Saga Machine Unified: April Playtest Results

Saga Machine Unified: April Playtest Results

In February we announced the Saga Machine Unified playtest and posted its first feedback survey. We followed up with another playtest survey in March and another in April. Today I’m going to go over the results of the April playtest.

The focus of this playtest was on character creation. Thank you to everyone who participated by commenting or filling out a survey. Let's look at the results!

Overall Satisfaction

The first question we asked this month was for people to rate their overall satisfaction with the character creation system as presented, on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (good). Aggregating all of the responses, this came to an average rating of 4.4. This meets our threshold for "good enough" but we feel that there is still room for improvement. Next month expect a few character creation tweaks and follow-up question or two regarding them.

Of note, some respondents commented that they missed the lifepath system used in Age of Ambition. And we hear you! In the future, expect many of our world-specific gamelines to have such a system. Lifepaths are a great way to tie characters to a game world. But the truth is that lifepaths are not the best fit for a generic, setting-agnostic version of the rules. It's hard to design a truly generic lifepath, since so many game world assumptions get baked into them.

Ambitions as a Mechanic for Gaining Experiences

Next, we asked people to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how they felt about Ambitions as the mechanic for gaining experiences. Here respondents' feelings varied more than in the previous question. The average rating came to 3.8, with a range of 2 to 5. While this isn't a particularly bad rating, it is low enough that we are likely to consider some tweaks to Ambitions in the next playtest, as well as providing an alternative option for GMs who don't wish to use them.

Generic Currency vs. Abstract Wealth

This was by far the most controversial mechanic this month. The playtest presented a method to purchase starting equipment using units of a generic currency. We then asked whether people prefered using generic currency or an abstract wealth system (such as used by Shadows Over Sol or Dime Adventures).

Exactly half of respondents preferred generic currency, while the other half preferred abstract wealth. Furthermore, exactly half of each group felt strongly about that choice. In the comments, supporters of each option called out supporting that option because it is easier.

Our biggest takeaway from this is that fans want a wealth system that is easy to use, but clearly opinions vary on what makes a system easy. As a result, we're still considering all options. Definitely expect some changes and a follow-up question in the next playtest. If they're well received, the changes may stick, and if not we'll backtrack. Either way, it will give us another data point regarding what fans want out of a wealth system.

Assigning Stats From an Array vs. Buying Stats With Experiences

This playtest presented two methods for generating a character's stats: assigning them from an array and buying them with experience. We then asked how people felt about including two methods and which method people preferred.

50% of respondents strongly preferred the array method, while only 12.5% strongly preferred the experiences method. The remaining 37.5% were split between evenly people with a slight preference or with no preference. These results strongly favors the array method as default.

Meanwhile, 62.5% of respondents favored keeping both methods as options, so we're likely to continue to do so. Generally speaking, however, as the number of included "options and alternative rules" grow, we're likely to move some or all of them from the character creation chapter to GM options chapter. This would let GMs decide if they want to use any of the alternative rules, while at the same time keeping the player-focused chapters... well... focused.

Origins and Paths

Our biggest takeaway from the Origins and Paths questions is that we need to more clearly lay out their design intent. On a scale of 1 to 5, Origins received an average rating of 3.9, while Paths received an average rating of 3.6. Both had a range of 2 to 5.

As it stands, they're likely to be cut from the next playtest, retooled and will probably appear again in a revised form in the months to come. We don't currently have a "Game Mastering" playtest on the schedule, but perhaps we should consider adding one. That would be an ideal time to demo Origins and Paths again: as a GM option for making character creation fit a particular campaign.

That’s it for the April results. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the survey! And keep your eyes peeled for the May playtest packet, which we expect to release next week!

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