During last week’s session of Ars Magica, we had had our first bit of magical combat and had noticed something slightly odd. At the beginning of this session the GM wanted to discuss things and decide on how we wanted to handle it.
The way Ars Magica 5th edition handles wounds is unlike many other systems. You don’t have hit points which get worn down, instead you suffer wounds, and each wound gives you a penalty depending on its severity. It doesn’t matter how many light wounds you take, they won’t kill you, just give you a -1 penalty. Each medium wound gives you a -3 penalty, and each heavy wound a -5. If you suffer an incapacitating wound, you are down and not doing anything, but still not dead.
You can have a dozen light wounds (-12), a few medium wounds (-9) and a couple of heavy wounds (-10), for a total of -31 penalty, but you won’t die.
In melee combat, this isn’t an issue. When damage is calculated, the attacker gets a bonus to damage based on the difference between their attack roll and the defender’s defence roll. Once the defender starts getting penalties, the damage they suffer goes up until eventually it’s enough to cause a mortal wound that kills. It’s the sort of death spiral that some people don’t like, but it works.
With magical attacks, there’s often no defence roll. So if a spell does enough damage to do mostly light wounds, then you’re never going to kill someone, regardless of their wound penalties, because the wound penalties that apply in melee combat don’t factor into defences against magical attacks.
So after some discussion we decided that wound penalties will come off the defender’s soak roll against magical attacks. This makes it more like melee damage, and a bit more deadly. We’ll have to see how well it works.
After the fight at the pond, Pisciculus did her best to clean herself up with some Creo Aquam, and we headed back up to the village. It was mid afternoon by the time that we got there, and Pisciculus was still soaking wet, but at least less muddy than she had been. The mother met us, and invited Pisciculus in to dry off by the fire. She wasn’t cold – Pisciculus is never cold – but Maedbh suggested that we go inside anyway to have a chat with her and her son.
Maedbh’s idea was to try and put thoughts into the son’s mind, and Pisciculus would try to read out his emotional responses. Neither of us had Posing the Silent Question, which was really what we needed, so we had to make do with what we had. Mostly we got a feeling of fear from him, and part of that seemed to come from the fact that thoughts were appearing in his head. Pisciculus cut off her spell when she thought he was becoming too distressed and started very obviously to try thinking about other things.
Sid went off to find some of the menfolk and ask them about what had happened. Apparently Doogle had lost a drinking bet, so was dared to go up to the hill and see what happened on the full moon. It was known that strange lights were sometimes seen up there, but not very often. When he was found the following morning, he was covered in blood and had marks on his wrists, as if he’d been tied up.
We spent the night in a barn, and the following day had little to do but wait. Our plan was to stay up at the stones at the top of the hill over the night of the full moon, and see if anything happened.
As the sky darkened, and the moon rose, so the strength of the faerie aura increased. A slight glimmering was seen in the holes at the top of the stones, so Pisciculus investigated and found what looked like silver dust. Her own thoughts were that the hole was used to fasten ropes to the stone, and Doogle had been tied there and had things done to him. Given the silver, and the marks of some clawed creature down at the pond, it’s possible werewolves or similar beasts had been involved.
Under the light of the full moon, strange, possibly astrological, symbols could be seen on the stones. None of us could recognise them though. Maedbh drew copies of them for us to take back and research later. Beyond that though, nothing much happened and as dawn broke we were all tired and ready to head back to the covenant.
Euan ex Miscellanea is informed of what we found, and being of Gruagach descent decides that it is a curse of some kind (it might well be) and goes to investigate himself. He tried to persuade the mother to go up to the hill with him, and after much persuasion succeeds. He invokes a vision for her, and she falls over, bleeding from her eyes and ears. She tells of seeing figures dancing around a fire, and then feeling great pain before being struck blind and deaf.
Doogal himself seems empty, almost not quite human anymore. Euan is able to grant him a protection against the rapid ageing that is afflicting him, which may provide us time to figure out what happened.
The rest of the season passes without issue, and Pisciculus eventually recovers from her wounds with help from Aodhan. She finishes her reading of the book of Intellego, and decides to settle down with learning Posing the Silent Question over Winter. A couple of seasons too late but what can you do?