Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Bastion's Metroclimate

This was touched on in a previous age, but it's worth stressing that conditions in Bastion are never quite fine. There's always something to complain about, and weather is a favourite. It's always changing, and people are always surprised by this fact.

These periods of change are rarely clean. Sometimes you get the worst of both worlds, or some new unexpected side effect arising from their mingling. This is Bastion, you can't just say "it's raining". Everything is complicated.



Roll 2d20 to see what things are changing from/to. 

  1. Baking: The kind of heat that just stops things happening. Nobody wants to work, and those that must are driven to sweaty exhaustion. If it's bad then some adhesives start to melt, causing actual structural damage. If it's really bad then gum will start to melt, ruining pockets and souring moods across the city.
  2. DampWater just sort of hangs in the air, hardly able to be called rain. Somehow everything is wet all the time, and all the slugs, worms, and amphibians treat this an an open invitation to your home. 
  3. FoggyLight up the lamps all you like, it almost makes it worse. You can't see further than your hand, and you've got rely on klaxons and bells to get around. Everybody takes this as a personal invitation to send out their own signals, causing a cacophony that leaves us just as blind as we were in the first place. If you can get high enough then you might get some respite, but most just lock themselves in and wait for it to blow over. 
  4. SmoggyEverything that's bad about fog, but you've got somebody to blame and the risk of significantly shortening your lifespan if you go outside. This causes mass gatherings in bars, community halls, and even clandestine Underground locations. Modern weather brings out modern solutions: mobile breathing tanks, macro-filtration systems, toxin electrolysers. All services provided at a fair cost, of course. There's a sense of injustice hanging in the fumes. Anybody that owns any sort of industrial enterprise will be tightening up their security or preparing a public statement. 
  5. MistyFog leaves you stumbling blindly, but mist merely conceals the truth, twisting through the streets in waves. You know where you should be, but you're somewhere else. Perfect for getting lost or getting murdered. Dogs and other canines start to go a bit wild. 
  6. PollinicRemember, the city is alive. Not literally (well, depends who you ask), but it's overrun with flora and fauna, and the former have a habit of conspiring against those of us with allergic conditions. When this is on a Bastionian Scale, nobody is safe, and Mass Pollination Events cause rushes on pharmacists and temples alike. Worse than the physical symptoms is the general irritability of everybody. At these levels, violent crime increases proportionately with the pollen count. 
  7. BlusterySure, it's a bit windy, and then WOOSH. A chimney here, a tree there, umbrellas comically blown inside-out. Nothing disastrous to begin with, but the real problem comes later on. Who has actual legal ownership of this chimney that just crushed a locomotive? Now, how would the compensation be split by the cooperative that was restoring said vehicle? This weather draws out the solicitors, and you'd be surprised how much paperwork gets blown away in all the chaos. 
  8. StormyRain, thunder, lightning, the works. At first it's all quite dramatic, maybe even fun! Then rolling thunder that shatters windows, ball-lightning setting up home in a communal garden, hailstones piling up on the ground. The floods come later, as rivers burst their banks. Filthy water leaving a miserable stain across boroughs. Periods of eerie calm hang between these outbursts, giving victims just long enough to get themselves half-dry before the onslaught continues. 
  9. MuggyHumidity and insects, two foes that modernity believes it can fight. We have electric fans, of course, and chemical pesticides, but it's a genuine war. In a weird way, it brings people together. Huddle into your neighbours refrigerated bug-shelter, share stories of the most disgusting insect bite that you've ever suffered, and sip on anything with crushed ice and ginger. Haven't got that generous neighbour? Well, this is where things might get nasty. 
  10. Brooding: The sky looms, strangely featureless. Blue? Pink? Orange? It's trying to tell us something... Yeah, it's alright now, but I can feel something in the air. Can't you? Yeah, I can definitely feel it. Something about the pressure rising or falling. We're in for something big. 
  11. DrenchingNone of the drama of a storm, just ongoing rain. Gets some down, others say it's good for the gutters to get a good wash out. Out of all the weathers here, when this one comes on you'd better settle in and get used to it. Get out your waxed coat and brace yourself. 
  12. GreyAlmost a vacuum of weather. How do you even describe this? Not rainy, not sunny, not warm, not cold, not especially windy. What's notable here is the effect it has on people. Without any weather to complain about, it's inevitable that some huge social fills the void. The spark of a revolution might happen in a heatwave or harsh winter, but this sort of weather gives time to dry the wood, prep the kindling, and start a genuine inferno. 
  13. CloseA sort of heat where the air feels dense. Not so much with humidity, but just dense with itself. Movement feels sluggish, and you always feel like somebody has their hand on the back of your neck. People are driven to seek solitude.
  14. DarkSeasonality is strange in Bastion. Sure there's summer and winter, but sometimes you just get a period that feels like the days are especially short or long. You could have sworn that it didn't used to get gloomy right after lunch time, but before you know it the city feels like it's in a perpetual twilight. Gloomy for some, but the nightlife extends to fill the darkness. Get the neon lights on, fire up the music, and let's put on a show. 
  15. BrightIt certainly looks like summer, even if there's a chill in the air. Sunset feels like forever away, so people get outside and make the most of it. Indoor spaces are deserted, and sometimes it feels like a contest to see who can be the most outdoorsy. New clubs emerge as if from nowhere. The Free-Steeplejack Society, the Fruit Drier's Guild, and most meals evolve some sort of social/competitive element. 
  16. DryThe ground hardens, gutters clog, and the city almost feels like it stops moving. Canals are facing low waters, railway lines crack, and all the most popular vegetables are out of stock. We'll do anything for rain. Churches and weather-stations are packed, looking for answers. Just give us a drop. 
  17. FreezingThe battle against ice begins, not long after the first few broken ankles. The streets are loaded with salted grit, furnaces pump out heat, and things just about stay moving. It's a struggle, though, and people do their best to keep spirits up with hot drinks and spiced food. You don't want to see what happens if enough boilers break, though. 
  18. SnowySometimes winter throws you a gift. A picturesque dusting of snow, covering all the muck and grime of the city at least for a while. Spirits are high, schools close, and people decide to be lovely to each other. It always starts like this, then as the streets turn to slush, people remember why they hate the snow. Things turn really quickly here. 
  19. MoonySometimes the moon just gets real big and refuses to go away during the day, sitting proudly alongside the sun. This is used as an excuse for any number of things from strangely aggressive bird behaviour to a dissolution of various legal contracts that slipped in a lunar clause. It might not look like more than a cosmic curiosity, but it's a warning to keep your wits about you. 
  20. ChillyCan wind freeze? It feels like it here. Bitter, raking gusts that find every gap in your coats, scarves, and gloves. Well now it's become like a challenge. A few stay home by the fire, but most face it head on, brazenly proclaiming about how they're "getting on with things" despite the weather, and how they're "built for this sort of climate". Productivity and smugness rise in equal measure. 



Examples

3-14: Foggy to Dark

Most fogs lift into nothingness, but a particularly heavy cluster might just hang in the sky indefinitely, placing the city in a temporarily-permanent night state. For some, it's an excuse for debauchery, for others its the herald of the end times. Either way, the bars are open. 

6-5: Pollenic to Misty

A yellow haze weaves through the city, choking those exposed to its spores. Whatever plant is causing this, there's strong public call for extermination. 

Monday, 2 August 2021

Into the Odd Announcement

After August 31st, the current version of Into the Odd will no longer be available to buy in print or pdf, so this is your last opportunity to pick it up!

There will be an announcement here on bastionland.com on September 1st regarding the future of Into the Odd. 



Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Barriers

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

-----------------------------

In my overwrought manifesto I set out a goal to:

Break the barriers between your imagination and your game.

The spirit of this is to tap into the essence of what draws us to games in the first place by removing those strange rules and restrictions that might serve a purpose, but can also provide friction when trying to engage with that exciting core.

RPGs are full of these, and I'll resist naming culprits for now.

I've recently been dipping back into Magic: the Gathering, and met with a friend to play some games. Like me, he played a little as a teenager but not really since. We both had the same shared memory of the game. As he put it in a message sent to me on the morning of our game:

"Can't wait to sit around and not draw the cards I need, then lose before I get to do anything!"

It's been at least twenty years since he played, but the scars of being mana screwed never fully heal.

In short - in Magic you need to first play land cards in order to cast creatures and other spells. You start with seven cards in hand and draw one each turn, so sometimes you just won't draw enough lands to actually do anything before your opponent beats you with no resistance. Worse still, instead of drawing no Lands you can end up with nothing but Lands, again leaving you little in the way of options.

The veterans among you will point out that there are ways to mitigate this by building your deck a certain way. Some creatures and spells help you get lands directly from your deck to your hands, others let you just draw more cards to increase your chances of getting what you need. There's a whole concept of a deck's "mana curve" that aims to maximise its ability to play appropriately powered spells at all stages of the game. 

Still, you're never 100% safe from getting hosed by the draw, and even if the risk is just 1%, that's going to happen to somebody. Maybe it happens on their very first game. 

It's a quick game, you just shrug it off and play again, right? Not like we're running a tournament here at my mate's kitchen table. At worst it's a minor waste of time. 

But it doesn't stick with you because it's a minor waste of time. It sticks with you because it's a barrier standing in the way between you and the game. 

When I got excited about Magic as a teenager I wasn't excited about optimising a deck so that I'd draw enough lands, but not too many lands. I was excited about casting spells and summoning creatures. Optimisation can be fun, but I want to feel like I'm fine-tuning a race, not just trying to get an old banger to stop stalling and spewing smoke in my face. 

Every card I have to put in the deck just to allow the game to happen is one less exciting spell I have the option to cast. Looking even closer, the very fact that a third of my deck is made up of beautifully illustrated, but largely uninteresting land cards feels a bit like paying a 33% tax on my fun. 

Let me cast spells. Let me summon creatures. Get these barriers out of my way and let me play the game.

This leads onto one of the things that I like a lot about Magic. It isn't just one game. It's hundreds of variants of the same game, some with mass support, some just a set of house rules. Yes there's a Standard format, but even that has its own specific rules. 

So we didn't play Standard Magic. We played a bit of Jumpstart and a bit of the more radical Cubelet

Cubelet's concept is that you can play any card face-down as a land. 

That's the sound of a barrier being smashed. 

With no lands, every card in the deck was something exciting. A creature, a spell, an artifact. Yet they were all also within my grasp. I drew some giant gorilla king that would cost nine lands to summon and I knew that I could bring him to the battlefield if I could hang on until the ninth turn. I didn't have to accept that I was at the whim of the draw. I could actually make a plan and see it through. I lost, but I did so doing in the manner that I signed up for. 

It was great fun, and I'd absolutely recommend that anybody interested in the game try out this format. 

Even if Magic isn't your thing, think about what barriers exist in your own games, and how they might be broken down. 

Monday, 26 July 2021

Non-Mechanical Templates

3rd Edition was the first version of D&D that I actually had the core books for, back in 2000. In fact, beyond my old copy of WHFRP it was the first RPG that I actually owned in print. While the system is far from my tastes, I think I'll always have some affection for the books themselves. 

A strange thing to look back on is the way that the three core books were each released a month apart. I picked up the Player's Handbook in August, the Dungeon Master's Guide in September, and the Monster Manual in October. While this staggered release seems like a strange decision now, it did give me an opportunity to explore every corner of that month's new arrival. Without a regular (or irregular) group at the time, I jumped at any opportunity to engage with the game in a creative way. That "lonely fun" that I keep hearing about nowadays. 

There was lots of character creation. Not so much the infinite-loop monstrosities of character optimisation forums, but usually level 1-3 characters that I hoped would make it to the table some day. Of course there were dungeons, sticking rigorously to the challenge rating system included in the DMG. But one of the parts that really grabbed me was the idea of Templates.

These were little packages of modifiers that you could apply on top of an existing monster, like Vampire, Fiendish, or Half-Dragon. I loved the wide open feeling of RPGs, compared to videogames and miniature games, and this was like adding another layer on top of that. Not only could I draw on this giant book of hundreds of monsters, but I could modify each of them into countless combinations. You could give monsters classes in a similar sort of way, but somehow it didn't feel the same. Sure, making an Otyugh Rogue is bonkers, but a Vampire Otyugh is bonkers and somehow feels completely right. 

I'm obviously a fan of jamming two ideas together to make a new thing. You can see this sort of thing all over D&D in various editions. Chaotic Good. Dwarf Ranger. There's power in these combos.

But, of course, it was all tied up in 3E's mechanical clockwork hell. Looking back now, they aren't quite the fiddly mess that I remembered, but there's definitely too much focus on giving a +4 here and a -2 there, rather than the core concept of "what happens when we make this Roper into a Fiendish Roper?"

Can we do better than fire resistance and darkvision?

As with so many things, we can be a bit more creative if we shift the focus away from mechanics, keeping an eye firmly on what's going to make for a memorable encounter at the table. Naturally this tends to call for a little more creative input when creating the monster, but I don't think that's too much to ask. At their best, I feel like they're just another opportunity to tie your encounters into your greater worldbuilding, and vice versa. 



HELLISH
Born or warped by Hell.
  • Speaks Fiendish, and can make binding verbal contracts sanctioned by Hell's enforcers.
  • Has a true name that can be used to summon them to the material plane, or banish them back to Hell.
  • Has a specific vice and virtue that they are fascinated and repulsed by respectively.

MECHANICAL
Modified with inorganic parts.
  • Significantly improved raw strength and resilience. 
  • Unable to process emotion until it overflows in an outburst.
  • Always in need of some sort of repair or new upgrade. 

SUNLESS
Changed by a lifetime in the darkness.
  • Can see and hear through any amount of darkness, including around corners.
  • Hungers endlessly, never full, can eat anything mostly-soft. 
  • Hates light, warmth, and anybody that brings them into their world.




Thursday, 22 July 2021

Pie

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

-----------------------------


I know, I've probably been talking about Magic: the Gathering too much this past week or so. But this time it actually applies to RPGs.

Scrap recently wrote a post about applying some of MTG's design philosophy to faction systems, and it's a great read. It got me thinking about it from a slightly different angle.

First I need to talk about an element of Magic's design that I haven't really touched on yet. The fabled Colour Pie that gives its five colours their identity, both thematic and mechanical. Red cards should feel a certain way, and Green cards should feel different, and then you might get a Red-Green card that feels like both. In addition, and some would argue more importantly, there are certain things that each colour of card absolutely should not be able to do. 



It's really a form of niche protection, and while that isn't something I focus in on too hard on the mechanical side of my games, I think it's something I'd like to explore more in terms of setting design.

While the five colours don't strictly represent factions in MTG (they're a different-but-related thing), there are a few ways I think approaching elements of your setting in the same way would have some positive effects. For this example we could be talking factions, but also key locations, deities in a pantheon, looming threats on the world. Any set of big elements in your world. 


1: Dividing attention evenly between elements.

Imagine a parallel universe where Games Workshop laid out their own colour pie equivalent for the factions of the WH40k universe. Let's say Imperium, Chaos, Xenos. It doesn't even have to be five. 

You could still explore specific factions within each slice of the pie, but they'd be united through a set of common thematic and mechanical elements. Maybe Chaos, being so closely tied to the warp, are the only pie-slice that can deep strike onto the battlefield. You can explore the space between the slices, so Genestealer Cults clearly exist between Imperium and Xenos. 

But even more appealing is the idea that equal development time would go on each faction. Is this whole thing an excuse for me to complain about there being no new Eldar or Tyranid models for years, while Marines are showered with new releases? Hmm. 

They sort of went this way with their Age of Sigmar factions, and while I don't love that setting I think it's spawned some interesting new ideas in among the questionable ones.

But we're not multinational corporations selling miniatures, so I think this is more of a way to challenge yourself to spread your creative energy between the different parts of your world, rather than leaving some lacking. Which leads to... 


2: Ensuring each element has a strength that makes them interesting.

I sort of default to making my world a bit rubbish, so I'd appreciate having a reminder that each of these elements should have their own strength. They should have weaknesses alongside them, of course, but if we're designing five cities then there should be something that makes each of them a compelling place to visit. It can be a total shithole, but if it's the only place that has any sort of magical healing then the players are going to end up there at some point.

And let that strength project out into the world and deny the other elements of your setting. If you're giving one faction a military focus, then consider trimming back or even outright removing military components from the other elements of your pie. It's one thing to make one city-state a strong military force, but another to combine that with the fact that half of your city-states don't have an army at all. 


3: Keeping the fans happy.

I'm not immersed enough in the fanbase to know if this is something that MTG manages more often than not.

But it sort of links in to that old Apocalypse World thing calling for the GM to "be a fan of the characters". 

But instead, be a fan of each element of your world, or at least imagine that each element has a set of fans that you want to please.

The MTG team has to design a new set so that there's something for every colour to be excited about. They can't really just release a set that focuses in on Blue and White, because the Red, Black, and Green players will be left out. Now, most players don't restrict themselves to one colour, but that actually means they have to try even harder to make every colour appealing. If Blue gets nothing good in this set then you're not just pissing off the Blue players, but the Blue-Red, Blue-Green, Blue-Black etc.

What's the point in all this? Think back to my earlier point about the WH40k setting. Of course it's vastly popular, but there's a lot of dissatisfaction where it feels like GW just doesn't care about huge chunks of their world. Eldar are an inconvenience to them, a faction that they think won't sell as well as a new type of Space Marine, but it's a faction that has its fans. Aside from making them unhappy, I feel like it has a negative effect even on those that aren't especially interested in Eldar. It makes the universe feel smaller, less diverse, with dusty old elements that feel out of place alongside the current areas of focus.   


There's merit to having blank space left on the map, but not when it's just because the ink has faded. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Porcine Bastionland (or d12 Deep Country Pigs)

Somewhen between our industrial renaissance and this electrical epoch, the pig was banned from Bastion.

Although this was never properly repealed, it is now actively unenforced. Those that don't deal with bestial law have forgotten about it entirely.

But the pigs have always remembered.

Perhaps this is why the creature is so ubiquitous in the rural sprawl of Deep Country. Generations of exiled swines were welcomed into the lives of those that would do anything to contradict Bastion. But if there's one thing country folk like more than going against the city, it's going against each other, and soon every town was boasting of their specialist breeds. 

Rivalries were roused, blood was drawn, towns were smashed aruin. Nowadays it's mostly arguments bellowed across streams, or a rare midnight walloping-raid. But the legacy lives on in the Pigs of Deep Country. Not those raised for slaughter, but those kept for more specialist purposes. 

I spent an agonising two weeks riding the battered roads and rusted rails so that I could bring to you a mere fragment of this porcine phenomenon. 


1. THE DRAFTON NULLITCH VOID BARMER


The densest living mass I have ever witnessed. Small animals are drawn into its gravity well, and even humans feel a gentle attraction. Can cause catastrophic scenes upon moving suddenly, so all efforts are made to keep them calm. 


2. THE GREAT TRAVELLING POLE PIGGY, SNOFFERELLA




I first thought this to be a sort of Mock Pig, but this breed is indeed a truly living beast, bred with a glossy hide and an organ arrangement that can withstand gentle impalement in the construction of a living carousel. They appear to enjoy the ride, but must be carefully rotated a few times each day to maintain internal equilibrium.


3. THE PUDINTRY CHOPPER



I had heard this creature called the Scapepig but locals found such references disrespectful to the sacrifice of this breed. When a crime goes unsolved for a period of four years, the sentence is passed on to one of the town's beloved pigs. A timid, lightly furred breed, they resist their eventual arrest with only token squirms and squeals, locals assuring me that the pigs see their inevitable execution as some fulfilment of their destiny. 


4. THE BOSTOLETS OF HUSHER'S BUSHLEY


Supposedly all descended from the most intelligent pig to ever have lived, the wise Bosto. This small breed are kept in the town's library, where patient trainers attempt to educate the beasts, hoping they will live up to the myth of their ancestor. So far the town claims to have trained pigs with some expertise in gambling games, weather forecasting, and matchmaking, but still not a scratching on the legendary Bosto. 


5. THE BURRYSOD CLIPPER


Lean, predatory hogs that attack the poor people of Burrysod at sunset every day, chewing on any bare legs they can find. By night they sneak into properties to gnaw on furniture and leave their mess in hidden places. The stories say that any attempt to fight back against these pests would only incur a greater wrath, so the locals try to make a game of it. I get the sense that their patience is beginning to wear thin. 


6. THE ABYSATHER GORING-BOAR


This carnivorous breed lives in a symbiosis with the town's more intelligent birds. They drag carrion to the pigs, and are paid in silver from a hidden trove. It's not clear where the pigs are getting their riches from, but they have thwarted every attempt to locate it through a combination of wits and ruthless violence. 


7. THE CASTLEFEGG CATTLEHOG


A truly gigantic hog, carrying itself with the lazy disinterest of a common cow. It possesses none of the noble snuffling or muckery of a pig, and something about it filled me with pure hatred. I have never felt such sudden desire to broadcast my distaste of a harmless creature, which the locals assured me was normal for the first time seeing the beast. Once a few days had passed I could no longer remember the cause of my animosity


8. THE WORKING SWINE OF URMINGSWORTH


Only one member of the Churltapp family remains, carrying a heavy burden to the people of Urmingsworth. She alone can speak to the swine, who follow her instructions diligently if somewhat over-literally. They are the sole workers of this town, the folk having fallen into indolence and sloth after benefiting from generations of free swine-labour.


9. OLD GRUNTER REBORN IN ASHER BREACON



Pig Mayors are so common in Deep Country that it's hardly worth reporting as news. However, Old Grunter represents something more than that. The people of Asher Beacon believe that their town has been ruled by the same pig reborn hundreds of times. I was welcomed to sit in on a mayoral address, and the people did appear to understand the creature's snorts and belches. If they are all playing along with a ruse it appears to be to the town's benefit, as things are truly thriving. 


10. EARL BAPCACKER OF TATER-UNDER-SORE


The rank of Earl was granted to this entire breed for military service, serving as mounts in some anecdotal war involving a cavalry charge on Bastion itself! Must be nonsense, as I was never taught about that at school. Now, this robust breed's fighting days are over, serving as honourary companions to the faded nobility of the Sorelands. They have developed suitably aristocratic tastes, not only in their diet but in decor and etiquette. I myself was corrected by one of the beasts multiple times during our shared banquet, with a gentle groan and a sideways glance directing me to adjust my posture or use the correct fork. 


11. THE BLESSED OEELEE OF FARLIND ROOK


I could not make sense of these things. They ate no swill, left no shit, made no sound. They were smooth as water, soft as bedding, and utterly passive in their behaviour. All they would do is occasionally move to smell some of the flowers left in their pen, the aroma appearing to inflate them ever so slightly. While they are never slaughtered, they are eaten when they die of natural causes, and such meat is rumoured to be the stuff of dreams. Upon asking if I could taste the meat, I was assured that it would never happen in my lifetime and promptly routed from town by armed militiamen. The high stone walls would keep the most persistent poachers at bay, but I wonder why they would permit me to glimpse at the promise of such succulence before casting me out. 


12. THE GUTMEDE STYBIRD



All your worst fears about this beast are true and worse. For those seeking to recreate my journey, this is one to pass by. 


Thursday, 15 July 2021

(The Other) Magic

 This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

-----------------------------

I wrote about Magic a couple of weeks ago, but this is about the other magic.

This all started when I saw some Discord chatter about the new D&D-themed set that was being released for Magic: the Gathering. The tie-in didn't especially excite me, but I was interested to see how the designers had implemented some D&D staples into an entirely different type of game. Some are clever and fun translations, others seem weirdly anti-thematic and clunky.

But it was too late. I was thinking about Magic again.

I won't recount the whole story again, as I did that in the video above, but the short version is very similar to that of my history with miniatures, albeit with a less intensive interest. Short version: Played as a teenager, enjoyed casual play, disliked more competitive styles, had a run of lacklustre experiences and moved onto other games.

But here I am, picking up a handful of Jumpstart booster packs that let you combine two pre-built deck-halves into a number of interesting combinations, and dipping into some casual play with whoever I can get to a table.

The experience has reminded me what I enjoy about this game. Absorbing little mouthfuls of flavour from the art and micro-fiction on each card. Picking up a new deck and losing, but having the "aha" moment of understanding how this particular deck works. The whole concept (if not entirely the execution) of the Colour Pie, which I'll gush about in another post. I'm definitely having fun with it.

But things are different this time around. We're always online, and now you can't avoid the money game.

In what is sure to go down in history as one of the most entitled paragraphs ever, I'm going to complain about being handed free money. Brace yourselves.

One of my packs randomly contained a rare card worth more than the entirety of what I had spent on these booster packs. I didn't go looking for valuations on these cards, but the internet told me. It always knows what to tell you. Now, my complaint isn't about this windfall. Of course I'm using that money to buy more cards and maybe a nice box to keep them in. The problem is that it got me looking at the value of some other cards, and the prices you can pay for a ready-made deck of select cards.

I guess I knew about all this. Magic cards are either common, uncommon, rare, or mythic, and with each increase in rarity there's usually a power shift too. A rare card costing 3 mana is sure to be more powerful than a common costing the same. So if you want to really make a powerful deck you'll want a lot of mythic and rare cards. The two options for this are to buy a lot of boosters or pay a premium for each card on the secondary market. A regular starter deck for this game might cost £30, but if you're buying a high-end bespoke deck on the secondary market you'll be adding at a zero or two to that number.

I'd largely made my peace with that. It's just a level of spending that's not for me. Plus, there are entire formats (specific rulesets for the game) based around only using common cards, which is certainly appealing. Other formats are Limited, meaning that you don't show up to the game with a preconstructed deck, but part of the game is building a deck from a common pool, commonly through drafting. These both go a good way to reducing the pay-to-win element of the game, but Pauper feels like you're not getting to play with some of the coolest parts of the game, and Limited relies on players having some deckbuilding experience, making it tricky for casual players.

Worse still, the game's now most-popular format, Commander, is all about having a giant deck filled with powerful cards. I appreciate it has elements that might temper this, but it really seems to rely on finding a group that are willing to lay down some sort of social contract before play. This sounds great to try out with friends, but makes me tentative about exploring the local MTG scene.

I don't really mind losing. What's more scary is the idea that this is a slippery slope that ends with me buying a deck of cards for more than I spent on miniatures last year.

Still, Pauper Commander is a thing. Maybe that will be my niche.

Maybe just allowing one rare or mythic card... and a few uncommons.

Oh no.