I’m still really new to Ars magica, having come from more traditional systems. I’m trying to get my head round casting in combat.
If we have a mage facing off directly against a swordsman, they can both perform an action. The mage wants to cast their formulaic spell, the swordsman wants to attack.
In my head, in those 6 seconds the swordsman logically doesn’t swing once, it is a continuous barrage of attacks. If the magi wants to dodge the attacks, that’s an entire barrage of 6 seconds he needs to dodge, which in my head makes it not viable to cast a formulaic spell in that time (unless they just want to soak up the damage)
How does RAW handle this, as if the magi decides to parry as his ‘reactive’ action, there doesn’t seem to even be a concentration modifier for that
Have I missed some critical line/rule somewhere that explains this?
The combat system doesn't worry about what people would "logically" do during those 6 seconds.
Each combatant gets one (usually) action during each round on their initiative, and that's all there is to it.
First thing would be that most magi are not keen on being at melee range. Shield grogs exist for exactly that reason, and as long as there is at least one grog defending the magus, you may just assume that the magus is away from anyone.
There will be instances, however, when the grog can't effectively protect the magus, or when the magus goes directly against a foe. In that case, the magus needs to make a concentration roll to cast. Check the rules for Concentration and the Concentration Table sidebox, both on p. 82 in the corebook.
On the concentration table you will see that concentrating while dodging has an EF 12, and if you have just taken damage from a swordstrike the EF is 15! That's yet another reason magi stay away from combat, concentrating under physical assault is hard.
Thanks both, I had spotted the concentration roll, though if the magi parries and suffers no wound, technically they don’t apply the dodging modifier. Probably the jostled only for a parry.
And yes, I have pushed the benefit of shield grogs, and defensive spells, but RAW… We can house rule it I know, and there is always fast casting, but we are loathe to do anything like that until we’ve played it a bit more. Loving the flexibility of the magic though
I think you’ve both confirmed our thoughts, that one action for all, with unlimited reactions, without taking into consideration it’s a ‘fast’ action or a slow one.
Dodging and parrying are considered the same way -- a purely defensive action taken in melee -- for the purpose of spell casting. So the magus still needs to make a Concentration roll in order to be able to cast his spell.
Note that it doesn't matter if it is a formulaic spell or a spontaneous spell.
The only thing that can change that is if the spell is "Fast Cast" (see the section on Spell Mastery). A spontaneous spell can be fast cast as a defense (against either a mundane or magical attack), as can a formulaic spell that has been mastered (and the "Fast Cast" ability selected).
I can see the logic behind the idea 'if the magi parries he doesn't need to dodge', but unless you're on a stage (or your opponent is notably inferior) when you parry an incoming attack, your whole body should be moving - in case your parry is off, you want to not be there, and you'll want to brace to deflect or reduce the force of the attack. And the concentration isn't just a roll because of the being jostled, but because you have to pay attention to the incoming attack. To me, at least, it was evident that the 'dodging' modifier is the roll for casting while defending yourself.
If you want to rule that a shield and parry is less distracting than a sidestep, you can reduce the EF for concentration on that - to the same difficulty of jogging, or something.
Regarding 'reactions', fast casting has been mentioned (remember that fast casting is still casting, and may need concentration rolls), but there's no penalty to doing lots of defensive actions - I know Lord of Men has more in depth combat rules I haven't delved into much.
Parry and dodging are treated pretty much the same as far as the combat rules are concerned.
The defender gets a defense roll, which includes your weapon skill and a modifier based on your weapon - so if unarmed you'd defend with a Dodge which is based on your Brawl skill.