Thing That Hit Me on the Subway

February 2, 2009

So you have one stack of cards that’s labeled “complications” on the back. On the fronts of the cards (there are at least 30 of these, maybe more) are listed things like:

  • Unprepared: You lack something that you need.
  • It’s Locked: Your access is forcibly barred.
  • I Don’t Think So: Someone important is unconvinced.
  • It’s a Trap: Someone set you up.
  • Your Mistake: You did something wrong.

Whenever you face a mundane obstacle in the game, you or one of the other players should draw one or more cards from the complications deck (more cards for a tougher obstacle) and narrate them into the current situation. Complications that you draw and narrate can be overcome, but not in this scene. Place the complication in front of you to remind yourself, discarding it in a later scene when and if you overcome the obstacle. Complications that other players draw and narrate can be overcome in the same scene, but only once you’ve satisfied the narrator of the obstacle.

There’s also another set of cards, which for simplicity’s sake I’ll call “monster cards.” Monster cards come in sets of multiple cards, with each set representing the various complications that a single monster creates. Once the group decides that a monster has appeared, it places the set of cards for that monster on the table and also draws a number of mundane complication cards. Perhaps the number of mundane complications is listed on the back of the monster cards or, even, when you draw a monster card it tells you to additionally draw 0-2 mundane complications. The monster card descriptions are much more vivid and less general than the mundane complication cards. For example:

Kayongo (Card #3 of 6)
Kayongo is a the spirit of an ancestor who was gifted with the power of divination. Twisted by dark science, Kayong blast a horrid vision of the future into the mind of the target character.

Monster cards are implemented in play just like mundane complications, but with their associated mundane complications occurring when the target character attempts to overcome the monster card. For example, if my character screamed and shook his head frantically in an effort to clear the vision from his mind, he might draw the complication “It’s Locked,” which could be interpreted to mean that he’s stuck seeing the vision until someone figures out how to stop it. Or, if my character had tried to fire his gun at the monster, maybe it jams.

There’s also probably room for “monster” style complications that aren’t monsters, but since I was pondering this in relation to Mwaantaangaand, that’s what came to mind first. On the whole though, this seems like the makings of a pretty cool diceless, GMless, pacing-based, low impact system.

2 Responses to “Thing That Hit Me on the Subway”

  1. Matthijs Says:

    The “complications” deck sounds pretty similar to what Itras By uses – a set of cards with “yes, but…”, “yes, and…”, “no, but…” and similar. The clinch is that you say what you want your character to do, and another player draws and interprets the card. It’s extra fun when the GM also has to use these cards – “my favorite NPC blows up the tower!” “No, but he manages to blow up the sewers underneath it.”

  2. Jonathan Walton Says:

    That does sound similar, but I’m more interested in figuring out a way to make the complications really colorful and setting-specific instead of universal and value-neutral. It’s going to be difficult, I think, to make them both specific and also universally applicable to any situation you might draw cards for.

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