Saga Machine Unified: June Playtest Results

Saga Machine Unified: June Playtest Results

Earlier this year we announced the Saga Machine Unified playtest. Since then, we have released a new version of the playtest each month, with the June packet focusing on health and damage. Today I’m going to go over the results. I'm also going to announce a change to our playtest release schedule and strategy.

Schedule and Strategy Change

It's clear from this month's feedback that the health system in June's playtest packet doesn't meet our fans' expectations. As a consequence, its getting a ground-up redesign. We're also going to take this opportunity revisit all of the controversial questions in the playtest thus far, making sure that the basic systems are all fully settled before moving on in future playtest packets.

This necessitates a revision of our playtest release schedule. Rather than being the "July" release, the next playtest packet will be the "Summer" release. It will include a completely rewritten health and fatigue system, as well as an added appendix with all of the standard consequences. Furthermore, the accompanying questionnaire will revisit key controversial design choices from earlier iterations of the playtest.

Once this packet is released, we then plan to conduct a series of internal "hands on" playtests, using the rules to run sessions across several different genres. We'll use feedback from these sessions, as well as feedback from the public packet, to guide the design and revisions in packets to come.

There will be no "August" release. Instead, regular playtest packets will resume in the fall.

HP vs. Wound Consequences

The first question we asked this month was about whether people prefer to model health as HP or using Wound consequences. 60% of respondents strongly preferred Wound consequence. The other 40% slightly preferred them.

This more than anything convinced us that the HP system in the June playtest packet was off the mark and in need of a redesign.

When asked why they preferred their chosen method, most responses described Wound consequences as providing better visceral feedback and story flavor.

Damage Method

We next presented three methods of calculating damage and asked people to rank them in order or preference: Damage+Margin, Fixed Damage and Damage Array. 60% of respondents chose Damage+Margin as their first choice. The other 40% chose it as their second choice. This makes it the clear favorite. (Fixed Damage was the distant second.)

As this was the method used by the June playtest packet, we're likely to keep using it in the future (or some close variation of it, pending the health rewrite).

Fatigue: Damage Type vs. Consequences

Next, we asked about whether to handle fatigue as a damage type or as a Fatigue consequence. 80% of respondents either strongly or slightly preferred handling it as a consequence. This is not how it was implemented in the playtest packet. As such, a rewrite of fatigue is being included in the rewrite of the health system.

Shock and Major Wounds

When asked about Shock and Major Wound imposing Stun, 60% of respondents said they only want such rules in very specific genres. The remaining 40% were split evenly between those who always want such rules and those who never want them.

As such, we're likely to write rules for Shock, but to include them only as optional rather than a core part of the system.


Next up, we asked people to rate their satisfaction with the armor rules on a scale of 1 to 5. The mean response was 3.8. We consider this number to be adequate, but with room for improvement. We'll spend some time thinking about how we can improve the armor rules, but doing so is lower priority than the health rewrite.

Grave Wounds and Dying

Finally, we asked a series of questions about Grave Wounds and dying. Fans were evenly split on their preference of whether to generate Grave Wounds from a table or pick a result from a short list. Consequently, we're likely to hedge our bets, both providing a table and stating that the GM should either "make up a result of use the table below." If nothing else, the table can serve as inspiration when coming up with results on the fly.

That’s it for the June results. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the survey! Keep your eyes peeled over the next couple weeks for the Summer playtest packet!

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