(Original article, along with others, at http://www.rageapocalypse.com .
Buried deep in Mark Rosewater’s A Day in a Life “article” (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/mr58) he gave good list of approaches to designing cards:
1. You can create cards to fill specific design holes.
2. You can create cards that fulfill a need in the current tournament metagame.
3. You can do top-down design where you create a card to match a concept of what the card represents.
4. You can create variations of older cards.
5. You can extrapolate new ideas from old cards.
6. You can create cards by free association.
7. You can create cards organically (these are the ones that pop in your head in the shower).
8. You can create cards by doing riffs of cards created by other designers.
9. You can create cards by experimenting with breaking certain rules.
10. You can create cards by mixing and matching old cards.
As mentioned in Board Design (http://www.rageapocalypse.com/?p=44), the most common approach in Rage is top-down. That is, we find something interesting in the Werewolf: the Apocalypse sourcebooks (http://wiki.white-wolf.com/worldofdarkness/index.php/WtA_Boo...) and we turn it into a Rage card. With over one hundred source books for Werewolf alone, not to mention those for the other gamelines in the same World of Darkness (http://wiki.white-wolf.com/worldofdarkness/index.php/Old_Wor...), we have plenty of source material.
The Green Dragon, for instance, is the personal totem of Zhyzack which gives her such strength that she was stronger in Homid form than many garou had in Crinos, and the Green Dragon is also a very arrogant totem. This is a perfect example of an effect that fits its source material extremely closely. The only concession we had to make was to make it a Pack Totem, since the Zhyzack card already printed could not have personal totems.
Most Gaian Gifts, Rites and Fetishes come from source material. In the case of Ahadi, we looked through the sourcebooks for the factions being introduced and put down card ideas for anything that we thought would make an interesting mechanic. There are a lot of Gifts in these books, so how do we decide what makes a good card? I can go into more detail after we have released a bit more of Ahadi, but the way I approach it is this: if I can think of a good, interesting – and hopefully novel – effect that captures the nature of the Gift, then I write something down.
War Council – the first set I worked on from the beginning – was mostly designed around concepts (guns and Board Meetings), however I did come up with Trick Shot. In fact, Trick Shot (a Gift originally found in the wild west setting) was so themic we had several attempts to find something good for it. The original Gift gave a large bonus when performing “impossible” shots, as long as they did not directly damage anyone. There are any number of ways you could come up with ideas that fit the concept. I didn’t see previous attempts, but the two other versions I submitted cancelled or destroyed Gifts and Equipment, since it fitted “indirect destruction”.
The third version was a True Fear vs. frenzied creatures, the concept being that the shot disorients the raging target. This version was taken because we wanted more cards to hose frenzies (they are meant to be a bad thing). It was powered up to include cancelling the frenzy (it is harder to play than Serenity), and was changed to the discard effect when we decided that we did not want another stymie and Savage Beatdown turned out to be so popular in playtesting. In fact the random discard fits with the whole trick shot thing since you cannot quite predict how effective it will be (hint: try playing Trick Shot and then cancelling their frenzy).
Not all concepts come from the roleplaying books. Ahadi is meant to be a set about the whole of Africa, not just Egypt and not just the Fera. Blood Diamond captures one of the essences of Africa, or at least African business – not a very pleasant one, but then this is not the World of Fluffiness (http://www.evildrganymede.net/rpg/wod/f-devilbun.htm). That it is also the name of a recent blockbuster did not hurt. Outgunned and “Eat Hot Lead, Dogbreath” were clearly inspired by guns. Board Meetings I have already talked about.
While the initial approach is top-down, the act of interpreting a concept into a card takes many factors into account. There are examples of all the above:
1. You can create cards to fill specific design holes. – Board Meetings
2. You can create cards that fulfill a need in the current tournament metagame. – Trick Shot (anti-frenzy)
3. You can do top-down design where you create a card to match a concept of what the card represents. – most cards!
4. You can create variations of older cards. – Command Attention
5. You can extrapolate new ideas from old cards. – Arms Dealer
6. You can create cards by free association. – Cooperation (came from talk about Wyrm card drawing)
7. You can create cards organically (these are the ones that pop in your head in the shower). – Murgatroyd from Rainmakers (I just liked the name and wanted a suitable ability)
8. You can create cards by doing riffs of cards created by other designers. – This happens all the time between Fenris and myself
9. You can create cards by experimenting with breaking certain rules. – Spirit Pacts
10. You can create cards by mixing and matching old cards. – At least two Mokole cards in Rainmakers were created this way.
Characters are more tricky. Some Characters such as Leila the Veil-Shredder are taken directly from the books. While Gifts tend to have a narrow application and so a fairly neat concept, Characters have abilities, habits and quirks that go in all directions. Leila is a Homid who pretends she is a Metis; she is an extremely ruthless business woman and leader in a male dominated world; she remains traumatised by a childhood of religious hatred; and she has an almost fanatical ambition to reopen an ancient caern. Picking the most relevant bits and turning them into a Rage Character took a few attempts. It may seem simple in hindsight, but there is a large amount to get in a small space.
The rest of the Characters are made up based on a couple of things. Firstly, we are trying to fill Renown holes for factions (so, for instance, that we might have Silver Fangs with Renown 1-10). Secondly, we try to capture the flavour of the faction, whether it is some peculiar aptitude or their attitude to each other, other factions and Gaia (or the Wyrm). Sometimes the smallest line in a sourcebook can make you think, “Oh, that would be a cool thing to put on a Character”.
However, the trickiest cards to design are probably those specific to creatures without much source material. Despite having solid writeups in the sourcebook, Ajaba and Hellcats are pretty short on Gifts, Fetishes and the like. Mokole are moving towards being focussed on Rites, yet very few rites are actually given to them (but lots of Gifts). The new factions, Cults and the Unbound, have almost nothing. Caerns especially seem unbalanced – Rage Across Egypt, the main sourcebook for Ahadi, contains huge numbers of Garou Caerns in Egypt, but there are almost no Caerns given for other creatures in Africa (or anywhere else for that matter). Wyrm factions in general have very few of anything given except, ironically, Caerns (and Characters).
We solve this in part by cheating – giving them other people’s stuff. This is most noticeable with Gifts (where we often add one or two extra users) and Rites and Equipment (where faction-specific becomes available to anyone). This is generally good for the game since it gives more options for new cards rather than restricting them to one type of deck. We also borrow from elsewhere. Hellcats mainly use Ceilican Gifts (since most Hellcats originate from that tribe), while Walid Set (the Cult scheduled for later in the block) draws on Disciplines from Vampire: the Masquerade. Finally, we just make stuff up. This is not new – Gaia’s Will Corrupted, as best we can tell, was made up for the Wyrm expansion. It is a matter of taking what is known about the faction and making cards that seem appropriate (all the non-Gift cards for Hellcats are, I think, made up). It is these cards which are most tricky because you have to both make a good card and keep it in theme.
While I hope the facts are correct, this article is inevitably written from my own perspective. I am sure you can cope.
- Last edited Tue Mar 6, 2007 10:18 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Mar 6, 2007 10:17 am