Streamlining Group Effort

Streamlining Group Effort

In principle I like how the Group Effort rules work in Saga Machine. I like how the system incentives characters to work together. I like how the modifiers are significant. I like how there's a chance for a critical failure to mean helpers do more harm than good. There's a problem with the Group Effort rules however: they're slow.

Let's look at the steps that need to be done to get them to work:

  1. A character decides that an action should be performed. Other characters chime in to help him out.
  2. The characters decide who gets be primary. (In my experience this often simply results in an exercise in sorting to determine who has the bigger modifier.) All secondary characters make their actions.
  3. Secondary characters have to figure out the TN, determine magnitude and figure out the modifier from that. (In my experience this step is particularly error-prone.)
  4. The primary character's player then totals all of those modifiers, makes the action himself and then totals all of them together. (With a cap at +4.) Often a single exceptional secondary success will mean the modifier from Group Effort hits its maximum, and the additional helpers didn't add much.

This is good, but there are a lot of steps. In future Saga Machine games I've been contemplating doing Group Effort in a slightly more streamlined way. Here's how it would work:

  1. The character decides that an action should be performed. Other characters chime in to help him out.
  2. The characters make actions; one character is primary.
  3. Secondary characters doing better than the primary add a +2 bonus, others add a +1. Critical failing helpers do their usual -4. There is the usual cap at +4.

This proposed system is faster and less error-prone because it cuts out the step where secondary characters have to determine TN and magnitude. It also means that one exceptional secondary character is less likely to render the other secondaries useless, as means that on average more secondary characters will contribute before the +4 cap is reached. Finally, it also means there's less game incentive to always do that sorting exercise to determine who's going to be primary, as a primary with a lower result will mean the bonus from secondaries tends to be higher, as they're compared against the primary's total.

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