I don’t like the lore about Wizard’s Wars in Ars

Aside

Back in the old days when Ars Magica v3 was new I think the rules for Wizard’s Wars stipulated that both parties had to agree to the conflict. Either it was in the book, or the guys I played with made that house rule. Sure, a big nasty wizard could threaten another, intimidate, or whatever, but could not just declare a war and start killing somebody else. In v5 one wizard can declare a war on another, and it just starts automatically a month or so later. No acceptance, no agreement. Fight or flee.

In the flavour and fluff a WW is meant to be a way to resolve disputes and is also meant to be a last resort. It is also meant to be frowned upon by the Order of Hermes for a wizard to start waring with many people, or the same people repeatedly.

We also have a setting in ArM v5 which presents a more orderly, bureaucratic, and safer Order of Hermes than older editions. The Order accepts and has laws that allow bullying and murder in the oaths. I find that combination of views an incongruity, and it bugs me. How could it possibly be safer? Younger wizards are at a huge disadvantage, and specialists in certain type of fighting will be hard to stop by non-specialists.

There is also an implication that the result of a Wizard’s War isn’t lethal. This doesn’t make any sense either. As the defender in a war which wasn’t desired, if you survive, you better power-up and kill that attacker. And make sure you wipe him out. If the attacker misses the first time, you might have some breathing space, but eventually it will happen again. Entering a potentially lethal conflict isn’t something anyone does lightly, and the instigator of a war probably knows what they are getting into. The Order in the present cannon offers you no protection except somebody waggling their finger at your killer afterward. I do not understand the idea of surviving a life threatening (magical) attack and then not expecting it to happen again.

The current lore places the typical starting scenarios so close to immediately lethal that all the exceptions are feint edge cases. Huh? Hardly safer.

In my games the wars have to be agreed and sanctioned by the Order. That gives the tribunal the overview of the activity, and also control of harassing behaviour before wizards start dying. It’s not cannon, but it makes far more sense in the setting. The Order of Hermes didn’t grow to it’s size by wizards casually murdering each other, so any type of one-sided sanctioned murder is silly.

Advertisements

Two weapon fighting in Ars Magica

Two weapon fighting is cinematic and exciting, and present in most rolepaying games, especially those with a high fantasy touch like Dungeons and Dragons. Ars Magica on the other hand aims for a level of realism as well as fantasy; and there is an argument to say that two weapon fighting is not especially valid in Europe around the middle ages. It is certainly not the predominant method expressed in the surviving artworks of the period. So there is a quandary – it makes sense that it is not an option that has been presented in ArM game editions, and it also is something that players may want to try.

Wielding two weapons has the initial appeal of offering a much more threatening opponent into battle, and some role-players (like myself) have played systems where it is an excellent option to get the most damage applied as quickly as possible. Many a Fighter has been created with dual wielding Longswords, and while they were entertaining, they also grind on my nerves when I consider the feel that Ars Magica is going for. But then I find the idea of a viking raider using a hand axe and a dagger in battle totally worth considering. There are likely to be as many forum posts around in support of two weapons as there are against in terms of it being a valid combat style.

For the purposes of my games, I think there is a middle ground where I can support the idea if it is presented as part of a good character concept, and also ignore the concept if it is being chosen only for a mechanical advantage. For that reason alone I think its worth discussing how a game like Ars Magica might incorporate two weapon fighting.

I can see two high level approaches, based upon splitting the advantage that two separate combat rolls have:

  1. One Strike with modified combat effects and weapon stats, or
  2. Two strikes with varied weapon and combat stats.

The selection between the two is a driver for how much leverage the ability will have in the game, and also how much specialisation should be needed by the character. Allowing two different rolls adds a much higher probability that the attacker will hurt their opponent.

Continue reading