Rebalancing Weapons and Armour

Hi all

I'm a big consumer of popular history and i've been following a whole bunch of people online who do experimental archaeology, military history and using critiques of popular movies, etc, to teach a bit of history.

One thing thats become clear to me is that most roleplaying games, taking their clue from D&D, are terrible for authentic period weapons and armour, often getting the names wrong, along with how things are used etc.

I think Ars Magica does much better than most, but I'd like to consider expanding and rebalancing some of the weapons and armour.

In particular my next game is set in the Theban Tribunal, so I'll need to work out rules for lamellar armour, the plate reinforced chain used by the Turks and Mamluks and some new weaponry, most importantly, compound bows.

I'd also like to look at re-balancing the weapons and armours that exist in the main book. We'd need to add in Brigandine, which gets introduced in the mid 1200s, well within scope for an Ars game, which was a hugely popular form of armour. We'd also maybe want to get rid of flails (The mace and chain), change the lance to be as utterly deadly as it was from horseback (currently you are better off using an arming sword from horseback) and give the poor neglected spear a bit more ooomph.

Also rename pole axe to Poll Axe. And longsword as an arming sword. Yes, I'm a pedant.

So so I'm not making a total arse out of myself, do any of these appear in any of the supplemental books? I'm only away of the crossbow being introduced in another book.

For Armour, I'd propose expanding the vanilla list to include the following
Gambeson - Partial only - Protect 2, Weight 2
Chainmail byrnie, gambeson, gauntlets, helmet - full only - Protect 4, Weight 4
Cuir Bouille (Boiled leather armour) - Partial only - Protect 3, Weight 3
Lamellar - Partial - Protect 6, Weight 5, Full 9, load 7
Brigandine - Partial - Protect 6, Weight 5, Full 11, load 8

My reasoning here is that gambesons are actually pretty good armour, especially against slashing weapons, far better than merely quilted clothing.
Brigandine is great, but full brigandine would be worn over chainmail making it both heavier but also much safer.
I was always a little sad that boiled leather gets reduced to leather, when they are very different, boiled leather is extremely stiff and hard, not as good as metal, but miles away from merely thick leather.

On weapons
Spear - - Init +2. att +3, def +1, dam+7, Str -1
Mace and chain - get rid of it
Compound bow - Init -1. att +4, def +0, dam+7, Range 20, Str +1

Certain types of spears, such as those with a large head suitable for cutting or those more like a partisan just count as polearms.

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Have you looked at the stuff in Lords of Men?


I had to check to see whether I even had that book, but I do! and it answers about 95% of what I wrote.

Thanks for the tip Callen!

You're welcome. I think one of the main problematic points is that shields don't defend as well as some non-shields comparatively. The one canonical case of paired weapons has two swords better for defense than a sword and a buckler. (Of course, that is "buckler" v. an actual buckler, but those stats should work for a buckler as used in fencing.) So I think the house rule I've seen for adding +1 to all shields' defenses is a good thing.

I think the name for the axe may be intentional. I think it's supposed to include some large hafted axes. Of course, when does a haft become a pole?

I am currently a player in a game that mixes ArM5 magic with DnD5 combat and core mechanics. I am teaching the DM Ars Magica magic and trying to learn DnD5 mechanics. I have thus learned to hate DnD5, and I resent Tweets attempt to turn the old classic into a pale imitation of Ars Magica. :laughing:
I am a big fan of OSR, Basic D&D (not Advanced, I mean Moldvay/Cook and Mentzer Basic; and take note of the ampersand).
Long story short, I have considered using Weapon Mastery from Mentzer and applying it to Ars Magica. Not so much the mechanics of attack/damage/armor. No, I mean the Mastery feats of each weapon. Things like Disarm, Delay, Stun, and so on. Not so much for "realism". Heaven forbid! My idea is to add some dramatic tension and tactical options to the action sequences (take note of the word "action". It is not about blood and combat, it is about the excitement of action).

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If you want the system with the most realistic melee system, that would be "The Riddle of Steel" RPG and its successor "Blade of the Iron Throne", though I do not have any experience with Blade.

If you want to see a truly complex (though fairly fast playing once you get the hang of it) combat system designed to represent a fight between two blade masters looks like, they are pretty much your go to system.

Every action is represented by by maneuvers, with slightly different cost and effects determined by your style and weapon. Beats, rota, binds, winding, half-swording, you name it up to and including murder strokes (gripping the blade and beating them with the cross guard/pommel) and master strikes (that would be parrying your enemies attack and attacking them with the same movement, such as a block that also impales your enemy through the throat).

Oh, and it gets even deeper and wider if you get "The Flower of Battle" source book.

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