Pattern Recognition #203 - A New Set: Bible, Setting and Goals
15 July 2021
15 July 2021
Hello everyone! This is Pattern Recognition, TappedOut.Net's longest running article series as written by myself, berryjon. I am something of an Old Fogey who has been around the block quite a few times where Magic is concerned, as as such, I use this series to talk about the various aspects of this game, be it deck design, card construction, mechanics chat, in-universe characters and history. Or whatever happens to cross my mind this week. Please, feel free to dissent in the comments below the article, add suggestions or just plain correct me! I am a Smart Ass , so I can take it.
In the development of any project, especially one as large as this, there needs to be a cohesive document that is filled in with details about the setting, the plot, the goals, the aesthetics and everything else to make sure that everyone is on the same page with what is going on. This document is known across media as a Setting Bible, and today I'm going to work a bit more on that for you all.
Setting Bibles are interesting things, especially when they get re-purposed and printed for public consumption. Consider the information that came in the Ravnica DnD books, and how much of that didn't appear on the cards themselves, or were implied. For example, each time the game returns to Ravnica, the season has advanced, and it's supposed to be implied by the artwork, not called out.
Or things like "Such and such a character is this colour combination, please make sure that all artwork for them uses those colours in dominant measure", which is why Jace wears blue forever and ever and the guy needs a serious wardrobe update. Maybe something more... pirate?
But I digress. The purpose of the Bible is to create single document that everyone can consult to keep things on track and on setting. And what you're seeing her with me writing all this down as I go through the setting development and card and mechanics design is me writing the Setting Bible before your very eyes!
Of course, the Bible can be changed, but as the project develops, doing so takes more and more effort to go back through things and update as needed. And there comes a point where things have to be locked in in order to advance, and we've already reached one. The five Tribes of the setting have to be defined in order to advance, so it's done now. Scout, Noble, Rogue, Warlock and Shaman. And as I go forward, we'll see more and more things get set into stone because trying to change them will cause more harm than good.
So, let's talk the Setting.
The setting of the set is... you know what? I'm going to have to break out my Name Generator because I'll be needing to use proper nouns sooner or later. rolls stuff up OK, I can work with this.
The setting of the set is more than just the location. It is the fundamental nature of the set and how the various factors in it interact with each other, within each self-same factor, and how they interact with outside forces. To draw on the example of Ravnica, the city itself is included in the setting, but so are the Guilds and how they interact with each other both negatively and positively.
And yes, the Guilds do have positive relations. The Golgari help the Boros locate evidence of crimes, the Orzhov aid the Izzet when it comes to logistics for the city's infrastructure. Things like that. Just because we see these settings in times of conflict does not mean that such a thing is the norm. It means that we are only seeing them when the going gets rough, and to borrow a phrase, the rough get going.
Now, I'm a very Character Driven author. That is to say, that when I am engaged in a creative work, rather than an analytical one, my focus and strength is on that of the characters in my work, and on the character of the characters. What they do, what they think and feel and how they say and act upon. I'm not an Event Driven author, who moves the story from plot beat to plot beat in time.
Given the developing focus of the game over the past decade or more on Planeswalkers and to a lesser extent, Legendary Creatures, I think that this is a good thing for developing the setting of a set. Get the players invested in who these people are, their goals and their conflicts and then the rest flows naturally. Or at least, I hope so. I'm not so foolish as to think that I'm going to be perfect on this.
So to that point, let's start by building a back story and do some world building. By establishing a sett... No. Let's call this a stage that I can then put my characters onto, I can develop things like hypothetical visual aesthetics for the set, as well as helping keep the players aware in the back of their minds that such and such a place means such and such a thing, or something like that.
I'm doing enough telling. Time to do some showing.
Solle should not exist. This is known. The powers of the world knew the limits of their world. They mapped the seas and the skies, the mountains and the canyons. And Solle did not exist. That changed, centuries ago, when great storms swept across the world, covering the world in their tempest fury. The stars were covered, the land blasted, the seas rocked. Then, it ended. Not as a single grand event, like the break of dawn. Rather, the world began to cease its rage, and the people began to look outward to try and recover, reset and more importantly, figure out what had happened.
As the cartographers of the world began to work to update their maps, to adjust them to account for the damages the storms had brought to coasts and rivers, they found more and more errors cropping up. The numbers didn't match. In some places, there was more. In others, less. A grand work was conceived, a full survey of the world again. The scouts traveled the lands, the Rogues escorting them, and going to places they could not. Nobles collected the information and tried to piece everything together while the Warlocks and the Shamans in each of their own way, examined the changes in the magic of the world, the leylines new and old.
The conclusions were inescapable and undeniable.
Where there was nothing, now there was something. That something was a new continent, where there was nothing before. No, not water. Nothing. As though this new place, Solle, the Sunrise Continent, had been inserted into the world, with everything pushed outwards to account for the new volume and space. The world had grown larger, and no one knew how or why.
Now is an era, a time of exploration and expansion. Of colonization and discovery. Something happened to the world, and Solle was the response. What secrets does this land hide? How did it come to be? And why? And could this be a threat to everything held dear by the world, or is it a boon?
Leading these efforts are five individuals, each representing one of the five major groups invested in Solle and what lay within its coasts. Rhasta is a Scout, an explorer without peer. He seeks to reach the farthest edges of this new land, to see all that there is to see, and then go back for more. Taedere is a Noble, a woman of great virtue who sees expansion into Solle not only as being of benefit to herself, but to everyone who comes to this place. Zalasta the Rogue sees opportunity around every corner, but only for those who can take it. Anhiora leads the Warlocks into this new land, seeking answers as to what happened and why, and is more than willing to fight for it. Or help. And finally, the Shaman Vanasta sees Solle as a new frontier that is not to be tamed or conquered, but embraced.
There are no villains here. No grand evils. Just different groups all out to do their best, even if it means coming into conflict with the others. They all want to know the secrets of Solle, and one way or the other, they will. But to the ones who make the discovery? Theirs will be the glory.
Solle: The Rising Sun is an unofficial, fan-created expansion for Magic: The Gathering, and is intended to sit at the power-level of a Standard set, not to be slotted into Modern, Legacy or Commander specifically. This will be a typical 'Large' Set, and will be designed to be playable in draft and constructed formats.
Solle is a Tribal set, with focus on the five Tribes, each in an Allied colour. The Scouts, the Nobles, Rogues, Warlocks and Shamans.
This set is intended to evoke a sense of the Wild West, from the cowboys of the Great Plains to the culture of Spanish California. It is a set of discovery, where the cards themselves should be presented in a positive manner, that the players will want to play because they want to move forward to some greater reward for their efforts, no matter how they go about it.
While the plot is open-ended at this time, this reward can be expressed as an alternate win condition, and there is space in the higher rarities for such a thing. But it has to be a constructive thing, a positive effort, rather than a destructive one.
Of course, in order to keep interest from the player-base high, we will need to dip into our cast of Planeswalkers in order to maintain a cohesive link from the past to the present. After much deliberation, here are the chosen ones:
Davriel Cane will be getting his first (at the time of this writing) name card, having shown up as an Uncommon Planeswalker in War of the Spark. Here, he is loosely affiliated with the Rogue faction, seeking information about the creation of Solle to help Innistrad recover after the events of the Eldritch Moon. Or to simply enrich himself. He may be antagonistic in some interactions, but he won't be the villain. CARD NAME: Davriel Cane
Hualti of Ixalan is our second Planeswalker, and her orientation makes her the perfect fit with the Scout faction. Here, she will be a story teller, a person who seeks out not new lands, but also new stories to tell. On the edge of the known is where she finds these experiences. That, and there are so many new dinosaurs to meet! CARD NAME: Hualti, Dinosaur Wrangler
Saheeli Rai will be our third Planeswalker, and the choice was made, less for her colour composition, as doesn't mesh with the existing tribes, but rather because she is an Artificer, and one of the subthemes of the Wild West is the advancement of the Railroad and all that brings for good or for ill to the table. Saheeli will represent that aspect of the setting. CARD NAME: Saheeli, Aether Engineer.
And with that, we have put a couple of bookmarks into the setting bible, things to build around in the future. I can go in a few developmental directions from here, but we'll see how it goes when I return to this.
Join me next week when I get ready to retire a deck and build a new one.
Until then please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!
Is there any cultural influence on the naming patterns of the people and places? I'm not looking as deep as Kamigawa or Innistrad, but more along the lines of Kaladesh: nothing about the "land of art and invention" setting has a specifically South Asian requirement, but the names and cultural styles have that sort of vague Indian subcontinent veneer: Padeem, Rashmi, Depala, Rishkar,the clothing and grooming of Rogue Refiner and Ninth Bridge Patrol , etc.
The names you've chosen don't seem to belong to any particular culture, and if you want to keep going with that, I completely understand and support it. But to throw it out there, if you sprinkle some Mexican/Spanish style landmarks in, some of the nobles with upper-class old money names, along with some mountain man/frontier nicknames (Snowshoe Thompson and Wild Bill Hickok as two real-life examples), that might help develop the Wild West theme.
July 15, 2021 5:10 p.m.
Also, is there any wildlife or settlements of Sole before people start coming in, or is it completely a blank slate? Or are you going to answer these questions in the future?
July 15, 2021 8:40 p.m.
legendofa; Your last question first; the mystery of Solle will be revealed over time, so please be patient.
As for the naming conventions, I have a program on my laptop that's no longer available that builds lists of 2-4 syllable names using existing works as a baseline. Mostly in a 'Mix and match' type. I just worked the list for a while until I found a few that worked out and were distinct enough I can use them.
To be fair, since the start of development, the Noble Legendary has always been Don Diego de la Vega as a working title, which I suppose would make her Doña Taedere. Spanish titles and descriptors might work out. Names are very much flexible at this point, that's true.
Your point stands, and I will keep it in mind going forward.
July 15, 2021 11:27 p.m.
There's one thing that's bugging me about this whole thing...
It's spelled ROGUE! XD.
July 16, 2021 4:18 p.m.
Could this be the fabled sequel to the tapped out community set?
July 20, 2021 10:38 a.m.
Had an idea myself for a 'Wid West' mtg set once. It involved dwarves being the engineers/miners and based weapons. Rogues would be your traditional gun fighters, Nobles/Peasants for town folk. Didn't have the natives figured at the time, elves would be kinda clichè I think. Adding Minotaurs as 'cattle' would have been funny. I mean try roping one of those XD. Didn't really get past that though. It's really too bad WotC doesn't accept design input from the consumer base.