Return of the Noob: Movement

This has my troupe scratching our heads.

We can't seem to find rules for movement in combat, and the implications of movement (like attacks of opportunity). Also how moving stealthily affects movement rate. If anyone could please help me with info on how this is handled in Ars Magica I would be very grateful. :slight_smile:

The short answer is that there aren't rules for it in the core book. ArsM doesn't have detailed rules for tactical combat. The Lords of Men supplement has rules for tactical movement and more detailed rules for combat. Those are probably what you are looking for.

In any case they will not be as detailed as those of dungerons and dragons or similar systems. Here the focus is not in mundane combat since, basically, a magus is like putting a Green Beret or Navy Seal (magus) in a kindergarten (mundanes). If he wants, he will make short work of them. As such mundane combat takes a secondary role in Ars and so the rules are not as detailed.


Don't think of Magi as fighting like adventurers in a dungeon. Think of them as fighting like battleships. They get within Voice range and then move just enough to get good shots off at one another, trying to penetrate the opponents' protection.

As for non-Magi, or for those who fight within Touch range, there's nothing wrong with using the combat system from another game.

This is my suggested 'quick and dirty' movement system:

For any given combat, either have a rough map of the battlefield or know just enough about the scenery to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of terrain is it?
  • Which combatants are protected by the terrain in some way?
  • What factors are there that will add botch dice to one (or more) combatants?

Terrain is anything from cold stone dungeon floor to muddy swamp to rocky hill. Have a think about how easy it would be to move through. An open field is fairly easy, a muddy swampy root-entangled swamp considerably less so.

Combatants protected by terrain includes things like archers on a hill, or on the far side of some kind of lake, or even soldiers on a battlement.

Botch factors include things like rain, slippery ground, low visibility, etc. Add one botch die to all combatants (who are affected) for each item.

At the start of the combat, work out who is close enough to melee (if applicable) and who isn't. Typically speaking anyone within about 15' of each other are 'close enough'. If the group are charging entrenched archers, then no-one is. If there is a wizard on a hill and some summoned wolves sent into the fray, then the wizard is not in fisticuff range while the wolves are.

To engage in combat with someone who is in rough fisticuff range, it's simply a matter of saying 'I attack that guy!'. Automatic engagement, proceed immediately to attack rolls.

To engage in melee combat with someone who is not in fisticuff range, closing is required which involves a Quickness + Athletics - Encumbrance roll vs. a difficulty value based on the terrain and any hazards in the way. Open ground: 0+. Climbing a siege ladder: 15+.

Groups use the worst Quickness + Athletics - Encumbrance of its members, not that of the Vanguard.

If a combatant fails to make the roll, they can try again next round with a +3 bonus if they attempt the same thing. If they succeed, they have closed that round and may proceed to make attack rolls.


Voice range is ~30', but in most cases combatants involved in any fight will be within voice range if the magus isn't afraid of shouting really loudly.

Magi can quickly alter the battlefield conditions, changing the target values for those athletics rolls for all or some combatants.


I'm not a huge fan of ranged combatants being able to engage targets, so no 'you must disengage to move' for me. Tried it once, just felt clumsy. I'd instead try adding +3 to the Quick+Athletcis difficulty and +1 botch die if the closing group are being attacked by ranged combatants.


Don't underestminate the power of adding botch dice. I've had combat botch dice climb as high as 6 without any kind of supernatural aid - high enough that the players get a real sense of risk.
Also, don't underestimate the importance of concentration checks for magi while in battle. Magi can't even move and cast in the same round without requiring a concentration check.

There is a spell in the core book which allows you to infer that movement in a round is 30 feet. I can't remember which one it is, and it does it in a strange way, saying you can walk 6 paces in a round, I think, and thereby define a round of combat movement.

I'd have to dig for it, and I can't, but I did find it the one time we were trying to figure it out.


Thank you everyone for the very useful replies. I guess I am still in D&D mode, there are still many things I need to get my head around :stuck_out_tongue:

First thing to remember, Ars Magica is not D&D. Ars Magica was actually originally made by a bunch of guys who played D&D magic users, hated that fighters were so much better than magic users at the start of the game. So they created a game of their own where they could play powerful magic users (magi) right from the start and the fighters were reduced to mindless irrelevant meat shields (grogs). Therefore, the game focuses entirely on magic and the things magic users do and gives short shrift to the activities of the weak and pointless fighter.

The FAQ suggests using the movement rates from older editions. I do, however, recommend simply accepting Ars Magica's more narrative approach to doing combat, and going with it.


This is kind of off...and I won't quote the whole thing...but I interviewed Lisa Stevens, who edited ArM1 and helped shape it, and that's not really what she said. You can read it in Sub Rosa #8.

As far as movement is concerned...

Nosing through the core, I think it was Creeping Chasm (pg 156), which says the effect moves 4 paces per round (using the Roman pace of approx. 5 feet, one step with each foot), and a Quickness roll of 9+ means escaping the effect. This indirectly means most people move about 20ish feet every 6 seconds, but most in-shape people can hustle out of the way (especially if they Exert).

In the Travel section (pg 181), it suggests a 20-mile travel day is about right. Presuming 8 hours of travel, this reduces to about 22 feet per 6 seconds...or 4ish paces. We put this as the easy target number of 6 for either Quickness or Athletics (+ Either Sta or Qik) rolls. For every 3 the roll exceeds the target, we add one pace-- which has it all fall nicely into place with Creeping Chasm.

However, there aren't too many situations where you need to worry about that much fine detail, and so abstracting the movement works most of the time.


Ars Magica 5th has defined a pace as three feet. P. 113, in the Targets and Sizes insert, it says that "a base one hundred paces (three hundred feet) in diameter." Don't know if it has anything different in the non-US editions (they might say one hundred paces is one hundred meters, dunno), but that's what my book has.

Thank you! I've looked all over the book, trying to figure out how long a pace is. I finally decided it was yet another YSMV matter, and set it at 2.5 ft, as that worked well with the 5ft squares I use for displaying miniatures.

That's what my book has, too. However, we use the Roman pace length of 5 feet because:

  1. It made sense with the Roman basis of the magic.
  2. It seemed to be a number that made the Creeping Chasm and the rate from Overland Travel make more sense
  3. The extra 2 feet didn't really break anything on spell effects that we'd found.