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Example of Combat (Fourth Edition)

Maintainer's note: Fifth Edition Ars Magica includes detailed combat examples on pp. 172 and 174. Since the combat rules were rewritten for Fifth Edition, this example does not apply any more and is only of use for people who are playing Fourth.

The Story

Hot-headed Blastum of Flambeau and his two grogs Barjin and "Gutboy" Barrelhouse left a small village some hours ago after abandoning their search for an apprentice. They have been chased down on the road by Aggaro, the landed knight who holds the village. Aggaro is seeking to dispatch the miscreants who burned his mill to the ground.

Combat scores

The combat scores for all of the characters involved should be written down prior to play (pp. 161-162) so as not to slow down the game. The relevant statistics for all of the characters involved in the example combat  are computed below.


Aggaro's combat statistics are computed from the following characteristics.
Str +2
Qik +1

His weapon skills of importance to this combat are: Long Shaft Weapons 3 with a specialization (see page 52) in lance, and Weapon and Shield 4 with a specialization in ax with round shield.

Soak: Aggaro wears full chain with a protection of +12 (page 171) this is added to his size (0) and his stamina (+1) to give a total soak of +13.

Encumbrance: When on horseback, a character's Encumbrance is always zero (page 167). When Aggaro is off of his horse it is the sum of Load of all they carry and Strength with a maximum of 0. While he is off of his horse Aggaro carries an ax (-0.5) a round shield (-0.5) and full chain armor (-6) (weapon statistics are on pages 172 & 173), and his Strength is +2. This makes Aggaro's Encumbrance -5.

Aggaro's combat values with an ax and shield are below. All of the weapon bonuses are computed by adding the statistics for ax and round shield together (page 172).

Attack: Dex (+1) + skill (5) (because of specialization) + weapon attack bonus (+2) + Enc (-5) = +3
Defense: Qik (+1) + skill (5) + weapon bonus (+5) + Enc (-5) + size (0) = +6
Initiative: weapon (+2) + Qik (+1) + skill (+5) + Enc (-5) = +3
Damage: Str (+2) + Size (0) + weapon damage (+6) = +8
Combat Fatigue; Stm (+1) + Skill (+5) + Enc (-5) = +1

Aggaro's values for the mounted lance are computed with an Encumbrance of 0 (page 167). Those values that are used in the example combat are listed below.

Attack (mounted): Dex (+1) + Skill (4) (due to specialization) + weapon attack bonus (+6) + Enc. (0) = +11
Initiative (mounted): Qik (+1) + skill (4) + weapon init. bonus (+5) = +10
Damage (mounted): Str (+2) + size (0) + weapon damage bonus (+6) = +8
Combat Fatigue (mounted): Stm (+1) + skill (+4) + Enc (0) = +5

Aggaro has five points of Confidence (a beginning character normally has three points of Confidence).

Barjin and Barrelhouse

The grogs have identical statistics for convenience sake.

Init +6
Attack +7
Defense +9
Damage +7
Soak +3
Combat Fatigue +4
Encumbrance 0

(These were computed for mace, round shield, leather hauberk, and a skill of 3. The relevant attributes for the grogs are Str +2 Stm+1 Dex+1 Qik +1.)

Barjin and Barrelhouse each have three Confidence.


Gutboy Barrelhouse, Barjin, and Blastum of Flambeau see Aggaro galloping towards them shouting threats of vengeance at them. Blastum says "stop him" to his grogs and steps off of the road. (After losing his temper and burning down the mill he certainly doesn't want to kill a landed knight and further demean his questionable standing with any Quaesitor who might hear of the incident.) Aggaro, on the other hand, has no intentions of parley. (This is an example combat, after all.)

Round 1


Barjin and Barrelhouse attempt to engage Aggaro at reach range. Barjin's initiative is 6 + a stress roll of 5 for a total of 11. Barrelhouse also rolls a 5 giving him a total of 11.

Aggaro, thinking to dispatch the more dangerous armed men first, charges to engage "Gutboy" at Close range. Aggaro, feeling that staying out of reach of the grog's weapons is important, adds all of his five points of Confidence to his roll (page 192). Aggaro rolls a 5 + Confidence (5) + Init (10) + modifiers for high ground (+3), his ride skill (3), and charging (+3) (page 164), for an initiative total of 29. Because Aggaro won the initiative contest he does not lose his Confidence (p. 192).

Blastum casts a formulaic spell and does not roll an engagement contest.

Results: Since Aggaro's initiative is 18 higher than that of Barrelhouse and 18 higher than that of Barjin, they are both at Close range. Aggaro will have a +18 first strike bonus to add to his attack or defense this round against Barrelhouse.

First missile

There are no missiles this example. The first missile phase will not be included in the remainder of the discussion.


Barrelhouse and Barjin are unable to attack with their maces because Aggaro is beyond Reach range (pp. 164-165)

Feeling that it is important to remove one of the two grogs from the fight immediately Aggaro puts his full five points of Confidence into the attack. He also uses his first strike bonus to augment his attack. Aggaro rolls a 5 + Confidence (5) + attack score (11) + first strike bonus (+18) + modifiers for charging (+3) and high ground (+3) (p. 166; these are in addition to the initiative modifiers for charging and for high ground) for a total of 45 (in terms of Ars Magica combat this is a very large number!).

Barrelhouse decides that it would behoove him to try as hard as possible not to become a shish-kabob and puts all of his three points of Confidence into his defense. Barrelhouse rolls a 5 + Confidence (3) + defense (9) = 17. Because Aggaro beat Barrelhouse's defense Barrelhouse loses his confidence, while Aggaro does not.

Aggaro decides to damage Barrelhouse rather than keep the difference between his attack and Barrelhouses defense as an advantage bonus next round (p.168). Aggaro's damage (+8) added to the difference between Aggaro's attack and Barellhouse's defense (28) equals 36. Barrelhouse's soak is +3. One level of damage is done for every full 5 points that the damage total exceeds the defender's soak (p.168). Barrelhouse loses six levels and drops dead. (Confidence can only be applied to a total generated with a stress roll and therefore can not augment damage or soak. p.192). Damage (8) + difference in totals (28) - Soak (3) = 33, => 6 Body levels.

Second missile

There are no missiles this example. The second missile phase will not be included in the remainder of the discussion.


Blastum, as he announced in the movement phase, attempts to cast a formulaic spell. The spell is Transformation of the Ravenous Beast to the Torpid Toad, a Muto Animál spell of level 30 (p. 110). In order to successfully cast a formulaic spell he needs to equal (the level of the spell - 10) on a stress die roll of Technique + Form + Stm. He loses a Fatigue level if this die roll does not equal or exceed the level of the spell (p.69). There are no modifiers on Blastum's roll (typical modifiers to this roll include talisman, aura, Confidence, voice, and gestures). Blastum rolls a 5 + Muto (9) + Animál (9) + Stm (0) = 23, meaning that he successfully casts the spell but loses a Fatigue level. Blastum is now Winded.

Aggaro's horse gets to make a natural resistance roll in order to avoid becoming a toad (as noted in the spell description on page 69). The horse needs to make a Size stress roll of 9 or greater. It rolls a 5 + 2 (the horse's size) = 7. The unfortunate beast will be a toad until sunset.

The storyguide decides that the transformation from horse to toad is a sudden event leaving the recently galloping Aggaro in mid-air with no means of support. Because the story guide is not familiar with the falling rules on page 180 and doesn't want to slow down the game by looking them up, she makes a judgment call and has Aggaro make an Athletics + Dex + Enc roll in order to avoid damage and disorientation. The story guide declares this feat "extremely difficult" meaning that a roll of 15 is required for success. (This can be found on page 15 of second printing and later rule books, if you have a first printing copy you should check out Atlas' errata.)

Aggaro rolls a 1, because he is using a stress die rather than having a roll of one he re-rolls the die and multiplies the second die roll by two (pp. 14 - 15). On his second die roll Aggaro rolls a second 1 so he re-rolls a third time this time multiplying the result by 4. Aggaro's third roll is a 5 making his total 20 + Dex (+1) + Athletics (2) + Enc (-5) = 18. Aggaro falls gracefully onto his feet.

If he had failed, he would have suffered a quality die of Damage with a modifier of +1 for every two feet fallen. Falling characters receive only half of the normal Soak bonus provided by their armor. The result of the damage die is doubled for especially hard surfaces and halved for soft surfaces.


Aggaro is the only one who needs to check fatigue this round (Fatigue rolls must be made by any combatant who engaged an opponent in hand to hand combat during the round, p. 168). At the end of each round of combat each combatant must roll combat fatigue and lose a Fatigue level if they do not score 6 or higher. The storyguide is feeling generous and she has Aggaro roll his mounted lance combat fatigue total despite the fact that he is no longer mounted. Aggaro rolls a 5 + combat fatigue (5) = 10. Aggaro does not lose a Fatigue level.

Round Two


Blastum does not know if his remaining grog will be able to intercept Aggaro before the knight cleaves the magus with a big axe. To protect himself, the Flambeau decides to fast-cast a Creo Ignem spell, in hopes that he can stop Aggaro before Aggaro stops him. The Initiative total for a fast-cast spell is Qik + Finesse + Enc (p.75). Blastum rolls a 5 + Qik (-1) + Finesse (5 with a specialization in Ignem makes 6) + Enc (0) = 10.

Aggaro throws down his lance and tries to engage "that older fellow whom I suspect turned my horse into a toad" with his (not presently drawn) ax at near range. The storyguide knows that there are no specific provisions for drawing a weapon in the rules, so she decides to make an allowance for the difficulty of grabbing the ax from Aggaro's belt by giving Aggaro a -4 to his initiative. (Storyguides should feel free to impose additional modifiers, such as the penalty for drawing a weapon to this roll as appropriate, per p. 163). Aggaro rolls a 5 + drawing weapon penalty (-4) + initiative (+3) = 4.

Barjin attempts to engage Aggaro at Reach. Barjin rolls a 5 + initiative (6) = 11.

Results: Barjin engages Aggaro at Reach. Blastum stays at Near range to both Barjin and Aggaro. Barjin has a first strike bonus of (11 - 4 = 7) against Aggaro in the upcoming melee phase. The storyguide decides that melee should be handled before Blastum's fast-cast spell.


Barjin chooses to add his Confidence to his defense and add the first strike bonus to his attack. Barjin rolls a 5, so his attack total is his roll (5) + attack score (7) + first strike bonus (7) = 19. Barjin's defense is his roll (5) + defense score (9) + Confidence (3) = 17.

Aggaro chooses to add all of his Confidence to his attack, in hopes of quickly dispatching the warrior and getting to the old man before he gets turned into a toad himself. Aggaro rolls a 5, so his attack total is his roll (5) + attack score (3) + Confidence (5) = 13. Aggaro's defense is his roll (5) + defense score (6) = 11.

Barjin's attack exceeds Aggaro's defense by 8. Barjin chooses to keep this as an advantage bonus for next round, rather than trying to injure the heavily armored Aggaro (pp. 167-168). Aggaro's attack does not exceed Barjin's defense as a result Aggaro loses all of the confidence that he invested in his attack score.

Blastum attempts to cast a spontaneous version of Flash of the Scarlet Flames on Aggaro. Blastum knows the formulaic spell, but fast-cast spells must be spontaneous (p. 69). (Blastum can not receive a similar spells bonus from his knowledge of Flash of the Scarlet Flames without spending one minute in contemplation of the similarities, p.69.) Blastum decides to expend a second Fatigue level, but not to risk his Confidence. Because Blastum is expending a Fatigue level, he will create a spell with a level of half of the generated total, as opposed to one-fifth without the expenditure of a Fatigue level. Blastum rolls a 0 and has to check for a botch. Because Blastum is fast-casting, he receives three additional botch dice (p. 75). Blastum rolls four dice, one of which comes to rest reading 0. Blastum has botched (p. 15).

If none of the botch dice had rolled a 0, Blastum's total would have been his roll (0) + Creo (15) + Ignem (20) + Int (3) + fast-cast penalty (-5) (p. 75) = 33. This would have created a spell of level 16.

The story guide decides that, as a result of the botch, Blastum is affected by his own spell. As Botches are a matter of storyguide discretion, the story guide could have allowed him to check his magic resistance (pp. 72-73). Seeing as the storyguide is not especially fond of Blastum, the spell circumvents the magus's Parma Magica. The target of Flash of the Scarlet Flames needs to make a Stamina roll of 9+ or become temporarily blinded (p.135). Blastum rolls (5) + Stm (0) = 5, and is blinded. Blastum also loses a Fatigue level from the effort; he is now Weary and has a -1 modifier to all of his actions.


Nothing happens in the magic phase of the turn. Fast-cast spells are resolved earlier.


Barjin and Aggaro both roll 5 on their fatigue checks with the addition of their combat fatigue scores they both make the required 6 and do not lose Fatigue levels.

Round Three


Barjin and Aggaro both choose to continue to fight at reach range. Because both combatants have chosen the same range, no initiative test is made (p.164).

Blastum, blinded, chooses to cast a spontaneous spell to clear his eyes. He does not roll an initiative test.


Barjin decides to put his three points of Confidence and last turn's advantage bonus into his attack. He rolls a 5. So Barjin's totals are: attack 5 (roll) + 7 (attack score) + 3 (Confidence) + 7 (advantage bonus) = 22, defense 5 (roll) + 9 (defense) = 14.

Aggaro rolls a 5, giving him attack 5 (roll) + 3 (attack score) = 8, defense 5 (roll) + 6 (defense) = 11.

Barjin chooses to avoid striking Aggaro again and to use the eleven point difference between his attack (22) and Aggaro's defense (11) as an advantage bonus for next round.


Blastum wants to use a Creo Corpus spell to heal the damage done to his eyes (rather than wait for a few minutes and have the effect wear off). The storyguide, looking at the level versus effect chart for Creo Corpus on page 122 rules that this is a base level 10 effect (The storyguide judges clearing a person's eyes to be he same difficulty stabilizing a wound.) Looking at the base range duration and time for Creo Corpus spells, Blastum decides that the range of his spell should be lowered from Touch to Personal (pp. 122, 103, 68-69). This lowers the level of the spell one magnitude to level 5. Already having a -1 modifier to all of his actions due to his Weary state, Blastum elects not to squander more of his energy by fatiguing himself. Blastum's Creo (15) + Corpus (2) + Int (3) is 20. Blastum chooses to risk three of his five points of Confidence.

Blastum rolls a 5 + Creo (15) + Corpus (2) + Int (3) + Confidence (3) + fatigue (-1) = 27. This is divided by 5 to find the level of the spell that is created (pp. 68-69). The spell is level 5. Because Blastum was hoping to cast a spell of level 5 he succeeds and does not lose his Confidence. Blastum can see again.


Aggaro and Barjin roll for combat fatigue. Aggaro rolls a 5, and this added to his combat fatigue give him a 6. Aggaro is not fatigued. Barjin rolls a zero and has to check for a botch. He rolls one botch die (the story guide couldn't think of any reason why Barjin should be rolling extra botch dice.) Barjin's single botch die does not get a zero so Barjin does not botch (p. 15). Barjin's roll (0) + combat fatigue (+4) is only a 4; Barjin loses a Fatigue level. He is now Winded.

Round Four


Aggaro, not being fond of Barjin's advantageous position (reflected by Barjin's advantage bonus of 11), tries to back out to Close range and get his bearings. Aggaro rolls a 5 + initiative (3) = 8.

Barjin wants to keep Aggaro right where he is and tries to keep the range at Reach. He rolls a 5 + init (6) = 11.

Blastum, furious over botching and blinding himself, has now lost his temper. He elects to cast "a big enough Creo Ignem spell to send this armored miscreant to hell six times over." Blastum is doing formulaic magic so he does not roll an engagement contest.

Results: Barjin continues to fight Aggaro at Reach with Barjin receiving a +3 first strike bonus. Blastum is still at Near range to the other two combatants.


Aggaro chooses to use an all-out defense in order to counteract Barjin's bonuses. This gives Aggaro +6 on his defense score but prevents him from injuring Barjin this round (although it is still theoretically possible for him to gain an advantage bonus to be used next round) (p. 170). Aggaro rolls a 5; his attack is 5 (roll) + 3 (attack score) = 8, and defense is 5 (roll) + 6 (defense score) + 6 (bonus for all out defense) = 17.

Barjin presses his advantage and throws all of his bonuses into his attack. Barjin rolls a 7!! (he must be using a different die). His attack is 7 (roll) + 7 (attack score) + 3 (Confidence) + 3 (first strike bonus) + 11 (advantage bonus) = 31. His defense is 7 (roll) + 9 (defense score) = 16.

Barjin decides that things aren't going to get any better and decides to injure Aggaro. 14 (difference between the attack total and the defense total) + 7 (damage score) - 13 (Soak) = 8, and one Body level of damage is done.


Blastum is trying to multicast four Ball of Abysmal Flame (BoAF) spells. Only mastered spells can be multicast (p.75). First Blastum needs to make a Finesse roll to see if he can multicast the spells, then he must roll to cast each spell individually, and finally he must make a targeting roll for each spell.

The storyguide reminds Blastum that Barjin is standing very close to the intended point of impact of all of that firepower. Blastum tells the storyguide to mind her own business.

In order to multicast a spell Blastum needs to make an Intelligence + Finesse die roll of 9+ with a penalty of the number of spells being cast (p.75). Blastum still has his Confidence and confidently proclaims that this is the perfect use for it. Blastum rolls a 5 + 6 (Finesse, specialization in Ignem) + 3 (Int) + 5 (Confidence) -4 (the number of spells) -1 (Fatigue) = 12. Blastum gets to continue on.

Blastum now rolls to cast each of the spells with a penalty to each roll equal to the total number of spells cast. Blastum's Creo (20) + Ignem (15) + Stamina (0) - number of spells cast (4) - Fatigue penalty (1) gives each die roll a +29 modifier. Blastum's die rolls are 9, 6, 7, and 2 giving him totals of 38, 35, 36, & 31 , Blastum loses one Fatigue level (for the last spell) but he successfully casts all of them. He is now Tired and suffers a -3 penalty to all rolls.

Blastum may, if he wishes, hold the BoAFs for up to three rounds (p. 136). Blastum, however, does not have sufficient patience to do this.

The storyguide decides to apply the rules for shooting missiles into a melee on page 166 to the use of BoAFs in a crowded environment. Blastum has an additional -3 to hit, and if this -3 causes a miss when there would otherwise be a hit, poor Barjin is flamed. (The storyguide is stepping beyond the rules at this point.)

Not wanting to turn his remaining loyal grog into a flaming corpse Blastum elects to use all of his Confidence to each of the targeting rolls until he misses. Consulting the spell targeting chart on page 71, the storyguide sees that to hit a target of size zero who is hustling and in plain sight at near range, Blastum needs a six. Blastum rolls a 4 - Fatigue (3) - multicating penalty for number of targets (p.75) (1) - shooting into melee penalty (3) + Finesse (6) + Perception (0) + Confidence (5) = 8 -- a hit. Blastum then rolls a 5 a 6 and a 7 for three additional hits. If Blastum had rolled a 0, his total would have been five and he would have hit Barjin instead.

Each Ball of Abysmal Flame will generate 30 + a simple die Damage to Aggaro (pp. 136 & 180). Because Aggaro only has a soak of 13, each BoAF will do at least 3 Body levels to him. Only the storyguide can save him now.

While it most likely wouldn't be relevant, Barjin (and the horse: -ribbit-) will be blinded by the explosions next round, unless they make four Stamina rolls of difficulty 12. (The storyguide had better have some good reason before she wastes her players' time with irrelevant Stamina checks, however.)

-- Erik Tyrell

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