Creating Custom Scenarios: Mauve Manticore Guide

Discussion in 'Custom Scenarios and Boards' started by Jaer, Apr 22, 2017.

  1. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    About This Guide

    Good day to you, fellow Card Hunters!

    After some consideration, I’ve decided to put together a guide that would (hopefully) be of use to people who are interested in making custom Card Hunter scenarios.

    First of all, I do not pretend to be an expert of any sort. I don’t design games, or even levels for that matter. I’m not a very active member of Card Hunter community, either. I started playing this game back in the summer of 2014 (yes, I was part of the Yogscast wave :)). I immediately fell in love with tactical, chess-like feel of the game, as well as its fantasy and D&D themes. I’ve mostly been playing single-player content: campaign, treasure hunts, quests, and… Mauve Manticore adventures.

    As you most likely know, Mauve Manticore is a recurring contest held by Blue Manchu. As Farbs said in Mauve Manticore Submission Thread, “A regular feature of the Manticore is a collection of reader contributed scenarios, which you can play as a special adventure in the game.” And by the way, when your scenario gets added into the game, you earn 500 pizza (or even more)! More details on the official rules and guidelines can be found in the aforementioned thread.

    It took me a while, but after playing Card Hunter casually for about a year or so, I finally realized that Mauve Manticore is actually more than just a bunch of random scenarios existing alongside the main campaign. I thought to myself, “Anyone can enter the contest, the board editor seems easy enough to learn, it looks like a lot of fun (and pizza ;)), so why not give it a shot?” Since then, I’ve submitted three scenarios: King of the Haul (MM#8), Home Run (MM#10) and Capture the Tomb (MM#23).

    Why am I writing this guide?

    Mauve Manticore is something people get excited about every month. We get to explore some fun adventures, play with a bunch of monster cards, and even obtain brand new rewards thanks to Aloyzo’s Arsenal. After we complete the newly released set of custom scenarios, some of us share our experiences here on the forums. At the end of the day, all Card Hunters benefit greatly from this community endeavor.

    I believe that any little bit of support for new map creators goes a long way. I would like to invite all adventure designers to take part and make this guide better. If we can convince more people that creating enjoyable scenarios is much easier than it looks, we will have that many more submissions. This in turn will make Mauve Manticore feel that much more exciting and rewarding.

    For now, I will try to give some advice based on my limited experience of making custom scenarios. I will mostly be using my own adventures as examples for the points of this guide. Hopefully this won’t be seen as a form of vanity, but rather as a way to provide substantial arguments.

    (ultimatetoken) Most importantly, any advice must be taken with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, a lot of this stuff is just going to be my thoughts on what worked for me personally. If any of the following “guidelines” hinder your creative process rather than help you find solid ground, you are welcome to ignore them completely and just go with your gut feeling.


    1. Coming Up With An Idea For Your Adventure
    2. Creating Your Scenario
    3. Gameplay Testing: Is It Fun To Play?
    4. Using Doodads For Environmental Storytelling
    5. Final Testing and Polishing
    6. Writing The Story
    7. Discussing and Submitting Your Scenario

    I sincerely hope that this guide proves to be at least somewhat helpful, and that you tell your story within the world of Cardhuntria!

    (minortoken) Acknowledgements (minortoken)

    I would like to thank all the wonderful people who made this guide possible, everyone who provided a bit of crucial information or a piece of advice, everyone who became an inspiration for this idea.

    (minortoken) First of all, from the bottom of my heart, I thank all of Blue Manchu for creating and supporting this beautiful game that we all enjoy.

    (minortoken) My sincerest gratitude goes to authors of all threads and posts that this guide referred to: Farbs, Flaxative, Kalin, Scarponi. Needless to say, this guide would not be complete without your insight.

    (minortoken) Thanks to all scenario makers mentioned and not mentioned in this guide: 00Banshee00, LeisureSuitLoli, Kalin, Vlamona, adajon, Scarponi, Pawndawan, and everyone else. Your work brought me great joy and made Cardhuntria even more exciting!

    (minortoken) I want to thank everyone who took part in creating and updating the Card Hunter Wiki, some of whom are listed here. You guys are awesome for helping Card Hunters from all around the world!

    (minortoken) Thanks to CT5 whose Mauve Manticore videos helped me quickly refresh my memory of all Mauve Manticore issues!

    (minortoken) Of course, I thank the active Card Hunter community. Your discussions on the forums gave me more food for thought, which made the writing of this guide that much more interesting.

    (minortoken) Oh, um, big thanks to whoever reviewed and fixed all of my scenarios before adding them to the game. Those shadows in King of the Haul are lovely!

    (minortoken) And special thanks to Flaxative for patiently listening to my rambling. :) Sorry it took so long!
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  2. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    1. Coming Up With An Idea For Your Adventure

    Just about every custom scenario maker will agree that coming up with an original idea for a scenario is usually the hardest part. Or rather, it is the least predictable part: you never know when that perfect idea will dawn on you. You can never be sure if that idea is perfect, either. Still, I believe that there are a few pieces of advice to be given here.

    When thinking about making your own adventure, you should consider several possible sources for your inspiration:
    • Campaign adventures and treasure hunts
    • Mauve Manticore
    • Theme & Story
    • Specific NPC’s or a combination of them
    • Specific cards
    • Specific game mechanics
    Let’s review them in greater detail.

    Campaign adventures and treasure hunts

    Just play the game, duh! If you haven’t completed the main campaign and treasure hunts yet, you are missing out. Not only will these brilliant adventures provide you with hours of entertainment, they will also serve as a standard for making your own scenario. Some of the questions you should consider are:
    • What makes a particular campaign adventure fun to play? What NPC’s work well together? What makes those NPC’s annoying, cool or boring to play against? Would it be more fun to play as them instead?
    • How does the choice of tiles and doodads convey a specific theme? What does a good road, forest or dungeon look like?
    • Why does the board look polished? What is it shaped like? What edges does it have? How do different tiles (especially walls) connect to each other?
    For example, King of the Haul was inspired by the first part of the Lair of the Yellow Dragon module, Ogre Sentries. I thought, “Those ogres look so overpowered and yet helpless at the same time. They just need a little more space and a lot more enemies to show their smashing potential!” More importantly, as soon as I started working on the board, I was stopped by the simplest of problems: “How do I make a good cave?” To find the answer, I had to take a close look at Caverns of the Troglodytes, The White Star and other adventures that take place in caverns.

    And naturally, Capture the Tomb has a few things in common, from NPC’s to style and doodads, with the third scenario of Tomb of Savings, Esprit De Corpse.

    Do not forget, however, that if you plan to take part in Mauve Manticore contest, you should aim to give us players a change of pace from the campaign. It’s obvious enough that it’s not a good idea to submit a copy of Lair of the Yellow Dragon. What I mean is, your scenario should provide a unique experience, a breath of fresh air for someone who’s been trying to beat Caverns of Chaos for the past week. Think twice before giving the player control over NPC’s that match typical Warrior, Wizard and Priest abilities– unless these characters have some sort of unusual synergy between them, provide cool interactions with specific enemies, use some rare or unique cards, or fit really well into a specific board. A good example of the latter can be found in 00Banshee00’s Attack of the Astral Guardians (MM#23). Lorzil and her elven companions clearly have a lot in common with Priest and Warrior playable classes. However, they use a lot of Stab and Step attacks, which makes for a cool experience because of the layout of difficult, impassable and blocked terrain. What is more, their enemies’ styles of combat have great emphasis on positioning and movement.

    Mauve Manticore

    Naturally, other people’s submissions will give you great pointers for making your own adventures, much like campaign scenarios (and even more so, considering that they were made specifically for the purpose mentioned above – providing a different gameplay experience). And hey, these adventures are a lot of fun to play, and that in itself should be a good reason to play through them all! :)

    For instance, Home Run drew inspiration from LeisureSuitLoli’s Master’s Manor (MM#3) and Kalin’s Sneak Thief (MM#1).

    Don’t be scared of accidentally making something that someone else did before you. In the end, everyone’s scenario will be unique (insert a cliché snowflake metaphor here :rolleyes:). Seriously though, as long as you don’t intentionally copy other people’s ideas, you’ll be perfectly fine. For example, there are some similarities between Vlamona’s Revolt of the Robots (MM#24) and adajon’s Firepower (MM#15), and yet they are both completely original adventures. There are different player-controlled characters, different winning strategies, different positioning and different setups of enemies (not to mention stories and boards, of course). As a result, all this makes for two unique playing experiences.

    Theme & Story

    Maybe you’ve always wanted to depict an epic scene with a very prominent and striking theme. One scenario that always comes to my mind is Scarponi’s Swashbuckling Seas (MM#10). Boy does it scream “Pirates!” and “Sea adventure!” the second you look at this board! And don’t forget that positively creepy atmosphere of Pawndawan’s Space Station Outbreak (MM#23). Those eerie shadows and deadly spiders crawling through maintenance shafts immediately give you the feeling of unease.

    Maybe you thought of a great story that can be brought to life using cards and figures. For example, adajon’s enthralling three-part adventure Attack on the Cyber Castle (MM#21) gives us a glimpse of events that transpired just before the Expedition to the Sky Citadel campaign!

    Through an amazing use of doodads and tiles, of figures and clever writing, you can push Card Hunter’s visual and storytelling limits further than ever before. Remember, it’s not always about numbers and mechanics – games are a form of art, too. If you’re not sure where to start, just jump into the board editor and look through various tiles and doodads available in the game. Perhaps something in there will catch your attention and help your fantasy take flight.

    Specific NPC’s or a combination of them

    Every Card Hunter is familiar with the mysterious Astral Guardians. Their appearance in the main campaign is very memorable, and they’ve inspired many custom scenarios. One of them is once again 00Banshee00’s Attack of the Astral Guardians. Not only does the board itself bring extra flavor to the fight against those ominous spellcasters (like jumping around the Guardian of Shadow in the center of the map), but the Guardians are also accompanied by Geomancers – another distinct type of enemies. More importantly, both of these groups benefit from player’s characters being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    When I decided to make an adventure about an ogre (King of the Haul), I realized that I need to find an enemy worthy of the bruiser’s crushing powers. And I immediately thought of kobolds! On one hand, they tend to swarm you in great numbers, which is exactly what makes any Ogre Bruiser happy. However, Kobold Warriors have quite a few melee block cards in their deck, so they aren’t completely helpless against ogre’s strikes.

    If there’s some NPC that you find a lot of fun to play as (or play against), it could be a great starting point for your scenario, especially if you can find some allies and foes to match your NPC’s awesomeness.
    Maniafig likes this.
  3. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    1. Coming Up With An Idea For Your Adventure (part 2)

    Specific cards

    This one’s my personal favorite. Card Hunter’s gameplay is about playing cards, after all. One of the most exciting things about Mauve Manticore is that you get a chance to mess around with those overpowered and peculiar monster cards that could never end up in your party’s deck. Think of monster cards that made you feel envious when you played through the campaign, or browse the Card Hunter Wiki for some reminders.

    When I realized what card held the secret to beating Vlamona’s devious adventure, The Case of the Fiendish Trolls (MM#19), I smiled happily and then scowled, focusing on the tricky task at hand. This is a great example of an adventure built around a specific card, along with a few carefully picked NPC’s that help unlock the card’s crazy potential.

    As I mentioned previously, the core of King of the Haul are ogre’s area attacks (Crushing Sweep, Shattering Sweep, Sweeping Smash) and kobolds’ melee blocks (Jarring Block and Parry). If sweeping attacks were to become the main feature, I had to make sure the ogre would get a good chance to use them. Having the ogre fight an endless swarm of kobolds over a pile of treasure made perfect sense and sounded like a lot of fun. So that’s what I did! :)

    Capture the Tomb is another scenario focused on one card, Redecorate. I wanted to make an adventure where you had to use Redecorate to teleport your allies onto otherwise inaccessible victory squares. As soon as I had that vague idea, I jumped into the board editor and began my experiments. Those allies were at first meant to be Phylacteries, as I wanted to minimize the importance of combat. Turns out, having two identical sets of jars switched randomly around the battlefield is not only boring, but extremely confusing too. You could not tell which Phylacteries were yours without constantly hovering over them. Tombstones, however, turned out to be perfect: they added some much-needed dynamic to the scenario, did not turn the battlefield into a chaotic mess (like a bunch of skeletons did, for example), and had two different models for the same type of NPC. I considered using hard mode versions of these guys, but there were a few problems: Toughness was too annoying to play against, and having minions draw 4,5 cards per turn was a little extreme.

    Specific game mechanics

    One other option would be to base your adventure on some aspect of the game that you find enjoyable.
    • Do you have a favorite type of cards, like blocks, boosts or handicaps?
    • Is occupying the most advantageous square on the board your first priority in a battle?
    • Perhaps you love adventures that put you on a strict time limit due to the enemy controlling the victory squares?
    • Do you enjoy random elements of gameplay, like rolling the dice on certain reactive cards? Do you absolutely despise RNG?
    • Are you a fan of utilizing various types of terrain and terrain attachments to your advantage?
    • Monster groups: love them or hate them?
    Answering one of these questions might help you get at least a rough idea of how your scenario should be played.

    The idea behind Home Run was very simple. I love the process of hovering over every character on the battlefield to check their line of sight, then trying to predict their movement and its consequent changes to their field of vision, and finally taking my own turn based on that prediction. Like in a game of chess. I did not know the Ctrl + Right Click trick back then, by the way. :) Anyway, that’s why I decided to make a scenario about a fragile yet slippery character using movement cards and blocked terrain to dodge deadly ranged attacks. I quite like the Encumber mechanic too, and am a long-time fan of snowy maps in games.

    These are some of the sources you can draw inspiration for your scenario from. Naturally, there are far too many to list here, but I hope some of the ones I did mention will prove useful.

    Don’t forget to keep notes on all of your ideas, as you never know which one will work.

    Your options are without limit. Do not let the history of Mauve Manticore adventures give you a false impression that “all the good ideas have already been used”. Personally, I have a bunch of cool stuff I would like to try. Here are some of my notes:
    • [Card-based scenario] You have an ooze, a skeleton and some other character with armor cards that grant immunity to a specific damage type. You are facing some extremely tough opponents, but each of them can be countered by cards like Only Bones and Amorphous Body. However, all of your guys start by facing the wrong opponent, so they have to run towards the enemy they can counter, and then defeat them.
    • [NPC / story-based scenario] You control a horde of cockroaches (or some other tiny characters) fighting a dragon (or some other fearsome enemy). Perhaps the cockroaches are assisted by some unusual ally to make things more interesting. Perhaps they need to use some unusual tactics to make the most out of their strength in numbers.
    • [NPC / card-based scenario] You need to use Carrion Scuttlers, Creepers, or some other NPC’s that can hold enemies in place to catch and defeat some very slippery foes.
    • [NPC / theme / campaign-based scenario] Strench the Pungent and other Trog Wizards look hilarious! There must be a way to make an awesome scenario about them!
    • [Mechanic / card-based scenario] There are tons of curses and other cool kinds of debuffs in the game, yet we rarely end up seeing them. Ogre Magicker, for example, has a lot of this stuff.
    • [Mechanic / campaign-based scenario] You control a mob of zombies or other slow-moving characters. You are up against several mobile enemies that desperately try to escape from you (servants or guests, maybe?). You are on a victory point timer (or on “someone is shooting your zombies” timer) to get them all. Zombies have to spread out to cover as much of the board as possible, greatly limiting their enemies’ movement options.
    If you want, you can try to make any of these into real scenarios. I, for one, would love to see that happen! Of course, most of these are very vague concepts; therefore, it will take a lot more consideration, designing and testing to make them work (or scrap them if they prove to be completely unusable :)). I fear that some of them might look better on paper than they would in the game, though.
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
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  4. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    2. Creating Your Scenario

    There are quite a few useful threads and posts that can teach you how to use the in-game custom board editor. Instead of rephrasing everything that has already been made clear, I will provide you with most of the links that you will need to start working on your scenario.

    First of all, the amazing Custom Scenario Editor Tutorial thread by Kalin will guide you through the whole process (starting from actually locating the editor within the game) and provide you with detailed descriptions for various parts of the editor’s interface. There are video tutorials, screenshots, practical tips, you name it!

    Personally, I think that the interface is very intuitive and easy to learn. I thoroughly studied the first post of the thread (including the videos) and that was enough to start exploring the board editor on my own, going back to the forums whenever I needed some answers.

    However, I would like to bring your attention to this post by Scarponi listing all available tags that can be used for custom scenarios. Tags are what you will need to make magic like NPC respawns and victory point shenanigans happen. This FAQ and glossary thread also holds a great number of other insightful tips, so if you have the time, you should check out the rest of it, too.

    Naturally, if you plan on submitting your scenario for Mauve Manticore, you need to read up on the rules of this contest explained by Farbs in Mauve Manticore Submission Thread. The rules are quite fair and straightforward, just so it would be that much easier for everyone to weave their stories into the world of Cardhuntria. There are also some crucial recommendations on how you can improve the quality of your submission and make sure that you have the best chances of success.

    Don’t forget the incredibly helpful Card Hunter Wiki! It’s your best friend who can answer many of your questions like “What types of kobolds does the White Skull Canyon adventure feature?”, “How many Only Bones cards do Skeleton Warriors have in their deck?”, and “What does Aloyzo eat for breakfast?”. Okay, maybe not that last one.

    After learning the basics of using the board editor, it might a good idea to just improvise a little, explore the options available to you.
    • If you already have an idea for your scenario, now is the time to put that idea to the test. Create a very basic version of your scenario, without any doodads, just to see if it’s even possible to make it the way you envision it. If something doesn’t work, see if you can switch up NPC’s, win/lose conditions, or some other mechanics instead of abandoning your idea altogether. As I mentioned before, it was at this stage of making Capture the Tomb that I realized I had to change Phylacteries for a different NPC that has two different figures, which led to a somewhat different dynamic of the adventure, but the adventure still ended up being what I wanted it to be (even something better, in fact).
    • If you don’t have an idea in mind yet, the board editor itself might help you out. Playing with various NPC’s that you like, creating picturesque boards, experimenting with tiles and doodads are all viable ways to get started. That’s always the hardest part – getting started :). As soon as you get yourself in the zone, you’ll start working things out and having fun in the process.
    Once you’ve laid down the basic structure, you should define the details of your scenario. For instance:
    • Does your scenario use victory squares? What is the victory points goal for both sides? Does defeating enemies bring the player towards that goal? If so, how many victory points does each character yield?
    • Is mobility an important factor for the player’s success? Is there something that could add some extra challenge, like positioning of individual enemies, difficult or impassable terrain, or a ticking time limit?
    • Does your scenario have one exclusive solution, or are there alternative ways to achieve victory?
    Take screenshots as you work on your adventure – they’ll come in handy once you decide to compare different versions of your own scenario with boards from the official campaign. Whenever I was making a new adventure, I went to look how a similar setting was created by Blue Manchu: for King of the Haul it was the Caverns of the Troglodytes module, for Home Run it was The Throne of Strench, and for Capture the Tomb it were The Jewel of Alet Zhav and Tomb of Savings.

    Remember to save your board (.brd) and scenario (.scn) files from time to time. It’s worth keeping multiple versions of both files just so you can save yourself some time if the latest change you put in turned out to be a letdown.
  5. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    3. Gameplay Testing: Is It Fun To Play?

    After using the board editor to bring your idea to life, it’s now time to ask yourself a few of the following questions:

    Does your scenario offer any new player experience?

    Like I said before, don’t worry about accidentally copying someone else’s idea. However, when designing a scenario for Mauve Manticore, you should always aim to catch your player’s interest with something new and exciting, something they haven’t seen or done before. Whether it’s going to be unusual set of rules, unexpected main character, dazzling visual design, or something else is up to you to decide. As long as you have that goal in mind, you can always find ways to make your adventure feel exciting and memorable.

    That being said, it can be dangerous to go too overboard in trying to make your scenario look special, at least when it comes to visual design of the board. For example, attempts to use doodads intended to be used outside of the board as parts of the gameplay instead (like placing a deck of “physical” cards or a can of beverage in the middle of the playing board) rarely end up winning the author any favors. The same thing goes for designs of board edges that are a bit too extravagant (jagged, open, or split into multiple pieces). This is why I resisted the temptation of actually splitting the board of Capture the Tomb in half instead of making a wall that’s four squares thick. It might’ve made it look a bit cooler, but it would not do the artistic style of Card Hunter enough justice.

    Does your scenario take too long to complete?

    If you do not plan to submit your scenario to Mauve Manticore, this one should be of lesser concern to you. Otherwise, you should not forget that your scenario will not be the only one in the next issue, that people might want to finish the whole set within a reasonable amount of time (somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes). If your adventure takes you about 10 minutes on average to complete, it will probably take 15 or more minutes for someone who’s not familiar with it, especially if it has some unconventional rules.

    Does the board feel pointlessly congested?

    Try to avoid having immense boards with lots of figures. The more characters there are, the harder it is for the player to even begin wrapping their head around your idea, let alone keeping track of everything that’s going on. There’s nothing wrong with creating a battle of grand scale, but when you start forgetting about some NPC’s existence due to sheer size of the board, you know something’s gone wrong.

    Some of the things closely related to this point are excessively big monster groups with lots of card draw and animation time of things that don’t actually affect the board state in any meaningful way. If every round begins with you watching ten traits being played, it will get old really soon. If enemies are constantly moving without doing much of anything, and every time a monster group plays a move card, you have to sit through several seconds of animation, it feels like a waste of time. So, in general, if there are too many animations happening in a row at any given time, it’s probably not a good sign. :)

    Does the player’s success rely heavily on RNG?

    The random nature of card games is beautiful and appealing. But Card Hunter offers us a way to develop our own strategy, to combine the happy accidents of RNG with tactical decision making. But when your chances of winning rely on drawing that single card from your character’s deck, or when your only chance of reaching that victory square depends on A.I. moving their characters in a very specific manner, and you have no way of affecting any of these things, your strategy flies out of the window and you’re basically making a coin toss. Don’t get me wrong: such a thing happening as a possible consequence of the player’s choices is completely fine, it can be great fun (even if mixed with a bit of frustration). However, if it happens every time due to being part of intentional design, the player will just feel helpless, then angry, then ultimately fed up.

    Is the player’s success impossible without immediate and complete knowledge of a certain aspect of your scenario (NPC’s decks, for example)?

    I know some people will argue that Mauve Manticore scenarios should all be super-hardcore, and if someone disagrees, they should “git gud”. I don’t mind having a challenge as long as it’s a challenge with clear and fair rules. I would argue that one of these fair rules is having a chance at comeback if I don’t immediately and precisely identify the winning strategy just by looking at the board for the first time. Sure, the key to victory can be hidden well. The point is, if the player doesn’t get your scenario at first glance, they shouldn’t feel severely punished for it. Neither is it fair to have them struggle towards something they think is the right way, and then have that hope crushed 20 turns later by some enemy card that pops up right as they were about to “win”. Sounds like something Melvin would totally do. ;)

    This is the reason why I made Capture the Tomb’s “game” last more than two or three rounds. I had to make sure that the player can afford to lose at least one round due to their misunderstanding of the peculiar rules, and a couple of extra rounds due to bad RNG. Having that buffer enabled the strange adventure with some random elements to still be fair to the player experiencing it for the first time.

    Does your scenario provide (at least somewhat) a different experience every time you play it?

    This does not apply to all types of scenarios in the same manner. Some adventures have a very specific solution that is waiting to be discovered. For example, noShuffle tag allows you to make characters draw their cards in a non-random manner. I still remember myself struggling with Kalin’s adventure Melvelous the Magnificent and the Malicious Maze (MM#5).

    Still, if you’re not specifically aiming for a puzzle type of scenario, multiple runs of your adventure should not feel too repetitive. You want to give your players something to discuss later (“Is that what happened? It went so differently when I played it!”), something they can replay many times over without getting bored to tears.

    Do you, despite creating the scenario yourself, spend some time pondering tactical decisions while playing?

    You know all the cards, all the odds, and most likely the best winning strategy, too. But if you, despite all this, find yourself sitting there, carefully thinking about your next move for a whole minute rather than clicking through everything in autopilot mode until you reach the victory screen, you know you did something right. :)

    Do you still enjoy playing your own scenario after completing it multiple times?

    I’d say this is the least debatable way of testing your scenario. If you are getting bored playing it yourself, it’s a pretty good sign that you somehow messed it up and that something must be changed to fix it.

    (ultimatetoken) That being said, none of the above matters as long as you honestly believe that your design decision is justified and that it makes your scenario more fun.

    Of course, playtesting is also useful for finding those pesky bugs and other slipups. For example, after playing through Capture the Tomb a couple of times, I realized that I made a big mistake of putting down only one spawn point for each of the lich buddies. Naturally, I learned that by killing the enemy lich, then accidentally having one of my tombstones positioned on that single respawn point. Although I found the situation hilarious, it was pretty clear that it would not be as fun had it happened to my own lich because of Gary’s completely intentional move. Besides, it felt like cheating, and no self-respecting lich would do any of that stuff!
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  6. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    4. Using Doodads For Environmental Storytelling

    You can put together a cleverly designed scenario, make sure that it’s decently polished, and then call it a day. But why not bring things up a notch?

    Your adventure won’t have cutscenes or even dialogues apart from your written introduction and conclusion. What it can have: doodads!

    Environmental storytelling is a tool that you can use to make sure your adventure is a living world rather than a bunch of tiles and figures. Most likely, most players will not notice what you’ve put in, or will not get what you were going for. That should not upset you too much. Because there’s going to be that one player who’s going to get it, and smile, and think that your scenario is awesome. And more importantly, because knowing that you’ve made something with just a little more depth will make you feel much better about your own work.

    This is why I invite you to use those doodads for more than just polishing and making sure that your board doesn’t look unnaturally empty. Tell stories, and branch stories within your stories.

    Here are a few examples from my scenarios. I will not go into every single doodad, since most of them do, in fact, serve the purpose of making the board look convincing. :)


    In King of the Haul, the story is that kobold reinforcements are constantly flooding through the tunnels to stop you from stealing their loot. So I thought of ways I could strengthen this concept with a few additional touches. First, the kobolds probably do not keep things neat and tidy. So I put in a dirty dish and a knife on the ground next to their campfire site. There is also a broken cup – perhaps it’s been left there long ago, or thrown down just now after seeing a giant ogre peeking through the entrance. To the left, there is a dagger and bones on the ground, either from some unlucky adventurer or some beast that once lived in this cavern.

    Then I decided to push this story a bit further. There is a collapsed tunnel in the top corner of the board, filled with rubble and skeletons, possibly of kobold nature. Accidents happen when you’re a kobold who is not following safety regulations! Finally, a little to the right, there is a poorly hidden cache of gold that one of the kobolds (most likely the one right next to it) stole from his pals and put there for later.


    In Home Run, things are more straightforward. There is a lost dog who is running home while trying to escape from the piercing cold in the form of Frost Imps. Now that I think about it, I should have thought of putting some kind of clue that hinted towards the imps’ origins. Guess I simply decided to make them appear as manifestations of harsh winter weather and leave the rest up to the player’s imagination (aka “I was lazy:rolleyes:).

    What I did think of was adding a tasty bone hidden in the snow on the side of the house. It looks a bit awkward with all the snowy doodads, because I wanted to make the snow look all beaten up. Again, I should’ve put more effort into making it look better.


    Finally, when creating Capture the Tomb, for a while I could not decide which setting to go for. Is it going to be some kind of sports event that people gather to watch at arenas? Is it a single dungeon constructed specifically to hold these games? Are there two separate tombs that belong to liches themselves, and the two buddies use them to play the game? Finally, I figured that the last concept would be slightly less obscure than the others and went for it.

    After putting down tiles, doors, and other essentials, I started thinking about decorating the tombs. Of course, a proper tomb must have a creepy sarcophagus either on some pedestal or embedded in the wall. The brilliant writing style of Tomb of Savings also inspired me to put a CryptCo logo down.

    But even if both tombs were built by the same company, it doesn’t mean that two liches have the same personality. Same is boring! What if the red lich fancies himself to be a bit of a scholar? Or maybe those are fan letters? Or are those just taxes? That skeleton in the southern corner must have belonged to an adventurer that found this tomb in search of treasure, but was captured by the lich and left bound to the wall until his unfortunate demise. Or did that poor soul come to the red lich demanding rent payments?

    The blue lich, however, has always been an unkempt type. His home is covered in spider webs, and there are bottles of suspicious beverages scattered around the floor. Maybe he’s an alchemist? Or maybe this classy guy just knows how to keep the party going for thousands of years.

    These are the simple things that can add a little flavor to your board and bring out more character from heroes of your adventure. And don’t forget to put those cool real sized gaming accessories around your board! It’s my favorite part! :)
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  7. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    5. Final Testing and Polishing

    Your scenario is almost complete! Now you just need to make sure that it can hold up against close inspection of the most nitpicky viewer. There are a few things to be done here:
    • Make sure that there are no bugs of any sort left in your scenario, that there is nothing that can break the game (remember my oversight with spawn points?), nothing on the board that visually screams “I messed it up, my bad!”. This is another reason why you should complete your adventure multiple times.
    • Add board edges. As explained in Custom Scenario Editor Tutorial, you can find them in the Lower Doodads menu of the editor, and with the help of the Snap to Grid feature, you can use them to make your board look like it’s not made of flat paper.
    • All blocked terrain should be surrounded by black edges. They can either already be part of a tile or a doodad that you decided to turn into blocked terrain, or they can be added manually from the top section of the Tiles menu of the editor (the one that’s blank).
    • Use shadows to make your playable part of the board stand out from walls surrounding it. Lighting can add beautiful accents to your spooky dungeon or brightly lit manor, and shadows are your main tool for that. They are located in the top section of the Decal Doodads menu of the editor (again, the blank one).
    Polishing your scenario will significantly improve viewing and playing experience. Don’t forget to check official Card Hunter adventures and previous Mauve Manticore submissions for more pointers on visual polish.
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  8. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    6. Writing The Story

    Your scenario is ready! At least, the scenario file is. However, in order to submit it to Mauve Manticore, you have to come up with a title and write a two-part background story that will be displayed before and after the completion of your adventure, just like in the campaign. By this point, you probably have a more or less complete story in mind that would fit your scenario, or maybe it was meant to tell a specific story right from the start.

    Once again, if you’re not sure where to begin, campaign modules and Mauve Manticore entries from the Submission Thread are there for you. Needless to say, things like proper grammar, a fitting style, and a good sense of humor (unless your scenario strictly follows some serious theme) will make your description much more enjoyable to read. But above everything else, remember: you are creating an adventure, not a map; characters, not mobs. Liven up those cards and figures, will ya?
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  9. Jaer

    Jaer Goblin Champion

    7. Discussing and Submitting Your Scenario

    Yes! You’re all set! Now, depending on your goals and your level of confidence, there are two courses of action available:
    1. If your only goal was to create your scenario, with no plans on participating in Mauve Manticore contest (although there really can’t be many good reasons for you not to participate), or if you’re looking for some valuable feedback, create a new thread in the Custom Scenarios and Boards forum and upload your scenario there. Other Card Hunters can give you some insightful advice, and help you get a fresh look on scenario you know all too well by now.
    2. However, if you’re feeling completely confident in your scenario (or like me, are just too nervous to bring everyone’s attention to your work), just go ahead and submit it to Mauve Manticore Submission Thread! Remember to follow the official guidelines: your post must include a title, a screenshot of what your scenario looks like in the game, your in-game account name (you don’t want your 500 pizza to get lost, right?), your two-part description, and the scenario file (.scn) containing your adventure. There’s no need to upload the board file (.brd).
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