Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
June 20, 2018, 06:29:45 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 171 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Author Topic: [The Fool & The World] a novice game design  (Read 4680 times)

Posts: 79

« on: February 07, 2006, 11:54:23 AM »

So, i had a creative streak and wrote this little game yesterday. Yep, it is my first game i've ever written.

I'm not sure if it works or not, or entirely how it is supposed to work. This all came to me rather suddenly.

I am sure that something very much like this game probably already exists, but i haven't looked for it yet. I didn't want to dilute the thrill. ;)

Now i have to give credit where credit is due. To use my new favourite quote, from Sydney Freedberg: “If you're going to steal from Vincent, just steal from Vincent already!”

So yeah - the resolution mechanic is totally stolen from Dogs. Only with cards.

The whole idea of the "flashback scenes" and player character stuff is from discussions on Anyway.

The central premise of the game comes from the Tarot itself, mostly through the excellent Aeclectic Tarot site here: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/learn/meanings/

I don't have a Power 19 done yet, but i can throw some basic questions out, so you can read the rules critically:

Does the game have a premise? Does it make sense what you would be doing with it?

Does the resolution mechanic actually work?

Do you think the Fool's character sheet is likely to get overcrowded with traits? If so, that probably derails the resolution mechanic, no?

Is it clear how to narrate the scences, and what to use for inspriation / story elements? Is narrating like this apt to be an enjoyable experience?

Do you think a Tarot based game is viable? Is it too restrictive? Too open?

I've posted the full text i have typed up below, for your perusal. Hope you enjoy it!

The Fool & The World
 α version by stefan dirk lahr (07.2.06)

The Fool & The World is a game of narrative collaboration using the Tarot and these simple rules to provide a framework in which to tell the story of the Fool's Quest.

To play this game you need a standard 78 card Tarot deck, and some 3x5 cards and some things to write on them with.
Most Tarot decks come with a little book that describes how to interpret the cards, which you probably want to have on hand as well.

The Tarot

The type of Tarot deck i'm thinking of here has 78 cards, divided into 56 Minors, in four suites, and 22 Trumps.
You use both types of cards, but differently, so separate out the Minors & Trumps.

Shuffle up the deck of Minors. You will be using them, mostly, to generate the numbers used in conflict resolution: The Aces count as 1s, Knaves as 11s, Knights as 12s, Queens as 13s, and Kings as 14s.

The Trumps are the heart of the game. They will be used a couple of different ways, as I will explain below.
Trumps are labeled from 0 (The Fool) to 21 (The World).
Trumps usually have some very nice artwork on them; You will probably want to choose a deck of Trumps whose artwork reinforces the kind of story you want to tell. The Rider-Waite deck is always a good default.

The Players

Each player plays a character who in some way helps and hinders the Fool on his Quest.

The Game
To begin the game, take the Trumps, remove The Fool and The World, and shuffle the remaining cards.

Have someone deal out a Trump to each player – these are your Roles.
Your Role is the heart of your character, but it usually needs some amount of interpretation before you can get a character out of it. For example, if you are dealt The Empress, then maybe you make it easy and write down The Empress, but if you are dealt Strength or Judgement you have to put some more thought into it! This is the first place were the little book comes in handy. The other people around the table can help too!
Your character/role should be stated in terms of a one word description, such as The Emperor, The Maiden, The Dragon, The Explorer, and so on.
When you've figured out who your character is, write that down on a 3x5 card. (This is the only thing that goes on your card, unless you want to take notes on how your character's scenes turn out.)
When you are done deciding your roles, gather all the Trumps back together.

Now you are going to lay out the progression of the Fool's Quest. Each Trump in the progression will form the basis for a scene.
The most straight-forward way to make the layout is to place the cards in order from 0 (The Fool) to 21 (The World). I recommend at least starting off with a game set up this way.
That said, you could try other variations, such as removing the Trumps corresponding to the player's Roles, or determining the order of the cards randomly, or making a bigger or smaller progression, or even mixing cards from different sets of Trumps.
A couple of caveats, however: The Fool must always be the first card in the layout, and The World must always be the last one. That is just the way it is.

Once you have the table set up, you can actually start playing the game. Starting with The Fool, play proceeds along the layout, scene by scene, until The World, whereupon the game is ended. I'll tell you how to do this here.

The Fool

The Fool is always the first card played – after all this is his story we're telling, and he is its protagonist.

Take a blank 3x5 card, and write “The Fool” across the top of it. You might want to leave a lot of space, the Fool's card can get very crowded. Now divide the card into two columns; label the one to the left Weaknesses, and the one to the right Strengths. This is the Fool's character sheet.

Each player gets a go for The Fool, unlike most of the other cards.

Now, choose a player to go first. You can do this however you like – paper-rock-scissors, determine a turn order, pick whomever would be most appropiate, etc.

When it is your go, add a Weakness to the Fool's sheet. Then, narrate a scene, in flashback, depicting how your character and the Fool first met, or are otherwise connected, and how this gives the Fool his weakness. Weaknesses can easily be seeming strengths. Be creative!
As a general note, you should always try to tie your character's scenes into who your character is, as determined by their Role.

When everyone has had their go the Fool will have as many Weaknesses as there are players. He starts with no Strengths – he must gain those through the course of his Quest.

Now, move The Fool's Trump aside, to make it clear you are now on the first step of the Fool's Quest.

The Trumps

As the Fool proceeds on his Quest he confronts Adversity, in the form of the other 21 Trumps.

Adversity is a conflict, which we will resolve using the deck of Minors. You knew they would show up eventually!

Choose a player to draw for the Adversity.

Draw a card for each Weakness, then draw a card for each Strength.
Each Strength card may cancel a Weakness card of equal or lesser value; Place the Strength card over the Weakness card it cancels.
Remember which Strength canceled which Weakness!

Then, choose the highest uncanceled Weakness card.
Have the player drawing the cards narrate a scene where the Fool is confronted by some Adversity from the Trump he is on. Feel free to take inspiration from the Weakness that led to the card, as well as the suite and numeric value of the high card. 

If all the Weaknesses are canceled, then the Fool succeeds on his own strengths.
Choose someone else to narrate a scene where the Fool overcomes the Adversity using his own Strengths. This may happen a lot in the late game for a lucky Fool!
You always want to bring as many of the elements in play into the narration as possible.

If there is an uncanceled Weakness card, choose another player to have a flashback scene.

Draw cards from the deck until their total value exceeds the value of the highest uncancelled card.

If one card is enough, give the Fool a new Strength. Narrate a flashback scene where your character gives the Fool a new Strength that enables him to overcome this Adversity.

If two cards are enough, the Fool succeds, but gains nothing. Narrate a flashback scene where your character helps the Fool overcome this Adversity in some way.

If it takes three or more cards, give the Fool a new Weakness. Narrate a scene in flashback where your character gives the Fool the ability to overcome the Adversity, but also gains some further Weakness.

Once you've done that, then immeadiately have another player narrate a scene in which the Fool uses that flashback scene to overcome the Adversity he faces in the present.

Discard all the Minors and shuffle them back into the deck.

Then, move the surpassed Trump aside, just as you did for the Fool's Trump.

(In the final version, i would like to have an entry for each Trump that has an illustration, its segment from the Fool's Story, and some interpretive flavour text, but since i don't have that yet, and they all are mechanically the same, i'm lumping them together. You'll just have to use your little book and the card itself for inspiration! )

The Roles

The Trumps corresponding to the player character's roles are another special case. When the Fool comes to one of these cards, the player whose Trump it is always gets to go for the Adversity.
They narrate how their character – in the present – opposes the Fool's Quest in some way.
Otherwise the Adversity is resolved as normal.

The cool thing about these scenes is that it is entirely possible for the Fool to kill or otherwise change your character in the present as he overcomes the Adversity you present!

The World

When the Fool reaches the last card, The World, you know it is time for the story to be concluded, thus The World is another special case.

First of all, The World presents a final Adversity to the Fool, which you resolve just as for the other Trumps. Like all the other cards, the nature of the Adversity should be keyed in to the interpretation of the Trump.

Then, you should go around the table and each narrate a final scene describing how the Fool's Quest in some way had significance for your character, and the Fool, and the World.
Use the previous scenes as a guideline, as always!

That should be it.

Hope you enjoy the concept of the game! Feedback is much much appreciated.


Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Adam Dray

Posts: 676

« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2006, 08:07:48 AM »

This is very clever and simple. I like it. To your questions:

Does the game have a premise? I don't see one. Does it make sense what I'd be doing with it? I'm not sure what "it" is in this sentence. If you mean the game, yeah. It's a sort of parlor-style RPG, isn't it? It's Once Upon a Time with more rules and more complex play. I see that the game lets you tell a story. I see that the story could be about something. I don't see that the rules help you make the story about something or Address Premise. I suppose you can strengthen the Fool's Quest so that it represents a Premise and then the players Address Premise by weighing in in favor or against the Quest.

Does the resolution mechanic really work? I dunno. How'd playtesting go? =)

Do you think the Fool's character sheet is likely to get overcrowded with traits? If so, that probably derails the resolution mechanic, no? Playtesting will tell. If it's a problem, write in a mechanism for retiring traits. Keep a maximum of 7 traits or something (7 is the cognitive limit for most people -- the maximum number of things they can hold in their memory and think about at one time).

Is it clear how to narrate the scences, and what to use for inspriation / story elements? I would replace the "determine who goes first however you like" bit with a concrete turn order structure. Draw cards for it, bid for it, something. Simpler is better. Maybe highest draw goes first and play continues clockwise around the table. Do the players have to understand the traditional meanings of the trumps to interpret them "correctly" for a scene, or can they play loosey-goosey with the meanings? It's not clear to me from the rules that each scene should create a conflict that must be resolved (it's there, but it's vague to me). I also don't get the feeling that a conflict will escalate into the next, because of the disjointed nature of the storytelling and the flashbacks. 

Is narrating like this apt to be an enjoyable experience? I'd think so. I enjoy playing Once Upon a Time, which is similar but without the idea of Character. Only playtesting will tell though.

Do you think a Tarot based game is viable? Is it too restrictive? Too open? I like the input of the Tarot here, and I'm not usually into Tarot games. I think a Tarot-based game is viable, yes. How hard would it be to have a dice alternative with a one-page chart of Tarot-card results? I don't know what you're asking about restrictiveness/openness. Can you clarify?


Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Adam Dray

Posts: 676

« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2006, 11:41:29 AM »

Oh, and welcome to the Forge, Stefan, if no one has welcomed you yet. =)

Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777

Posts: 79

« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2006, 02:57:51 PM »

Thanks, and thanks for reading through the (rather messy) draft version!

I'll try to respond to your questions (or are they answers?) fully in my next post; I have to really look into what is going on there before i can find solutions for the issues discussed. Hopefully, it won't take too long!

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream

Posts: 79

« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2006, 08:34:35 PM »

I just found an old thread on Story Games that talks about nothing but proper use of the Tarot to make a game.

You think i'd have learned by now to do my research first and my writing second, but apparently that hasn't happened yet...

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream

Posts: 79

« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2006, 10:35:19 PM »

Restrictive vs Open:

Here i was asking whether the Tarot-inspired story elements (or whatever they are properly called) would be either limit the options available to the players, or allow too many different options to such an extent that the players would be stymied when attempting to narrate a scene.

I'm inclined to think that the guidelines are *not* restrictive enough, at the moment. It seems that even if you just present the players with the card itself (its name), the artwork, the snippet of Tarot story, and the traditional/usual associated meanings that there might be too many possibilities on offer. In a lot of ways, that is exactly what you want for a roleplaying/story game, but it also could be problematic. You could very easily find yourself awash in a sea of possibility. (Although having a bunch of people tossing you ideas is bound to help quite a bit!)

In that Story Games thread it was mentioned that you could make a "word box" for each aspect of the Tarot that could greatly constrain the "story elements" available to draw from, but i really think that might be going too far in the other direction for a game like this.

Dice Alternative:

This would sure make the conflict mechanic easier to fix!
Unfortunately, it would also make the resolution number crunching more removed from the scene-setting part of the game - the cool thing about the Minor cards is that they can also have meanings, even if its just the suit, which can (or must) be developed into "story elements".

I'd also hate to lose the Trumps, as they kinda form the basis for the whole game - the "board", the characters, the scenes - and it would seem pretty inelegant to me for the game to mix a deck of Trumps and a box of dice together. Sure would be easier though...


This is how i think the narration works: It is my go on a new Trump, say The Lovers, so i narrate a scene where the Fool is confronted by "adversity", say (keeping it simple) he finds that two of his friends are developing a heated rivalry over theological matters; They both want him to support their outlook.
Then i pass the go over to another player, say the one with the role of The Emperor. Drawing on The Emperor's authority figure cast, she narrates a flashback where her character, the Fool's father, instills in him the importance of tradition.
Then she gives the go to one of the other players, who narrates a scene in which the Fool brings out his traditionalism to denounce the friend whose theology has drifted too wildly toward the radical. He makes his choice.

Think that might be too many "passings" in there?

It also seems that it might be difficult to pin which traits exactly are a strength versus a weakness. Hopefully it is easier with the cards actually telling you "make this a weakness" or "make this a strength"!

I have to admit i'm not terribly used to having much narration in a game, especially the kind that covers a whole scene, complete with action between multiple characters. 

Addendum: I should put in a note to the effect that the players should agree on some basic elements of the story before playing the Fool's trump - namely things such as the Fool's gender, the basic concept of the Quest, the 'mythicalness' of it all, etc. But once again i don't want to be too restrictive!

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream

Posts: 79

« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2006, 11:02:48 PM »

Potential Mechanical Problems:

The main problem i'm seeing is this: Every time you win or lose a conflict (discount the middle option for a moment) you add a new Trait to the Character sheet. This then makes you draw an additional Card for the next contest, which, if you lose, makes that contest just that much harder. (Vice versa if you win.) If you lost every conflict you would end up having to draw over 20 cards for the final challenge!
If, at any time, you lose/win, you are more likely to keep losing/winning; It is something of a feedback loop. On its own that isn't a bad thing, i'm inclined to believe, it is just that you start ending up with tons and tons of traits (and thus cards).

It seems that i need some sort of limit to be placed on the number of traits that the Fool can have at once, but i'm not sure as to how to go about doing that. Do i set a hard limit (for each category) and not add any more traits? Do i "retire" the old traits that surpass that limit?

One solution might be to make the character sheet a "double circle": The traits are limited to the number of players, (or the mystical number 7), yes, and when an old trait is replaced by a new one, the old one is moved to the "outside ring", and you no longer draw a card for it. This way, the trait is still in play, in terms of use as a story element, but its role is greatly lessened, and the cards cannot run to overload.
However, it becomes much easier (almost inevitable) to acquire a full load of Strengths, counterbalancing the Weaknesses - which cuts out much of the Flashback scenes, with the way i have it written at present.


As far as i can tell the only sort of rewards present are the Traits the Fool acquires, and i'm not sure how far they go. Do you see any more, or think i should add something more explicit?

Resolution Specifics:

I'm tempted to simplify the card-draw resolution from three possibilities - a la Dogs - to the more common two - win (Strength) or lose (Weakness).

Right now it seems that the mechanical conflict resolution isn't really bound to the players all that much - they just draw from the deck, like in Blackjack. This doesn't seem to require enough involvement from the players, unlike in most other games where the players have some sort of resource to resolve a conflict that they can strategize with. Here they just use the Fool's traits to set the difficulty of the conflict.

Perhaps i should reverse this! Use the deck - and perhaps the narration of the Adversity scene - to set the challenge of the conflict, and then use the Fool's traits - and (somehow) the narration of the flashback or resolution - to see if he wins or loses the conflict. If i did that the starting traits could all be Strengths, which would cast the player's Roles in a more positive light vis a vis the Fool. Sound good?   

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream

Posts: 79

« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2006, 11:21:26 PM »

I'll have to save the two biggies - Connecting Scenes/(Narrative Cohesion?) & Premise - for tommorrow.

I have to admit i'm still not eniterly clear on what Premise is exactly. It's the theme and the focus and what the game's about and the big issue you're attempting to tackle, but i still don't get it...

The idea of the Fool's Quest is going to have to be at the heart of the Premise, i imagine - something to do with seeking enlightenment (in whatever form), the people who help one get there, and the effects the journey has on oneself. I don't know how to put that together, though.

I'm hoping the connection between the scenes for each card is helped by the natural progression of the cards, if they're played in order (as they probably always should be). That aside, yeah, i don't see how to tie the story together from one card to the next.   

Interpreting the Trumps & Minors:

I'll chime in on this, some more. I'd imagine that you can play fairly fast and loose with the meanings of the cards - one of the nice things about the Tarot to begin with is that they are intended to be very open ended, and interpretable.
However, i'd like to make it so that you do actually have to use the cards in front of you - and the Fool's traits - when you're narrating out a scene. I wouldn't want you to just drop one of the guiding "story elements" entirely.

Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
Pages: [1]
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!