Saga Rules

Saga Rules

What follows are notes for using the mechanic from TSR’s out of print Saga mechanic (a nice simple card-based mechanic). Now you can play Risus without any dice, just a deck (or two) of cards.

Creating Your Character

Guess what, nothing has changed here. Create your character exactly as you would using the main Risus rules (or whatever agreed upon variations you are using). However, there is one additional step. Your GM will need to tell you what your default Edge and Handsize are.

Edge and Handsize

Edge is a rough way to say how much experience you have (i.e. if you can edge out your competition). Edge is a numerical value from 1 to 4. 1 represents an inexperienced hero, and a 4 represents a greatly experienced hero. Edge comes into play during resolution. It is recommended that players start out with an Edge of 2.

Handsize is a representation of how many cards are in your hand at any given time (barring any injury). It is directly tied to your Edge: Handsize = Edge + 2. If you have an Edge of 2, you have a Handsize of 4.

Building A Deck

All you need to use this is a deck (or two, or more) of cards. Just take out all of the jokers and the face cards (i.e. keep A-10 for all suits; Aces count as 1). Deal cards out to the players up to their Handsize. The rest of the deck becomes the draw pile. For a more complicated deck, refer to Deck Breakdown.

Trump Bonus: Using the Deck to Encourage Roleplaying

The GM should map 3 of the suits to broad action styles. The recommended approach is: Clubs are physical actions; Hearts are social actions; Diamonds are other actions; and Spades are GM Payback. Feel free to modify these actions to meet the needs of your group (i.e. Diamonds represent magic actions in a Sword and Sorcery campaign). The card you play on your turn may turn into a Trump Bonus later.

A Note About GM Payback

GM Payback represents cards that, when played, do not go to a normal discard pile. Instead, these cards move to the GMs “hand”. These cards can be played by the GM at any time to make things more difficult for the players.

Actions Against a Target Number

The basic resolution mechanic is play a card from your hand, add it to your appropriate cliché rating, and see if you’ve won. Nice and straight forward, but there are some twists.

Applying Edge

If the value of the card you play is equal to or lower than your Edge score, you may play another card from your hand. If you have an Edge of 3 and play a 2 of Clubs, you can also play another card and add it to your total. This continues until you play a card that is higher than your Edge score or you run out of cards in your hand.

Trump Bonus

If the suit of the card that you play matches up with the type of action you are performing, you may flip the next card from the draw pile and add it to your score. If the card you flip is also of the same suit, you flip the next card as well. This continues until the suit no longer applies (but you do keep the total from the last card and every card in between).

Let’s say you need to scale over a fence to get away from a dog in the junk yard. The GM determines that the difficulty for this is a 10 for your weekend warrior (3) cliché (the dog has rabbies). Your hand is a 4C 3S 2H. Since this is a physical action, you play your 4C – this gets you to a 7, but since Clubs is a trump suit for physical actions, you can flip the next card on the draw pile. You flip over a 2C. Still only a 9, but since it was a Club, you can flip the next card (a 5H), and add it to your total: now you have a 14, more than enough to make it.

Combining Edge and Trump Bonus

In the last example, you could have played your 2H, which being equal to the default Edge of 2H would mean you could have played another card from your hand also. Playing the 4C, you would have a total of 9, and then thanks to the trump bonus, you’d get the next card from the deck (in this case, you’d succeed no matter what).

Applying GM Payback

At the GMs whim, he can decide to play any (and all) card(s) he’s collected from players playing a Spade. The total of the cards he plays is automatically added to the difficulty of an action. Your success can suddenly turn into dismal failure.

Pumping Clichés

Pumping a cliché makes it so that the card that you play from your hand is doubled in value. If you are pumping a double pumped cliché, the card you play is doubled, plus you get to add the value of the next card from the draw pile.

However, if you pump your cliché, you do not get to redraw the card at the end of the round, it is lost until such time as the GM has determined you’ve “healed up.”

Refilling Your Hand

After you have completed your action (either successfully or not), you replenish your hand back to your initial Handsize (minus any cards lost due to pumping).

Single Action Conflicts & Full Combat

Single action conflicts and full combat really works in much the same way as an action against a target number. However, the default target number is the rank of the cliché that your opponent is using plus the GM will flip the top card from the draw pile and add it to the value. So if you are fighting a Ninja: 4, and the GM flips the 8 of Hearts, you are going up against a 12.

Opponents and Trump

If the card that the GM flips for the round is of the appropriate trump, he will also flip the next card (until there a non-trump card is flipped). If that Ninja 4 had flipped a 8 of Clubs in your martial arts extravaganza, he would flip the next card as well. If he got a 4 of Hearts, you’d be facing a difficulty of 18.


If the opponent loses the round, their cliché rank is dropped by one. Once the opponent gets to zero, the players win.

If the player loses the round, their hand size is dropped by 1 (or more if they were pumping) for the remainder of the fight. If they get to zero cards, they are out of the fight.