Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Plot cupons? How about Whimsy Cards?

Long ago I remember seeing a game supplement like no other. It was created by a company called Lion Rampart, which also created Ars Magica. Me and my friends had that gorgeous game and since we had created many characters to it and felt it had potential, we perked up at the promise of more of Lion goodness. For some reason none of us ever bought it, but I have many times wondered how my later gaming habits might have turned out if we had.

For those of you who don't know what Whimsy Cards is, they can be summarized as small cards the players get to wield and play during a session to influence the game world. It's not possible to suddenly say that they sky is purple, but the cards could be used to introduce twists and turns to the game, like a sudden appearance of reinforcements. Whose reinforcements? That'll be decided in play either by the player who played the card, or by the DM who has to take it into account when narrates what happens next. West End Games once published a game called Torg, which you might heard of. It included a set of cards, not unlike the Whimsy Cards, called the Drama Deck. Like the whimsy cards, they could be used to change the gameplay. Just recently I got hold of the boxed set of Torg, and I plan on actually try it out and see how it works.

Some of you, my readers, might of course have heard of the idea of giving the player narrative power. After all, it's one of they identifying mark of many of the new school indie games. But, even for those of you who might not feel very comfortable or interested in those games, I think the idea of Whimsy Cards is an interesting option. It will keep the game on a firm and familiar footing while at the same time inject some uncertainty into the game even for the DM. Also, having to play cards to get narrative power or other kinds of influence will be a way to pace it and see how much of that new spice you'll like in your game. I'd love to hear how some classic gaming goes with that kind of thing added in. One of these days I'll try it myself.

8 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure that the Chaosium game (and boy was it good) Prince Valiant did this first!

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  2. Prince Valiant had whimsy cards!? That was news to me. Way cool. Now I'm getting even more curious about that game.

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  3. What a blast from the past. :)

    I used them to great success in a '90/'91 blended Cyberpunk-Fantasy campaign.

    Nice to see them mentioned again.

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  4. 90/91 Cyberpunk-Fantasy you say? When was Shadowrun published again?

    Nice to know they could be used, to great success!

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  5. Let's see...

    "Shadowrun" came out in '89.

    There is a recent indie came (free on the internet) called, "The Pool" in which such things are pretty much the basis of the game. There is also something called, "Life With Master" which uses similar, but toned down mechanics. They fascinate me, but I KNOW I lack the improvisational ability to PLAY such a game, much less run one.

    ~~G'Noll

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  6. Whimsy card, yeah, that's the ticket! Gotta have a deck of those included with the Chaotic 8th edition of Tunnels and Trolls when it comes out in 2011.

    --Ken St. Andre

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  7. Thanks Paul. I didn't have Shadowrun handy, to check. (but I had the internet! doh!)

    I'd love to try The Pool. One day I will. Maybe I don't have that improvisational ability either, but I want to try it.

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  8. Ken,

    Sounds like 8th will be a blast! :)

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