The software MetaCreator by Alter Ego Software has been around for many years, and continues to be one of the best tools for managing characters for Ars Magica. I’d sing their praises happily for this entire post, but I also wish to share a small tweak that I found useful for running an Ars Magica game – and that is how to include Crossbows in the core software when generating characters.
Update: After getting help from MC’s creators, the custom data sheet for Lords of Men now calculates the Crossbow and other crossbow like weapon damage correctly without the need for the formula tweak. Its all automatic. Must say I’m darn impressed with what can be done in MetaCreator.
I’ve created a data sheet that includes these options already included. If you’d like a copy of the data sheet just me let me know.
The core game template does not include rules for crossbows, and the rules have been included in a few other sourcebooks, including a free Pdf by Atlas Games called the Lords of Men Web Supplement. Below are two ways to add crossbows to characters.
While both require some tweaks to the character sheet, the second method means that you only need to make a manual edit once per weapon; rather than in multiple places and also means that characters are created with the associated skills properly.
The trick is that crossbows function differently from other missile weapons in Ars Magica, in that they do not add the characters strength score as part of the weapon damage calculation. This is because it is the power of the crossbow itself rather than the strength of the wielder. That makes sense, but that also means that crossbow type weapons function differently to all other weapons in the setting.
The simple approach in Meta Creator
A simple way (but still very manual) is to add a Generic Ability and Generic Weapon to the character, and change the stats to match the Crossbow skill and weapon stats as applied to the character’s combat scores. That does make them manageable, but you still need to adjust the skill manually, it won’t link the stats properly, and it won’t have the correct limitations for Martial skill training built in. Further it will not auto-calculate if you change any stats. So it would work, it requires no additional modules or datasheets, but has some limitations.
To get more advanced functions you need to start playing around with data files and setting up your own data sheets.
Data Sheets, and new House rules
The trick is to create a new data-sheet for the crossbows, which adds the Crossbow Ability and the Equipment item to the selectable options. How that is done is a kind of geek magic, which is not for all users of Meta Creator to attempt (see the MC readme for that). If you’re familiar with data and perhaps complex excel type functions it will be OK.
Then once the new rules are loaded into your config of MetaCreator you add the Crossbow skill and weapon to your equipment in the normal way. Just like any other weapon and item.
There is one small additional fix needed though, and that is to work around the damage calculation formula. After you’ve added it open the crossbow on your character’s equipment list, select the Damage item, and edit the formula used for Damage on the weapon:
Original = format('%+d', str+`Dmg`+`Quality Arms`+b_dmg) Change to = format('%+d',+`Dmg`+`Quality Arms`+b_dmg) After that the weapon will not include the character’s strength in the damage, but will retain whatever damage values (with the crossbow defaults) for calculations and updates.
This also still allows the Crossbow to be created as a weapon of quality, and all the other standard options that weapons have in MetaCreator.
PS – I’m not posting the custom data sheet online for everyone to use, as I’m not sure if I am actually allowed to create something based on Atlas’s IP or if that runs across the exclusive agreement that Alter Ego have for Ars Magica. So instead its a home use mod. I hope that this is all ok, as everything here has been done within the bound of the current software features, and not changed any of the published files.