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November 16th, 2006
06:09 am
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BMTS2 Sidebar: Now introducing Elements
Anyone for cards?

n.b.: If any PBXers out there want to read through the rules, beta-test the game, and send me a log, I would be seriously in your debt. Possibly involving ice cream. Or a story commission.

Current Mood: deviousdevious
Current Music: FF Tactics OST, "Heretics"
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From:circuit_four
Date:November 16th, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC)

hope this is constructive criticism...

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Hrrm, I don't know. Unless I'm misunderstanding the rules, it feels like a forbiddingly open variation of "Slapjack" to me, especially the "non-mage" version. I think it might benefit from some more constraints. Off the top of my head, I also offer the traditional term "rank" for the card numbers -- might be a little more readily understood than "card type." I'd also suggest, since you're introducing a lot of specialized terms at once for otherwise familiar game concepts, you might want the summary to reflect the mechanics more explicitly.

If I understand correctly, the Ocean is the full deck, the Island is your private reserve of limited size with cards nobody else can touch, and the Flame is your "goal hand" of cards which must be of matching rank and when you get four of a kind there you win? So basically, barring the magical elements, the strategy comes from trying to discover from your opponents' actions which cards are in their Flames and securing those cards before they do, but somebody whose needed ranks are all wrapped up in other people's Islands can call for the discard of their Flame -- and only their own Flame -- and make everybody pass their Islands around the table?

This is purely kibitzing and YMMV, but if I were given stewardship of this game, what I'd probably do is reduce some of the unphased, free-for-all nature of the game and focus on the card-claiming strategy and on simulating magical effects for non-magical players, who I presume will constitute the majority of players that I'll ever get to meet, anyway. ;p One game you might want to check out for inspiration is "Hex Hex," a "beer-and-pretzels" style card game with a magical theme. Perhaps have two parallel decks, one of simulated magical "spells" and one regular 52-card one... or let them use their Play Hands for a series of special effects akin to Waving Hands?
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From:baxil
Date:November 16th, 2006 09:01 pm (UTC)

Re: hope this is constructive criticism...

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It is constructive criticism, and thank you. :)

The one immediate response I'd have to some of the concerns is that this isn't really meant for non-mages; I'm not trying to design this as a card game for people here on Earth now. This just sort of spilled out of my head as part of my TTU alternate-universe writing spree, which I now realize I posted before this and hence further down on peoples' friends pages. The reason I made the PBX comment is that if I ever am going to get any productive quasi-beta-testing, it'll probably be from a textual environment where magical effects can at least be vaguely simulated. ;)

The first way to introduce magical effects into a card game that popped into my head was a sort of card game-slash-raw-duel combination, which is what Elements ended up being. Your suggestion of a slower, more purely strategic game would definitely make for a better game ... but it's going to be a hell of a lot harder to create! ;-) If you have any interest, I can keep noodling in that direction.

As for the terminology and summary, points very well taken. This was written in the span of three hours, after all. November typically doesn't allow me much time for editing, but this seems like it's worth polishing after the month wraps up.

(Possibly more later, heading to work ...)
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From:circuit_four
Date:November 17th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)

Re: hope this is constructive criticism...

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I figured it was probably meant more to be a piece of ephemera than a serious suggestion for a game, but you know I like to kibitz. :)

Honestly, even in that context, though... what you wrote was still quite neat as an expression of gaming in a magical context, but that's such a potentially rich vein -- and as I'm discovering, game rules are a potentially excellent medium for culture and literary symbolism -- I felt I should nudge you to do more with the game rules themselves. They still felt a little bland in themselves, and I think what you're trying to do here is really cool, so...

I'd love to see you perhaps write a second such game where the rules themselves are countenanced a little more towards the values, common experiences, and whatnot of a heavily magical world. It's not even so much important that it be a great, cohesive game, as much as that the elements of a ubiquitous-magic culture be woven more intimately into the game itself. It felt like the magic was more superimposed on top of a mechanic that was a little too general to really convey much from a storytelling perspective. Even doing more with the classic trope of whimsical cards would be neat, because it'd raise the question.

Just some thoughts for if you do go polish this, which I'd love to see. If I'm being harsh on this one, it's because it's closer to my zones of familiarity than most of what you write, and because I like the idea and its potential so much. Thank you for raising the notion of games in magical worlds -- I can draw all sorts of inspiration, myself for it, and I really look forward to seeing v2.0. :)

And hooray, nobody got the Seven of Lumps reference! The integrity of my will is preserved! (Damn.) ^_~
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From:baxil
Date:November 19th, 2006 10:13 am (UTC)

Still trying to follow up on the card game

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Elements, I think, is more or less in its final form ... the rules will definitely benefit from some polishing, a little streamlining, and maybe some graphics. But it is what it was meant to be. A multiplayer duel in cards. "Diamond two, I choose you!" ;-D

I've been trying to keep your challenge on the back burner -- to get "the elements of a ubiquitous-magic culture ... woven more intimately into the game itself." Or at least to put together a game that isn't the mage equivalent of a playground fight. (There's a competitive subset that would flock to it, but that doesn't mean it's a good game on the merits.)

I'm still brainstorming. But I did want to get some of these down as bare skeletons possibly to be fleshed out. The really difficult part is the constraint, in this context, of being a card game, as opposed to a magic game that arbitrarily uses cards as replaceable props. And the even more difficult constraint, which I haven't managed to hit yet, is having that card game optimally use a standard deck of 52 ...

Anyway, some further ideas.

1) Mega-powered Thousand Blank White Cards. Perhaps you have a specific set of actions and goals, and the strategy comes in deck-building (magically creating them quickly before play).

2) [possibly overlapping with #1] Real Magic: The Gathering. Cards define actions you can and/or must take and control the pace and direction of gameplay. Goal of play might be to be first person to perform a given effect, to remove set number of "hit points" from opponent(s), or to outlast your opponents as increasingly complex effects need to be maintained.

3) A twisted cross between Apples & Oranges and Acrophobia - cards have runes, and you get a set number of cards from which you need to create the funniest or most creative effect. All players vote on each round's winner to score points.

I'll keep brainstorming. -B
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From:circuit_four
Date:November 16th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, I also think this would be prohibitive to try to actually "playtest" on a MUCK, without it devolving into pure improvised Dragon Poker -- which could be fun, but not necessarily what you want. Too many of the moves would have to be something fairly mundane like "takes a seven of lumps* and puts it in zir hand."

This is the sort of thing that might benefit from an actual code script, though, if you can find somebody who'd like to cooperate or if you happen to know this stuff yourself (so not my department, though**). So, writing some MPI to keep track of what cards aren't in the middle of the table without explicitly detailing them, so there's an element of memory and guesswork... displaying each player's Flame and Island only to themselves... putting in commands for "draw [card x] from Ocean to Island," "draw [card x] from Ocean to Flame if possible," "draw random card from Ocean," "move [card x] from Island to Flame if possible," "call Whirlwind and exchange Islands."

And then code in a batch of stock "magical" commands. These would not be the _exclusive_ magical operations available; they would represent only ones that had to specifically affect "concrete" game elements like cards. Anything else would be RPed between players.

Perhaps there could be a mana pool system, something that recharges in real time and would let us give individual card effects a cost. Possible effects (and we might also want to draw from these for the hypothetical card-based "muggle" version :p ) could include:

"defend [type]" to defend from a certain class of spells for n seconds, where the length of n could possibly be a cost-determining variable (e.g., pay 60 for a minute, 300 for five minutes...)

"illusion on [card]" to make a given card appear to everybody (including yourself?) as a different card

"illusion on [player]" to make a given player start randomly hallucinating changes to various other valid cards, perhaps with some subtle textual clue that it is a false card -- like subtle typoes or changes to text color that are easy to miss during a fast-paced game

"slow [player]" to make a player unable to act more quickly than one move every n seconds

(* first mutual acquaintance to guess what this is a reference to gets to learn one of my hypnotic triggers... O:) )

(** no, no, you want Martian RETRIEVAL, down the hall; this is Martian SERVICES)
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From:circuit_four
Date:November 16th, 2006 04:47 pm (UTC)

more effects, hope you don't mind me dumping these here :)

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batten: player may not cast whirlwind but also does not have their islands moved by whirlwinds until somebody casts "unbatten" on them; this is a secret effect, and nobody will know batten has been cast until someone tries a whirlwind and watches it partially fizzle

swap: if there is a "draw facedown card #n" system into play, which there probably should be, this will swap two face-down cards around by number

reflect: rebound a targeted effect at its caster

detect magic: get a complete list of every magical effect in play, even secret ones

siphon: invest a large amount of mana to steal a medium amount from a given player each turn

dispel: end all current magical effects

brownie: scrambles cards randomly, leaving cards alone if they match a rank already in your Island or Flame

imp: scouts over your opponents shoulders and reports back on the contents of their Islands and Flames; mutters vile but ineffective curses at other players

animate: causes one specified card (or, for more points, rank or suit or range of card locations) to jump out of the way if it's touched, substantially delaying the time it takes to grab it

muddy: transforms the table under a player's Island into muck, making all interactions with it take twice and long

censor: puts a big black bar in front of a player's Island, turning off their list of what cards are in it

scry: examine a range of cards in the Ocean, or an Island, or a Flame

homonculus: automatically and systematically sorts through face-down cards for you, one every n seconds, and brings it back to your Flame if it fits there - but it's not very bright and there's an p% chance per cards that it puts a useless card in your Island by mistake

cat: sits on table and looks cute, delaying time it takes for all opponents to draw from the Ocean; occasionally meows or licks itself if in play

organize: slowly moves all cards with a given rank or suit to the "upper left" (i.e. slot #1 and onward) of the Ocean
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From:natetg
Date:November 16th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
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Since it isn't a game for the physically impaired, you might as well just have people get up and swap chairs. More advanced mages may amuse themselves by holding the table still, and turning the world around it instead.

Without having played:
It's unclear to me that the game will ever end unless the players collude to make it happen since it's so easy to block.

The method for resolving double (or multi) grabs is almost certainly unsatisfactory. In the heat of the action, it's very difficult to track what happened first - pehaps it would be better to have some sort of dire consequence for all players that simultaneously touch a card.

Complicated rules, more than two players, and fast real-time play is a dangerous combination.
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From:baxil
Date:November 17th, 2006 01:28 am (UTC)
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Points well taken, though I wanted to respond to this specifically:

It's unclear to me that the game will ever end unless the players collude to make it happen since it's so easy to block.

I tried to design it such that this was not the case. The Island sizes are set such that the combined size of (every player but yourself)'s Islands are 12 cards. Thus there is at least one winning number available to you at all times, unless that number is in someone else's Flame. That's the situation Whirlwinds are designed to alleviate, since once you realize you're blocked you don't really lose anything by starting over, and the shaking up of the table is likely to get other players scrambling to readjust their islands.

Are you seeing something I'm not seeing?
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From:natetg
Date:November 20th, 2006 05:29 am (UTC)
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The easy way to block is perpetual whirlwind.
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From:baxil
Date:November 20th, 2006 11:12 am (UTC)
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I don't see it. That blocks everyone's access to their Islands, but players can still add cards directly to their Flames. With Islands nullified, it then becomes a raw race for who can collect a set of four the fastest -- but the person calling the whirlwinds has to perpetually null their Flame, and their opponents can out-build them.
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From:natetg
Date:November 21st, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
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I'm also under the impression that it's possible to hold a single card in the play hand as well.
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From:taral
Date:November 16th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
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Seems awfully susceptible to time-based magics.
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From:baxil
Date:November 19th, 2006 10:14 am (UTC)
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True. Any suggestions for this beyond banning it?
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From:taral
Date:November 19th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
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Nope, I think a ban is appropriate.
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