The Emperor’s Heart: CardsMay 31, 2009
As I’m grinding through the major rewrite and talking to friends I know, I’m realizing how much I had to sort through the playtest feedback I got from before – how much was about the actual procedures in play vs. what people want my game to do (whether it matches my vision or not) vs. game geek design wankery questions.
Since the last bit is actually the least useful towards game play, though clearly a hangup for folks, and since explaining it all ended up in my head whether I wanted to or not, I figured I’d better spill some of it out here on my blog and point to it when the next round of playtesting starts and I get those same questions. I’m going to try not to do this too often, since I don’t want to end up spending more time writing about the game than writing the game itself.
The practical function of cards is this: they sit on the table in front of everyone, so everyone can look around the table and remember what’s going on- who’s character has what happening, what the situation is, etc. It’s designed for group reference.
It makes it easy to tie your characters’ Drama with other characters’ Drama (“Hey, you’ve got a Romantic Triangle, how about I take Unrequited Love?”). (And, I wanted a GM-less game, so it became crucial for everyone to be able to see this info. I’m probably switching over to a GM based scene framing, since I haven’t found a workable solution thus far).
Second, it changes character creation from “look in the book, write something down” to something where players pass along the Hero cards and the Drama cards and it gets people talking. “Maybe I’ll play the Cynical Maverick… Oh! What’s that? Assassin? Let me see!”
Even though most games now advise players to share character ideas as they’re building them, it’s still a 50/50 case from what I’ve seen- better to just set up your game so players interact from get go and start the conversation that way.
The final thing behind cards is that it makes things really easy to add or remove elements. I still need to find some way to train gamers to GIVE NAMES to their characters, but overall I’m happy with the cards as a design element.