This one's about two decks of cards that I have been using to help me generate ideas for interesting characters. Primarily, as GM, I've been using them to inspire GMCs (GameMaster Characters), but you could easily use them to inspire Player Characters too.
Story Forge Cards
I'd not heard of these until recently but, having received a deck a couple of weeks ago, I've been using them to generate major and minor GMC backstories.
Story Forge Cards are a deck of 88 cards, organised into five suits, which represent "dramatic elements" from which stories can be built. Designed originally as a tool for writers, these also come with encouragement for roleplayers to use them to build characters.
You use them by laying cards into Tarot-like "spreads", designed to generate ideas within a story-structure. There are spreads for classical story structures (mostly useful for writers), and also spreads for character generation: an extensive character backstory spread, and a useful "quick pick" spread for lesser characters.
I've been working on a Major GMC Nemesis for my Tikhon fantasy campaign and, using the cards to generate a backstory, came away with a far more interesting character than I anticipated. The cards also suggested an accomplice minor GMC and so, using the "character quick pick" spread, I also conceived a rather nifty "Lieutenant" for the bad guy.
Very quick and easy... maybe 30 mins for both. Also relatively inexpensive for any GM to add to their arsenal of tools. Recommended!
Although I consider the writings of Caroline Myss to be somewhat questionable and "hokie", she has published a rather natty deck of Archetype Cards.
The deck contains 80 large and very attractive cards, each depicting a key Jungian archetype. The cards are cool, however, because they contain notes on both the "Light" and "Shadow" aspects of each archetype - in short, how each can have a positive and a negative aspect within our persona.
Designed for self-examination, the cards come with a useful booklet of notes on the archetypes - useful if you're new to Jungian ideas - but I've been experimenting with using them to generate ideas for characters.
As a GM, I can draw (say) three cards and then choose one to inspire a minor GMC. I could combine two or three cards to make a more complex major GMC.
As a player, you might draw a bunch of cards (six might work best) and select 2-4 to build the elements of your character. Because the cards represent Archetypes, you can be sure that your hero will combine both positive and negative aspects of the various classical heroic... erm, archetypes. That makes for cool story-telling that taps into the "collective unconscious" sitting around your gaming table.
All in all, these two decks are fast becoming useful tools to inspire and deepen the generation of GMC ideas for my game. They are quick and easy to use, don't require me to reference clunky "idea tables", and tap into my latent but active imagination.
In time, with some practice, I'll try to develop some ideas for using them in a more structured manner... but, to be honest, I don't think there's much more to add other than to shuffle the deck, draw some cards, and see what sparks in your creative firepit.
Hope that's of use to someone.
Labels: cards, characters, GMing, prep, writing