Rules of Play

© 1998-2017, Kevan Hashemi

Contents

Introduction
Inaccuracy
Terminology
Primary Attributes
StrengthToughnessDexterityIntelligence
Hit Points
Experience Points
Dodging Points
Assaults
Burdening
Disciplines
FighterWizardSorcererAssassin
DazerThiefHealerRanger
RiderTorturerSundry
Combat
Hand-to-HandSurpriseMissileMass
Proficiency
Armor
Shields
Weapons
Missiles
Attribute Variation
Dice Rolls
Uniform DistributionBinomial DistributionNormal DistributionChallenge Rolls

Introduction

SAGA (Silly Adventure Game for Anyone) is a game for two or more players. The players pretend to be adventurers in an imaginary world. They enjoy overcoming imaginary enemies and solving imaginary problems. To play the game, you need pencils, paper, and dice. You will need dice with six, ten, and twenty sides. At any moment in the game, one player is always the dramaturgist and the others are contenders. The players can take turns being the dramaturgist, but there is only one dramaturgist at a time. The dramaturgist must have a thorough understanding of the rules, but the contenders need only their common sense.

In the manner of a novelist, the dramaturgist sets the scene for an adventure. He invents characters of his own and gives them roles to play. He introduces the contenders' characters into the drama, and the game begins. A good adventure is one in which the adventurers succeed if they are clever, fail if they are inattentive, and are killed only if they are foolish.

We think SAGA's game world is better than our own for imaginary adventures. Imaginary adventures must be life-threatening, or else they are boring. There must be fights and chases. In our world of guns and bombs, even the best soldiers can be killed by bad luck. Anyone can be hit by shrapnel. In SAGA's universe, guns and bombs do not work, while experienced adventurers become prescient. Prescience makes adventurers hard to kill (because they have dodging points). In SAGA's universe, people can cast spells. Characters can be physically formidable by mental exertion alone (because they are wizards).

The Laws of Magic are clear and unambiguous, but they are complex. It is our clear and unambiguous Laws of Magic that make SAGA a game that appeals to adults as well as children. The dramaturgist does not govern the behavior of magic in the game world. Its behavior is governed by the Laws of Magic, and these laws are available to contenders and dramaturgists alike.

Each group of SAGA players are bound by SAGA's constitution, which consists of the following rules.

  1. Changes to this constitution require the approval of all players.
  2. Changes to other rules require the approval of a majority of players.
  3. Additions to the game world made by the dramaturgist take precedence over additions made by other players.
  4. Altering self-consistent game history requires the consent of all players.
  5. Altering self-contradictory game history requires the consent of a majority of players.
  6. Play is either time-in or time-out. During time-in, all actions described by the players occur in the game world. During time-out, no action occurs in the fantasy world unless the dramaturgist obtains confirmation from the contenders.
  7. Whenever there is any question about the occurrence of an event in the game world, or the outcome of an action in the game world, the players will agree to a method of settling this question with a die roll.

As you can see from the constitution, the dramaturgist does not have sole authority over the game. The only difference between the dramaturgist and the players is that the dramaturgist has more authority to embellish the game world. Other than that, any player can call a vote at any time to decide any issue in the game.

Example: The dramaturgist invents and island with a deserted house made of spirit stone. In the house is a demon. One of the players says, "But I believed there were no demons for miles around." The dramaturgist can answer, "You were wrong." In the absence of a vote, the dramaturgist's word is the truth in the game world. The contesting player says, "I want us to vote on it." So the four players at the table vote. Three of them agree that there are no demons for miles around. "Oh," the dramaturgist says, "Well, we'll end the game here for tonight. I'll have to think through the implications of there being no demon in the house." As you can see, the dramaturgist can be overruled, but each time he is overruled, the game is likely to come to a stop. Self-consistency of the game world is of great importance in SAGA, and it takes a lot of work on the part of the dramaturgist to make sure that his inventions are self-consistent.

Dice play an important roll in SAGA. Through use of dice, we introduce chance into the game. We discuss the use of dice in more detail later.

The only person who has to have a good understanding of the Rules of Play is the dramaturgist. The other players can simply walk into the game and begin playing a contender character. The differences between SAGA's universe and ours will become apparent as the game proceeds. The first time a new player's character gets into a fight, the dramaturgist will reveal what is necessary of SAGA's combat system.

Example: Mike is a new player, and his character in the game is called Stanley. Stanley is wearing leather armor and carrying a sword when he is attacked by a drunk soldier. The dramaturgist tells Mike that he must roll a six-sided die, and if he rolls higher than the dramaturgist, Stanley gets to make the first move in the fight. They both roll. Mike gets a 4, the dramaturgist rolls a 3. "You can run away, or attack, or just wait to be attacked." Mike chooses to attack. "You need to roll a 14 or higher on a twenty-sided die to hit the soldier with your sword." And so on. There is no need for Mike to know the combat system, or anything else about the game when he starts playing.

Nevertheless, if a contender wants to play a wizard, she must understand the fundamentals of the Laws of Magic. She need not understand the combat system, but she must answer questions posed by the dramaturgist about magic and the use of new spells, or else her wizard will be unable to use the new spells. There is no need, however, for any party of adventurers to include a wizard. Even if there are no contender character wizards, and they feel they need a wizard in their party, they can always go looking for one to hire. This wizard can then act as their advisor on magical matters, and will be played by the dramaturgist.

Of the human species that live in SAGA's universe, homo sapiens make the most formidable adventurers. Sapiens are not born stronger or swifter than other species, but their minds and bodies respond to conditioning faster and to a greater extent than do those of other species. We assume that contender characters will be sapien, but if a contender wishes to play a character of another species, the dramaturgist can arrange it. For descriptions of some of the other species, see elf, dwarf, hobbit, and orc.

During play, we find that we must consult the tables of numbers contained in the rules below, but the text explaining the tables is only rarely consulted. Therefore, we provide Tables from Rules, which contains all the tables from this document, and Tables of Burdening, which tabulate the result of our burdening rules. We recommend you print out both for use during play.

Inaccuracy

We write our SAGA rules and guides for adventures on a planet called Clarus. Clarus is just one of hundreds of worlds in the Celesti Sector, and the Celesti Sector is just one small part of the Luman Galaxy, and the Luman Galaxy is just one among any number in the entire SAGA universe.

All SAGA adventures are played in the same imaginary universe. Instead of inventing a new universe for his game, the dramaturgist inserts his own places, characters, and chronology into the SAGA universe we describe with our rules, guides, and adventure diaries. This universe is spacious enough and varied enough to support the imaginations of any number of dramaturgists.

Descriptions of SAGA's universe come in two forms. There are those written from the objective point of view of an omniscient narrator, such as these Rules of Play and the Laws of Magic, and those written from the subjective point of view of a narrator in the universe itself, such as Summoning. The objective documents must be self-consistent. The subjective documents can contradict one another or even themselves.

All descriptions of SAGA's universe should be subjective unless it is impractical for them to be so because of the way in which they describe the universe for the purpose of playing the game. Our Creature Guide is an example of a document we would like to make subjective, but which contains, for the convenience of the dramaturgist, descriptions of creatures in terms of the SAGA combat system. No subjective narrator in SAGA's universe is aware of the combat system, so it is impossible for this document to be subjective.

Even maps, such as this one, should be regarded as subjective. They are products of a map-maker in the SAGA universe. Two maps drawn at two different times by the same dramaturgist, or different dramaturgists, are likely to contradict one another. Each set of players can investigate such contradictions and come up with their own answers. Each new adventure in the same area can use pre-existing maps, but the players could at any time find that those maps were inaccurate.

The subjectivity and inaccuracy of most information available to players about the SAGA universe is an important part of the game's realism. In real life, we never know the absolute truth, although we may have firmly-held beliefs. Real maps are always inaccurate, especially if they have been drawn by travelers as a guide to other travelers.

Terminology

We use mdn to denote the sum of m rolls of an n-sided die. We use mDn to denote m times one roll of an n-sided die. Thus '2d10' means you roll a ten-sided die twice, and add the rolls together, while '2D10' means you roll a ten-sided die and multiply the result by two.

When we "round to the nearest integer" we round halves to the nearest even number.

We will quote prices in Olympian Dollars. One Olympian Dollar is roughly equal to one United States Dollar at the time of writing. Some SAGA players prefer to quote prices in gold pieces (abbreviated to gp), also known as guineas. One gold piece is ten grams of gold and worth about $100. The advantage of quoting prices in gold pieces is that adventurers earn one experience point for each gold piece that they earn in fees and adventuring profits. But the gold piece is an inconvenient unit for quoting small prices, since it forces us to use fractions of a gold piece. For more about prices and economy see here.

Primary Attributes

Characters have four primary attributes. These are strength (STR), dexterity (DEX), toughness (TOU), and intelligence (INT). Contenders decide the base values of their character's attributes by assigning a value from −1 to +4 to each attribute in such a way that all four add up to +8. If the character is a female sapien, we reduce STR by 3, and increase TOU by 3. You will find the adjustments to base attributes for other species in the Attribute Variation section, and descriptions of the other species in our Creature Guide. In particular, you might consider having an elf, hobbit, dwarf, half-orc, or orc character.

When a contender character enters the game, she has spent several years in training. This training raises her attributes above their base values by a total of 9 points, so that the sum of her attributes is now 17. Her attributes continue to rise as she continues her training, and goes on adventures. Prowess as an adventurer is represented in SAGA by adventurer level (al). The table below gives the sum of a contender character's attributes at each adventurer level, assuming they continue the training required to raise their attributes. This training can raise an attribute by at most 8 points above its base value, and no attribute will drop below its base value. For a more detailed discussion of attribute variation, see below.

Adventurer
Level
Sum of
Attributes
Adventurer
Level
Sum of
Attributes
1171127
2181228
3191328
4201429
5211529
6221630
7231730
8241831
9251931
102620+32
Table: Sum of Attributes with Adventurer Level for Contender Characters.

We see that, in practice, no attribute my be less than −1 nor greater than 12, and the sum increases from 25 at first level and reaches a maximum of 40 at twentieth leve.

Strength

The following table translates STR into physical Lifting Strength, which is a force. On a planet with gravity 10 ms−2, 1 kg has weight 10 N. Add one to STR, and nominal lifting strength increases by ten percent.

STRLifting
Strength (N)
STRLifting
Strength (N)
STRLifting
Strength (N)
STRLifting
Strength (N)
−5370+1660+71170+132070
−4410+2730+81290+142280
−3450+3800+91410+152510
−2500+4880+101560+162760
−1550+5970+111710+173030
0600+61060+121880+183340
Table: Lifting Strength in Newton vs. STR Attribute.

For a man, his lifting strength is the maximum weight he can bench press one time. Women with a given STR bench press less weight than men. Their strength is concentrated more in their legs. A woman bench presses the same amount as a man with STR two points lower than her own. The bench press table converts directly to a ten-repetition squat table, in which form it applies equally to men and women. The average sapien man has STR=0, bench presses 600 N once (60 kg weight in gravity 10 ms−2). He squats 600 N ten times. The average sapien woman has STR=−2, bench presses 400 N once, and squats 500 N ten times.

Weight-lifting is the fastest way to raise strength. Drugs can also affect strength. Some increase it for a few hours, and others accelerate the effects of weight lifting. All such drugs, however, have deleterious side-effects. Drugs that increase strength for a few hours leave the body exhausted. Those which accelerate the effects of training make one vulnerable to disease, and disturb the mind.

Toughness

Toughness is a measure of a character's ability to perform well under duress. The most convenient ways to raise toughness are combat training and living outdoors. There are also especially designed exercises which combine meditation, discomfort, and ritualized movement of the body. No drugs can increase toughness in the short term, although they can play a part in exercises. The following table gives the number of dodging points and hit points tenth level adventurer will have given his TOU attribute.

TOUDodging Points /
Hit Points
TOUDodging Points /
Hit Points
TOUDodging Points /
Hit Points
TOUDodging Points /
Hit Points
−55 / 5010 / 10515 / 151020 / 20
−46 / 6111 / 11616 / 161121 / 21
−37 / 7212 / 12717 / 171222 / 22
−28 / 8313 / 13818 / 181323 / 23
−19 / 9414 / 14919 / 191424 / 24
Table: Tenth Level Adventurer's Dodging Points (dp) and Hit Points (hp).

As we will explain below, higher TOU bestows more dodging points and more hit points. As you can see from the table, adventurer level ten is the level at which an adventurer has the same number of dodging points as hit points.

Dexterity

Special regimes of exercise are the fastest way to increase dexterity. No drugs or spells can increase dexterity.

The most prominent advantage bestowed by DEX is in hand-to-hand combat, where DEX adds to a character's striking accuracy in the same way as does fighter level. Thus a zero-level fighter with DEX = 10 has the same striking accuracy as a tenth level fighter with DEX = 0. Note, however that DEX does not add to firing accuracy.

Intelligence

Intelligence is a measure of a character's ability to extricate himself from unfamiliar difficulties. Intelligence is best raised by disciplined application of the mind under the direction of an expert philosopher. Intelligence may also be raised by academic study under expert direction. Although wizards use nicotine to help them memorize spells, no drugs are known to increase the INT attribute. Drugs do, however, play a part of many schemes for training the mind so as to increase intelligence.

The most prominent advantage bestowed by INT is upon wizards, who need INT ≥ 10 in order to increase their wizard level.

Hit Points

The amount of physical damage a creature's body can endure without being incapacitated is indicated by its hit points. Bigger and tougher creatures have more hit points. Damage to a creature's body subtracts from its hit points.

An uninjured creature is in possession of its full number of hit points. The full number of hit points for a 60-kg human is 10+TOU. Larger creature's have more hit points: a creature's full hit points increase roughly in proportion to the square root of its mass. A 240-kg animal has 20+2×TOU hit points. For simplicity, contender characters are awarded 10+TOU hit points regardless of their size.

Example: To give you an idea of how much damage one hit point represents, a 50 kg sapien falling 10 m in gravity 10 m/s/s suffers 20 hp damage. Damage is proportional to impact energy. One hit point of damage is caused by each 250 J of impact energy. A 50-kg sapien, falling 10 m in 10 m/s/s hits the ground with kinetic energy 5 kJ and so suffers 20 hp of damage. Most sapiens have around ten hit points. Any creature dies when it is reduced to less then minus its full number of hit points, so a 10-m fall is likely to kill an adult sapien.

Example: Stephanix the Scurrier Fighting Demon weighs 70 kg and has 400 hit points. If he jumps off a 20-m tower he hits the ground with 14 kJ of kinetic energy and suffers 56 hit points of damage, which he can survive easily, assuming he's not injured already.

A character who has lost one or more hit points, but still has at least one point left, is injured. Healthy, well-rested sapiens recover one hit point per day without help, although black eyes, bruises, and scabs may remain for longer. We ignore the affects of injuries upon a character's performance.

A character reduced to zero or fewer hit points is wounded. Unlike injuries, wounds are each treated separately. A wound is classified either a cut or a bruise, depending upon whether it was delivered by a sharp or a blunt weapon. Each wound has a severity determined by a roll of 1d20. The wounded character remains conscious only if a second roll of 1d20 is greater than or equal to the severity minus the character's toughness.

A wounded fighter who is still conscious can defend himself until the end of the combat round in which he was wounded, but thereafter he will be unable to fight. A wounded wizard who is still conscious can cast spells.

Cuts bleed, causing an additional one hit point of damage per ten minutes, until the wound is properly bound, or until a number of hit points equal to the cut's severity has been lost through bleeding. Once a cut has stopped bleeding, it is lumped in with injuries for the purpose of hit point recovery.

Bruises are less dangerous than cuts. We lump them with injuries for the purpose of hit point recovery. But a bruise with severity ten or greater indicates a broken bone. It will take a number of weeks equal to its severity to heal if it is set properly, but will never heal if it is not set properly. Therefore, it is possible for a character to return to full hit points, but be maimed by a severe crushing attack.

A character dies when reduced to less than minus his full hit points.

Experience Points

On magical worlds, characters receive prescient sensations from interactions between their nervous systems and the maeon wind. These sensations give warning of shocks to the nervous system. If a character is sensitive to prescient sensations, knows how to move so as to avoid the cause of a prescient sensation, and is free to move, she will be able to avoid such shocks.

It is not that the experienced adventurer feels a prescient sensation of a shock, and dodges out of the way. That would be paradoxical. If she avoids the shock, there cannot have been a prescient sensation. Instead, some coincidence occurs to resolve the paradox. The adventurer bends down just as an arrow flies past. It looks like the adventurer is lucky, but it is impossible for her not to be lucky.

Adventurer
Level
Experience
Points
Required
Experience
Points to
Next Level
Adventurer
Title
10200Adventurer
2200300
3500500
41 k1 k
52 k2 kContender
64 k3 k
77 k4 k
811 k6 k
917 k8 k
1025 k10 kExpert
1135 k11 k
1246 k12 k
1358 k13 k
1471 k14 k
1585 k15 kBad-Ass
20170 k20 kSuper Bad-Ass
30415 k30 kSuper Duper
Bad-Ass
40760 k40 kSuper Duper Duper
Bad-Ass
501205 k50 kSuper Duper Duper Duper
Bad-Ass
Table: Experience Points Required for Adventurer Levels

Contender characters start out as first-level adventurers. After that, the dramaturgist awards experience points to the character as the character succeeds in her adventures. For each hundred dollars the character earns as an adventurer, the dramaturgist should consider awarding one experience point (that's one experience point per gold piece earned). Individual adventures might deviate from this rule without upsetting the balance of the game, but in the long run, the dramaturgist should deviate from our principle of one experience point per hundred dollars only if he is aware of the consequence for the game, and welcomes those consequences. Rich low-level adventurers will be able to buy magical items that double their power, and the game will become one of acquiring and organizing powerful magical items. Poor high-level characters will not be able to buy magical arms that allow them to cut through normal armor easily, and the game will not allow high-level fighters to attain the same mastery over low-level fighters that high-level wizards attain over the same opponents.

When the dramaturgist awards experience points to a party, he awards a total number of experience points to them for their most recent adventure, and divides the total up between them. Each member of the party gets a share proportional to the square root of his pre-existing number of experience points. We make an exception to this rule when a member has fewer than 200 experience points, in which case, we perform the calculation as if this member had 200 experience points.

Dodging Points

As an adventurer gains experience, she is better able to identify and react to prescient sensations. Her ability is represented by her dodging points. Her dodging points are determined both by her familiarity with mortal danger, and by her toughness. Familiarity with mortal danger is accumulated during the course of her adventures in the form of experience points. Experience points are awarded by the dramaturgist. Her accumulated experience points determine her adventurer level. Her full number of dodging points, which is how many she has when mentally well-rested, is 1+TOU/10 per experience level, rounded to the nearest integer.

A character with fewer than her full number of dodging points is said to be fatigued. Dodging points are recovered whenever the dramaturgist awards experience points. The dramaturgist awards experience points whenever the character has several days of unworried rest.

Prescience relies upon a maeon wind, and is therefore affected by maeon wind strength. The number of dodging points is proportional to the square root of the maeon wind strength. The table below gives the maximum number of dodging points a character has in different maeon winds. To attain the maximum number, the character must spend a week training their prescience in the new maeon wind, or they must have previously gone through such training.

Meaon Wind (Y)Dodging Points Per Adventuring Level
2.01.4 + TOU/7
1.51.2 + TOU/8
1.01.0 + TOU/10
0.50.7 + TOU/14
0.20.4 + TOU/22
0.10.3 + TOU/32
0.00.0
Table: Affects of Maeon Wind Strength upon Dodging Points

The following calculator will tell you how many dodging points a well-trained character has for any toughness, adventurer level and maeon wind strength.

TOU: Adventurer Level: Meaon Wind: Y Dodging Points:

In cases where characters use large space bridges to increase the maeon wind they experience on different planets, players will have to adapt the above calculation.

Assaults

An assault upon a character is any threat to her well-being. Three types of assault are recognized by SAGA's rules: "shocks", "hazards", and "risks".

A shock is an assault whose ill effects cause a direct prescient sensation. Each shock has a formidability and a power. The subject can dodge a shock by deducting its formidability from her dodging points, so long as her dodging points are not reduced below zero in the process. Alternatively, she can take the shock by deducting its power from her hit points, but she may then have to contend with further, secondary, assaults as well.

Example: Your opponent has scored a hit with his sword. Either you must lose one dodging point or two hit points. If you chose to take the blow, you lose two hit points. But if there is poison on the blade, you will suffer from it. You can be sure of avoiding poison only by dodging the blow.

The SAGA player controlling a character decides whether the character shall take or dodge a shock. The dramaturgist must tell contenders the power and formidability of each shock, but the contenders need not know the secondary assaults that may occur as a result of taking a shock.

A hazard is an assault whose ill effects cause no direct prescient sensation, but which can be avoided by attention to detail and presence of mind, such as comes with experience. Each hazard has a level. If 1d20 plus the subject's adventurer level is greater than or equal to the hazard level, the subject avoids the ill effects of the hazard. Otherwise, he does not. The ill effects cannot be immediate injures, nor any physical sensation or constraint that causes immediate astonishment or dismay, or else the assault would be a shock, not a hazard. If a hazard is less dangerous to those with higher intelligence, we call it an intelligence hazard and the target of the assault adds his INT attribute as well as his adventurer level to his roll of 1d20. We also have toughness hazards, strength hazards, and dexterity hazards.

Example: A wizard tries to beguile a character. The character faces an intelligence hazard level 15. She has INT=3 and al=5, so she needs to roll 7 or greater on 1d20 to resist the spell.

A risk is an assault whose ill-effects give no warning and cannot be forseen. Each risk has a level. If 1d20 is greater than or equal to the risk level, the subject escapes the ill effects of the risk. Otherwise, he does not. The ill effects can be immediate injures, or they can be further assaults.

Example: A character has been bitten by a mosquito. There is a level 3 risk that he contracts malaria as a result. He must roll 3 or greater on 1d20 or he will contract the disease, regardless of his experience or attributes.

Example: A character has been bit by a poison arrow and suffered at six hit points of damage as a result. There is a level 6 risk that the poison enters his blood stream and takes effect.

During play, we try to classify all assaults as one of these three types. We are almost always successful. When we feel that none of the three types is satisfactory, we make up our own roll that we do find satisfactory.

Burdening

The burdening of an item of equipment is the amount by which its encumbrance reduces its user's effective dexterity. We are concerned chiefly with armor, shields, and weapons, which encumber a character in combat. For most types of armor, shield, and sword, the item's encumbrance is equal to it's mass. We quantify the effect of these three types of burden by means of three parameters: armor burdening (ab), shield burdening (sb), and weapon burdening (wb). Most often, characters will choose armor, shield, and weapons such that these parameters are all zero, so their encumbrance is ignored by the combat system. Associated with armor, shield, and weapon burdening are armor, shield, and weapon encumbrances, which are approximately equal to the mass of each article, and denoted wenc, senc, and wenc respectively.

A character's armor burdening (ab) is the extent to which his dexterity in combat is reduced by the mass of his armor. When a character carries a well-distributed load other than armor, we add its encumbrance to the encumbrance of his armor to calculate armor burdening. Armor burdening is zero if the encumbrance of the armor is not greater than 15% of the mass he can lift in gravity 10 ms−2. For heavier armor, ab is equal to one for each 1.5% excess over the 15% threshold. We can look up aenc in the armor table and use the following calculator to determine ab.

STR: Armor Encumbrance: kg Armor Burdening:

A character's shield burdening (sb) is the extent to which her dexterity in combat is reduced by carrying a shield. Shield burdening is zero if the shield encumbrance is not greater than 7% of the mass she can lift in gravity 10 ms−2. For heavier shields, ab is equal to one for each 0.7% excess over the 7% threshold. We can look up senc in the shield table and use the following calculator to determine sb.

STR: Shield Encumbrance: kg Shield Burdening:

A character's weapon burdening (wb) is the extent to which his dexterity with the hand carrying the weapon is reduced by wielding the weapon. Weapon burdening is zero if the encumbrance of the weapon is not greater than 1% of the mass he can lift in gravity 10 ms−2. For heavier weapons we have, wb is equal to one fore each 0.1% excess over the 1% threshold. When a character wields a weapon in double-handed, its encumbrance is divided between the two hands, so the burdening is reduced. We can look up wenc in the weapon table, and use the following calculator to obtain wb for one-handed and two-handed use. Note that we enter the encumbrance in grams, not kilograms.

STR: Weapon Encumbrance: g Weapon Burdening: Two-Handed:

We have a copy of the Burdening Tables taped to the back of our Dramaturgist's Shield. They give armor and weapon burdening as a function of strength and encumbrance. For shield burdening, we use the armor burdening table, but we double the encumbrance of the shield. Most often, players choose the heaviest armor, shields, and weapons they can wield with zero burdening. The table below gives the maximum encumbrance for zero burdening versus strength.

STRArmor (kg)Shield (kg)Weapon (g) STRArmor (kg)Shield (kg)Weapon (g)
-55.92.73911127.012.61797
-46.53.04301229.713.81977
-37.13.34731332.615.22175
-27.83.65211435.916.72392
-18.64.05731539.518.42632
09.54.46301643.420.32895
110.44.96931747.822.33184
211.45.37621852.524.53503
312.65.98391957.827.03853
413.86.59222063.629.74238
515.27.110152169.932.64662
616.77.811162276.935.95128
718.48.612282384.639.55641
820.39.513502493.143.46205
922.310.4148625102.447.86826
1024.511.4163426112.652.67508
Table: Maximum Encumbrance for Zero Burdening.

We round burdening values to the nearest whole number for play. If a man with STR = 4 picks up a sword with encumbrance 900 g, his burdening will be 0.24, but we will round this to zero. The numbers we give in the table above are the maximum encumbrances for which the rounded burdening is zero.

Disciplines

A discipline is a collection of skills grouped together for the sake of SAGA's rules. The skills need not be related, although they usually are. Most often, a discipline is described by a table that lists all of its component skills, and gives the probability a character has of success in practicing each skill. This probability of success increases with the character's level in the discipline.

The Thief Table lists: climbing, hiding, moving silently, finding traps, disarming traps, picking pockets, opening locks, and disguise. Associated with the table are reference cases for each skill, and the table gives the probability a character has of success in the reference case for each skill, given her thief level.

We use the word table to indicate any set of rules and equations. All our equations can be tabulated. Sometimes it is easier to use a table than an equations, and sometimes the equation is easier.

We find it easier to use a table to determine armor burdening, but when it comes to calculating a base to-hit roll in the combat system, it is easier to use a combination of equations and tables.

Example: The Fighter Table constitutes the equations of the hand-to-hand and missile combat systems, and the Dazer Table consists of the rules of surprise combat. The Wizard Table is the table of spells available to wizards at successively higher wizard levels.

We encourage both dramaturgist and contenders to compose their own disciplines, with their own tables. A discipline called Climbing Bard might contain singing, dancing, playing an instrument, and climbing. All discipline tables must be composed in such a way that someone with level −5 will perform as an absolute beginner and level zero as a senior apprentice. Associated with each discipline is the number of hours of expertly directed training it takes to attain level zero, which is called the initial training time. The initial training time for Fighter is one thousand hours. The initial training time for Wizard is twenty thousand hours if you start in adolescence, forty thousand if you start later.

We assume that a newly-composed, first-level contender character has received training in a number of disciplines up to level-zero proficiency, and then spent a year applying one or more of her disciplines to earn the money to equip herself for her first adventure. During this year, she graduates from being an apprentice adventurer to being a novice adventurer.

Example: A contender's apprentice adventurer chooses two disciplines in which to begin at level zero. The dramaturgist can and should award the apprentice adventurer level zero in other disciplines, after taking into account the contender's requests.

Example: A contender asks for level zero in assassin, and fighter. The dramaturgist grants the request, and adds level zero in sailing and riding as well.

Example: A contender, who intends her character to be a fighter, asks for level zero in fighter and wizard. But when the dramaturgist points out that wizards need to have INT at least 10 to advance, she realizes that she will have to sacrifice strength, dexterity, and toughness to sustain her intelligence, so she decides it is not worth it, and asks for assassin level zero instead. At her request, the dramaturgist grants her healer level zero as well.

When two disciplines have a skill in common, we say they overlap.

Example: The skill climbing is part of thief, commando, mountaineer, and climbing bard. All these disciplines overlap.

Each time a contender character earns a new adventurer level, including the first level, the contender picks three disciplines in which her character will increase his proficiency. The character must have level zero or greater in each discipline, and the disciplines must not overlap. The contender makes one of the three disciplines her first choice, another her second choice, and the remaining one her third choice. For each discipline we specify the number of levels, or fraction of a level, by which a character's proficiency increases when this discipline is her first, second, or third choice for advancement.

Example: A contender character has level zero in assassin, fighter, sailor, and healer. She has just become a first level adventurer. Her first choice is assassin, she advances to level one. Her second choice is fighter, she advances to level one third. Her third choice is healer, and she advances to level one half.

Example: The same character might have done things differently. She might have Burglar her first choice. Burglar includes picking pockets, opening locks, and finding and disarming traps, and is therefore included by Thief, and Thief is itself included by Assassin. Therefore, because she has level zero in Assassin, she has level zero in Burglar. Having made Burglar her first choice, her Burglar level advances by three. She now asks to make Thief her second choice, but the dramaturgist points out that Thief and Burglar overlap, so the SAGA rules don't allow that. In the end, she makes fighter her second choice, and advances her fighter level by one third, and sailing her third choice, and advances her sailing level by one.

Note that the first, second, and third choices made by a character can be different every time he earns a new adventuring level. Note also that the dramaturgist can award level zero in new disciplines at any time. If, for example, the adventurers do a lot of rowing, the dramaturgist might award level zero in Rowing. It will be up to the contenders to advance from zero onwards.

In the descriptions of each discipline below, we give the first, second, and third choice advances. When we provide reference cases for a discipline, the dramaturgist calculates the difficulty of some feat attempted by a character by adding modifiers to the difficulty of the reference case.

Example: A thief tries to pick a drunk man's front pocket as he leaves a bar. The reference case for picking pockets is to 'take a wallet from the back trouser pocket of an adult sapien walking down a crowded street, taking no more than one minute to do so.' The difficulty of the reference case is 20. In our case, however, the man is drunk. How drunk? The dramaturgist says drunk enough drop the difficulty by 5. But the man is on the way out of the bar. The thief does not have a full minute to do the job. How long does he have? Long enough for the difficulty to rise by 2. The man has his wallet in his front pocket, not his back pocket. But the pocket is loose, loose enough for the difficulty to rise by only 3. That makes the difficulty equal to 20.

When it comes to picking pockets, we do not attempt to invent rules that cover all possible feats of pick-pocketing. We allow the dramaturgist to accomodate them as he goes along. He may debate the matter with the contenders if he likes, to get their opinions, but the final decision is his.

Fighter

First Choice: 1
Second Choice: ½
Third Choice: ¼

The fighter table consists of the equations of hand-to-hand and missile combat. Initial training takes one thousand hours. Each fighter level adds one to both striking accuracy and firing accuracy.

Wizard

First Choice: 1
Second Choice: ½
Third Choice: ¼

A wizard generates and uses magical effects. We describe wizards and their spells in more detail in Laws of Magic, but we will provide an introduction here. A contender who wants to play a wizard must read and understand the Laws of Magic. Before his wizard can cast any spell, he must answer a number of questions about the spell to demonstrate that he understands how it works in the game.

Proficiency as a wizard is called wizard level (wl). Before initial training, wizards must be well-schooled in mathematics, logic, chemistry, biology, and drawing. Initial training takes twenty thousand hours if the wizard begins in adolescence. Otherwise it takes forty thousand hours, because the wizard's brain has developed without guidance. Wizards usually start preparing their minds for spell-casting at age eleven, and graduate as first-level wizards at age twenty-four.

A spell is any magical phenomenon generated by a biological neural network. Wizards generate magical phenomena using a part of the brain they call the spell area. They partition their spell areas into spell slots. A wizard starts off at first level with two spell slots. She creates two new ones every time she earns a new wizard level. The neurons within a spell slot generate the effects of a single spell. A wizard configures these neurons before-hand, and triggers them when the spell is needed. We say the wizard prepares the spell in a spell slot, and casts it by triggering the spell slot. Many months may separate preparation and casting. Once the effects of a spell have faded, the spell slot that cast it is of no use until it has been prepared again.

Wizards prepare spells by looking at pictures called runes and speaking words called charges. They must prepare spells in a place free of distractions. A wizard can carry cards with her runes drawn on them, or she can draw them anew herself.

There is a difference between knowing how to prepare a spell and being able to prepare it. To know how to prepare a spell is to know the order in which runes and charges are to be presented. To be able to prepare it is not only to know the order, but also to be adept enough with the spell slot in which the spell is being prepared. A wizard's oldest spell slots are the ones in which she is most adept.

Each spell a has a level of difficulty, which is a measure of how difficult it is to prepare, and each wizard has a spell capacity determined by his wizard level, as shown in the following table. Each row of the table tells us the number of spells of each level the wizard can prepare simultaneously. He can substitute a lower-level spell for a higher-level spell, but not the other way around.

Wizard
Level
Spell
Level
1
Spell
Level
2
Spell
Level
3
Spell
Level
4
Spell
Level
5
Spell
Level
6
Spell
Level
7
Spell
Level
8
Spell
Level
9
Spell
Level
10
01---------
12---------
24---------
342--------
444--------
5442-------
6444-------
74442------
84444------
944442-----
1044444-----
11444442----
12444444----
134444442---
144444444---
1544444442--
1644444444--
17444444442-
18444444444-
194444444442
204444444444
Table: Wizard Spell Capacity with Wizard Level.

A wizard of level minus five can't cast any spells at all. A wizard of level minus four can prepare one spell of level minus three. At level zero, she can prepare one spell of level one. To prepare and cast a spell successfully, a wizard must study it carefully, practice preparing it, and practice casting it. Such work is part of initial and continuing training. For simplicity, we require that a contender wizard have INT > 10 in order to raise her wizard level. Furthermore, a wizard cannot learn to prepare a spell whose level is higher than his intelligence at the time he learns to prepare it.

Spell preparation and casting are affected by maeon wind strength

Sorcerer

First Choice: 1
Second Choice: ½
Third Choice: ¼

A sorcerer generates and uses magical effects. We describe their powers in Laws of Magic, with a specific section Sorcery.

Assassin

First Choice: 1
Second Choice: ½
Third Choice: ¼

An assassin is a combination Dazer and Thief. At level zero, he has level zero as a dazer and as a thief. When he raises his assassin level, his dazer level rises by the same amount, as does his thief level. Initial training takes six thousand hours.

Dazer

First Choice: 1½
Second Choice: 1
Third Choice: ½

Prescience allows experienced adventurers to escape injury. If, however, an adventurer is distracted, it is more difficult for her to notice and respond appropriately to an attack's prescient forewarning. A assassin following close behind an unsuspecting victim can wait until the victim stubs her toe, or nearly gets hit by a cart, and then strike moments later, so that the prescient forewarning of the blow is obscured by pain, or the surprise of a close call with a cart.

Defeating prescience with distractions is called dazing. To daze a victim, an assassin must first put himself in a position to launch a surprise attack with a hand-to-hand combat weapon. Missiles don't work, because dazing requires contact with the victim before and during the attack. For the details, see below, in which we refer to an attacker's dazing level. Initial training takes two thousand hours.

Thief

First Choice: 2
Second Choice: 1
Third Choice: ½

Thieves are trained to climb, pick pockets, open locks, find traps, disarm traps, move silently, hide, and disguise themselves. They use climbing shoes, suction cups, lock picks, black cloaks, daggers, garrotes, ropes, grapnels, pencils, paper, magnifying glasses, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, and metal files. Initial training takes four thousand hours.

Any time a contender character attempts a feat of thieving, the dramaturgist assigns it a difficulty. The dramaturgist or the contender rolls 1d20 and adds the numbers specified in the following table. If the sum is greater than or equal to the difficulty, the character is successful. With each skill we associate a reference case, which is an example of how the skill might be applied. The table below gives the difficulties of the reference cases (the reference difficulties) as well as the additions that are to be made to the roll of 1d20.

SkillReference DifficultyAdditionsDarkness
climbing15tl + DEX − ab−5
picking pockets20tl + DEX − ab−10
opening locks20tl + INT + DEX−5
finding traps15tl + INT−5
disarming traps15tl + INT + DEX−5
moving silently20tl + DEX − ab−5
hiding15tl+10
disguise15tl + INT+5
Table: Thief Table. We use tl for thief level, ab for armor burdening, INT for intelligence, and DEX for dexterity.

The final column in the Thief Table gives the addition that applies in absolute darkness. In dim light, apply a smaller adjustment. If the creature looking for the thief has exceptionally good night vision, the darkness will have to be absolute to obtain the full benefit of darkness when hiding.

The climbing reference case is a ten-meter high brick wall that provides one-centimeter deep footholds, the climb being made with only climbing shoes and chalk, and taking no longer than ten minutes. Failure in a climb constitutes a shock of power 1d10 per five meters of the fall, and formidability one. Aside from climbing shoes, thieves climb with the help of suction cups, pitons, ice picks, and grapnels. Climbing down is harder than climbing up, so the same climb going down has difficulty 5 higher. The players can apply similar penalties for poor equipment, but take care not to duplicate the effect of armor burdening upon dexterity.

The picking pockets reference case is to take a wallet from a back trouser pocket of an adult sapien walking down a crowded street, taking no more than one minute to do so. If the victim is an adventurer, the difficulty of the attempt is increased by one for each of the victim's adventurer levels. If a thief fails by a margin of five or more points, the victim notices the thief in the act.

Example: A fifth level thief with effective dexterity +8 needs to roll seven or above on 1d20 to pick the pockets of a third level adventurer. If the roll is two or below, the thief is caught by the adventurer. The same thief has a far greater chance of cutting the purse off a non-adventurer who is drunk. (The dramaturgist might subtract three from the difficulty because the victim is drunk, and another two because a purse is an easier target than a pocket. With these adjustments, the thief is guaranteed success.)

The opening locks reference case is to open a common padlock in ten minutes. If a thief fails to open a lock, he may try again after a number of hours spent studying the lock. This number of hours is equal to the amount by which the roll of 1d20 fell short of indicating success.

Example: A first level thief with intelligence +4 and dexterity +7 must roll eight or above on 1d20 to pick an common padlock. It she rolls a three, she can attempt to pick the lock again after five hours. If she fails again with a seven she must study the lock for another hour before attempting to pick it for the third time, and so on until either she gives up or succeeds.

Example: Ping, a fifth level thief with intelligence +10 and dexterity +4 attempts to pick a dwarf-made lock in the dark. It is a +5 lock, and working in the dark adds +3 to the difficulty. She must roll 9 or higher to pick the lock. She rolls a 1. She must study the lock for eight hours before she gets to try again with the roll.

The finding traps reference case is to discover a spring-loaded needle in a lock after ten minutes of searching. Trap doors, collapsing ceilings, and other large contrivances tend to be easier to find than a needle in a lock. The dramaturgist always rolls secretly to determine whether a thief finds traps. The dramaturgist rolls 1d20 even if there are no traps. The chance a thief has of finding a masterfully concealed door is the same as the reference chance.

The disarming traps reference case is to disarm a spring-loaded needle in a lock after ten minutes of preparation. Trap doors, collapsing ceilings, and other large contrivances tend to be more difficult to disarm than a spring-loaded needle in a lock. The chance a thief has of discovering how to open a masterfully concealed door is equal to the reference chance.

The moving silently reference case is to sneak across ten yards of old floorboards, in soft shoes, taking no more than one minute, without making any sound audible to a human ten yards away. If a thief fails to move silently, the loudness of the noise he has made is proportional to the margin by which the 1d20 roll was greater than his chance of success. A roll five points greater than that required for success indicates that the noise made was equal in volume to someone coughing.

The hiding reference case is to hide from a pedestrian in broad daylight by standing in the shade beneath a tree whose trunk is just wider than the thief's body. This requires the thief to move around the tree trunk as the pedestrian goes by. Thieves can also hide by camouflage, or by standing in shadows at night.

The disguise reference case is for a male thief is to dress up as a woman, chat with the doorkeeper of the women's baths, and be let in. For a female thief, the reference case is the same, but they dress up as men and get into the men's public baths. During their training, thieves are taught the basics of picking up new accents and languages, so as they see more of the world, they get better at disguising their voices and mannerisms.

Healer

First Choice: 2
Second Choice: 1
Third Choice: ½

A Healer is a doctor, surgeon, and therapist. He also has license to administer divine medicines, on worlds where these are available. Initial training follows a schooling in arts and sciences, and takes two thousand hours. Healers set broken legs, cure diseases, accelerate recovery from wounds, perform simple surgery, and provide counseling. If more than one healer is on the scene, the higher of the two healer levels applies to their combined efforts.

SkillReference DifficultyAdditions
injured patient recovers n hp/day5nhl
bind cut of severity s in ten minutesshl
set break resulting from bruise of severity s in an hourshl
Table: Healer Level Required for Feats of Healing

See Hit Points for definitions of the terms injured, cut, and break. The healer can make multiple attempts to bind cuts. The success of setting a break becomes evident only after the cast comes off a month later.

Ranger

First Choice: 2
Second Choice: 1
Third Choice: ½

A ranger knows how to track, hunt, forage, camp, and navigate. Initial training takes four thousand hours. We have the following reference difficulties for the ranger abilities. In the table, rl stands for ranger level.

SkillReference DifficultyAdditions
tracking15rl
hunting15rl
foraging15rl
camping15rl
navigation15rl
Table: Reference Difficulties for Rangers

Each reference difficulty corresponds to one of the following reference cases.

The tracking reference case is to follow at walking pace the trail of a running man for one thousand meters across a forest floor one hour after his passage on a dry day, with no effort made by the man to hide his trail. If the man tries to hide his trail, the difficulty increases by his own tracker-level. If he does not know what he is doing, he will make it easier for him to be followed. If he has no experience as a tracker, his tracker-level is −5, so the difficulty falls from 15 to 10. We note that a novice tracker, when faced with the reference task, must roll a 20 on a 1d20 to succeed. The following cable suggests adjustments to the tracking difficulty by comparison to the reference case.

CircumstanceIncrease in Difficulty
×3 Radius of Curvature of Trail−5
÷3 Signs of Passage Per Meter+5
Staying Out of Sight+5
Table: Tracking Difficulty Adjustments

Example: Suppose a ranger is tacking a cart on a gravel road. We decide that a cart on a well-traveled gravel road leaves ten times fewer signs of passage per meter than a man in a forest. Difficulty increases by ten. The cart might leave the road at any time, but let us consider the ranger being able to tell it the cart is still on the road by tracking along the road, in which case the radius of curvature of the road is ten times higher than that of a man running around obstacles in a forest. Difficulty decreases by ten. The ranger wants to stay out of sight of the cart, so difficulty increases by five. The result is a feat of difficulty 20 per 1000 m length of road. The novice ranger must concentrate on looking for tracks the cart makes when leaving the road, in which case a cart leaves ten times as many signs of passage as a man when passing over un-traveled dirt, so difficulty is 5 looking for such trackes over a thousand meters. A twentieth level tracker can be confident of tracking a cart along a gravel road, without being seen from the cart, and without slowing down to look for side tracks. A first level ranger can be confident of seeing where the cart leaves the road.

The hunting reference case is to obtain in one eight-hour day hunting alone in a forest well-populated with deer, a single shot at 50-m range on an adult deer. With a bow, a zero-level fighter would need to roll 11 or higher on a 1d20 to hit (an adult deer is approximately man-sized). In hunting, a good shot is one in which a zero-level fighter with a medium-sized bow has a 50% chance of scoring a hit. When a ranger sets out to obtain a good shot on the first edible animal that presents itself, in a forest well-populated with animal life, he attempts a feat of difficulty 10. If he halves the amount of time he allows himself to hunt, the difficulty increases by 4. If he doubles the time he allows himself, the difficulty decreases by 4. Thus a ranger trying to get a good shot on anything he can find in a one-hour interval attempts a feat of difficulty 10 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 22.

The foraging reference case is to obtain enough food and water to sustain the forager for one day during one day's foraging in a temperate forest in summer-time.

The camping reference case is to construct, in the rain in one hour in a forest, a shelter that will keep him dry through a night of rain.

Rider

First Choice: 2
Second Choice: 1½
Third Choice: 1

The rider discipline encompasses riding living creatures, such as horses, hippogriffs, camels, and wyverns. Each species of creature is a new creature in which a rider must become proficient, in the same way that a fighter must become proficient in a new weapon. But a good rider will quickly master a new mount, and bring his skill to bear. Initial training as a horseman takes one hundred hours. A zero-level rider proficient with horses can travel comfortably all day on a horse. He knows how to care for his animal as well, for riding includes care for the creatures he rides.

When a rider attempts a feat of riding, he rolls 1d20 and adds his level. If the sum is greater than or equal to the difficulty of the feat, he succeeds. In all cases, failure by 1 to 9 points means refusal by the mount, and failure by 10 or more points means the rider will suffer some riding accident, such a fall. Horse riders rarely strap themselves on, but hippogriff riders usually do.

MountFeatDifficulty
Horsewalk, turn, stop−5
Horsecantering on road0
Horsegalloping on road5
Horsejump 1-m fence in field5
Horsejump 1-m stone wall in forest10
Horsejump 1-m stone wall in forest wielding a javelin15
Horsefiring forwards at a gallop in field10
Horsefiring backwards at gallop in field15
Horseany feat by moonlight+5
Hipporgrifftake-off, turn, climb, descend, or land0
Hipporgriffnear-vertical side-slip5
Hipporgriffhalf-roll10
Hipporgrifffull-roll15
Hipporgriffput mount in downward spin10
Hipporgrifffiring forwards while steering5
Hipporgrifffiring backwards while steering10
Allrider is unfamiliar with mount species+5
Wyvernany hippogriff feat on wyvern-back+5
Wyvernwyvern is unfamiliar with rider+5
Camelany horse feat other than jumping0
Table: Difficulty of Riding Feats, plus a few adjustments for circumstances.

By "unfamiliar with mount species" we mean the rider has never ridden this species of mount before, and the mount is significantly different from any other he has ridden. It takes five hours riding a new species to become proficient. We note that sentient mounts will not allow themselves to collide with heavy objects. A horse will not run into a tree. A hippogriff will pull itself out of a spin before it reaches the ground. The trick is to get the hippogriff into the spin in the first place.

Example: Zar has never ridden before. He jumps on a horse and tries to gallop down the road. Galloping is difficulty 5. He has rider level −5. He is unfamiliar with this species of mount, so whatever he's doing becomes more difficult by 5. He must roll 15 or above on 1d20 to succeed, and if he rolls a 5 or lower, he falls off.

Example: Ping has rider level 1 and learned to ride on horses. She jumps on her orse and gallops across a field. Galloping is difficulty 5. She must roll a 4 on 1d20 to get galloping first try. If she fails, she can try again in ten seconds. When she is galloping across the field, she encounters a 1-m fence. She must roll a 4 or higher to jump it.

Example: Thristen has rider level 16. He has ridden horses and hippogriffs, but never wyverns. He jumps on a wyvern for the first time in his life. Taking off has difficulty 0 on a griff, so on a wyvern it is 5. But he is unfamiliar with this species which brings the difficulty of take-off to 10. And this wyvern is unfamiliar with him, so it won't want to cooperate. The difficulty is now 15. But he has rider level 16, so he jumps on and takes off immediately.

Example: A horse-rider with rider level 1 jumps on the back of a wyvern just like Thristen in the example above. He must roll a 14 or above to take off. He rolls a 2. Not only does he fail to take off, but if he's not strapped on, there's a chance he'll slide out of the saddle.

We use the strength of the horse to calculate the striking power and weapon burdening of a charging attack with a lance. The rider does not need to move the weapon himself, he merely holds it in position. He aims the blow by steering the horse. The same goes for a charging attack with a sword, or any other weapon. When the attack is not a charge, however, the rider must wield the weapon himself, so his weapon burdening is calculated using his own strength.

The effective encumbrance of armor is halved for all combat from horse-back. The horse is assumed to carry the other half of the weight. When a horse is stopped, and the rider is fighting infantry, the infantry suffer a to-hit roll adjustment of minus three against the rider. The charge of a heavy horse, the use of armor for both horse and rider, and the elevation of the saddle, make well-trained cavalry formidable in SAGA battles.

Firing a missile while riding is a feat of riding, as shown in the table above. In addition, firing from the back of a moving horse incurs a to-hit roll penalty. This penalty is 3 from a standing horse, 10 from a trotting horse, and 15 from a galloping horse. The penalty is 15 from the back of a flying griff also. These penalties assume that the target is stationary or moving independently from the rider. If the target is moving along with the rider, the penalty will be less severe.

Torturer

First Choice: 2
Second Choice: 1½
Third Choice: 1

A torturer applies himself to a constrained or defenseless victim, and tries to extract information or confession from his victim by application of pain. The reference case for torture is to persuade someone to reveal the whereabouts of one year's salary in ten minutes without causing any injury. The difficulty, in this case, is 11 plus TOU of the subject. The torturer must roll 1d20 greater than or equal to the difficulty minus his torturer level. If he fails, he may try again in one hour per point by which he failed. If the torturer is prepared to injure the victim, the difficulty decreases in proportion to the severity of the injury he is willing to inflict, culminating in a decrease of 10 when the torturer is prepared to kill his subject. Other than that, we leave the variations to the judgement of the players.

Sundry

Here are some other disciplines, some of which we present without any reference cases, leaving the implementation entirely to the judgement of the players.

Discipline (And Constituents)Advances
commando (climb, hide, move silently)3, 2, 1
burglar (pick pockets, open locks, find traps, remove traps)3, 2, 1
masquerader (disguise)3, 2, 1
mountaineer (climb, camp, navigate)3, 2, 1
locksmith (open locks)4, 3, 2
sailor2, 1½, 1
carpenter2, 1½, 1
falconer2, 1½, 1
musician2, 1½, 1
singer2, 1½, 1
armorer2, 1½, 1
ballooner2, 1½, 1
Table: Some Sundry Disciplines. For each discipline, we give the first, second, and third choice advances for contender characters.

A tenth-level adventurer who chooses Locksmith for their first choice every time they go up a level will be a level-forty locksmith, which means they can pick almost any lock immediately. That would be a fine thing if survival in every adventure was contingent upon someone being able to open locks. But if survival required other skills, it is hard to see how a tenth-level adventurer could survive by concentrating on his lock-picking.

Combat

We describe three types of combat, and our rules for each are similar, so that understanding one type leads easily to an understanding of the next. A Hand-to-Hand combat is one in which the combatants are hitting one another with weapons they hold in their hands, or with parts of their bodies. A Surprise combat is one where the target is attacked unawares with a weapon held in the attacker's hand, or a part of the attacker's body. A Missile combat is one where objects fly through the space dividing the attacker and the target. We will describe each in turn. Note that there is no surprise missile combat. The purpose of surprise combat in SAGA is to allow dazers to overcome their target's dodging points.

SAGA's combat system is simple to use during a fight, yet realistic and flexible enough to provide long-lasting satisfaction. It takes a couple of minutes to calculate the parameters that define a combatant, but once calculated, these parameters change only rarely. The parameters that define a combatant are striking accuracy, striking power and armor protection. Learning to use the combat system effectively is a matter of learning how best to compromise accuracy for power.

Hand-to-Hand

By hand-to-hand combat we mean combat up close, with weapons that will be in the attacker's hand when they strike their opponent, and where the opponent is aware that he is being attacked, and is attempting to avoid being hit. When one party makes no effort to avoid being hit, either because they are unaware of the attack, or because they choose not to defend themselves, we use the surprise combat system instead. Hand-to-hand combat assumes that both parties are active in their efforts to attack and defend themselves. They are both wielding weapons, even if their weapons are their bare hands, or nothing more formidable than a fork.

In hand-to-hand combat, each combatant always wields a primary weapon, and has the option of wielding a secondary weapon as well. Her striking accuracy (sa) is fl + DEX + sd + wdabsbwb, where fl is her fighter level, sd is the shield defense of any shield she wields, wd is the weapon defense of any secondary weapon she wields, ab is the armor burdening of any armor she might be wearing, sb is the shield burdening of any shield she wields, and wb is the sum of the weapon burdening of both her primary and secondary weapons.

A combatant's striking power (sp) is wp + STR where, wp is the weapon power of his primary weapon and STR is his strength.

The secondary weapon does not add to his striking power. It serves only to increase his striking accuracy by its weapon defense. Only the primary weapon contributes to striking power.

Combats are divided into rounds. A round has no fixed duration. It is merely a punctuation of the combat for the combat system. In a duel, a round might be ten seconds, in an infantry battle, a full minute.

The combatant whose striking accuracy is five or more greater than his most skilled opponent strikes first. If no combatant has such an advantage, each side rolls 1d6 and the side with the highest roll strikes first. We call this the roll for initiative. When the initiative rolls are equal, the attacks are simultaneous. Either combatant may choose to miss out on an opportunity to strike so as to escape the combat if an escape route is available.

Each attack can either be a hit or a miss. A strike is a hit if a roll of 1d20 is greater than or equal to the to-hit roll. Otherwise the strike is a miss. The to-hit roll (thr) is 11 − (saasad)/2 − thra where sad is the defender's striking accuracy, saa is the attacker's striking accuracy, thra is a to-hit roll adjustment. Note that the to-hit roll adjustment is subtracted from the to-hit roll, not added. This is so that a negative adjustment is a negative thing to the attacker, and a positive adjustment is positive thing for the attacker. When the to-hit roll adjustment is +5, we say that the combatant strikes with "+5 to hit". If the adjustment is −5, we say he strikes with "−5 to hit".

The right side of the above equation is rounded up. The table below gives the base to-hit role, which is the to-hit roll when the to-hit roll adjustment (thra) is zero. In the table, the attacker's advantage is saa-sad, the difference between the striking accuracies of the attacker and the defender.

aabase thr aabase thr aabase thr aabase thr aabase thr aabase thr
−4534−3026−151901115430−4
−4433−2926−141811116331−4
−4333−2825−131821017332−5
−4232−2725−121731018233−5
−4132−2624−11174919234−6
−4031−2524−10165920135−6
−3931−2423−9166821136−7
−3830−2323−8157822037−7
−3730−2222−7158723038−8
−3629−2122−6149724−139−8
−3529−2021−51410625−140−9
−3428−1921−41311626−241−9
−3328−1820−31312527−242−10
−3227−1720−21213528−343−10
−3127−1619−11214429−344−11
Table: Base To-Hit Rolls (base thr) for Attacker's Advantage (aa). To use the table, subtract the defender's striking accuracy from the attacker's striking accuracy, look up this value for aa and find the base to-hit roll.

The next table gives examples of to-hit roll adjustments (thra). These adjustments are cumulative. A negative adjustment increases the to-hit roll. A positive adjustment decreases the to-hit roll.

Circumstancethra
x others striking at same foe +5x
strike for formidability 2−5
strike for formidability x−5(x−1)
strike for half power+5
strike for one quarter power+10
infantry striking cavalry−3
poorly made weapon<0
not proficient with weapon<0
each 5 full rounds of continuous fighting−1
fighting underwater−10
fighting in moonlight−5
fighting in starlight−10
Table: To-Hit Roll Adjustments (thra) for Sapiens.

One might argue that it is more realistic to adjust a combatants' striking accuracy to account for the circumstances listed above, rather than to adjust his to-hit roll. But a change in striking accuracy affects the to-hit roll of the other combatant as well, requiring that we return to the base to-hit roll table for any change in tactics by either combatant. Try it, and you will see how cumbersome this is. The to-hit roll adjustments are easier to use. Our desire is for our rules to capture those aspects of reality which are important to the game. It is important to have to think about tactics in a fight, but it is not important that the tactics be implemented with perfect realism.

After twenty-five rounds of continuous fighting, a combatant suffers a −5 to-hit roll penalty. He can overcome this penalty by striking for half power. Thus the tired fighter can still hit, but he does less damage, or he can try and hit as hard as he did when he was fresh, but be less likely to succeed. To recover fully from the exertion of combat, a fighter must rest for one minute per round he fought. We usually forget to apply this rule during long fights, which is a perfectly acceptable simplification, so long as the players agree to it.

Many of the to-hit roll adjustments apply to sapiens but not to other races. Ultimately, we leave it to the players to agree upon the to-hit roll adjustments they will apply in each combat. All the players should feel that the adjustments are an adequate representation of the circumstances.

Example: Sapiens don't see well at night, but orcs do. An orc suffers no to-hit roll penalty even in only starlight. An ogre infantryman suffers no penalty striking at a sapien horse-rider. A merman suffers no penalty striking a swimming sapien.

If a strike is a miss, it is either wide or parried, and presents no further problems for the defender. If, however, the strike is a hit, then it presents a shock to the defender. This shock has formidability one by default, but the attacker can strike for higher formidability at the cost of a negative thra, as shown to-hit roll table above.

Example: A attacker striking by for formidability three and quarter power (as one might with a large weapon against an unarmored victim) has thra = −10 + 10 = 0.

The power of the shock is decided by a die roll and the strength of the defender's armor. This die roll is called the power roll, and its result is called rolled power (rp). Damage rolls always require only one die, hence the use of the "D" notation in the table below, as distinct from "d".

Striking
Power
Power
Roll
Striking
Power
Power
Roll
Striking
Power
Power
Roll
Striking
Power
Power
Roll
Striking
Power
Power
Roll
−101d401d10102D10 204D10306D10
−91d411d10112D10+1 214D10+1316D10+1
−81d4+0.521d10+1122D10+2 224D10+2326D10+2
−71d4+0.531d10+1132D10+3 234D10+3336D10+3
−61d641d10+2142D10+4 244D10+4346D10+4
−51d651d10+2153D10 255D10357D10
−41d6+0.561d10+3163D10+1 265D10+1367D10+1
−31d6+0.571d10+3173D10+2 275D10+2377D10+2
−21d6+181d10+4183D10+3 285D10+3387D10+3
−11d6+191d10+4193D10+4 295D10+4397D10+4
Table: Power Rolls vs. Attacker's Striking Power

The shock power (p) is pf × rpap where ap is the defender's armor protection, rp is the rolled power, and pf is the hit's power factor.

The power factor is one ½ when the attacker is striking for half power, and ¼ when striking for quarter power, as described in the to-hit roll table above. The power of a hit against a creature heavier than 20 kg is rounded to the nearest integer, so that if the power is less than half a hit point, it is rounded to zero. If ap > pf×rp, the power is zero. If the roll of 1d20 exceeds the to-hit roll by ten or more, and provided the attacker was striking for full power, the strike is considered to be a 'critical hit'.

A critical hit indicates that the blow struck a particularly vulnerable point in the target, and so its effect is multiplied by the critical multiplier. The following table gives the critical multipliers for various classes of target as a function of the amount by which the 1d20 roll exceeds the to-hit roll.

1d20−thr Multiplier for
Creatures
Mutliplier for
Devices
Multiplier for
Shields
<10111
10 to 14222
15 to 19442
20 to 24882
25 to 291682
≥303282
Table: Critical Hit Multipliers for Three Classes of Target. Note that an attacker striking for half or quarter damage cannot score a critical hit, no matter how much their 1d20 exceeds the to-hit roll.

A critical hit is not one that has struck with greater force. It is a hit that has made contact with a vulnerable point in the target. Simple targets are more vulnerable to critical hits than complex targest. We divide targets into three classes: shields, devices, and creatures, in order of increasing vulnerability. It is possible to score double damage against a conjured wood shield held up by an enemy. Perhaps one's arrow penetrates a defect in the shield. But it is not possible to score quadruple damage against a shield. A device, such as a lantern hanging over a tavern doorway, might be solid enough to resist the throw of a stone, but a stone in just the right place would shatter the glass and extinguish the flame. We allow critical multipiers up to eight for mechanical devices. Creatures are particularly vulnerable to critical hits. It is possible for a scalple blade to kill a sapien if it is applied in exactly the right place. We allow critical multipiers up to thirty-two for creatures, including demonds, gods, dragons, humans, horses, incubuses, and all others with a central nervous system, but not things like the green slime.

Surprise

A combatant is said to be surprised when he is caught so unawares that he is unable to defend himself, or if he chooses not to defend himself. Surprise does not affect missile combat, other than that the target does not take deliberate evasive action, but it affects hand-to-hand combat so greatly that we have separate rules to describe it. Thus surprise combat is close-up hand-to-hand combat when one party is surprised. Below are the three common situations in which the attacker can launch a surprise hand-to-hand attack.

  1. The attacker is within striking range, his weapon is ready, and his victim is unaware of him.
  2. The attacker is within striking range, his weapon is ready, but the victim cannot see it, and the victim does not suspect an attack.
  3. The attacker is within striking range, his weapon is ready, and the victim has such trust in the attacker that she is not the least bit wary.

A surprise attack is a guaranteed hit, provided the attacker strikes for formidability one (1). The to-hit roll on 1d20 is 1. Neither the attacker's nor the victim's striking accuracy affects the likelihood of a hit, nor does any form of burdening affect the roll. If the victim has one or more dodging points, however, the surprise hit can be dodged, which is to say that the victim is warned by a prescient sensation and can use to avoid the attack by an efficient and effect movement of their body.

The art of dazing is the art of striking by surprise so as to defeat the victim's prescience. The surprise attack to-hit roll is given by: sthr = −9 − 2dlthra, where thra is a to-hit roll adjustment, and dl is the dazing level of the attacker. When dl=−5, which it does for most people, the equation reduces to 1−thra for a non-dazer, which means most people need a 1 to hit in a surprise attack. The to-hit roll adjustments applicable to surprise hand-to-hand combat are the same as those applicable to normal hand-to-hand combat. The power of a hit is determined for surprise attacks in exactly the same way as for normal hand-to-hand combat, including the allowances for critical hits. Notice that the armor, weapon, and shield burdening of the attacker does not affect the surprise to-hit roll. This is because it is assumed that the attacker has overcome all the handicaps associated with these burdens while positioning himself for the surprise attack.

Example: A fifteenth level fighter sneaks up behind a victim. The fighter has a surprise attack, and strikes with a mace. He has no skill at dazing (dazing level −5), so his to-hit roll is 1. He rolls a 3. The victim uses his only dodging point to dodge the blow, and turns to fight. His striking accuracy is −4, while the fighter's striking accuracy is 21. The fighter gets the initiative automatically, and needs a −1 to hit. The fighter is so much more skilled in hand-to-hand combat than his victim that the victim only makes things worse for himself by attacking. The victim takes a mighty swing at the fighter, and in doing so, breaks his elbow on the fighter's mace.

Example: A first level assassin sneaks up beside her sleeping victim. She is within striking distance, she has her sword drawn, and her victim is unaware of her. She has a surprise attack. Her victim is a guard wearing ring armor, who probably has one or two dodging points. She strikes for triple formidability, just to be sure that the guard can't dodge her blow. Her to-hit roll is minus two (−10 − 2 × 1+10). She rolls a nine, so she scores double damage. She has STR=5 and she's wielding the sword two-handed. She rolls and gets power thirty-two. The ring armor subtracts ten from this, so the guard must take twenty-two hit points damage or lose three dodging points. He has only one dodging point. He is badly wounded. She kills him with a second blow.

Example: A fourth level assassin sneaks up behind a woman in the dark, and surprises her. He has his knife drawn and she is not wearing armor. He estimates that she has no more than four dodging points, so he strikes for formidability five with his dagger. His surprise to-hit roll is two (−10−2 × 4+20). He rolls a seven on a 1d20. He rolls for damage and does 14 hp. But his victim has more than five dodging points. She turns and attacks.

Example: A fifteenth level assassin walks up behind his victim in a crowded room. He has a sharp pencil in his hand. The victim sees the pencil, but does not expect to be attacked with it. The assassin estimates that his victim has no dodging points, so he strikes for formidability one. He wants to deliver the blow without it being noticed by the people pressed about him. The players agree that this requires a to-hit roll adjustment of −10. The surprise to-hit roll is 1 + 10 − (15 × 2) = −19. He rolls a 11, exceeding his to-hit roll by thirty. He gets a critical hit with a power multiplier thirty-two. He is a strong man, wielding a sharp pencil. He would normally do one hit point of damage. But with the power multiplier, he does thirty-two. The victim has no dodging points and only nine hit points. The assassin kills her instantly, with no immediate evidence of the wound. He walks away. The victim collapses.

Example: Four fighters with striking accuracy 15 each attack a single ogre with striking accuracy −5 and armor protection 25. If the ogre chooses to defend himself against these four, his to-hit roll will be 36. Even striking for one eighth damage he needs a 21 to hit. His opponents, meanwhile, need only a −14 to hit, so even if they roll a 1 they are sure to get quadruple damage. Thus the ogre ignores three of his enemies. They now get a surprise attack, and need to roll a 1. They are unlikely to get through his armor unless they roll an 11 for double damage. The ogre concentrates upon one enemy. He needs a 21 to hit for normal damage, or 16 for half damage. Given that he has striking power 40, half damage is still 4D10, and he can kill a man in armor with a single blow. Meanwhile, his opponent needs a 1 to hit, and is in the same position as the others. Thus, by refusing to engage the other three, the ogre does far better.

Assassins often work in the dark, and in that case we must consider the greater ease with which a victim can be surprised, and compare this to the greater difficulty with of striking a vulnerable point on the victim's body in the dark. In general, we assume these two phenomenon balance one another, but if the victim is an orc, who sees well in the dark, we might apply a penalty to an sapien assassin attempting to surprise the orc.

Missile

By missile combat we mean any effort by one party to harm another from a distance by throwing or firing something sharp or heavy, or evan projecting with their mind a magical effect. Thus wizards use the missile combat system when trying to hit the mind of a targe with the Beguile Spell, just as a fighter will use the system when trying to shoot an enemy.

Missiles can be thrown by hand or launched mechanically. Bows, crossbows, slings and catapults are available to adventurers. On the surface of magical worlds, exploding gases dissipate before they can do much work, escaping from the high pressure of the explosion through tiny space bridges made by the maeon wind. The same phenomenon prevents the proper operation of internal combustion engines, steam engines, and cannons; not even explosive charges are effective. Thousands of meters below the surface, however, or beneath a large mountain, these tiny space bridges are less common, so guns and cannons are possible, although they will not be as powerful as on non-magical worlds. We concern ourselves here with the weapons that are useful on the surface of magical worlds.

The outcome of a missile attack is determined by a roll 1d20. We have firing accuracy fa = fl − ab for device-propelled missiles and fa = flabwb for hand-hurled missiles. The missile attack to-hit roll is 1 − thrafa, where thra is a missile attack to-hit roll adjustment. To-hit roll adjustments are cumulative. Some common adjustments are given in the following table. The formidability of all missile attacks is one, and no higher, so it is not possible to shoot for double or triple formidability, nor for assassins to use missile weapons in combination with dazing. It is possible, however, to score critical hits with missiles when the 1d20 roll exceeds the to-hit roll by ten or more, just as for hand-to-hand combat.

Missile Combat CircumstanceTo-Hit Roll Adjustment
x full missile extents to target−x
target moving uniformly at x target widths per secondx
target moving alternately at x target widths per second−2x
target moving erratically at x target widths per second−4x
target 25 cm in diameter−10
target 50 cm in diameter−5
target 1 m in diameter0
target 2 m in diameter+5
target 4 m in diameter+10
n others firing at same foe0
fire at 1/2 × normal rate0
fire at 1 × normal rate0
fire at 2 × normal rate−10
fire at 4 × normal rate−20
fire at 8 × normal rate−40
using poorly made weapon<0
unfamiliar with weapon<0
firing from stationary horse−3
firing from trotting horse−10
firing from galloping horse−15
firing from flying hippogriff−15
Table: To-Hit Roll Adjustments for Missile Combat

Each missile has a missile extent in meters. The to-hit roll increases by one per full extend range to the target. Each missile weapon has a normal firing rate. For bows, this is one missile per four seconds. The duration of one round of hand-to-hand combat is around four seconds, so we usually allow one bow shot at the normal rate per combat round. Crossbows and slings are slower: one shot every sixteen seconds. We list the firing rates in the Missiles section. Firing at double the normal rate incurs a penalty of −10 to hit. At eight times the normal rate, which is two shots with a bow per second, the penalty is −40 to hit.

Example: A man with fl=0 takes a leisurely shot with a bow (extent = 5 m) at a 50-cm straw target 90 m away. His to-hit roll is 1 + 65/5 (range divided by extent) −3 (take aim for 10 s) + 5 (50-cm target) = 16. He hits 25% of the time.

Example: The same man practices with the bow, and rises to fl=5. He now needs an 11 to hit the same target. He hits 50% of the time. Later, he rises to fl=10 and hits 75% of the time, and then fl=15 and he hits all the time.

Example: The same man, now with fl=15, gets 100% of his shots into the 50-cm target at 65 m (thr=1), 75% into the central 25-cm (thr=6), 50% into the central 12 cm (thr=11), 25% in the central 6 cm (thr=16), and 0% in the central 3 cm (thr=21). The combat system is clearly inaccurate in the final case, because the percentage should be 6%, not 0%, but this inaccuracy has no practical impact upon the game.

Motion perpendicular to the direction of the missile makes the shot more difficult.

Example: A man with fighter level zero picks up a loaded crossbow for the first time and fires at a charging bear ten meters away. His to-hit roll is 1 − 0 (fl=0) + 1 (crossbow has difficulty 1 and he is not proficient) + 2.5 (range divided by 4-m extent of crossbow) − 5 (2-m target) + 0 (motion towards attacker) = −1 (when rounded up). He cannot miss. In fact, he is likely to score a critical hit (see below).

At long ranges, however, when the missile follows a high arc, any horizontal motion of the target will increase the to-hit roll. As a general rule of thumb, the missile descends almost vertically at a range of fifty extents, which marks the maximum range of the weapon.

Example: The extent of a crossbow is 4 m, so its maximum range is 200 m. At this range, the bolt is coming down vertically. The extent of a heavy bow is 6 m, so its maximum range is 300 m.

Example: A woman with fl=10 is proficient with the bow (medium bow). The bow has extent 5 m. She fires quickly at a man 40 m away, who is fleeing from her, dodging as he goes. Her to-hit roll is 1 − 10 + 40/5 + 4 (dodging at 2 m/s across the line of fire) + 3 (firing quickly) = 14.

Example: The same woman tries to hit a pheasant flying at 6 m/s across her firing line, 20 m away. She has two seconds to line up her shot. Her to-hit roll is 1 − 10 + 20/5 + 10 (25-cm target) + 8 (8 m/s) = 11.

Example: A twentieth level fighter is proficient with the long bow. He takes his time lining up a shot at a woman walking one hundred meters. His to-hit roll is 1 − 20 + 100/5 + 2 (walking) − 3 (takes his time) = −1. We roll a 14. He has scored a critical hit with quadruple damage.

The power of a hit with a missile weapon is decided by dice rolls in the same way as it is for hand-to-hand attacks. The missile attack has a firing power, fp, which we convert into a die roll with the same table we use for striking power. Devices that fire missiles have a normal firing power when used with normal missiles. The firing device can be better than normal, and so have increased firing power, and the missiles can be better than normal, and so further increase the firing power. See below for the firing power of normal missile devices.

Example: A normal medium bow has firing power 10 with normal weapons. The damage roll is 2D10 regardless of the strength of the weilder of the bow. A +5 medium bow combined with a +10 arrow has firing power 25. The damage roll is 5D10.

The power of a normal hand-hurled missile launched by a person with strength ten is given below. To obtain the firing power in practice, we add the person's strength and any advantages the weapon itself may have due to superior construction.

Example: A normal javelin thrown by a man with STR = 5 has firing power 11 for a damage roll of 2D10+1. A +5 javelin thrown by a man with strength 10 has firing power 21 for a damage roll of 4D10+1.

Critical hits in missile combat indicate that the missile has hit a sensitive area, or penetrated a weak spot. They do not indicate that the attack was, in its force, more powerful than the damage roll indicates. If the damage roll gives power 10 and the to-hit roll gives quadruple damage, the power of the shock will be 40 at the target, but only if the target has weak spots to hit. A shield will suffer no more than double damage.

Mass

By mass combat we mean combat between forces numbering hundreds or more. We present three ways to determine the outcome of such battles, and leave it to the players to pick the one that best fits the encounter in the game. In the military system, we divide the opposing forces into continguous groups called armies, and we divide each battle into rounds. In the representative system, we use the individual hand-to-hand combat system to work out the experiences of ten or twenty soldiers on each side of the battle, and assume that these, in combination, represent proportion of casualties on each side. In the statistical system, we assign a small probability of hitting a target when the missile combat system dictates a to-hit roll greater than twenty, and combine the small probability with a large number of shooters to give us a probability of the target being hit.

Let us begin with the military system. We divide the opposing forces into armies. The size of each army, S, is measured in army units, where one army unit represents a fixed number of soldiers. When armies contain tens of thousands of troops, a unit size of one thousand soldiers works well. Battles are divided into battle rounds. During a battle round there may be many armies fighting one another. Each pair of armies fighting do so along a battle front. One army might be fighting two or more armies, in which case there will be two or more fronts. By default, a battle round is ten minutes, but the players can change the length as they see fit. The battle round should be the same for all battles taking place at the same time, or managing the war will become impractical.

The two armies on a battle front each have a number of soldiers engaged in fighting on the front. This number is the engagement of each army on the front, E, and is measured in army units. The engagement of each army is by default equal, as when two shield walls facing one another along a front with natural obstacles on either end. So long as each shield wall holds, he engagment is the same, and the troops at the front are fighting one-on-one. They can rotate out of the shield wall to rest, and they can support one another in places of weakness. Being outnumbered in a fight is a devastating disadvantage, as embodied in our hand-to-hand combat system. There are many ways an army can obtain engagement greater than its enemy, and it is the objective of every general to defeat all such maneuvers on the part of his enemy, while executing such maneuvers himself. If the line of army A is longer than the line of army B, army A can move soldiers around to attack the side of B's line. The engagement of A might increase by 50%. We leave it to the players to figure out how the disposition of armies affects their engagement.

The soldiers themselves are compared by their relative strength, S. The soldiers of one side have relative strength 1.0, and those of the other side have relative strength greater than one. The relative strength of the superior soldier is the average number of opposing soldiers she can kill before she herself is killed. We like to determine relative strength by fighting one round between an example of a soldier from each side. When one soldier wins, we are able to estimate how many more enemies she could kill before being killed, or we could continue with another opponent until the first soldier is finally killed. As one army suffers from hunger or exhaustion, we can repeat these trial fights to adjust the relative strength. But if we use a combat trial to decide the strength, we must adhere to its results, even if they go against our intuition. The trials to determine relative strength introduce a day-to-day element of fortune and morale into the war.

The discipline and organization of the two armies are compared by their relative discipline, D. We figure this out by discussion, and we include in it a factor to represent the quality of the army's leadership. The relative discipling of one side is 1.0 and of the other side is greater than 1.0.

When an army suffers 20% casualties in a battle, its front will collaps. If there is more than one front, the player directing the army will decide which front collapses. If both sides of a front collaps, the battle pauses for at least one battle round before resuming. If only one side collapses, the other side can pursue, moving some distance forward as agreed by the players, continuing the battle with their relative strength doubled. Thus, if two shield walls face one another, eventually one might break, and the opposing shield wall advances to great effect. When the pursuing army suffers 20% casualties, the pursuit ends, and their relative strength returns to normal.

Each battle round on the front between two armies A and B, army A destroys 1D10 × SADAEA ÷ 100 units of army B, rounded to the nearest tenth, and army B destroys 1d10 × SBDBEB ÷ 100 units of army A. For example, suppose the engagement of A is 100 units, its relative strength is 4.5, and its relative discipline is 1.4. It destroys 1d10 × 630 ÷ 100 opposing units per battle round: a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 60. Meanwhile, army B has engagement 100 also, and relative discipline and strength 1.0 by construction, so it destroys 1d10 × 100 ÷ 100 opposing units per battle round: a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 10. This battle round has a length in seconds that is equal to the number of rounds required by the trial battle that established the relative strength of the two types of soldiers. Now suppose that army A contains 90 units and army B contains 400 units. The objective of army B is to somehow increase its engagement from 100, because army A cannot increase its engagement above 100. The objective of army A is to break the enemy's shield wall and double its relative strength for a few battle rounds before withdrawing.

The representative system uses the hand-to-hand combat system to resolve fights between individual soldiers in a battle, and then extrapolates the results of these individual conflicts to the larger body of combatants involved in the battle. We decide ahead of time the nature of the individual combatants. Suppose we have a battle between one thousand orcs and two thousand sapiens. We determine an average orc soldier, assign armor protection, striking accuracy, and so on. We do the same for the sapien soldiers. We imagine the circumstances of the actual fighting. The fighting might take place along a shield wall, where the orcs are two deep and the sapiens are four deep. We figure this out from the point of view of four sapiens facing two orcs and roll it out. We do this ten times. At the end, we add up the casualties on each side. We have determined the outcome for twenty out of one thousand orcs, or one in fifty of the orc force, so we multiply the casualties by fifty and that's the result of the first phase of the battle.

The representative system is a good choice when the battle consists of a large number of individual skirmishes. It is useful when the players are in doubt as to which side has the advantage. We used the representative combat system to determine the outcome of a battle between four hundred hippogriff riders attempting to bomb some ships with thunder-eggs, and two hundred hippogriff riders with long-bows trying to defend the ships. We played out ten encounters between attacker and defender and used them to determine the proportion of each side killed, wounded, or shot down.

The statistical system is designed for use when a large number of missile weapons are aimed at a single, hard-to-hit target. When an archer needs a 21 to hit his opponent, the usual missile combat system assume there is no chance of him hitting. We expect the archer to make some adjustment to his shot so as to make a hit more likely. But if a hundred archers each need a 21, there is a chance that some of them will hit. The following table relates the to-hit roll to the percentage chance of hitting, which we can apply to a large group to obtain the expected number of hits.

THRChance of HittingTHRChance of HittingTHRChance of HittingTHRChance of Hitting
205%250.5%300.05%350.005%
214%260.4%310.04%360.004%
223%270.3%320.03%370.003%
232%280.2%330.02%380.002%
241%290.1%340.01%390.001%
Table: Mass Missile Combat Chance to Hit for To-Hit Roll

To use the table, we determine the to-hit-roll from the missile combat system, and multiply the number of attackers by the fraction the table provides.

Example: A hippogriff rider in the Ursian Army dives down out of the sky upon a boat load of Endan Infantry trying to cross the Fen River. The rider will drop his thunder-egg at an altitude of a hundred meters, hoping to hit a boat immediately in his line of flight. At 100 m he makes a sharp turn and starts to ascend again. This is the point at which he is most vulnerable to shots from below. There are ten boats each with ten medium bow archers, so 100 archers in all, each with fighter level 1, firing up at him at this moment, when he is 100 m up (−20), moving at 10 m/s across their field of view (−10), and his his griff is roughly a 3-m diameter target (+7) so that the archers need a 23 to hit. We expect 2% of them to hit, which would be 2 of them. At altitude 100 m, we have looked at the velocity of an arrow, and concluded their firing power will be reduced to 1D10. So we expect the griff to get 2 hits of 1D10 each. Now we can estimate how often it will be four hits, and how often the total damage will be sufficient to bring the griff down (hippogriffs are fragile, despite their size, having only 20 hp, and their wings are not armored). We estimated that the chance of bringing the griff down was around one in twenty.

Proficiency

To be proficient with a combat tool is to know enough about it that you are not hampered by ignorance when you use it. It does not take long to become proficient with most combat tools, but if a character has not received the necessary instruction, he suffers a penalty on his to-hit roll. When it comes to learning a new weapon, our experience of learning to use new tools suggests that there is little to be gained from practicing for more than one hour a day, other than to strengthen one's muscles. But contender characters are almost always fit and strong, so the benefit of extended practice will be slight. Thus we tend to assume that the hours of practice required to master a weapon must be spent in one-hour sessions on separate days. Thus a weapon that requires a hundred hours practice to master will require at least a hundred days practice.

Example: A woman picks up a bow and tries to shoot a deer with it. She has never used a bow before. She suffers a to-hit roll penalty of −8 because a bow is a difficult weapon to use.

Example: An accomplished crossbowman picks up a bow for the first time. He has never used one before. He suffers a penalty on his to-hit roll of −7, not because he does not know how to aim a missile, or how to take account of the wind, but because he does not know how to draw the bow properly, or rest the arrow on his finger-tip. He could probably figure all this out by himself, but it would be quicker if he had an expert to teach him. The bow is a much harder weapon to use than a cross-bow.

Example: Our crossbowman gets seven hours of instruction in the use of the bow, in seven separate lessons. He practices for another seven hours. He no longer suffers a to-hit penalty when firing it.

Example: A fighter who has never used armor before puts on a suit of chain mail. He fights at −8 to hit, because he does not know how to put it on properly, does not know which movements he should not make, and which ones he does not need to make, on account of his being protected. He cannot exploit the protective power of the armor to the full, but he suffers all the hinderances of its encumbrance.

Example: So far as we know, the sling is the hardest of all weapons to master. In ancient times, slingers were trained from boyhood. We figure that an accomplished fighter taking up the sling will need to practice with the device for a hundred hours before achieving proficiency.

Beyond the above suggestions and examples, we leave it to the players and dramaturgist to decide the to-hit penalty in each individual circumstance.

Armor

The table below gives the properties of normal armor, which is armor that has been well-made with good leather and high-quality steel, and fitted properly to its wearer. We judge the quality of a suit of armor by comparing the protection it offers to the protection offered by the normal version of the same type of armor. A suit of +n armor offers n more points of protection than the normal suit of the same type. A suit of armor can be inferior to a normal suit, in which case, the value of n would be negative.

Example: A suit of normal sapien plate armor has mass 30 kg and offers armor protection 20. It is made of carbon steel plate 2 mm thick. A suit of bronze plate armor will have mass 30 kg, but might offer protection only 15. It is −5 plate armor. A suit of adamantine plate armor might offer 25 points of protection, so that it is +5 plate armor.

There are light versions of each type of armor, and these offer reduced protection in proportion to their mass as compared to the normal varieties. Their cost is also reduced in proportion to their mass. There are two popular forms of light armor: light plate and light ring.

Example: A suit of light plate might be made of 1 mm plate instead of 2 mm plate, and so has mass only 15 kg instead of 30 kg and offer armor protection 10, which is the same as that of ring mail. The suit of light plate will cost 150 gp, but the suit of ring mail will cost only 75 gp. Thus people usually prefer to wear buy full-mass ring mail instead of half-mass plate. But light plate can be decorated, and has an impressive appearance. The breast plate can be shaped to deflect lances with more effect than ring mail, making light plate better for formal jousting contests.

Example: A suit of light ring is made of thinner wire so that it weighs only 12 kg, which is the same as studded leather. Normal ring weighs 15 kg. The light ring protection is 12/15 × 10 = 8, which is also the same as studded leather. The cost is 12/15 × 75 = 60 gp. The cost of studded leather, which offers just as much protection with the same mass, is only 48 gp. But many people prefer to buy light ring because it lasts longer than leather armor. With daily wear, but ignoring damage done by battle, leather armor will last for five years. But ring armor will last for a hundred years.

We assume that characters who wear armor have with them what tools they need to keep their armor operational. When they return from an adventure, they take their armor to be repaired by a professional. Poorly-maintained armor, or damaged armor, will offer less protection.

Example: A suit of ring armor taken from the body of a man killed in battle has seven cuts in it and three broken straps. It is now −3 ring armor, offering only 7 points of protection instead of 10.

The table below gives armor encumbrance (aenc), protection (ap), and cost for normal, sapien-sized suits of armor including helmets.

ArmorProtectionEncumbrance
(kg)
Cost
(gp)
cloth111
canvass233
padded4612
leather6927
studded leather81248
light ring81260
ring101575
light plate1015150
scale1218108
chain1421147
banded1624192
plate-mail1827243
plate2030300
Table: Properties of Normal Armor Designed for Sapiens

Cloth armor is thick clothing and a hat. Canvass armor is thick canvass clothing and a hat. Padded armor is a shirt, trousers, and cap made of thick, padded cotton. Leather armor is the same as padded armor, but with leather on the outside. Studded leather adds metal studs and plates to leather armor, offering more protection at the cost of more mass. Ring mail is made of interlaced rings of metal. Typically, ring mail consist of a long-sleeved mail shirt extending down over the thighs, leather greaves covered, and a metal helmet. Suits of scale and chain mail are similar to ring mail, except scale mail is made of small overlapping metal plates, and chain mail is made of intricately interleaved, small, angled, metal rings. Banded armor is leather armor with overlapping strips of metal attached horizontally in or upon the leather. Plate mail is plates of metal with chain mail acting as the flexible parts of the joints. Plate armor is made only of solid metal plates held together by leather straps, and made flexible at the elbows, hips, and knees by intricate joints constructed out of overlapping plates of metal. The helmet that accompanies a suit of plate armor comes with a visor that may be lowered over the eyes in combat.

When a character wears every piece of a suit of armor, she can be sure that every hit she takes will have her armor protection deducted from its power. But if she only partly covers herself with armor, there is a chance that any given hit will land where there is no armor. Her efforts to take hits on her armor rather than her exposed parts will be counter-balanced by her opponent's efforts to the contrary. The cover of a suit of armor is the probability of a hit landing upon the armor. The cover of a suit of armor is the sum of the covers of its parts. Armor for the head, such as a helmet, provides 10% cover. Armor for the torso, such as a jerkin, provides 50% cover. Armor for arms and legs, such as bracers, greaves, and gauntlets, provides 10% cover per limb. The encumbrance of a partial suit of armor is its cover multiplied by the encumbrance of a full suit.

Example: A long-sleeved chain mail shirt with gauntlets provides 70% cover and weighs 15 kg. A full suit provides 100% cover and weighs 21 kg. When a soldier wearing only a chain mail shirt suffers a hit, we use a roll of 1d10 to determine whether the hit lands upon the shirt. If the roll is 7 or less, it does so, and the shirt's armor protection is subtracted from the hit's power. Otherwise, the hit's power is undiminished.

One must become accustomed to wearing metal armor before one is effective using it in battle, but we offer no rules for deciding how long it takes to learn to use heavier armor. We assume that characters train in their armor, and this time is adequate for them to become used to it. While heavy metal armor may more getting used to than light leather, it conducts heat well, and so can be less uncomfortable in hot weather. Your dramaturgist will have rules to determine how long your character can wear a suit of armor before he begins to lose strength because of discomfort.

Example: A character with toughness five can wear cloth armor or ring mail continuously in up to 30°C.

Superior construction increases the protection offered by a suit of armor, but also increases the cost. The costs we give in the table above are calculated from a formula. The same formula allows us to calculate the costs of superior and inferior suits of armor. We present the formula and examples of other suits of armor here.

Shields

A shield is something whose value in combat lies primarily in blocking an opponent's attacks, rather than as a separate threat with which to distract an opponent from his attacks. Thus a 50-cm diameter board covered in leather is a shield, with a shield defence for its weilder, while a small sword held in the same hand would be a secondary weapon with a weapon defence for its weilder. A shield is effective it is simply held in place. A secondary weapon is effective if it is used to launch attacks of its own.

A bracer is a metal covering along one forearm with a gauntlet. It acts as the simplest and lightest form of shield, and can be duplicated by wrapping a blanket around one's hand and arm. A buckler is 25 cm across and is designed chiefly to parry in hand-to-hand combat. A small shield is 40 cm across. A medium shield is 50 cm across, and 70 cm high. It is designed both to parry in hand-to-hand combat and to protect its bearer from missiles. A large shield is 70 cm across and 100 cm high. It weighs 13 kg, but is effective as protection and as a weapon in itself when used by formations by infantry.

The table below gives shield defense (sd), shield encumbrance (senc), and suggested cost for normal shields. The normal shields are each made of a single sheet of carbon steel 2 mm thick. The steel is not hard, but is instead tempered for toughness. The shield defense is the value we use when the shield is used in isolation from other shields, as in a duel or a skirmish, but not in an infantry shield wall.

ShieldDefenseEncumbrance
(kg)
Cost
(gp)
bracer1½1.5
buckler213
medium bow, armored21.310
heavy bow, armored22.015
small339
medium4618
large, light4640
large51350
Table: Properties of Normal Shields Designed for Humans. We give shield defense for a skirmish combat.

The larger shields can be used to deflect blows, block missiles, and as a battering weapon. They may be arranged arranged into formations that multiply their effect, and shields offer protection against missiles as well, by reducing the effective size of the target. Shields are popular with infantry formations, but less so among skirmishers.

In a skirmish, each combatant's shield acts on its own. In this case, the shield defense is as given in the above table. For a medium shield, the defense is four. Now suppose a line of a hundred solders form up and overlap their shields to form a shield wall. Every man holds his shield in his left hand, and protects his left-hand neighbor's right side with his shield, and trusts to his own neighbor to protect his own right side. When these hundred soldiers have practiced jogging forwards together in perfect step with their line of shields locked together, with no man flinching back even in the face of the enemy, we have the shield wall of the ancient Greeks. To stand in its way is to face a wall of metal with hardly any openings. The shields are cooperating to prevent the enemy passing around either flank. The wall itself is battering ram from which there is very little chance of escape. We describe the effect of a shield wall in our combat system by increasing the defense offered by combined shields. An expertly-executed shield wall of a ten soldiers multiplies the defense of the individual shields at the center of the wall by a factor of ten.

Example: A line of a thousand well-trained infantry carrying medium shields gain shield defense forty (40) all along the length of the wall, except at the ends, where the wall is weakest. Suppose the soldiers in the middle have striking accuracy 5 without a shield. Now their striking accuracy will be 45. Suppose their enemies come on as skirmishers. Their enemies have the same shields, but these shields are not cooperating. Their enemies have striking accuracy 5 plus 4 for their shields, which is 9. Those in the shield wall have an attacker's advantage of 31. Their to-hit roll is −4. They can strike for double formidability and still need only a 1. They are guaranteed to hit. They are likely to get double or quadruple damage. The skirmishers, on the other hand, need a 27 to hit. They must strike for quarter damage or they have no chance of hitting at all. If most of the skirmishers have only one or two dodging points, we see that in the first clash, the shield wall will kill a quarter of the skirmishers, and the skirmishers will turn and run. In this way, the combat system makes manifest the well-established power of the shield wall in infantry combat.

Example: The shield wall we describe in the previous example faces a heroic fighter with striking accuracy 45. Does this fighter have to flee from the shield wall, or is there some other possible outcome? Can he penetrate the wall? Here we see that the hero and the soldier are on equal footing. This means that the soldier cannot force the hero back with the wall. The soldier might hit the hero and take a dodging point off him, but the fact that the hero can withstand the attack means that the hero can get between the shields with his great skill, and be left standing behind the shield wall after it rushes past.

Example: Beside the hero in the above example is a woman with many dodging points, but no combat skill. She stands in the way of the wall. There is no way for her to escape the wall, other than by luck. She might dive under the feet of the soldiers and escape harm. The chances of this happening are one in a hundred. But with dodging points, such unlikely events become possible. The attacking soldier strikes for triple formidability and hits. The woman must lose three dodging points. But at the end of the round, she is on the other side of the shield wall with the hero, and uninjured.

Magical materials and fine construction do little to improve over the normal shields we list above. To some extent, it is the mass of a shield that gives it its impact-absorbing power, not its hardness. The carbon steel plate out of which the normal shields are made is tough enough and hard enough for the job of blocking and deflecting.

Nevertheless, there are times when we must consider the blocking power of a shield against missiles, because there is no other opportunity for the missile to strike its target other than going through the shield. All normal shields are made of 2-mm carbon steel plate, except those that are called "light", which are made of 1-mm plate. Plate armor is made of 2-mm plate and offers protection 20 points. Better steel would offer better protection, but at tremendous cost, so shields superior to the normal shields are rare. If a soldier is hiding entirely behind his large shield, we give the archer −10 to hit, as if the target were 25% of its normal size, and we add 20 to the target's armor protection. The smaller size given to the target models the fact that the archer cannot see the target's body, let alone the chinks in its armor that will allow an arrow to penetrate.

Example: A man with +4 Banded Armor, ap=20, crouches entirely behind is large shield. An archer with a medium bow and firing accuracy 4 is 20 m away fires upon him. The archer needs to roll 1 + 4 (extents) + 10 (target hiding behind large shield) − 4 (firing accuracy) = 10 or higher on 1d20 to hit. Then he needs to penetrate the 20 points of protection offered by the shield and the 20 points of protection offered by the target's armor, a total of 40 points protection. He rolls a 20 for double damage and rolls maximum damage, for 40 points. The arrow penetrates the shield and sticks into the target's armor, but does not draw blood.

A shield has vulnerable points at which a blow will cause up to double the normal amount of damage, which is why we allow an attacker, with a high roll, to attain double damage. But no higher damage multiple is allows against a shield, be it made of metal or conjured wood or stone.

We discuss superior shields and their value in Economy. But the Light Large Shield is an example of a variation upon the normal shield. This shields is made of 1-mm plate and offers 10 points of armor protection.

A bow held in one hand makes a poor hand-to-hand weapon. Its mass is concentrated at the center, and its outer parts have barely any inertia with which to strike the enemy's body. At the same time, a bow makes a poor shield also, because it is not build to resist crushing or cutting. A sharp sword will cut right through a bow to the arm that holds it. Under some circumstances, however, the bow is superior to the sword as a weapon in close combat. A thirtieth-level fighter facing ten lightly-armored fifth-level fighters is one such circumstance. A bow can be turned into a shield by the addition of one-millimeter steel plates to the front side of the shaft. The plates do not bend with the bow, but are fastened to the handle. They extend half-way up and down the length of the bow, with forward-facing flanges at the ends to catch weapons and direct them away from the vulnerable tips of the bow. By adding 300 g of steel plate to a medium bow, we create a shield of mass 1300 g and defence 2. By adding 500 g of steel plate to a heavy bow, we create a shield of mass 2000 g and defence 2. Held in one hand, the armored bow acts a shield, leaving the other hand free for fist-and foot combat. This establishes the enemy's to-hit rolls. But the bowman can then give up his fist and foot attack to use his bow instead. A thirtieth level fighter might take four shots in one round at his opponents, while they are attacking him at close quarters.

Weapons

The properties of normal weapons are given in the following table. Weapons that are not normal are referred to by the amount by which their power exceeds that of a normal weapon of the same type. Poorly made or damaged weapons have powers lower than those given in the table below, and their poor balance may also result in a negative to-hit roll adjustment.

While blunt weapons require little or no care, edged weapons must be kept sharp. An edged weapon loses one point from its power for every ten rounds of combat it goes without being sharpened (magical weapons included). Sharpening takes ten minutes per point of weapon power to be restored. Part of learning how to use an edged weapon is learning how to sharpen it with a whetstone. The encumbrance of a weapon is equal to its mass.

Magically strengthened alloys can increase the weapon power of an edged weapon, but cannot increase the damage limit of a blunt weapon. The Power (wp) is the striking power of a sapien adult with STR = 0 wielding the weapon in one hand. If the weapon is 80 cm or longer, it can be wielded effectively with two hands, and its weapon power is increased by five, although the magical addition remains the same. The Defense (wd) is the weapon defense if wielded by a creature roughly the size of a sapien adult. The weapon defense is zero for weapon power less than or equal to zero, one for weapon power one or two, two for weapon powers three to five, three for weapon powers six to nine, and four for weapon powers ten or greater.

WeaponPowerEncumbrance
(g)
DefenseLength
(cm)
Cost
(gp)
battleaxe, small610003605
battleaxe, medium10200048010
battleaxe, large144000410020
club, small310002600.1
club, medium 720003800.2
club, large11400041000.4
fist and foot00000
fist and foot, mailed2500105
flail, small1010003603
flail, medium1520004806
flail, large224000410012
garrote02000801
lance, small6100033005
lance, medium102000440010
lance, large144000450020
mace1020004804
morning star1220004806
sap01500201
spear, small6100031502
spear, medium8140032003
spear, large10200042504
staff7200032001
sword, great 184500418040
sword, large153000415030
sword, long122000412020
sword, medium101400410014
sword, short89003809
sword, small65003605
sword, dirk42202402.2
sword, dagger31302301.3
sword, knife2601200.6
trident102000415010
warhammer10200048010
NamePowerEncumbrance
(g)
DefenseLength
(cm)
Cost
(gp)
Table: Properties of Normal Hand-to-Hand Combat Weapons

The difference between a club and a mace is that a mace is made of metal, while a club is made of wood. We note that the power of a sword is proportional to the square root of its mass. We list blades of various sizes, but not all possible sizes. A character might prefer to use a 1000-g blade rather than one of those listed. In Economy of Blades we can enter the power of a normal blade and calculate its mass, accoring to the square root relationship.

Missiles

The missile power of a projectile fired from a firing device depends only upon the device and the missile. The strength of the wielder does not increase the power of the attack. Nevertheless, a stronger character can use a larger, stiffer firing device with greater power, hence the Min STR column in the table below. The following table gives the properties of normal missiles fired by normal devices. The cost we give in the table is the cost of normal firing devices, not their missiles. The cost of twenty normal missiles is the same as the cost of a single, normal firing device. Thus a heavy bow costs 12 gp and twenty normal arrows to fit a the bow cost another 12 gp.

Missile
Weapon
Power Extent
(m)
Range
(m)
Normal
Firing
Rate
(s)
Min STR Cost
(gp)
Missile
Mass (g)
bow, light6420040450
bow, medium1052504+4875
bow, heavy1463004+812100
bow, strong1873504+1216125
crossbow, light6420016−4450
crossbow, medium105250160875
crossbow, heavy14630016+412100
sling221008−4150
Table: Normal Missile Firing Devices With Normal Missiles.

The maximum range of the weapon is fifty times its extent when the target is at the same altitude as the attacker. At maximum range, with the target at the same altitude as the attacker, the power of a missile is half its power at short range. At intermediate ranges, and in cases when the target is at a different altitude, the players should decide how to reduce the power of the missile. When the target is less than ten extents away, we recommend any reduction in power be ignored.

Bows take more strength to use for the same missile power, and We can carry a loaded crossbow in one hand. But We can fire four times more quickly with a bow than a crossbow: once every four seconds is the normal rate for a bow, and once every sixteen seconds for a crossbow. Both weapons must be unstrung when they are not in use, or else their strings lose tension. It takes a trained user thirty seconds to string either weapon. The most difficult weapon to use is the sling, but it is inexpensive, folds up into a small package, and makes less noise than either the bow or crossbow.

Superior construction can increase the power of a bow, as we describe in Bows. Superior construction can increase the power of an individual missile, as we describe in Spikes. When a superior bow and a superior missile are used together, their benefits are additive.

Example: A +2 Medium Bow firing a +3 Arrow has firing power 5 greater than a normal long bow firing a normal arrow, or 15. The superior bow and arrow are many times more expensive than the normal ones, see here.

To get an idea of what it is like to fire a bow, and how fast the arrow will move, we provide the following estimates. Suppose we draw back the bow string a distance x. The ideal bow would present uniform draw force until we come close to x, then drop the force to zero so that we can take aim at leisure. But we assume a simple bow whose drawing force increases linearly from zero at the start of the draw to F at distance x. The work we do drawing the bow is Fx/2. Let the arrow's mass be m. If we assume all the work we do pulling back the string is transferred into the arrow when we fire, the velocity of the arrow upon release will be,

v = √(Fx/m).

The table below gives the launch velocity for a selection of bows, assuming all the bow energy is delivered to the arrow. The value E is the kinetic energy of the missile when first fired from the bow. The value p is the momentum of the arrow.

Weapon F (N) x (cm) E (J) m (g) v (m/s) p (kg-m/s)
bow, light200808050572.8
bow, medium3009013575604.5
bow, heavy400100200100636.3
bow, strong600100300125638.7
Table: Mechanics of Missile Weapons.

Suppose we fire a long-bow straight up in a vacuum. The arrow starts at 63 m/s. Suppose gravity is 10 m/s/s. The arrow ascends for 6.3 s, turns around, and falls down. It hits the ground at 63 m/s/s. If we fire it at 45°, the arrow reaches its highest point after 4.4 s and hits the ground after 8.8 s. During this time it travels 387 m.

In practice, we fire arrows in air. Air friction slows them down, but at the same time, air carries the arrow along. Arrows glide through air. Despite gravity's efforts to pull an arrow down, it is possible for the arrow to keep gliding through air until it slows down to such an extent that it is no longer capable of gliding. The maximum range of an arrow in air is more than twice its maximum range in a vacuum. Turkish bows a thousand years ago could occasionally fire an arrow over 1000 m, if the wind was right.

Although arrows can fly a long way, they slow down as they fly. They may be moving at only 10 m/s when they reach the end of their flight, in which case they have lost over 95% of their kinetic energy. Thus the effective range of a bow for combat is much less than the greatest distance it can fly. If we tried to represent exactly the effect of gliding and slowing down, along with the greater difficulty in aiming at greater distances, we would be faced with the effect of wind and moisture as well, and our missile combat system would become too complicated for enjoyment. Instead, we rely upon the to-hit roll to preclude impossible shots, while at the same time allowing the very best archers to be effective at hundreds of meters.

In missile combat, the to-hit roll calculation puts a limit upon the effective range of a bow in the hands of a particular archer. The greater the skill of the archer, the farther the effective range. With firing accuracy zero, the effective range of the medium bow for man-sized targets is 100 m. With firing accuracy twenty, the effective range is 200 m.

After an arrow has been fired, it may be re-used. If it has been aimed deliberately at a straw target or any other such object that guarantees not to damage the arrow and allow it to be retrieved without snapping the shaft. Otherwise, however, the chances that the arrow will be worth recovering are small. We recommend that the recovered arrow be given a firing power 1d20 lower than its previous value.

Example: A man fires twenty arrows at squirrels in his garden. He recovers the arrows later. When new, these arrows had weapon power 10. Now they have weapon power 10−1d20. One quarter of them are likely to be useful. A few of them will be almost new.

The table below gives the properties of some hand-hurled weapons. We calculate the power of a hand hurled weapon just as for hand-to-hand combat, by adding the thrower's strength to the power of the attack.

Hand-Hurled
Weapon
PowerExtent
(m)
Encumbrance
(g)
Cost
(gp)
javelin615001
throwing stone211250.01
throwing knife111250.5
throwing dagger312501
Table: Normal Hand-Hurled Weapons.

Just as with missile firing devices, the range of hand-hurled missiles is limited by the to-hit roll. Thus the most skilled stone-throwers are effective at greater ranges.

Attribute Variation

For the interested dramaturgist, or the dramaturgist wondering how a contender might drop one attribute and raise another, we present our principles of attribute variation. These principles lie behind the simplified system of adding to attributes with each new adventurer level. We also present the base attributes for several species other than sapiens that contenders might be interested in selecting for their characters.

Every attribute may be changed to some degree by suitable effort. For each prime attribute, the following equation determines its rate of, A, in terms of useful effort and base attribute.

da/dt = (E/hC + B)/g,

where t is time in years, C is the current value of the attribute, B is the base value of attribute, E is useful effort applied to raising the attribute in hours per week, g is the gaining period in years, h is the holding effort in hours per week.

This is the attribute variation equation. The holding effort is the number of hours per week of expertly-directed training required to maintain an attribute one point above its base value. When a character embarks upon a new regime of exercise, each of his attributes begins to change from its initial value, C, towards a new value B+E/h. The gaining period is how long it takes a character's attributes to move most of the way (63% to be precise) from C to the new value B+E/h. Drugs and spells are accounted for in the above equation only in so far as they are part of a regime of exercise intended to bring about enduring change in attributes. Other drugs and spells can bring about temporary increases in attributes.

Example: The holding effort for sapiens is one hour per week, and the sapien gaining period is two years. A man with base STR of 0 begins to lift weights with the advice of an expert STR trainer. He trains for six hours a week. His strength begins to increase at 6 points per year. After two years, his strength has increased to 4 (63% of 6 rounded off). He now relaxes to a schedule of 3 hours training per week. His strength drops to 3 after a year and stays there.

Time and holding constants depend upon character species, as shown in the following table.

Speciesh (hrs/wk)g (years)
sapien1.02
elf2.04
half-elf1.02
orc1.53
half-orc1.02
dwarf1.53
hobbit1.53
Table: Holding Effort and Gaining Time for Character Species.

Characters' attributes can change with time, but always the variation is decided by referring to their base attributes. We assume contender characters spend their free time between adventures working out or studying, and we save time administering the game by assuming that these efforts on the part of the contender character increase her attributes by a total amount dependent upon her adventurer level. In the rules above we give the total addition to a contender character's attributes as a function of adventurer level for sapien adventurers. We can do the same for orc, elf, dwarf and hobbit characters. As can be seen from the table, human attributes are most readily changed, while elf attributes are least readily changed. At any adventurer level, a dwarf, orc, or hobbit will have three quarters of the addition that a sapien of the same level would receive, rounded down. An elf gets only half as much as a sapien, rounded down. Expensive drugs can decrease the holding effort and gaining time for non-sapien races, just as longevity drugs can overcome the effects of aging in sapiens. We discuss both types of drugs below.

The useful effort a character puts into increasing one of his attributes is determined by his activities, as we shall describe below in the discussions of each attribute. Much of the time characters spend raising their attributes will be overseen by expert trainers, or using special equipment. The amount of useful effort a character can put in each week towards raising his attributes is limited by several rules. The first rule is that the availability and cost of trainers and training equipment must be considered when characters try to accrue useful effort. When free of responsibilities in a well equipped city, characters with plenty of money can accrue up to 30 hours of useful effort per week, but the useful effort accrued for any one attribute must be at least −2 hours per week and at most 10 hours per week. Characters out on adventures can accrue up to 15 hours of useful effort per week, but the useful effort accrued for any one attribute must be at least 0 hours per week and at most 5 hours per week.

C-BE=0E=1E=2E=3E=4E=5E=6E=7E=8E=9E=10
00.00.10.10.10.20.20.20.30.30.40.4
1-0.10.00.10.10.10.20.20.20.30.30.4
2-0.1-0.10.00.10.10.10.20.20.20.30.3
3-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.10.10.10.20.20.20.3
4-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.10.10.10.20.20.2
5-0.2-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.10.10.10.20.2
6-0.2-0.2-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.10.10.10.2
7-0.3-0.2-0.2-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.10.10.1
8-0.3-0.3-0.2-0.2-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.10.1
9-0.4-0.3-0.3-0.2-0.2-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.00.1
10-0.4-0.4-0.3-0.3-0.2-0.2-0.2-0.1-0.1-0.10.0
Table: Monthly changes in sapien attributes for useful weekly effort, E in hours per week, and amount by which the attribute, C, exceeds its base value, B.

Our model of attribute variation is a first-order dynamical one. As you can see, we do not want to have to deal with it all the time, but when characters are in exceptional predicaments, such as being chained up for months, we need to have an agreed-upon way of deciding how fast they lose strength. A man with strength ten above his base, allowed to get no more than a little walking exercise every day, will lose two points of strength in the first five months. After a year, he will have lost four points.

If a contender character is of a species other than human, or is female, we adjust his or her base attributes according to the following tables. We include also the natural lifespans of the various species.

Species Lifespan STR TOU DEX INT Total
sapien male8000000
sapien female80−3+3000
orc male40+6+40−3+7
orc female40+3+70−3+7
half-orc male70+2+10−2+1
half-orc female70−1+40−2+1
elf male>1000−20+80+6
elf female>1000−20+80+6
half-elf male100−10+10+0
half-elf female100−10+10+0
dwarf male2500+500+5
dwarf female250−3+800+5
hobbit male120−40+90+5
hobbit female120−7+3+90+5
Table: Adjustments to Attributes According to Species.

To these average attributes, we add eight when we form a contender-character, with no more than +4 to any one attribute, and no less than −1. This addition of eight is independent of species. It indicates the advantage we give contender characters over other members of their species. The resulting values are the character's base attributes, which are the values that would apply if the character lived the life of a gardener. (We don't say "farmer" because farmers do a lot of hard lifting and they would be stronger than a gardener.)

First level adventurers of all species add to their attributes to represent the effects of their training. Contenders get to decide how to allocate the addition, but there is a maximum amount by which they can raise an attribute above its base value. Sapiens cannot increase by more then 8, elves by 4, and the others by 6. At first level, sapiens add a total of 9, elves 4 (half of 9 rounded down), and the others 6 (three quarters of 9 rounded down). With increasing level, the characters add more points to their attributes according to the table above, with the same fractional amounts for non-sapien species.

Non-sapien species are to some extent compensated for the difficulty they face when they try to increase their attributes through useful effort. The sum of their attributes is slightly higher when they start adventuring, but sapien characters overtake them by tenth level, assuming they survive. As sapiens age, however, they start to suffer a loss of attributes that is not suffered by elves nor by orcs. Although orcs die at around 44 years, they are at full-strength until the day they die. To represent the effects of aging, sapiens must subtract 1 from their attribute total for every five full years older than 30. At 35, they subtract 1, at 40 they subtract 2, and at 90 they subtract 12. Longevity drugs can stop the effects of aging, but likewise, elfroids give elves greater ability to train their bodies.

Example: Quayam is a male elf. If sapien, his base attributes would be STR=+1, TOU=0, DEX=+4, INT=+3. Because he is an elf, his base attributes become STR=−1, TOU=0, DEX=12, INT=+3. He is a fighter and a sorcerer. At first level, he adds 4 points to these base attributes, to give himself STR=−1, TOU=2, DEX=14, INT=+3. The sum of his attributes is 18. Thristen, meanwhile, is a sapien. His mother tells him that his father is an elf, but because elf genes are recessive, he has no way of knowing whether his mother is telling the truth or not. His base attributes are STR=4, TOU=2, DEX=2, INT=0. At first level he adds nine to get STR=8, TOU=6, DEX=3, INT=0. He needs to maintain INT=0 or higher so as to preserve his license as a cleric, but otherwise he's a fighter. His attributes add up to 17. Already, he has almost caught up with Quayam's natural ability. Twenty years go by, adventuring together, and they reach twentieth level. As a twentieth-level sapien, Thristen adds 24 to his base attributes. The base attributes themselves add up to 8. But he is now 40 years old, and as a sapien, he must subtract 2 from his total attributes, making his attribute total 30. But he wishes to avoid the effects of agin, so he takes longevity drugs, starting at the age of 30 to make sure he will be able to stay strong until he is 80. Thus his attribute total, at age 40, is 32. Quayam, meanwhile, has not aged, but he has added only 11, so his total is only 25, which is 7 less than Thristen. Thristen has STR=+12, TOU=+10, DEX=+10, INT=0. Quayam has STR=+3, TOU=4, DEX=16, INT=3. The years go by, and it is clear that Thristen is a stronger fighter, although Quayam is still quicker, and his sorcery is formidable. Quayam starts to take elfroids. These bestow upon him three-quarters of the total addition received by sapiens, instead of his previous half. He now gets to add three quarters of 24, which is 18, to his base attributes. After a few years of taking the drugs, he finds that he has STR=+5, TOU=+6, DEX=+18, INT=+3, and his attribute total is 32, exactly the same as Thristen's. Both are spending 100 gp a month on their drugs. Thristen's hair is going white and his eyes are starting to get sensitive to the sun. His skin is getting pale and burns easily also. These are side-effects of the longevity drugs. Quayam is irritable in a way he was not before. He has to shave every other day because he grows a beard. These are the side-effects of the elfroids. But they are content.

Sleep depravation will reduce any character's attributes. The following table gives the penalty in terms of sleep depravation for sapiens. We assume a sapien character on the move needs eight hours sleep per night.

Depravation (hrs)Penalty
0-40
5-121
13-202
21-283
29-364
Table: Attribute Penalty for Sleep Depravation in Sapiens

Other races may need less sleep, but our thinking is that elves, dwarves, and hobbits all need eight hours a night.

Dice Rolls

The SAGA rules require ten-sided, twenty-sided, and six-sided dice. We ourselves use twelve-sided, eight-sided, four-sided, and even a thirty-sided die. We combine two ten-sided dice to make a hundred-sided die: one die is for tens the other for ones. We usually want 1 to 100, so the roll 00 is 100. When we combine two ten-sided dice in this way, we call them percentile dice. Here we discuss various ways to use dice to represent random numbers and decide the course of events in a game.

Uniform Distribution

When we roll a single die, we obtain a uniform distribution. Each possible value of the roll is equally likely. In the case of a ten-sided roll, each possible value is 10% likely. The average value of a large number of such single die-rolls, which we also call the expected value of the single roll, is (n+1)/2, where n is the number of sides on the die, and we assume that the sides are numbered 1 to n. The standard deviation of the roll, is the average square of the deviation from the expected value. We expect half the rolls to lie within one standard deviation of the expected value.

SidesAverageStandard Deviation
42.51.2
63.51.9
84.52.4
105.53.0
126.53.6
2010.55.9
3015.58.8
10050.529
Table: Properties of Single Die Rolls. The standard deviation is roughly 55% of the average in each case. We calculated the standard deviations in an Excel spreadsheet.

The single die-roll gives us a uniform distribution, so if we want to use a 20-sided die to give us a 75% probability of success, we say we need to roll 6 or above, because 15 out of the 20 possible outcomes are 6 or above. But the single die-roll gives us a large variation, so if we want to roll to determine a quantity, we use the single die-roll only if we want the quantity to have a large variation. This is the case with the roll for the damage caused by a hit in the combat system. When the hits have a greater variation in power, the combat system is more exciting. Thus we use 6D10 instead of 6d10 for the damage roll for a hit of power 30, so that the roll goes from 6 to 60, with 6 being just as likely as 60. (Recall that we use notation mDn for m times the outcome of a single roll of an n-sided die.)

Binomial Distribution

When we want a quantity we roll for to have less variation than a single die roll, we add the rolls of several separate dice together. Suppose we find a bunch of jewelry and then sell it. What is it's total value? We might prefer to roll 6d10 for the total value instead of 6D10. (Recall that we use notation mdn for the sum of m rolls of an n-sided die.) With 6d10, the average will be 33, just as it is for 6D10, but the standard deviation is much smaller, as we show below.

RollAverageStandard Deviation
(Approximate)
RollAverageStandard Deviation
(Exact)
1d105.53.0 1D105.53.0
2d1011.04.2 2D1011.06.0
3d1016.55.2 3D1016.59.0
4d1022.06.0 4D1022.012
6d1033.07.3 6D1033.018
10d1055.09.5 10D1055.030
Table: Properties of Multiple Die Rolls.

We calculate the standard deviation of a sum of die rolls by multiplying the standard deviation of one die roll by the square root of the number of die rolls. This rule is approximate, but adequate for our purposes.

Normal Distribution

There are times when neither the single die-roll nor the sum of multiple die rolls will give us a satisfactory distribution of values. When we are rolling for the speed of the wind, for example, we know that most days are calm, some are breezy, a few are windy, and now and then it blows a gale. We can't get a distribution like that with a sum of die rolls alone, unless we use a large number of dice, subtract their expected value, then take the absolute value of the difference. The resulting distribution, as we use more and more dice, is the normal distribution. Indeed, the central limit theorum implies that the sum of an infinite number of die rolls will be distributed with exactly the normal distribution.

Suppose we try subtracting the expected value from the sum of many die rolls. Consider 10d10−55, that is the sum of ten rolls of a ten-sided die, with 55 subtracted from the total. The average value of 10d10 is 55. The average of 10d10−55 is 0. The standard deviation is 9.5. Roughly 70% of the time, the result of 10d10−55 will lie within the range −9.5 to +9.5. We could use 10d10−55 for wind speed. But the wind can blow from any direction, although more often from the west. What do we do with the negative numbers? They are just as likely as the positive ones, and if we say the wind is from the west, but negative, then it comes from the east, and so you see that we have a problem.

Thus we arrive at our one-sided normal distribution for SAGA. One way to get this distribution is to roll a bunch of dice, subtract the expected value, and take the absolute value of the result (negative results become positive). But maybe we don't have ten such dice, or we don't want to add them all up and subtract the expected value, because it's too much trouble. In that case, we can use the following table. We start by estimating the standard deviation of a quantity we want to determine in the game. We roll percentile dice (1d100) and look up the scaling factor in the table. We multiply our standard deviation by the scaling factor and so obtain our quantity.

Using the table below, roll percentile dice (1d100 using two 1d10) and find the line in the table with the highest percent value less than or equal to the value of your roll. Note the corresponding scaling factor. Multiply the standard deviation of your physical quantity by the scaling factor. If you roll 99, roll 1d10 to determine the first decimal. If you roll 9, roll 1d10 again, and so on, to obtain successive decimals.

Percentile
Roll (%)
Scaling Factor Percentile
Roll (%)
Scaling Factor Percentile
Roll (%)
Scaling Factor Percentile
Roll (%)
Scaling Factor
00.0681.0952.099.63.0
80.1731.1962.199.73.1
160.2771.2972.299.83.2
240.3811.3982.399.903.3
310.4841.499.02.499.913.4
380.5871.599.12.599.923.5
450.6891.699.22.699.943.6
520.7911.799.32.799.963.7
580.8931.899.42.899.983.8
630.9941.999.52.999.993.9
Table: One-Sided Normal Distribution Scaling Factors.

We obtained the table using a normal distribution function, with slight alterations above 99% to allow us to add extra 1d10 rolls to obtain the very unlikely events.

Example: The contender characters want to fly on their hippogriffs to a point one hundred kilometers to the north. What speed is the wind? We decide that the standard deviation of wind speed is 30 kph. In other words, we think it reasonable that once in every 10000 days, there will be a wind that is 120 kph, once in every 200 days there will be a wind of 90 kph, once in every 20 days there will be a wind of 60 kph, and most days the wind will be less than 30 kph. We roll percentile dice and obtain 36%. In the table, we select the 31% line, with scaling factor 0.4, giving us a wind speed of 0.4 × 30 kph = 12 kph.

We like the one-sided normal distribution when applied to the weather because we often make ten or twenty weather rolls in a single night's play. The normal distribution generates extraordinary weather every twenty rolls or so, but most of the time gives us weather that causes few problems.

Challenge Rolls

Suppose a character attempts something, such as jumping a creek. We think he has a 75% chance of getting across. We could roll percentile dice, and if 75% or less, he makes it. Or we could say that it the result is 25% or less, he fails to make it. Or we could use the table of challenger and defender die rolls provided by Mr. Davis. The first roll in each cell is the challenger roll and the second the defender. The table below shows which dice a challenger and defender roll when the challenger has a certain chance of success. A challenge is successful if the sum of the challenger's value is equal to or greater than the defender's; otherwise, the challenge fails.

X12345678910
0d4
d8+d4+2
d4
3d4
d4
d8+d4+1
d4
d4+d6+1
d4
d8+d6
d4
2d4+1
d4
2d6
d4
d8+d4
d6
3d4
d4
d4+d6
10d8
d10+d4+2
d4
d12+1
d8
3d4+1
d6
d4+d6+1
d4
d10+1
d4
2d4
2d4
d10+d4+1
d6
d8+d4
d4
d8+1
d8
d8+d4+1
20d6
2d4+1
d8
3d4
d8
d10+d4
d6
d4+d6
d4
d10
2d4
d10+d4
d8
d4+d6+1
d8
2d6
d6
d12
d8+1
d8+d6
30d4
d8
2d4
d8+d4
2d4
d12+1
d6
2d4
d6
d10
d4+d6
d10+d4
d4+d6
3d4
d8
2d4+1
d8+1
d8+d4
2d4
d10+1
402d4
2d4+1
d4
d6
2d4
d4+d6
d6
d8
d8
d10
d8+1
d12
d8+2d4
d20
3d4+2
d20
2d20+d4+7
3d20
d8
2d4
502d20+d4+8
3d20
2d4+d6+2
d20
d12+d6
d12+d6
d10+1
d12
d8+1
d10
d8
d8
2d4+1
d4+d6
d6
d6
2d4
2d4
d10
2d4
60d8+d6
3d4
d4+d6
d8+1
d4
d4
d10+1
d10
d10
d8
d8+d4+1
d12
d8+1
d8
d8+d4
2d4+1
d8
d6
d10+1
2d4
70d4+d6
2d4
2d6
d8+1
d4+d6
d8
2d4+1
d8
d6
d4
d8+d6
d10
d8+d4+1
d10
d8+d4
2d4
2d4
d6
d8+d4
d8
80d8
d4
d4+d6+1
d8
d10+1
d6
d12+2
d8
d10
d4
d4+d6
d6
3d4
d8
d12
d4
d10+d4+1
d8
2d4+1
d6
90d8+1
d4
d12+2
d6
d10+1
d4
2d4
d4
d8+d4+1
d6
d4+d6
d4
d8+d4
d4
2d4+1
d4
d4+d6+1
d4
Table: Challenger and Defender Die Rolls. First is the challenger's roll.

With a 75% chance of success, one player rolls 1d6 for the character jumping the creek, and another rolls 1d4 for the creek, which we see as defending itself against being jumped. The chance of 1d6 being equal to or greater than 1d4 is 75%. or we could make the creek the challenger, with a 25% chance of success, and so the creek rolls 1d4 and the character, defending against falling in the water, rolls 1d10.