Fun Card Decks That Can Improve Your Games

Going all the way back to Torg’s Drama Deck (and maybe earlier) I’ve always like the idea of using cards with role playing games. I usually only have them for drawing inspiration from when prepping or if I need a little jump start creatively in play. For character generation, they’re amazing – especially when paired with other methods like lifepaths, relationship maps, or something like Cortex’s Pathways.

I’ve posted about Backstory Cards before. They’re a great and flexible tool that deserves a place in any GM’s bag. The prompts are written in a way that makes them easy to slot into any nearly any setting, but there are also expansions have a more specific flavor like science fiction or horror. There’s also great set of cards called Short Order Heroes. Each card has a character trait on it. You draw as few or many as you think you might need for a character – and they map really well to aspects, distinctions, or similar traits. There are 108 cards in the base deck, plus expansion decks add flavored cards (horror, science fiction, fantasy, etc.) plus cards for relationships, events, and motives cards. I pretty much have the cards handy any time I run a game. The core deck is available from the Calico Games website, as well as expansions available from DriveThruRPG


I also backed a Kickstarter for Decuma a little while ago, because I’m a sucker for cards. It’s a tarot based deck with prompts that are very similar to Backstory Cards. They recently sent out a draft of the PDF (which coincidentally make it so that you could use a regular tarot deck prior to receiving the cards, and the prompts look really good. What I really like about them is they The art for the cards is amazing as well. Golden Lasso Games has a page for the cards where you can get updates on the progress and when it might become generally available.

Decuma: The R&D for your RPG by Golden Lasso Games — Kickstarter

There are other card decks out there that do similar things that I haven’t looked at, such as Session Zero (which does come highly recommended). Plus system specific decks exist by various companies, though those are obviously not as useful as the system agnostic options if you don’t play that game (that didn’t stop me from trying to adapt the Drama Deck to other games).

Finally, another set of cards that aren’t quite the same as the other three decks: Turn Tracker Initiative Cards. They help with keeping things moving around the table when you need to keep track of who is acive, who still needs to act to act, and who’s done. I find them super useful for action order initiative in games like Cortex or Fate where you just need to know who hasn’t taken a turn or not.

Sample mix of cards.

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