Sketch 3: In The Cards
This sketch was delayed when I realised that the one preceeding it hinged around a fundamentally bad design choice. Which was a bit of a kick in the knackers, really. But that’s done now. On with the show!
A game of modern magic riffing off the typical “occult underground” where characters are second-stringers and part-timers suddenly given the power of the Arcana. Character creation is done by a set of interlinking cards. Gravel meets Time & Temp meets, well, something else.
What Is It?
It’s the modern world; magic is real but hidden. The particular format of this reality is that without a massive investment of time and energy and obsession, magic won’t actually get you anywhere. Sure, you can cast a spell to get out of working overtime, or you can up your chances with the cute guy at the bar with a little alchemy, but if you want to be rich or successful then you need to dedicate your whole life to the art. You take on an archetype, and become that person—the Masterless Man, or the Mystic Assassin. The downsides of taking on an archetype outweigh the good ones: your life turns into a mess of stories and people trying to fuck with you. If you’re not entirely insane and obsessed with the archetype, you die.
Most people don’t want to live in stories that twist everyone around them into bit-players, so they dabble. Which is all well and good until the Underground goes to shit.
Someone’s killed the 21 members of the Arcanum1, the mystics who act as worldwide champions of magical power. Now, each of the characters has inherited the role of one of the Arcana. And so has the killer.
The idea that I want to use for this game is around character creation. Using the basic idea of Apocalypse World’s playbooks2 as a basic thing, each character has a mundane career, a magical style, and a role in the Arcanum. Each one interlinks to provide a unique character. At least 15 careers, 10 magical styles, 21 arcana, each with 2 or 3 choices to make and interactions between the cards so that no two characters are alike.
Where Are You At?
Those words you read above? That’s where I’m at now. I’ve not had much of a chance to think this idea through further.
The funky stuff is all in character creation, and precisely balancing all of the options and choices and such is a massive job of work. Also, I really need to work out what system I’m supposed to be using. And beyond that, the setting needs fleshing out. I don’t have time right now, but who knows what’ll happen?