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Subject: Custom Environment -- UC Berkeley Campus rss

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Dennison Milenkaya
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Washington
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Hello, SOTM fans!

The story behind this environment is that the villain attacks a college campus for some reason. Baron Blade may be seeking revenge on an administration that laughed him out of university due to the impracticality of his research concerning throwing the moon out of its orbit. Omnitron may be seeking new technology to merge with his form. Ambuscade may be trying to kidnap scientists to make better devices and design weirder traps. Citizen Dawn may be looking for hostages, thinning out the non-supers, or seeking potential supers to join her citizen brigade. Grand Warlord Voss might just have approached Earth to begin his invasion in a college town, with the rest of the scene being incidental.

The deck was first created sometime around September 2013, but play-testing revealed bugs that just couldn't be ignored. Some flashes of brilliance were needed to not just patch the problems but remove them entirely so that it doesn't just feel sewn up. I'm proud to announce that it has been improved and has played well for 2 months, so I'm ready to share with the public.

While I mostly play in San Jose, the RPG group that inspired my custom heroes meets in Berkeley and I developed an environment deck to commemorate that city.

This deck was inspired by Spite's only interesting feature: the victims that the heroes try to save from Spite's drugged-up rampage. Sadly, that best feature just isn't important. You could just ignore it, if you like, and still beat Spite with one hand tied behind your back. Also, Megalopolis includes some instances of the amassed crowd being placed in danger by the villain confrontation.

UC Berkeley Campus includes five bystanders that are in danger of being struck down during the fight. The heroes must protect these people before too many of them are slain too soon. If they fail to do so, it really doesn't matter if they can beat the villain; the price of innocent lives lost was too high. The flavor of the deck really brings out the importance of what it means to be a super hero. Most of the bystanders attempt to help the heroes as they can, but this only goes so far toward balancing the challenge that they present by distracting the heroes from just "thokking" the bad guys. This offers a press-your-luck element. Do you keep the bystanders around longer to take advantage of the help they offer or do you move them to safety lest they be harmed?

The keyword ALLY occurs in a few of my decks and needs defining. An ally qualifies as a hero target (not some other target). In this way, an ally is not hurt by Tempest's Squall power, is helped by Argent Adept's Vernal Sonata, and is in danger of taking hits from villain cards that aim for hero targets.

And if you really want to personalize this deck to honor your alma mater, feel free to print out some different card back. Here it is:


Enjoy!
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Those cards are...

UC Berkeley
Campus

ONGOING: 04

Security Office x1
Shelter
This card is indestructible.

When this card enters play, shuffle the environment trash into its deck.

At the start of the environment turn, if 3 or more bystanders are in the environment trash, the heroes lose. Game over.

This is the engine of the deck. It governs the mechanic to cause heroes to rescue bystanders. To avoid auto-loss due to showing up late, it shuffles the trash into the deck upon entering play. Otherwise, there may already be several bystanders in the trash before the Security Office even comes up.

Infirmary x1
Shelter
At the start of a hero's turn, that player may skip the rest of their turn to search the environment trash for 1 bystander and put that card into play.

At the start of the environment turn, either destroy this card or the villain target with the highest HP deals the hero with the lowest HP 2 toxic damage.

This location offers the heroes a chance to save bystanders that didn't quite make it. It solves the problem of bystanders being discarded directly from the deck (darn you, Akash'Bhuta!), and provides a solution to those villain cards that manage to kill off a bystander before heroes even have a chance to do anything about it.

In Harm's Way x1
Each turn, the first time the villain target with the second highest HP deals damage, that card deals as much damage to the bystander with the highest HP.

At the start of the environment turn, any hero may destroy 1 of their ongoing cards to destroy this card.

There's a right way and many wrong ways to create a "protect the innocent" kind of deck. You don't want it to try to handle all the damage-dealing itself or shove a square through a circle to make it fit any villain deck dealing damage. This card gives an easy way to handle both without being over-bearing.

Main Quad x1
At the end of the environment turn, play the top card of the environment deck.

This card helps to keep the environment harmful, even though quite a few cards don't cause harm to the heroes. The deck does have a couple of painful cards in it, and this one helps to reach them faster, more often. Or, it plays bystanders in greater bulk, making it harder to protect all of them at once.

TARGET: 07

Art Major x1
Bystander, Ally, Target: 4 HP
At the start of each hero's turn, that player may draw a card.

At the start of the environment turn, each player may discard up to 2 cards. If (H) cards are discarded in this way, put this card under the Security Office.

We love the Art Major. We love anyone that allows extra card draw. Discards are required to protect her, but she does provide those cards. Also, you could let her remain out of the Security Office an extra turn or two to end up with more cards than you started with. Still, draw 1, discard 1 is a benefit.

Campus Police x1
Bystander, Ally, Target: 6 HP
At the end of the environment turn, X players cannot play cards until the start of the next environment turn, where X = (H) plus the number of bystanders in play minus 4.

If this card is destroyed by a hero card without being reduced to 0 HP or fewer, put this card under the Security Office.

So this guy is a pain in the ass. I didn't want all the bystanders to be so helpful. Basically, in a 4-player game, one player per bystander cannot play cards. One less for a 3-player game and one more for a 5-player game. As more innocent people are around, the officer gets in the way more, trying to prevent gunfire, grenade-lobbing, and laser blasts from hurting anyone. The villains are less co-operative, so only the heroes are really harried. They need to find a way to get rid of him without killing him.

Cheerleader x1
Bystander, Ally, Target: 5 HP
At the end of the environment turn, each hero regains 1 HP.

At the start of the environment turn, 1 player may discard 1 card to put this card under the Security Office.

This bystander didn't want a big price to pay to rescue her. Her benefit is so good that you probably wouldn't want to remove her from the field if you had to sacrifice much for it. Also, not every bystander should be difficult to save.

Philosophy Major x1
Bystander, Ally, Target: 5 HP
During the power phase of each hero's turn, that player may discard 1 card. If they do, that hero may use an additional power.

At the start of the environment turn, the players may play the top card of the villain deck. If they do, put this card under the Security Office.

So this guy is quite helpful. Conversely, saving him has a steep price.

Professor x1
Bystander, Ally, Target: 4 HP
Reduce all damage dealt by 1.

When a villain target is destroyed, put this card under the Security Office.

When this card enters play, search the environment deck and trash for the Security Office, put it into play, and shuffle the deck.

The Professor is pretty much going to be rescued without going out of your way. But the damage reduction that he causes does sometimes make it difficult to take down a villain target. Since he tends to show up just before the bad guys dish out their attacks, he's mostly beneficial. He also tries to put the Security Office into play so that it isn't skipped while searching for a target via Caught in the Crossfire or otherwise buried too deep in the deck on the first cycle.

Extra x2
Follower
This card is a villain target.

When this card enters play, it copies the keywords of the last non-character villain target in play to enter play.

At the end of the environment turn, this card deals each non-villain target 2 projectile damage.

These thugs were necessary to make certain other cards in this deck function. They count as villain targets. (They are still environment targets, unlike Allies.) Without them, there may be no way to rescue the Professor or allow In Harm's Way and Raid the Research Lab to deal damage. Also, they'll directly damage the bystanders. They do take on keywords of other villain targets, so they can provide Voss with damage reduction (and receive it from Viktor), heal from Citizen Spring, and count toward a Repair Drone's healing. Mostly, they are trying to support the villain as best as they can without being extremely complicated.

TEMPORARY: 04

Caught in the Crossfire x1
When this card enters play, destroy a bystander.

Then, reveal cards from the environment deck until a target is revealed. Put that card into play and discard the other revealed cards.

At the end of the environment turn, destroy this card.

This card ensures that bystanders are always in danger. It also helps to make sure there's one to worry about (or an extra to shoot everyone!). Also, it keeps the deck from always running through all of the possible non-target cards every time it cycles, since things like Security Breach or Storm the Dorm might be skipped via the reveal & discard function.

Raid the Research Lab x1
At the end of the environment turn, each player may destroy any of their equipment and/or ongoing cards.

At the start of the environment turn, the villain target with the second highest HP deals each hero X energy damage, where X = the number of hero ongoing and equipment cards in play. Then, destroy this card.

This may seem familiar. The design is taken from Baron Blade's Devious Disruption. It really does suck to have a "destroy all hero ongoing (or equipment) cards" effect in too many decks, since you want your hero to be able to set-up in order to feel right and enjoy the nice combos. "Destroy (H)" is usually better, but too often easy to blow up some things you don't care about and keep the good stuff. This effect means you can keep what you really need, but you want to ditch all you can spare. This card may be extremely damaging, either in HP loss or card destruction, so aside from those options, there are two other solutions: Destroy this card or take out all extraneous villain targets. Unlike Devious Disruption, this card gives a full round to kill off all villain targets but the main so that there is no second highest HP target to deal the damage or destroy this card, or even just use your cards (like Absolute Zero's Glacial Restructuring or Haka's Savage Mana) before it counts against you.

Security Breach x1
When this card enters play, put one card under the Security Office into play, then shuffle all cards under the Security Office into the environment deck.

At the end of the environment turn, destroy this card.

This card helps to ensure that the heroes are never finished saving people. It also helps to keep the deck from running out of tolerable cards to play, especially when it tends to play two cards per turn. Finally, it makes the players really think about how important it is to secure the bystanders at certain times, if they are likely to be released soon after.

Storm the Dorm x1
When this card enters play, reveal cards from the top of the villain deck until you reveal a target. Put that card into play and shuffle the rest back into the villain deck. The first time that target deals damage, redirect the damage to a bystander.

At the end of the environment turn, play the top card of the environment deck, destroy this card.

This card helps the villain put targets into play faster. To balance that, the first attack made by that target won't hit a hero (unless there's no bystander to redirect to) so that this doesn't ruin the game if the villain deck isn't built to expect such things (though players may need to endure such problems sometimes anyway). Still, it gives a good opportunity to shoot a bystander and give the heroes something else to deal with. This card plays another card from the environment deck, so even against villain decks that don't include other targets (Iron Legacy, Plague Rat), this card pretty much just says "play another card instead" and against most villain decks, it works like any other environment card while playing a villain's target.


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Brian Dysart
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Nicely done. I like the risk/reward tradeoff of the bystanders, though they're somewhat expendable until the security office enters play. The wording in the Extras is a bit awkward. Do they change keywords as villain targets cycle in and out?
 
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Dennison Milenkaya
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It is true that there's no way to save them before you find the Security Office and that you don't really need to until then. It has never ruined a game. I equate it to the villain making a show of force early in the movie but once the heroes are capable of doing something about it, they must try all they can to prevent it from continuing.

Consider the scene in Spider-man when the Goblin throws the grenades into the business meeting and vaporizes the heads of Oz Co. Or all the people that are gassed before Batman arrives in the Batjet in the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson movie. You really can't do anything to save people until you can do something to save them. It works.

As for the Extras, you are right. They aren't supposed to change while in play. At some point, we tried doing that because it would mean not needing to track anything. Want to know the keywords? Just check out the current cards in play. But it felt weird.

So they should set their keywords when entering play. Sometimes, they have no special keywords, due to all minions being wiped at the time. When facing The Ennead or Iron Legacy, there's no need for keywords, since the villain deck won't expect such things to be in play. There's no official card that copies another card's keywords, so I had no precedent for wording it. I've changed the wording above to hopefully be more clearer. Let me know what you think.
 
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Brian Dysart
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The new wording on Extras is more clear. "...in play to enter play" is awkward, but I'm not sure there's a better way to phrase it. Just "to enter play" would mean having to remember which defeated target was most recent. In practice, I would probably put the Extra under or next to the target it was copying (and if the original was defeated, just remember the keywords).

I haven't played the base game and expansions enough to want to start printing custom decks, but when I hit Printerstudio someday I'll remember this deck.
 
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Jeff Ward
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This is simply fantastic. The mechanics are excellent and the images and quotes are very fun. I could see this quickly becoming one of my favorite environment decks.

If at all possible I would love to see them made available as individual images similar to what tosx does with his customs, would be a big help for formatting and printing.
 
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Benjamin Y.
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I am loving the deck too, but I cannot get pass the picture. They are not wrong, but it is breaking the mood too much for me.

Still, good job!
 
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Dennison Milenkaya
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Thank you for your interest, guys.

Brian, the only problem with placing the Extra next to the villain target (beyond the villain target leaving play earlier than the Extra) is that now you need to remember the order in which to execute commands.

It really isn't too hard to remember if, upon entering play, you declare "Look at that: Voss already promoted the new guy to Lieutenant and considers him a Thorian," or "Voss has another Flagship: The S.S. Bob from Tim Burton's Batman!" Both are silly enough to stick with you for awhile. Otherwise, he's a Minion or even nothing special, which you state in some memorable way. It also doesn't hurt to make a note somewhere. Most other villains have less variety among targets. When facing Dawn, the Extra is either a Citizen or not. When facing Plague Rat, he's either a Nest or not, but that has no effect. When facing Kismet, he's either a Stolen Heirloom (or the other side) but that also has no impact on the game.

Jeff, I do intent to make my decks available for Printer Studio, but I'm more interested in finishing them all first. Also, I'm reluctant to do so too soon, lest someone should rush out to order a copy before all tweaking is complete. Though I do play-test extensively, 14 people can only catch so much whereas 50 to 1,ooo people will find more, perhaps quickly. I'm a print-'n'-play kind of guy. While I know this does take a bit more effort than you'd normally care to do for every deck that comes along, when something really grabs your attention, it is worth it. So, thank you and the files you seek are coming.

Yoshi, that mood that you mention is not unintended. It is supposed to make you feel an urgency to protect the students. Welcome to the dilemma of being a super hero! Perhaps you should be glad that I nixed the originally proposed idea and went with a college campus.

To my mind, I'm severely disappointed by the influx of movies and TV shows that display total violence in highly public areas where no-one gets hurt. It ruins one's suspension of disbelief. Consider the original X-Men movie where Cyclops blows the roof off the train station. Cement caves into the building but not one person in that crowded space is harmed. Then, Magneto rips a train car apart and again no-one is hurt. It is as if we've all decided that the only bystanders that we accept being hurt in movies anymore are security guards. Police are never killed incidentally (only for extreme dramatic purpose) and bystanders are pretty much immortal. Security guards are "on-the-job" and expendable, however, so we don't mind if they are slain. It's weird and it didn't use to be that way. What it makes me wonder is why must super heroes get involved; no-one is being hurt anyway.

The big fight at the end of Man Of Steel takes place in Metropolis with the supers blowing chunks off of buildings, with debris falling haphazardly and unpredictably into the streets, but we never see anyone crushed underneath. It just isn't happening. You can pretend that it does, but they gloss over it, except in the hand-to-hand fight to follow, there is a family that Zod (or whoever he is in that movie) is intentionally trying to shoot to really anger Superman. Superman struggles to defend them, and you get the impression that of the hundreds of people who would've already been wracked during the fight, this one more family is small potatoes, but the intensity of that scene suggests that these are the only innocent people that were placed in harm's way during the fight. The whole thing ends up being silly, in retrospect. However, that final scene does project what this deck intends to do: Cause the heroes to try to save the people. You may not like that they are being risked, but turning a blind eye to it isn't going to earn you a the title of hero.
 
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Brian Dysart
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I hadn't considered the order of resolving cards. And yeah, remembering the traits shouldn't be too hard. If it is, small stickynotes will solve that.

I'm with you re Man of Steel. The attack on Metropolis must have killed tens of thousands of people, but we barely see any of them. I feel like The Avengers' attack on New York was a little better, at least showing more people actually threatened, but not much actual death.
 
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