You’re a Designer, Harry! #3 – A Whole New World (Or Five)
Hello, again, designers!
When Did You Last Let Your Heart Decide?
As a refresher, this is where we are at now:
The anti-mana concept (a mana symbol that represents all colors of mana except one) is going to be used in this block (until it proves to be a problem in playtesting, of course). Whether it’s a first set innovation or a third-set twist is still up in the air. The five different civilizations, each isolated by a natural barrier embodying a color of mana, are going to be described in their initial concepting below. The civilizations will be split among the first two sets of the block a la Ravnica with three civilizations introduced in the first set (each having their own new mechanic) and the last two civilizations in the second set. The third set would be what happens when these separated civilizations finally meet and where the block’s antagonist would be revealed.
Now, last week I mentioned that I would be presenting the initial pass at mechanics for at least the first three civilizations along with the “four colors matters” mechanic. However, it’s important that these mechanics are playtested to see how they play, which I haven’t had much time over the past week to do. Also, since the mechanics are going to represent, flavorfully, each four-color grouping and, subsequently, their unique philosophy; it’s even more of a delicate balance between flavor and fun gameplay (as well as mechanical synergy among the other mechanics within the set/block).
Take You Wonder By Wonder
So, we’re going to take a step back and introduce the five civilizations today. The names of each civilization and the names of the four-color groupings can come with time as we design the set. The labels don’t affect the development of the set, and it may take a while to eventually settle on these six important labels. It’s like when you write a novel and don’t come up with the title right away. Anyway, here we go:
WUBR (No Green)
This civilization is removed from the benefits of nature. In fact, they are literally removed as their civilization is high up in the sky and away from the earthen soil. Their cities are in clouds and air transportation is necessary to travel among the civilization.
Their natural barrier grows out of the ground and reaches toward the sky, thick and full of venoms and thorns. Even coming simply within close distance to the lethal vegetation would spell death as odor excretions toxify the air, putting all beings smelling it into an unconscious state (and thus, collapsing into contact with the poisonous barrier). But the barrier, alas, is a beautiful sight with colors and flowers that dazzle your eyes much more than anything you would ever see in the cloud civilization. Pretty much all of the jungles and forests’ best defense mechanisms are employed here with this gargantuan plant-barrier.
Without relying upon nature means (almost) no natural resources. And, yes, this does mean unnatural food. The WUBR civilization specializes in conjuration type of magic, to create the resources they need. They efficiently have practiced certain resources with certain properties that can be used for many different types of things (for example, they don’t specialize in creating puppies since they have a more limited usefulness than something like wood or steel). Since these resources are unnatural, they’re not like the kinds found on the earth. There’s resources that are naturally sticky and can cement upon command, for example, for sticking things together. A super-glue material without the danger of super-glue-ing things you don’t want to super-glue. Things like that.
The civilization has heavily relied upon technology to advance itself. It has been able to develop methods of extracting water from the clouds and manipulating it to be able to create steam. The steam that was discovered powers its other technologies like the aircrafts that the people use to get from town-to-town among the clouds. Yes, as reader Preston suggested, this would be Magic‘s version of a steampunk-esque culture.
The WUBR civilization’s goal is to fulfill its desire to limitless exploration — but they need to get past the green-mana barrier itself. They do this through the continual study and improvement of technology and magic, scrapping what they need perpetuate itself further. Their scientific process bleeds into a “life process,” where individuals are taught, from birth, certain things to try to steer the civilization toward being able to keep bettering themselves in a better way. Because they don’t have nature itself to inspire them to create (studying how plants work, etc.), there is a heavy emphasis on creative thinking and coming up with wild ideas. They have no qualms with constant manipulation of life and death to test on the vegetative barrier, if it’s for the sake of breaking past the barrier. “Hey, Carl! Welcome back for the 432nd time! We’re going to run you through the deadly thorns again. This time, we might make a breakthrough! …Oh, nope. Didn’t work. We’ll let the company know of our report tonight.”
UBRG (No White)
This civilization is unique in that it’s not really a civilization but more of a collection of people trapped in the same area. Without the structure and rules that being aligned with white gives, it’s more of an every man for himself sort of deal. This is why this “civilization” has the least population of all the civilizations.
They say that there are four corners of the earth. With those four corners implies there’s four sides. In this case, this civilization doesn’t have a “fourth wall” it lives with — it avoids a fourth wall. This is because a gigantic wall of light shines upon the civilization from one direction. And it’s even more blinding than the sun that we know. You can’t stare at it too long, which makes facing one direction a rare thing to do among the people. The closer the individuals get to the barrier, the brighter it shines. It’s difficult to break past the barrier when you’re living your life looking the other way.
The wall of light doesn’t actually have a physical component to it. Technically, if you traveled for miles from the edge of this civilization toward the light without looking at it, you can walk right through it. But most individuals aren’t inclined to move forward past the light because of a direction the “civilization” took: underground. When you’re underground, you don’t have to worry about the blinding, unnatural light.
Over time, though, the UBRG people, from living underground, have evolved past needing to see. The darkness of underground renders vision useless. Eventually, the people will be able to go back up to the surface without being affected by the wall of light and just move on beyond it.
The UBRG work like this: There’s no sense of higher purpose to work toward. There’s nothing to decree across everyone what is right and what is wrong. There’s no laws and no structure. At the least, it’s one person against the world. At most, there are families working together out of love and gangs working together toward a common goal. There’s no trust with other parties, secrets being held tightly to the chest for fear of others using that knowledge against them. And sometimes they need to lash out at others before they do it back. Being kind doesn’t pay, after all. It actually might cost you your life.
Eventually, though, few-by-few, the WUBR people will move beyond the light barrier. This is the least dramatic breakthrough by a civilization.
BRGW (No Blue)
This civilization is stuck in on a giant sphere of land bobbing in water. The water itself is actually an enormous whirlpool, constantly whirling. The land is unstable, and what settlements and such may be on dry land one day may be under water the next. Their buildings are either proofed against the water or as minimal as possible to be able to be moved. Their way of life is to always be on foot, balancing their lives on the ball of earth. The sphere-earth is large enough to have its own gravitational pull, which means the people never simply fall off.
The whirlpool is the blue barrier of this civilization. While it constantly whirls, it also is loud. It’s not so loud while you’re atop the sphere-ball, but sometimes you’ll be near the edge of the water, which means it would even be so loud that you can’t even think. Let alone trying to study to gain knowledge under such conditions.
As such, the BRGW people act on instinct and impulse. They work together to build a community off the life-style of a sphere-earth, but they live their lives passionately. All they really want is to have the freedom to be able to not have to focus on surviving on the earth-ball and just do whatever they want to do. But, to achieve this, they have to work together. Too much of the population on one side of the land can cause the land to spin much faster than they like.
With all this spinning around the whirlpool, and the spinning of the sphere of land, eventually, randomly, they’ll escape and be washed ashore a brand new flat land of, to them, peace and freedom.
RGWU (No Black)
This civilization is the closest to a resonant fantasy theme that you can get. You have a hierarchical medieval kingdom with “everyone happy to play their roles,” using reader Preston’s words. There’s a king, a royal family, church officials, townsfolk, and etc., and everyone is O.K. with it. Scheming to break free is not on anybody’s agenda.
The natural force that traps this civilization actually lies within the king himself. The king is actually a lich that feeds on the unhappiness of others to fuel its power. It has the power to kill someone simply upon physical contact. Without any intervention by the lich-king, the kingdom would simply expand until it comes into contact with another civilization. The people happily breed more people, build more buildings, and spread outward. The lich-king can keep the growth in check by killing off the population (but it needs unhappiness to do so).
O.K., as an aside, I admit that this alignment of mana force is a bit different. I thought I’d try something a bit more experimental and different seeing as how other forces are external. It doesn’t have to be a lich-king or whatnot, but the concept that killing off people to keep a civilization from growing was exciting to me. More exciting than super-swamps or something.
The people of the civilization value community and do long-term planning as well as “living within the moment.” Whatever would be purporting their role in life is great by them. Eventually, though, death keep up with the birth rate of the civilization, and the civilization eventually expands out to others.
GWUB (No Red)
This civilization is trapped within a deep valley surrounded by mountains. Wait a minute, those aren’t mountains… those are a string of volcanoes! But, they’re not ordinary nor dormant volcanoes. From more openings than just the top, the volcanic red barrier spouts volcanic geysers at sporadic, random intervals. However, there’s more time the volcanoes spout geysers of fire than there is that they’re not spouting fire. This unpredictable and random nature makes it out of the question to traverse past, through ground and by air.
So, the civilization within, the GWUB people, do without red mana. In response to the unpredictability surrounding them, there is none within their society. Everything is planned from birth until death of each individual, group, and so forth. Everything has a purpose. There’s no such thing as “fun.”
However, just because everything is planned beforehand doesn’t mean that they know everything. But, GWUB people do know a lot. They’re constantly learning and adapting their way of life accordingly whenever something newly discovered changes what they know of the world. The biggest unknown is what lies beyond the surrounding mountains. That’s why they’re studying everything from nature to the patterns of life. Everything is structured to move forward their knowledge which, in turn, moves forward their civilization.
Eventually, they’ll figure out the pattern to the geysers of magma. It’s like pi, which has no apparent pattern, but there must be answer, and they’ll prosper because of it. And everyone has their place within their society throughout their life until their death.
A big thanks to reader Preston for being responsible for much of the initial description of these civilizations.
Don’t You Dare Close Your Eyes
I should have posted these links last week, but for further study of the philosophies of the colors, so you can make up your own mind on what a four-color civilization would be like, here’s some articles you can read by Magic Head Designer Mark Rosewater (There’s a lot!):
- White Point-of-View (Bant)
- Blue Point-of-View (Esper)
- Black Point-of-View (Grixis)
- Red Point-of-View (Jund)
- Green Point-of-View (Naya)
A Magic Carpet Ride
Now, the first set is going to feature three of these five civilizations. To make things seem balanced, the first three to be introduced would be the UBRG (no white), RGWU (no black), and GWUB (no red) civilizations, but the mechanics that we would come up with to match the flavor of these four-color groups may make it different since the game mechanics may be better off in a certain combination between the first set and the second set.
One idea that I had for the steampunk-esque WUBR civilization is the focus on flying. The other way we can do this is to focus on artifacts, but I figured with the recent Scars of Mirrodin block and Esper’s artifact-heavy execution already existing, we can veer away from artifacts. This is a civilization in the sky! Speaking of which, it might make sense to have bird people up there.
That leads me to the next step in figuring out the flavor of these worlds. We’re going to need tribes to inhabit each of these civilizations. There’s definitely no merfolk in nonblue land. Probably goblins, though. Vampires? I’d like for you to suggest some creature types to go along with each civilization as well as leave feedback on my initial world proposal.
I’m going to take it slowly again this week as I’m expecting a busy week, so I’m not going to have listed mechanics for next week, most likely. With that said, here’s what we have on our to-do list:
- What do we call each of these civilizations? What do we call a single four-color grouping (guild for two-color and shard for three-color)?
- How can we further improve the flavor of the civilizations that we have so far?
- What keyword mechanics would fit with the flavors of these civilizations? Playtesting is recommended. As such, this will take time and effort.
- Same as above, except with the core “four colors matter” mechanic.
- Where should anti-mana first appear in this block? First set, second set, or third set?
Thanks again for reading, card crafters!