Deck compositions and the effects of cards are being finalized. This post is going to be a little rambling and maybe disorganized. You can scroll down, look at the cards in the link, and then go if you want. If you’re interested in some of the things on my mind about the game, then you should stick around and read it through.
I wanted to use this update to show you some cards and talk about what the cards are for. They’re not merely a replacement for a character sheet, although if pressed, you can totally strip the text out of them and present them in a traditional fashion if you want. These cards are discarded, they’re flipped around, stuff like that. They help keep specific information for specific situations at your fingertips so you don’t have a sheet full of other things getting in the way when you only need specific ones.
Deck design has changed marginally since I first talked about presenting the rules options as cards.
At first I kept getting stuck on this idea that there’s a “core” to your character or that there has to be – that you need some immutable base “rules thing” there to define you. You can’t just be a guy, gal or other who took this card and that card. You had to be a FIGHTER (base card) who then took this card and that card. However, I wanted to emphasize putting a character together with this act of choosing cards for your deck. Not just bolting things on to a defined core.
One card shouldn’t define your entire character deck. That’s why ultimately I scrapped the base cards. Rather, now your character deck has Technique cards and Theatric cards. The former are for fighting and the latter are for puzzles, exploring and such. None of them, alone, defines your character any more than the other. It’s what you make of the whole.
And I think that this makes for a stronger design in the end. It’s easier to write and balance for and it’s more flavorful and fun to get to put your character together bit by bit than to say “I take the Fighter card, and then I take this other stuff so I’m a Fighter who has [this other stuff].” I don’t want people to be overarching archetypes but rather to be whatever it feels like their character is, once they’ve got an idea and they’ve chosen all the cards that they want to use to represent it.
So let’s look at some Technique cards today, because while a lot of people say that combat is not a big strength of roleplaying games, it’s one of my favorite parts personally. I like adventuring and roleplaying and everything too, I like it all and I do it all. I play storygames, I play more traditional games, I play Magic: The Gathering and video games. But combat is just something that really resonates with me and I wanted to have solid and fun combat choices for people in Expedition.
Combat is done with a hand of Technique cards. Starting characters have 5 Tech cards in their character deck, and they draw those out and keep them as a Combat Hand when fights break out. At first they can only have limited amounts of any given card, while at higher ranks the restrictions lessen so characters can have more of their favorite cards. This is the advancement of the game – more versatility and strategies with your cards rather than outright higher numbers.
Each card has a Role. There are four roles: Commander cards boost allies with buffs, Sentinel cards help protect allies and landmarks, Vandal cards destabilize enemies with debuffs and Vanguard cards deal damage and synergize with other effects. However cards can softly represent a role even when they’re stated to be another.
You can check here in my dropbox for a preview PDF with 8 cards, two from each role.
While Magic or Martial is just flavor and doesn’t really have its own specific keywords or anything (I don’t want to segregate it, because for your character that Sleep card could be a magic staff or a potion or whatever), I do design them with certain conditions in mind. They’re not totally set into stone, but Magic has more no-cost Discards but higher Recovery, whereas Martial-styled cards are usually more versatile. You can see that Powerful Blow has a Resource effect in case you can’t do much good just smashing face, or need a little more of a boost. Whereas Sleep is just Sleep in any situation.
So without further ado, these are the three Keyword Mechanics that will be found in Basic.
Commit: When you Commit a card you put it face up in front of you and it stays there. You then get its Commit effect. You can only have one Commit card out at a time. All Commit effects are passive effects that are always active. If you Commit a new card you must discard any other Commit cards that you’ve got out there.
Recovery: You can fish a card out of your Discard pile with its Recovery effect. Every card that can be discarded has a Recovery effect, and those that don’t are basically gone from that encounter completely, and are commensurately more powerful.
Resource: A Resource card can be played to give a minor effect when its other effects do not suit you. It is then discarded.
And in the Advanced game (the one I’m hoping to Kickstart in the future) we’ll introduce the weirder ones.
Charge X: You can play a Charge card during any Setup to start charging up its effect. From then on, whenever you earn a Tension counter you put it on the Charge card instead of using it for other things. When it has gained X counters, you use its Overcharge ability, then discard it. You can only Charge one card at a time. Once you’ve put down a Charge card you’re stuck charging it unless you give up and discard it, or it goes off – so be sure that you want to use it!
Risk X: Risk X modifies other mechanics with an additional cost. When you use this card the GM puts X tension counters on an enemy. So if we have a card with “Discard Risk 2″ then to discard it you need to risk giving the enemy that advantage over you. Tension counters can trigger enemy abilities and be spent on them.
Sacrifice X: Sacrifice cards cost an amount of Vigor in order to use. This amount might then be used in other ways. For example, a card might ask you to Sacrifice Vigor in increments of 5 when you Discard it. Then that card might have a Recover cost that’s lowered for each 5 Vigor you paid. It might even be free to get it back if you let it hurt you a lot.
So those are the keyword mechanics as planned.
My next hurdle is the Theatric cards. I want to go sort of a more flavorful approach than the Technique cards, where they’re still defined mechanics that have specific impact on the encounter (whether that encounter be a room full of hazards, a potentially volatile social argument, or a cryptic puzzle), require you to manage resources, but at the same time don’t evoke that feeling of “everything is combat” and have more flavor to them, and are a bit more freeform than the rigid Technique cards.
I don’t want the exploration and interaction mechanics to just be a note on your character card that goes “Gains a plot point when acting haughty” but at the same time a lot of people are averse to mechanics that make these encounters too similar to combat (such as giving objectives HP-esque progression marking mechanics). I remember people really deriding some other games that tallied up “social damage” in “social combat” resolution systems, for example. I don’t want to end up like that!
But I would like it if similar mechanics to the combat could apply to other encounters – that they’re assembled of specific objective and obstacle cards with effects that are complicating your situation, much like enemy cards do in combat, and you can put conditions on them and use effects and counters and points to gauge that you’re knocking them out of the park and making progress. I just wonder whether people would be upset at the very concept of “social damage” or something, or if, handled well, you can use that resolution method and mask it into whatever the proceedings are without alienating people.