What is a Roleplaying Game?
World Saga is a roleplaying game, a form of interactive storytelling. A game of World Saga primarily takes place sitting around a table with friends. The action and story take place solely in the combined imaginations of the players. These players sit around telling a story about fictional characters and the challenges that those characters try to overcome. Each player at the table envisions a shared fantasy world where the actions and outcomes of their characters can take place. The resulting story and experience are only limited by the creativity of the players.
A game of World Saga is typically played with four to seven players, with five players being the most typical group size. One of the players takes on the role of the Game Mediator (or GM), who helps to facilitate the game’s narrative and drive the story forward. The other players, henceforth simply referred to as players, each create a player character (or PC) that exists in the shared game world. During gameplay, each player takes on the role of the character they created, determining the actions and decisions that their character makes in the game world. The GM helps facilitate this gameplay by describing the world around the players’ characters and how that world and its fictional inhabitants react to those characters’ decisions.
Using this Book
This book is primarily written as a reference guide to aid the quick retrieval of information during gameplay. This book was not necessarily written to be read cover-to-cover. The following is an overview of each chapter in this book.
Chapter 1. The Basics. This is where you are now. This is an introduction to the key concepts and fundamentals of the game system. This will be the most important chapter for understanding the basic mechanics introduced in the game.
Chapter 2. Characters. This chapter goes through each of the main components and concepts that make up a player character in World Saga. The process of creating a player character is then described in depth with an example to follow along the way.
Chapter 3. Actions. This chapter goes through each of the actions in the game and the mechanics that govern those actions. This chapter is intended to be an important reference during gameplay to provide specific rule information for each available action.
Chapter 4. Equipment. This chapter looks at the different types of arms and armaments characters can use in the game. This chapter goes over each of the weapons and armor options available to characters, as well as the other various gear that a character might carry with them.
Chapter 5. Magic. This chapter introduces an optional magic system and the skills associated with that system. This chapter also includes a list of the various spells and powers that magical characters can use.
Chapter 6. Playing the Game. This chapter goes through each game mode of World Saga and describes how to play that mode in depth. This chapter provides extended details and advice for playing the game and additional options to tune the game to your group’s personal taste.
Chapter 7. Running the Game. This chapter is intended for the GM. It provides extensive advice and guides for running a game of World Saga. Here the GM will find information for how to create and run their own adventures. They will also find helpful information on dealing with unexpected events at the game table. There are also additional rules to adjust the game to fit your style and setting.
Appendix. The appendix of the book provides a blank character sheet, helpful summaries of the game rules, and copies of important charts for ease of reference. All of these tools can be copied and printed for use at the game table. Additional resources are found online at: worldsaga.us
As a player of the game, you will create a character of your own design, called your player character, or PC. The PC will be carefully crafted to fit within the setting of the game world, but also envisioned as a complex protagonist of a story that has yet to be told. As a player, your influence on the game world will be limited to your character’s actions and decisions. You will explore and interact with the game world as described by the GM. Since you will often be taking on the role of your character, this book will often refer to ‘you’ when, in fact, we are referring to the PC you are roleplaying.
The Game Mediator (GM)
The Game Mediator, or GM is responsible for describing the world around the PCs. The primary role of the GM is to facilitate play and exploration. This usually involves describing the current situation in the game world to the players, so that they can make decisions and respond accordingly on behalf of the characters they play. Being a GM can be a very rewarding role for someone who enjoys world-building, improvisational storytelling, and enhancing the experience of others at the table.
Roleplaying games are for the enjoyment of everyone at the table. Before players begin their first session, they should get together and discuss the type of game that they want to play and the genre of the story they are telling. This will help the GM guide the gameplay in that direction and ensure that it will be fun and entertaining for everyone involved. This discussion also helps the players to understand the scope of the setting and the general theme for creating their characters. For example, if the players decide their game will take place in a pirate setting, each player might want to create a character with a nautical theme.
Additionally, it is important to be mindful of the needs of other players. Not everyone has the same tolerance or comfort with certain topics or styles of gameplay. It is important for the group as a whole to discuss if there are any topics (such as descriptive gore, sexual content, spiders, etc.), that are completely out of the scope for the story. This should be done before your first session.
Discuss with your group which topics are completely out of line for the game, and which topics or content is okay to include in the game, but you don’t want them to occur “on screen”. In the later cases, such events are okay to occur during a game session, but they occur “off camera” and are not roleplayed directly. When such content comes up, the scene simply “fades to black” and the next scene begins.
During gameplay, any player reserves the right to ask for the gameplay to pause if an uncomfortable topic is being approached or breached. They can simply state that a “line is being crossed”. The GM and other players should cultivate a non-judgmental attitude when this occurs. They can identify the problem and attempt to resolve it as a group. It is okay to rewind the narrative and remove the offending content from the story before moving on. Remember that everyone at the table is there to have fun. That fun should never come at the expense of another player’s sense of well-being.
Things You Will Need to Play
Dice: Dice are used to resolve actions in most roleplaying games and World Saga is no exception. Die rolls simulate the probabilities of success and failure. They help determine the outcome of uncertain circumstances. When playing World Saga, you will often have to roll a d20 to resolve the action. A d20 is a 20-sided die, an icosahedron. In some situations, you will roll a standard 6-sided die, a d6.
Throughout this book you will see this icon to represent rolling a d20. Each player should have their own d20 since you’ll be rolling this die quite often.
You will see this icon to represent rolling a d6. You will likely want to have a few of this die. Sometimes you’ll be asked to roll the d6 multiple times and sum the results. In these cases, a number will appear before d6, such as 3d6. This indicates you roll the d6 three times and sum the result for the final number. Additionally, you may have to add a value to the total, such as 2d6+2. In these cases, roll the d6 (as many times as indicated), sum the result, and then add the bonus to reach the final number.
Character Sheet: Each player will want a character sheet for their PC. It contains all the details about their character and allows them to update and record changes to their character during gameplay. Character sheets can be found online at: worldsaga.us.
Maps: Combat scenes can be quite chaotic, with a lot of action going on. A map of the area can help everyone at the table visualize the scene. Maps are usually marked with 1-inch (25 mm) grids. Each square on the grid represents roughly 5 feet or 1.5 meters of space. This book refers to all distances in squares, making it easy to calculate these distances on a gridded map.
Miniatures: Along with maps, miniatures are used to represent the PCs and the NPCs. These can be hand-crafted metallic miniatures, cardboard pawns with plastic bases, or even as simple as small toys, coins, or plastic markers. As long as everyone understands what these tokens are meant to represent, they will serve their purpose in tracking where everyone is on the map during a complex scene.
Adventure: You will need some sort of quest or adventure for the players to embark upon. This might be something of the GM’s own creation or a purchased module that follows a predictable story. An adventure is a loose scaffold of a story that is waiting for the player’s choices to drive that story along. Tools for GMs to create their own adventures are found later in this book.
Throughout this book, the
Gameplay in World Saga is divided into four modes: Combat, Exploration, Journey, and Sojourn. These represent the current activity of the characters and the current level of detail of the narrative. For instance, when in Combat mode each second of action is important to the story and each round of combat may take many minutes in the real world. In Sojourn mode, however, many days may go by in the game world in just a few moments, as the players quickly share what their characters have been doing over the past few days of downtime between adventures.
The game modes presented here are a guide to gameplay. They help to provide a scaffolding with actions that characters might want to take in each situation. New players will find this scaffolding useful to help guide their choices. Experienced players might find the game modes seamlessly disappear into the background as the narrative naturally flows between them.
An Example of Game Modes
You and your allies might set out on an adventure to a ruined fortress deep in the wilderness, spending many days of the expedition in Journey mode. When you arrive at the ruined fortress, you will switch to Exploration mode as you delve into the darkness of the ruin and investigate. You and your allies are bound to run into dangerous denizens, switching into Combat mode to deal with each conflict as they arise. You would then return to Exploration mode after each combat encounter. After your group finishes exploring the ruined fortress, you might return to Journey mode to return home, or the GM might choose to skip over this part of the narrative, assuming you all returned home safely. Having arrived back in the safety of the town, you would switch into Sojourn mode to rest and recover, preparing for the next adventure.
In another scenario, you might be participating in a city adventure where your characters are investigating a murder. They might spend the day in Exploration mode, exploring the city, talking to witnesses, and searching for evidence. They might even get into a Social Conflict with a citizen of the city, which uses a variation of Combat mode. Then at night, you might transition into Journey mode to rest and recover at the local inn. If the characters want to take a break from the case, they might jump into Sojourn mode to fully recover before returning to their investigation.
Actions and Tests
During gameplay, you will have to make choices on behalf of your character. These choices often come down to the selection of an Action. Throughout this book, Actions are presented in a special
However, if the outcome is not certain or it is particularly dangerous, you may have to perform a specific Action to resolve the outcome. For instance, if your character wants to approach a nearby door, they can simply do so. But if that door is on the other side of a deep chasm, it may be uncertain if your character can even reach the door. If you choose to try and leap over the chasm, in order to reach the door, then you would take the
When determining the outcome of an Action, you will likely have to make a Test. Tests are made by rolling a d20, often simply called a roll, then comparing the result to a Target Number, the TN. Generally, if the die result is equal to or less than the TN, you succeed at the Test. If the die result is higher than the TN, you fail the Test.
Target Number = Rank + Modifiers
The TN is determined by combining a Rank with any Modifiers that should be applied to the die roll. A character’s Skills, Attributes, and Resistances all have a Rank. We’ll discuss those topics in the next chapter on characters. Modifiers are discussed below in the next section.
There are sometimes special outcomes that occur when a specific number on the d20 is rolled. For instance, there is always a special outcome when you roll a 1 or a 20 on the die.
Complication – If the d20 rolls a 1 on the die, it is called a
Critical Failure – If the d20 rolls a 20 on the die, it is called a
Critical Success – If the d20 rolls the Target Number exactly on the die, it is called a
Modifiers are additions or subtractions to the Target Number based on mitigating factors. Rarely will you have more than one or two modifiers applying to a single roll. There are three major types of modifiers in the game: item, condition, and situation. Modifiers of the same type do not stack up. You only apply the sum of the best and worst modifier of each type. For instance, if your PC had a +4 condition bonus from one effect, a +1 condition bonus from another effect, and a −2 condition penalty from a third effect. Your total condition modifier would be +2. You sum the best bonus (+4) with the worst penalty (-2) to receive the total modifier of that type (+2). In particularly complex cases, this is done separately for each of the three modifier types. The main types of modifiers are as follows:
Target Number Limits: The TN can never be lower than 3 or higher than 18. If Modifiers would bring the TN below 3 or higher than 18, the TN is set to 3 or 18 respectively. This ensures there is always a chance for failure or success in every roll.
There are five types of Tests used to adjudicate the outcome of an action:
Basic and Complex tests are solo tasks performed by an
Basic Test: Roll a d20 and compare the result to the Target Number.
Failure : d20 roll >
Success – d20 roll ≤
Example: You learn that the man your PC has been searching for is from a distant culture. You ask the GM if your character knows anything about that person’s culture that would help you find them. The GM asks you to roll a Lore (Culture) Basic Test. If you succeed, the GM will give you additional information about that culture.
Example: Your PC is trying to lie his way past a guard to enter the town. The GM asks you to roll a Deceive Basic Test. If you succeed, the guard will believe your lie, otherwise, the guard might suspect you are up to something.
A Complex Test has more than two outcomes. Instead of a simple Success or Failure, there are multiple degrees of success, creating a continuum of possibilities. The potential outcome can scale based on the TN and by rolling high on the d20. Just like the Basic Test, you will succeed on the test if your d20 roll is equal to or less than the TN. If you rolled higher than the TN, you failed the test.
Complex Test: Roll a d20 and compare the result to the Target Number.
Failure : d20 roll
Success – d20 roll ≤
If you succeeded on the test, you then look at the number on the die. If the number on the d20 is equal to or greater than 15, you achieved the best possible outcome, a
If successful, find the degree of success by comparing the result.
Great Success – d20 roll ≥ 15
Strong Success – d20 roll ≥ 10
Success – d20 roll ≥ 5
Weak Success – d20 roll ≥ 2
A Weak Success usually has a lesser outcome than a regular Success. A Complication result (rolling a 1 on the d20) usually has the same outcome as a Weak Success unless a specific outcome is indicated. It is optional in these unspecified cases for the GM to add a special complication to the scene and they are encouraged to do so.
A Strong Success has a greater outcome than a regular Success, usually a special benefit or increased magnitude of the result. A Great Success has an even better outcome, your character has performed something extraordinary. Achieving a Strong Success or a Great Success may not be possible on a Test until your character’s Rank has increased due to
– If the successful result is a Critical Success (matches the TN exactly), and the TN is not equal to 5, 10, or 15, the outcome is increased by one degree.
Weak Success -> Success -> Strong Success -> Great Success.
Example: You and your allies are looking to make camp and rest for the night in the wilderness. The GM asks you to roll a Survival Complex Test. The quality of the camp will depend on how well you succeed.
Example: Your ally’s courage has depleted and they are now Hopeless. Your PC wants to encourage them and restore their hope. The GM asks you to roll an Inspire Complex Test to determine how much Courage you restore to your ally.
Complex Test Outcomes
This following table demonstrates the many possible outcomes for die rolls based on the Target Number for a Complex Test (and Conflict Test). This table also incorporates the rules for a Critical Success into the outcomes. This table also demonstrates how bonuses (which result in a higher Target Number) can result in potentially better outcomes.
When you are making an action that puts you into opposition with another character, you may have to roll an
Each of the opposing sides rolls a Basic Test. If the result is a success, that player makes note of the number on the die as their final number. If the result of the roll was a failure, their final number is equal to zero (0). The side that achieved the highest final number, succeeded on the Opposed Test. The side with the lower final number failed on the Opposed Test. If the final numbers are equal, the Attacker fails the test.
Opposed Test: Each side rolls a Basic Test. If successful, they note the number on the d20.
Failure – d20 roll > = 0
Success – d20 roll ≤ = Die Result = Final Number
Compare your result to your opponent’s result, the higher result wins.
Win – your Final Number > your opponent’s Final Number
Lose – your Final Number ≤ your opponent’s Final Number
Example: Your PC has been challenged to racing competition by the local runner. The GM asks you to roll an Athletics Opposed Test against the opponent to determine if you are able to outrun them.
Example: Your PC finds themselves Grappled by an enemy. They try to break free. The GM asks you to roll a Brawl Opposed Test against the opponent to see if you are successful.
First, the Attacker rolls a Complex Test using the indicated attacker skill. This is called an
If the Attacker succeeded on the test, the Defender then rolls a Basic Test using the indicated defender skill. This is called a
Conflict Test: The Attacker rolls an Attack Roll. If successful, they note the number on the d20.
Failure : d20 roll >
Success : d20 roll ≤
If successful, find the degree of success by comparing the result.
Great Success – d20 roll ≥ 15
Strong Success – d20 roll ≥ 10
Success – d20 roll ≥ 5
Weak Success – d20 roll ≥ 2
Critical Success – If the TN is not equal to 5, 10, or 15, the outcome is increased by one degree.
If successful, the Defender then rolls a Defense Roll. If successful, the outcome is reduced by one degree (or two on a Critical Success).
Failure : d20 roll > = No change in outcome.
Success : d20 roll ≤ = Outcome reduced by one degree.
Critical Success – The outcome is reduced by two degrees.
Great Success -> Strong Success -> Success – > Weak Success -> Failure
The final result is only a Critical Failure if the Attacker rolled a 20.
Example: Your PC is trying to distract an enemy who brandished a weapon at your ally. You describe the action as using a flurry of insults to get their attention. The GM asks you to roll a Persuade Conflict Test against the enemy. Your level of success and whether the enemy succeeds on a Resolve Basic Test defense roll will determine the outcome.
Example: Your PC tries to sneak past some opponents in a darkened ally. The GM asks you to roll a Stealth Conflict Test to see how quickly you can move through the alleyway and whether they detect your presence. The GM rolls an Investigate Basic Test as a defense roll for the opponents, which may limit your success.
First, the Defender rolls a Basic Test using one of the indicated defender skills. This is called a
Next, the Attacker rolls a Basic Test using the indicated attacker skill. This is called an
If the Attack Roll is a failure, the attack has missed its target and the action ends. If the Attack Roll is successful, the number on the d20 is the amount of damage that could potentially be dealt to the Defender. Any damage bonuses or penalties are then added to the damage; the total is called the
Finally, the Defender has one more chance to avoid damage. Each Attack Test will list a Resistance that can be rolled to avoid damage. This is called a
If the result of the Resistance Roll was a failure, the Defender receives the full Potential Damage dealt by the Attacker. This damage is applied to the listed Tolerance by reducing the Defender’s current value of that Tolerance by the amount of damage received. Tolerance values cannot go below 0, but special conditions are applied when a Tolerance falls to 0. See the next chapter for more information about what happens when a Tolerance falls to 0.
Defense Roll: The Defender rolls a Defense Roll. If successful, they note the number on the d20.
Failure : d20 roll > = 0
Success : d20 roll ≤ = Die Result = Defense Number
The Attacker subtracts the Defense Number from their Rank.
Target Number = Attacker’s Rank – Defense Number +/- Modifiers
Attack Roll: The Attacker then rolls an Attack Roll, using the modified Target Number. If successful, they note the number on the d20. This result is combined with any damage bonuses or penalties, this is the amount of potential damage.
Failure : d20 roll > = 0
Success : d20 roll ≤ = Die Result + Damage Modifiers = Potential Damage
Critical Success: Add +2 to Potential Damage.
Resistance Roll: The Defender then rolls a Resistance Roll. If successful, they note the number on the d20. This is the amount of damage that is subtracted from the potential damage.
Failure : d20 roll > = 0
Success : d20 roll ≤ = Die Result = Damage Avoided
Critical Success: Defender avoids all Damage.
The Defender then receives any remaining damage or the minimum damage (whichever is greater) by reducing the current value of the associated Tolerance on a one-for-one basis.
Example: The warrior Thorfinn, a PC, takes the
Example of Play
Joe, the GM, is playing a game with his friends: Jake, Maddy, Lisa, and George. Their game’s setting is a fictional pirate adventure set during the age of sail, where they are searching the seas for long lost treasure.
Jake’s character is a swashbuckler swordsman named Jaronne. Maddy is playing a young and eager pirate named Manz. Lisa is playing an old fortune teller, named Liradda. George is playing a brutish dockworker who goes by Grunt.
The GM opens the session describing the current situation. Joe narrates the following description:
Joe (GM): “Your small rowboat has just arrived on the island. A long sandy beach extends around to the east and west with a wall of dense jungle ahead of you to the south. The jungle seems to encircle the island in a ring that rises towards the center, and in the center of the island is a towering mountain with smoke fuming out the top. A volcano!”
Jake: “Wow! We finally arrived!” (to the GM): Jaronne leaps out of the rowboat and readies his sword for any danger.”
Lisa: (speaking in the voice of her character, Liradda) “Careful, Jaronne! The fates have warned us about the great lizards that stalk this island. The crystal ball never lies!”
Jake: “I’m not afraid! Let them come!”
George (to the GM): “Are there any sign of tracks or footprints near where we landed?”
Joe (GM): “Are you searching on the beach or near the edge of the jungle?”
George: “The beach. I want to scour the nearby sands for any signs that someone else has been here.”
Joe (GM): “Okay, that sounds like a Search action. Roll a basic Investigate test with a -2 penalty.”
Joe added the penalty because he decided that there has been a recent rain on the island, and that could have washed any footprints away.
George looks at Grunt’s Investigate Skill Rank of 9. He subtracts the -2 penalty to get a Target Number of 7. He then rolls his d20 and rolls a 6 on the die. This is under his target number of 7, a success. “I succeeded with a six!”
Joe (GM): “Excellent. After a few minutes of searching, Grunt finds faded boot-prints in the sand, they seem to head into the nearby jungle.”
George (to the GM): Do I know how many people made these tracks?
Joe (GM): You are unsure, it could be as few as two or as many as eight people.
Joe knows there were five people that came through the sands recently, but he decided that George needed to roll a 10 or higher on Grunt’s Investigate test, a Strong Success, in order to receive that extra information.
Maddy: “Manz begins humming an old pirate song as he pulls the rowboat high upon the shore.”
Jake: I want to see where those footprints go. Jaronne will follow the tracks into the jungle.
George: Grunt will follow Jaronne, readying his club for any trouble.
Joe (GM): What about Manz and Liradda? Do they follow the other two into the jungle?
Lisa: “Yes. Liradda straightens the shawl on her shoulders and follows at a safe distance. She is continuously looking behind the group, to make sure a creature isn’t stalking them from behind.”
Maddy: “Manz draws his sabre and he eagerly strides to the front with Jaronne to help lead the way.”
Joe (GM): “You all follow the prints into the jungle where the wet mud makes the tracks much easier to see. The humid air clings to you as you step away from the cooling breeze of the sandy shores. After many minutes, you are now much deeper in the jungle. Suddenly, you hear the sound of a low snarl of a large lizard-like beast. A creature leaps in front of your path with its jaws snapping in hungry excitement. It has a long snout with razor sharp teeth and two long arms with deadly claws on the ends. It stands hunched over on two legs with a long tail at its rear. Roll for initiative!”
The players then enter Combat mode, using the rules of combat to adjudicate the dangerous encounter with the hungry dinosaur. An example of combat play can be found in Chapter 6 (page XXX).