The Watcher’s Options Guide

Rules Options and Expansions for Marvel Super Heroes

I am Uatu, whom some call the Watcher. It is my duty to observe and record the events of the universe without interfering. In all events, both cosmic and seemingly mundane, there are infinite possibilities. Consider with me some of those possibilities in another universe, where the adventures of heroes and the schemes of villains are merely a game…

Greetings and welcome to the Watcher’s Option Guide, an unofficial resource for players and Narrators of the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game. You should have a copy of at least the Marvel Game Book in order to use this supplement.

This Guide provides optional rules, variants, and rule expansions for the Marvel game. Narrators can feel free to use any, all, or none of the optional systems presented here. Some of the options add a bit more complexity to the SAGA game system, but an effort has been made to keep the expansions and options as simple as possible, in keeping with the fast-paced spirit of the Marvel game.

The Legal StuffThe Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game and the SAGA game rules are © Wizards of the Coast, Inc. This material is not intended as any infringement on that copyright.


Fighting Ability

The standard SAGA game rules use Strength for melee combat actions. Another option is to add a Fighting ability that represents the character’s raw skill in hand-to-hand combat. Fighting trumps using Green (Strength) cards, and allows characters to differ in fighting ability and strength. Combat- and weapon-related Strength skills become Fighting skills instead. [by Stephen Kenson]


Description Examples


Incapable of fighting Infants, small animals


No training or ability Children, the elderly


Normal human ability Professor X, Mastermind


Minimal combat training Vindicator, Dr. Octopus


Some formal training Hawkeye, Police officers


Regular, formal combat training Most X-Men, Soldiers


Superior talent Spider-Man, She Hulk


Extensive training and talent Nick Fury


Superior talent and training Wolverine


Maximum human potential Captain America, Shang-Chi


Super-human ability Warriors of Asgard


Otherworldly Odin, the Champion


Cosmic Death, Eternity

Unfolded Abilities

The four abilities used in Marvel (Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Willpower) represent the minimum needed to describe a character. It’s possible to “unfold” these abilities, breaking them into more specific sub-abilities, if desired. This allows a degree of “fine-tuning” in terms of describing the character. Unfolded abilities still belong to the same trump suit and use trump normally. Ambitious Narrators can create their own Fate Deck, with additional suits to accommodate expanded abilities (similar to the nine suit Fate Deck from Dragonlance: Fifth Age).

One example of unfolding the basic abilities might be: Strength and Stamina (muscle-power vs. endurance), Agility and Dexterity (nimbleness vs. precision), Intellect andPerception (analysis vs. noticing things), and Willpower and Presence (self-confidence vs. force of personality). If using unfolded abilities, increase the number of cards or points available at character creation to account for the additional abilities players must spend points on. [by Stephen Kenson]


Changing Trump Suits

In the standard SAGA rules, powers have trump suits already assigned to them. Narrators who wish to do so can allow players to change the trump suits for their heroes’ powers if it suits the hero’s concept. Making all of a hero’s powers the same trump suit has its advantages and disadvantages. There is only one suit of cards that the hero can use to trump on nearly any power action, but the hero is likely to get fewer trumps than heroes with a diverse range of trumps for their powers. [by Stephen Kenson]


Fast Exit

If both combatants have the Fast Exit skill, the benefits of the skill are effectively cancelled out for both combatants. The skill is also effectively cancelled if the opponent has a super-speed power, such as Lightning Speed or Flight (if actually in flight), with a higher Intensity than the character’s Agility. [by Thomas M. Costa]

Graded Skills

The default assumption in SAGA is that skills always reduce the difficulty of an action by one level. If desired, Narrators can allow for multi-level Skills that reduce difficulties by more than one level (although never to less than automatic). Additional “levels” in a skill cost the same as adding another skill at character creation. It is recommended that Graded Skills be limited to no more than three levels, and that they not be allowed to reduce the Opposition Ability of the action, only the base difficulty. So a level 2 skill would change an average Strength (Strength) action to an automatic action, but it wouldn’t reduce the value of the opposing Strength ability. [by Stephen Kenson]

Finely-Graded Skills

The Narrator may permit players to buy skills that reduce difficulties by a variable amount rather than 4 points (one difficulty level). For example a character may have Acrobatics -2, which reduces the difficulty of Acrobatics actions by 2 points, and Observation -5, which reduces the difficulty of Observation actions by 5 points. In this case, skills cost one “skill slot” per 4 points of difficulty reduction, and players may divide up their Skill points however they wish. This option does add a degree of complexity to skill use and resolution, however. [by Stephen Kenson]

Perception Skills

The standard Marvel rules place perception-based Skills like Observation under the Willpower ability and perception-based powers like Enhanced Senses are likewise Willpower-based. If the Narrator prefers these Skills and abilities can be based on Intellect instead (or the Intellect sub-ability of Perception). [by Stephen Kenson]


Narrators can differentiate between skills (learned abilities) and talents (inherent knacks or abilities). In this case, characters may have up to four skills and four talents per ability (or the Narrator may choose to limit heroes to a combinations of no more than four skills/talents per Ability). Talents cost the same as skills and can only be Master- or World-Class if they require an action. Some sample talents are described here. Narrators may wish to expand this list in games focusing on characters without powers. [by Stephen Kenson]

Strength Talents

  • Hyper-Breath and Sonic Slam from the Marvel Game Book.
  • Immunity: You are Invulnerable to the effects of one specific poison or disease.
  • Longevity: You are extremely long lived, but do not show any appreciable signs of aging. No matter how old you are, you always look and feel like a person half your age.

Agility Talents

  • Contingent Attack, Fast Exit, and Ricochet from the Marvel Game Book.
  • Ambidexterity: You can use tools and weapons with either hand at no penalty (normally +1 level of difficulty for using off-hand).
  • Blind Fighting: You can counterattack in hand to hand combat with no negative modifiers for being unable to see your opponent, provided they attack you first.
  • Double Jointed: You can bend your limbs and joints far more than most people. You can fit into any space equal to half your height and width and actions involving flexibility (like Escape Artistry) are one level easier for you.

Intellect Talents

  • Photographic Memory and Scientific Genius from the Marvel Game Book.
  • Common Sense: You always look before you leap; the Narrator must give you warning whenever you’re about to do something particularly foolish, even if there are no perceptible clues present. He doesn’t have to specify the danger, just that “this might not be a smart idea…”
  • Intuition: You have an uncanny feel for hunches; the Narrator can have you make an Intellect action whenever he thinks you might get a hunch, even if there are no perceptible clues present.
  • Lightning Calculator: You can do complex mathematical operations in your head without using any aids.
  • Musical Talent: You always know if something’s in tune, and all musically related actions are one level easier for you.
  • Speed Reader: You can read one page of any normal text in three seconds (you can read a 200 page book in 10 minutes).
  • Time Sense: You always know what time it is, and how much time has elapsed between the present and the last time you checked.

Willpower Talents

  • Trance from the Marvel Game Book.
  • Animal Empathy: Animals like you; they will never harm or attack you unless severely provoked. You always seem to attract whatever animals are common to the area, and they will immediately gravitate to your side, although they may not necessarily do what you ask them to. Actions involving animals are one level easier for you.
  • Attractive: You are very good looking; people stop and stare at you when you pass, and you are generally surrounded by admirers. Willpower actions involving your looks are one level easier for you.
  • Direction Sense: You are never lost, always know where north is, and can orient yourself easily without any external cues.
  • Light Sleeper: You wake instantly from even the lightest touch or smallest sound (no action required).
  • Night Vision: You can see normally in all but absolute darkness.
  • Popularity: The character is extremely revered by the public. The difficulty of any persuasion attempt is made at one degree less than normal. If the character has a secret identity, this advantage only applies to the one that is popular (usually the heroic identity). Captain America has this advantage in the United States. [by Greg Kerner]

Unlimited Skills

Characters are normally limited to a maximum of four skills per ability. You can choose to waive this limitation, allowing characters to have as many skills as they can afford. However, the Narrator must keep a careful eye on skill choices to keep characters with lots of skills from making the game less fun for everyone else. [by Stephen Kenson]


New Hindrances

Bad Press: The character has a bad reputation which causes others, including law enforcement agencies and other heroes to mistake him for a villain. The hero’s Willpower is considered 0 when attempting to use persuasion against anyone without firsthand experience of the hero’s good deeds. [by Greg Kerner]

Bruiser: A bruiser has an Agility of 0 when attempting to avoid being hit. This is intended for use with the Agility to hit or Fighting ability. [by Greg Kerner]

Robotic Body: The character’s body is a machine and does not heal normally. A character with a Robotic Body can only be healed by someone possessing the repair skill. Repairing damage is an easy Intellect (damage sustained) action. [by Greg Kerner]


Quirks are minor personality and background traits that help to define a character, but don’t really impose any kind of hindrance, things like Ben Grimm’s battle cry of “It’s cloberrin’ time!”, the way the Human Torch always says “Flame On!” when he activates his powers, or J. Jonah Jameson’s ever-present stogie. If the Narrator allows, players can gain an extra point for their character by defining five quirks for them. It can be more, but it should be at least five distinct things to be worth a point (which they can use to gain an additional skill or another point of attribute or power intensity, excactly as if they had an additional 1 card). [by Stephen Kenson]


Nihilist*: The character seeks the complete destruction of political and social institutions. Mass murder and wide scale destruction are considered legitimate means to achieving these goals as is the creation of utter of chaos and panic. [by Greg Kerner]

Psychopath*: The character commits evil acts such as murder out of an inability to discern right from wrong due to either insanity or twisted moral code. [by Greg Kerner]


On most occasions, you won’t care if a hero has money. The Marvel game doesn’t concern itself with accumulation of treasure or economic accomplishment overly much. Nevertheless, there may be a need at times for a better and fairer gauge of a hero or villain’s access to resources and base wealth. In this way, wealth is treated much like a skill, one in which you may have normal level (a.k.a. Comfortable), Master-Class level (a.k.a. Rich), or World-Class level (Mega-Rich). In addition, a new hindrance is described below that details another Wealth level, Destitute.

  • Destitute: Your hero has no possessions except the ragged clothing on his back and perhaps his weapons. The hero cannot assume he or she has even the simplest of necessities, even food and shelter. Moreover, he or she has no job and for various reasons seems unemployable. The hero has a 0 Willpower for all Wealth actions. This Wealth level is considered a Hindrance. Exemplars: Cloak & Dagger, the Morlocks, Vermin.
  • Comfortable: Your hero has access to any basic good he or she needs. Your hero is assumed to have access to the basic necessities of life, such food, clothing, and shelter, and most likely, a form of common transportation. This is the basic Wealth level assumed for all heroes. The hero uses Willpower for all Wealth actions. Exemplars: Captain America, Cyclops, Spider-Man.
  • Rich: Your hero is a millionaire. He or she is able to afford almost any normal item he or she desires, from boats and planes to mansions and small businesses. The hero gains a one difficulty rating reduction and two trump suits (Intellect and Willpower) for all Wealth actions. Exemplars: Archangel, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, Wasp.
  • Mega-Rich: Your hero is a billionaire. He or she is able to afford almost anything he or she can imagine from Concord Jets to own islands, from advanced weaponry to small armies. The hero gains a one difficulty rating reduction and four trump suits (any non-Doom) for all Wealth actions. Exemplars: Annihilus, Dr. Doom, Mandarin.

The Narrator can mandate a Wealth action for a hero to get something of value. This is usually only done when it is questionable whether or not the hero could gain access to the item. This action uses Willpower as its base ability with the difficulty set according to an average person’s ability to afford the item. (A suitable table is available on p. 127 of Reed Richard’s Guide to Everything.) Why Willpower, you might ask? Because Wealth checks are only necessary in questionable circumstances and Willpower represents both the hero’s charm and determination, perhaps the two most important abilities any person seeking something can have.

A successful use of the Finance skill, will further reduce the difficulty rating by one additional level. Other Willpower-based skills, such as Manipulation or Politics, with the Narrator’s approval, might also be used to reduce the difficulty rating instead of the Finance skill, but not in addition to the Finance skill. It should also be pointed out that the Finance skill provides an understanding of business and economics and is used to get the upper hand in a business situation. It is the art of maintaining and making Wealth, not of the Wealth itself.

Toward that end, the Narrator can force occasional Wealth actions to keep fortunes intact. The Narrator devises a potential economic setback ­ a robbery, a natural disaster, a market crash, or the like ­ and sets an intensity for it. The player must then make a challenging Willpower action (note this one difficulty level higher than described in Reed Richard’s Guide) opposed by the intensity of the setback. The Narrator can add the value of the narrator card as well if the setback is one that should be somewhat random in its impact. The Narrator should keep in mind that, just as in the comics, such setbacks are usually short-term in nature.

You can make your hero’s Wealth level Rich when creating your own hero by taking a non-Doom card with a value of 5 or more that has not already been played and turning it face-down. Similarly, your hero’s Wealth level can be Mega-Rich by taking a non-Doom card with a value of 7 or more. Finally, your hero’s Wealth level can be Destitute by choosing it as if it were any other Hindrance. A hero’s Wealth level can be denoted on the character sheet just below Calling and Hindrances. [by Thomas M. Costa]


Conflicting Trumps

When more than one trump could apply to a situation due to the presence of powers, skills, and equipment with conflicting trump suits, apply the following rules. (Note, this most often occurs with offensive powers, skills, and equipment, such as the power Energy Blast, Strength-based skills that allow for the hurling of melee weapons such as Hammers, the offensive Agility-based skills such as Marksmanship, and equipment such as blasters.)

Power action/trump suits generally supercede skill action/trump suits and skill action/trump suits generally supercede equipment action/trump suits. However, particularly complex equipment, such as powered armor and most equipment that mimics non-offensive Intellect- and Willpower-based powers ­ this is a Narrator call ­ is treated as if it were a power and not equipment.

Note, “damage” or effect is still dependent on the Ability plus cardplay plus weapon “+” bonus or the power or equipment intensity plus cardplay, as appropriate.

This can yield the following examples:

  • If a character has the Energy Blast (Intellect-based) power and the Marksmanship (Agility-based) skill, power trumps skill, thus the character uses his Energy Blast power intensity for his action and Intellect suit for his trump suit, but still applies the benefits of Marksmanship.
  • Conversely, if a character has the Marksmanship (Agility-based) skill and a blaster (Intellect-based), skill trumps equipment, thus the character uses his Agility for his action/trump suit, applying the benefits of Marksmanship. Damage in this case is either the character’s Agility plus cardplay and weapon bonus or the blaster’s intensity plus cardplay, as appropriate.
  • If a character wants to throw his hammer (Agility-based when thrown) and has the Hammers (Strength-based) skill, skill trumps equipment, thus the character uses his Strength and the Strength suit for his action/trump suit, applying the benefits of the skill and the weapons damage bonus. Note, the character can still choose to throw the hammer with his Agility, but he does not gain the benefits of his skill and damage is based off of his Agility. Moreover, characters without the Hammers skill are limited to throwing the hammer with their Agility.
  • However, if a character is keeping watch (Willpower-based) with nightvision goggles (Intellect-based) and has the Observation (Willpower-based) skill, the goggles are treated as a power and power trumps skill, he uses his goggle intensity and the Intellect suit for his action/trump suit.

Note: the equipment trump for some items becomes largely meaningless, as in the case of a blaster, for example. [by Thomas M. Costa]

Pushing to the Limit

Pushing Out of Combat: Pushing out of combat presents a unique problem, given the recovery rules (Game Book, p. 37-41) in Marvel. Effectively, there are no consequences to pushing to the limit out of combat. Consequently, if a player pushes a card “out-of-combat” that card cannot be returned to the player’s hand for two aura durations. This makes pushing “out-of-combat” a less desirable, more desperate action. [by Thomas M. Costa]

Limited Pushing: Heroes can only Push to the Limit a number of times equal to their Edge score in a single adventure. This way, heroes save their pushes for truly dramatic moments. [by Kevin Maschler]

Trading Cards

Players are normally expected to play the card hands they are dealt and the cards the draw from the Fate Deck. However, the Narrator may allow players to trade cards between them on occasion, allowing them to optimize their hands and improve their chances of succeeding at some actions. Generally, this sort of card trading shouldn’t be allowed all the time, since it does give the heroes more of an edge.

The best reason to allow for card trading is when the heroes are using teamwork. If a player comes up with a plan of action that includes the other heroes and makes anaverage Willpower action (Leadership reduces the difficulty to easy) then the players can trade cards in their hands one-for-one before playing cards to determine the success of the plan. A hero not involved in the plan cannot take part in the card-trading, and cards must be traded on a one-for-one basis (although they can be of any suit or value). [by Stephen Kenson]


Ability-based Actions

The standard SAGA rules use power intensity when performing actions using a power. For example, a character with Energy Blast uses the power’s intensity in an easy Energy Blast (Agility) action to determine if he hits. In this option, characters use the appropriate ability (Agility for ranged attacks, Willpower for mental powers) to determine if the power affects the target. For damaging Powers, the character adds the amount he beat the to-hit difficulty to the Power’s intensity to determine damage. For other Powers, the character makes a normal action to determine the Power’s effect, such as an easy Mind Control (Willpower) action after successfully “hitting” with a Mind Control attack. Like Agility-based Combat (below) this option adds a degree of complexity to combat, and may slow things down a bit. [by Stephen Kenson]

Agility-based Combat

In the SAGA system, Strength is used for melee combat actions and Agility is used for ranged combat actions. This tends to grant a certain degree of combat ability to strong characters. One option is adding a Fighting Ability (see Abilities), another is to base all combat actions off Agility. Melee combat skills remain Strength Skills, but Agility is used to hit in melee combat (basically as if every character had the Bruiser Hindrance from the Marvel Game Book). Melee combat actions still trump using the Strength suit rather than the Agility suit. Add the amount the character beat the to-hit difficulty to Strength to determine damage. This adds a degree of complexity to combat and weakens strong characters slightly while providing a bonus to more agile characters. Characters with the Martial Arts skill can choose whether they wish to use Strength or Agility to determine damage, and can trump using either suit. [by Stephen Kenson]

Initiative & Declaration

Step two of any battle, involves declaration and hero actions.

“Before declaring actions, the players may spend a few seconds crafting strategies or comparing notes on how the various parts of the fight are going. You can ask the Narrator to describe what your heroes see and feel; you may also have your heroes move around, switch foes, or duck behind a trashcan.

“Still, the Marvel game is fast-paced, and there’s only so much a hero can do in one exchange.

“The players go around the table describing the actions their heroes will attempt.” The order in which the heroes declare their actions is determined by their Intellect score, with the hero with the lowest Intellect score declaring first and then the next lowest and so on. (Ties are broken by having the hero with the lower Agility declaring first. Further ties are broken by Edge.) Some skills and powers allow for other factors to determine the hero’s declaration order instead of his Intellect score, such as the skills Aerial Combat and Underwater Combat, which both allow the hero to use his Agility score instead of his Intellect score to determine declaration order. Declaration order allows for smarter characters to anticipate the actions of dumber characters.

“Once the descriptions are given, you attempt the action.” The order in which the heroes take actions is determined by the heroes’ Agility score, with the higher Agility score going first and then the next highest and so on. (Ties occur simultaneously.) Some skills and powers allow for other factors to determine the hero’s action order instead of his Agility score, such as the power Lightning Speed, which allows the hero to use his Lightning Speed (or other movement power when actually in use, such as a flying character actually in flight) intensity instead of their Agility score to determine action order. Action order allows for faster characters to act before slower characters. [by Thomas M. Costa]


Lifting is an average Strength action. For each intensity point above your strength that an object weighs, increase the difficulty by 1 level. For each point an object weighs below your strength, subtract 2 points from the difficulty. [by Greg Kerner]

Touch Attacks

Touch attacks need some clarification. There are characters such as Jolt, who punches foes with her Energy Blast, or Psylocke, who used to use her Martial Arts to deliver her Psionic Blast. These attacks are called concurrent attacks and handled as follows:

1. Touching someone is an Automatic action (0). If the hero has a skill or ability that makes an attack Automatic, touching is even easier, effectively granting the hero a +4 bonus. The hero may also opt to attack their opponent to deliver their touch-based attack. Of course, the touch-based attack is dependent on the touch or blow hitting its target.

2. If the attack hits, the hero handles the physical attack as normal (a touch does not cause physical damage).

3. The hero then handles the concurrent attack of the touch-based power, which automatically hit, as if it were a completely separate attack, with card-play also handled as normal. [by Thomas M. Costa]

Example: Say Jolt (Strength 6X, Agility 11D, Edge 1, Hand Size 3; Energy Blast 12 [Limit: Touch only]) is fighting Flag Smasher (Strength 7D, Agility 4C, Edge 1, Health 17; Body Armor +2). Jolt has a 6 of Intellect, 9 of Willpower, and 8 of Doom. The Narrator’s card is a 6 of Willpower. Jolt, as the hero with a much higher Agility, attacks first (an easy action). She plays her 9W for a total attack of 15. Flag-Smasher dodges with the 6W for a total of 14 (Agility 4 + 6W + 4 action difficulty). Not good enough. Flag-Smasher is looking at 15 points of damage minus his Strength and Body Armor total of 9. He takes 6 points of damage and is down to 11. Then Jolt redraws for the 6W, getting a 5 of Doom ­ not much help. Jolt then handles the concurrent Energy Blast attack, playing the 6I to give her trump. The trump gets her a 7 of Strength for a whopping total of 25. Flag-Smasher is going to hurt. He deducts his 9 points of defense, bringing his total damage from the Energy Blast to 16, more than enough to take him out. Jolt redraws to replace the 6I.

Another example might be a grudge match between Psylocke (Strength 6C, Agility 8B, Edge 2, Hand Size 4; Martial Arts; Psionic Blast [Limit: Touch only] 15 as edited) and Sabretooth (Strength 10D, Agility 10C, Willpower 9D, Edge 2, Health 25; Body Armor +2). Psylocke has a 5 of Agility, 6 of Intellect, 6 of Willpower, and 6 of Doom. The Narrator’s card is a 7 of Intellect. Psylocke launches forward with her Martial Arts attack (an automatic action), using her 5A. The trump gets her a 5 of Strength for a total of 18. Sabretooth barely gets tagged (Agility 10 + Narrator’s 7 = 17). Sabretooth then takes 6 points of damage from the blow (18 ­ [Strength 10 and Body Armor +2]), bringing his Health to 19. Psylocke redraws a 5 of Willpower ­ could be useful later. She automatically hits with her concurrent Psionic Blast attack, her “Psychic Knife,” and plays the 6 of Willpower to get trump and a 5 of Strength, for a total of 26. Sabretooth defends with his Willpower of 9, taking 15 points of damage. He’s hurt, but still standing and with his Regeneration, Psylocke might be in a lot of trouble

Damage and Recovery

Fractional Damage

When heroes take damage they normally have to discard cards with a total equal or exceeding the damage done. This means that even 1 point of damage forces a hero to discard at least one card (even if all the cards in his hand are higher than 1). Thus, any hero can be taken down with a number of damaging hits equal to his Hand Size.

In this option, the player places one card face up in front of him when the hero takes damage. If the damage exceeds the value of the card, it is discarded and the player puts another card down, face up. If the damage does not exceed the value of the card, it remains face up in front of the player until the hero’s total damage exceeds the value of the card. Then it is discarded and another card is placed face up in front of the player. Thus, a single card can “soak up” the damage of multiple hits. The “damage card” is no longer in the player’s hand and cannot be used for any purpose other than soaking up damage. When using this system, heroes still recover cards normally on a Positive Narrator Draw. The “damage card” is discarded when the hero’s hand is refilled to its full Hand Size. [by Stephen Kenson]

Example: Rich is playing Emerald Knight and has a card hand of 2I, 4W, 5I, and 7D. He gets hit for 1 point of damage past his defenses, so he chooses to put his 4 of Willpower down as his damage card. 4 is higher than 1, so the card remains face up in front of him and Rich notes that Emerald Knight has 1 damage point. (The player can make notes on a piece of paper or place counters on the damage card to show how many points it has left). His hand is reduced to 3 cards and he does not redraw. On the following exchange, he’s hit for another 2 points of damage past his defenses. That brings him up to 3 points, still not equal to the 4 of Willpower, so the damage card remains face up in front of him and play continues. Two exchanges later, Emerald Knight takes another 2 points of damage. 1 point brings his damage tally up to 4, so he discards the 4 of Willpower. He still has another point of damage to account for, so he places another card from his hand down as the damage card and notes that it has 1 point of damage applied to it.

Hero Health

Heroes normally use their card hand to keep track of damage while characters use their Health. With this option both heroes and characters have Health scores based on their Edge. Heroes do not lose cards from damage but lose Health instead. The rules for losing and regaining Health for characters applies to heroes as well. [by Stephen Kenson]

Lethal Damage

The standard SAGA rules assume heroes recover from damage quickly and that all damage is ultimately temporary, with a few exceptions (see Serious Injuries on page 41 of the Marvel Game Book).

This option differentiates between stunning damage (the sort of damage described in the default Marvel game) and lethal damage. Lethal damage ignores a character’s normal Strength-based Defense; the full amount of damage is applied against the character’s card hand or Health. Furthermore, lethal damage heals slowly. Heroes recover 1 card lost to lethal damage each day (characters recover 5 Health). Finally, characters reduced to 0 cards or Health by lethal damage are unconscious and will die unless they receive immediate medical attention. Check the Narrator Draw on each exchange after the character is unconscious; on a Positive Draw the character stabilizes and will not die (but remains unconscious), on a Neutral Draw nothing happens, on a Negative Draw, the character dies. An average Intellect action stabilizes a dying character and the Medicine skill makes it an easy action.

If this option is used, all powers (like Body Armor and Force Field) that protect against damage protect against both stunning and lethal damage. [by Stephen Kenson]

Split Damage

If the Lethal Damage Option (above) is used, the Narrator may choose to allow characters to have two separate Health scores, one for stunning damage and one for lethal damage. Lethal damage causes damage to both scores, while stunning damage affects only stunning Health. 0 Stunning Health means the character is unconscious, while 0 Lethal Health means the character is dying.

For heroes, this is more complex. If the Narrator wishes to use this option for them, it’s recommended that heroes have a Lethal Health score based off their Edge, and a Stunning Health score based off their card hand, as normal. [by Stephen Kenson]

Hero Creation

Assigning Ability Scores

The following option considers Heightened Ability Scores an actual power. When assigning a card to an ability score (see Heightened Ability powers below), the first card assigned to that ability is the character’s “natural” score. Additional cards assigned after the first card may either be considered to reflect training or additional natural ability, provided that they do not raise the score above 10, or a heightened power. Any card raising an ability beyond 10 is automatically considered to be a heightened ability. A heightened ability is considered a power to which stunts and limits can be applied. [by Greg Kerner]

Heightened Strength

Trump: Strength
Exemplars: Hulk, She Hulk, The Thing, Thor
Related Abilities: Ability Boost, Chi

The character receives an immediate improvement in his or her Strength score.


  • Ground Strike: The character can strike the ground with his fist, club, etc. duplicating the effects of a sonic slam. Minimum Strength: 17+
  • Hyper-Breath: As per the Strength skill.
  • Leaping: The character gains the Leaping power at the intensity of the character’s Strength.
  • Sonic Slam: As per the Strength Skill, except does not include the option of striking the ground (see Ground strike above). This replaces the Strength skill of the same name and requires a strength of 17+


  • No Defense: The character receives no defensive bonus from the added Strength.

Heightened Agility

Trump: Agility
Exemplars: Spiderman, Silver Surfer
Related Abilities: Ability Boost, Ultimate Skill

The character receives an automatic improvement in his or her Agility score.


  • Fast Exit: You gain the Fast Exit skill.
  • Leaping: The character gains the Leaping power at the intensity of the character’s strength

Heightened Intellect

Trump: Intellect
Exemplars: Reed Richards, Watcher
Related Abilities: Ability Boost, Ultimate Skill

The character receives an automatic improvement in his or her Intellect score.

Heightened Willpower
Exemplars: Dr. Strange
Related Abilities: Ability Boost

The character receives an automatic improvement in his or her Willpower score.

Alternate Card Draws

Players may use one of the following three options during the draw sequence of hero creation: (1) Draw ten cards and redraw all 1s, 2s, and 3s; (2) Draw ten cards and add two 5s (of no suit); or (3) Draw twelve cards.

If you choose or select either a power limit or hindrance, draw a card. If it’s a positive or neutral card, you can, in the case of a limit, add it to the card(s) you’ve played for that power, or in the case of a hindrance add that card to any one ability score or power intensity or reserve it for the calling step of the hero creation sequence. The original rules (Game Book, p. 193-195) only allowed for a benefit in the case of a positive card. [Thomas M. Costa]

Starting Equipment

This option is intended as an alternative to the rules in the Reed Richards Guide to Everything. It assumes multiple powers in a gadget will have differing intensities. It is also intended to treat powers in a manner similar to other powers (the only difference being the power comes from equipment rather than being innate or mystical)

A character can opt to place one or all of his powers into one or more pieces of equipment. To create the equipment, the player assigns cards to one or more powers; the cards assigned are the intensity of the given power. The player then determines if the powers are housed in a single piece of equipment or multiple pieces of equipment. The player then assigns the Equipment limit to each power that is in a piece of equipment and draws a card for each equipment-based power to see if the power’s intensity is increased. The player may then assign additional limits to an individual equipment-based power or to the equipment itself. Note thati if all powers are placed in equipment, the character is allowed the Hndrance Triggered Powerless (without equipment). [by Greg Kerner]


Response Bonus Actions
-1 point Massive loss of innocents or property due to character negligence. Negatives can also be the result of complete apathy toward the hero’s calling.
0 points Either the bad guys got away or they were beaten in non-super-heroic fashion
1 point Good guys win and do everything right
2 points Saving the universe from a world-devouring Wonder Slug

Point Cost

Uses of Points


Change the character’s primary calling


Raise a power intensity by 1


Raise an Ability code by 1 grade


Raise an Ability code beyond A


Raise a Ability score by 1


Add a new stunt to an existing power


Add a new power at intensity 0


Upgrade a regular skill to master class


Eliminate a power limit


Upgrade a master class skill to world class


Eliminate a hindrance


Raise edge/hand size by 1

Modifications: Ability scores and Power intensities can go up to 5 points higher than original to a maximum of 20, or 2 points greater than original, whichever is higher. (If you have a 20 at character creation, it can go as high as 22 with advancement. If you have an 18, the cap is 20, if you have a 19, the cap is 21.) For normal humans or superhumans with Ability scores not linked to the character’s powers, it’s a bit different: Ability scores that are not enhanced should not change by more than 3 points through character advancement and not to superhuman levels (beyond 10). Of course, radiation accidents and evil experiments can change all rules. [by Thomas M. Costa]

Fighting the Good Fight

A New Combat Ability for the SAGA System

(This article was originally published in the Legends of the Lance newsletter.)

In the SAGA System rules for Dragonlance: Fifth Age, heroes use their Strength to perform actions in melee combat like hitting their opponents. Characters with high Strength codes are also better trained in the use of weapons. This causes difficulties with some hero concepts players may have: What about the wiry swordsman who’s deadly with a blade but not particularly brawny or the strong hero who can’t hit the broad side of a barn? Additionally, some players may have difficulties equating combat skill with brute strength.

One option for handling these concerns is to introduce a new ability to the SAGA System: Fighting. In Dragonlance: Fifth Age, Fighting takes the place of Strength and is aligned with the suit of Swords. It measures the hero’s training in melee combat, both armed and unarmed, and the ability to use different weapons effectively. The Fighting ability code works the same as the standard Fifth Age Strength Code; an “A” means the hero is trained with all melee weapons, a “B” is all but very heavy weapons, and so forth. If a hero does not have training in a particular weapon, the hero suffers a one level increase in difficulty when using it.

To make room for Fighting, the Strength and Endurance abilities are combined into one ability (called Strength), measuring the hero’s overall muscle and stamina, and aligned with the suit of Helms. It is used for actions involving brute Strength (like breaking down doors and bending bars), as well as all actions Endurance is normally used for.

Fighting is used to make all melee attacks, and it is also used to avoid melee attacks, representing the hero’s skill in parrying and blocking. So attacking in melee combat is anaverage Fighting (Fighting) action, as is avoiding an attack. The Narrator may also wish to allow heroes the option of using Agility to avoid melee attacks, giving nimble heroes (like kender) a better chance of getting out of the way. If the attack hits, the hero’s Strength still determines damage normally.

Strength is still used as the action ability for close-in unarmed attacks like wrestling, representing the advantage greater Strength provides the attacker.

The Narrator should choose the Fighting score for characters and creatures in the game. Creatures may have Fighting equal to their Physique, or the Narrator may choose to give them a lower fighting score to represent creatures that are physically very strong (high Physique) but not particularly swift or accurate (lower Fighting). This also gives heroes more of a fighting chance when going up against larger, more powerful creatures.

Fantasy SAGA

These rules are an adaptation of the SAGA game rules from Dragonlance Fifth Age produced by TSR. Unless otherwise specified, the rules from Book One of theDragonlance game apply.

Hero Creation

Go through the following steps to create a hero:

Step One: Concept

Come up with a concept for the hero. Choose the hero’s Nature and Demeanor.

Step Two: Abilities

Divide 64 points among ten abilities: Status, Quests, Physique (Fighting & Strength) Coordination (Dexterity & Agility), Intellect (Reason & Perception),and Essence (Spirit & Presence). Heroes may have only one ability of 10, a maximum Status of 9, and up to 6 Quests at the start of the game.

Step Three: Race

Choose the hero’s race, making sure he meets the minimum and maximum requirements.

Step Four: Skills

The hero has as many skills as his starting Hand Size. If the hero is a spellcaster, he has two fewer starting skills. Heroes can have no more than four skills for each ability pair.

Step Five: Magic

If the hero is a spellcaster, calculate the hero’s starting Spell Points (Quests times Reason or Spirit) and choose a number of starting spells equal to twice the hero’s Quests.

Step Five: Details

Choose the hero’s equipment. Give the hero a name, description, and background.


In SAGA, skills represent things a hero is really good at. Skills improve a hero’s chances at certain actions. If a hero has an appropriate skill, he adds +4 to his action total for actions involving that skill. Heroes gain a new skill each time they increase their Hand Size. Note that ability scores show what the hero is generally good at, skills reflect a particular area of specialization. For more information about skills, see TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game.

Physique Skills: Axes, Brawling, Climbing, Clubs, Hammers, Jumping, Knives, Running, Spears, Swimming, Swords, Wrestling

Coordination Skills: Acrobatics, Archery, Contingent Attack, Crafting, Disguise, Escape Artistry, Riding, Sailing, Sleight of Hand, Slings, Stealth, Throwing, Thievery

Intellect Skills: Administration, Espionage, Lore (each type is a seperate skill), Medicine, Observation, Survival, Tracking, Trivia

Essence Skills: Animal Handling, Art, Etiquette, Intimidation, Leadership, Manipulation, Merchant, Performing, Politics, Taunting, Teaching


A hero speaks a total number of languages equal to half his Reason score, rounded up. This includes the hero’s native language, so a hero with a Reason of 3 speaks one additional language, while a hero with Reason 9 speaks four additional languages. Being literate costs one language “slot” and is manditory for sorcerers. This affects all the hero’s languages.


Characters in a SAGA story have abilities and skills, just like heroes, but they do not take actions of their own. Instead, the heroes take actions which affect the characters. Because of this, characters do not have hands of cards. They have an additional ability known as Health, which equals (Hand Size -1) times 5. Characters subtract from their Health rather than discarding cards when they suffer damage. Unknown characters have a Health of 0, any successful attack takes them out. Archetype characters have a Health of 40. The Narrator sets the Reputation for characters in the game.


Doing something important in SAGA is called an “action.” The following section demonstrates how most important actions work in the game. Narrators should always feel free to vary the difficulties given below to suit the needs of the situation and the story.

Fighting Actions (Swords)

Fighting is a hero’s skill in melee combat, either unarmed or wielding weapons. It is used for all actions involving attacking or defending with a weapon, along with unarmed combat. It is also used for actions involving the hero’s knowledge and skill in warfare, like tactics.

Dragonlance Narrators should note that most creatures (as opposed to characters) have Fighting scores equal to their Coordination rather than their Physique. This makes their attacks somewhat easier for the heroes to avoid, but no less deadly. Use their normal Physqiue and Damage for determining the effects of their attacks.

Disarm (challenging, opposed by Strength). If you succeed, you knock your foe’s weapon out of his grasp.

Parry (average, opposed by Fighting). An armed hero can parry any melee attack, an unarmed hero can only parry unarmed attacks. If you succeed, you avoid the foe’s attack.

Strike (average, opposed by Fighting or Agility). If you succeed, the amount you succeeded by is added to your base damage (Strength + weapon bonus).

Strength Actions (Helms)

Strength measures a hero’s muscle power and endurance. Heroes use Strength to perform feats of strength like lifting and breaking objects, climbing, jumping, enduring pain and fatigue, resisting disease and poison, and so forth.

Grapple (average, opposed by Strength). If you succeed, you get your foe in a hold and do bashing damage equal to your action total.

Dexterity Actions (Arrows)

Dexerity is a hero’s skill with his hands and hand-eye coordination. It’s used for feats like shooting or throwing ranged weapons, picking locks, sleight of hand, and so forth.

Shoot or Throw (average, opposed by Agility). If you succeed, the amount you succeeded by is added to your base damage (Dexterity + weapon bonus).

Agility Actions (Shields)

Agility represents gross coordination and nimbleness. Heroes use it to dodge attacks and perform feats of mobility and acrobatics like riding, sneaking, swinging from ropes or chandeliers, and so forth.

Dodge (average, opposed by attacking ability). If you succeed, you avoid the attack completely. If you fail, the amount you failed by is added to the base damage the attack inflicts.

Maneuver (average, opposed by Agility). Success allows you to change the range between you and your target by one level (from Near Missile to Melee, for example).

Reason Actions (Moons)

Reason is the hero’s raw intelligence, used to figure out puzzles, solve riddles, remember important facts, organize information, and use sorcery.

Use Sorcery (average, opposed by appropriate ability). Success makes the spell happen. Failure means nothing happens, but you spend the spell points anyway. Living beings resist magic using the ability appropriate to the spell.

Perception Actions (Orbs)

Perception is the hero’s awareness of his surroundings. It’s used notice things, avoid ambushes, pick up clues, find things, and follow tracks.

Avoid Surprise (average, resisted by Agility). If you fail, your opponent surprises you and gets one free attack against you.

Spirit Actions (Hearts)

Spirit is the hero’s willpower, courage, and convictions. It’s used for actions involving strength of will like resisting temptation, ignoring or overcoming distractions, resisting magic that affects the mind or spirit, and using mysticism.

Use Mysticism (average, opposed by appropriate ability). Success makes the spell happen. Failure means nothing happens, but you spend the spell points anyway. Living beings resist magic using the ability appropriate to the spell.

Presence Actions (Crowns)

Presence is the hero’s force of personality and charisma. It is used to influence people in various ways; charming, persuading, intimidating, leading, commanding, and so forth. Generally the hero makes an average action opposed by the target’s Spirit. If successful, the target does what the hero wants.


The damage inflicted by an attack is reduced by the target’s armor. A hero must discard cards to equal or exceed any remaining points of damage. Helm and Heart cards count as trump. Damage comes in two types: bashing and lethal. Bashing damage is reduced by the target’s Strength plus any armor bonus. A hero reduced to no cards by bashing damage is unconscious. Bashing damage recovers at a rate of one card per hour. Lethal damage is more dangerous, it is reduced only by the target’s armor bonus. A hero reduced to no cards by lethal damage is unconscious and dying. Lethal damage recovers at a rate of one card per week. Magic can speed the recovery of either form of damage.


Heroes can follow one of two magical traditions: sorcerer or mystic (they cannot be both). Sorcerers gain their magic through study and use Reason to cast spells. Mystics cast spells using inspiration (and sometimes divine intervention) and use Spirit.

Spell Points: A spellcaster has Spell Points equal to (Quests x Reason or Spirit). Spell points recover at a rate of 1 per hour of waking activity and recover completely after a night’s rest.

Spells: Spellcasters can only cast spells they have learned. A spellcaster knows a number of spells equal to twice his Quests, and gains two new spells after each Quest. The player designs his hero’s spells using the normal rules from Book One, but spellcasters are considered to have access to all effects (schools and spheres). The only exception is the Healing sphere, which is available only to mystics.

A spell may have one variable set by the caster when the spell is cast. For example, a Heal spell may heal a variable amount of damage, while a Sleep spell may affect a variable number of targets, and a Magic Missile spell may inflict a variable amount of damage. The other statistics of the spell are fixed. Armor protects against spell damage. If a damaging spell ignores armor, the cost of its effect is doubled.

Casting a spell requires an average Reason or Spirit action. Spells cast on unwilling targets are resisted; the resistance ability is chosen when the spell is created. Most damaging spells are resisted by Agility or Perception, while most other spells are resisted by Perception or Presence.

Awaken, Old Man of the Mountain!

A Marvel Super Heroes Adventure

Note: I wrote (and ran) this adventure before the tragic collapse of the Old Man formation in New Hampshire. Running it in the present would require some modification that actually “resurrects” the “Old Man” from rumble before “awakening” and animating him.

One or more of the heroes is invited to speak at the opening of a Native American exhibit at a local museum, featuring many different artifacts and exhibits intended to increase understanding and appreciation of Native culture. Mary McCarthy, a local reporter for Channel 9 News is covering the speech and the opening. She’s eager to get an interview with the heroes.

The exhibit is attacked by the villain Howling-Wolf, who has gained super-powers from a deal struck with the Great Beasts, and desires revenge against all whites. Howling-Wolf’s magic brings the totems and stuffed animals in the displays to life to attack the heroes while he makes off with a sacred medicine bundle.


Strength 8C, Agility 6X, Intellect 4D, Willpower 9X, Health 17. Climbing, Wrestling, Occult, Survival, Tracking. Magic 9 (Animation, Ensnarement), Sonic Control 14 (“Howling”) (Sonic Blast, Sonic Shield). Calling: Vegeance. Hindrances: Hateful (of Eagle and all whites).

The heroes must track Howling-Wolf into northern New Hampshire, where the renegade shaman is preparing a ritual in the shadow of the Old Man of the Mountains. Howling-Wolf springs a trap on the heroes, trapping them in a “spirit cage” resistant to all physical attacks. “Your white-man’s science cannot overcome the power of my magic,” Howling-Wolf sneers as he begins his ritual.

Using the power of the medicine bundle, Howling-Wolf awakens the ancient earth-spirit dwelling in the mountains, bringing the Old Man in the Mountain to life as an earthen giant, more than a hundred feet tall! When the Old Man asks why he has been awakened from his long slumber, Howling-Wolf tells him he must destroy the whites and drive them from the sacred land, so it can be renewed. The Old Man is angry at what he sees and says he will do as Howling-Wolf asks. He then moves off towards the nearest cities to the south, the state capitol itself!

The Old Man of the Mountains

Strength 26X, Agility 3X, Intellect 4X, Willpower 12X, Health 20. Earth Control 18, Resistance 20 to all Energy. Calling: Guardian (of the Sacred Land).

The Old Man is not evil. He is a powerful spirit and protector of the land. He is angry as the damage done to the land by humanity and his anger, combined with Howling-Wolf’s influence, is enough to send him against the “white” settlements in the area.

The heroes have to stop the Old Man before he levels the city. The earth-spirit is immensely powerful, probably more than they can defeat using brute strength. The heroes have to convince the Old Man not to take vengeance on the inhabitants of the area and return to his sleep. They might be able to use the exhibit at the museum as an indication that the old ways are not entirely forgotten.

Earthdawn Epic

Welcome to Epic! This is a bare-bones system for converting the Earthdawn game from FASA to the SAGA rules system produced by TSR, used for their Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes games. It focuses on maintaining the flavor of Earthdawn while taking advantage of the quick and simple mechanics of the SAGA rules.

Earthdawn is the property of FASA Corporation and the SAGA System is the property of TSR, Inc./Wizards of the Coast. This article is not intended as an infringement on either property.

Name-Giver Races

Eight different races inhabit the land of Barsaive. They are collectively known as “Name-givers,” since they share the ability to name things. A ninth Name-giver race, the dragons, also lives in Barsaive, but there are no dragon heroes.


The majority race of Barsaive is the dwarves, particularly those of the Kingdom of Throal. They are craftsman, merchants, politicians, scholars and warriors found throughout the land. Strong and stout, a hero must have Strength and Endurance of at least 6 to be a dwarf. Conversely, a dwarf’s stout limbs and body make them less limber than other races, limiting their Agility and Dexterity to no more than 8. Dwarves have the ability to see heat sources, allowing them to see in the dark, provided there is a source of heat available. Although they are friendly and helpful, dwarves often have difficulty relating other Name-giver races. No card played by a dwarf on a Presence action counts as trump, except when dealing with fellow dwarves or as a defensive action.


The race most changed by the Scourge, the elves are divided between the blood elves of the Elven Court, loyal to Queen Alachia, and the unchanged elves elsewhere in Barsaive. An elf hero must have scores of at least 6 in Dexterity, Agility, Spirit and Presence. Elves are limited to scores of 8 in Strength and Endurance. Elves have starlight sight, allowing them to see as clearly on a starlit night as a human would during the day.


Humans in Barsaive are adaptable and found nearly everywhere. Humans have no ability requirements, but may shift one point from a physical attribute to a mental attribute, or vice versa, during hero creation.


Obsidimen are beings of flesh and elemental earth, large and bulky. They have a strong connection to the earth and all living things. An obsidiman hero must have at least a score of 8 in Strength and Endurance. An obsidiman hero cannot have a Dexterity or Agility higher than 6. They are limited to no higher than a code of B in Presence. Creatures of living stone, obsidimen are incredibly tough. All cards they spend on resisting damage are considered trump, regardless of their actual suit. In addition, obsidimen have natural armor, providing them with a Defense of -2, in addition to any worn armor. Obsidimen have a fundamental respect for living things. They refuse to wear non-living armor of leather or metal. Obsidimen may only wear living armor, including fernweave and living crystal.


Orks are well known in Barsaive as short-lived warriors who live hard and play hard. They are strongly in the grip of their passions, particularly their own gahad. A character must have a Strength and Endurance of at least 6 to be an ork. Ork heroes cannot have a Spirit or Presence higher than 8. Orks have the ability to see in very low-light, as well as humans see during the day. Each ork has a personal gahad, something that triggers an irrational rage. An ork can ignore his gahad with an average Spirit action, but suffers a -1 penalty to all actions for the remainder of that scene.


Trolls are large, honorable mountain-dwellers, well-known as raiders and warriors in Barsaive. A hero must have a score of at least 7 in Strength and Endurance and a 5 in Spirit to be a troll. Trolls are limited to a maximum of 8 in Reason and Perception. Trolls have the ability to see heat sources, like dwarves do.


The t’skrang are a race of river-dwelling humanoid reptiles with a swashbuckling attitude. A t’skrang hero must have a minimum score of 6 in Agility, Endurance and Presence. T’skrang can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes at a time, making them excellent swimmers. Their tail is dexterous and strong enough to deliver a stinging attack. A t’skrang makes a tail attack as an easy Strength (Endurance) action. A t’skrang hero can split his Strength score between a normal melee attack and a tail attack, as desired.


Windlings are small humanoids, about a foot tall, with gossamer wings. They live in tree-villages, as well as with other Name-givers. A hero must have a minimum score of 6 in Dexterity, Agility, Perception, Spirit and Presence to be a windling. Windlings are limited to a maximum Strength and Endurance of 4 because of their small size. They automatically have a Dexterity and Strength code of X. Windlings have the ability to fly using their wings. They also have natural astral sight, allowing them to see auras and astral patterns with an easy Perception action. Because of their small size, windlings are harder to hit in combat. The difficulty of all physical attacks against them is increased by one level. However, windlings are not nearly as tough as other Name-givers; cards played by a winding hero on damage never count as trump.


Magic in Earthdawn is based on the magic system from Dragonlance: Fifth Age, with a few minor differences.

Spell Points

Earthdawn heroes have spell points like other SAGA heroes. Adept magic is based on Spirit, while spell magic is based on Reason. So a beastmaster with Spirit 7 has (7 x 7) or 49 spell points. A magician with Reason 8 has 64 spell points. Add a hero’s number of Quests to his or her spell point total. So a Champion (7 Quests) with Spirit 7 has (49 + 7) or 56 spell points. Heroes use and regain spell points normally, except as described below.

Spell Matricies

A spell matrix is an astral construct posessed by a magician. A magician has one spell matrix for each level of Reputation, from one at Novice to eight at Archetype. Magicians can prepare spells in advance by placing the spell’s pattern within a spell matrix. These spells do not cost spell points, but have their normal difficulty. Spells cast without the use of a spell matrix are “raw magic” and cause damage equal to the spell’s difficulty. A magician hero can change the spell in a spell matrix with a Reason action with a difficulty equal to half the difficulty of the new spell.

Using Magic

Using magic requires an action with the appropriate ability, usually Spirit for adept magic and Reason for spell magic. The Narrator may call for a different ability in certain circumstances. The base difficulty of the action is average, plus any resistance (if the magic targets someone other than the user). Successful or not, spell points are still spent. Note that, unlike Dragonlance, heroes are not required to spend spell points to overcome a target’s resistance, nor is the difficulty of the spell equal to its cost.

Example: Aklear wishes to cast a flame bolt at an oncoming ghoul. The cost of the spell is 12 points. Aklear makes an average Reason action, opposed by the ghoul’s Coordination, which is 5, making the final difficulty 13. He succeeds, and the ghoul takes 9 points of damage from the spell, minus its Defense of 2, which does enough damage to slay it. Aklear had better ready another spell, because where there is one ghoul, there is likely more…

Adept Magic

Each discipline grants a particular type of magic to those who follow it: beastmasters can use magic to influence animals and take on their qualities, warriors use magic to enhance their battle prowess, and so forth. Each discipline describes the type of magic it can perform. Players create the effects they wish to perform using the normal SAGA spellcasting rules, limited by their capacity, as described above. Some examples of adept magic include:

  • Dominate Beast (Beastmaster, 15 points): Allows the adept to completely control the actions of an animal within near missile range for 15 minutes with an average Presence (Essence) action.
  • Flame Arrow (Archer, 10 points): Ignites the head of an ordinary arrow, causing it to inflict +5 damage.
  • Rapier Wit (Swordmaster, 13 points): Demoralizes an enemy within melee range with clever jibes and taunts, requiring an average Presence (Essence) action. If successful the target suffers a -2 on all actions for the next 15 minutes.
  • Shadow-Cloak (Thief, 13 points): Shrouds the adept in shadows for 15 minutes, adding +4 to the adept’s attempt to sneak or remain hidden, requires 1 minute to activate.
  • Wind-Catcher (Sky Raider, 12 points): Weaves the wind to allow the adept to fall any distance without harm.
  • Woodskin (Warrior, 11 points): Turns the adept’s skin to tough wood, providing +5 defense for 15 minutes. Requires 1 minute to activate.

Spell Magic

Magicians in Earthdawn weave the energies of astral space to cast spells. They have a wider range of potential effects to choose from, based on the spheres of magic known. A hero must have an A code in Reason to be a magician. Magicians start out with knowledge of one sphere of magic and may learn one additional sphere for each gain in Reputation above Novice. So an adventurer may know two spheres, up to an archetype, who knows all eight spheres. Other adepts can also learn spellcasting spheres, by expending a skill in order to do so.


A component of spells in Earthdawn is weaving “threads” of magical energy to power the spell. Weaving threads is part of the spell’s invocation time. Spells with an invocation time of Instant require no threads.

Spheres of Magic

Spell magic is divided into eight different spheres of influence. Magician heroes may choose a single sphere to specialize in, gaining a trump bonus with all spells from that sphere.

  • Divination: Divination is used to reveal information. Divination spells allow a magician to detect different things, view distant places, enhance the senses and sense things beyond the normal five senses.
  • Elementalism: This sphere allows a magician to command the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and wood. The magician can create and shape the elements at will, and can summon elemental spirits from them.
  • Enchantment: This is the sphere of the mind, able to reshape emotions, read thoughts, alter memories and control the wills of others. Some beings are immune to the effects of enchantment (like many undead and horrors).
  • Healing: This sphere uses magic to heal injuries, cure disease and poisons, and ensure general health and well-being.
  • Illusion: The illusion sphere deceives the senses, creating images of things that are not real. Even thought illusions may be detected and overcome by disbelief, they can be quite powerful against those they fool.
  • Nethermancy: Nethermancy deals with pure life-force: spirits and the stuff of the astral plane. It can summon and control spirits, shape astral energy, summon pure light or darkness, animate the dead or even return them to life.
  • Transformation: This sphere deals with transforming objects or beings into something else. Spells of transmutation, shapeshifting, petrifaction and similar effects are transformations, as are spells which temporarily imbue magic into objects or beings to enhance their abilities or grant them various powers.
  • Wizardry: The sphere of wizardry is concerned with shaping pure magical energy to create different effects. Spells that dispel or block magic, as well as constructs of magical force, fall under the category of wizardry.


  • Ethereal Darkness (Nethermancy, 16 points): Blankets the area of a large room in darkness for 15 minutes, imposing a -4 penalty on all actions requiring sight. Requires 1 minute to cast. Does not affect nethermancers.
  • Fireball (Elementalism, 14 points): An explosive ball of fire that shoots out to near missile range and does 9 damage points to a small group of targets. Resisted by Agility. Requires 1 minute to cast.
  • Mind Dagger (Wizardry, 12 points): A shard of magical force hurled at a target within near missile range, doing 5 damage points and ignoring physical Defense. Resisted by Perception.

Roles (Disciplines)

Heroes in Earthdawn follow disciplines, ways of thinking and acting that channel the hero’s natural magical abilities. Disciplines are similar to Roles in Dragonlance: Fifth Age. Each discipline has its own particular requirements, advantages and disadvantages. Each discipline also has its own form of magic, allowing adepts of that discipline to cast spells. Heroes normally follow only one discipline. However it is possible for a hero to choose a second discipline. In this case, the hero gains access to that discipline’s magic, and is subject to its requirements, but does not gain its trump bonus.

Air Sailor

Air sailors pilot and crew airships that cross the skies of Barsaive. They are skilled sailors and skilled fighters to deal with the dangers that threaten their ships. Air sailors love the freedom of the open sky.

  • Requirements: A hero must have the following minimum abilities to be an air sailor: Strength 5, Dexterity and Agility 7. The hero must have a minimum code of B in Strength and Dexterity. Air sailors can belong to any race except obsidimen (who prefer to remain on the ground). Air sailors do not wear heavy armor, limiting their maximum Endurance code to C.
  • Trump Bonus: Air sailors have a trump bonus for any action performed while on an airship.
  • Adept Magic: Air sailor magic is related to airships and aerial things like the wind.


Archers specialize in missile weapons, particularly the bow and crossbow. They have unerring aim and walk through a world of targets.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Dexterity and Perception of 6 and a Dexterity code of A to be an archer.
  • Trump Bonus: Archers have a trump bonus for any action using a bow.
  • Adept Magic: Archer magic is related to their chosen weapon, the bow.


Beastmasters seek to emulate the animal kingdom and understand its denizens. Some beastmasters a true friends of all animals, while others are their cruel masters.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Endurance and Presence of 6 to be a beastmaster. Beastmasters have limited weapon-skills, limiting their Strength and Dexterity codes to a maximum of C.
  • Trump Bonus: Beastmasters have a trump bonus for any non-attack action related to animals
  • Adept Magic: Beastmaster magic is related to animals and their abilities. It has no affect on intelligent life, nor on non-living things like undead, spirits or horrors.


Cavalrymen are fierce, mounted warriors. They train with their mounts to develop an empathic bond with them.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Strength, Endurance and Presence of 6 to be a cavalryman. The hero must also have a minimum Strength code of B. Obsidimen cannot be cavalrymen, since no mount can carry them.
  • Trump Bonus: Cavalrymen have a trump bonus for all actions while mounted.
  • Adept Magic: Cavalryman magic relates to the bond between the cavalryman and his mount and fighting while mounted.


Magicians study the art of spellcasting and the spheres of spell magic. They are scholarly individuals who study the mysteries of the universe.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Reason and Spirit of 6 to be a magician. Additionally, the hero must have a minimum Reason code of A, Perception of C and Spirit of C. Magicians spend most of their training on intellectual pursuits, so magician heroes cannot have Strength, Dexterity or Endurance codes of greater than C.
  • Trump Bonus: Magicians may choose one sphere of magic in which to specialize (usually their first). The magician gains a trump bonus in all actions involving that sphere. Magicians are generally named after their specialty sphere: Elementalists master elementalism, Healers master healing, Nethermancers master nethermancy, and so forth.
  • Adept Magic: Magicians start out knowing one sphere of magic and may learn another at each increase in reputation.


Scouts are explorers and trail-blazers who seek out new places, people and adventures. They are renowned for their sharp senses and wits.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Endurance and Perception of 6 to be a scout. Additionally, the hero must have a minimum Perception code of B. Scouts prefer to travel light, they have a maximum Endurance code of C.
  • Trump Bonus: Scouts gain a trump bonus on all actions involving the use of their senses.
  • Adept Magic: Scout magic involves the use of the senses and survival in the wilderness.

Sky Raider

Sky raiders are fierce fighters who fly aboard airships to raid targets all over Barsaive.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Agility, Strength and Endurance of 6 to be a sky raider. Sky raiders require a minimum code of B in all three abilities. Elves, obsidimen and windlings cannot be sky raiders.
  • Trump Bonus: Sky raiders gain a trump bonus for all actions on an airship.
  • Adept Magic: Sky raider magic involves airships and using the power of their fierce reputation.


Swordmasters are elegant fighters who seek to master the art of the blade. They tend to be swashbucklers, with little regard for personal danger.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum of 6 in Strength, Agility and Presence to be a swordmaster. The hero must also have a Strength code of at least B.
  • Trump Bonus: Swordmasters gain a trump bonus for any action using a sword.
  • Adept Magic: Swordmaster magic is entirely based around sword-fighting, overcoming and intimidating their opponents.


Thieves are silent and stealthy, self-reliant and skilled in the art of stealing.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Agility, Dexterity and Perception of 6 to be a thief. The hero must also have a minimum code of B in Perception. Thieves prefer to avoid armor that limits their movements, giving them a maximum Endurance and Agility code of D. They also tend to be anti-social, limiting their Presence code to C.
  • Trump Bonus: Thieves gain a trump bonus for any action intended to be sneaky, including surprise attacks.
  • Thief Magic: Thief magic is based around deception, stealth, and avoiding danger.


Troubadours are storytellers, loremasters and entertainers.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Dexterity, Perception and Presence of 6 to be a troubadour. Additionally, the hero must have a Dexterity and Perception code of at least C, and a Presence code of at least B.
  • Trump Bonus: Troubadours gain a trump bonus with all social actions.
  • Troubadour Magic: Troubadour magic is intended to enlighten, entertain and affect the mind and emotions.


Warriors are masters of all forms of combat, using magic to enhance their prowess.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum of 6 in Strength, Endurance and Spirit to be a warrior. Warriors are highly trained in the use of weapons and armor, having a minimum code of C in Dexterity and Agility, and B in Strength and Endurance.
  • Trump Bonus: Warriors gain a trump bonus for surprise and unarmed combat actions, as well as any action related to tactical knowledge.
  • Warrior Magic: Warrior magic is the magic of battle, increasing their ability to fight and remain alive.


Weaponsmiths craft and study weapons and armor. They know how to use them, as well.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum of 6 in Strength, Endurance and Perception to be a weaponsmith. The hero must also have a minimum Perception code of B.
  • Trump Bonus: Weaponsmiths gain a trump bonus when making or studying any type of weapon or armor.
  • Weaponsmith Magic: Weaponsmith magic relates to the making of weapons and armor, controlling and protecting against them and the elements used in the forging process.

Special Roles

These Roles are special and may be taken in combination with other Roles without affecting their abilities. These Roles have no trump bonuses.


Questors follow one of the twelve Passions of Barsaive. They seek to emulate their Passion in word and deed, if they fail to do so, they lose the special blessings their Passion brings them. Questors who continually ignore their Passion may lose this Role entirely.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Spirit of 5 and a Spirit code of B to become a questor.
  • Questor Magic: Questor magic is based on the nature of the questor’s Passion. For example, questors of Lochost, the Passion of Freedom, have powers relating to freeing the oppressed and imprisoned. Questors of Dis, the Passion of Domination and Slavery, use magic to enslave others, and so forth.


Lightbearers are members of a secret society devoted to riding the world of the Horrors and their corruption. Becoming a lightbearer requires a special ceremony and is by invitation only. A hero who takes on this Role gains special powers and responsibilities.

  • Requirements: A hero must have a minimum Spirit of 6 to be a lightbearer. In addition, the hero must have performed great feats against the Horrors and their minions to draw the attention of the Lightbearers.
  • Lightbearer Magic: Lightbearers have the power to create and project light in many forms, using it to protect, heal, illuminate and fight against the Horrors.