Structure of Second Generation Games
on Nov. 2, 2012, 2:23 p.m.
We're working on the next generation of Saga Machine games, but we're not sure quite yet what form those games are going to take. The first generation of games were structures in a way where there was one genre-agnostic core rulebook, and then individual settings were released as supplements requiring the core rulebook. We may be doing this again with the second generation of games, or we may decide to change the structure and release each setting as a stand-alone game--with all of the rules necessary to play the game in one book.
One of the benefits of including all of the rules in every book is that the is one place to reference, and the rules can evolve between stand-alone games without referencing back and forth between multiple books. It also gives us greater leeway to customize the rules for each setting. On the other hand, making a greater number of changes and having that much more text to juggle slows down the development time and release of games. It also makes it more difficult to easily convert other settings into the core system.
One of the benefits of our existing core & setting books structure is that we only need to publish the majority of traits and stuff once; everything else is just modifying the core. It also means that we have a generic core game, allowing for easy conversions of other settings to the system. On the other hand, as time goes on and the system evolves, the game is increasingly left with a patchwork of different books--some overruling others and errataing this or that. And what's current in the game quickly becomes confusing. Particularly being a first edition game, our personal Saga Machine campaigns have suffered from that.
There are a lot of different settings and genres out there, each with different moods and associated play styles. When designing a generic core game it's impossible (or at least exponentially complex) to design a game that includes comprehensive support for every style out there. For example: Should combat be quick and deadly? Should be it deep and tactical? Should it be gritty? Should it be cinematic? To cover every potential variation of that you'd need multiple combat systems, or at least an overwhelmingly long array of different configurable options.
In designing a generic core book it's best to aim for the 80/20 rule. That is, if the system you've designed can adequately handle 80% of the moods/genres/themes/settings out there, the game is in good shape. For the other 20% you can introduce specific setting or genre rules in the individual supplements to bring you the rest of the way to supporting it. After all, you wouldn't want to over-complicate your core system with an excess of rules and alternate systems meant only to handle single settings or very niche situations.