I know most us aren't actually at GenCon2015, but you are following all the feeds, right? Being a bit of an old-schooler actual news about games is washing over me somewhat, but I'm really enjoying how many people are willing to deliver the experience of actually being there by photographing display stands, stalls and cosplayers. Just a quick browse of any network with Gencon tags is like snorkelling in a geeky Wonderland. Loving it, guys! Here's to all the one-the-spot reporters and sharers. :)
GenCon Indianapolis 2015 image feeds (using just the "GenCon" tag)
Yet again, I'm using this blog to cross-promote my Inked Adventures products. Seemingly mercenary, I genuinely want to share this with you, for some players, this product may, in fact, enhance your overall quality of life, in the way that practical, yet novel, luxuries always do. I appeal, dear reader, to your honest must-have inner drive, which keeps our humble roleplaying industry, nay, capitalism itself, trudging along through recession, like a hardy soldier in mud, spurred on by a rolling of cents and shillings across counters.
These playing cards (to call them merely "playing cards" seems so wrong) are a genuine labour of love, not merely a cynical recycling of my previous geomorphs (not a "cynical" recycling, at least). It is a creation of a thing that I wanted in my own life. No doubt there are many similar products out there, in your local store, on the web, but this feels one relatively unique as far as accessories go, at least aesthetically, and perhaps, conceptually.
No, wait, come back! I had strange experience this week. I thought that I had saturated my social networks and circles with links to the Inked Adventures Map & Dice Playing Cards, but followers and friends are still asking "what is this?" So, maybe I'm far too well mannered in my abuse of social sites for marketing. Perhaps, as always, I'm a little embarrassed that the product isn't my next tile pack for 25-30mm minis (see IA products), since I tease my customers with pre-colour art for most of the year and promise glorious caverns, dungeon expansions, forests and now spacecraft, but completion is slow. This is my first printed product from DriveThruCards (my second on TheGameCrafter) and boy, I am proud of it.
The idea is that if you're an improvising DM who is caught short without dice or a dungeon adventure, perhaps on a holiday ruined by poor weather, you can "wing it" with this pack of playing cards. If all else fails, the people you are with can just play card games, such as poker, blackjack, or go-johnny-go-go-go-go.
On each card (apart from the 2 jokers and a guide card) is (A) a reduced size hand drawn dungeon geomorph area map with descriptive title; (B) three random dice results and (C) a normal card suit and number.
A. Dungeon geomorph area maps.
A dungeon master can use the cards as an inspiration for drawing his/her own dungeon, or pre-planning a map or use the cards randomly in play (as a random dungeon builder). The titles are purely for atmosphere and reference. Naturally, there are some limits to the non-square format of the cards, but overlapping cards on the table can help with this.
The area maps in the spades suit are main entrances/exits and "end of row" geomorphs, these can be removed if you to create an unending "mega-dungeon" level. The geomorphic area maps on the cards can also be used in conjunction with the Inked Adventures large geomorphs set for minis.
B. Dice rolls / random numbers
Although not tied to any specific system, the choice of dice is inspired by older D&D systems where the d20 and d6 are paramount (OD&D, Holmes D&D and clones such as S&W WhiteBox and Delving Deeper), and percentile based games. The dice rolls represented are a d20, d6 and d100. Now, I, know what you're thinking: the probability of those number ranges will not work when spread across 52 cards and that we must never mix cards and dice! Granted, it's a bit of a fudge, so you may want to get the agreement of the other players at the table before you start using the cards for life and death rolls. Playing cards retain fixed probability if cards are always returned to the deck. In the gaps in the maths we've slipped in a few "critical" results, i.e. there's a few extra 1s and 20s on the d20 result and some a bonus 01 and 100 on the d100. In some ways, cards can be better than dice. ;)
(uncropped card art)
The optional Jokers prompt a drawing of two cards and a discarding of the most favourable or least favourable result, depending if it's the "Good Luck" or "Bad Luck" Joker, respectively (see above).
It's important to remember that if you're going to use the cards as random number generators that you may need the whole deck, so this may not be possible if you are using the cards to make a dungeon level map. I'm guessing you can always buy a second deck. ;)
C. Normal Bridge Playing Cards.
Many RPG systems use standard 52/54 card deck for special item effects, NPC traits, character rules, storytelling or even in-play Tarot card substitution. So even as a plain old mundane deck of cards it's is still of use to the tabletop roleplayer. (Hint: they make the perfect gift!)
Creating your own dungeon card games.
I've already been asked by several people whether or not this pack of cards is a game in it's own right. Technically, it's not. It's a map creation and dice accessory, plus it doubles as a novelty pack of bridge playing cards. However, just playing around with the cards can reveal potential. A simple (but flawed) solitaire game I play is a "route finding" adventure. I draw cards at random and place them in a line - North-South or East-West. The object is to escape the dungeon by heading in one direction. Generally cards cannot be rotated (unless the edge of the table is reached or it's an end of row/dead end card). I usually start by heading North (overlapping the cards so the maps join). You must be able to travel from a corridor exit/entrance on the South of the card to the North side of the map on the card. If your way is blocked, you must double back to the starting card and then lay out a new row, heading South or East or West. You win by dealing any (main) stairs or a dungeon exit/entrance card (one of several in the spades suit), but it also depends that the corridors take you there without a dead-end or bypass. The trick is to get out in the fastest time (the least number of cards), but the reward for a slow exit is a pretty dungeon map. Two player race-to-win variants with counters are also possible. In a more advanced game, the d100 result can represent gold coins found in an area, or a "danger rating". A high or low total at the end of play may influence the choice of winner. This probably doesn't read very clearly, but it's an example of random fun which can be had with the deck on it's own, no rpg rules etc. I'm fantasising about designing an extra deck of monsters and treasure with simple system for solitaire dungeoneering, but you may find that you can come up with something far superior using your own system mechanic. The dice results can also be compared like stats in a Top Trumps deck, where the player declares his/her choice of stat (d6, d20, d100 or card value) against their opponent, and the highest wins the card.
Not nominated for an "Ennie"; not on a Kickstarter; and dinosaurs with dice tattoos
I would like to point out that this deck of cards has not been seen at GenCon and has never been on a nomination list, and is not on a Kickstarter, so there will be no reminders of deadline dates and level-up pledges or whatever they are called. But I am fickle man, and it a moment of self-criticism I will tear them from the shelves, to be burnt with other older works in the Stalinist fires of historical perfection. I do, however, reserve the right to spam all my own accounts, until I have a new favourite in my life. Next week it might be dinosaurs with dice tattoos, but for now I worship at this humble altar.
Thanks for reading. May your dungeons be beautiful.
The AD&D 1e premium reprints are now available as PDFs on DriveThruRPG and DnDClassics. We are living in strange and interesting times. After so many downloadable retro clones, after the mighty OSRIC, finally the three main rulebooks for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition) can be bought together in an electronic player-tear-proof format. :)