I’ve been asked to write up some Exalted-themed cards for Magic: The Gathering. This could be fun! But I’m not just going to write up some random cards for random Exalts and call it a day. I’m working to develop my game design skills, and building cards piecemeal does little to hone my abilities.
So! I’m going to build a whole card set, with the intent of making it playable in Limited format if someone felt like printing up the cards and playing with them. This is a useful experiment that should hopefully give some insight into the game design and development process. (It also means there won’t be any actual cards in this post. Design needs time! And I’m heading off to run D&D after dinner, so, priorities.)
To start with, I’m going to set some parameters:
- Few Exalts. It’s difficult to effectively translate the mechanics of the Celestial Exaltation into M:TG, and the Dragon-Blooded elemental synergies don’t fit neatly into the color pie (40% blue, 40% red, and 20% green), making it difficult to incorporate them into a set. I’ll throw in a couple here or there, but they won’t form the backbone of the set.
- Focus on a small part of Creation. It’s a huge world full of countless unique societies, and throwing them together like gumbo only serves to muddy all that interesting detail.
- Set it in an existing 1e/2e location. Picking a location that’s being added in 3e would require breaking my non-disclosure agreement to provide any kind of meaningful detail, while inventing a brand-new locale would miss the point of working with an existing setting.
Given these parameters, I’m going to design the set around Great Forks. Its plethora of gods and other supernatural creatures will provide a range of cool creature cards, its independence from the Realm justifies the absence of large number of Dragon-Blooded, and if I feel like it I can design a few Exigents. (Since I don’t know much more about Exigent design than you do, I can do this without worrying about spoilers.)
Now, there are lots of other parameters that go into an actual M:TG set. I’ll treat this as though I were actually working for Wizards of the Coast and design it as such. (Of course, I’m limited by lack of personnel and funds—I don’t have a playtesting team, for example—but I’ll do what’s within my capabilities as a guy who’s designing stuff in his spare time for no pay.)
These parameters include:
- Build the set as part of a cohesive block of three sets for drafting purposes, bookended by other blocks and basic sets for purposes of Standard format design. Obviously I’m not going to design all of those too, so I’ll just swap it in for a previous block.
- Build around a narrative. A real block would come with tie-in novels; I’m not planning on writing any, but a homebrewed block should have a narrative that a fiction writer could work with for this purpose.
- Planeswalker characters, some old and some new. Yeah, this means we have to have Liliana or Jace or whoever else show up in Creation. Cope.
- Multiple new mechanics and one recurring mechanic in the first set of the block. Later sets will have a new mechanic or two apiece; we can plan ahead for this if something really exciting pops up, but we can just as easily leave it for later—assuming this homebrew project gets that far.
(I wanted to put in some links to Mark Rosewater’s Magic: The Gathering design articles, but the Wizards of the Coast website is down. I’ll edit the links in later.)
That’s all for now, as I have to finish dinner and head out to D&D. Later I’ll start work on the mechanics and design skeleton for the Great Forks set. Till then!