Wednesday, August 2, 2017

OSR Commentary - Using Saga TSR's Age of Heroes Mini games For Operatic Campaign Design

Could one of TSR classic era's mini games be used for old school campaign construction? Yes it could! Sound the horns, grab your father's sword & armor, and come with me now down the dark halls of history to Nineteen Eighty!  For tonight we play Saga one of TSR's Mini games! Much of what follows has been referenced from Board Game Geek's entry on Saga.

So Steve a friend of mine blew into town with his brother & grabbed me for a beer along with a game of the classic TSR mini game Saga. Saga doesn't require a complicated story or background, your a hero of Norse mythology your trying gain glory so that your saga will be remembered by others. Essentially this is Norse mythology stripped down to the bone presented as a game of intrigue and play.

 So I got together last night with my buddy Steve for a beer & a classic TSR mini game of Saga from 1980
by Designer Steve Marsh  & Artist Bill Willingham. Its not a complicated game & it works on a number of levels. Solid play and its a nice turn around from the usual D&D tropes which it shares but uses in a different way. From the rule book;
  "Saga minigame recreates a mythical time period occuring sometime after the fall of Rome - the age of heroes and vikings! Each player takes a heroic figure and attempts to perform deeds that will generate enough glory to ensure that the hero's memory will live in the sagas composed after his or her death.

To gain glory, the heros slay monsters, accumulate treasure hoards, recruit lesser heroes ("jarls", or earls) as their companions, and establish kingdoms. The hero who gains the most glory is the one whose fame will live on in the sagas, while the others are doomed to be forgotten by posterity. Each player must be decisive and alert to grasp chances and avoid having other heroes gain glory at his or her expense."

There are quite a few things that Saga taught me about campaign management from last night's game surprisingly which was how to effectively and efficiently use your monsters, resources, & how adventure location can change or alter the flow of play especially for an old school game such as OD&D or AD&D first edition. This would be especially true of an epic or legendary game set within the Norse mythological world.
There was quite a bit going on in last night's game and between beers here's some of what I picked up during play. I was eliminated quite early and that's not surprising. I haven't played the game in ten to fifteen years easily.

Here are some of the adventure basics & game highlights that could easily be translated into adventure construction: 
  • Game character betrayal creates ins for adventure opportunities. The idea is that your PC's get involved in a round robin of political intrigue involving one of the controlling political powers namely one of the player's factions. 
  • Monsters can and should be one of the most dangerous things in play. The monsters in Saga can make or break your back making this an epic level adventure. 
  • Sword & sorcery are things that happen within the bounds of Saga & can alter the flow of play. There was almost but not quite an Arthurian feel to some parts of last night's game. 
Saga could be used to create an epic campaign easily with little tears or fuss. Four players get together play a game or two. Someone records the results and then the dungeon master or masters map out the game in the setting world of Saga! Yeah this could work quite easily. I would say that Saga is tailor made for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition, OSRIC or any of the other AD&D style clones. The reason is how everything within Saga is geared for greater glory and the epic legends of almost but not quite a Deities & Demi Gods style game. Why because of the almost soap opera style betrayals and double dealing within the game. Players can and will be at each other's throats and this reflects the mythologies of the classic Norse or Operatic literature. I'm looking at you Ring of Nibelung here.

In point of fact Saga could be used to map out an entire Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) campaign or more importantly a Richard Wagner saga quite easily. How's that for a mini game that can fit in your pocket. Parties of adventurers are going to be on one side or the other of such a game and it would be epic and very dangerous! This is exactly the sort of thing that Deities & Demi Gods was designed for.

Factions become one of the essential elements in this sort of a game where the fate of the party is at stake and their playing in the realm of the gods and demi gods who are for all their power simply as much foils as the PC's are. This is the sort of game that could have some very dark and dire endings or something very mythological where the songs of the heroes are sung in Valhalla.

All together I got quite a bit to think about with my beer and a quick mini game of a classic. For now I hope you make your saves and keep em rolling!

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