Shields with Brawl/Great Weapon

I've been pondering how shields are supposed to work. If you use a Single Weapon weapon, it's clear. But what if you use a different type. Sure, page 171 still makes sense, but what Ability is applied? There are real-world examples of this, though most cases only involve Single Weapon. I suppose using the page 171 rule and just using whatever weapon Ability applies to the non-shield item makes the most sense. Thoughts?


P. 71 is about Covenant creation.

P. 171 is the start of the Obstacles chapter.

... Anyway, you can use a shield in combat if you have a free hand to use it - if you are using a Great Weapon, both hands are engaged.

Generally, a shield would be cumbersome to use with the brawl ability.
I would rule that a buckler shield could be used as a bludgeon with brawl, as you could use many improvised close-to-the-body objects with this ability.
Other shields seem too cumbersome for this use, as it would protect the wielder but the adversary too (you could hardly swing a punch while wielding a shield).
You could protect yourself behind a shield (againts missiles) and use thrown weapons. Other martial abilities aren't usable at all with a shield, you need both hands.

I've used a shield with a dagger to reasonable effect. Very useful against an opponent using a longer weapon like a longsword or a polearm. Makes it possible to cross inside the opponent's range and stab him from where he will have trouble fighting effectively. I would probably allow the use of the Brawl skill with the shield's stats added. I imagine (and would recommend) that the first round of fighting with such a combination be used only to get inside the opponent's range, with further rounds being used more to attack.

Just my 2 cents' worth.

As has been stated, Great Weapon requires two hands -- and two arms, so no shield. Ok, maybe a buckler... but I really don't see it. This leaves Brawl. Hmm. Tricky!

In principle, nothing states that you can't use the same weapon with two different skills, with different statistics. This is the case of Lance/Long Spear, for example. So, it's reasonable that you could a use shield with Brawl.

The catch is that the way Ars Magica is set up, the shield gives the same bonus no matter what other weapon it's combined with. While I could see it used with a dagger, I would definitely not see it used with a punch or kick. Also, note that with a dagger (or, in fact, a sword), a round shield or buckler has at least as much and advantage in attack as in defense: you use it to batter away you opponent's weapon so as to create an opening for your own. On a slightly larger scale, we can use shields (particularly small and round shields) to close to an opponent armed with a long weapon, say a pike or long spear, so that they are effectively disarmed. This is not modelled by ArM5 combat, which is a pity, but hey.

So, ultimately, I think the closest approximation using the Ars Magica system is to keep things as they stand: you can't use a shield with Brawl, except as a bludgeon/improvised weapon.

And if you have someone/thing that has 3 or more arms?


We need to go back to AM4 combat!



Same as if you have someone/something that uses a greatsword as a toothpick and wields a large tree as a club. Ad hoc stats!

Leaving sarcasm to the side, I think that overall, ArM5 is better than previous editions in terms of combat too ... but I do think that previous editions did some things better, and that combat could be improved without increasing its complexity. With "improved" I mean something that's never worse, and sometimes better, than the current system in terms of a) being fun to play and b) feeling "true" to the setting.


I would only allow Single Weapon, except with an exceptional exception.

Brawling represents attacks that are pretty much untrained. (Mythic Assassins might beg to differ, regarding daggers, and I think that it is a system failure to require a real combat skill to use that epitome of peasant mob weapons, the pitchfork. See below.)

Mere brawlers don't have the skill to use shields well.

Shield and 2-handers seems very off.

It is reasonable to create special rules for that very special Combat Octopus, but not encumber mainline rules with such considerations.

That said, I would prefer to collapse combat skills to a single skill, maybe a second for ranged. Dodge would be based either on your combat skill or on Athletics. Particularly difficult weapons or styles would require a minor virtue such as Knightly Training, Archer, etc. The virtue represents more than accumulation of xp, but years of training. These virtues offset penalties and sometimes offer bonuses to particular weapons.

This leaves us with two kinds of characters:

Civilians: No warrior virtues
Fighters: Has at least one warrior virtue

Each difficult weapon has its own penalty for being used without a corresponding virtue. Every weapon has its own penalty for being used without any warrior virtue. Each weapon lists how many hands it requires, and whether it can be used effectively with a shield, and any other rules particular to that weapon.

So now we have a single Fighting skill, used with everything from pulling your sister's hair to longbows. A longbow is a difficult weapon, even for a warrior. Spears are relatively easy to use for a novice, and improvised spears such as pitchforks are easy to come by.

And that's mostly sufficient. Perhaps we need one more weapon stat, for trained use in formation.

So now we have Hundred Eyes arriving in Mythic Europe from Mythic China by way of Mythic Mongolia and a Tardis. Mythic Europeans don't have any warrior virtues that improve unarmed combat, but he Initiated some secret Wudong virtues, yay. He uses the same Fighting skill as everyone else, but his hands have bonuses to attack, defense, and damage....



First, we should note just to avoid any confusion here that the ArM5 "buckler" is not actually a buckler. A buckler was gripped in the hand. The ArM5 version leaves the hand available. That's not what I was thinking about with shields and two-handed weapons, though. I was thinking more of Mycenaean shields and the like:

As for brawling weapons, yes, dagger would be the main one. I believe a dagger was no so uncommonly keep available and so might well end up used when the primary weapon becomes unavailable. Also, the transition from dagger to short sword is just a naming convention.

Perhaps Ovarwa's suggestion extended is a good idea. Brawling weapons can be wielded with Single Weapon, but not the other way around. So if you mix the two (dagger and shield, sword and dagger, etc.), you use Single Weapon.


That's exactly what I was thinking!

That's a good extension, and easily implemented with AM5 rules.

While we're at it, we can add spears/pitchforks and staves to Brawling weapons, so that common people can use common weapons.

Then, with your extension, these weapons can also be used with a real combat skill (Single for dagger, Great for quarterstaff, etc.)

Finally, using a common weapon with the real combat skill rather than Brawling might grant +1 to Damage. (+1 to Atk or Dfn is probably too good.)



The way I would rule is that the bonuses for Shields are tied to how they are integrated with their use in Single Weapon combat. Thus, if someone was making a brawling attack, they don't actually help.

Think about how Lance/Long Spear works. If you are on a horse, it counts as a single weapon and you get the bonus for a Lance. If you are on foot, you use it as a Great Weapon. The same item has totally different bonuse based on how it is used. Thus, there is no reason the believe that Shields give the same bonus, or any bonus when used in concert with Brawling. That seams reasonable to me, I can't think of dagger fighting taking advantage of shields per se.

My understanding is that if someone makes a Brawl kicking attack, his defense is penalized not just during his turn but until his next turn comes around. Likewise, if someone had a shield and a dagger, I would rule that he could use Single Weapon with the bonus from Shield or he could use the Brawling with the dagger, but the bonuses wouldn't stack, and if he attacks with the dagger, he only gets the dagger bonuses.


That seems in conflict with reality. Why is it that when switching to a dagger the user doesn't drop the shield? Similarly, why is the Mycenaean shield used with the long spear instead of just forgoing the shield entirely? We could alter the shield bonuses, I suppose, but that seems like way too much work and work that might not amount to anything because of the granularity of the system.

This is how I see it too.

When switching to dagger the user doesn't drop the shield because it's handy to have just in case (if he wants to flee or switch to Single Weapon without spending a round picking it up, say).

For the mycenean spear-and-shleld, I would simply either add a new entry among the great weapons, for the combo, or a new entry among the single weapons for just the spear (noting that even it fills the second hand, it's still used with single weapon and can be combined with a shield). Which of the two depends on how the myceneans wielded it, which I do not know, but I suspect it's the latter case.

That's not how I've seen it used in demonstration. Shields are good for diverting blows to create openings for an attack, and that is exactly how I've seen the shield used in shield and dagger in demonstration.

I could ask a similar question about using gauntlet and sword instead of shield and sword. Gauntlet is sitting there with Brawl. Yet gauntlets were also specifically used for parrying instead of a buckler (real buckler) or main gauche combined with a rapier, which would presumably be Single Weapon. Yes, this use of rapier and gauntlet starts a couple centuries later, but the issue remains valid, and maybe there was use of gauntlets for parrying earlier.

That's not the issue you raised, from what I understood. You asked why, if a shield is useless with a dagger, someone fighting with a dagger might want to keep his shield instead of dropping it.
As for shields giving a bonus to attack by creating an opening, and how that relates to daggers, it's a different issue. My position on that was stated early in the thread. Basically, I agree with you on the principle, but with the granularity and other constraints of ArM5, I think the current solution (shield can't be used with Brawl) is the best. In general, ArM5 combat does not even attempt to model the later fighting styles of cloak & dagger, or rapier and gauntlet/main gauche/buckler. Given it's set in the 13th century, I think it's reasonable.

One way to look at it is this.
Brawl teaches you how to use your body in a fight, and small extensions to your body that do not fundamentally alter its reach and tempo.
Single Weapon teaches you to fight with a weapon that you hold in one hand, but that significantly alters your reach and tempo. It also teaches you how to combine that with a shield for defense. This is impossible with Brawl because a shield is not good for defense at Brawl range -- too slow. And though modern reconstruction of medieval fighting tells us that shields where seen in many cases (but certainly not all, e.g. from horseback) as a second weapon that helped attack rather than as a piece of mobile armour ... that's not the ArM5 paradigm, nor really the idea of shield function we get from most literature of the middle ages, save possibly fighting manuals.
Great Weapon teaches you to fight with with a single mighty thing that you swing/poke with using both hands. This significantly alters your stance, tempo, and other subtler factors when compared with Single Weapon.

So, it's pretty obvious that shield & dagger, or any other technique in the form "weapon-to-bat-away-defenses & weapon-to-strike-with-once-your-other-weapon-has-created-an-opening" does not really fit well here. Personally, if I really wanted to introduce it, I'd make it a new weapon skill, mostly anachronistic at least in popular perception: "two weapons". I'd then provide the statistics not of the individual weapons, but of their specific combinations (cloak & dagger, roundshield & dagger, dagger & rapier etc. -- even sword & roundshield) because, really, a dagger used with a rapier is used in a fundamentally different way than when used with a shield -- so you can't obtain the statistics of the combination from the individual weapon statistics.


There have been many different kinds of shield used throughout history.

There have been many different kinds of weapon used with shields.

Oh, and there have been many different fighting styles.

Trying to map all of this onto AM5's abstract skills and any rpg's unrealistic combat system is pretty silly.

Where by 'pretty' I mean 'utterly', in the same sense and to the same degree as Enterprise vs Death Star, Undertaker vs Triple H, Wolverine versus Batman, Caligula versus Hannibal (Lector :slight_smile:)....

There is no real world "single weapon" skill. No Great Weapon skill. Sorry to disappoint! No Brawling skill.

The best we get to do, and it would be pretty damned good if we get to do it at all, is to get something that kind of feels right.