Apr 10th, 2012 by Terence Jason Dorman
by special guest Terence Jason Dorman
Due to being kidnapped and tortured by 31v35, Ken is unable to write up a Blarg post this month and kindly asked me to fill in for him. This means that all of you will get a double dosage of me this month in back to back weeks. It’s exciting, I know.
Seeing as how this isn’t my article series, though, I’m going to do my best to discuss a topic that I think Ken would talk about. With that in mind, let me talk to you all about writing within the rules.
When I was still Judge of Great Justice, Ken would frequently email, instant message, or text me about new card ideas he had. Some of these ideas were simple, some of them not so simple, but all of them were new and interesting. A couple of them were so new and interesting, in fact, that I often had to find ways to make them work within the rules.
Being a designer, Ken was very interested in coming up with fresh ideas that you, the players, have yet to experience in The Spoils. While this is an admirable goal, it usually meant that the ideas he came up with either required new rules or needed to be reworded to fit within the rules.
This is where my job came in. I had to take every card idea Ken sent to me, whether it was a silly one or one that he wished to see in the upcoming Pink Harvest set, and write them within the rules. This usually meant a simple rewording or rephrasing that made it match cards that already existed, but other times it was much harder.
Some of Ken’s ideas were so new that the way he wrote the card was nothing like the idea he had. This wasn’t because Ken didn’t know how to properly write cards, but instead it was because he was so close to the source material that he wouldn’t notice that the card he wrote could be interpreted in a way other than what he intended.
This usually led to a session in which Ken would have to explain EXACTLY how he wanted the card to work in game without trying to use rules text or rules terminology. With these ideas I would then draft my own version of the card, using proper rules text and terminology, and send it back to him.
If everything went well during our conversations then the version I sent to him would be the card he designed but in a new and polished package. The rules would be clear, concise, and easy for players to understand. Most importantly, though, the card would do what Ken wanted it to do in the first place.
There have of course been times, however, in which there was no conceivable way to design the card Ken wanted. This was usually because Ken came up with an idea that the rules didn’t cover yet or was emulating ideas from other games that didn’t exactly mesh well with The Spoils rules. We learned from these experiences, though, and always strove to bring the best ideas and cards to the forefront so that you all would have the opportunity to play with them later.
With all this said, go out there and design some cards! Trust me when I say that we DO read the Open R&D forums and we do pluck some card ideas found in there from time to time. We may not be responding to all of the ideas but we do read them, so be sure to continue submitting your ideas. You never know, you may end up seeing your name on a card some day!
But if you can, though, please try to write within the rules.