New ability

Hi, I would like to propose an abilty to solve medium size battles like the entire turb against a band of bandits...

Here is my suggestion:

New Ability: Tactics (general)
This ability allows leaders of small armies to coordinate their troops better. For each point in the ability a number of fighting groups -each having a separate leader and vanguard- can be coordinated. Each of these groups gets the tactic score added to initiative, attack or defence as chosen by the tactician. During battle the tactician needs some means to communicate his ideas to his troops otherwise they loose this bonus.
Alternatively, any character can command the threefold amount of troops if communicating his tactics before the battle starts. However, he cannot change how the tactic bonus is applied once the battle started. Another risk is espionage: The enemy army may gain intelligence on the tactics and use sufficient counter measures in which case the tactic bonus is subtracted from initiative, attack or defence as the opposing party wants.
Specialisation: certain kind of terrain (forest, open plane, hills, desert ,..), certain kind of troops (foot soldiers, mounted units, bowmen,…)

Note: Warfare in Western Europe does not use tactics by 1220. Anyone doing so is considered treacherous. Thus, almost no military leader has a reasonable score in this ability. On the other hand, armies not lead by Western European noblemen may well have a tactician. This includes the Muslim armies (Scores above 5 are common!), bandits or other heroic figures like Robin Hood (Scores of 2, or 3 at most).
Turb leaders may as well posses this skill when they do not feel obliged to follow the chivalry code of honour. These men and women may well become masters of tactics as they have access to ancient descriptions of roman battles.

In general, I think it's a fine ability.

I do think it's a mistake to claim that medieval military leaders had no idea of tactics. If I'm remembering correctly, the 4th edition Ordo Nobilis had the same ability, and cited a Roman source that was fairly available. Any of the various hand book of knights written in the 12th and 13th century lists all sorts of tactics useful to a warrior. Medieval romances, specifically the Stanzaic Morte Arthure and the Alliterative Morte Arthure, have instances where Arthur's soldiers spring from the woods and surprise his enemies, and other instances of using terrain to achieve victory. I'd call these 'tactics'. So, maybe no written contemporary handbook exists, but any knight worth his salt would know about tactics.

I'd also be wary with large scale battles in Ars. As soon as you add 'tactics', players will want combat advantages for defensive terrain, partial cover, charging, and all sorts of related bonuses. Perhaps it provides another mechanical bonus. Like adding to the maximum size of a trained group, or assisting Fatigue rolls because of increased morale.

That said, I'd give it a test in a game and see how it goes.

Matt Ryan

One of the things I love about the 5th edition combat rules is how abstracted and simple they are. You don't have a bunch of actions, half-actions, and modifiers for cover/partial cover etc. You just have your totals and a die roll.

Of course, it's also the thing I hate about it...

I'd personally conflate it into Leadership, as it comes up so seldom in the average ars adventure (just like I'd conflate various sailing/boating/navigating skills). I think it's lame if someone has 200xp tied up in backstory that never gets used for anything at the table.

Yes, I would also drop it into leadership. We already dropped several physical abilities (and "rogue" abilities as well) together, so no biggie for us here dumping stuff together.



I think the Leadership Ability is more about getting people to do what you want, rather than necessarily knowing what the best thing is for them to do.

I'd personally use something like Profession : Military, perhaps specialised in Tactics, to represent this.

Respectfully I disagree.
In response may I quote the Strategikon, but the Emporer Maurice? This is well known in Eastern Europe.

"For it is not true, as some inexperienced people believe, that wars are decided by courage and numbers of troops, but . . . by tactics and generalship and our concern should be with these rather than [with] wasting our time mobilizing large numbers of troops." THere's chapters of this sort of stuff, and, without wanting to be rude, it was known to be effective and there were people fighting for their lives during the period. I don't think all that many of them truly and deeply cared if other people would think they 'cheated' to, for example, crush the invading French.

He did say Western Europe.

But anyway, I agree with you Timothy.

Of course Western military commanders knew something about tactics. Sure, they might not be using the same tactics as Arabs and Mongols and so forth (at least partly due to different technology). Certainly this contributed to some historic disasters.

But on the other hand, Western medieval armies did manage to periodically capture parts of the Holy Land. So it's not like there is a total tactical deficit in Western Military forces. And in the Ars Magica period Western Christian military forces are doing very nicely at driving Muslim forces out of Iberia/Spain.

The iberian peninsula (Spain will not exist for a few centuries yet) is more a strategic level of warfare than tactical. It is about unconclusive skirmishes and raids (performed by both sides) and about the systematic use of siege warfare. Pitched battles were rare, and the ones that we have evidence about are more like a massive brawl than anything else. The iberian peninsula is pretty much a backwater when it comes to tactics, in this sense.

But yes, the western commanders would have at least a modicum knowledge of tactics.


Well, I don't think you're saying that "tactics" did not yet exist - hope not, anyway.

William T. Conqueror pretty clearly had more than a basic grasp, as did his Norse cousins, and that was 150 years previous to this era. Now, personal prowess and "kill anything that moves" carried many a day, but a good wedge charge at the right moment could work wonders.

Things may not, almost certainly were not as sophisticated as Roman tactics, long lost, but some leaders were rediscovering a thing or two.

The exact distinction between tactics and strategy in this case is just semantics, I feel.

From what I understand in the battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212) the Christian forces employed "tactics" like pincer movements and so forth.

Also this paper describes the tactics used by the crusader army of de Montfort in 1213, in Muret.

The "good" commanders had a good knowledge of tactics. That's what made them good commanders.

Only if you feel that the difference between a company of troops and an army of troops is semantics. Tactics and Strategy differ in the same way that a household budget and a national economy differ, or a search of a house for a fugitive and a search of a mountain range for a lost hiker.

However, in a game system that tosses all "single handed" weapons, from rapier to mace, into the same skill, these two could, and as a SG I would say ~should~ be lumped together as well. Siege warfare too.

There is some uncertainty as to what extent "tactics" at this time was formalized, if at all, or whether it was intuitive and based purely on experience. William the Conqueror used brilliant naval tactics to destroy the defending Anglo-Saxon navy when he invaded- I doubt if he had ever studied "naval tactics/strategy", but he was a seasoned cavalryman- did the same approach lend itself to both? Was it an intuitive analogy, or just plain lucky? Whichever, it worked, and for reasons that are understood today as elementary to naval warfare.

WtC also clearly used tactics in the ensuing battles, holding back certain troops, sending others in or around at crucial times, etc. The concept of "reserves" was beginning to take hold, and that of elite or specialized units to be used against particular targets. The Italian city-states were starting to codify some of for their militias, and wrote (typically obtuse) commentaries that exist today. Some differences in tactics were merely cultural: "the way we always do it" vs "the way they always do it"- and one works better vs the other. The Norse tended to use the "charge!" method, or perhaps that in combination with a wedge formation which was a tough challenge to stand against, but the concept that battles could be more than "all my men vs. all your men.. ready... GO!" in a grand melee was beginning to find traction (again, for the first time since the fall of Rome), one way or another.