Talking to a game design colleague it became clear that the idea behind Moonflight was a good solid one, there needed to be a good, interesting background. My first instinct was to lean towards a slightly dark, mysterious, fantasy theme. There are several backgrounds that would fit this mechanic of building and then dismantling. A good choice would have been a modern heist theme where the deck represents a planning stage, which must be cleaned up before the authorities raid the location. However, a heist planning theme that denied players the chance to execute the heist would just come over as frustrating. I pictured some form of gypsy settlement needing to create itself from scratch repeatedly and only valuing what each person could carry in their hands.
As I mentioned in the last blog in this series, the Moonflight cards have a duel state and decks that suggest certain characters. With a little re-writing and rules altering those initial decks became the Librarian/Archivist, which shifted to the Rememberer/Forgetter, the Builder/Demolitionist, the Thief/Charity, the Gravedigger/Resurrectionist and the Trader/Con-man. I wanted something that suggested a mysterious or magical reason for the village's residents suffering a huge personality change, the arc of the heavens and particularly the passing of a waxing and waning moon seemed a perfect fit, so Moonflight was born.
Moonflight then is some form of mystical settlement which is founded, built and dismantled over the course of a single night when the moon is full. The names of the characters leading each deck then were not sitting particularly well, they were too much of a mix of the abstract and the prosaic. Also the characters would suffer such a personality swing at the zenith of the moon, it seemed clear they were some sort of fay creatures. I had a fairly clear image in my head of the character's artwork resembling traditional court playing cards with each end different. Furthermore, with the strange and unpredictable nature of the leaders of this settlement it seemed there would be a certain uncomfortable darkness to this moonlit world, figuratively as well as literally.
Many years ago an obscure British comic book series had enemies including "The Jack of Mice" and "The Jack of Bones" which are images that always stuck with me as things I had to use one day. Then, while working on Moonflight I was reading a novel where a character was referred to as the "Prince of Ashes and Tatters". Since I needed a slightly uncomfortable sounding title which called to mind a deck of court cards it was time to finally use the "Jack O' Bones" who would transform into the "Jack O' Flesh" at the turn of the moon. There are of course four Jacks and on the basis of first come first served they became the "Jack O' Pentacles" and "Jack O' Debts" (thought that might change), the "Jack O' Legacy" and "Jack O' Loss", and the "Jack O' Stones" and "Jack O' Ashes and Tatters". It seemed obvious that these peculiar individuals were the ruling forces, the Dukes of Moonflight.
Also, on a final gaming and eventual launch level, it seemed neat there could be two player sets of Jack vs Jack which could accommodate four players with two different sets. I still had a fifth deck and a few neat ideas for later decks so I wanted to leave the door open for more than four decks. I imagine that if there is a ruling court of four Jacks there would therefore be a lower court of rising courtiers which I have, for largely arbitrary reasons, designated the "Muses". The first of the Muses will be "Hope and Charity" which has a pleasingly Biblical implication, though it might be altered later.
So there it is, the basic world built and in place. Moonflight is founded.