Sunday, September 03, 2023

Fate & Fortune -- Recreating The Fate Deck -- Identifying Trump Suits

The key element to the SAGA game system was its use of cards. Both iterations of the SAGA system, Dragon Lance: The Fifth Age, and The Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game came with their own version of the Fate Deck. I'm going to talk about the Marvel version because it's the one that I own and am most familiar with.

Marvel's Fate Deck is made up of five suits: Strength (Green), Agility (Red), Intelligence (Blue), Willpower (Purple) and Doom (Black). Notice that the suits (except for Doom) are actually character attributes. This is important because attributes relate to actions that you can take during the game.

The suits also have an "icon" to represent them. So, the cards are color blind friendly. These "icons" are famous figures from the Marvel Universe that serve as an exemplar for the attribute in question. The icon of Strength (green) is the Hulk. For Agility (red) it's Spider-Man. For Intellect (blue) it's Mr. Fantastic. For comic fans, these associations are super intuitive and the deck works well.

At first, I focused on transferring these same associations to standard card suits: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. (Justifying how the Spades suit and symbol are representative of Strength, and so on.) This works okay-ish, but I spent a lot of game text building these associations and they are never going to be as intuitive as they are for the custom deck.

So, I changed my focus from the thematic to the mechanical and decided to forget trying to make these associations intuitive. I won't talk about them at all. I'll simply write the rules to capture these associations without asking the player to "interpret" anything.

Mechanically, these associations provide a "trump" benefit. It works like this: if you are taking an action that uses your intelligence ability and the card that you play belongs to the intelligence suit, then the card played is trump. I needed my cards to do this, but without spending loads of time in the rules drilling into the players head that Spades means Strength.

I wrote my trump rule like this, "If the Suit of a played card starts with the same first letter as the Ability for the action, then the card is Trump."

The rule takes care of itself. There is no need to remember the associations between suit name, icon or color or try to invent clever ways to make these associations seem intuitive. I let the rule stand on its own as written, and the player just has to be able to spell. 

Now, all I have to do is use names for the four character abilities that start with one of the letters that start the four suits in a standard deck of cards: C, S, D, and H. I'll talk about the four character abilities that I chose next time.



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