View Full Version : Banner Saga an Pen & Paper

01-23-2014, 09:22 AM
I love playing some Pen & Paper games with my friends. We playes Shadowrun, The Dark Eye and also dabbled a little into Atomic Highway and Wushu (which doesn't really have the following problems because it is based around making ridiculous stuff up as you go). However, combat always feels rather clunky in those systems and although there are extreme amounts of options (weapons, fire modes/fighting styles, combat moves), positioning and tactical thinking often fall short and because the choices are either very situational or require a lot of rule knowledge it too often turns into a flavorless *attack roll*->*defense roll* is he dead yet situation that feels more like a chore than an enjoyable event.
Now other people I know also want to play pen&paper once in a while. However, they want to emphasise combats a lot more. However, with the sheer amount of rules, equipment etc. this would be a massive undertaking and having people learn rules equal to a whole semester of a university lecture is really excessive.

Compared to these systems, the Banner Saga combat system seems to work largely without rolls (except miss/deflect, simple D10 roll), which would remove a lot of the bookkeeping and its rules are rather simple while still having a certain degree of depth in the way the very simple systems of armor, strength, armor break, willpower, exertion etc. interact. Abilities seem to be both interesting and simple at the same time.
Overall, the amount of different skills etc. seems to be lower as well. So rather than having to look up several stats and boni you have one simple value and don't need to look up so much stuff.

Example from Shadowrun (certainly has mistakes, haven't played it in a while and cba to dig out the cheat sheets): look up the agility attribute and pistol skill, then remove possible mali, add possible boni like smartlink, then roll ~10 D6, check for hits, figure out reaction + dodge for the target, mali + boni again, roll ~8 D6, check for hits; then look up weapon's damage, subtract dodge successes, add excessive hit successes, compare to armor, check if ballistic or blunt values apply, roll armor + stamina ~4-12 D6, subtract successes from damage...
You can use cheat sheets to simplify it a bit but overall it is rather complicated. If you have ever seen a "simple" spell (of which a mage can have list 2-3 A4 sheets long) from the Dark Eye you'll also wish you were restricted to a lower number of skills.

How it would be handled in the Banner Saga system: Simply do Strength - Target Armor damage. (or a simple D10 roll if strength is too low/armor too high)
Of course there isn't really a database with equipment etc. but I'm sure that character progression could be handled in the form of minor equipment boni (like the lvl 1-2 items in the singleplayer, just +1 to something) as well as a skill point based progress that could also be handled in simple character description, e.g. the character is a Raidmaster with a huge shield and has invested several points into armor, so he obviously also wears a good helmet and chainmail; or: the character invested a few points into strength, so he is beefy as hell etc.

Some aspects I'm not certain about would be non-combat skills as well as gold/currencies.
I'm thinking about just mixing the non-combat parts of an established system (not sure which, for sure not the Dark Eye one, skill rolls are hell in that one) with the Banner Saga combat system. The morale and supplies system could also be very interesting for travel adventures, although I'd have to look up the consumption rates etc. before applying it.
The non-combat part is often roleplayed more often and rolls aren't that common so I don't see a reason to change those that much. However, the combat systems tend to be a lot of rolling, calculation and simply not very enjoyable.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the Banner Saga combat system could be applied to a pen & paper system? Or should I simply look into an existing system you can recommend? Or maybe you could recommend a system that has very good aspects that could be combined with the Banner Saga combat system?

01-25-2014, 03:54 AM
In fact the combat system was actually first played by Stoic as a tabletop game AFAIR :) If you look closer, the only ability invisible to one of the players (but still possible to implement in a tabletop, ie writing the tile coordinates on a sheet of paper and show it when enemy steps on it or it's SS's turn again) and few random rolls are easily doable with dice (being %% hits on strength and Thrasher's Bloody Flail ability).

So if Stoic feels like doing a tabletop tactical game, they just only need to make miniatures and a table, everything else is already in place :)

01-25-2014, 08:05 AM
Do you think the Banner Saga combat system could be applied to a pen & paper system?

Yes! Awesome idea. I haven't played as much pen&paper RPGs as I'd like, but I can clearly see how well it fits the scene. You could also "add" all those features (map objectives as in "grab that item" or "break that door", LOS, new abilities like healing) just like that :D

if Stoic feels like doing a tabletop tactical game, they just only need to make miniatures and a table, everything else is already in place :)

Another Kickstarter? ;) Tabletop games seem to have a big share in KS, along with video-games.

01-25-2014, 08:48 AM
I think The Banner Saga universe would make the perfect setting for all kinds of RPGs, both pen & paper and computer versions.

In fact, I'm hoping to see something like that in the future. With luck, the three planned TBS games are only the beginning.

01-25-2014, 10:11 AM
I like WFRP (only familiar w/ the 1st Ed. of it, tho'). I think that could simulate any fantasy setting nicely (I'm biased 'cause I love the critical results tables lol).

I think a Banner Saga tabletop game (PnP RPG or boardgame) could be "simplified" further and go pure diceless by removing the percentile stuff: any time your strength, in the video game, would require a percentile check to deal damage w/ a strength attack, you could simplify that by making it that no damage could be dealt (and you'd have no choice but to hit armor). Or something like that.
Keep the basic stats as is. Same combat setup (grid system). Keep progression the same (renown for leveling up, then 2 pts. per level up), then, perhaps, just add more rules if the players want more complexity (weapon/armor variations, customization vs. the fixed character/class/race setups we have in the game, expanded progression rules, expanded skill sets, including non-combat skills, etc.).

I think I'd like to see a full on, less/non-linear RPG in the Banner Saga setting (same aesthetic, same, if not slightly more complex, combat mechanics, etc.). For PC, of course (I do think it'd be cool if console gamers could enjoy the Banner Saga stuff as well). :)

A tabletop game would be nice, too, I guess, and if it has loads of art I'll probably get it...but I don't really play any tabletop stuff anymore. (went "full digital" w/ PC gaming and a PS3 on the side, been this way for years. A far cry from when I still played CCGs/TCGs, PnP RPGs, and WH40k and Warmachine regularly lol)

01-26-2014, 11:52 AM
Interesting idea for sure. :)

Problems would be balancing and the lack of dice-rolls, imho. I know a lot of players who don't like it when something happens to their characters and they can't do anything about it, even if its just a 5% chance roll.

If you allow more customization on the characters, it would be pretty easy to create overpowered combos like a high-strength varl with a bow. But if you're able to communicate restrictions to the players well it should work just fine.

Might make sense to clearly distinguish between combat-skills and non-combat skills, except for some bonusses.

Compelling idea, especially about the tabletop-version. That might be a really, really awesome idea for another kickstarter.

02-05-2014, 11:54 AM
I immediately thought how great this would translate into a classic P&P RPG.
Maybe set in the second war to prevent collision between both games. The fights would work great and dice rolls would be needed for skills or something similar.
Please make that happen!