Levels In Search Of A Game


Previously we laid out some mechanics that fit into wedge themes, and now comes the worldbuilding of it all.

The deserts and graveyard themes suggest a wasteland setting, but the artifact/Artificer themes and Manufacture mechanic suggest a strangely high tech level. How can we combine them?

Here's my take: a once-great land had a horrific catastrophe decades ago, with two remaining power centers dominating the wasteland. The Citadel of Artifex Academia (URW) preserves and teaches all things mechanical. Their original mandate, to rebuild and uplift the world, has slid into an obsessively inward focus as they sneer at the ignorant outsiders.

Their main rival is the Weaver Circle (RWB), who seeks to bind the world in stringent laws and mercilessly punish rulebreakers. They only control disparate zones outside of their main stronghold, but they are often welcomed as a relief from bandits.

The other wedges are much less organized – maybe they're more like geographical regions rather than formal factions.

Potions (GUR) – Marshy mangrove forests and geothermal craters with communities of brewers. Maybe it's for combat strength, religious ritual, recreation, or all at once.

Deserts (WBG) – A vast plain of exiles and hermits with some very strange metaphysics. They respect and revere the desert, while being acutely aware that it is murderously indifferent to them.

Reclaim/Self-Mill (BGU) – A malarial fen with a maze of covert supply lines. Anything can be traded for anything, but you might not like the exchange rate. People caught running scams are often banished to the desert, or turned over to a Weaver officer.

#MTG #Hypothetical #Kharkassakh

Potions (Artifact tokens with “2, T, Sacrifice this artifact: Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. Activate this only as a sorcery.” In green, blue, and red.)

Manufacture (“Create a token that's a copy of an artifact token you control.” In blue, red, and white, which are also the colors of artifact/Artificer tribal.)

Reclaim (”[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Draw a card.” In all colors, but weighted toward green, blue, and black.)

Curses (and punitive Auras in general) (Primarily in red, white, and black but with a tiny bit in blue.)

Deserts/lands in graveyards (Primarily in black and green, secondarily in white.)

There we go: five mechanics/themes, each more-or-less in a different wedge. But since this set doesn't have strict factions like Tarkir or isolated sub-planes like Alara, we can mix them right off the bat.

Reprocessed Brew 1 Artifact – Potion (Common) [Potion ability] Reclaim 3

I loved Eldraine's nontoken Foods and economy of uses for them, which I want to replicate here. There's also a mini-cycle of colored nontoken Potions, 1-drops with ETB effects: gaining 3 life for green, scrying 2 for blue, dealing 2 to each opponent for red.

Chemistry Technician 1U Creature – Vedalken Artificer (Uncommon) When ~ enters the battlefield, choose one- -Create a Potion token. -Manufacture. Plenty of Citadel students discreetly study the strange brews of the wilderness. 1/3

Iterated Upgrade 3U Sorcery (Uncommon) Create a 3/3 colorless Golem artifact creature token. Reclaim 4U When you reclaim ~, manufacture.

A cycle of common monocolor deserts: they enter tapped and have Reclaim 3.

Some strategic reprints help too: Desert's Hold is a great crossover, and Curse of Oblivion is some graveyard hate that most non-Curse drafters won't want.

#mtg #hypothetical #Kharkassakh

Five planets orbit a mana-rich sun, developing their own cultures and ecology in isolation. Recently, they have achieved spaceflight to cross the perilous aether and begin exchanging culture.

(In ascending order of distance from the sun: Red, Green, White, Blue, Black)

White: The bold, beautiful space program of a distant, dying homeworld. Gleaming lunar bases, with a midcentury American/Soviet Futurism hybrid style. (Maybe it's literally a collaboration between the homeworld's two biggest nations?)

Blue: Giant, sharply-angled monolithic structures hovering unperturbed in a gas giant's atmosphere. The stones can “live” and “think” on an immense timescale, and obsessively archive the solar system's history for clues to their own existence.

Black: A shattered world that accretes scrap and debris from nearby, with rings of destroyed ships and satellites. A jagged, precarious space pirate aesthetic.

Red: A very “John Carter of Mars” aesthetic. Craggy canyons and mountains on a staggering scale, with an elaborate ascension-by-combat warrior hierarchy.

Green: The vintage sci-fi conception of Venus as a lush, overgrown land of dinosaur beasts. Jungle valleys are separated by miles of earthquake-prone wastelands. Each ecosystem has developed almost entirely in isolation.

Top-down tropes, ideas, and card names: UFO abduction First Contact We Come In Peace Spaceport Space Elevator Spacewalk Voyager/Hubble/Curiosity Space Pirates Warp Drive Terraforming Invasive species/diseases Planetary annihilation Liftoff Cryptic Monolith Mission Control Dyson sphere Space race

Card Ideas:

Probing Vessel 5 Artifact – Vehicle (Uncommon) Flying When ~ enters the battlefield, exile target creature until ~ leaves the battlefield. Crew 2 3/3

Warp Launcher 1UR Artifact (Rare) Whenever a creature you control enters the battle from exile, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card. 2, T: Exile target creature you control. Return it to the battlefield under your control tapped and attacking at the beginning of your next declare attackers step.

#mtg #hypothetical

If there's ever a third visit to Innistrad, one possible story hook is all the religious schisms in the wake of Avacyn's death, learning the truth of her creation, and the Eldrazi incursion. No single faction is strong enough to win outright, and strange alliances form and dissolve every day.

The set's factions are enemy-colored, an inversion of Innistrad's usual ally-colored creature tribes, to reflect the dissonance and upending of all the usual alliances. There's a lot of untapped potential in this- the only specifically enemy-color set so far has been Apocalypse, all the way back in 2001.

The overall mechanic identity of the set features a lot of choice, whether in modal cards or designs that are useful in multiple archetypes. Perhaps there is a cycle of “schism” enchantments, like the Sieges from Fate Reforged, representing the two factions associated with each color.

White/Black- Children of Markov

The truth about Avacyn is now public: she was not humanity's savior but a game warden, created by Sorin to balance the ecosystem (and ensure a stable food supply for vampires). Many people reject this as heresy, but the Children of Markov believe and embrace it. Its members are mostly humans and vampires, seeking to reconcile the two species.

Its mechanical identity focuses on sacrificing for the greater good, and universal effects (whether positive or negative.)

Blue/Red- The Galvanic Cabal

The Cabal holds that revering angels and demons and elementals will only bind Innistrad to its miserable past, and that scientific inquiry is the best way forward. They study lycanthropy, geists, demons, vampirism, but above all necro-alchemy. Banned scientific texts arrive in Nephalia's ports every day, to be copied and tested and expanded upon.

Its mechanical identity focuses on jolting the dead to life, looting, controlling many different permanent types, and creating Clue tokens.

Black/Green- Pact of the Crossroads

Ancient forces stir in the wilderness. Demons, elementals, and beings utterly unknown offer immense power to hermits and outcasts. Members meet on backroads to exchange gifts and secrets. Many members are werewolves, already familiar with the deep wilds and its denizens.

The Pact's mechanical identity focuses on resource conversion, power at a cost, and knowing when to take a calculated loss.

Red/White- Heron Corps

The only problem with Avacyn's incendiary purge was that it was cut short. The Heron Corps are the most militant and organized faction, claiming direct continuity with the true Church of Avacyn. Doubts and worries are drowned out by marches and slogans. They regularly fight and ostracize rival factions, but spend plenty of time turning on themselves.

The Corps' mechanical identity focuses on going all-in, punishing and hosing opponents, and never backing down.

Green/Blue- Writhing Union

Emrakul is now sealed in the moon, but trace amounts of her power still seep out. The Writhing Union seeks to release her, binding all of Innistrad in beautiful ecstatic unity. They build temples on the strongest concentrations of her influence, cultivating mutations through the generations.

The Union's mechanical identity focuses on transformations, with incentives for playing many double-faced cards.

#mtg #hypothetical

I've seen my roommate play plenty of Dark Souls, and I love its moody, atmospheric world with the motif of fire as safety and hope.

It got me thinking about an adventuring party of clerics each based on a different facet of fire. (D&D already has stats for a Forge domain, and this is just some tweaks to reflavor it.)

I'm picturing these clerics in a setting similar to Dark Souls, dominated by ancient ruins choked with ash, but a bit less bleak. A few communities have taken root, but mostly in total isolation from each other.


Forge clerics collect the ruined scraps of the old world, bless and thank them for their service, and smelt them into the tools of renewal. But metals are fickle, and may not want to take a new shape. The cleric must recognize when to respect a metal, and when to hammer it into line.

Many of the cleric's duties are mundane metalworking, but they may be called to consecrate or exorcise a relic. They may even have to stop another Forge cleric afflicted with “artsickness”– a steadily rising standard of beauty and craftsmanship, culminating in reckless destruction of an unbearably hideous world.

Plot Hooks: * A weapon from an infamous massacre calls out to be wielded again. Resist its pull, and smelt it down forever.


In a world split by distrust and isolation, the Hearth cleric fosters understanding and community. They carry tools to consecrate any small, contained fire into a sacred meeting place.

In its radius, empathetic bonds are tightened. Barriers of culture and language start to thaw, and intractable disputes can be made a little less dire. Initiating violence of any kind becomes as deeply taboo as killing a sibling. (Note that there are people who may not be swayed by that.)

Hearth clerics can also act as judges, bearing records of all their previous cases and rulings. The rulings are final, but a council of judges with more seniority and experience has the power to overrule it.

Plot Hooks: * Resolve a dispute where one (or both) parties are immune to the Hearth's pull, or refuse absolutely to step within it.


The only plants left are pale, withered things wrapped in layers of parasites. Livestock are either emaciated, feral, or cursed. But with enough ingenuity, the poisons can be extracted and ingredients combined into a nourishing meal.

Feast clerics work especially well with Hearth clerics, joining communities with the most ancient ritual of the most basic need. As they travel, they gather more ingredients and recipes, cross-pollinating a hungry world.

Plot Hooks: * A community has a ritualized meal for a birth, wedding, funeral or holiday with spiritually-significant ingredients. Many of them are extinct or extremely rare, and you must create satisfying replacements.


Few things stay satisfyingly dead in this world. Restless spirits and puppeteered corpses are common on the roads. Pyre clerics specialize in giving them a true, final end.

They also specialize in conventional funeral rites, and carry the clothing and tools for as many traditions as they can. But the undead can only be truly laid to rest by burning geistwood branches, ideally dried and aged for several years.

Plot Hooks: * Defend a geistwood grove from a necromancer who seeks to destroy it.

#hypothetical #ttrpg

Super Wario Bros.

A total moral/aesthetic inversion of the Mario universe. The inverted version of Bowser rules the land with an iron grip of fuzzy pastel kindness. You play as Wario and Waluigi, concocting absurd Rube Goldberg supervillain schemes to ruin it. The inverted versions of Peach and Daisy are your rivals, who keep crossing paths with you and sabotaging your schemes with their own.

It's as cheery and fun as any other Mario game, but with some really neat subtext about how evil is innately self-defeating but can wreck a lot along the way. And in interludes with Bowser, there's some great reflections on how stringent pacifism must reckon with people who cannot be peacefully swayed.

A Decent Paper Mario

Super Mario Odyssey was a burst of gloriously weird, clever game design. I'd love to see that spirit of innovation merged with the magnificently strange writing from Paper Mario: TTYD.

Keep the straightforwardly cartoony style, but with subtle material textures: felt, cardboard, tissue paper, etc.

Shoji doors as a mechanic?

Combat could be on a grid, like a condensed Fire Emblem.

Possible partners: a mineral Chain Chomp, a deep-sea Blooper, a grizzled veteran Bullet Bill, and a reformed former X-Naut troop.


Infighting In Bowser's Army

The immense, diverse coalition of Bowser's military is brittle at best. Whenever he leaves for tennis or go-karting, factions within it vie for power and control without outright staging a coup.

You are an entry-level recruit in a faction of your choice: the Chain Chomp keepers, the necromancers who maintain the Boos and Dry Bones, the Bob-omb Corps, a cabal of X-Naut spies, or more. Gameplay is like Fire Emblem without combat, trying to carefully balance the demands and interests of your partners and rivals to ascend the ranks.

Do Literally Anything With F-Zero

Making a difficult, high-speed racing game seems out of Nintendo's wheelhouse, and might step on the toes of Mario Kart anyway. Maybe make a whole open-world RPG in the F-Zero world, with some incidental racing as a plot element?

#nintendo #hypothetical