This is my second post regarding NaGa DeMon - National Game Design Month. Participating in this means that my card game project must be created with all of its necessary pieces entirely within the month of November and then played at least once. So far, I've decided my card game will have mechanical elements that emulate the prisoner's dilemma situation. Currently, I still haven't yet decided on a theme, despite the helpful feedback I've received from fellow NaGa DeMon Hunters.
As I said in my last post, while it's very normal and possible to design games without a theme (just look at all the card games that use a standard deck of playing cards), having that flavor established early on can help further game designing which in turn can help influence the theme and so on and so forth.
So, right now, I'm going to focus on cranking out some theme ideas. To help me in this process, I've decided to theme this blog post with a title referencing Baskin-Robbins' "31 Flavors." So thematic. So productive. I'm going to force myself to come up with thirty-one different themes right now as I write this. I've only got a few swimming around in my brain, so I'm excited to see what I come up with!
This is what I really should be doing at this stage. No second-thoughts and such during the brainstorming process! Just let it all flow out of my mind and put it all down. Only until after the brainstorming is finished must I begin to think critically about the theme possibilities.
But before I begin, I will first define the game mechanics that must be described within the context of each of these themes. Here they are:
- The scenario - This has to be a situation that the players are involved in such as a high school rally, a fantasy dungeon quest, or a series of therapy sessions.
- The players - The players have to be somebody or something that's doing all this simultaneous cooperating and competing. Who are they?
- The "loot" - The players will be trying to be collecting the most of ...something. In Mario, this would be coins. Zelda has rupees. Note that this doesn't have to be gold or jewels nor does it need to be a tangible object. Also, the verb (player's action) associated with this "loot" doesn't have to be "collect." In summary, they need to be [VERB]-ing [SOMETHING].
- The "health" - I want to add a layer of complexity to this game that makes this more than just an iterated prisoner's dilemma. As such, the "monsters" can hurt the player's "health." This "health" may influence the player's decision-making. Anyway, what is this "health" within the context of the theme?
- The game-ender - The game, mechanically, will end at an indeterminate time. But what is the flavor that causes this scenario the players are in to end? This quality of the game seems to not be as important to define but would definitely enhance the game that much more if defined.
- The encounter-able "things" - The players, within the scenario, will encounter ...stuff. Within the context of a typical swords & sorcery fantasy adventure, this would be monsters, treasure, traps, puzzles, etc. There's going to be bad stuff and good stuff and a lot of these things will yield the "loot" mentioned above.
So, here we go! Oh, and for the themes I list, I won't repeat ones that were already suggested to me, like an treasure hunting theme escaping from a crumbling temple due to a stolen idol (Indiana Jones). Anyway, 31 themes:
- Blood-sucking Vampires - The players are vampires trying to suck the most blood before the sun rises. Vampires have a physical health (yet can never truly die, of course) and face humans and animals of various types.
- Meat-eating Werewolves - ...This may or may not be cheating, and this may remind you of Twilight, and maybe it's because I've got Magic: The Gathering's Innistrad / Halloween on my mind due to building my cube: The players are werewolves trying to eat as much meat before the full moon disappears. Werewolves have physical health (but are superbly resilient) and face humans and animals of various types.
- Brain-eating Zombies - Oh, boy, another horror theme: The players are zombies trying to eat the most brains before the military nukes them all. Zombies' "health" is represented through their body parts. Losing body parts doesn't impact your abilities - it's just a flavorful representation. Losing all of them, though, causes you to need to re-attach your body parts, which costs you. You fight against humans, mostly.
- Booty-Plundering Sexy Pirates - I apologize in advance for this one: The players are sexy pirates trying to "plunder" the most "booty" before the voyage ends ...or whatever. Since the core mechanic of plundering booty is already a sex euphemism, the rest of the game will also play into this by using thematic pirate things and terms. Like a nice-looking (treasure) chest (it's like this stuff writes itself!) The players' have libido they must not let "get too low." ...Again, I'm sorry!
- Rising-in-Fame Musicians - The players are musicians/bands gaining fame and trying to become the most famous before they all die or go to jail or become too old to play anymore. Etc., etc. During cooperations, this can be seen as playing at a show together. The players have gigs/private shows/entertain fans/etc. Their "health" can be inspiration, motivation to rock, soberness/cleanliness until they eventually hit a low place and lose some fame as a cost to getting back on their feet again.
- Book-Reading Library Nerds - The players are book nerds trying to read the most books before library closes. Library patrons and various library-specific objects would be your encounters and your "health" is drowsiness or eye-weariness or something.
- Laughter-Inducing Comedians - The players are stand-up comedians trying to get the most laughs by telling jokes, performing skits, etc. before the end of the show. Their "health" would be how funny they are. Or their originality.
- Pizza-Eating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - I'm gonna go ahead and cheat with an IP idea: the players are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trying to eat the most pizza before Shredder shows up. The turtles can fight together or solo Shredder's minions in the meantime that Shredder hasn't shown up. What I don't get is why there would be so much pizza being carried by the bad ninjas - stealing them? *shrugs*
- Competitive Space Bounty Hunters - The players are space bounty hunters trying to collect the most bounty earnings before ....something space-related happens. Some bounties are tough to hunt down and might be best to require cooperation!
- Doughnut-Eating Cops - The players are cops trying to eat the most doughnuts before their shift is up. They encounter criminals of all sorts, and getting tired/injured requires them to recover by eating some of their own hard-earned doughnuts.
- Stealing-from-Homes Robbers - The players are robbers trying to steal the most wealth from households before everyone wakes up in the morning. The robbers can work together for more difficult places to break and enter and/or wealths to acquire (like laser-guarded diamonds). Sneakiness can be health, and having zero sneakiness means you need to hide until you gain your sneakiness advantage again.
- Competitive Fisherman - The players are fisherman trying to fish the most fish before the end of the day. Fish, fish, fish. Some "fish" are ridiculously heavy and may require more than one fisherman to fish up, like, say, a SHARK or KILLER WHALE?! Players encounter all sorts of fish. Players have bait to look out for.
- Orgasm-Seeking Orgy Participants - This is just straight-up X-rated, as opposed to the innuendo-ridden pirate one above: the players are humans (!) in an orgy trying to get the most orgasms/sexual satisfaction before the end of the night. The "monsters" are sexual partners, cooperation with other players end up being those threesomes and whatnot, and the "treasure" cards are stuff like sex toys or sex machines. Health is stamina or libido.
- Jehovah's Witnesses Sharing the Good News - And now for possibly offensive, but it fits so well with the unknown-when-it-will-happen game-ender: The player's are Jehovah's Witnesses trying to spread the good news to as many people as they can before Armageddon occurs. You can witness to people not already in the truth and even do so cooperatively. Their "health" is how much they're deviating away from Jehovah. Getting down to zero "health" means they must have a shepherding call, so they can be brought back closer to Jehovah.
- Fun-Seeking Carnival Attendees - The players are attending a carnival and they try to have the most fun before the end of the day. They'll ride rollercoasters, play carnival games, etc. Their "health" is their excitement or fatigue - sometime they need to sit down and have a bite to eat or something!
- Money-Making Food Chain Companies - The players are food chain companies trying to sell the most food to climb to the top of the food chain (ahahah... hah. ...hah) before the economy goes bad. Meeting demand in various areas may take more than one food chain (player) to fulfill whereas others are perfectly fine with just one food chain. Your health is your food supply. Sometimes food shortages happen.
- High School Kids Striving for Popularity - The players are "the popular kids" in high school trying to become the MOST popular before the end of the school year. Encounters would be students, teachers, various school events like clubs and rallies. "Health" is your confidence/arrogance or something.
- Cross-Country Car Racers - The players are each racing in cars across the country trying to get the furthest before... hmm. Before Armageddon happens? I dunno. "Health" is running out of gas. And cooperation is... yeesh, this theme needs a lot of work. I'll take it, though!
- Competitive Christmas Decorators - The players are trying to decorate their Christmas trees with the most decorations before Christmas comes! "Health" is their Christmas spirit. They'll encounter carolers, santa, and other Christmas-y things. Cooperation is kind of a stretch, though, since they each have their own trees to decorate. Perhaps they're just putting up decorations in general?
- Competitively-Studious Students - The players are trying to study to gain the most knowledge before finals yet need to possibly share books! They must fight their own sleepiness or face the consequences of a short nap (health mechanic).
- Head-Collecting Fantasy Heroes - The players are trying to slay monsters and collect the most monster heads before heading back to their kingdom to be awarded the title of "Hero of all of everything ever" or something. Players may end up cooperating against more-difficult monsters
- Affectionate Romantics in a Love ...Pentagon? - The players are all trying to show the most affection for their shared romantic interest before the romantic interest ultimately decides to enter into a relationship with one of them. Various encounters would involve different romantic gestures. Some are gifts (treasure) that earn you some easy affection as opposed to candlelight dinners, etc. Your passion is your "health."
- People-Scaring Ghosts - The players are ghosts trying to scare the most people in a haunted mansion or something before dawn comes. Your “health” is your “presence” or how frightening/haunting you are.
- Follower-Gaining Twitter Users - Twitter users trying to get the most followers before "something happens." Various tweets containing humor, links to articles, or links to blog posts would occur. You'll have some kind of Twitter "tenacity."
- Competitive NaGa DeMon Game Designers - Game designers trying to design the most fun game before NaGa DeMon is over. You can work on game mechanics by yourself or cooperate in conversations for truly innovative ideas. Inspiration/creativity is your "health."
- Taxi Drivers Making Money - The players are taxi cab drivers trying to make the most money by the end of the day. Some passengers will require a greater distance and might require a couple cabs yet will yield a lot of money (cooperation). Your "health" is your gas? Hmm. That means you're always losing health. Sleepiness? Willpower?
- Competitively-Fabulous Mall Shoppers - The players are going out shopping, and they're trying to have the most fabulous clothing before it's time to go home. When shoppers cooperate, they'll have to receive less fabulous-ness since they both bought the same thing. "Health" is fatigue.
- Competitive Ice Cream Eaters - The players are in an ice cream factory after it's closed for the night, and they must try to eat the most ice cream before it opens again. Going after the same ice creams will mean less ice cream for each player. "Health" is how close you are to a brain freeze.
- Pot Smokers Getting High - The players are all trying to smoke pot to get the most high before the party later on tonight. You can choose to go to various sources for weed, whether it's the next-door neighbor or that pot dealer you know. "Health" is how much you're coughing. Sometimes, you'll need to cough a bit too much, which costs you your "high-ness."
- People-Saving Firefighters - Firefighters trying to get the most gratitude (or be the most heroic) from saving people from a building on fire before the building is completely evacuated. Sometimes, you'll need to cooperate to help carry out heavy people, but they'll REALLY gracious and will award more gratitude whereas easy ones like children give little gratitude. Pets and such are easy but don't give ANY gratitude. "Health" is your bravery/courage.
- Vandals Competitively Causing Damage - The players are vandalizing anarchists trying to cause the most damage to the city during the night. There's all sorts of acts of vandalism you can attempt, but some are really hard to do without cooperation. Your "health" is how discreet you are.
Whew! That took longer than I thought. Well, some of these are just not doable like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one. Well, I could still do it, anyway; but that specific one doesn't even have a strong flavor, and I won't be able to go very far with this project without getting into trouble or something. I'd rather have an original theme.
While writing this, I was trying not to censor myself and just let the ideas flow, so a few of these I won't actually consider, like the Jehovah's Witness one since that might be offensive (trivializes the religion, etc.) and it's not the best theme for players to get excited about. A lot more people would rather pretend to be blood-sucking vampires than Jehovah's Witnesses, I surmise.
So, now that I've written this list out, I'm going to need to decide. I could swap around some of the different parts of themes and mash them up for a better theme, too. For example, ice-cream eating firefighters. O.K., maybe the ice cream can melt, so you put the fires out? ...Bad example, but you get what I mean.
Perhaps you can help! Which of the above themes do you like most? Or perhaps you have a different idea? Thanks in advance! Let me know by leaving a comment on this post or tweeting at me: @bradleyrose