Sunday, 12 July 2009

Feudal Management And Tarot

I have a bad cold today so I'm not going out. I told my wife that it was probably a particularly virulent strain of swine flu and she should stay at home and nurse me from death's door by catering to my every whim, but the heartless woman went to work instead. So instead I'm sitting alone listening to the cricket on the BBC and thinking more about feudal management.

I have a longstanding interest in using playing cards in games. Here's my latest idea for that.

You play your feudal management game - something like Pendragon, Dragon Warriors or AD&D 2e is preferable for the mechanics of the adventuring portion, and you use your own rules or crib those from Pendragon Book of the Manor (thanks to sirlarkins for that), Houses of the Blooded, Birthright or LUG Dune or whatever for the actual resource management bit.

In my mind it would run something like this: the game is divided into "game years" and each year has four seasons. In each season one traditional adventure can be freely undertaken, and a number of management tasks can be completed (though these have a role playing component rather than a boring "I build a new castle" affair). But each season you also randomly determine weather (is the season ordinary, severe or mild?) and a Big Event.

For the big event you could simply roll a d1000 and consult a gargantuan chart, but the thought struck me: wouldn't it be both weird and fun and also rather in keeping with the medieval feel to use randomly drawn Tarot cards to determine these events? (I feel compelled to say I think Tarot as a means of divination is utter bunkum but I find the concept interesting.)

Here's an example: It's winter. The player draws a Major Arcana and comes up with The Heirophant. This means that the table concerning education, knowledge, conservatism and tradition is to be consulted. The player then draws a Minor Arcana and gets the 10 of Wands. The DM consults the Heirophant table, and finds that the 10 of Wands taken with the Heirophant means that the clergy are up in arms pestering the player to build a new library (or whatever).

The problem with this is that it would require a shitload of tables: 22 tables for each Major Arcana, each with 56 entries means...1232 separate possibilities. Repetition is therefore unlikely, but coming up with 1232 different events is a task that I frankly balk at. Maybe many of the entries could be blank, representing the fact that something doesn't happen every single season?


  1. I DMd briefly an RPG (can't remember the name) that used a type of tarot-variant to do task resolution. The idea was that the DM understood the principles behind the cards and could interpret the meaning of any card given the circumstance. Excellent theory! In practice... not so good.

    You could use that here though, if you have a clear set of meanings for the cards (oxymoronic I know, but bear with me...) Then you don't need tables and the cards simply act as spurs for the imagination. You could also use the cards for resolving actions. Maybe three cards, one for the effect (Description), one for the degree of success, and one for... something else? For example, if it's winter and the card is "The Reaper", then you get a swine flu epidemic; if your solution is "prayer" and you draw "The Angel", then divine intervention saves everyone and you get to become a god-king.

    Simple really. Let me know how it works...

  2. @faustusnotes: Wasn't Everway, was it? The Fortune Deck resolution system was quite a handy idea once you got past the New Age-iness of it.

    @noisms: Instead of having ~52 table entries per Major Arcana card, why not use the Minor Arcana suits to determine the manner in which the event manifests? You know: hearts = ideological, coins = commerce, swords = military, wands = mystical. The higher the number of the card, the greater the severity of the event.

    Hierophant +10 of Wands could be "Local temple declares you anathema and starts a campaign of mystical assassination attempts", or it could be "severe and widespread religious revolution".

  3. Chris: Excellent idea. Have a coconut.

  4. Chris, you know I think it was. I was perfectly fine with the New Age-iness of it, but not so happy with the "can't get this quite right" aspect of it. Great idea in theory, as they say.

  5. I have always been fascinated with the idea of using tarot instead of dice in a game. I think it makes it really unique.

    In fact, the 3.5 remake of Ravenloft actually has a few elements which the DM is supposed to randomize with tarot cards. I've liked running that one before.