Saga Machine Unified: March Playtest Results

Saga Machine Unified: March Playtest Results

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

The focus of this playtest was on the Action, Luck and Skill systems. In it, we hoped to glean some critical feedback on how Luck is handled, how to present the two options for resolving actions and on the system’s skill list. Thank you to everyone who participated by commenting or filling out a survey!

That said, let's look at the results!

Standalone Core Books vs. Core Book + Setting Books

The first question we asked was regarding how to package our game lines: whether to release a generic core book and begin each game line with a setting book, or whether to release standalone core books for each line.
It turns out that 57% of the respondents either slightly or strongly prefer standalone books, while 29% slightly prefer core + setting books. No respondent strongly preferred core + setting books. The rest were neutral.

These results clearly favor standalone core books. As that is already how we have been packaging our game lines, we’re likely to continue doing it that way in the future.

Name for the Luck Mechanic

The generic name for our “Luck” mechanic also had a clear favorite. 86% of respondents preferred Luck as their first choice, beating out Karma, as the closest runner up, with only 14% picking it as their first choice. No respondents picked Edge, Moxie or a write-in as their first choice.

Given this overwhelming result, we’re almost certainly going to continue using “Luck” as the generic name of the mechanic, although we may continue to use alternative names in specific game lines, tailored to the genre in question. After all, this is easier to do with standalone core books than with a core + setting book model.

Critical Success & Failure

On a scale of 1 to 5, the critical success and failure mechanic we presented rated an average of 3.86, with a median and mode of 4 and range of 2 to 5.

This is a decent enough rating and people overall seem happy enough with the mechanic. However, I personally suspect that this is a mechanic that needs careful evaluation through play. Given its reasonably high rating, we’re unlikely to change it in the next couple packets, but I want to make a point to bookmark it so that we can cycle back to reevaluate it once the game is more complete.

Dice vs. Card Mechanics

In the March packet we presented both dice-based and card-based action resolution up front, rather than relegating one to an appendix. This proved to be a popular approach. 86% of respondents preferred both mechanics to be presented up front.

People were more divided, however, on whether to list one as the preferred mechanic or whether to treat them as equally as possible. 57% of respondents want one mechanic or the other to be indicated as the preferred action resolution method, while 43% want them to be treated equally.

Put simply, whether to prefer dice-based or card-based resolution remains a sticky issue for us. Predictably, those favoring a clearly indicated “preferred action resolution method” were also the most likely to strongly favor dice over cards or vice vera. And this group is largely split down the middle in terms of which mechanic they prefer.

As a result, for the April playtest at the very least, we’re going to attempt to treat both mechanics as equally as possible—if for no other reason than this leaves us in a position that’s easier to backtrack from if we later change course and indicate that one method is preferred.

Face Cards as Adders vs. Luck

Following up with the card mechanic, 57% of respondents strongly favor treating face cards as equal to Luck, while 14% slightly prefer treating them as adders (+1, +2 or +3).

These results clearly favor handling face cards as equal to Luck, and we’re likely to continue doing so in future packets.

The Skill List

Last but not least, we asked people to evaluate the skill system we presented.

Many pointed out the lack of combat skills, which was an intentional omission on our part, as we’re still working on the design of the combat system. Expect much more on that in May, but for April know that both a Melee and Projectiles skill are being included in the packet.

We also received some useful feedback on specialized skills, regarding how granular they should be and whether some of the other skills should be subsumed into either Academics or Trade. Expect us to tweak a number of these in next month’s packet.

Finally, 80% of respondents were in favor of skills having a default associated stat. Although we may tweak which stat a few of these skills default to based on feedback, given these results, we're likely to keep default stat associations. Remember, skills can still be used with other stats; there's just one to default to if no other stat is specified.

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

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