Wound penalties against fire etc - anyone house ruled like this?

I'm thinking of adding a house rule that says that wound penalties apply to Soak against things that cause +X damage, like fire. I was wondering if anyone else did that, or what you think about that idea.

The rationale is that if you throw a dozen pilums of fire into a guy he could end up with a dozen Medium wounds and a huge penalty but won't go down. Yet if he then gets stabbed by a grog with a needle, he dies, as suddenly he suffers huge damage. That's weird and not very fun for all those fire-totting Flambeaus. (Or other things that do +X damage.)

In other words - I want people flinging pilums of fire or invisible slings or whatnot to be able to kill opponents, not just soften them up for the grogs.


No matter how many bowls of scalding water you throw on someone, you aren't going to burn them to death.
If you want to kill someone with magic, use a spell capable of lethal damage. If they have parma use the other spells with better penetration to soften them up and get through their defenses.

This has come up periodically before:

For example here: Do Wound Penalties Increase Damage?

Here: Do wound penalties apply to non-combat soak?

And here: Do wound penalties affect soak totals?

My own approach is to apply wound penalties to soak rolls to non-combat damage (including damage from spells), and not even think of it as a House Rule as such (maybe a "House interpretation", with the difference being whether I'm changing a clear Rule or interpreting an ambiguous one - it comes down a bit to exactly how you define an "action").

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It's a common question in games, and I never let wound malus incurs on the rolls to avoid wound. It creates a spiral from which nobody can come out and it's not fun.

If you want to kill, do killing damage or hope for a lucky arrow in the neck (ie 1, 1, etc.)

Yes, I certainly use Wound Penalties for Soak Rolls.
The penalty should apply once, and by applying it to Dfn it affects ther size of the Dam to be Soaked later (with no die roll)

It would pain me, if the PoF wielding magus could only ever inflict Medium or Light Wounds on an opponent, and rack up a huge Wound Penalty for that individual, but never kill him. Even if said Wound Penalty is -30
But his inept grog could kill in a single blow, it doesn't even need to be a trained fighter. If the defender has -30 to Dfn then you'll easily end up with a huge Atk advantage and consequently a sufficiently large Dam.

Why should the 'downward spiral, from which one can't recover' only apply to melee (and missile-) weapons? Why can you only 'whittle down' the huge dragon and kill it with a sword but not a bolt of fire?

IMHO Wound Penalties apply once, to a single roll, either to Dfn or Soak Roll. So it only affects Soak when Soak is rolled.

I don't like the solution of having to wait for consequetive 1s, because the melee figher doesn't have to do this.

I don't like the argument of using the lesser spells to soften up, and then using the lethal spell as killing blow. Because the MR of the enemy doesn't get any lower from the lesser damage, so the lethal - and by extension higher level and therefore lower Pen - will not get any easier to pull off.

And I find it impractical to just have to invent higher level spells, because some enemies have really, really high Soak, and then even BoAF's dam of +30 is insufficient. Highest Soak I could find in a short search is the lindwurm in Through the Aegis/Collem Leonis. Fortified with the thickest scales turned out and the softer underbelly in/down it has Soak +25. Also Size +13, so "Dead" is achieved at 73+ damage. Assuming average rolls for both the spell damage and the Soak, reaching that in one hit seems unlikely.

All arguments about magical damage is based on 'dam +X' spells. All spells that deal a direct 'size X' wound are different. These ignore Soak, and by my interpretation also Wound Penalties, but pay for that advantage with the disadvantage of never being able to kill outright. Unless they actually deal lethal damage. No amount of Light Wounds in themselves will kill you. But eventually a papercut or thrown pudding might do the trick.

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I've found Wound Penalties applying to Soak for non-combat damage gives highly unrealistic outcomes. For example, if you leave your finger in a fire for a few minutes, you're likely to die. Meanwhile, just due to exploding dice, situations that should kill you after a bit will tend to do so roughly appropriately without applying the Wound Penalties.

As for the melee fighter, you can choose not to defend and you're at a flat -10. So there is no infinite stacking of Wound Penalties to give the fighter arbitrarily high Attack Advantage. So with the lindwurm the fighter needs Dex + Ability + Weapon's Atk + Roll + Str + Weapon's Dmg - 15 = 73. That doesn't take a bunch of 1s??? How buffed up are your "inept grogs"? Dex +5, Ability 15, Str +5, and a weapon with a combined Atk + Str of 18 gets you to 43, still needing another 45, which requires 2x2x2x6 at a minimum. I wouldn't consider that inept. Going much lower than that could push you to a minimum of needing four 1s. At very least, you'll need a great roll after three 1s.

In a saga Iā€™m in I think the HR is that the combination of wound and fatigue exceeding 10+size+stamina makes the person unconscious.

If I have a small knife it generally does not do much damage, but if an opponent is lying on the ground defenseless from their accumulated injuries I can slit their throat or slit their wrists- attack highly vulnerable spots to kill them with little physical trauma.
If I have a bowl of scalding water and the opponent is similarly disabled there is no place I can pour that water to burn them to death, even though the raw damage from scalding is generally more traumatic than a knife wound.- certainly I could drown them but that would hardly be a comparison with an ignem effect.
To that specific point it simply seems like a matter of realism.
the real issue to me is when you are really comparing apples to apples- weiling an invisble sling with a re effect having a flat damage compared to an actual sling which can eventually kill them as they lose the ability to defend themselves. However part of that is the fact that the magically guided missile is clearly not doing optimal damage compared to the physically wielded one- so apparently the magical sling always hits center of mass regardless of how incapacitated the person might be while the regular sling (or one using finesse) has the opportunity to get a temple shot.

That depends on what you're abstracting. Your knife passes by the armor, which then doesn't apply to the Soak total, because it's being circumvented. A PoF may burn your clothes off at first try and then you stand there and take the whole damage with only your Stamina and any relevant modifiers. That may still not be a reasonable abstraction, because even burn damage is cumulative, i.e., burning your hand, not a problem, burning the entire skin even over a longer time will kill you. This is where the SG and group should just decide on whether the situation warrants a coup de grace.

it also depends on your heat source- if you are doing fire damage equivalent to scalding water it will never accumulate to something lethal. You cannot burn someone to death with a lighter. That is, ultimately the point of the Ars Magica damage system over hit point tracking.

you absolutely can die from exposure to scalding water. Admittedly that will happen in the wound recovery phase both IRL and presumably in ArM. IRL burns are dangerous not because they kill you outright but because the wounds they cause are incredibly messy and get infected easily (cooked meat is a pretty good substrate for bacteria to grow in).

Here Ars shines again with a wound recovery system that allows for wounds to deteriorate rather than improve over time. If the burns cover a large enough area of the body there is also the possibility that the person so affected will die from shock or that the skin will die. The skin can only regenerate if it is sufficiently undamaged. IMO all of the things that will kill you from "smaller" burns (i.e. burns that dont kill you outright) are things that will happen after the combat is over.

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You can kill with scalding water. Put someone in boiling water and keep them there, they will die. Eventually. But this is a very rare cause of death. Infections are much more common.

That said, I would absolutely apply wound penalties to soak against 'static damage'. A broken leg doesn't get less broken when you need to get out of a bonfire.

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well it is true that you can boil someone alive but imo that situation is kind of outside the purview of combat and so does not need to be accurately described by the combat mechanics.

On this we agree that bonfires do not heal broken legs but I am not sure that I can follow the logic of your argument. It is not that I necessarily disagree with your conclusion, just that I dont follow your argument.

If you what you mean is that wound penalties from a broken leg should apply to avoid damage by crawling out of the bonfire then I would have agreed. That is a totally reasonable argument for why wound penalties should apply to soak versus static damage. However that argument assumes that part of the soak score comes from the ability to avoid such damage, i.e. from things that in combat would be represented by the defense score. Under this interpretation the example of trying to avoid damage from being inside a bonfire with a broken leg, the soak score represents the ability to quickly get out of the fire along with more conventional toughness/fire-proofness.

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I'm a less than stellar communicator, my apologies.

The problem with a broken leg in combat, is that not only does it hurt, but if you keep putting weight on it, you make things worse. Thus wound penalties arise.
If you're caught with a broken leg while in a bonfire, none of the above are less true. Mind you, the natural panic arising from being on/in fire might override the pain, but it wouldn't make your leg more useful/able to obey commands. In fact, the panic might well make you forget your broken leg enough to expect performance from it, to a degree where leaving the fire is delayed because you demand functionality from your leg that it cannot perform.

Thus I do not see why wound penalties would not be applied.


Yup, ask any lobster with a Black-Gates like spell.

My problem is that this is drastically unrealistic, while you get a much more realistic result without doing it. See below.

Not only can hit happen later, if you do not apply the modifier to Soak rolls, it will happen in what is probably a reasonable time scale directly, too.

Here is something I wrote before on it:

My point is not that scalding water cannot kill, it is that a fixed amount of scalding water at a fixed temperature which causes a moderate wound cannot kill by being applied repetitively. If you shift from throwing a bowl of scalding water on someone to placing them in a pot of boiling water you have increased the magnitude of the effective spell represented by a few levels for damage level (boiling water being hotter than merely scalding) and time (submerged versus splashed)
yes, fire can kill, but its ability to do so is related to the magnitude of the fire, not the relative vulnerability of the person being attacked with it- a flamethrower is equally deadly against someone who is incapacitated and someone who was perfectly healthy when hit, if we discount the ability to simply not get hit, which magic does.

The problem here arises from the simplification of the combat system. It's elegant for translating combat into story with a wound system, however there are no amount of wounds that will actually kill you. Okay, that's fine, the wound penalties will stack up and someone will die.
But then magic gets involved. Magic is separate from the combat system. Magic fireballs that do damage don't have to hit, and the opponents don't get to evade. The wound penalties don't matter. The rolls and wounds in combat do a good abstraction for getting a sword to the arm vs a sword to the throat, but Ball of Abysmal Flame cannot miss, and by comparison, cannot hit more vital locations - other than a stress die.

The example of 'no amount of throwing boiling water can kill you' is counteracted by 'no amount of getting your head in a bonfire can kill you'. The same rules are used for both extremes, and Ars Magica has no rules for damage being changed based on vital locations. My interpretation, to make excuses for mechanics, is that after receiving so much damage, so much pain, the body will just start to shut down. That blowtorch to the arm wouldn't necessarily kill you, but after a minute or two of brutal bloody combat, it can push your body over the edge, and things start shutting down. There are levels of extraction to make it a game, and its our job as storyguides and players to make it fun.
If you want Pilum of Fire to be able to get vital locations, assume you're always 'aiming' for vital locations, and the wound penalties stacking up means that the target finally was unable to throw their hand up infront of their eyes. If you want to make sure boiling water being thrown on you mid-battle doesn't kill you, accept that I can also just stick my head in an oven safely.

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I can stick my head in an over safely, it is standard when you are cleaning it. In fact the classical image of someone killing themselves by putting their head in an oven is based on being poisoned by the gas, not burned by the heat. Sure there are temperatures you can set the oven to that will be lethal, but at the same time thereare temperatures which can scald or burn but simply cannot kill- scalding water is between 140 and 144 degrees F, a dry sauna is generally set at the same level. it will not kill you no matter how much of it you are exposed to (unless you have a weak heart or similar condition, but that will be more about wound recovery) If I set an oven to 145 degrees I can stick my head inside and not worry about dying, though I will sweat profusely.
Because 145 degrees is different than 212 deg F, which is boiling water, which simply does more damage in ars magica terms
now if we are talking about other forms of damage- say reTe, then the possibility of using finess and allowing a defense roll means your attack advantage can go up as your opponent becomes more injured, the issue isn't with magic but with the form the attack takes.

Ah! That reminds me of a time (Was it 3rd edition? Or just a houserule?) when all spells were aimed. No matter how powerful your archmagus were, without a decent finesse even the finest spells could just land on the wrong target or get lost in the wind, and spellcasting, specially in combat, was even more complex and confusing (how lovely these abilities were. After spending a week polishing your magus the SG browsed through your pages and say things like 'No xps spendt here, here and there? Ufff...'). Not to talk about that yet another roll means another botching chance.

I mean, honestly I frown upon this rule of every spell hitting its target by default, but I also welcome the simplification it brings with it. So that idea makes me confuse because I want to get finesse involved, but I know it's going to make combat speed slow down. Overall I think realism is a nice thing to have, but if it gets in the way of the speed of the narrative then it's more an obstacle than anything else. I mean, we play RPGs, among other reasons, to evade from the real, fully realistic world.

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It might be a decent house rule that you can improve the damage of a spell with finesse vs. defense where the minimum damage is what is listed for the spell for anything (i.e. the crystal drat) which can be targeted towards vital organs.

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