08 October, 2009

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #39: Card Suits

One of the quickest and easiest methods I've encountered for integrating a mechanism with a setting is through the use of card suits.

I've encountered this a couple of times over the last week, so it struck me as a good idea for this week's mechanism.

I'll illustrate the mechanism through a number of examples...

First, I used the mechanism myself when I wrote The Eighth Sea. In this case I paired the suits to different types of actions that can be taken by the characters. If a character manages to draw a card with a suit matching the action type, they gain an advantage when performing that type of action. It's a pirate oriented game so I gave the actions piratey names: Thumpin', Talkin', Thinkin' and Feelin'.

A few players have instantly gotten the right vibe from the game just by seeing these terms on the character sheet.

Second, I saw the mechanism used in the seminar/panel feedback that I posted in my last blog entry. The game discussed focuses on the mental processes and tactics employed on a baseball field, and the mechanism is highlighted through with the idea that hearts might be used to represent off-field dramas playing psychological havoc in a competitors mind.

Other suits aren't really elaborated, but presumably each would apply to a different style of pitching (fastballs, curveballs or slowballs), or different styles of batting (bunts, drives, or whatever else is used in baseball)...being an Aussie, baseball doesn't mean a whole lot to me, but I can instantly get a feel for the tactica play when the suits are applied.

Third, a new miniatures game that I've picked up called Malifaux. Spellcasters require specific suits of cards in their hands to reflect their attunement with different primordial forces when calling on their spells. Coincidentally (or maybe not), each of the four factions in the game so far focus on one of these energy types.

I've seen it used in a few other games (notably Castle Falkenstein, where I first saw it...and if I remember correctly, it corresponded suits roughly to attribute types.) It's simple, and it makes use of a major feature found in cards that can't really be replicated in dice. I'd like to make use of it a bit more in future games.

Perhaps if I do end up using Tarot cards in Brigaki Djili, then this will be a method of pulling story narrative with game mechanisms.
Post a Comment