My debut novel, CARDSLINGER (Carolrhoda, fall 2019), contains a collectible card game called Mythic. Think Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh.
In Mythic, players use a deck of cards built around an ancient culture’s mythology (like Greek or Aztec, among others) and a deity representing a faction (power or wealth, among others). The individual cards–heroes, monsters, weapons, events, etc–that make up the deck must fit those two parameters (culture and faction).
After designing some rules (which could be a blog post in itself), I crafted the cards.
Creating Mythic challenged me in a fun a way. Not only did the cards have to fit their mythology and theme, they had to fit the story. Spear of Vengeance is a shining example.
In Egyptian mythology, the god of storms, Set, murdered his brother, Osiris, the god-king. Consequently, Isis birthed Osiris’ son, Horus. When he came of age, Horus sought revenge and killed Set with a harpoon.
In order to fit the theme, Spear of Vengeance had to meet a few conditions (Osiris’ death, Horus’ presence) and an effect (a powerful counter-attack). If all of the backstory was added, the card would’ve been too wordy and complicated, resulting in confused and frustrated readers. As a result, I simplified it for the game and, more importantly, for the narrative.
The simplified theme still fit thematically.
Here’s the card in prototype form.
Artifact is the card type. There are other types like hero or monster.
The icon on the left, the heart, indicates which faction it belongs to. In this case, a heart means Spirit. If the card was in color, it would be yellow, indicating it as an Egyptian card.
The number is the cost in divinity to play the card. I don’t think this rule is in the narrative. Again, I had to simplify the game rules, so the narrative doesn’t get bogged down with information not vital to the story.
The text at the bottom is the card’s effect. Hero is a keyword for type (like artifact). Belief is basically life total or victory points of the player. A player starts the game with 13 Belief. You win if: you eliminate your opponent’s Belief, or you raise your Belief to 21.
Best of all, I weaved it into a scene, a card duel between Shuffle and a tough gamer named Angel. You’ll have to read the book to know how it plays out!
In Cardslinger, the player’s Mythic deck is made up of a deity card and 21 playing cards and forms the over-all strategy.
I wanted Shuffle’s deck to mean something to the story and to his character. The strategy of a deck tells a lot about a gamer. Shuffle isn’t a particularly tough kid, and he fears violence. A brute force deck helmed by Ares wouldn’t have been his thing. Therefore, Shuffle games with a Greek-spirit deck with Athena as his deity. Its strategy is to win by pulling off clever tricks and combinations. His best card is his hero Odysseus, the dude who devised the Trojan Horse tactic.
Individualizing the decks by using theme and strategy characterizes Shuffle and his opponents, making their choice of play-style fit the story.
Paul Femus, a lying cheater, gamed with a Loki-wealth deck that employed tricks and sneaky monsters. Doc Holliday, a slick gunfighter/gambler, used a Japanese-spirit deck that focused on attacks and healing, a weird combination that could win a duel in two different ways.
There is no denying Mythic came from my obsession with Magic:the Gathering. I own thousands of cards and built a handful of decks. I love the art, the theme, and the strategy. The game play is simple yet intense.
An example of effect fitting the theme is the Theros set, inspired by Greek mythology. Curse of the Swine is a Circe inspired card.
In Greek mythology, Circe, the goddess of magic, turned her enemies into wild animals. In Homer’s Odyssey, she turned Odysseus’ crew into pigs. Circe appears in Cardslinger, as a pig farmer rumored to be a witch. Fun times!
More To Come
Once the revision is done, the art team will get a hold of the project. I can’t wait. A real cover, created by a professional artist, will be amazing to see. It’ll mean the book is real. Mythic cards, too, and I certainly, can’t wait to share them when it happens. Giddyup!