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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Trying to replicate #MtG Faeries in #dndnext and #13thAge!

Ok so I'm having a LOT of fun with the "Up To Mischief" deck for the soon-to-be-obsolete Duel of The Planeswalkers 2014 (that I play on my Sony Z1 compact... Very small text, not for everyone).

I was sure I was going to love Faeries decks in MtG since I saw some decklists around the web, and this deck, although far less powerful than optimized ones, and surely not as powerful as other decks in the videogame, is a blast to play. And even more than that, the flavor is awesome.

The Faeries work with one another in a very particular way, and are basically "spell-creatures", in that each one of them does something that normally only sorcery or instant spell do, and they do this as instants because they can be summoned off-turn. It's actually easier for me to show you how it is in play, than to tell it, so let me do an example with the actual cards.

  1. Ok, so this random ugly faerie is the basis of the deck. It costs one mana and it flies. There are other creatures this convenient, but not many. Usually fliers cost more. So it's already a nuisance for the enemy to see this on turn one, because it very probably won't have anything to block it with.
    But what it does best is being a buddy to the faerie that comes next...

  2. This awesome lady instead is much more interesting. She has Flash, meaning that she will be summoned off-turn. And she counters ANY enemy spell, provided it costs as much mana as you have faeries. And since it's turn two, the enemy will only have two mana. And you have already one faerie. With this one coming, it already counts as two, so basically you can counter whatever the enemy tries to cast!
    Only problem: she does that as a one shot. Then it's just a common 1/1 flier that will die easily.
    Note that this is true for the whole "army of the faeries": they have great utility and they surprise the enemy coming off-turn, but they are very frail, and will die if you sneeze at them.
    But look what happens when the following girl comes into town...

  3. At turn three, if you have three mana as you should, you can use one to summon this mischievous winged girly. She is mischievous because she doesn't want to enter the scene unless someone else comes out. But guess what, you have a very good reason to kick out the Spellstutter Sprite. After all, she's just coming back to your hand. And you're leaving two mana untapped. That means that right when your enemy will have three mana himself (all of this assumes you play first by the way, paramount importance for Faeries decks). you will be able to summon Spellstutter Sprite again, and counter whatever he or she may cast, again, for the second turn in a row, and using the same creature, and even after that creature had already scored one point of damge. It's not much, but little by little, the enemy is gonna die the death by thousand cuts..!

  4. Ahh this is my personal favorite, especially for the name: Pestermite! It's a true pest, and the enemy will know it! It can tap or untap anything. Use it to untap a land of yours and possibly have mana to cast another faerie (maybe another Spellstutter, which will benefit from another faerie in the battlefied, being able to counter even bigger spells!), or tap a land of the enemy before he or she acts, reducing the available mana for the turn. Or tap a creature that you know will be a problem, such as one that deals a lot of damage or is unblockable. Or use it during your turn to tap the only flyer that the enems might have at this point, thus making your army of faeries damage the enemy without anyone trying to block!
    The Pestermite has tons of uses, and the cool thing of this deck is that you will always find new creative ways of using the creatures.

  5. This guy is visibly and mechanically the bard of the group. He buffs all the other faeries, but the nice thing is that as most of them, he can enter off-turn. So you can lure the enemy into attacking your weak fairies and then bam! Suddenly they're not that weak anymore, and in addition, they gain complete protection from spells or abilities that target them.
    Note that this guy can't affect himself. But if you manage to land TWO Scions, then they're gonna affect each other, and you're gonna have a truly fearsome army!
    However, useful as he may be, he can't reach the coolness levels of the next in the chain of command...

  6. The Archmage of the faeries really gives the impression of being a miniaturized version of a powerful mage: she's not a force to be reckoned with, but she is surprisingly resilient.
    Basically, she can receive any mount of damage, she can die, literally. And she will come back, just at half power.
    And she can exploit this "magic shield" she also visually has around there to use a very romantic ability of sacrificing to counter a spell. Yes, she's basically killing herself, but she also basically has two lives. So you can view her in two ways: either her magical forcefield is one of her lives, and she can lose it either by interposing herself between her allies and any monster or her allies and any spell... Or she can really die and resurrect, at least once, and she can literally sacrifice herself to counter a spell. She's the cutest of the bunch to me, only by virtue of having this ability!

  7. And there she is, the Queen! Oona is an engine of arcane destruction. She messes up with the enemy library of spells directly, not just forcing a discard (which means they could be recoverable in some way) but exiling them, which is a complete erasing from the game. And for each one exiled like this of a chosen color, you summon a pesky faerie rogue.
    You can also do this off-turn (although you can't summon her off turn) to have these new faeries be ready to fight on your next turn. But more often than not, at this point of the battle, you could just "turtle up" in defense, and win by depleting the enemy's library, since if the enemy starts a turn in which he or she can't draw a card, the game is lost!
    Now two more ladies that come up a bit off the list...

  • This faerie is basically a kamikaze, but defensive. She's a living minefield. And the explosions will permanently cripple the enemy. Basically she will never survive an attack, but the enemy, if surviving the two damage, will never heal from the wound and will also lose strength in equal measure! So if a big 4/3 creature is attacking, it will become a much more manageable 2/1 after dealing with the Gatewarden. And as such, she will be blockable by any Scion-enhanced "soldier faerie" (one that I didn't put here), which will be 3/3. Or simply by another kamikaze defense of a worthless Zephyr Sprite..!
    So she's not necessary in the ecosystem, and this is why I wanted to separate her from the true list, but the fact she's basically the personal guard of the Queen could make me think of something RPG-wise...

  • And here's a much more important faerie, and darker too! In fact, she's a blackguard, and she empowers only Rogues. Not only she empowers them, she infuses them with the dark magic necessary to make the enemy forget spells!
    And do you remember (apart from the Impostor and the Pestermite) who else is Rogue? All the countless faeries summoned from enemy spells by Oona the Queen! So just add this Blackguard to the mix, and the enemy is going to be hopeless against them.
    The problem with this Blackguard is that she's... Black. The fact that basically all the rest of the ecosystem is Blue, makes me think that even if this Blackguard costs only two mana, she comes into the fray much after what her cost suggests.
    And I'm not reasoning in MtG terms anymore, because if you haven't understood yet, I found the way to replicate this "ecosystem" in D&D-like games just fine..!

Translating a deck of creatures in D&D

... Is not an easy thing to do. At least not until you figure out what translates into what. The concept of mana is completely out of question, or isn't it? In a way, yes, because there's no way to translate the tapping of lands to get mana. But the mana cost gives some kind of ranking to the creatures. And the fact that in Magic they come out sequentially, has given me the idea to represent the whole thing:

What if we treat these faeries a bit like the demons of old in D&D, which were able to summon others of their kind..?
Basically, the "type 1" (or 1 mana) Faeries would be able to call the Type 2, and so on. So the encounters would always (or regularly) begin with only Type 1s. But they will soon call Type 2s, and the Type 2s will call the Type 3s and so on! With one exception: once a Type is called in, even if the directly inferior are not there anymore or are dead, even the lowly Type 1s will be able to call the Type 3s, and 4s. It's like a threshold system. Once a type is ready, it will always come, even if the "callers" are not there anymore. That is, you'd have to kill ALL the faeries to get rid of them completely. Or they could retreat of course, but the game wouldn't be over...

So basically this would be the system. Then the abilities are much easier to convert:
  1. Impostors would basically protect a faerie already called in, making it come again later. Mechanically, this could be like a teleport with delayed re-entry, or in 13th Age, it would be perfectly represented by the Shadow Walk mechanic of the Rogue, but applied to another creature, by the Impostor.
  2. Spellstutters would of course make spells fail. But I'd say not only spells, everything ranged. They would come out of nowhere, fluttering right under the nose of the casting or shooting character, and the attack would fail, based on how many other fairies are present.
  3. Pestermites would do pretty much the same, but they would make the character lose the action directly, making them useful also against melee characters. In addition, they could basically insta-call somebody else (in particular Impostors or Spellstutters), to represent their ability to free-up used mana.
  4. Scions would just give a small combat buff (namely a +1 to AC and a +2 to damage), and they would make everybody invisible, forcing the characters to deal with them, since they would remain visible and weak.
  5. The Archmage would lure attacks onto her, just to make the characters discover that she's invulnerable, at least for a round. Then she could remain in the back, until a big danger comes, and at that point she could again interpose herself and die for good, but maybe saving many more in the process.
  6. The Queen would right away suck Hit Points from characters and use them to summon "type 1s". Along with Hit Points, she could also interact with prepares spells, or draining Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma, making spells ineffective. But sucking true HP is important as well, because the point is that you can't let her do her thing for more then 4 or 5 rounds, or you're dead.
  7. The Gatewarden would be a mook/minion but that gives a combat debuff that doesn't go away, to those who kill her.
  8. The Blackguard would be pretty much like the Scion, but no Invisibility and instead add some debuffing effect to the attacks of rogues (Impostors, Pestermites, and the Oona minions).
And basically that would be it! I'll also add true stats to the post, but for now I'm happy like this already!

Keep up the faerie-like mischief, everybody!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting - Part 5: Story Hooks

From the moment I read +Philippe-Antoine Menard's article on +Critical Hits titled “13th Age” Musings: Story Hook-Based Adventure Prepping, I knew (and I told him) I would have used this method for my Zendikar project. And here I am!

I am well aware that half the genius of the ChattyDM's idea was that with this method you can turn those often-forgotten loose threads of adventures into new and exciting side treks, or even new courses for the entire campaign, but since the other half of the geniality is just the simplicity and quickness of the method, I decided to write a post providing these Story Hooks as possible campaign or adventure starting ideas for Zendikar, without actually referring to any loose threads of a pre-existing campaign (since we're talking about starting, of course!)

So this will be my list of Story Hooks, which in a fashion similar to all my latest post, will be a growing list that I will update over time. I decided I will only add Hooks based on the Locations I already described in my Locations list, With an additional "sub-focus" on one of the organizations or authorities present in the location.
I'll also link every first occurrence of an Icon or Minor Icon in each hook to the relevant section, if I've already written it.

So we'll start from the continent of Tazeem, which non-coincidentally is also the best land-mass in Zendikar to start a low-level adventure or campaign, since it contains the highest amount of civilized population in stable settlements, with the exception of the even more highly populated Guul Draz. Although around there, 90% of the civilized population enjoys sucking blood of intelligent humanoids, and must also do so to survive, making it probably a little less than recommendable as a starting place...

Note that, to keep the spirit of ChattyDM's Story Hooks, I purposely choose less-than-obvious and less-than-epic hooks here. Even more than to keep the original spirit of the method, because since the obvious and epic ones are already quite clear when reading the Locations or Icons lists, it would be redundant to also describe them here in this fashion.
Actually, I go a bit far from the original model in terms of length and detail: I can't help being as prolix as always!




Friday, April 18, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting - Part 4: Locations

One idea that I vented in my brainstorming on Icons (a post that I removed from the project, to avoid confusion), was that of having some locations in zendikar act exactly like Icons. That is, you can have positive, conflicted, or negative relationships with these places. It works in Zendikar, because the world is literally much more alive than your standard fantasy setting. So I would definitely allow some characters to have bonds to some places, if their story or their concept justifies so.

However, it must be said that even in Zendikar, locations are rather static. Maybe you come up with an awesome reason for which your Merfolk Sorcerer is really hated by the mysterious Jhwar Island, but then what happens if the campaign stirs away from it, and maybe doesn't even touch the nearby continent of Ondu? Rather disappointing.

So basically I'll just talk about locations, starting with the ones cited in the Detailed Icons section, and if relevant, I'll add info about using the whole location as an Icon. After all, it can also make sense for certain small communities to be in good or bad relationships with ceratin individuals, and if they are active communities, it means by extension to have such a relationship with its people.

Here we go! Text in italics comes from the source material, copyright Wizards of The Coast!

(Tazeem continent)

 - 1 - The Enclave
 - 2 - The Magosi Portage
 - 3 - Sea Gate
 - 4 - The Depths of Halimar
 - 5 - Oran Rief, The Vastwood
(Ondu continent)
 - 1 - Zulaport (Beyeen island)
 - 2 - Kabira (Agadeem island)
(Bala Ged sub-continent)
 - 1 - Bojuka Bay (and Bojuka Bastion)
(Murasa island-continent)
 - 1 - Sunder Bay (and Tumbled Palace)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting - Part 3: Minor Icons

I still haven't finished the full list of icons in my Icons mega-post, and I'm already thinking about more icons.

The idea is a bit different though, than just adding more icons. I just noticed that some of my icons were very close to some other powerful figures that should have influenced them somehow. So instead of creating "dual icons" (which might be an option anyway), I will put here these kind of "minor icons" that complement some of the standard ones for my Zendikar adaption.

The write-ups will be smaller, and having relationships directly and only with these icons should be mostly impossible, as they exist in symbiosis with others, for one reason or another.

For now I'll put just one, and will update the post when I have more, as I'm doing for the standard ones.
I will start with what should have been my entirely fictional (that is, not present in the cards) Icon, that then I replaced with the more "setting-integrated" Stoneforger (aka Stoneforge Mystic)

 - 1 - The Lord of Cliffhaven
 - 2 - Tuktuk, The Returned
 - 3 - The Enclave Cryptologist
 - 4 - The Kabira Evangel
 - 5 - Sutina, The Speaker of the Tajuru

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#MtG's #Zendikar plane as a #13thAge setting - Part 2: Icons

This post is going to be big, because I want each Icon of Zendikar to receive a treatment comparable to the Icons of 13th Age if not more extensive. However, it would take me too much time to post all Icons altogether, so I'm going to update this post over time, adding Icon over Icon, or possibly even expanding on Icons I already wrote about, although I will try to limit that.

I'm gonna post a small index here at the start of the page, with eventual updates on existing entries, so that if you're interested you can stay up to date. I will also share on Google+ and Twitter each time I make a change to the page.

 - 0 - Brief introduction
 - 1 - The Loremaster
 - 2 - The Vindicator
 - 3 - The Stoneforger
 - 4 - The Chronologist
 - 5 - The Treespeaker
 - 6 - The Surrakar
 - 7 - The Shield of Emeria
 - 8 - The Acquisitor
 - 9 - The Ruin Sage

Welcome to Zendikar! :)