Trying to nail down the fundamental premises/design goals of Sagatafl - Page 2 (2024)

Peter Knutsen


Join Date: Oct 2007

Location: Europe

Trying to nail down the fundamental premises/design goals of Sagatafl - Page 2 (1)Re: Trying to nail down the fundamental premises/design goals of Sagatafl


Originally Posted by whswhs

Well, obviously I disagree with this one.

I'm not just one more player in the campaigns I run. On one hand, I'm a practitioner of the art of creating interesting and original fictional worlds for my players to explore; they won't necessarily know what's going to happen ahead of time, and that's part of the appeal. On the other hand, I have the task of creating situations where my players can best exercise their own creativity—and that's an art, too; it can't be handled by impersonal rules. Being good at those two things is why I have more loyal players than I have time to run games for.

For character creation, in particular, any system that's powerful enough to give players a rich choice of character concepts has the potential to let them make suboptimal choices that will frustrate them. The GM's job includes helping to avoid such choices.

Sure, but part of the reason for why Sagatafl has such complex character creation is to make character concepts reasonable that in other systems would be unreasonable.

For instance, I once read a second-hand report about a player new to GURPS, who made a warrior character with DX 10 (average) and lots of points in combat skills.

That was the player's character concept, a character born with average dexterity but lots of training.

GURPS screwed that player over.

Sagatafl won't. If a player wants to make a character with Dexterity 3 and Agility 3, and lots and lots of SP in combat skills, then that'll work surprisingly well for the player.

If the formulae are right, then such a character will, over time, and provided the campaign isn't extremely short or extremely long, be balanced with a player character made heavy on the Attributes and light on the Skills. Those two characters will be (roughly) balanced with each other, yet very different from each other. They'll have a very different feel. The differences will be visible to the other characters around them, in the world.

Various degrees of playtesting, culminating in full-on long-term campaign usage, will determine whether the formulae are right or not. The odds of them being right are low, but if round to be un-right then the formulae can be tweaked. The function to convert Goodie Points to Skill Points is easy to modify, once it has been determined whether it is too generous or too miserly.

Also note that I'm not against GMs giving advice to players. I'm against GMs saying "no" to players. The word "no" really has very little place in RPG systems with point-based character creation. Hard caps are almost always wrong, with soft caps (using some form of non-linear cost escalation, similar to GURPS' concept of UB, Unusual Background) almost always being preferable.

The most legitimate "no", perhaps the only legitimate "no", comes from the mouth of the person wearing the worldbuilder's hat, not from the person wearing the GM's hat (even though those two are almost always the same person). A "no" in the form of:
"no, in this world, Ärth, it is impossible for Humans to be born with Primary Attributes higher than 9. You cannot be Will 10. Or if you really want to, you can make a Dwarf. They can be Will 10. But being a Dwarf has other consequences as well, as detailed in their Species Package, and also of course keeping in mind that Ärth is a very Human-dominated world. You'll attract lots of attention. Most Christians (but not Moslems) who discover that you're not Human (which is usually a low RD Perception(Vision) roll) will regard you as a soul-less being. Will 9 is already very, very high, making you about one-in-a-billion."

In Sagatafl, it is fundamentally illegitimate for the GM to "want" players to not create characters with Will 9, Intelligence 9, Intelligence 8, Perception 9, Charisma 9, et cetera.

The only way to achieve that is to remove the GMing hat, put on the world-building hat, and issue a statement about the world to the effect that in this particular world, for some not-necessarily-specified reason, Humans cannot be born with Primary Attributes higher than 8. Or 7, or 6, although I'd consider a world cap of 7 to be unreasonable.

Both Leonardo of Vinci and Gerbert of Aurillac are historical examples of Intelligence 9 polymaths, they're real, they're realistic, and I ascribe great value to players being able to approximate such characters and to subsequently be able to simulate them objectively.

Other RPG systems may have real or imagined problems with players choosing to create characters with a high attribute. GURPS 3rd Edition was rife with this. Many 3E GMs balked at the idea of a player making a DX 20 or IQ 20 character, and with good reason. 3E was badly designed.

Sagatafl is designed explicitly to enable players to decide to build a character around a high-Attribute concept without this causing concern or resentment in a reasonable GM or in reasonable fellow players. It's a better design, in this regard (and many others, too).


Originally Posted by whswhs

Actually, on this one, yes. One of the key moments in my gaming career, back in the nineties, was my decision to stop writing my own rules systems and play in published games.

That's not what I meant.

Any GM switches between hats.

I'm simply saying that most GMs do so in a thoughtless fashion. They're not aware of the hats. They're not aware of which one of the three hats they're wearing when they make decisions.

Wielding direct power feels good. There's something addictive about it. I consider indirect power, rule by law rather than rule by decree, to be superior. Intellectually superior, and less likely to cause moral corruption.


Originally Posted by whswhs

But also no. The game does not require a world creator. Specific games, including many fantasy games, some science fiction, and all alternate history, depend on this. But the various realistic genres don't; and it's debatable whether this is needed for genres such as supers or urban fantasy, whose central trope is "something fantastic in our everyday world."

Even in a realistic genre, as soon as you introduce high-competence individuals (individuals worth more than about 120 GP are very rare, but of course I am extremely hostile to the notion that rarity is valid grounds for denying a player things) you need to take into account how their presence affects important in-world organizations.

For instance, the intelligence agency (or agencies - more fun if they have multiple) of the Arabic Caliphate on Ärth.

Historically, the 10th century Moslems had something at least vaguely like that. But extremely competent individuals seem to not have been field operatives or analysts there. At least I've not really heard about any such things. You'd think there'd be the occasional spy, at least an amateur one-time spy, with very high Intelligence, Perception, Will or Charisma (or Dexterity), or a very high Skill, but I have no awareness of that from history.

Using Sagatafl, such individuals are almost guaranteed to crop up. The players might make them. Even if they don't (e.g. if they vote for 80 or 100 or 120 GP budgets) the system to some extent encourages the GM to at least make a few high-competence individuals.

So that's something you need to extrapolate, and the proper way to do that is while wearing the worldbuilder's hat.

As for the "impact-less-novum" worlds that you talk about, "super heroes" and "urban fantasy", I tend to think of those as not really being compatible with Sagatafl's mindset. Sagatafl's mindset, reflecting my mindset (the same way it reflects my "model of people, my model of individual differences and their consequences"), is that you must extrapolate from the premises. For instance if vampires exist, then that is a premise, and it's not proper to not extrapolate from that premise, striving to reach a conclusion that has at least some intellectual validity.

I do find some super hero or urban fantasy fiction enjoyable, but I can't help thinking that it'd have been even more enjoyable if it had dropped the impact-less-novum tradition.

Trying to nail down the fundamental premises/design goals of Sagatafl - Page 2 (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Trent Wehner

Last Updated:

Views: 5817

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Trent Wehner

Birthday: 1993-03-14

Address: 872 Kevin Squares, New Codyville, AK 01785-0416

Phone: +18698800304764

Job: Senior Farming Developer

Hobby: Paintball, Calligraphy, Hunting, Flying disc, Lapidary, Rafting, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Trent Wehner, I am a talented, brainy, zealous, light, funny, gleaming, attractive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.