Monday, July 14, 2008

Magic: Strange Bedfellows (Introduction)

Though I stopped playing Magic around the time that Torment came out, I still like to keep an eye on the game. And lately my interest in game design has led me to go back and read through a big chunk of Mark Rosewater's old columns. They're awesome. Also awesome is Ravnica, which I've always intended to take a close look at. But on an oddly discordant note, I find Mark's descriptions of the opposed-color matchups rather lacking. I keep feeling like there connections between the opposed colors that are being neglected, and as a result the pairings lack a coherent, sympathetic view; like trying to blend oil and water. In particular, his description of the Red-White outlook struck me as "these two don't work together, and they're in denial about it."

Now I just want to be ABSOLUTELY clear here. What I'm about to do, I do not do as a critic. This is not my attempt to show how things "should have been done"; that would require an in-depth knowledge of how said things were done, whereas I've actually put off my research into Ravnica so as to not make any deliberate attempts to be different.

So what is this dark deed I intend? I'm going to come up with my own ideas for what the opposed-color guilds in Ravnica should be like from a fluff perspective. Because as a designer I've had some ideas and it sounds like alot of fun.

Here's the creative approach I'll be taking: an examination of each color in the pie in relation to the guild in question, in the form of an ideological debate.
-First, I'll get my basic idea of the pairing via the two colors that are friends of one of the guild's origins. See, what happened there is that the guild's other origin color leaned in and, playing devil's advocate, whispered "You know what's wrong with them?" There are tensions between two allied colors that an enemy can appreciate.
-Second, their two origin colors, and how "purists" belonging to each of those colors think their brethren in the guild have been lead astray.
-Third, the color they're both friends with. I see this as the guild's blind spot, something they've overlooked and not given much thought to when they.

In my mind the advantage of the opposed-color guilds is that they've been more open-minded and thus realized that the world is more complex than most people think. And their weakness is that they've now lost that open-mindedness, that having come up with a more complex ideal they've seized onto it as the "true" right way despite the flaws it still retains.

At this point, my intent is take whatever concept I've arrived at for each pairing and briefly run to through Mark Rosewater's set of color questions so as to better clarify their outlook. There'll also be some musings on the form the in-world guild itself would take (rather than just the views of the color pairing) and the mechanics of the pairing.

Finally, I'll take a close look at what was actually done with that color pairing, comparing and contrasting it to my own. Value judgments will generally be avoided here, since we can assume my own versions will (through some strange coincidence) perfectly match my own personal preferences.

Well, here goes!

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