Have you ever wanted to explore the Darth Nihilus meta? Would you rather run eSly Snootles or eDroopy McCool in your Max Rebo Band deck? What tech do you have to counter the control of the Geonosian Queen and her Brain Worms? You can explore all these options and more by hosting your own Thank the Maker Tournament!
Thank the Maker is a fun alternative tournament format where participants make their own characters, plots, and cards in order to create epic Destiny battles that you would never be able to witness otherwise. When I hosted my first Thank the Maker, I figured the concept was simple enough, but the actual execution was wrought with challenges and hiccups. In the end, though, it was a huge success! That’s why I’ve composed the following guide; to teach you everything you need to know to host your own TtM tourney and make it as easy and as fun as possible!
Before I can jump into how to host a custom card tournament, I want to take a moment to explain why it’s so awesome. Benefits to be had by running a TtM include:
- Legends Lore – Chances are you grew up loving the deep pool of characters that made up the old Star Wars Canon. Since FFG is bound to the Mouse’s whims, there will forever be a huge untapped potential of characters I love that will never see the tabletop. Through a Thank the Maker event, though I can change all that! Currently, the top of my list for characters I want to bring out of retirement is a being feared even by Boba Fett, the dreaded bounty hunter Durge.
- A Breath of Fresh Air – Our local community tends to run TtM events a week or two before a new set drops. Our attendance has usually suffered in these weeks as players have tired of the old meta. Since we started hosting TtM events during this period, we actually see higher attendance during than during our normal weeks. Everyone makes it a priority to attend the one-night-only craziness that’s hot off the press.
- A Nod to Creatives – We all play the game for various reasons, and for me, Destiny is a great creative outlet. Unique deck construction and off-the-wall plays feel rewarding to me. I’m so driven to run a TtM tourney because it really allows me to push this envelope. I get to explore the game in new ways that may never be possible, and there’s a good chance a portion of your players will find the experience deeply rewarding, win or lose.
- Wish Fulfillment – Put simply, you get to make your own dreams come true. If you’ve always wanted to see the Plagues/Sidious team on the table, now you don’t have to pine. You control your own… destiny.
So, if you’re still reading, I’m going to assume you’re sold on the idea. Fantastic! Now, lets examine the steps to make your TtM a blessed reality!
Step 0 – Advertise!
The importance of this step cannot be understated. You need to give your players sufficient notice that you’ll be doing this tournament. That way, they have plenty of time to complete step 1. I usually give my players 4-6 weeks notice for when I plan to run the next one. During this stage, you’ll also need to set some restrictions. What card types are they allowed to submit? When will the submission deadline be? Where should they submit the cards? How many cards are they allowed to submit? If you want to organize on easy mode, I’d recommend limiting card types to characters and maybe plots, and capping the submission at 2 cards per person. If you want to step it up and let people get real weird with it, permit any card type to be submitted, and allow each person to submit up to 3 custom cards. I wouldn’t recommend allowing any more than 3 cards per person, though, because the work will increase exponentially.
Step 1 – Brainstorm your Cards
Now you and your players will have to figure out what you want to do with your deck for the event. If you need inspiration, here are a few game-design basics to help you brainstorm:
- Top-Down Design: Pick your favorite character. Now consider what they do or who they are. How can you capture that aspect of them within the confines of Destiny? For example, I picked Galen Erso. He sabotaged the Empire from within. He could be a bad character that I give to my opponent. No, on second thought, giving my opponent extra health and dice seems like it would be hard to balance with the negative aspects he adds. Perhaps instead, he could install weaknesses into my opponent’s deck! Sure, lets roll with that. Let me whip up a quick card and we’re ready for submission.
- Bottom-up Design: Pick an aspect of the game that you really enjoy and try to look at it in a new light. Perhaps I really enjoyed the Bala-Tik / Executioner mechanic, whereby defeating one of your characters gets me extra dice. Now let’s put a twist on it. How about, instead of resetting when one of your characters dies, we flip in on its head and this character resets when one of mine dies. Okay, so my character is motivated to avenge a fallen ally, so who would that be in the Star Wars universe? Perhaps he’s Obi-Wan from The Phantom Menace, avenging his fallen Master Qui-Gon by relentlessly attacking Maul.
- Shamelessly Steal: One of my favorite design I saw was when a player was inspired by the “Un” sets of Magic the Gathering. If you’re unfamiliar with MtG, the three sets with the “Un” prefix are all goofy, with rule-bending and meta-humor aspects. What did he think of when he thought of goofy + Star Wars? Why, Space Balls, of course! He zeroed in on Pizza the Hutt. Clearly, there needed to be some aspect of pizza involved, so he submitted this to me: [picture of Pizza the Hutt card]. By looking at other games and seeing what they did, you can get some great ideas for how to translate that into a destiny concept. Whether its worker placement or social deduction, there is inspiration in other games around you. How do you bring their strengths to a card and dice game?
Once your players have their ideas, I’d recommend the Destiny Card Builder over at Burger Tokens’ website. Have each participant create, save, and send their card images to you for later steps.
It’s important to point out that you should ask your players to prioritize what’s most important with their cards, and leave the less important aspects blank to be filled out by someone else. We’ll touch on why that’s important in step three.
Step 2 – Template the Cards
Templating is translating the cards from our unclear English language into the hard and fast language of Destiny. For example, a layperson may submit a card that says “Remove a gun die. Then mill a card for each number on it.” While I’m pretty sure I know what this card is trying to do, when it comes down to it, there could be a lot of questions. Is “gun die” referencing a subtype on an equipment card, or are they trying to say “remove a die showing ranged damage”? ‘Mill’ is slang for “put a card from the top of your deck into your discard” but the card shouldn’t use slang because it creates ambiguity. Also, who am I ‘milling’, myself or my opponent? Then, “for each number on it” is confusing. I’d guess they mean “equal to the value showing on that die” but as it’s written, I could be milling one for each side of that die that has a number on it. Templating is just asking these questions, to eventually hammer it into the language of Destiny. In this theoretical instance, after templating, I tell my player they need to resubmit the card with the text “Remove a die showing ranged damage. Then, you may have a player discard cards from the top of his or her deck equal to the value on the removed die.” Boom! It makes sense, it adheres to the rules, and there is little to no room for misinterpretation. This is templating, and it’s an important step before balancing your cards, so that everyone is on the same page regarding what the card does, and therefore how powerful it is.
Step 3 – Balance the Cards
So, how do we balance the cards practically? Crowdsourcing! I took all the submissions, and organized them into a Google Forms document. I supplied the card pictures and one or two simple questions about each card’s balance. Then, I sounded the horn, and asked trusted and unbiased members of the greater Destiny community to complete the form. For an example of the kinds of cads submitted and the questions I asked, you can still find that form here. Please note, there is a minimum number of reviewers you should try to get. As a cautionary tale, my first attempt at TtM, I had one friend look over all the cards for imbalance. I also have a pretty decent eye for game design, so I weighed in and together we were able to balance almost all the cards. Almost. I confess I accidentally blew everyone out of the water, because I was too close to one of my characters to see that it was overpowered, and my friend simply misread it. Thus, I learned I needed to open the card pool up to more reviewers to avoid such mistakes. The more eyes the better. Having more opinions also helps you form an aggregated view. If one player thinks a card is very overpowered and you stop there, you’re likely to nerf it into oblivion. However, if another talented player says they think it’s fair, you can meet those opinions in the middle and give it a modest debuff.
So who do you ask to review the cards? First make sure to also ask your talented locals; they’re the most invested in your event succeeding. Then reach out to the community, like me! Last time we did a TtM event, I asked my friends at Artificery to review the cards, and their skill at the game translated to accurate opinions on the power level of the cards. You can call for community support through Facebook, Discord, in person, email, or more! If you get a hold of me (The Phantom Dennis on the Artificery Discord, or reply to this article), I’ll always be happy to help.
As I mentioned in step one, it is important to have players signify what they care about most on their cards. For example, if a player submits an broken character, I can balance it by making it cost more points. But when I tell them it costs more, they may rage, because then they won’t be able to pair it with Character XYZ, and their whole deck idea falls apart! This is where the blank parts come in. Perhaps that player submitted a card where one of the die sides showed a range symbol but had no value. Now when I evaluate that character, I can decide that for the character to be balanced that ranged side has to have a piddly value of 1. Maybe they left the resource cost of a card blank, and it’s powerful, but I can easily balance it by making it cost 3 or 4 resources. Now the high power of the card is balanced out by its high cost. Below is a list of easy ways to increase or decrease a card’s power.
- Add or remove a modifier or resource cost to a die side.
- Change a high-value die symbol to a less valuable one (i.e. downgrade a melee side to a disrupt) or vise-versa.
- Increase or decrease a character’s points cost or health
- Increase or decrease the resource cost to play a card
- Add a play restriction (i.e. Blue character only) or a spot requirement
- Make an Action a Power Action instead, or vise-versa.
- Lower or raise any of the numerical values in a card (For example, “Deal 2 damage to 2 characters” could become “Deal 1 damage to 2 characters” or “Deal 2 damage to 1 character.”)
Step 4 – Create the Components
Now that you’ve balanced and templated all your players’ cards, you’re almost ready to play! All that remains is to get them to the physical tabletop. Your players should be able to create the cards easily enough. Just have them go back to the Destiny Card Builder and make the final templated and balanced version of their card. Then they can save the image and print it out. If they’re playing events, upgrades, or other cards that need to be shuffled into a deck, they can easily slide them into an opaque card sleeve in front of a real card.
As for the dice, f you’ve ever proxied several dice at once, you know that keeping track of what values are showing and which die belongs to which card is a challenge. As a result, I like to tell my players to bring actual Destiny dice of the right color and number for their deck, and I print out and bring stickers for them to put on the sides of the dice. The stickers are easy to come by, I simply stopped by my local office supply store and purchased .75” white circular sticker sheets like these. They’ll fit perfectly over existing destiny dice, with no damage once you remove them. They look way cooler than proxy dice, and they’ll make game play much easier to follow. The only real challenge is completing the file for printing, and I’ve already done a lot of the legwork to provide templates for you to easily use. If you have access to Gimp or Illustrator, this file [dice template drive link] will work wonders for making up dice stickers. Otherwise, you can just use a pen to fill out the stickers.
Step 5 – Enjoy!
Now it’s time to roll some dice! See if Mara Jade was strong enough to resist the temptations of Darth Rey. Live the epic battle between Holiday Special Boba Fett and The Man with the Red Palm Bloom. Most importantly, have fun with it and stay cool. The reality is, there were probably some interactions you didn’t think about that are a little too powerful, or somebody probably mistakenly put a 2 on a card when it was supposed to be a 3. The reality is, this is the lawless Outer Rim and a casual event. Nothing was playtested, so anything can happen! So long as everyone had fun and explored new corners of the galaxy, congratulations! Your Thank the Maker Tournament was a huge success. Let us know how it went in the comments below!