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I've finished the first draft of the Magic: the Gathering set that I've been making. Two hundred and forty-six cards, with an immense amount of structure: balanced across colours, rarities, card types, converted mana cost and power level. The theme is card types – artifacts, enchantments, land, instants and sorceries.

You can see the full first-draft cardlist here. I've also written an FAQ document in the style of the official ones, attempting to answer the most likely rules questions.

The setting is what I'm going to talk about for the rest of this post. I didn't want a "oh look, the world's at war" like about half of Magic sets seem to have. I wanted more a feeling of "this is a world, with tensions and different groups with different aims, and everyday people going about their lives." I was looking for five particular groups in this setting that could be associated with a card type and with two of the five colours. I then tried to use the ideas I had for the flavour of those groups to suggest card ideas, so flavour isn't just tacked on to the design, but influencing it as it's influenced by it.

The green-white group of enchanters is perhaps the most unusual. A lot of the upper class are in this group: it's become fashionable to take a country stately home and grounds, and augment them massively with layer after layer of magical enhancements. These augmented mansions are called mirrorglades.

One particularly prominent mirrorglade is the Ralatine, in a forest near the city of Teren. Its owner is an arrogant duchess and enchantress named Atine, who's unusual in that she applies most of the augments to her mansion herself rather than hiring enchanters to do it for her. She's liberally enhanced every part of her home and its extensive grounds with magic, and is rather proud of her work. Designing enchantments is quite a prestigious role in this society, so although it's unusual for a noble to do it herself, it's certainly not looked down on.

This is a fairly unusual setting for Magic: the Gathering, and it lends itself to some card names and terms that aren't as traditionally warlike as many sets. But there's still plenty of scope for conflict.

I should mention that the creative elements - names and flavour texts - are only about a quarter done. The set's been primarily designed around its mechanics, which is as I think it should be. I'm going through adding in names and flavour as they occur; I've been mainly focusing on the white-blue artificers and the green-white enchantresses so far.

I'll close with some of my favourite names and flavour texts from the green-white sphere of enchantresses:

Atine's Disdain, a spell which destroys more of your opponents' enchantments the more you have: "When every flower of your garden has a different augment, and every room of your home a different aura, perhaps then you can start to compete with me."

Enforced Deference, a creature-neutralising enchantment: "My shrubbery bows when I walk past, and so shall you." - Atine

Venomvine Cloak, a creature augment: The most important thing about Atine's cloak isn't the thorns or the blade-repelling force, but the aura of majesty its shifting colours impart.

Lavender Mist, an enchantment that stills combat for a turn. This would be a ridiculous name for a Magic card in most sets, but as a part of the enchanted Ralatine grounds I think it works.

Mirrorglade Gazebo, an Enchantment Creature - i.e. a piece of magic that's capable of independent movement: Some enchanters layered so many augments on their homes that the buildings acquired not just character, but personalities.

Venomvine Lattice, a spell that destroys a flying creature: Atine doesn't have a problem with birds fouling the Ralatine's roofs.

Savage Strength, an enchantment making a creature more fearsome in combat: Not all gladewardens are as obsessed with aesthetics as Atine. Some are happy with augments of a more brutal and direct kind.

Mirrorglade Artist, an enchanter who gains strength from the different enchantments you control: He travels the length and breadth of the land, looking for inspiration in the gladewardens' augments.

Reflections of Sunrise, another name that would be out of place in some sets (although there is a printed card called Dawn's Reflection!)

And just because major characters should have more than one dimension, there's another side of the duchess of Cherral visible on Ralatine Sentinel, a small flying artifact creature: Atine's daughter sculpts filigree falcons. Atine enjoys bringing them to life to patrol the skies around her mansion.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 29th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
I came back and browsed a lot more of the set, and the comments on the forum thread, and finally had some bits of feedback, some of which will follow in a random order even if it's not the best time for them.

I obviously love the idea of a set based on fiddling with card types :)

I agreed with most of the responses you made or changes you made to comments in the forum thread (which isn't saying much, but a little may help).

I wish there were a better way of paying a cost to play a land like tower of eternity, though the current template meets all the problems. (In fact, I wonder if it could just be written like that: "You can't play [or put] ~ into play unless you pay WUBRG". But presumably anything half-way sensible is breaking to the comprehensive rules.)

I really, really liked a few pieces of flavour text, especially a few of the church ones like "the cathedral bells toll the oppressive rhythm of the city" and none I had a problem with.

If you don't want to lose the flavour of "the Epithet", but people resist it, have you considered the obvious if annoying possibility of moving the name to the flavour text, and giving him/her a different title? I admit, I'm not quite sure what: I considered variants on "epithet" like "epithetical" :) and any opprobrious adjectives, which is presumably where you started.

Did you manage to test drafting the set?
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:44 am (UTC)
PS. I know what Jenesis meant about not the story, but I think the flavour is interesting (especially the church: an evil but not hedonistic church is good flavour) and that wizards are horribly constrained by having to have a world-upheaval in every story. It's a wonderful world; and like all interesting worlds it may need some character conflict to bring a story out, but I don't think that's a bad thing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )