SAGA is somewhat unusual in that PCs are the only characters that make mechanical actions. What are your thoughts on this? Do you like it? Not like it? Why? Are there types of games when you would like or dislike it, in spite of your general preferences?
I don't have a strong opinion. It makes things somewhat more predictable, which is a double edged sword. On the one hand, having both parties roll can make results pretty wildly unpredictable. On the other hand, there are actions in SAGA machine that I won't even try as they are literally impossible without that slim possibility of the opponent rolling low at the same time I roll high. It eliminates those “hail mary” desperate rolls.SAGA tries to get around the “it takes only one Stealth failure to give away the entire group” issue by formalizing the party roles of Sentry and Scout. Do you think this is a good solution? Do you have an alternate way to handle things you would prefer? Do you like it? Not like it? Why?
I like that they identified this common problem and attempted to solve it (which is more than most games do), and I think it works at first pass. But I have concerns about it from a general design philosophy standpoint, as I tend to dislike systems that let players get away with hyper-specializing and then allowing only the best person at a given task to ever roll it. To me it makes things feel hollow and takes a lot of the hard choices out of character creation (if you have a stealth guy, no need for anyone else to take stealth).
That being said I absolutely acknowledge that the party all-or-nothing way stealth is usually handled is untenable. I'm not saying go back to that.
I'm not sure what the alternative is, but I have some ideas. I think the simplest one isn't really an official mechanic, but a change to the default way of running these encounters. Just stop making it all or nothing. If some party members fail and some succeed on a stealth roll, just let the party members who succeeded get a surprise round, and then everyone else acts normally.
Something else I've been doing in my D&D games recently is also not an official mechanic but more of a rule of thumb for setting difficulty. When I set my DCs/target numbers for skill checks, I often default to the following baselines:
In SAGA your hand is both your luck and your HP. What do you think of this? What about it do you like or dislike? Why?
- If everyone rolls, and the party will fail if any one member fails, use a “very easy” DC (or two notches easier than it would normally be). Ex. party stealth rolls.
If a random person is nominated to roll, and things fail if they fail (Or if everyone rolls individually and suffers their own consequences) use an average DC. Ex. Springing a trap, a perception roll on a random person's watch, endurance rolls to survive the elements
If the party can nominate their best person and the parties success or failure depends on that roll, use a hard DC (or one step harder than normal). Ex. most tracking and survival rolls.
If everyone rolls and the party succeeds if anyone succeeds, use a “very hard” DC (Or two steps harder than normal). Ex. Party perception rolls, most knowledge or lore rolls.
Generally bad. I think as a mechanic it's more cute than it is functional. On it's face it seems elegant, it uses the cards that are already there, it's a clever little mechanic. But it makes an uber-stat even more uber, and it makes getting a good hand even better and a bad hand even worse.