A Dash of Flavor
This week we are joined again by John Dale Beety, who worked as part of our names and flavor text team for Varia. Join JDB as he offers some insight into the flavor text writing process, and what goes through his mind while writing for Varia.
Flavor text – those little quotes at the bottoms of cards – are my favorite part of a game like Varia, yet some cards are just fine without them. Take Windshank, for instance:
Every card needs a name, but Windshank didn't need flavor text. I submitted ideas for Windshank. So did the rest of the creative text team. In the end, the blank space beat them all.
Still, the right piece of flavor text completes a card. It takes every other element – name, art, rules text – and links them in a few memorable words. When I find the perfect line, as I did on Slypfire, I know it.
"Fools run. Cowards hide. Veterans grit their teeth."
Three short sentences, unremarkable on their own, and yet when put together in that order, on this card where they match the three magical missiles in the art and the can't-miss rules text, they land with the force of Slypfire itself.
As a creative text writer, I tend toward serious, understated lines like the one on Slypfire. Yet even I get the urge to write something humorous and over-the-top. Sometimes, it even pays off.
Take Amber Barrier, for example.
The name "Amber Barrier" was already locked in when I got to the card, so I had those two words on my mind. My one attempt at serious flavor text played off the "Barrier" half, and in another timeline, Amber Barrier would have as its flavor text:
"You're trapped only as long as you wish."
It's true enough, as sentences go. It's also far too safe for this card. To deliver on the ideas developed by the card name and the humorous art, I had to go comedic.
And what sort of humor would an Amber Barrier-casting Dwarf enjoy? Puns, I decided. From "amber" my mind jumped to "gem" and "sap," and I submitted flavor text based on each:
"Gem of a spell, innit?" – Graeme the Explorer
"Only a sap would be caught without it." – Graeme the Explorer
But would Graeme really stop after making just one pun? Fortunately, Ant Tessitore saw what I had not, and combined the two into their final form:
"Gem of a spell 'innit? Only a sap would be caught without it." - Graeme the Explorer
Alone, the puns were weak. A cynical reader might even dismiss them as corny. Doubled up, though, they create a voice for Graeme the Explorer. He's not just a Dwarf in a yellow bubble anymore. He's a wisecracking mage who can make two puns in as many sentences even while in mortal danger – and in the hard-hitting world of Varia, he's right at home.