Wondering About Play Style

I was wondering, how much combat takes place in your games of Ars Magica? The world of Mythic Europe is certainly not a safe one, what with wars, Crusades, faeries, other magi who don't like you, wizard wars, wizard marches, angry churchmen out to expunge the heathen devils, and the like. And while magi can certainly remove themselves from the line of fire more easily than can the peasantry, I can't help but notice that there are a lot of combat-oriented spells.

I got the feeling from a post of David's that their game has very little combat in it, and that's perfectly fine. I don't intend this as anything negative about David at all. I'm just trying to figure out how a large number of groups whose only connection is the game books and these boards runs the game, as the book certainly indicates that the world is full of potential - if not immediate - perils.

For example, to look at another author's posts, I would guess that Tim Ferguson's games are a bit more over-the-top.

So I was just wondering, how does everyone out there play it? Combat heavy? Middle of the road? Almost never? The curious Ars Noobican wants to know.


In ~50 sessions there were 3-4 real fights and only one of them against normal people.

I have been GM'ing a Campaign that started in 1226 and is currently in 1248. So far there has been two attacks by enemy magi, one assult on a diabolist and one official wizards war. Part of the covenant is located on Iceland so naturally there was a gaming session with combat against trolls. Other than that the only combat has been in the exploration of Calebais and an assult against the lair of Grendel and her offspring.
Only one of the players has a combat capable magi, from house Tremere. So most potentiely violent situations are usually solved creativly and without combat.

Hail Eris!

I have only played is sporadic table-top saga, with a bit of a 2nd-ed DnD feel to them (quite a bit of combat, with alot of companion play) and two
long running PBEMs (long since over - shed's a tear) - with almost no combat.


I always thought that the nice thing about the Magi / Companion / Grog classification is that good troupes can guide the style of play. Having a solid organizational chart for a covenant also alows for easy play of various (well defined) groups - like a turb should the SG want to insert combat to liven things up.


My latest pet project has been trying to map out a story system for a PBEM. The main problem with games like this is the huge volume of text that the SG (read voulteer novelist) has to generate. Combat seems SOOO tedius when it's written out - but then again they have group comabt now (which I have yet to learn).

Anyway, my best experiences have focused on social / political games. My idea is currently shaping up into an excel utility that doles out hisotry / char gen / story seed elements to characters. These are the goals, motivations, dark secrets, etc. of each character - but tied into a wider social web for the game so as to generate activity through players with alot of intiative (and relatively low levels of SG direction).

I have seen this kind of 'social web play style' in practice through several vampire LARPs and it worked very well. It is very setting-intenisve, but Mythic Europe et. al is such a rich world that it seems feasable. Someday my notions might even become a real PBEM ... someday when I get a long vacation :slight_smile: .

I can only say hmmm that combat occurs but it depends on whose characters are there. As my mage is a knight there tends to be more combat when he is around...the mix of people tends to promote combat oriented adventures I suspect. But the last adventure we were on when I was playing my none combat oriented companion went many sessions with no real combat...and even when there was infact a couple of combat oriented characters.

It depends largely on what the adventure is. So in principle it is strongly dependant on the SG and to a lesser extent on the players. In practice given the power of spells in Ars Magica well killing things is rather a long way beyond trivial. Mage vrs mundane is a question of style rather than likely outcome. Mage vrs Fey and so on is a different kettle of fish. But largely if a mage can unleash the power he has kiss the mundane opponents good bye. It's when the mage can't for whatever reason do so that you get to see companions and so on shine.

Plus the other thing is that the combat system in Ars is not really all that great, it works ok...but its an obvious after thought. It has the advantage that its quick and simple but its nothing to write home about..about the best thing is it leads to descriptive combat. Sorry to the folks at Atlas but no one, in my opinon, plays this game for the combat system.

I think we have combat in pretty much every single game we play. But, as has been noted before, we play AD&D using Ars Magica rules, so out curent battle against the Vampire Lord and his undead legions just wouldn't happen in most people's games. :stuck_out_tongue:

In the saga I play in it's about once every 3 sessions that there is some sort of combat, but it varies a lot (we're still using Ars 3 mostly).

I had wondered, because I'm playing a Flambeau magus with a major magical focus in stone and an affinity with Rego. Very earth-centered, needless to say. And while his main spell is likely Unseen Porter or Rock of Viscid Clay, he's more than capable of rewriting Wielding the Invisible Sling to work with a stone roughly five feet by five feet by four.

It's his current project he's tossing around, mostly to test his abilities (as he's normally a rather jovial fellow). He's thinking of calling it Trebuchet of the Unruly Earth. Now I'm not entirely certain how much a piece of granite 5x5x4 weighs, but I do know that that's only a level 20 spell, though likely moved to level 25 by increasing the range to sight.

Again, I'm not particularly looking for a bloodthirsty Saga or anything, merely curious to see

Oops! I just realized there was an error in my calculation. It's not 100 cubic FEET of stone, it's 100 cubic PACES. Ouch and squish!

After looking over several different threads, both here and on the Berkley List, I find myself wondering about my own assumptions. So I am going to write them down, simply to see what they look like, both to my eyes and to others.

First up, I have been playing since 2nd edition, so this colours some of my underlying assumptions (such as the Order being more removed from mundane society than is suggested in the current rules). The primary focus of the game (for me and mine) is on the magi and the development of the covenant.

About 1/3 of the adventures I have run have been combat-oriented -- monster hunts, problems with bandits, problems with martial faeries, a troop or two of knights, and suchlike.

About 1/3 of the adventures have been grog and/or companion oriented, with little to no magical material; some "magical" adventures, due to the players and the day, also ended up primarily as companion or grog adventures.

Covenfolk is a wide category. Most magi have a bodyguard/shield grog, though some forgo this -- about 1/4 of these bodyguards are female; equally many, but not all (usually less than half), magi have a servant. Most shield grogs have significant (Average) arms and armour, though some prefer simpler armaments. For each magus in the covenant there are c. 3 covenfolk. Those who are not bodyguards or servants are involved either in very common crafts (pottery, ropemaking, carpentry, blacksmithing) or agriculture/herding/fishing. Many of the bodyguards also have some other craft or profession, simply because the magi do not tend to need bodyguards 24/7. Most of the covenfolk end up intermarrying. They also tend to speak whatever the local language is, mixed in with small bits of Latin. The covenfolk realize that they are living in a rather odd community, but find there are benefits and keep their peace about this world -- while their material goods may be no greater than those available to other commoners (see below), they tend to have somewhat better health and their efforts are aided through magic, thus producing somewhat larger crops, etc.

There is usually a person (grog or companion) who acts more or less as a bookkeeper/overseer for the covenant, keeping track of mundane stores and the like, including the purchasing of equipment -- this is often a more difficult task than might look at first, as most of these goods are highly specialized and must be purchased from a great distance. Often there is also a library, but not always; conversely, magi are their own scribes -- this is too specialized of a position to attract many others to the covenant and there is not that much extra work for them to do.

Most of the covenfolk are nominally Catholic Christian, though the covenant, due to their nature of attracting odd individuals, there are often other types there as well -- Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, various heretics, and the occassional pagan. Priests, shrines, and churches on the premises are, however, excruciatingly rare.

The covenant itself is at best minimally fortified -- perhaps a squat tower and/or a simple ditch-and-mound defence, possibly augmented by a wooden fence. Much more than this would attract mundane attention. The site is at a fair distance from major mundane communities, both because this is where Magical Auras tend to arise and because this helps to keep a lower profile.

Magi (about 50/50 male and female) are often in correspondence with mundane intellectuals, though this is often done through "blinds" -- assumed names and the like. The magi live somewhat better than the covenfolk (much like well-to-do peasants), but some extra goods.

Many of the (apparent) common assumptions of the Middle Ages are true. There are trolls, goblins, and the evil witches in the woods; vicious animals attack fairly regularly. Toads are poisonous if you handle them. Ghosts often know where piles of treasure are. In general the world is smaller, wilder, and more magical/mystical than our own.

Most of the world is under no particular aura (aka Mundane Aura); those places that do have mystical Auras are notable to most people, if not precisely defined in the same terminology as the Order of Hermes.

As most of 12th/13th century society does not think in terms of money and commerce, the game does not concern itself with this matter either; generic wealth levels are more or less maintained, with only minor opportunities for notable gains or losses in one's economic standing. History is used as a backdrop. It is introduced into the game as it adds to the game itself without interfering with the flow of the game itself. Modern notions of physics, medicine and geography and the like are not included unless necessary.

Well, that is a fair number of basic assumptions. I suppose that will work for now. :slight_smile: