The peculiar things you discover playing Ars Magica

In last night's game one of the players suddenly demanded to know why there was a tommy gun on her equipment list.

'Heater' was of course nineteen-twenties slang for a firearm.

This lead to one of those Research Digressions that seem to be commonplace in Ars Magica games and turning to our host's computer we discovered.

  1. The term 'heater' for a shield is a modern one and apparantly applies to the iron-like shape of the shield.

  2. More embarrasingly, the heater doesn't seem to have emerged until 1250, a generation after the standard time setting for ArM.

Can anyone with more knowledge of the period tell me if that's right?

Yes that's right. It's just one of the pleasantly convenient anachronisms that allow the militants a relatively wider choice of armours. All in all, a 30 year anachronism isn't really a major issue for sagas that could well last over 100 years.

Call it a Targe shield or (even better<) a comet shield. The "heater" or Ars Magica is likely to be a misstranslation and represent (more accurately for the period) the comet-shape shields carried by the cavalry at the time of Ars Magica and before.


A Heater and a Targe shield are two distinctly different styles of shield. I doubt it was a mistranslation, simply a slight anachronism.

This was from Wikipedia? It's a great information source, but not infallible -- look around and you'll find may contrary claims.
For example:

(You'll also find articles claiming the heater was not introduced until the later C13th or later.)

The more I read of medieval history, the more I realize that any single source (Wikipedia, mainstream book, scholarly article) cannot be trusted when it comes to exact dates for things like weapons, architecture styles, or clothing styles.

Professional historians make their living by contradicting one another. For any source that says something appeared around date Y, someone else will say it appeared at earlier date X.

I also think a heater is so little different from the earlier "kite" shield (an ambiguous term I've seen applied to two different shield designs) that they should have the same game statistics.