Thoughts on Dragonlance Fifth Age SAGA

Thoughts on Dragonlance Fifth Age SAGA

I’m currently running a Dragonlance Fifth Age SAGA campaign as my weekly game, and it’s a system I haven’t ran since high school. Running it has brought back a lot of old memories, and playing it again, there are many aspects of the design that I find I really enjoy. At the same time, there are also aspects of the design that—looked at with my 2014 design sensibilities—I think could use work.

With that in mind, I wanted to throw some thoughts out on how I would go about improving the game. Keep in mind that this is all subjective and based on how I’ve seen my weekly gaming group interact with the system.

Casters Versus Non-Casters: Custom Style

Magic is a lot of fun in the Dragonlance Fifth Age game. The flexibility of spellcasting means it can have some really cool customization and personal touches, but the innate limits of the “new magic” keeps it from getting too out of hand and unbalanced.

On the other hand, while non-caster types can still add some fun and flavorful descriptions to their attacks, there is little mechanical support for cool customization and personal touches. I know Heroes of Steel added a variety of attack options, but these are largely a numbers game and not a matter of personal flavor.

With magic the target number of the casting action is determined by a number of factors, such as range, area, effect, etc. Changing these options allows for personal customization of spells. I think mirroring this somewhat with physical attacks would allow for greater customization and personalization of fighting style.

For example, a two-weapon fighter might decide to specialize in making quick attacks against pairs of opponents. This attack might be modeled as 4 (one turn) + 2 (two targets) + 3 (damage is ST+3), for a total target number of 9 + the target EN.

Signature Moves

While giving attacks customizable target numbers like spells makes them more personalized, it should also be noted that doing this slows down resolution. On the casting side of things this was addressed in supplements through the introduction of mantras and librams. But if adding physical attacks into the mix it probably ought to be generalized into “signature moves.”

A signature move is a pre-built attack or spell with all the options already decided. A character can have a number of these equal to their hand—much the same way that skills work. (Skills were added in the Saga Companion.) This saves time when resolving a character’s most common moves.

Spell Points & Tactic Points

Now these these signature moves exist, there ought to be some incentive for players to use them over other spells and attacks. Spells already have one limiting mechanism—spell points—but perhaps a modified limiting mechanism is needed.

What if casters had a pool of modified “spell points” equal to their casting ability score. Casting spells wouldn’t take any points unless either: a) they fail to cast a spell or b) they cast a spell which is not one of their signature moves. Once a character is out of spell points, they can no longer cast that type of magic—signature move or not. Perhaps failing with a dragon card would cause the lose of an extra spell point—or even all remaining spell points! These spell points would recover at the rate of 1/hour or all if the character rests over night, just like the RAW spell points.

This would allow casters to cast their signature spells repeatedly, but if they push their limits too much, or they rely too much on spells they’re not familiar with, they’ll use up their reserves.

Porting this idea over to physical attackers, perhaps there is a pool of “tactic points” based off of the attack type’s primary ability score. Unlike magic where there are separate pools of spell points for both sorcery and mysticism, there should probably be only one pool of tactic points based off of the higher of the melee ability score and the ranged ability score. 

Making a basic attack or using the character’s signature moves wouldn’t cost a tactic point. But using attacks other than basic or a signature move would cost one. Unlike spells, failing an attack wouldn’t cost one. When a character runs out of tactic points they can still take non-signature attacks, but these are risky, as their tactics are wearing thin. When doing this a character always takes a card of damage.

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