting grogs hit an grabbed the railing of the bridge. By and by the bridge was disloged on one end, turned at an angle, and starting to drift on the water. All the while grogs were franticaly trying to get either on, off, or across the bridge, dodging attacking tentacles, or attempting to free captured comrades before they were pulled to te monster's maw. That was a great fight.

Sometimes I miss simple rules for special situations; disarming, knocking people down or back, crippling a limb...but that I can easily fudge.

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As a matter of fact, on the paper I like the most the combat rules for ArM 5th than 2nd, just I have not have the possibility to play it yet.

I hope you get the opportunity.

Overall I think 5th ed is the best edition, magic and labwork especially. Combat is secondary, and I could even live with previous editions' rules for that.


This. this right here is why I really like the ArM5 combat system. It is (in my arrogant opinion) better than the combat systems of most other RPGs, including that other game, which TBH I mostly consider a combat simulator these days.


Sure, a simple and quick system for combat, which is a thing not thet very important or frequently used to many ArM players, due to the focus om magic and hermetic politics. But it does the job when needed, combat can be just as epic here

If I want ultra detaill for really simulate combat I'll use GURPS or The Riddle of Steel, with tactical choices, differetiated weapons and armour, nasty consequences for wounds -so not getting hit is more important than hiting back. it works for some genres and themes.

If I want to grind my way through mounds of hit points then...well, I dont.

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I tend to agree. In particular, adding the attack advantage to the damage is a very sweet feature. Exceptional skill and luck just should be able to deal a critical blow with a pen knife.

At one point, however, I think 5ed combat is a step backwards. Magic used to be resolved at the end of the round; in 5ed it is resolved in initiative order, diminishing the importance of fast-casting.


I don't mind that change. Anything that makes a choice nearly compulsory is bad. If casting always goes last, it's nearly obligatory to have a mastered fast casting spell. Now you still want it, but you might want to risk winning the initiative.

If I recall correctly, in a previous edition Int affected XP gain. An Int boosted with virtues was very common; and nearly obligatory, if one didn't want to fall behind the other magi in a long term saga. I don't see any absolute must have stats, skills driven as far as they can go, etc in the current edition. Int is important, yes, but one doesn't need a +3, and want a +5.


That was the 4ed advancement bonanza. I don't think anyone ever defended that after having played it.

You still have to beat the initiative. If you could not win the initiative the first time, you are very unlikely to make the fast cast roll. Fast casting never was compulsory, possibly unless you play a very combat intensive saga. In 5ed you have to be a Flambeau tournament champion to care.


I don't agree, but there may be different interpretations and desires about how fast-casting works and should be used.
In my troupe we view fast-casting of spells as stricly a reaction to a threat and as a defense - so some magi want to and do use that. Others not so much.
I play a maga Trianomae with a Line of Pralix Es Misc background, before her pater Boni-snatched her. She is a Vim specialist and investigates exotic magic, especially nordic magic. So when the dung hits the fan she uses her normal magic (possible offensive) in the normal Init sequence, but if threatened she uses Fast-cast mastered spells to teleport a short dostance away, deflect the magic with a Vim spell etc.
So that's fairly dynamic and responsive, and spells go on al through the "round".

We also feel that casting a spell each round isn't a guaranteed right, so we (try to) enforce Concentration rolls to avoid having noises, moving around, colaterat effects, damage etc. spoil your focus for the spells. That also makes actions taken when using the Init sequence more varied. Grogs in melee may very well attack each round, but magi don't necessarily.


ArM has one of the better combat systems IMHO with lots of characteristics for weapons that make sense. Armor probably protects less that it should IRL but that is also true for most other systems. I used house rules for different types of armor and weapon ranges but that might get to heavy for most players. The rules overall are to heavy and I would probably go for an easier system if I started a new campaign.


Well lot of people emphasize that the focus in Ars Magica is on Magic and not on melee combat and therefore the combat system is easy and short.

All those people don't really recognize, that the authors - especially of 5th Ed. - did a great job in inventing a very modern combat system even if they didn't were aiming for that.

5th Ed combat system is fast, easy, smooth and elegant. Best I know among the "non simulate" but modern systems.
1.You have an active parry which increases the combat feeling compared with rolling against an AC.
2. Both die rolls are going to be compared against each other what seems smoother than rolling against each owns percentage (D100 Systems).
3. It does not take longer cause you don't need an extra die roll for dammage.
4. If your attack is great, your dammage will - most likely - be too. Cause of the Atack overhang added to the dammage the die roll is also included in the dammage. That is pretty elegant.

All this combined with the 5th Ed wound level system makes a very thrilling and fast to play combat system. Even OSR Dungeon Crawls are fun to play with this combat system. Love it. Only the Parry Bonus for the Quaterstaff - compared with the Longspear - makes me smile....... They loved the Magi :wink:


And for all who say combat takes very long in 5th Ed. cause of the wound level system, which needs one "big blow" to be deadly......
Well that is true for two opponents who have very similiar abilities. It is true - but realistic. Look at the great final epic fights of stories. They are dramatic and take its time. But using tactics will shorten them easily. Actually it is important to have the "first big blow" to give the opponent an big disadvantage e.g. -5 through a heavy wound. Best to achieve when spending a Fatigue Level and double Atk ability maybe plus investing a confidence point (+3). There are the possibilities.... use them.

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