Path of Strife: Quadrupling the Attack Bonus means ... ?

The second station of the Criamon's path of Strife provides access to the following power:
"Strikes with the magus’s meditation weapon precisely exploit tiny flaws in the victim. They have four times the usual Attack Bonus...".
I am not sure what this means. What is the "attack bonus"? Is it the weapon's Attack Modifier (e.g. +3 in the case of a staff)? Is it the number listed after "Atk" in a character's combat statistics? Is it the number you'd otherwise add to the stress die to obtain the Attack Total, including all modifiers -- e.g. fatigue and wound penalties and possibly a bonus from exertion?

Exactly what you first thought, the attack bonus of the weapon is multiplied by 4. In the case of said, staff, the attack modifier becomes 12.

I had a former Flambeau who joined Criamon (he of course, killed the former Primus) and was wandering around with his greatsword, it was a rather scary sight.

Would a Shoddy/Superior/Excellent weapon's Quality Modifier to Attack be added before or after the multiplication?

I'm still not 100% convinced that "Attack Bonus" means "the weapon's Attack Modifier". Any evidence?
Among other things, it would seem strange that a low skill, recent initiate of the path with a warhammer would get, from a power that supposedly is about finesse and exploitation of the opponent's tiny flaws, a vastly larger bonus than a skilled master of the path with a stiletto. I wonder what Timothy Ferguson (whose mechanics I always complain about!) really meant.

If "Attack bonus" really means "the weapon's Attack Modifier" however, it should be put into the errata, because it's not called by its proper name and is easily confused with other things.


Attack Bonus is 4th ed's terminology vs. 5th ed's Attack Modifier, isn't it?

Want a good work around? Change it for your Saga to be linked to Enigmatic Wisdom (something like 2x Engimatic Wisdom as a bonus to the weapon's attack Modifier).

I... don't know. I mean, as written, I'd say before, since it's enhancing the ability of the weapon to find said flaws etc. However, I'd be concerned about the ability of said Magus to just wade through things, killing left and right. Though in the grand scheme of things, there are far easier ways to kill far more people than with a sword in Ars and it's comparatively easier to defend against said sword, so perspective?

I'd have preferred you asked me closer to the date of publication: it was ten years ago.

The war hammer is a C14th weapon and the stilleto is C15th, but that's by the by. My larger answer would be: if you are going to be playing one of these, and you know this is the effect, don't deliberately choose a weapon that doesn't work well and then complain afterwards. If you choose a pebble, a caber or a lariat, it's not my fault.

I presume I meant Attack modifier, again on the presumptions that
a) if you make a suboptimal build, it's because that's what you want.
b) the flaws are in the victim not, as you've explained, in the victim's armor. The damage is being done because the path of strife gives you an inherent understanding of how to disrupt things including the gear and bodies of others.
c) the power is a side effect of greater spiritual changes. It's not the point, from the character's perspective, any more than being able to lift spaceships is the point of studying the Force from Yoda's perspective. As such, the desire to maximise its destructive potential is a player, rather than necessarily a character, motivation.
d) yes, it's does make you deadly with a weapon. That said, it doesn't make you nearly as deadly as a Flambeau with mastered range spells, so I'm not sure I care much about the destructive power.

Talk about escaping the prison of time :slight_smile:
But thanks for chiming in all the same.

That's not what I am complaining about. I am somewhat baffled by the fact that the mechanics do not seem to match the intuition of how the power works. It's a little as if the power said "The Criamon can now draw sustenance from the Spharios itself. As a result, he gains a +3 bonus to all his Music rolls." Uh? Ok, it's not that extreme, but it's a find-the-proverbial-chink-in-the-opponent's-armour type of power. I'd expect it to work better (or at least as well) with high finesse weapons like daggers, short swords and perhaps bare hands, whereas it works terribly with those and works best with big, low-finesse weapons like a warhammer, or (just slightly worse) a greatsword or a halberd. And how "enlightened" the Criamon is makes absolutely no difference.

Actually, from my point of view, if it just quadruples the weapon's attack modifier it's a very, very weak power. The attack bonus that one gets from being in a trained group of grogs is probably larger, unless one starts toying with modifiers for high quality weapons which gets iffy pretty fast. That's one of the reasons I was not convinced quadrupling the weapon's Attack modifier was your intent. Quadruple the attacker's weapon skill (for the purpose of attacking) and voila. You get something that a) is suitably impressive and b) fits better the description of the power, because Yoda with a lightsaber is supposed to be at least as impressive in a fight as Yoda with a caber, and definitely better than young Luke Skywalker with either.

After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that what feels wrong to me is not the idea of quadrupling the weapon's attack modifier. That's sound in principle, in that "high finesse" weapons -- those ideal for finding the proverbial chink-in-the-armour -- should probably have a higher attack modifier. But they don't!

The problem lies in the fact that by ArM5 mechanics the highest Attack Modifier is given to big, hefty weapons. In my view, they should have only a low-to-moderate Attack modifier, compensated by a very large Damage Modifier. Instead, the weapon that makes it easiest to land a blow is the warhammer or another two-handed bludgeon (+6) followed closely by a greatsword and a halberd (+5). A knife is one of the worst, with a measly +1. Why is that so?

You can tell from my asking these questions after so many years that my Ars Magica games typically see very little combat :slight_smile: Still, perhaps someone can enlighten me?


This is mostly as it should be, given the limitations of AM Combat rules, which will undoubtedly be rewritten from scratch next edition too.

This is not an age of rapiers, foils and stilletos. This is not an action movie, in which armor is worse than useless and flashy maneuvers win.

There's a reason that warriors are 'mighty' rather than 'acrobatic.'

D&D has it totally right in making melee based primarily on Str, if you're only going to use one stat. Archery should also be based on Str, fwiw.

AM has it totally right in giving good attack bonuses to big, dangerous weapons that are not clumsy.



I agree with the premises, but utterly disagree with the conclusions. Were combat resolved with a single die roll associated to a single "statistic", I would agree with you. Mostly. Bigger is better. BUT! You roll "to hit" and you roll "to damage". In fact, you roll to hit even when you are not trying to damage -- for example to disarm. Big hefty weapons are great on the damage side. If you want to make sure big hefty weapons get their due, don't make it "easier" for them to hit the target. Make it more difficult, but give them a sufficiently large damage differential that, you know, it's like winning a penny -- guaranteed! or having a one-in-four chance of winning a pound.


If you utterly disagree, just change the rules in your game.

That said, within the limitations of the combat system, bigger weapons that aren't inherently clumsy should have a better chance to hit. Big weapons are intimidating, they add reach, they hold an opponent at bay reducing options. And most of these weapons are not particularly clumsy either. (Some are; particularly pikes (later than 13C) and other longer spears, intended for use in formation.)

It's why real armies didn't go to war with daggers, but swords and (especially) spears.

Size isn't everything, of course. But the Roman legions are a great exception to the usual rule: Bigger is better. Particularly in the AM period, that style of warfare is gone. Weapons are getting bigger, not smaller. Bigger is better, and an appropriate combat system should reflect that.

In most game systems, bonuses to land a hit, any hit, are far more valuable than bonuses to damage. It's even worse when rolling in excess of what you need to hit translates into more damage.

IRL, a good hit with a dagger is just as fatal as a good hit with a battle axe. But the dagger won't penetrate armor, might even be deflected by a belt (so your effective chance to hit is lower because you need to aim your blow just right, requires you to get very close in (which is difficult when the other guy can kill you before you have a chance), etc.

So getting a better bonus to hit with a greatsword than with a knife is completely reasonable and right to me.

On the other hand, if you prefer your Ars Magica combat to veer more toward Men in Tights or even classic Hollywood Robin Hood, by all means, make big weapons suck, except for improvised weapons such as tapestries.

Or, you can develop a completely different combat system that accounts for reach, close quarters, formation vs duel, different weapons vs different armors, and so on. That works too.

Simulating real reality isn't what matters, but the kind of reality a game should have.

For one thing, our idea of 'real' reality changes every few years, and says as much about us as about 'real' history: The changing aesthetics of AM over the decades is a good example of this!

For another thing, modeling real reality is hard. Even people who make a living trying to do this with real math and (sometimes :/) real science usually get it wrong. Though the great thing about peer review and science is that over time, they (we?) get ever closer, except when blinded by prejudice and self interest.

For one more thing, real reality is often not very satisfying.

So for a game, rules should model what the game sets out to achieve.

In a game featuring ninja or spies, I'd want combat rules that make tiny weapons extremely effective, that make it possible to dodge overlapping fields of automatic fire, that make it much easier to sneak than to observe, and so on.

In a game featuring martial artists, I'd want weapons to be worthwhile only for those not trained in real combat. I'd make it easy to disarm someone, easy to turn someone's weapon against him, easy to fumble with a weapon, easy to dodge a weapon. Unless there's one special weapon that goes with the martial art.

And... in a medieval game in which knights rule Europe, I'd make sure that the weapons they use are great. I'd make sure that the guy with sword or lance and armor is almost certain to crush the acrobat with a dagger, unless the acrobat achieved total surprise, which I'd make difficult, since Europe does not feel real if an assassin's guild is offing kings left and right. Since castles are a thing, I'd make sure that they aren't easy to infiltrate or break. I'd make sure than an experienced fighter, properly equipped, is a match for a group of rabble; he might not win, but they would well know they could easily lose, or win with half of them getting killed, unless circumstances were vastly in their favor.

So fighting with a sword and shield should be a lot more effective than fighting with a dagger. Bows and crossbows should be good, but not Xena's shakram, or Ayla's spear thrower.

Chivalry and Sorcery has many interesting ideas but is ultimately a wretched and dated game system even in its last edition, for example, but one thing it does very well is simulate the kind of environment it wants to support, which is its own idea of 'realistic' magical medieval Europe. A knight on horseback is ludicrously dangerous, and it is easy for a character of appropriate birth to become a knight with full panoply. Other characters are possible, of course, but they don't get nearly as much starting equipment, and are not nearly as dangerous in straight combat. Oh, and they also are likely to get more xp. Wizard with a starting lab? Ha. The first word of the title says it all.

So for a game set in 1220, I want combat rules that make the most likely weapons chosen by people who could choose anything to be the best. If anything, lesser weapons are too good.