Copyright 1992 by Eric C. Garrison
PURPOSE: The idea of SAGA is to not only provide a single game mechanic, but to eliminate the arbitrary nature of "points" in a skill-based role-playing game. This is done by assigning numbers of dice to Attributes, Skills, and Sub-Skills. The SAGA system is not intended to be used by novices as a first game system, but for experienced role-players wanting an alternative to more bulky commerical games. This product may be copied and used for personal use only and may not be sold or reprinted in any other form without the permission of the author.
DICE ROLLS: The SAGA system is based on rolling six sided dice in three different ways: Attribute dice are rolled, and any sixes showing are counted as success; Skill dice are rolled with any fives or sixes showing counted as success; Sub-Skills are rolled with any fours, fives, or sixes showing counted as success. The notation used for this is the number of dice rolled, an '@'symbol, then either 6, 3 or 2 (Attributes, Skills and Sub-Skills respectively). For example, if a Dexterity 3 character was making an Attribute roll, it would be noted as 3@6.
ATTRIBUTES: The basic attributes in SAGA are Strength, Dexterity, Body, Wit, Willpower, and Knowledge. Strength is used for feats involving a character's capacity for exertion and endurance. Dexterity is used for feats involving speed and physical adeptness. Body is a measure of how much damage a character can take, due to size and/or physical toughness. Wit is a character's ingenuity, reasoning power and speed of thought. Willpower encompasses a character's force of personality. Finally, Knowledge is how much a character knows, and how likely he or she is to know a given fact. Attributes are meant to be general descriptors and are only rolled alone as a default if a character does not have an appropriate skill for an action. An average person has 3@6 in each Attribute. Other Attributes may be added for special ability frameworks, like a "Magic" attribute, an "Alien power" Attribute, or even a super ability not covered by the basic six Attributes.
SKILLS: Skills are more specific subsets of Attributes. When a skill roll is made, an Attribute roll is also made, and all successes are totalled. Different colored dice can be used, or the two can be rolled in succession to differentiate @6 and @3 rolls. As noted above, if a skill roll is required for a skill a character does not possess, the skill roll defaults to the appropriate Attribute rolled alone.
SUB-SKILLS: These are even more specific subsets of Skills. There can never be more dice in a Sub-Skill than in either the parent Skill or that Skill's parent Attribute. Sub-Skills are extremely limited in scope, but much more likely to generate successes than a Skill alone. Not all Skills have Sub-Skills, however, if a Sub-Skill roll is required, it defaults to the appropriate Skill roll, or even an Attribute roll alone if there is no appropriate skill.
SUCCESSES: The number of successes a character rolls determines the degree of success of a given action. For example, a GM may decide that to leap over a chasm, Bullet and Niobe must get two successes. Bullet, having 3 dice in Dex and 1 die in Acrobatics (3@6, 1@3) rolls 5, 6, and 2 for his Dex roll, and a single 2 for his Acrobatics for a total of only one success. The GM decides that since Bullet did have one success, but not the needed two, Bullet manages to catch the edge as he falls. Meanwhile Niobe, having no acrobatics skill, but a 6 Dexterity Attribute, rolls 5, 3, 6, 2, 1, 6, exactly making the required number of successes. Bullet rolls his two die Climbing (getting 3 and 5) with his Dex (rolling 2, 5, and 4) making one success. The GM decides that while the jump was difficult, the climb should be easy due to the jagged rocks Bullet can hold onto. Most activities don't even require a roll, however. A GM may decide that a character is sufficiently skilled in an area to not have to roll. An activity the GM considers difficult would require one success, something really challenging would require two successes, three would be needed for something exceptional, and so on. The number of successes needed should rarely exceed three, however. Successes are also used in determining the result of a character using a skill to oppose an action by another character.
COMBAT: Combat is handled like any other set of skills, all of which use Dexterity as a base (except special ability combat, such as mental combat, which would use a Psionic or other Attribute as a base). The combat Skills would be general, like "edged hand-held melee weapons" or "beam energy weapons" or "thrown weapons" Skills. Sub-Skills would represent specific weapons, so to use a dagger, a character would roll his Dex Attribute, "edged weapons" Skill, and "dagger" Sub-Skill. Any successes must exceed a defender's number of successes in a "dodge" skill (also defaulting to Dex), though the number of defense successes is not subtracted from the attacker's successes when determining damage.
DAMAGE: If a hit is determined, the number of successes (minus any points of armor) is multiplied by the weapon's Damage Class (see below). The Damage Class multiplied by the number of successes after subtracting armor yields the actual damage to the area specified. If an area takes more than the character's Body in damage, it is temporarily (until tended to) rendered useless, and a character must make a Willpower roll that combat round in order to remain conscious. If an area takes more than twice a character's Body in damage, it is crippled, which means it may only be repaired with expert medical skill over a longer period of time (though special abilities may serve to hasten this process) and the character must make a Willpower roll every combat round after that in order to remain conscious. If any part of a character takes more than three times his or her Body, the character is dead.
HIT LOCATION: The number of successes can also be used to determine the location of the hit on the defender: one success is a torso or leg hit; two successes indicates an arm or vitals hit; three successes indicates a head, neck, or foot hit; four or more successes suggests an eye or other very specific location hit. A GM may either decide among possible locations by reasoning which was most obvious to the attacker, or randomly.
DAMAGE CLASS: Damage Class is generally only one for most small hand-held weapons, two for larger melee weapons or handguns, three for rifles and explosives, four and higher for extremely deadly weapons.
ARMOR: Armor subtracts from the number of successes and to be multiplied for damage (but not for purposes of location). Light armor (leather, heavy cloth, etc) subtracts only one success, moderate armor (plastic armor, kevlar, chain mail, etc) subtracts two successes, while heavier armor (plate mail, armored vacc suits, etc) subtracts three successes. Only battlesuits and the like subtract more than three successes.
CHARACTER CREATION: To create a character, the player must first come up with a concept that fits the genre he or she will be playing in. If it is a fantasy campaign, maybe the player will decide to play a thief. In a science fiction campaign, maybe the player would choose to play a telepathic amorphous space-blob. In any case, idea would be presented to the GM, and if the idea fits the game world, the player can begin to allocate dice. The GM will decide how many dice each person gets to start with. This number will differ depending on how "heroic" the game is supposed to be. A minimal number would be around 20 dice, which would be enough to give a character average attributes across the board, and enough left over to build up individual attributes and get some starting skills defined. Most characters on this level don't have any sub-skills yet, but certainly special cases could warrant this. More heroic characters might start with 40 dice, and superheroes or demigods could have 100 or so dice.