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It’s Laid Out in the Cards

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Happened upon this today and thought it was too cool not to share. For those of you who understand the language of symbolism, or even those of you who are just interested in Tarot and other divination methods in role-playing games:

The High Priestess

A Tarot-based Adventure Scenario Design Game

Equipment:

  • Standard Tarot deck (78 cards: 56 suited, 22 trumps)
  • Meeples, 5 each of a color for each PCs/Faction
  1. Assign 2 court cards from the deck for each player character. These describe 2 of the 3 key questions that define a character (who are you? what do you want? how are you trying to do that?) and are interpreted based on what’s not described by the other cards that will be played. More cards will be dealt after the initial set up of the game “board.” Continued…

I might just have to find an excuse to use this, though I can probably find a substitute for the Meeples. I know at least someone who could use this, and with my Legend: The Arthurian Tarot, no less…

Further Reading

  • It’s Written in the Stars My guide to using Astrodice to generate People, Places, and Plots for your next session.
  • Learn Tarot Best place for quickly referencing the standard meanings for the cards.
  • Tarot for Writers Liked the Design Game? How about a book-length version, tailored specifically for writers?

It’s Written in the Stars

March 26, 2011 3 comments

Yesterday I trekked up to my Friendly (Not-so-)Local Gaming Store with a few of my players to spend the money burning a hole in my pocket browse the roleplaying books and see what sorts of used/indie books they had in stock, only to be disappointed. (I’m spoiled by the larger stores in the heart of Gamer Country, along i70 between Origins and GenCon.)

At my friend’s insistence (shakes fist) I did drop some cash, picking up a set of pearlescent green Crystal Caste dice and, more interestingly, some Astrodice. Appealing to both the fortune teller and the gamer in me, I pretty much had to buy it.

Novelty Trine1 Utility


Female + Actor + Monastery =
Your Next NPC?

The concept is simple: three d12’s, one each for the Signs, Planets, and Houses in mystical purple, blue and teal colors. The little white book (LWB) includes your basic interpretations of each, along with two examples of how you might combine the three dice as a divinatory tool: the Planets denote “What” the solution is, the Signs signify “How” to tackle the problem, and the Houses address “Where” in life to do so. For me, rolling dice is a less than elegant manner of fortune telling. As a seasoned tarot reader and novice runecaster, I’d rather work with richer symbols. If you’re going to do Astrology, do it right and analyze your natal chart. Tarot and Runes “run” on a fair bit of “randomization,” if you will, but Astrology works in a very mathematical, precise way.

However, when I saw them, I immediately thought of their uses in game. Need to insert a random NPC or plot complication? Roll em! This is easier for me since I already have a sense of the signs and planets, though I’d have to count on my fingers for the Houses to match them up with their signs.

I thought it might be fun, though, to write up some tables for those of you less fluent in astrology and its symbols, and to help you characterize random NPC’s, Plots, and Places on the fly.

The Legal-Sized Table

Download the Legal-sized PDF

How to Use the Table

Though the table is obviously designed for use with the Astrodice, you could just as easily pencil in numbers by the symbols and roll 3d12 of different colors to help you keep track. Don’t be a slave to the results–if something doesn’t feel right, roll again until you get something you like. This is about inspiration for your story, not determining ability scores or success/failure.

Creating Concepts

The easiest thing to do would be to assign Personality to Planets, the Plot idea to Signs, and the Place to Houses, and roll. Consult the chart and follow your instincts as a storyteller.

For instance, ♄, , and 8 gave me “Disciplined Crusade in the Underworld.” I immediately think of a lawful good or evil army marching into the Abyss. “Lets go slay some demons in their own domain!”, though you could potentially reverse it and have a Mordor-esque field where the Demonic host is readying for war–and the PC’s have to infiltrate or field an army of their own! Or maybe it isn’t an evil underworld at all, but a Hel (drab and crowded, but not terribly miserably) or Elysium (where the heroes go), depending on the flavor of your campaign.

Creating Characters

You could also potentially roll all three for personality, to get a more nuanced character with multiple facets. Planets look to be character traits, while Signs are professions and Houses relationships (to whom is up to you, either other NPC’s or the PC’s themselves). It depends on your needs–do you already have a plot for this NPC, and you just need their temperament/personality? Roll the three and pick the one that seems right.

Plot could instead be something like motivation–a Diplomat in a romantic intrigue (complicated, and full of political fun times, that), or a Philosopher seeking to regain his innocence, or maybe see the world as it is (like Shepherd from Firefly).

Place could also serve as a “homeland” for the NPC, further shaping them into a distinct character in your world. A Ranger from a “Prison” easily turns into a brigand, or a Banker from the “Alleys” is a rogue who escaped the underbelly, but still has ties he hasn’t yet severed.

Other Ideas

Be creative with how you use the table. You can get ultra-specific, like rolling three of a “kind” to get a place that’s a Prison at a University in the Sky (Violet Hold, perhaps?), or a Plot that touches on Following the Oracle, Disguise, while ultimately requiring a sacrifice on the player’s part.

Really, there’s a lot of interesting combinations (permutations?) you can mine from this–that is to say, at least one thousand. I know I often get stuck on NPC quirks, and it takes too long for me to look up a d100 table and roll. Better that I stick to twelve core concepts and flavor them accordingly. Hopefully you’ll find it useful too.

Further Reading

Do you like using divination to spark ideas for your games and writing? If so, you’ll likely appreciate Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner, which goes into detail about pulling cards to create characters, plots, and places, and includes interpretations for the cards themselves so you don’t need to know Tarot at all to appreciate the book. I know this one’s on my shelf.

References

  1. “Astrodice” Little White Book by The Wessex Astrologer Ltd.
  2. Astrology Online
  3. “Astrology” on Wikipedia
  4. “The Meaning of the Aspects in Astrology” on Cafe Astrology

Footnotes

  1. Trine (adj.) – Used in astrology to describe planets that support each other, and naturally. E.g. Venus trine Neptune.