calculating pain and injury. maybe death.

Hey, everybody.
Can anyone tell me how the game mechanics work if a magi should get injured by a relatively mundane source like getting smashed by a rock or accidentally being flung from the top of his tower? I know the core book sort of deals with it but it doesn't seem all that clear to me. Any time I have had that sort of thing come up in game, I admit I have been winging it and it hasn't really come up but now I am making a new game and... it's gonna come up. Can someone shed some light?


Assuming Ars Magica 5th edition:

Most damage that isn't a direct weapon attack is treated as if it were spell damage.

Work out the damage value for the source of damage. There is a handy table on page 181 of the core ArM5 rulebook that has some numbers for damage sources. Lets say our magus fell out of a window and took a 30' plunge to the grassy base of the tower.

Grassy bases of towers aren't especially hard or soft, so the table tells us the damage of such a fall is +15.

Now to do the rolls:

SG rolls: stress die + 15 (damage from above)
Magus rolls: stress die + soak. Don't forget to include the terram form bonus in the magus' soak, and remember to apply wound or fatigue penalties.

The damage done is - . Consult the Damage Table on p.179 to work out what kind of wound this inflicts

To continue our example:
Magus has a stamina of 2, a terram score of 14 and is otherwise uninjured and unarmored, for a final soak of +5.
SG rolls, gets a 4 - for a damage total of 19.
Magus rolls, gets a 6 - for a soak total of 11.
19 - 11 = 8, which for a normal size 0 person is a medium wound.

If our magus fell onto hard stone, the final post-soak damage would be a mighty 23 : dead. Might want to spend a confidence point...
If our magus managed to fast-cast a spell to make the earth he was landing on soft and squishy, the final post-soak damage would be exactly 0 - injured pride and covered in mud, but otherwise fine.

Important note!
Fatigue + Wound penalties are applied because this is a soak roll, identifiable by the presence of the stress die. Weapon damage is not (directly) soaked with a roll, which is why wound + fatigue penalties do not apply there but do here.

Hope that helps.

According to 5th edition half of that is incorrect and the other half may be incorrect, depending on interpretation. Take a look at page 178.

Fatigue: "Fatigued characters must apply the relevant penalty to all rolls, including further Fatigue tests, but not Soak attempts." So Fatigue penalties would definitely not apply here.

Wounds: There is some debate on this. "The character suffers a penalty to all actions (rolls and totals) equal to the sum of all penalties due to his wounds..." Notice that "rolls and totals" is a parenthetical notation attached to actions, not an item on its own. So it depends on whether or not a Soak attempt is considered an action. Some play it one way, some the other way. Regardless, it's certainly not an absolute that a Wound penalty is applied here.


You need to consider the differences in the mechanics between damage taken from a melee/missile weapon and a "non-combat damage" from a spell, fire, falling etc.

The different ways of doing things should make these two equivalent.

For Melee combat there is only one roll involved (for each side): Your Dfn! Whatever the enemy's Atk roll exceeds your Dfn is added to a flat Dam stat and reduced by the fixed Soak stat. Any Fatigue or Wound penalties apply to your Dfn roll so in effect they apply to the final damage taken. I like this, because eventually you'll wear the opponent down. If things are so stacked that you can barely damage the enemy, all those Light wounds will hamper him and result in worse wounds in time, which in turn reult in even worse, and eventual incapatication or death...That is unless you keep on rolling 2s and the enemy keeps rolling a lot higher.

For Non-combat damage there is also only one roll made: Dam+die vs. Soak + die. While not defined too well IMHO you should apply penalties to this as well, to make the two mechanics equal. Repeatedly inflicting small wounds should eventually result in greater wounds. Otherwise falling tinto a small fire or a vat of corrosive acid (and somehow unable to get away, come on - play ball with me here) can't die! If you want such a scenario then don't apply the Wound and Fatigue penalties.

Yup. Wound penalties don't apply to the Soak stats. But they do apply to Soak rolls, like they do to any other roll.

Considering that you've already subtracted your Fatigue/Wound penalties from your defence roll (which determines the attacker's Attack Advantage, and thus his Damage Total), subtracting them again from your Soak would be double-dipping, in a way.

But that's the point!

The rest of us are talking about non-combat damage, where there's no defence roll.
In this case, wound penalties are applied to the soak roll.

I don't think anyone has tried to apply it to the (un-rolled) soak value used in combat.

That sounds perfectly reasonable. And, as I've said, there are different interpretations that are valid. But if you're going to do this, you need to consider the actual differences in the mechanics. The interpretation of the rules you are using as justification does not quite match how the rules actually behave.

But if your opponent does not defend, accepting total helplessness, that's a Defense Total of -10 no matter how many wounds you have. So add 10 points to their Attack Total. You still get your Soak at full value. What if your Soak is really high? It's relatively trivial for a grog with a good suit of armor and help from magi to have a Soak closing in on 30. Magi could easily get higher. Let's look at the case of 30 Soak. A fairly average attacker with an Attack+Damage of 15+roll (not including that +10) would need to roll 6+ to get a light wound in that case. First, this does not change no matter how many more Light Wounds you cause, so that part of the argument is off. Second, the attacker would need to roll 21+ to cause an Incapacitating Wound. That only occurs with a sequence of 1, 1, [6-10] or 1, 1, 1, [anything but a 2]. That's a 0.59% of getting an Incapacitating or better result regardless of how many more Light, Medium, or Heavy Wounds have been inflicted. This is a far cry the exception of rolling 2s against higher rolls.

Well, first, as I pointed out above Fatigue penalties explicitly do not apply here.

Next, what set of rules are you using? No, not applying Wound penalties does not at all result in someone who cannot die in such a situation. This is a gross misstatement. Let's take your example of falling into a vat of acid. I'll even choose a weak acid/base. Let's say at the level of lye. The damage would be +12 (3x4). Most likely you would not let armor apply in such circumstances, since it really shouldn't. Our above character's Soak would drop to the 10-15 level without the armor. That leaves roughly a 50% chance of taking at least a Light Wound each round. That means this character would die just as quickly as our helpless victim above, and that's without applying Wound penalties. Even if we increase the person's Soak significantly, the person will still eventually die. So, no, not applying Wound penalties does not at all create the scenario you say it would.

Next, at what point would you stop applying Wound penalties to a Soak roll? What is the maximum such penalty. If you don't define a cut-off, then you are not actually following your original intent of trying to make the two methods equivalent.


But Wound penalties explicitly do no apply to all other rolls. So reasoning that since Wound penalties apply to all other rolls implies then they should apply to Soak rolls is faulty because the premise is faulty.


Thanks! This is all very helpful. It's always more complicated than I would have thought.

I think it's a bit of a stretch to put 30 soak in the 'trivial' range, even with 'relatively' in front. Trivial-to-acquire soak is 12, or up to ~18 with a bit of magic. 30 means some serious effort - something that most games are unlikely to hit on a regular basis. Furthermore, someone who has put their soak this high isn't someone to whom regular swords are a threat. This is the kind of soak value where the teeth and claws of church-sized dragons are his 'standard' fare. Using someone with a soak value that high (obviously magically so) and comparing him to a mundane guy with a dagger is really not a valid case to examine the normal workings of the system. Edge cases are edge cases, and saying trivial implies they are the norm.

First, remember what he said. He specified a situation where "things are so stacked that you can barely damage the enemy." I find it hard to understand a complaint when I set up a situation in which things are just so stacked. You're looking at things like two 1s in a row on an Attack roll or a botch on a Defense roll to damage the enemy. Is that not "so stacked that you can barely damage the enemy?" A Soak of 12 doesn't really qualify for his described situation at all. Remember, this situation was his choice. I was showing how the situation he described does not necessarily match the consequences he described.

Soak 12 is relatively trivial for anyone with money and no help from magi. (My warrior-type companions are typically well above 12 before magi help them at all. The really good ones close in on 20 before help from magi. But those are companions.) That can be done with Stamina or Tough with mail or with some better armor and less from Characteristics/Virtues, for example. Pairing better armor with such Characteristics/Virtues gets you a little higher. Getting a Superior or Excellent suit of armor raises that a little further. Once you involve magi, don't forget that an Item of Quality could add another 7. A MuCo spell and a MuTe spell can add 5 or 6 without either reaching 6th magnitude. So this is available for a Muto specialist just out of gauntlet plus about 6 pawns of Vis per suit of armor. I know we value such armor enough to make the investment because it will also help loyalty and our own survival if our grogs survive.


You're ascribing quotes to the wrong person. :slight_smile:

And while possible, this isn't trivial. It means pulling rules from multiple sourcebooks and making a concerted effort to focus on having a high soak. It means having a Verditius magus (either in covenant or as a friend) who spends the time. It means putting in a lot of effort. All of these things, to me, mean not trivial. Not impossible, just not trivial either.

Anyway, this is all off topic from the original point: which is that it is very easy to get a scenario where death is impossible (or nearly impossible) if you don't apply wound penalties to soak rolls - and in scenarios which are far more common than +30 soak grogs.

The core rulebook is ambiguous on this, and there are three options you can interpret:

  1. wound penalties are applied everywhere. This means in melee combat you apply to your defense rolls and your soak total. This makes for very deadly combats, and penalises melee with essentially double-application of wound penalties as defense totals factor directly into how much damage you have to soak.

  2. wound penalties are applied to defense and soak rolls, but not totals. This means you don't double-dip in melee combat, but wounds still matter for non-combat damage.

  3. wound penalties never apply to soak, rolls or totals. This means you don't double dip, but also results in the 'infinite light wounds' scenario cropping up more than it should - especially in scenarios where someone has a sword and someone else has very high soak (which is more likely to be a grog vs. a tough monster than something vs. a grog).

Which one you pick doesn't matter, but my read of the forums is most groups go with option 2. If you don't, that's fine - but a SG needs to be aware of the consequences. The reasons I don't like 1 and 3 are:

  1. makes melee combat viciously deadly
  2. makes fights boring - especially when the players are the ones dealing the damage

So lets not argue semantics. Ars Magica is notorious for its 'YSMV' scenarios, and the rules here are ambiguous enough that this is one for the individual SG to make a call on. Quoting one line in one sourcebook that crops up in a paragraph about a different topic entirely is par for the course on these forums, but it really doesn't help someone know what is best for their saga.


Sorry. My bad. Fixed it above. The point stands that I had to follow the premise to choose a counterexample.

Yup. That was my point up above. Before making it I went back to check some earlier debates and found multiple people on each side of using Wound penalties for Soak rolls. No one could show their side was correct due to the ambiguity.


with all due respect...
The only case i know of this is wound penalties not applying to wound recovery rolls. There may be others, stated likewise, or not.
But this is a classic case of a clearly stated exception to a general rule, and it's not the first case this occurs with ars, either. I fail to see how this could mean that, unless specified otherwise, the general rule shouldn't apply as a default.

You're perfectly free to feel otherwise, and i can perfectly understand how the sentence on p172 could lead one to believe this, but, please, you might not realize it, but take care to not make it sound like people that reason differently from you are incapable of reasoning properly.

Note also that that same sentence says that wound penalties don't apply to soak... because it ain't rolled. Not because it is called soak or otherwise exceptional. But, when magical damage or falls occur, soak IS rolled. So?

With all due respect, the general rule is not that the penalty applies to all rolls and totals. Rather, the general rule is that the penalty applies to actions. How is it that you have taken there to be a general rule is that all rolls and totals are actions?

Uh. I think you have confused me with another poster. I'm the one who said there are multiple interpretations that are based on valid reasoning because the rules are ambiguous, whether they agree with me or not. I was objecting to someone else stating that their reasoning was the correct one despite the ambiguity. If you really feel the rules aren't ambiguous, explain the following:

  1. What defines an action versus something else?
  2. Why isn't Soak always penalized since there is either a total or a roll, so not rolling it would not be an exception?
  3. Why does it say Soak isn't rolled when it sometimes is?

Are you really saying this section isn't ambiguous?

As noted above, there is still a total even when Soak isn't rolled, right? So which part of it is the error? This sentence doesn't show much except that the writer definitely made an error.


Seeing as how "action" doesn't seem to be defined in the rules, we do like we used to do when I was younger: look it up in the dictionary. And I see action defined by my dictionary as "an act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity " Thus, if it is something that the character has to do or to will, then it's an action. Otherwise, it's not. I, personally, would no more apply wound penalties (or fatigue penalties, for that matter) to your Soak total than I would your Magic Resistance. After all, your Parma Magica and form bonuses make up a total, right? And yet, no one seems to be arguing that Wound Penalties detract from your MR.

Also, in 5th edition, you don't roll Soak. The combat examples on pages 172 and 174 don't have the defenders roll for Soak – in fact, the next-to-last paragraph in the Combat: Simple Example insert specifically says "note that Polandrus' Wound Penalty does not apply to Soak because Soak is not rolled". Soak is simply Stamina + Armour + whatever modifiers may apply from Virtues, spells, etc. And, to be honest, I don't recall any examples in 5th edition where Soak is rolled.

It's under noncombat damage and applies to spells. See ArM5 pp.181.


Ah. Got it. Yeah, it would be easier if we didn't keep drifting over into combat damage and focused more on the original poster's questions about the non-combat damage (which would have eliminated all but, like, three posts in this thread :smiley:). I'm easily confused sometimes. sigh