Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chah's Musings - A Minor Point in Token Templating

During the Great Designer Search 2, Aaron Forsythe mentioned that the introduction of the Tribal type was not a great choice:
I can tell from your templates that you're thinking of using the Tribal type in the set, but I'd rather you didn't if at all possible. That mechanic, while conceived with the best intentions, is generally considered a bit of a failed experiment, and bringing it back on a couple cards in Rise of the Eldrazi probably wasn't a wise choice.

I enjoyed playing with the Tribal mechanic and I like designing cards with it as well. I don't know all the reasons why it's not good, but one of the reasons I can think of is requiring a phrase like "target Goblin creature" instead of "target Goblin" on every card that references a creature type, since the word Goblin (or other creature types) don't automatically mean it has to be a creature anymore.

I've often felt the repercussions of that while designing token-creating cards.

Cards that make tokens must spell out a lot of information, including creature type, color, power/toughness, and abilities. Magic templating takes this into account and tries to shave off as many words as possible. There's a rule that the name of the token is the same as its creature types if it is omitted. Also, it doesn't require you to spell out that the token enters play "under your control" - that is implied by default if it is omitted.

Sticking the additional word "creature" into this can be a significant addition at times. I wonder if this can't be omitted, if only for tokens. When an effect says to make a red 1/1 goblin token with haste, 100% of the players are going to understand that it's a Goblin creature token, not a Goblin enchantment token. The Power/Toughness mention alone points to that. 

In case a rules lawyer were to make an argument that the token isn't necessarily a creature, a rule can be created that when a token making effect omits the permanent type of the token but states the power and toughness, it's implied that it's a creature. That rule can then be posted in WotC's basement.

With "creature"

Without "creature"

This is an example where the extra word results in a line break and slightly smaller font size.

By the way, the above is another card inspired by a movie villain. It probably shouldn't make a funky sized token like this. A 1/1 skeleton with regeneration for B will be easier to remember. But a token of that size would be a weak bonus for a card of this cost.

When designing a card, I find that it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to make cards that create interesting situations on their own, rather than make a card that creates interesting situations when played with other cards.

I realized that once the card adjusted and cleaned up, it might turn into something like Nested Ghoul. In fact, maybe the same top-down concept inspired Nested Ghoul! Nested Ghoul is a great card in that it has simple text but can interact with other cards to produce varied results.


  1. There is no reason not to do this right now. I'm just concerned about the future -- what if Contraptions will have P/T?

    Also that is a 4/4 human. I don't see why his bones couldn't reassemble into *two* 1/1 skeletons.

  2. I always wondered about Forsythe's tribal comment...

    Is he speaking for himself, or for R&D as a whole? How many other members agree with him?

    I also don't really understand why he thinks tribal is a failed experiment. I wouldn't want Tribal to show up in every block, but I felt like it played well in its environment, and I wouldn't be opposed to playing with it again.

  3. @Anonymous -
    Even if contraptions have P/T, all contraptions could explicitly mention that they are contraptions, and the default interpretation when there's no type mentioned would be creature.

    Two skeletons is an interesting idea. It would be especially interesting if there's a humanoid race in the block with four arms and four legs - turning into two skeletons would be flavorful.

  4. Hmm... maybe if the guy is wearing armor made of bones, it would be kind of neat in a macabre way if after death his bones mix with the armor's bones to produce two skeletons.