Bloodwork: Signifiers, Associations, Locations, And Violence

Here’s the banner!

Now before I get going on super complicated stuff, I want to make sure players have rewards for building in particular ways. Cards should be able to relate to one another and that means I want to have reference frames for one another.

Magic: The Gathering is kind of a gold standard for this: The colour wheel means that green cards, blue cards, red cards, white cards and black cards can all look at, at the very least the other cards’ relationship to their colours, and relate to and react to that. I think of these as ‘colours’ even in games where they’re not colours. In Star Realms, they’re yellow/blue/red/green, not federation/imperials/cult/blob, and that follows everywhere else.

Now I don’t plan on making cards that relate to this a lot just yet. At this stage in development, I don’t want to have to come up with ways to represent a mechanical variety. But I do want to think, in mind, what I want to prepare for is the negative space of the game design. I want to know what the ‘colours’ of this game are so I don’t intrude on that mechanical space with other designs.

So what idea separates the factions? Could be:

  • Vampire clans like the Brujah and the Tremere and whatever you see in Vampire the Masquerade. Obvious, but I do like these clans as organisations. I don’t like this because it creates the idea these vampires have existing allegiances rather than allegiance to your vampire org.
  • Cultural visions of what vampires are and do, which is similar to VTM but stepped back a little bit so they’re broader. I don’t like this because my own familiarity is pretty limited. I don’t know what Indian vampires are like and that could be a huge research project. It also suggests that vampires speciate, which I don’t like.
  • Vampire ‘species’, like these vampires drink time and these eat blood and these have OCD, which is again, vampire speciation, which I don’t quite like. I don’t know why but the idea that vampires have a strongly biological association feels wrong to me.
  • Some form of methodology or reliable skillset. This is the one I like the most so far. I used this idea in Middlware, where the card types are divided up by the type of crime they are

I like the idea of the methodology as well because that creates the opportunity for cross pollination. A Vampire that does things in Way A but has some skill in Way B might have an ability that triggers if you have other Way B cards around. It’s a way to represent cross-disciplinary skills.Therefore, I’m going to use the ‘colours’ to represent the way these vampires acquire blood. After some brainstorming, and considering alternative options, the three ideas I have are that broadly, in a modern urban fantasy setting, vampires can get blood in one of three basic ways:

  • Medical ways. Posing as EMTs, working in hospitals, blood drives, that kinda thing
  • Criminal ways. Murder, hunting, that kinda jazz.
  • Commercial ways. Paying people for access to their blood. Technically not a crime ways. 

These feel different enough that you could have vampires of different types, but also, that they present different ways to solve problems. Criminal cards probably do more with Violence, Medical cards probably do more with blood and Commercial cards probably do more with access to cards (where cards represent opportunities).

Next thought then is locations.

The deck isn’t just vampires. Vampires are characters, they’re agents, they join your organisation, and they may have things they do when they can’t not. I may need a rest mechanic to keep the vampires in downtime, and make it so thralls are useful.

For example, in the pyramid scheme, you might be able to set thralls on some cards, and those cards do things when the vampires sleep.

But you don’t just claim people in the org, there are also relics that represent powerful additions to the game state. They’re another ? design space, just don’t do anything with them yet. They may wind up being evil things that sit in the marketplace until enough blood is donated to them. 

Then there’s locations. Locations don’t relate to the night/day cycle, and they’re more permanent than other things. If you have a location under your control, it doesn’t go in your line, or in your hand the way normally things do – they just provide resources all the time. Every turn at the start of your turn, the locations give what they give – and they can also be attacked.

Attacking is important, you can, to borrow an idea from Netrunner, you can attacK EVERYTHING. You can attack hands, you can attack libraries, you can attack cards on the built space. The only thing protecting you from being attacked is a card that has attack priority, something that stands in the way of stuff. In the pyramid scheme, everything has attack priority – you have to fight through the layers to get to the core.

With that in mind, it’s now about iterating out a simple skeleton. The simplest version of the game that can handle the pyramid builder is a game that has at minimum 15 cards per player, so a skeleton of 15 cards with different effects can be iterated out. Simple then:

  • A card that gets you a bonus card (draw or place)
  • A card that gets you a bonus purchase – a recruit, a person, a thrall
  • A card that gets you a violence
  • A card that gets you a blood
  • A card that lets you cycle the market (get rid of something in the market)

And iterate that network of five twelve times, to get a sixty card skeleton of ‘rudimentary cards.’

… can you attack your own stuff?

Can you attack market cards…?Okay hang on here’s a new vertix. If violence is ‘get rid of something’ then it represents a powerful tool to use on your own stuff as a deck builder, clearing cards out of your deck, and each attack isn’t a value, it’s about an opportunity to attack something. Suddenly you might want to clear up your own board somehow, hmm.