11/9/2011 Stf: "Six Ways to Fail at Creative Endeavors"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Savor the Flavor, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Why is Jace saying "I am the Korean language"?

Um... because Jace is an arrogant prick?
I dunno.
There need to be more articles like this. Although it little to do with Magic, at least on a surface level, this stuff is probably very applicable to the vast majority of this column's readers. I'm a sophomore writing major who spends a large chunk of his time doing creative writing in some form or other, so I think about this kind of thing all the time, and I'm still trying to figure this stuff out. Thanks, Doug.
Yeah, kinda awkward knowing that what he's saying doesn't actually make sense.

Great article, Doug.  I recognize all these bad habits in myself to varying degrees, and no doubt many of the rest of the audience does as well.  This stuff definitely needs to be said.

And if you want an easy answer to the language question, drop me a line.  My Unifying Theory of Planeswalkers answers this one along with many other persistent puzzlers.

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As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
It just shines a spotlight on the language problem in general. It's a common issue in fantasy, and the general solution is: just leave it alone and get on with your story about werewolves and wizards.



This lesson is golden.  Know what story you actually want to tell, know what you can take for granted in your medium, and stay away from stories that just don't need to be told.

Superhero comics are particularly horrible for this sort of thing.  For example, X-Men member Cyclop's eye beams never cut or burned like lasers, so they became "blasts of concussive energy".  Where does this energy come from?  Absorbed solar power.  How, if he can't possibly absorb that much energy from the sun in a day?  His eyes are actually portals to another dimension where the energy originates.  This web of exotic sub-powers goes on and on as more questions crop up.  Eventually fans came to derride this as "punches from the punch dimension."  And rightly so.  There will never be satisfactory  "real-world explanations" for inherently fantastic elements.

I find the best answer for fans who insist on trying to turn a comic book into a physics dissertation or fantasy into anthropology comes from the Princess Bride: "yes, you're very smart. Now shut up."
But it's a lesson that doesn't need to be taught. We should be embarassed any of us need this explained to.

Anyway, the article is interesting but I think it's unrelated to flavor. Also, the question is really weak compared to the ones we still haven't answered. 
I could be mistaken, but didn't Urza have this power to learn a language very fast in some of his old book? I remember Xantcha or Barrin saying something about that...

BTW, I do agree with this implementation. The spark don't just allow you to planeswalk, it gives you some sort of high understanding about magic. All walkers are mages of some sort, even if they weren't before becoming one. A "higher understanding of languages" is ok to me for then to have. Add to their mystique.
Thumbs up for the James Joyce reference, although I personally see Garruk as more the Malachi Mulligan of the tale.
Why is Jace saying "I am the Korean language"?

Um... because Jace is an arrogant prick?
I dunno.

I am the law!
I could be mistaken, but didn't Urza have this power to learn a language very fast in some of his old book? I remember Xantcha or Barrin saying something about that...

BTW, I do agree with this implementation. The spark don't just allow you to planeswalk, it gives you some sort of high understanding about magic. All walkers are mages of some sort, even if they weren't before becoming one. A "higher understanding of languages" is ok to me for then to have. Add to their mystique.



Wasn't that, together with other benefits like near immortality, stripped away from the neo-walkers?

Hey, maybe they did that whole mending story thing to prepare the players to be stripped from their benefits like they're doing now =D
That article is genius :O
Yeah, that was a great article. 

No solution to the language question could ever be as elegant as the babelfish.
I could be mistaken, but didn't Urza have this power to learn a language very fast in some of his old book? I remember Xantcha or Barrin saying something about that...



This is true. In fact in the time when Urza an Xantcha were traveling together, Xantcha had to actually learn each new languages from scratch and Urza could just drink it in and understand everything after a few sentences.

The problem is that Planeswalkers aren't these godlike beings anymore. You can't just give them these kinds of superpowers. On the other hand you do have to make the stories flow. There's no really good answer to the question I'm afraid.
This article is nothing short of amazing.

Did it have to do with Magic? No. Did it have to do with flavor? Not very much. But speaking as an amateur artist, the message and techniques expressed in this article should prove infinitely useful as I beat down the creative side of me and return to a life of quiet, uninspired drudgery. ;)
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Same language across the multiverse? A wizard did it.

Probably Teferi.
If you think about it, everyone speaking the same language, or language barriers being a non-issue for planeswalkers, isn't even that weird compared to some consistencies between the planes. For example, is it as weird as humans existing on almost every plane, usually almost identically?
If you think about it, everyone speaking the same language, or language barriers being a non-issue for planeswalkers, isn't even that weird compared to some consistencies between the planes. For example, is it as weird as humans existing on almost every plane, usually almost identically?


No, the BEST one is the War of the Worlds problem: planeswalkers not dropping dead from foreign diseases they have no immunities to.
Rather interesting to see how one question I asked stirred so much discussion :P. I'll try to think of more things to ask ;). While I was thinking about it myself, I do think that the best explanation anyone could give (y'know, if you had to adress it) was that the spark also gives a planeswalker easier acces to other languages, so that even Garruk can easily understand people from other planes. Everybody has got a little blue in them xD.
Great article, I unfortunately have at least 4 of those rules down naturally; thank you, though, you have opened a few doors for me.

I never thought about the language problem before and I agree it might be best to leave it unsolved officially, however that doesn't mean we can't speculate. And with that in mind I would like to propose a theory that the answer lies in mana in some way or another; from what I understand, being someone who has not read anything other than the rules and descriptions of MTG, mana is mana no matter where it is from, even if it has slight variations between planes. I would love to hear everyone's opinions on this, and correct me if I am mistaken.
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Everybody has got a little blue in them xD.



I think this is actually the best explanation.

Even though planeswalkers are no longer naturally immortal gods, they still have to be exceptionally talented spellcasters because anyone who isn't could probably never survive their spark igniting. Any regular person who suddenly had their spark flare and was flung to a brand new world without any magical training to help them survive in their new, potentially hostile, alien environment would likely succumb within days. So the only ones who have the opportunity to survive are those who are tough enough and magically experienced enough to survive this incredible shock to their system.

Additionally, anyone who could figure out what happened to them in the aftermath of their spark igniting is going to have to do so by either focusing all the powers of their own magical curiosity on the problem or by having it explained to them by someone on the new plane who recognizes them for what they are. Furthermore, anyone who is prepared to master the art of planeswalking is going to have to put serious study into the arcane complexities of travel through the Blind Eternities, yet another example of their willingness to study the nature of magic. So, I think it's actually very insightful to say that all planeswalkers, no matter how deeply red or green their natures might be, have just enough blue in them to make them naturally curious about the nature of magical power and about who they are as inherently magical beings.

This is important because it means that almost all planeswalkers are going to be a little curious about the world and interested in the benefits of knowledge which will probably mean that most will be easily inclined to the study of other languages, even the dead ones which are only found in books of lore. Given that they have to be naturally gifted mages simply to survive the circumstances of their spark's ignition, they're probably a little higher on the intelligence curve as well, making language acquisition a little easier for them. If they weren't already talented mages, they'd have been completely dependent on the local population of their new world to feed and house them, which would mean that they'd probably have a knack for picking up the locals' languages anyway.

For those who might claim that it would be too hard for planeswalkers to learn the languages of all the planes they visit, I would counter that in all practical terms, almost any human can gain a functional fluency in almost any other human language after just a few years of total immersion in the new language and its cultural surroundings. Planeswalkers, though not automatically immortal by dint of their spark anymore, still have so many powerful sources of life extension and replenishment to turn to in the multiverse, from elixirs of immortality, to fountains of youth, to temporal manipulation, to angelic blessings, to vampirism, to lichhood, that I think it would be ingenuous to claim that most talented, experienced planeswalkers who want to find a source of immortality, or at least a form of extreme life extension, couldn't find a way if they put their minds to it.

Once they've learned how to control their own aging, they'll have all the time in the world to devote to spending a few years with an interesting new people on a new plane, learning their language and ways and gaining their trust, then learning whatever magical lessons or acquiring whatever artifacts they can from them before moving on to a new population or a new plane and beginning the cycle over again.
I'm a little late to the party, but I'd just like to say that this is one of the better and more innovative articles that I've read on this site for a while.  Good job!
I could be mistaken, but didn't Urza have this power to learn a language very fast in some of his old book? I remember Xantcha or Barrin saying something about that...



This is true. In fact in the time when Urza an Xantcha were traveling together, Xantcha had to actually learn each new languages from scratch and Urza could just drink it in and understand everything after a few sentences.

The problem is that Planeswalkers aren't these godlike beings anymore. You can't just give them these kinds of superpowers. On the other hand you do have to make the stories flow. There's no really good answer to the question I'm afraid.




Not only that, but there's like a whole page dedicated to how stupid languages are, causing confusion and what not. Doug, if you're going to answer questions, you need to know every single ridiculously obscure detail on the topic. (joke)

Momus, the Greek god of sarcasm

Pray to him.

I think that there is a reasonable explanation to the whole language thing.

The flavor text of the Mirrodin version of Yotian Soldier suggests that some inhabitants of the Multiverse can communicate subconsciously with one another across planes.  Over time, it is likely that this communication would shape languages across different planes to be, if not identical, at least similar to one another.
That's another good answer GoblinRecruiter.  I like mine better but it's more dependent on my core assumption about what a planeswalker is, which might or might not be compatible with Wizards's take on the subject.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
It just shines a spotlight on the language problem in general. It's a common issue in fantasy, and the general solution is: just leave it alone and get on with your story about werewolves and wizards.



This lesson is golden.  Know what story you actually want to tell, know what you can take for granted in your medium, and stay away from stories that just don't need to be told.

Superhero comics are particularly horrible for this sort of thing.  For example, X-Men member Cyclop's eye beams never cut or burned like lasers, so they became "blasts of concussive energy".  Where does this energy come from?  Absorbed solar power.  How, if he can't possibly absorb that much energy from the sun in a day?  His eyes are actually portals to another dimension where the energy originates.  This web of exotic sub-powers goes on and on as more questions crop up.  Eventually fans came to derride this as "punches from the punch dimension."  And rightly so.  There will never be satisfactory  "real-world explanations" for inherently fantastic elements.

I find the best answer for fans who insist on trying to turn a comic book into a physics dissertation or fantasy into anthropology comes from the Princess Bride: "yes, you're very smart. Now shut up."



You know, I really dislike this attitude to a story. This invalids any decontruction or reconstruction at all. This is basically saying "Watchmen is dumb because we don't care about the psychological impact of having superhuman powers. X-men is dumb because we don't care about the possible social impact of people having superhuman powers. We just want panels after panels of superheroes punching through realities! We don't need to think about this, at all!"

And this is also quite a bit of waste in creativity as well. Ok, so planeswalkers have a special ability that allows them to ignore the language barrier in between planes. So what happens when this ability fails for some reason? That can already a story by itself. And what happens when there's a plane that has a virus that is lethal to all planeswalker. Hell, that will make for a very interesting plane, especially when planeswalkers are now forced to send minions there to do their work for them, and what happens to those minions are already stories by themselves. This kind of "I just want to create what I want without any thought about it" is wasteful.