Does Ars have a body part damage mechanic?

Say I want, specifically, to crush an enemy's hand, or smash him in the face, because there are roleplaying considerations which make that the best course for defeating the enemy. Have rules been published which let me say "I lose X from my Attack to aim specifically for his head."? I know it existed in earlier editions...

I think it is there in Lords of Men.

Page 125 looks like the kind of thing you're after.

Although... Looking again, I can't see a specific "called location" option, more a case of turning the wound into a specific effect.

Non lethal combat in the main rulebook might cover part of what you ask for. Trip, disarm, scuffle, immobilize...

In LoM page 125 you have the mitigating deadly wounds option. It is an option to change instant death for less extreme results like missing hand or crippled instead. No exactly what you ask for of searching thast result actively, though. AFAIK those are the only entries for what you ask for.


It would make sense to have that. Achilles and Sigmund are widely known examples, but other mythical beings might have similar weaknesses. It gets even more interesting if you imagine a spirit of the land, whose anatomy signifies the region, if you poison say, its arm that corresponds with the area of a covenant, you might do very interesting things to that aura.

I've never been a fan of "called-shot" type mechanics. In Cyberpunk 2020 for instance, aiming for the head was only marginally more difficult than a standard shot, but would nearly always kill. So everyone took to head-shots only, and then everyone left armored the heck out of their heads in response.

It seems "realistic" that a head-shot should do more damage, etc, but that assumes a target who presents the opportunity to hit the vulnerable spot, which is itself sometimes "unrealistic."

I usually allow players some latitude in cinematic decriptions of their attempted actions and then as storyguide I describe the outcome based on mechanics. Perhaps they wanted to aim for the head, but their opponents shield was raised and they were instead able to work in a glancing blow to the leg.

If they are trying to do something other than damage (knock something out of a hand, shoot off the sherrif's mustache, etc) I usually handle it as more of an ad-hoc task-resolution, which avoids creating mechanics that can be exploited.

I would go with humboldtscott and the mitigating damage/special rules. I play a lot of games that have body part damage resolutions and I really enjoy them. Yes, I'm familiar with CP2020 and Unisystem has the same issue (-4 to hit but 4x for damage!). That being said, the games where it is extremely evocative are games like Artesia, Warhammer and others where combat is exceptionally gritty and the order of the day. In Ars Magica, I would be a bit more cinematic about it... as humboldtscott said, narration of combat is the key. Also, despite movies and books, the most frequent hit in melee combat is the arm or leg, it's the part sticking out at you after all. I would think any knight or mercenary knows not to put his head in the way of an axe. Narration plus the mitigating/special rules in LoM allow you to have a dramatic conflict without a mechanic that consistently overpowers combat.

I'm a huge fan of interesting combat. I use obstacles, pools of blood, dexterity rolls and all sorts of other things to get the kind of messy combat you only dream about. I'm a novice to Ars Magica combat but I would think that a little thinking ahead and good narration can replace any hard mechanic modifier. If someone wants to blind the person... come up with a minimum of damage needed or a minimum Attack total.

This also allows you to narrate that rare and awesome beheading when someone's stress die explodes and you get a +80 Damage result. You don't have to explain why a hit to the wrist ended up removing the person from the mortal coil. Believe me, it happens... although my all-time favorite was a deathblow from an arrow to the groin. That narration was worth the price of admission!

Nice :slight_smile:

We do cinematic most of the time. Quite a few damage scenes are just comparing the numbers of the PC and the NPC and decide who will win. Then we narrate jhow it goes and assign some random wounds to the winning side as well. Combat in Ars is way more secondary than in a lot of other systems, where combat is the mechanic. In fact we do not like vanilla Ars combat much. Still, it can be quite cool as a numeric benchmark to narrate a good story.


Ars and Academe has rules about damage for types of damage does as specific types of wounds. So you get a light bashing, you can look and assign the right sort of effect. It is more cinematic in actual combat but if you actually have a stationary prisoner, you could inflict a specific wound.

Say you smash someone's hand. Until the wound heals, they can't use the hand. do it to both hands and the mage can't use gestures. There are flaws that relate to missing eyes, ears, limbs and such that could be inflicted as result of specific wounds (missing hands, means mage can't use gestures) that aren't going to heal.

Remove the tongue and you have the mute flaw until it is regenerated and you cast no voice.

So there are ways to handle specific body part damage, I just wouldn't really use it in combat but save it for apply affects (temporary flaws, inabilities) after the combat.

Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about those, and they're useful mechanics, if perhaps not exactly what the initial thread was looking for.

I remember old DnD campaigns where a GM forced us to use the RAW on bound opponents ("I cut his throat with the dagger for the 10th time. 5 more hp damage. 50 to go") and other times where we were trying to story things but were still frustrated by lack of guideance from the rulebook - should certain things be automatic or still require some roll, etc.

A&A is a great book.

:laughing: :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

I think body-part-damage actually makes for FAR more interesting combats (even in the "generic" case when there aren't specific considerations such as you mention), from a story-telling / dramatic standpoint; it is, possibly, my largest dissatisfaction with the ArM line. "How many hitpoints do you have left" is only slightly worse than "what are your cumulative minus'es", IMHO. That said, I evidently need to pick up LoM (and A&A, apparently... wtfCOMBAT in A&A???!) to get the "complete" combat system.

I think I may feel some HouseRule development coming on... possibly even leading (after playing with / balancing the HR's) to a submission to Sub Rosa, or some such...

  • Steve S.


Original question: No, base rules don't. But it's certainly easy to extrapolate using penalties to rolls. Other than targeting weak points on certain magical monsters, I wouldn't give bonuses for doing any of the above - the penalties are enough - and assuming a limb isn't crippled, people will keep using it despite pain.

Optional house rule for consideration: -3 for hands, - 3 for legs, -6 for head/crotch. No extra damage other than the standard damage, unless there's some story effect (Achilles Tendon thing). It's also fairly unlikely to make someone flat out drop something without a proper disarm just by 'hitting' a weapon, or even the hands or arms.

Why the above? I'm a fairly experienced historical fencer, and you protect your limbs and head - and it's not unusual for people to target them, so you learn a lot of techniques to avoid the issue. With sword and shield it's unlikely to be hit in the hands, moreso with (2 handed) longswords and the like. I also recently got a fractured arm from a ...overexcited fellow. I regard this as a light wound (-1). I kept fighting with the same arm because I was an idiot despite pain, and my arm dropping I felt that I was not fighting at my best. I drove home painfully and it took a week and a half to stop hurting. It had an effect, but if I could keep going in a tournament scenario I'm certain a grog will keep fighting in a life or death situation despite it - but I'd also say they'd be much more unwilling to engage again until healed.

Arm-Steve, I agree with you in principle but not in practice. I had a great deal of fun with a game called Riddle of Steel (even tried to pair it with Ars Magica to limited success). Its combat system is very much about where and how you hit. One of my players had a heap of fun and the others were just accepting of it. It also prompted very realistic combat and damage, meaning a giant with a club will kill someone in a single hit for the most part. I personally feel the base Ars system does nicely for a cinematic system where you can still kill a giant, and don't fuss too much about the details (Though I must admit I suffered a horrible case of sword type rage with the system a while back :smiley:)

Maybe if I was playing with a bunch of people who understand weapons combat I'd ressurect my Ars/Riddle game, but it only makes complex a part of the game that the game is not entirely about - IMO, anyway.

I needed to handle target location a couple of times and I used some penalty and special effect based on the circumstances (generally, I'm kinder to player characters than to non-player ones). Nevertheless, I think it would be interesting to have some penalty-effect examples to use as benchmarks or suggestions.

Moreover, I have a question: how to handle soak due to armor protection? I mean, if you hit an uncovered location, I consider no protection, and that's easy. But if you hit a covered body part, I think that the protection of that part should depend on the material more than on the fact that the armor is partial, full or whatever. Should I reduce the protection of a full armor, for instance? How? This should be balanced with the target location penalty...

Of course, I don't have similar problems very often, it's mostly rethoric!