Magical Combat...

Ok - so I have a few bones to pick.

First - initiative,

How do you handle initiative? Why does the guy with a longsword, who is 20 paces away get an initiative bonus?

Second - the slower, but not too slow, spell caster wins.

Caster 1 init 7.
Caster 2 init 4.

Caster 1 - "Prepared to get hadookened!"
Caster 2 - Fast Cast something simple yet disabling - meets the fast cast requirement speed of 7. "Aha! I have you now Athanasius!" (ok so I added a name in just for kicks)

Caster 1 really had no defence against someone fast casting? I mean.. am I the only one that sees the issue here? He won initiative then got penalised for it. I'm aware that fast casting gives you a -10 but you can cast some crazy penetrating low level spells that will paralyze, blind, knockout, etc etc ...

Anyone run into these issues before?

Sam W.

It's a problem.

First, initiative - remember that ArM has a very abstract combat, so don't think of precise locations. If the guy with the sword wins initiative, he traverses the field and makes contact with the enemy before the other guy even gets to act - them's the breaks. The lack of realism is the price for simpler mechanics. If it bothers you, you can change the rules. The best, I feel, is to return to the First Strike of past editions. In a duel, the guy with the longest weapon has First Strike and strikes (attacks) first, regardless of who closes the distance [equal-sized weapons attack as normal]. If he hits, he has First Strike and the other guy attacks at a penalty; if he misses, the other guy attacks at no penalty and has First Strike for the next round [the longer-weapon is working below its optimum range, now that the shorter weapon is in-range]. The next round first strike can move again, depending on who hits. With multiple participants in a combat, several can team-up on one guy, which further complicates matters. In short, I prefer the simplicity of the ArM5 system.

Another option is to just ignore the modifier from weapon. Each player just uses his Qui to set initiative. I like this option, it's simpler and works very well. The bonus for longer weapon makes no real sense; combat order is cyclic, so the "faster" weapon means a faster-draw, not faster action, which isn't really relevant usually.

Second, fast-cast spells.

Caster 1 can fast-cast in response to the spell being cast on him. I don't let it interfere with his normal spell-casting. Since he only needs half the spell level to resist it, he's likely to succeed in thwarting the other's spell.

Another option is to let fast-cast only work for defensive spells. In this case, allow fast-casting in other circumstances with a Confidence point.

First, on the question presented about two casters, I agree with the above. I would let the faster caster fast cast faster than the fast casting slower caster's fast cast casting. (Sorry, I couldn't resist :blush: ). That is, I would rule that Magus A can fast-cast a defense (or other fast cast spell) if he can beat Magus's B's initiative. This allows Magus A the advantage of his superior iniative in what is now a duel of fast cast spells; which at least at first blush seems to me to so favor the magus with the better initiave that the slower magus would be better off relying of fast-casting only for defense, or in some unusual circumstnace such as his being a specailist in fast-cast mastered spells.

On the question of a swordsman charging the magus from 20 paces away "with initiative", I would ignore the RAW and allow the magus to cast normally while the poor mundane is slogging toward him with the sword. Based on my interpretation of formulaic spell casting time (i.e. a few words and gestures taking at most 3-5 seconds) there is no way that the swordsman gets close to the magus. If the wizard's spell fails, then the magus could always go for a fast cast defense as the blade falls toward him. Likewise, a spearman facing a man with a dagger has a huge advantage as long as the daggerwielder doesn't get up close. I'd let the spearman use the special effect rules to keep the daggerman at bay, but would really have to cogitate on it to come up with a house rule "system" rather than ad hoc adjustments to the RAW.

I can't comment on fast-casting due to lack of experience.

But as for distance, I propose one or two variants.

Variant 1: Missile combat enjoys an automatic +5 to initiative, on top of weapon modifiers. Melee combat is normal. Spellcasting gets a -5 fo initiative.

Variant 2: Subtract one from initiative count for every pace that someone says they're going to move. So a guy with a longsword 10 paces away from a magi might go after the magi desperately flings his spell.


Sorry but do you realise how fast people can move in a fight? 5 seconds/20 paces? Thats almost EASY for ME.
And im far from "optimal" physically, or else i could surely move faster still. And thats still "walking" (or "speedwalking" as some call it).
And of course, that still assumes the magi doesnt get jumpy from being charged by someone trying to kill him, which is very unlikely even if the magi has "done it before".

The question is: can I wave my wand and shout "avada kadavra" before you get to me, from twenty paces away? Let's start by defining our terms. What is a pace? I take the old roman definition of the distance between two steps, or roughly 5 feet. So twenty paces is around 100 feet. That's just about thirty meters. The world record in the 100 meter dash for an unarmed and unarmored man, who has trained to do nothing but sprint and plans to do nothing by dance around with a flag at the end of the run, is just over 9.5 seconds. One third of that is around 3 seconds. So if I posit (as I did) that spell casting takes on average 3-5 seconds, then even the worlds fastest sprinter has some trouble closing the distance before my minimum time. Of course, odds are good the world's fastest sprinter couldn't go that fast in boots, leathers, and carrying a sword. However, at these distances seconds count a lot. If I say that spell casting takes five seconds I may have some problems with people that are at least decent sprinters.

However, you yourself provide the answer for the extra seconds: "flinch factor," the magus getting jumpy because some unwashed peasant with a sharp jag of metal is trying to ruin his nice new tunic, and cost the covenant the vis needed to heal the wound he's so keen on inflicting. Oh yeah, and being hit with a sword hurts. So whats a wizard to do. Probably move backwards. Unless our hypothetical Gandalf has some pressing reason to stand shock still and cast at the charging fighter, there is no reason not to move away while casting, making it even more likely that the spell goes off long before the swordsman gets within swinging distance.

Finally, I said formulaic spells in my mind take between 3 and 5 seconds. Well, which is it? I would assume that straight combat spells like PoF and the like are probably on the quick end, simply because quickly cast spells are more useful in a fight so those magi that know them are slightly more likely to survive to train apprentices to cast spells that way. (Hermetic evolution!)

So, I think a magus can cast a spell before the swordsman even gets to him. So i wouldn't let the warrior "win initiative," any more than I would if he were charging an archer with a drawn bow, or readied crossbow.

Well the combat for melee weapon don't start when the melee warrior is not in melee...
So if there is a distance between them, the magus win initiative.

If there is a missile weapon warrior, he will win the initiative.

That's it.

But when the combat is melee : the warrior win initiative...

What's the problem?

This is just setting up a straw man. I doubt any modern reader, or source-book writer, whatsoever has the intention for a "pace" to mean two steps. Halve the distance to reach what is actually intended, and your speed argument no longer holds.

At the risk of repeating myself, I don't like these overly-realistic analyses - ultimately, the system of initiative is not realistic, and it cannot be salvaged. I'm content to let the system work as-is, and have the battle narrative be somewhat artificial.

Another option, from FUDGE, is to, well, fudge the combat. Let the players say what they want to do, and THEN roll opposed attack/casting rolls. The SG modifies the rolls according to how good the plan is, as opposed to the others'. The winner of the opposed roll has the advantage in combat, but both sides can get hit - the SG narrates the round (which may take more than one round - the element of the combat scene), saying how the battle evolved in it. This has the advantage of letting the combat flow more fluidly and rewarding inventive and fun tactics. It has the disadvantage of being very abstract and can under-represent magi's power. [In this method, initiative is not really relevant.]

And you´re probably a very lonely exception in doing that!

Except i dont accept that as something set in stone, and based on your own fondness for making the numbers fit your arguments as you go, ill say that 3s is ridiculous and that obviously ~5s is the number to use.
So by normal counting we instead have 15m in 5 seconds. Which as i said, is easy.

Getting bothered or trying to move without falling while casting obviously requires some successful concentration roll(s). Ever tried moving away from someone running against you while trying to focus on a complex task? That is generally an instant epic FAIL.

Why? There´s no reason what so ever to assume that. There is also no support for it AFAIK.
Thats what you have fast casting for.

Mythbusters #109. :mrgreen:

I've always assumed the medieval/Roman infuenced ArM setting would use the Roman pace, but looks like had I searched the boards before posting I would have found three feet being more or less accepted: (see viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3948&start=0). Mea culpa.

That correction, as you rightly point out, changes the analysis. It still means the warrior has to charge 60 feet in three to five seconds, not including any movement by the magus. Managing a speed between 8.2 mph (5 seconds) and 13.6 mph (3 seconds) from a standstill, while carrying heavy gear may be tough, even tiring. But the combat "fatigue"mechanic handles it pretty well. Regardless, it is well within the realm of possible, perhaps more so for a trained warrior who can start his swing two or three paces out. I used the Usaine Bolt example because taking the "pace" as a roman pace made this movement clearly impossible. Thus my original statement that it doesn't make sense to let the intiative dice trump versimilitude. However, given the "reduced pace" it is clear that a slow magus could fail to cast before a fast warrior guts him - (which is just what that pesky "initiative" is trying to model). I would have to let the initiative order stand. Although I would probably give some "fudge" factor (great game, BTW) to the magus to show his advantage of having time to start casting while the warrior charges. Of course, the magus could fast cast even at the last second.

I've conceded this point, and with it the argument.

I take exception to the suggestion that I cherry picked numbers to make the argument. 1 roman pace is 58.1 English inches. 20 paces is 96.8 feet, close enough to round to 100 and make the math a little easier. 1 meter is about 3 feet (again a slight rounding to make the math easier). Usaine bolt did the 100 meters in 9.6 second, which I rounded down to 9.5. 1/3 of 9.5 is greater than three. I acknowledged that was the low end of my range, but pointed out how favorable to the warrior the estimates were (i.e. assuming world record sprinter speed despite load etc...) I say 3-5 second casting time since "one round" of combat is 6 seconds, during which a magus can cast a spell. Maybe its my D&D roots showing, but I've always allowed a magus to look around, call out to a grog, and even move while still casting a spell in that round, hence my though that formulaic spells are 3-5 second affairs.

Fast casting, in my opinion, is radically quicker. Fast casting is a matter of near instant magic coming into being. Fast casting a defense to an oncoming PoF, or steel sword, seems like it would require a whole different league of quickness, bording on instantaneous.

Wow, I never would have believed in arrow deflection. I would have argued till I was blue that it just couldn't be done. Thank you for pointing that out. You're convincing me that initiave as written isn't that bad of a system.

The major flaws of initiative systems is that everyone acts in que. Each one acts on his own, doing what he wants in his own time but reacting only to past actions in the round and not to ongoing actions at all. The only way to react to ongoing actions is fast-casting, and this isn't a good model.

An alternative is to use the combat-clock from Exalted, instead of the combat round. Each character declares his desired action, rolls initiative with weapon modifier, and they are arranged on the clock/circle accordingly. But the roll mechanic is changed so that better rolls mean lower totals, which means faster actions. For example, the roll can mean 6 ticks -1 "tick" of the circle for each 3 on the roll, so an initiative roll of 12 is 2 ticks on the initiative clock. Now, the clock advances by ticks, and a player normally acts when his tick arrives, and does what he said he'll do. But at any time, he can decide to change his declared action, and re-roll initiative, advancing a number of ticks from the current position as determined by his roll. In this way, combat is more fluid, and weapon speeds actually mean you get to act more often in combat with a fast weapon. However, this is a lot of hassle and tends to overly reward very fast characters, making slow characters ineffective and their players bored and frustrated.

Edit: Oh, this doesn't really address the distance problem - if you want to simulate that, you'd need to add, say, +1 tick per 5 paces (5+Qui paces? 20 paces? 10+Qui+Athletics? Who knows*.). Which further complicates the system. You can even allow for "partial completion" here, advancing the character x paces according to how many ticks he was moving.

  • We can try to estimate it: consider an average person (Qui 0, Athletics 0, no init modifier), rolling an average (6) on the init roll. This means 2 ticks. If we'll assume (arbitrarily) an 8-tick round, this leaves him up to 2 ticks of moving [no actions taking above 7-ticks are allowed on an 8-tick clock]. If we want him to move up to 60 feet in a round (using D&D's double-move as baseline here), this implies 30 feet per tick; at 3 feet per pace that's about 10 paces per tick (up to 20 paces per round). If we consider an Olympic runner (Qui +5, Athletics 10), a slightly good roll (7) results in init total 12, i.e. 4 ticks, so he can move 40 paces in a round on that alone. I'd add on Athletics as a free bonus (free paces each round), allowing him to move 50 paces per round - reasonable.

You can add a cost to movement in the que-round combat too, if you want. Perhaps -3 to the Init total per 10 paces? But again you run into the problem with qued actions - the character gets to decide what to do on his turn, which means he'll only know how far he moves on his turn, which means he'll have to penalize his init on the fly, which ruins the entire qued-actions idea...


Mage 1 - init 7 tries to cast.
Mage 2 - init 6 - attempts to fast cast.

Mage 2 succeeds in fast-casting checks for TWO spells.
So now Mage 2, who lost initiative - casts twice before Mage 1. Then once after?

Trying to think of a fix for this, option 1:

Everyone rolls init.
Then everyone wishing to fast-cast (initiated by lower initiatives first), begins to make fast-cast casting speed rolls. So this changes to the following:

Mage 1 - init 7.
Mage 2 - init 6.

Mage 2 declares he wishes to fast cast TWO spells before mage 1. Makes a speed roll - succeeds.
Mage 1 in response, declares he wishes to fast cast a single spell before mage 2. Makes a speed roll - also succeeds.

Final initiative:

Mage 1 - fast cast.
Mage 2 - fast cast (a)
Mage 2 - fast cast (b)
Mage 1 - regular cast.
Mage 2 - regular cast.

Very weird - because now you have to figure out which fast cast can be used to defend against which fast or regular cast?!

Option (b)

Simply have every mage make a fast-cast speed roll against an ease value of the others' initiative. If they succeed (and they can declare more than one-fast cast, taking the requisite penalties), they have that many "interrupts" to all initiatives of that value or lower.

Mage 1 - init 7.
Mage 2 - init 6.
Mage 3 - init 4.

Fast Cast checks:
Mage 1 - succeeds on 1 fast cast vs ease of 6.
Mage 2 - succeeds on 2 fast casts vs ease of 7.
Mage 3 - succeeds on 1 fast cast vs ease of 6.

Mage 1 - has 1 fast-cast available to him to be used against any init 6 or lower opponent.
Mage 2 - has 2 fast casts to be used on any init 7 or lower opponent.
Mage 3 - has 1 fast cast to be used on an init 6 or lower opponent.

The mages can use these "interrupts" whenever they please - even when casting their own, "normal" spells.


Iterative - Mages react to each others' fast cast - but only once.

Mage 1 init 7
Mage 2 init 6.

Mage 1 begins to cast "Dieinafire"
Mage 2 responds by fast-casting "noyoudieinafirefirst" - succeeds vs ease of 7.
Mage 1 responds by fast-casting "noyoudiefirstlastwordnotouchbacks!" - vs ease of 6*.

*I think in this option it is important to make sure mage 1 is fast casting against an ease value of the original init - because it would be more penalizing to have the ease value equal that of the fasting-casting result of mage 2.

In this option - mages my fast cast as many times as they want - until they fail a speed-roll - taking the -6 per roll after the first.


Sam W.

In our saga: init is rolled for:

  • warriors
  • magi who fastcast


  • magi who don't fast cast

are always casting spell at the same late time.

And no problem.

My opinion is that you declaration at the start of turn is defined before rolling initiatives, and cannnot change it after initiatives are defined. If you risk to use formulaic spell instead of an instant one you have to attend the results. That's how I interpret the rules.

But my playing group are using my own home rules, and we doesn't use a fase for each action. We are using an initiative roll for each action declared, and then solve in the order defined for initiatives. Spontaneos and Formulaic have a big malus on this roll, so probably those are going to be the last.

Sorry for digging in the forum, but I've found this trhead, and I like the idea of this post. But I can't figure how to reverse the initiative mechanics so that bigger is slower. Have an idea ?

Make each player and NPC roll initiative.

Then, the slowest declares his action. Then the next slower, and so on, up till the fastest.

You'll then resolve actions in the normal initiative turn (fastest to slowest).

Exemple, in declaration order:
Magus A (init 6)
Brigand C (Init 7)
Grog B (Init 9)

Magus A must declare. He says he's gonna throw a PoF on the brigand. The Brigand then says he's gonna try to skewer the magus before that, thus forcing a concentration check. Hearing that, Grog B decides to put himself between magus and brigand.

Resolution: Grog moves, then brigand strikes, then spell is cast.

Yes it's an idea but it's not what I was looking for, because with this idea I can't use the combat clock proposed by Y7R. I was looking for a way to reverse the initiative, making the quicker having a lower total.

If fast cast is only used for defense it helps with the problem. You may not like it but it will just force you to build/play a mage differently.

The distance problem could be solved with movement rules. Say running is 5 paces + Athletics. In combat you can move 1/2 of that and attack at a -3. All numbers used in the example are pulled out of my @$$. They are just used for a purpose of discussion.