One of the annoying things about big rulebooks is the way numerous intricate parts of the rules are meant to connect together in one seamless device of elegant complexity...it's annoying because I've invariably found that one or two rules are ignored, forgotten about, or simply put aside (due to their lack of obvious significance to the overall structure), and then other parts of the system don't quite work the way they should and the whole game degenerates into a session of ad-libs and half remembered rulings. Certainly not what the designer intended, I'm sure.
I try not to add too many fiddly bits into my game designs, but regular readers will know that this is something I struggle with. I always want to add in an extra little bit here and there to reflect something that I think is cool at the time. Then the extra bit grows, then another one...and eventually I have to prune the system back to basics. Sometimes the refined system is back at square one, sometimes it looks "different".
One of the things I've been playing with for years is a decent method of replicating the way social interaction works in the mechanisms of a game. Where new and vague connections between people see them testing the waters before significant progress is made, and where stronger relationships push for more immediate dramatic outcomes. Added to this are shared history and context between individuals, mutual vs conflicting goals, and even the moods of the social participants. But every time I feel like I've got the angles covered, it just feels overly complicated from the perspective of game mechanisms.
For the Familiar game, I need two things to really work well, and I'd be happier still if those two elements worked well together. I need a magic system that integrates with the wider world (rather than simply a list of spells), and I need a relationship system to govern the interactions between the Familiars and each other, the Familiars and their mages, and the familiars and the wider world.
The core system remains fundamentally as it has. Character attribute versus a difficulty chosen by the player...high difficulty means more benefit achieved through a successful action. I've been looking at the idea of introducing character advantages and disadvantages to the system, but every way I've tried so far just feels clunky or messy. Auto fails/successes feel too big, modifying die size feels too small, rerolls just add a different type of mechanism into play that hasn't occurred elsewhere...nothing feels right yet.
Maybe it's time to let this one rest a while, and I'll go back to one of the old game projects on the backburner.