Part 2 of a series of posts about Nordsaga, my upcoming alt-history Norse fantasy game.

Part 1: Setting

This post will discuss the base mechanics of the game – these are the main rules which underpin all others. Beware, it goes into a lot of detail, but is important if you want to understand how the game will run.

As always, the following is taken from the current draft of the book and is subject to change.


Nordsaga uses two types of eight-sided dice (called D8s): Base Dice and Gear Dice. Base Dice are used for traits and modifiers, while Gear Dice are used for gear bonuses, should any apply. These two types of dice are rolled together in a single pool.

If a dice pool of zero or a negative number is ever encountered (due to negative modifiers), 2 Base Dice are rolled and the lowest value is taken.


To succeed at a task, all you need is at least a single 8 in the dice pool. However, if there is only one success in the dice pool, this is considered a Limited Success, and you barely succeed at what you wanted to attempt.

Additional successes in the pool increase the magnitude of success beyond the first, limited success. Each additional success is called a Stunt.


A result less than 8 is a Failure, often with some additional complication. The severity of the complication should tie to the value of the highest die in the pool. The lower the value, the more severe the complication. Discuss and agree a suitable complication with the GM, within the narrative.

If the highest die in the pool is a 1 or a 2, this is a Critical Failure. Not only do you fail, but you do so in a spectacular fashion. While the player is encouraged to come up with a suitably catastrophic result, it is ultimately the GM’s decision. A roll which results in a Critical Failure is not able to be pushed.


For many of the random tables, a D88 roll is required. To do this, roll one Base and one Gear Die. Take the Base Die as the tens place and the Gear Die as the ones base to get a range between 11 and 88.


As long as a Critical Failure has not been rolled, PCs can decide to “push” themselves and re-roll any trait roll. Set aside any 8’s and 1’s showing on the dice, then re-roll the rest of the pool.

Due to the stress involved from pushing themselves, each Base Die showing a 1 in the final, pushed roll gives either 1 Wound (if Strength, Toughness or Dexterity were used) or 1 Anxiety (if Wits, Willpower or Fellowship were used). Any 1’s showing on the Gear Dice reduce the bonus of that piece of equipment by 1.

On a pushed roll with 1s showing, Wounds, Stress or damaged gear occurs regardless of success or failure. The previous section’s descriptions of Success and Failure still apply.

On the plus side, 1 Advance Point (experience point) is obtained each time a pushed roll results in Wounds or Stress (though not damaged gear).

Note that a Critical Failure can still occur on a pushed roll, with the chance of Wounds, Stress and damaged gear being added to the catastrophic result described in the previous section.

Example: a PC rolls six dice (using Dexterity), but doesn’t get any successes. She decides to push the roll and gets two 8s, one 1 on a Base Die, and one 1 on a Gear Die in the final pool. This means the PC succeeds with one Stunt, but must take one Wound and reduce her equipment’s bonus by 1.


There are four Main Attributes which are always rolled along with a corresponding skill. These can range in value between 1 and 6 as follows:

  1. Useless
  2. Average
  3. Good
  4. Great
  5. Epic
  6. Mythical (non-human races only)

Note that monsters can have Trait values higher than 6.

  • STRENGTH (STR): brawn, might, vigour.
  • DEXTERITY (DEX): agility, nimbleness, quickness.
  • WITS (WIT): awareness, intellect, judgement.
  • FELLOWSHIP (FEL): charisma, empathy, presence.

In addition, there are two Secondary Attributes. These are never rolled with a skill, and seldom with gear:

  • TOUGHNESS (TOU): constitution, resilience, stamina.
    • Equal to the sum of STR + DEX.
    • Used to determine Wound Threshold.
  • WILLPOWER (WP): determination, grit, resolve.
    • Equal to the sum of WIT + FEL.
    • Used to determine Stress Threshold.


There are two types of trauma that can be suffered: Wounds and Stress. A character has a Threshold value for each of these.

Once a number of Wounds or Stress has been taken which exceeds the Threshold value, the character rolls to take a random Critical Hit (for Wounds) or Mental Affliction (for Stress). Depending on how severe these are, the character might still be able to stay in the game, but each consecutive attack will cause additional Critical Hits or Mental Afflictions.

  • Wound Threshold = TOU + Starting Career Modifier
  • Stress Threshold = WP + Starting Career Modifier


Each skill in Nordsaga has a value between 0 and 3, as follows:

  1. Untrained or Inexperienced
  2. Apprentice level training or aptitude
  3. Journeyman level training or aptitude
  4. Master level training or aptitude

Skills have recommended Main Attributes that they are usually paired with, but these are merely suggestions. In fact, Skills can be used with any Main Attribute which fits with the situation, subject to GM approval. Recommended Attribute pairings will be provided in the Skill chapter.

Skills are separated into Basic Skills (which can be attempted without penalty, even if there are no points allocated to them) and Advanced Skills (when untrained, these either cannot be attempted or suffer a -2D modifier, at the GM’s discretion).

Basic Skills

  • Charm
  • Command
  • Force
  • Insight
  • Lore
  • Manipulation
  • Move
  • Observation
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Stealth

Advanced Skills

  • Crafting
  • Healing
  • Husbandry
  • Marksmanship
  • Melee
  • Survival


While Attributes and Skills define a character’s abilities, it is their Abilities which set them apart. Characters in Nordsaga start play with a small number of Abilities, and are able to gain more with experience.

There are three types of Abilities:

  • Talents: abilities which give characters a slight bonus in certain circumstances.
  • Tactics: abilities which make a character more versatile in combat.
  • Runes: abilities which give a character access to specific aspects of magic.


There are no complicated rules governing Talents. Based on the name of the Talent, if the player can think of a way that a talent can be used to influence the roll, they gain +1D to that roll, subject to GM approval.

Using multiple talents is possible, but can only grant a maximum of +2D to any single roll.


Tactics are combat-specific, and each one changes an element of combat in some way to work in that character’s favour. The description for the Tactic will define exactly what it does.

Tactics can be used in conjunction with Talents, but the +2D Talent benefit cap still applies.


TBC, depending on how the magic system ends up (still in development)…

Well done if you got this far! If you have any feedback, please post in the comments.

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