To quote a wise man:
“The Back Story is the why he does what he do.” –Dr. Doofenshmirtz (evil scientist from Phineas and Ferb)
Although a fictional character, the line is genuine. It is important in games to have back stories if you want your players to be drawn in for years to come. Many games base themselves on simple concepts such Clue (figure out who killed the host, where, and how), some games go into great detail such as Magic: The Gathering, where they actually produce novels to go with each set of cards they print. This gives the players a sense of what is happening, why they are doing what they are doing, and what to expect.
In my Summoners the Board Game, the story is very simple, you are a wizard, you don’t like competition, go eliminate that competition. In my World of Anastroc TCG, it is founded on a story that feels like it is ages old now, with so many plot twists that even Alexander the Great would have issues. That what leads to this post today, the importance of back stories but also to smart on how to use them. For example, in World of Anastroc TCG, I need to be able to get across to the players what is happening in the world at that current moment, and be able to guide them gently through what is happening during the time of the set. So in the first set “Beginnings” I designed it to act like a prequel to what the real story is about to be about.
This means the Necromancer is introduced and the destruction of the Land of Chaos. Also that there is tension between Representative Malgear and the other 8 Representatives. It gives hints about an “Oskota Clan” but doesn’t go into detail because they really are not important at that time. Machine Emperor X is the boss of machines (and a self-obsessive jerk) which I think is made clear in his flavor texts. The Forest Council is having issues of losing a bunch of land, but it doesn’t say to whom. What we can be sure of though is that a young elf named Fysi is up to something (this is made bluntly when you see she is the only Minion that cost a star fragment).
Lucky for me, setting up the back story for the game was easy because I have thought about it so many dozens of times and began to write short stories about them. What is more challenging is the set “Fate Begins” which goes into:
Tthe Necromancer’s failure to invade the Republic because Archi warned the Representatives about him, and told them how to defeat the evil sorcerer. But the only reason why they took Archi’s advice is because Malgear betrayed the rules of the Republic which is, no action can be made by the Representatives without certain majority of approval; Malgear saw how long it would take for the other 8 to discuss the matter and knew the Necromancer would win if such time was wasted.
This lead the 8 to be angry at Malgear, not just for breaking the law but also for showing them up. So with the advice of their advisers and the Order of Agnatia, they arrested Malgear on accounts of treason. Archi and the gang busted Malgear out of jail, fled to the towns he saved where he would be safe by popularity. However, Herna and her son Tor were captured in the process then held for ransom ~ Malgear for the two of them. The 8 were hoping Archi would betray Malgear in order to save his friends. Instead, Archi went to the Necromancer, begged for help, in which the Necromancer agreed if afterwords, Archi would provide him with 10,000 corpses. Archi agreed.
The Necromancer invaded the capital so Archi could save his friends. Little did they know the Oskota Clan was in that same capital, so they fought against the Necromancer’s invasion. He killed 3 leaders one of which was Grimtasha. The Republic was about to fall until Cardinal Frederik cast one final spell and vanquished the undead army. Archi, Herna, and Tor were able to escape. As for Archi’s end of the deal, he provided the Necromancer with 10,000 corpses ~ all of which were dead rats.
This doesn’t even touch what is going on in the Machine Empire or the Forest Council! Can you see the challenge? The way to work it out is by making the cards with the most flavor text commons, and have their effects reflex the comment. This way the player is more likely to get the key cards to your story line. If the player cares enough they will begin to piece the story puzzle together; if they don’t, well at least you made a funny card which they can enjoy.
More on this another time. Until then, keep on playing and stay productive!