Skullzor Ring of Power is one of the treasure cards from the card game I’ve got coming out from Cryptozoic in February. You can find a PDF of the rules here. The longish post that follows is about how a humorous spellcasting battle game between Vancian wizards transformed into an over-the-top Skullzorian explosion after I submitted the design to Cryptozoic.
I’ve been tinkering around for years with game mechanics that use a source, some type of adjective and a final attack method as three separate elements of what will become a single attack/combination/spell. I started this dueling wizards game as a new riff on the feel of one of my favorite little board games, Tom Jolly’s Wiz-War. Wiz-War sometimes has the problem of going through dry spells when no one wants to engage. Or taking forever to finish as wizards staggered blindly on the wrong side of a thorn wall!
So I aimed for a consistently fast-playing game that would have the flavor of the wizardry employed by Jack Vance’s wizards in the Dying Earth books. Typical spells included Flibwort the Traitor’s Festive Pustule, or Drusilla’s Scandalous Phantasmagoons. My code name for the game was CANTRIP, kind of the opposite of the game’s expansive feel, but a fair illustration of the Midwestern restraint that suited my notion of Vancian dignity.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to publication by Cryptozoic. While Mike Donais and Matt Hyra worked on developing the system, paring away complications and improving most all the cards, their boss Cory Jones revised the names of all the cards to match splatterwhack new art suggestions. Nick Edwards executed the art suggestions. The game transformed away from Vancian restraint into an Erol Otus Meets Robert Crumb Meets Adventure Time mode. Phantasmagoons was one of the few names I’d originated that survived Cory's re-engineering of the IP. Matching the new ‘this one goes to 11’ mentality, Cory named the game Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre.
As the art and the names started trickling back to me on the home-garage side of the freelance experience, I had the wonderful experience of watching something I’d designed transform into a better idea. Cory's vision allowed the new art to blossom. Getting better art than you expect for a project is like opening a wonderful birthday present when you had forgotten that it was your birthday. You can’t expect or even wish for these lucky moments, you just have to be grateful.
[[*I note that the Summer 2012 note at the bottom of this wallpaper image is too pessimistic; the game is still on track for February.]]