Making extremely powerful mundane combatants?

My troupe has a thing we do where, on downtime, we'll read through sections in certain books collectively, sort of studying it and talking about the ideas contained within as a group with no real initiative to focus on a certain particular thing. We were reading through Covenants, and saw the sidebar that, among other things, mentioned that troupes should only optimize their covenants towards being able to annihilate the masses if they want to tell stories about the consequences of unbridled power, and that Ars Magica supports an infinitely broader and richer palette of stories than this.

Being the crazy people we are, re-reading that sidebar was enough by itself that now our troupe wants to run a shorter saga based on telling just those kinds of stories. But we decided to do it on an individual level, rather than through the power of the entire covenant.

So, I decided I wanted to make a female warrior who was rejected for squireship at a young age and ran to a covenant to receive militant training, and who eventually left and pursued physical advancement elsewhere when she reached a level where the covenant couldn't provide her any more training.

I'd have her built as a Mythic Companion, to be played in lieu of a Magus character, and I'd like help as the only mundane combatants I've ever built were your general spectrum of grogs who, while effective in the roles they're meant to fill, aren't generally the most spectacular fighters on the planet, even when taken to "grizzled veteran" ages with scores of 9 or higher in their primary weapon skill and Puissant/Cautious with (Weapon Skill). And here I'm trying to build a character that really pushes the envelope. Like, "reliably fighting armies solo" level pushing the envelope.

I'd also like to keep her from needing to maintain good terms with organizations; she will be on good terms with the Order anyway, due to her nature as a Mythic Companion who needs to be able to work with the other player characters, but I don't want her being, say, a Redcap, or otherwise strictly beholden to the Order.

Of course, in order to maintain the concept, I'd like her capabilities to remain at least mostly within the realm of the Mundane, and if she does have Supernatural powers bolstering her they can't be the kinds of things that can be taken away at a whim, such as True Faith for Divine characters or items gifted to her by people who can cancel their effects at any time. She needs to have reliable power, preferably of her own origin. Bloodline abilities that boost her Soak and/or combat scores are pretty legit as long as she isn't sprouting wings and breathing fire or something obviously supernatural in nature.

Basically, she should just be coming off as the mightiest warrior to have ever lived; any involved magic needs to be subtle and not rely on her being an intellectual genius or something.

Any tips on how to build her to be extremely powerful while staying within these guidelines?

I remember using RoP: M to build a character that was essentially immune to ... most things.
Major Immunity Fire, a (Personal, I think) Power to be immune to metal weapons, possibly a second similar effect to be immune to wooden weapons.
Immunity to Cold, I think there was even a trick to ignore Fatgie somewhere in the mix.
Would that help do you think?

If I remember correctly, there are Qualities or Virtues for making a Magical character appear entirely human, so that might work, but the fluff for Magic creatures in general seems to run very counter to her intended powers and the backstory makes no sense if her Might would prevent her from advancing her skills.

The thing about group-fighting levels of ability is that a character still needs absurd amounts of offensive power to punch through if the opposing group switches its bonus to defense in response to her immunity to their weapons, so defensive powers and qualities alone aren't really enough. There are also things like getting penalized in opposing auras that don't really make a lot of sense or work thematically with the character concept.

Unless you meant getting those abilities through Virtues as a fully human character, but that would probably use up most of her Virtues and leave her little to dedicate to attacking power.

Meh, sooner or later, they will botch. And IME, botching in combat (especially in defence) is what usually kills you.

Ah, groups. :slight_smile:
Have you looked at Dissolving the Wall of Shields (HoH: S, p. 70) or its lesser brother Breaking the Captain's Baton (MoH, p. 50)?

Or did you want a magic-less solution?


For pure combat:
The basis: high dex, qik, puissant and affinity.

Either use maxed Faerie Sympathies, with a high warping score. Have her be mentored by demons, so as to ignore age limitations. This should bring you to a skill of about 20 easily.

Or better, create her as a magical human, and take those Attack/Defense quality bonuses as applying to, say, Single Weapon instead of her natural attacks (that'd be brawl). Pour it on. Create her as a female Vandal Savage, an ancient, winter character, and put those points into single weapon. Depending on her might, the sky is the limit.

Pure combat will always be defeated, though, by the power of exploding dice :unamused:
Worst thing to do? Give her a personnal Ward against Humans. By the raw, it means no human can take direct action against her, if it penetrates (We see htis a fewx times in the boks). Now she can peacefuly butcher an army. If you create it as a faerie charm, you can tie it to her sword, and have the fluff as her deflecting all attacks with it

My saga (non-canon) features paladins, who mechanically tend to plow alot of their xp into skills and develop slower in their arts. We have three in our saga. All are rather dangerous combatants.

One has items of quality as an initiated virtue. With her general abilities and skills (and after a few seasons in her lab/forge) she has weapons that do +4 att, armour with +4 soak, shields with +4 defence, exceptional quality adds +1 or +2 to all these as well. Add an enchanted Gambeson of impenetrable silk and she has both monstrous defence and soak values. It becomes very hard to actually wound her in mundane combat.

Magical weapons too can be surprisingly effective. A low level effect with high penetration (such as causes light wounds on a touch) can be seriously nasty in combat. Even dangerous opponents rapidly become crippled by massive accumulated wound penalties.

What we have found is that while these paladins are very dangerous and very hard to kill (as long as they have good parma), it is very easy to protect yourself against them. quite low level spells to levitate oneself, ward metal items (although we house items with MR), turn invisible, etc, do a lot to stop the paladins becoming the masters of every combat.

One of them, the youngest who started off life as an apprentice, has both affinity and puissant single weapon, a sword with +2 craftsman ship bonus and good physicals and is absolutely deadly in most mundane combats. Good armour and a shield make him quite tough despite his almost total lack of magic too.

I houseruled in a Virtue, a Major version of Cautious with (Ability) that removes a number of botch dice equal to your level in the Ability. If you use one of the methods above for jacking up your weapon skill, it could come with the benefit of never botching. It's at least worth mentioning to your SG as a possibility, I figure. And it doesn't really stop enemies from rolling lots o' ones and murdering you that way.

If you're willing to do a bit of houseruling and/or take some subtle supernatural abilities there's some quite interesting possibilities.

This one is built using 3x the Personal Power virtue from RoP:M, and based on Shriek of the Impending Shafts (Base 2, +2 Sun, +3 Hearing, +6 Requisites*, +1 Constant, 25 levels to reduce the might/fatigue cost to 0)
*(Works on anything fitting any form other than Imaginem, Vim and Mentem... and those forms are really a bit unlikely to come up)

Danger Sense
Major Supernatural Virtue
You are continuously aware of any object that is either obviously dangerous (fire), or is moving fast enough to do harm, within earshot of you.
As long as you are capable of movement you get a +9 defence bonus against all attacks and can automatically succeed on any defence roll against a ranged attack from greater than ten paces away.

You can do impressive things with a geas or death condition. She could be immune to all harm to the body, save for that from children, or something like that.

Or she has a collection of magic items - several Arthurian knights had one or two, and Lancelot was weighed down with them - like, say, bracelets that ward against arrows, a girdle proofing the body against blades, boots that give both speed and flight, a diadem that gives unerring aim, a sword that cuts through any defense, a bow that always draws an arrow, and a rope that stretches to any length and cannot be cut.


I did simulations on spreadsheets once with two combatents fighting each other who were equally matched except for one virtue. The best virtues were in order:

1.Giant Blooded
2. Enduring Constitution (interpretation I used was turns light wounds into 0's, medium into -2's, and heavy into -4's)
3. Large (if no giant blood)
4. Puissant or Affinity
5. Quickness +5 - helps win initiative contests as well as defense bonus
6. Dex +5
7. Str +5
8. Sta +5
9. Beserker

I would add Tough, Self Confident and fix Enduring Constitution ("total penalty" only gives a single -1)

  1. Giant Blood, wound increment Minor Virtue (double Large = 4.4 def)
  2. Puissant XXX Weapon (+2 att, +2 def = +4 overall)
  3. Enduring Constitution (Exertion kinda secures a Medium Wound. +3 overall)
  4. Improved Characteristics to get any 3 Str/Sta/Dex/Qik to +1 (+3 overall)
  5. Tough (+3 def)
  6. Large (.1 Light + .2 Medium + .3 Heavy = 2.2 def)
  7. Giant Blood (double Large + Str/Sta = 6.4/3 = 2.1 def)
  8. Self Confident (using it shifts a Wound by 1 step, +2 overall)
  9. Improved Characteristics to get any 1.5 Str/Sta/Dex/Qik to +2 (+1.5 overall)
  10. Improved Characteristics to get any 1 Str/Sta/Dex/Qik to +3 (+1 overall)
  11. Cautious with XXX Weapon ( 2% failure * +10? def = 0.2 overall)

For a grog, Puissant + Tough + Warrior was my munchkin favorite, but Enduring Constitution might do better.

For a companion, Giant Blood + 2x Improved Characteristics yields Str/Sta+3, Dex/Qik+2 and 5 more Virtues to pick. I'd take Puissant, Enduring Constitution, Self Confident, Tough and Warrior if I had to fill them for pure combat.

Thanks for the correction, I knew I was missing a couple virtues. I didn't use Self Confident, but it clear would be a good virtue, especially if an ST is generous with Confidence awards per session, or if there's long stretches in between fights.

From what discovered, if Enduring Constitution gives only a net -1, it is by far the worst virtue to take. And yes, I forgot to add Tough and Cautiuos with Weapon. CwW's worth is highly dependant on the number of botch dice an ST makes a player roll when botching during combat. If it's only ever one die, then it's quite lousy and not worth the purchase.

I'd say under strict RAW, Giant Blood, Puissant, Tough, Affinity, Self Confident, improved stats x2, and have Str/Sta+2 and Qik/Dex+3, and Cautious with Weapon. CwW is a lousy virtue, but it DOES basically give you an exta life in the event you actually would have botched. When you need it, you REALLY need it.

Yeah, CwW saves you 2 seasons of recovering from an Incapacitating Wound, if the ASG is too friendly to kill you. :wink: I would have suggested Rapid Concalescence if getting wounded was a priority, but it pales compared to minor CrCo.

BTW, I meant to get all Str/Sta/Dex/Qik to +2, using Giant Blood to get to +3. Reversing it requires putting a -1 on some mental Characteristic (or 2, if you want a positive Per). Anything to avoid wounds is good.

Well, "reliably fighting armies solo" is not mundane stuff in Ars Magica; it's supernatural stuff, and of fairly tall order.
But... how about a character like the following? She's a bit of a one-trick pony (she's supernaturally good at swordfights, but that's it); still there's a lot of interesting tactical stuff she can pull-off in a swordfight. She's designed as a standard Companion, with 9 points of Virtues balanced by 9 of Flaws, so there's still room for customization (particularly if you want to go the Mythic Companion route).

Yvonne, outlaw and former faerie squire

"My father was a faerie knight - so my mother tells me - and I will become a knight myself when I grow up!". Yvonne was probably the only person in her village who believed it; it is not easy for the lovely daughter of an unmarried washerwoman to find a man (not to mention a nobleborn knight) willing to train her in the harsh arts of war. To be fair, after running away from home at thirteen and narrowly escaping bandits, rapists, and other unsavoury types, Yvonne did find brief employment in a coven of witches and warlocks as one of the "grogs" - the thuggish armed henchmen of the sorcerers. But a thug is no knight, and (after stirring some trouble at the covenant) Yvonne left to seek her destiny. She went through many more adventures, and eventually met a fairy lord who took her as his squire. According to her mentor her learning was incredibly fast: after less than twenty years, he confided to her that she was already showing "remarkable progress" in her swordsmanship, and they would probably be able to move on to her lance in a few more decades. Then mace, riding, history of warfare, etiquette etc. etc.; she would probably earn her knighthood in a few brief centuries! Yvonne fled back to the mortal world. Yet she found she no longer fit in. After the wonders of the Court of Jasper and Opal, no mortal place felt like home. She roamed the land seeking employment as a mercenary; men laughed at her when she claimed to be a knight (well, she was technically still a squire, but...) . And after she challenged Count Lefevre's men to combat to prove her worth, and slew seven of them while setting five more to flight, she was declared a witch and an outlaw. Where will she go now?

Characteristics: Int+1 Per +1 Pre+2 Com -3 Str+1 Sta +1 Dex+2 Qik +2

Size: 0

Age: 36(21)

Warping Score: 3(0)

Confidence Score: 1(3)

Virtues and Flaws+: Outlaw, Enchantment*, Strong Faerie Blood++, Affinity with Single Weapon, Grant*, Ware*, Envied Beauty**, Faerie Upbringing*, Oversensitive(to desrespect), Rolling Stone***

  • From RoP:F.
    ** From HoH:S.
    *** From Grogs.
  • Note that Yvonne gains no Flaws from her Warping score of 3 - she undergoes Faerie Calling instead (see RoP:F).
    ++ Yvonne's faerie blood provides her with a positive Sympathy in swordfights at a basic score of 1, which she raised 7 points further (3 from Warping, 3 from Strong Faerie Blood and 1 from Faerie Upbringing) with experience.

Personality Traits: Touchy +3, Knightly +1, Flirtatious -2

Reputations: Witch 2

Combat: Init +3, Atk +23(+27*), Def +20(+22*), Dmg +7
*When Enchanted with Puissant Weapon, Improved Dexterity, Great Dexterity, see below

Soak: +6

Fatigue Levels:

Wound Penalties:

Athletics 2 (grace), Awareness 1 (alertness), Brawl 1 (dodging), Enchantment 4, Etiquette 2 (Faeries), Faerie Lore 3 (faerie courts), Faerie Sympathy (Swordfights) 8, Grant 2, Leadership 1 (battle), Riding 3 (battle), Second Sight 2 (battle), Single Weapon 9 (swords), Speak Own Language 5, Survival 1 (local area), Ware 2.

Equipment: Mail Haubergeon, Coif, Longsword (Load 3, Encumbrance 1)

Note: Yvonne was mentored to wield the sword at a level of ability unheard of in mortal lands. Not only her Characteristic+Single Weapon (including her Sympathy as a specialty) is a phenomenal 19; her mentor has taught her a number of secret techniques that she can bring out with Enchantment (using Single Weapon as the performance ability) in combination with Grant and Ware. Her Sympathy score of 8 allows her to perform Rites of up to level 40; although her Method+Power total is lowish, she can build up impressive casting totals over a few rounds with Enchantment (see RoP:F). Often, she performs these Rites while practicing, setting them to affect her on her next real combat (or her next sparring session) with D:Geas/While in battle (+3) or D:Geas/Sun (+4). Typical effects include Granting herself Minor Virtues like Puissant Weapon, Cautious with Single Weapon, Improved Dexterity, Great Dexterity, and a Minor Blessing that always makes a sword available when she needs it if it's remotely possible (Base 15); Warding herself from any mundane opponent with whom she's involved in a swordfight (Base 1) or from any with whom she's not, as long as she is in some swordfight (Base 15); Granting minor (Base 10) or Major (Base 30) flaws on her enemies while she fights them with her sword; slicing through, or parrying, supernatural effects with her sword etc. She can literally fight mundane armies single-handedly.

EDIT: in the original post I had mistakenly listed Yvonne's "starting" score in her Sympathy at 4 (1+Warping score). As correctly pointed out by callen, according to RoP:F it should be 1. I fixed that, and balanced the 45xp I had thus overspent by reducing from 3 to 2 Yvonne's Etiquette, Grant, and Second Sight scores.

Ah, alright! That looks really good! I'm more concerned about her coming off as mundane, not actually being mundane. The Faerie reliance does have the unfortunate implication that Dominion auras will have their way with her, but she's not really the type to smash her way into the church and then start fighting anyway (she'd probably have already done her rights before entering any particularly strong Dominion aura), so that looks like it ought to work well enough. Thank you very much!

Just a quick note on that build. The ++ note is incorrect. The base value is set by Minor/Major. It's limit (excepting via 1s) is set by the original value, Warping Score, and certain faerie V&F. Warping Score doesn't add to it.

Is there a Virtue point left? Cautious with Ability is even more valuable when the Ability usually has a Sympathy Trait linked to it.

Woah! Spending 180 xp here seems a little too much. With the 225/1.5 = 150 xp on Single Weapon that's 12 + 10 = 22 years of Later Life. And she has 250 - 10 = 240 xp in other abilities. IOW, she needs (240 - 45)/15 = 16 - 3 = 13 more years. She has to be 5 + 13 + 22 = 40 years old.

That may be due to the error I mentioned. 175, though, not 180, since it doesn't start at 0.

Ok, so only the first point from Strong Faerie God Blood is free. Those from SFB and Faerie Upbringing clearly must be paid, and those from Warping... isn't clear.

For clarity:

Starting value: 1 (5 experience)
Limit: starting value 1 + Strong Faerie Blood 3 + Faerie Upbringing 1 + Warping Score 3 = 8

This character may spend experience to get a score as high as 8 but no higher. The only other changes are from rolling 1s (not limited to a score of 8) and botches. Since this is character creation, those haven't shown up yet.