Mythic Mortals: The Vision and Implementation

This will be a series of blog posts detailing my designs, goals, and frustrations with my newest game. It will consist of three parts: The Vision and Implementation, The Problem, and Possible Solutions. Hopefully this will help me overcome my blocks and frustrations.

Welcome Minions Icon

Welcome Minions turned out extremely well, was a lot of fun to play, and encouraged me to work more with cards.

After the success of my last game, Welcome Minions, I knew I wanted to do more card-based stuff. However, this new game would be a more fleshed out, traditional RPG with enemies, stats, and adventures.

I’ve been working on what has become Mythic Mortals on and off for about 8-9 months now, and in fact, Welcome Minions was an offshoot of that “cards for shifting stats” idea. Welcome Minions FEELS great, and the cards really allow players to backstab and support one another in a way that re-enforces the stories that you are telling.

Mythic Mortals also uses shifting cards-as-stats mechanics, along with some other mechanical tweaks that I was really excited about….too excited , it turns out.

The Vision

My initial design goals were:

Make the game simple to play, but difficult to play well

    • controlling randomness
    • understanding abilities
    • planning ahead
    • working with other players
    • keep abilities simple, and easy to understand, but allow for complex combinations

Allow the players to feel like badasses

    • powerful abilities
    • reward clever play
    • overcome seeming impossible odds

Story through Combat

    • players tell their own stories
    • less focus on broad narrative
    • Advise GMs on interesting and exciting combat scenarios

Give players interesting and difficult choices

    • give lots of options in combat
    • allow for multiple goals
    • Card placement keeps thing simple, allows for choice
      Cards less random than dice, more shifting than set stats.

provide limited, clear tactical choices with obvious and different impact

The Implementation

Inspired by Project Dark by Will Hindmarch, I knew I wanted to keep cards as stats, and allows players to shift things around as they desire.


Project:Dark in play. Look at all those cards!


What I ended up with can be summarized in short here, or you can skim the current version of MM here, which runs at about 10 pages or so right now.

Your cards are your everything. They represent health, mana, strength, agility, basic stats, and how strong your character can be. Cards are used to activate powers, change your stats, and are discarded when you suffer damage. One thing that I really worked hard on was keeping the player informed about their character at all times using ONLY the cards. No tracking HP, no erasing and re-writing your attack values, etc. A player could play an entire game using only the cards, the dice, and their mat; No pencils, no grids, and no calculator.

Every player has a mat on which they place their cards. There are four slots for your four stats, and any actions that you take require you to roll under the value of the card in that slot. So to toss a car, you roll under the Strength slot, which you want to have placed a high-value card in. A 9 of Spades is great, because you just have to roll a d10 equal to 9 or lower.

At the same time, you have a grid of 16 powers available to you, four of which are active at any given time. The active powers you have are determined by the suits of the cards in your slots. This creates a cool situation where you have to choose between high value cards and cards that have the desired suit, but may have a lower value.

Ideally, players could switch powers, stat values, and strengths/weaknesses on the fly, in the middle of combat. Pulling out some amazing bow abilities for ranged attacks, and then running up close and smashing people with their melee abilities.

Mythic Mortals

As for player turns, things are kept very simple. Basic attacks are simple roll under abilities, with one of your card slots determining how much damage you are able to do. I created an initiative system, but I never use it in my own playtests.

The first few playtests I had went really well! I was generating some buzz online, polished up the gameplay, and thought I had a real winner! I studied some basic mythology, played a lot of God of War, Devil May Cry, and X-men; basically getting hype and writing a TON of stuff. At one point I have over 50 pages of backstory, ideas, abilities, etc etc.

But then I started to notice the little problems. Small things at first, until I realized that the game wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do AT ALL. But that’s going to be saved for the next article