I LOVE Ars Magica!
...and I want to improve it.

At heart I am a combat guy...
This is the one RPG that has the greatest chance to make a 'historically viable' & 'mechanically realistic' MEDIEVAL combat system.

PLEASE jump all over this post! Let us keep it civil, and strive to be constructive. 
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First off... Are there not several Medieval Wargame systems out there? Why focus on trying to make a vaiable Group Combat system for ARM5, when you could just grab another game for the one time you might have to play out a large battle??


Ars Magic combat improvements:

  1. Shields - EXPLICITLY have the shields ADD their defense bonus to your single weapon's defense bonus during combat. If you are using a
    shield by itself treat it as a single weapon.

  2. Movement - In one round you can either Move OR Attack. Only. Period. There also needs to be clear rules on how far you can move in combat!!!

  3. Riding - With a proper Ride check your ride could (move or attack),
    and you could attack, in the same round. Your ARMOR load should not count against you unless you are walking. This should be explicitly stated.

  4. Missiles - Subtract an additional 3 from the Init of each missile weapon.
    This is most realistic for bows/slings since you have to draw ammo - load it - draw the bow/twirl the sling - and try to aim WHILE some bloke is whacking you with a sword!

  5. Great Weapons - Seriously, all of these Initiatives need to be DOUBLED! These weapons have a long reach that some poor sod with a mace has to get close to!

  6. Staff - Good Gawd, lower that DFN! Longer weapons are not as good at defending as shorter ones since a longer one has to travel a longer distance to parry. Think pingpong or tennis! Put your paddle on the end of a walking stick and THEN try and play...
    If the staff was as effective as these rules state you would have had medieval armies using them as standard issue!
    Give it the DFN of a Long Spear...

  7. Farm Implement? - Seriously? Does as much dmg as a LANCE? I would lower the DMG by 2! Almost all farm implements at the time were totally wood, AND never ever meant for battle. The rules themselves call these things "characterized by awkwardness" and yet give them the same ATK as a Long Spear! Let's lower that attack by one as well...

  8. Bows - Lower the damage by at least 1! (there is no way no way an arrow should do as much damage as a polearm!)
    ARM5 does a better job than most RPGs with their Bows - kudos. But the rules can get better!

  9. Unarmed -
    Dodge - On the melee weapons table Dodge has a Defense of Zero??? I would give it a defense of 2...
    Fist - and while we are at it give Fist 1 damage.
    Kick - I would give kick a 2 damage

  10. Seriously consider NOT having the extra from attack spill over into damage!


The difference between a shield and not a shield in defense values per the book is one to three. The difference for defense values using your system would be one to four. I don't see it as a big deal. Sheildwsare treated a sa single weapon when used by themselves now.

We've got cyclical initiative in this game. Subtracting from the initiative total I don't believe will have the effect that you desire.

A farm implement does less damage than a lance on account of its lower attack bonus.

That is of course the bugbear of the rules as written. This single "feature" significantly hampers the verisimilitude of the system while simultaneously adding more grade school arithmetic and slowing things down.

Yet if you want to be able to use published numbers for characters you have to use it.

I have my own set of house rules that expand on the combat system, but doesn't change what's already in the book too much. I wrote some of them in another thread about streamlining the combat system.
An important thing for me in any combat system is for it to be detailed, but also run fast, and have a lot of tactical options that can be used. However, I don't like combat systems that rely on a grid or hex sheet with a map on it.


We've got cyclical initiative in this game. Subtracting from the initiative total I don't believe will have the effect that you desire.


SPOCK... EXPLAIN... ????     :slight_smile: 


Your archers will end up missing out on the first round (which wouldn't be right if they have arrows ready), but then, they'll just shoot once per round, much like everybody else attack once per round. Whether they shoot earlier or later becomes mostly irrelevant, especially if they're not in melee, which they shouldn't be anyway.

Isn't that already how they work? :confused:

That makes for a simple game mechanic yes, but more unrealistic.

Change that to such a penalty, or worse still once an enemy gets to close.

But a staff and a long spear is used very differently. With a long spear you pretty much "use the pointy end to poke at someone with", while a long staff is used much closer to the body and with a grip that DO allow you to move it much much faster than a spear. And its often a bit shorter than a long spear as well.

No thats a good thing. Skill DO count more than raw force after all.

No, that's not a good thing. If you want skill to count towards damage apply a portion of it to the precalculated damage total.

With the carryover mechanic all accurate weapons are exceedingly damaging unless they have negative damage values (and none of them do). It also slows down the game to do the arithmetic. Yes it only takes a second or two but combat is a time when lots of people are speaking to the story guide at the same time and an extra one or two seconds per die roll makes the game that much worse.

That is why I play my tabletops online.

My overspecialized polearm user, mounted (and we use a programmed die roller that totals stress die automatically): [1d10+24]
Target's defense: [1d10+12]


Of course, I can see the issue of rolling on a table.

Quick Aside:

What I always try to do with the Ars Magica combat rules is to ask 'given the way these rules try to represent reality, would the same historical choices have been made in regards to combat & weaponry'??

Example: If you have an iron hook doing +12 damage, you would have had whole armies armed with iron hooks...

The quarterstaff/long staff was most definitely the weapon of choice of the european weapons masters like the English "Masters of Defence" (admittedly a 15th century tradition). You can find their writings if you want to know the virtues of the staff compared to a long spear or other polearm... they are quite explicitly detailed.

The staff could be a devastating weapon in the hands of a master.
I agree.
But comparing the weapons WITHOUT taking into account the ability of the users - I still think the Staff is over-powered!

Yes, and the problem with that being? Why do you think rapiers was more popular than cutlasses just to pick one example from a slightly later era? Especially more popular by skilled fencers.


I tend to agree. With the obvious exception of massive force weapons accuracy tends to equal more damage ( or perhaps... more 'important' damage, with more results ).

because a complete noob flailing about with a sword is mysteriously better than the same noob flailing about with a staff? Even if, so what?

The game obviously assumes that you are trained in the proper use of the weapon. Yes, you can wield a weapon without any skill but wasting a lot of time on perfectly simulating that is inefficient. For a trained user, the staff is simply one of the best defensive weapons in the world and the stats need to reflect that.

Otherwise, you have to have special rules for every weapon as to who can use it and how well. Blah.

With a bit of thought, Ars can lend itself to some pretty dramatic or even better cinematic fighting which is far more exciting to play.

But the more cinematic you want your fighting to be then the more you need to micromanage the combat.

You could do a set single roll of weapons+skill+stat vs the same on the other side but it's somewhat flavourless.

however by adding in doing odd things like leaping over or fight around tables, leaping form horseback or using improvised weapons such as horseshoes or a slop bucket.

I'd go precisely the other way: the more cinematic you want your combat, the -less- you want to micromanage it. I mean, look at games which have cinematic combat, like Feng Shui. No micromanagement: instead you get a very few dice rolls and roll bonuses for original stunts (ie description of cinematicness.)

Cinematic combat doesn't work well with micromanagement, because micromanagement assumes that things work if they follw a consistent mertic. Cinematic combat, IMO, works when things that are cool work, and things that are not cool do not work so well. This does not mesh with a high-book-keeping roll-out-the-battlemat style.

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OK, time to ask a bigger question:

Do all of the different features in combat actually -matter- at all?

In the bestiary, we've finally seen a rationalisation of Ars monsters: they have a small possible set of weapons, with skill numbers to add some variance. Now, given that Ars is basically a game of magicalness and folklorishness, does it actually matter that a sword is +1 quicker than a hammer? Is this a mass of detail for very little point? Could we simply, and more folkloristically and mythologically just say

"You have three classes of meele weapon. They are called Small, Average and Large. They have the following combat stats.
A weapon is Average unless you and your truope agree that it is not. Lance, for example, are generally large and daggers are generally small. Other cases vary depending on the sort of story you are trying to tell. Rapiers might be small in agame that does not favour them, average in a game that considered them useful, and treated as large, despite their size, in games that favour a musketter theme."

In short, are all of these combat numbers just an entry barrier to new players? Could we move to a system where the book-keeping for combat is smooth and simple? I tend to play a lot of Amber, for example, in which whole characters have fewer stats than single weapons do in Ars, which seems wierd to me because in Ars, you are very rarely engaged in single combat anyway.

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To me, combat is the real "stress test" of most rpg rules sets. Combat should move quickly, and don't get bogged down in too many calculations. The fewer times the players and story guides has to roll dice, the better.
But, combat should also feature enough optional rules to provide tactical detail for the game. And every gaming group has a different preference on this.
To use my own group as an example, I love detail on the different weapons. I would like to see variations in the rules for different swords, for example, their advantages and disadvantages. But rules such as these should be optional. On the other hand, my group really likes combat rounds to go fast, with as few die rolls as possible.
I think the combat rules in Ars Magica are really easy to modify and add to, and still keep with the "feel" of the rules as a whole. That's what we did. Combat is more detailed, more lethal, and faster. And we even have different rules for arming swords and long swords, to please the history geeks in our group. :smiley:

Well, that's my 2 cents. :stuck_out_tongue: