Sagas of Midgard!
Sagas of Midgard is another d100 system. They [Drinking Horn Games] refer to it as a Roll Over system. The core mechanic is nice and simple. The GM sets the target number taking into account any difficulty factors and the players roll the dice and add any bonuses they can muster. Roll over the target number for success, roll under for failure.
In combat they have a 01-05 critical failure and a 96-00 critical success, although this does not apply to skills.
I suspect that Sagas grew out of a set of simplified house rules for a d20 system, but this is not a D&D retro clone by any standards.
What I like about the system is the ‘sources of competency’. In Rolemaster we have Racial bonuses and DPs, culture ranks and then multiple levels worth of development. I would like to see changes but in principle I like the onion skin of race, culture, training.
Sagas of Midgard uses lots of cultural references to build the onion skin of your character. You start with your family name, each family comes with a long tradition or culture. If you are Erik Battleborn you get a bonus to melee combat. Erik Gunnarsson would get a bonus to strength based skill tests. For each bonus there is a related downside that we would recognise as a Flaw in Rolemaster speak.
Once you have your family name you get to choose a title. Each title confirs skill bonuses or special abilities that we would recognise as Talents. In the core rules there is a fair selection but I imagine that future supplements will add plenty of new titles.
The bonuses conferred from your family and title will typically add up to two or three +10 to +15 bonuses which can stack if you are trying to build a one trick pony or a PC.
Now you get to choose your god. Your god confers more bonuses and special abilities. These increase as your character improves over time. There are no levels, you are awarded skill points for heroic play and a running total of all the skill points earned by a character is used as a measure of your gods favour.
The next step is to spend your skill points. Starting characters get 15 skill points. It is the god you follow that sets your skill point costs. A follow of Thor gets cheaper combat skill costs as well as unique abilities they can by with axe and hammer.
A follower of Loki gains bonuses to dodging and a range of poison related skills.
Each god has a range of combat and magical skills available and they typically cost 5, 10 or 15 skill points so you get to choose either three minor abilities, one powerful ability or a 10 and a 5 point ability.
You now equip your character, give it a description and you are ready to play. You will note that there are no stats in all of this. My first character took 8 minutes to create if you exclude the reading time as it was the first time I had seen the rules.
As it is a player choice and point buy system you are guaranteed to get the character you want.
Criticals and Failures
Sagas of Midgard has some rather simple critical hit and failure tables. There are only half a dozen entries on each one but a nice touch is that at each level you have options such as dealing more damage OR knocking your foe prone. So although there are not many entries on the table they can play out differently and they increase player agency.
Monsters, foes and potential allies are also dealt with in a clean and simple way. Each entry in the bestiary has a base rollover number for its attacks, a total number of hits and then a short list of special actions or attacks. A Beorn for example has a base rollover to attack of 60, 20 hit points and can use either two claw attacks, a bite attack, a bear hug or go berserk. Each attack is fully described in terms of game mechanics.
All in all Sagas of Midgard is a single 178 page rulebook. You get character generation, a couple of magical traditions, bestiary and a really strong setting. What you also get are four fully developed adventures. Fully 20% of the entire rule book is devoted to starting adventures.
Each adventure is designed to least two sessions. As most groups of players seem to struggle to meet even once a week the starting adventures are going to keep you playing for a couple of months without any fleshing out or expansion.
I think that is a lesson that RMu could learn. Of course RMu wants to be a generic system for any fantasy world but lots of playable content from day one is a good thing. Sagas is heavily tied to the one setting, one world, one culture. That makes life easier for the developers. Having said that, their single mechanic could easily be turned to any setting. I think they are trading off the cool culture of the Vikings but a Dynasty of Pharaohs game would work just as easily or even a Gods of Olympus.
If you wanted to play RMu in a Viking setting then converting from Sagas to RMu would be a breeze. It seems like multiply everything by 1.5 and you are in the ballpark of RMu’s OBs and #hits. As these are both d100 systems a +10 or +20 just carries right across. If you wanted viking traditions, culture, the gods and their magic then Sagas of Midgard would be quite fun to play. If you just want a detailed drop in viking culture then I guess the HARN Jarin supplement would also serve, but wouldn’t be as much fun.