Monday, September 12, 2011

A Class-Based Multigame Deck Building Design

Mr. Card Game had many directions that it could have gone but didn't. Because we wanted to keep true to the Kingdom of Loathing brand, Graydon and I kept returning to a drafting design for Mr. Card Game. But, in sticking to deck drafting, we had to create a number of workarounds for the kind of problems that are typically red flags for card games: combinatorial explosion, large hand sizes, multidimensional identities.

Ironically, having to problem solve these issues to preserve the class-based ascension runs in KOL forced me to come face to face with the essence of deck-building. Although we could not turn Mr. Card Game into a deck-building game and still capture the spirit of KOL, the idea that each card only has meaning as part of a set very much influenced the final direction of Mr. Card Game. And, as a result, one of the outcomes of the project was a much better understanding of how to complete the design I originally sketched out for WotC.

Here's what came out:

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The Legends of Laea

Each player builds his own deck over a series of adventures. But each adventure is itself also a stand alone game. Throughout one adventure, players confront monsters, puzzles, traps, minions and other encounters throughout the Kingdom of Azore to complete quests and uncover clues to the villain behind the subplot. When the players have accumulated enough clues, they may take on the villain, complete the adventure and end the chapter. At that point, the game is over and the players collectively earn the gratitude of the Kingdom and its inhabitants.

But the end of every adventure is also the beginning of a new one. With each accomplishment, players find new opportunities, uncover new challenges and discover new mysteries to the Legend of Laea which they can choose to face if they want. To aid them on the next adventures, players carry over the lessons they've learned, the items they have acquired and even the injuries they have sustained. Stronger, wiser and able to take on even greater challenges, the next adventure starts off just where the last one ended.
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Although the exact mechanics for Legends of Laea are not specified here, Mr. Card Game allowed me to find a solution for a couple of the problems which plagued Dungeon. The process of creating quests needed to be much less fidgety. The relationship between skill drafting and character class cards needed to have an underlying framework which allowed you to quickly play a lot of cards in interesting combinations. Encounters needed to be more streamlined and the process by which players increased their strength required a much greater degree of integration with the way that players overcame encounters.

So... Class-Based Multigame Deck-Building is back on the table.

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