Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Elthos Tarot - Developmental Thoughts
I'm working on a Tarot based Back-Story development methodology. I'm in the early stage of development on how I want to do this, but I like what I'm seeing so far and thought I’d post a bit about it. I certainly like the concept at any rate. Here are some work-in-progress thoughts.
I have several methods that use the Tarot symbolism as parts of an overall method which I'll refer to as The Elthos Tarot. It can be understood to have the following possible applications (among others which I don't have worked out well enough to even mention yet):
1. I have fit the Tarot onto my alignment wheel, so each card represents an alignment that can be used to help build back story elements.
2. The cards themselves have symbolic correspondences that can be used to fill in story Characters who are representative of Elkron Powers (the Elkron are the Jungian Archetypes and Celestial Forces of the World of Elthos).
3. The cards can be used to give the Characters Tarot Readings as per the normal style which one sees such readings given (ie - different spreads that can reflect on past, present and future, obstacles in the path of progress, inner or outer world considerations and reflections, etc).
4. The cards are also tied to a point system that reflects where the various Elkron are in terms of relative power to one another.
5. The cards can be used as a Fate Point type system to dole out Fate Points to players, which they can use to potentially alter the effects of roles (along the lines of my earlier ruminations about the Poker-Fate Chip system). There would be an associated risk to pulling from the Tarot Deck for the purpose of gaining Fate Points, which is that some cards are ill-omens, and could induce counter effects. This is to keep players from simply pulling from the deck constantly to gain point advantages in the game. The weighting of that risk is important, however, to the success of this particular method, and I am considering different methods of weighting.
6. The cards can be used as markers for specific Characters that act as Flags / Tags for them to be used when they come in contact with Elkronic Forces within the World.
I'm going to focus for now on #2 where I use the cards to fill in Elkron influenced characters in my Campaigns. For example, lets say the party is heading into an underworld area that I know is heavily influenced by Scorpio/Death/Pluto. I might have that card already assigned to that part of the map and when they enter the area I look at the existing cards in the player character's hand. Oh look, I notice that Juliette is holding a Card of Taurus/Dragon who is the Hierophant. Behold, as they come to the path that leads down into the great cavern they come upon an old man who gives a short bow to Juliette, and holds out his tin cup. "Alms for the blind," he says. She, being the nice girl she is, gives him a silver piece, and he tells her that if she and her friends are intending to enter the yonder caverns they must be prepared with Elder Wood Staves (which can be found in a grove not far away) for inside the cave is ... etc.
It's an interesting concept, I think. I love the idea of incorporating the Tarot into the game. In my case I'm working out a pretty complex methodology for using the tarot in a number of different ways, but of course that's not really necessary to use the tarot in your game and have fun with it. I'd be curious to hear if people are doing similar things, and how it works out.
As I wrote this and mulled it over additional thoughts come to mind. One is to let players pull a card when they want. They might do so for example when they are in a tough situation in the hopes they can alter their destiny. Or when they are confused and looking for some clue from the celestials that might help them. Of course without some mitigating risk the tendency might be to pull cards willy nilly whenever something comes up. So I'm thinking about ways to introduce risk to the pulling of the cards. While I might not want the risk to be 50/50 good/bad effect, it should be a method that can be balanced with whatever ratio good/bad the GM decides on for their world.
I have it that the Elthos Tarot fit into the alignment wheel (North = Good, South = Evil, East = Law, West = Chaos). There are 24 Elthosian Tarot, one for each planet and constellation. Each card represents 1 Jungian Archetype via the traditional tarot symbolism, and one Celestial via the Zodiac/Planetary correspondence. The cards also are numbered. For example:
The High Priestess = Virgo Constellation, Lawful Good = Number 2
The Tower = Mars Planet, Chaotic Evil = Number 14
So here's what I'm thinking. The Player / Character pulls a card. Let’s say in this case Juliette pulls The High Priestess. Aside from any other effects, and just talking to the use of this as a Fate Points system, she gets 2 points. It's a Lawful Good card which means she can rely on the outcome being favorable. She can now add two points to any rolls to influence her fate, either in combination or one point to two different rolls.
Now Water Wizard a little later, for the sake of the example, is in dire straights. He decides to take a chance and pull a card. It comes up The Tower. 14 points. But it's Chaotic Evil. That means there is a 50/50 chance that when he uses any of those points on a given roll they will either give a bonus or a minus. The GM will roll that after he declares his decision to use the points from that card. He has 14 points from that card.
Characters can only hold one card at a time. When the use all of the points for the given card it returns to the deck.
Another thought about this that just came to mind... for the time that the character holds any given card they are "under the influence" of that card. So holding the Tower brings with it the risk that the Tower's Elkron will begin to exert influence on the character. If the card is lawful good it might be beneficial to hold onto the card (assuming the party is not antithetical to that
alignment), and not spend the points. But if the card is chaotic evil it might be better to try to spend the points as quickly as possible so you can offload it and get out from under it's baleful influence. GM adjudication required for that aspect, of course.
The effect of the cards based on alignment:
Lawful Good: The card's points always add a bonus to the chosen roll.
Lawful Evil: The card's points always add a minus to the chosen roll, and the Elkron can activate those points at any time (GM can choose any roll to apply them to).
Chaotic Evil: The card's points have a 2/3 chance of adding a minus to a chosen roll, and a 1/6 chance of adding a bonus, or the Elkron can activate those points at any time (GM can choose any roll to apply them to).
Chaotic Good: The card's points have a 2/3 chance of adding a bonus to a chosen roll, and a 1/6 chance of adding a minus, or the Elkron can activate those points at any time (GM can choose any roll to apply them to).
There are some more subtle spreads I can do depending on if the card is Lawful Good, or Good Lawful, etc, but I think what I have there is a simple yet effective spread.
Something along these lines might be workable without being overly complicated. I like the variance, and it reflects the nature of the Elkron in relation to alignment.
One thing I would say is that the Characters usually will not know which card is in which alignment until the get much more versed in the Elthos Tarot, and that knowledge is probably reserved by Mages and the like generally speaking. Just finding out which Cards do what might be the goal of entire quests possibly. Some knowledge on the Tarot will be generally known, but some will be losts in the mists of time. There are mysteries within mysteries when it comes to the workings of the Elkron.
Religious followers of the various Elkron might be affected by the cards in different ways as well. And also the cards themselves might possess powers of their own, be sentient perhaps, and seek to influence events in subtle ways, among many other possibilities. There's a lot that can manifest from the use of these jungian symbols and their celestial correspondences.
The more I think about this, the more I think the method will work. But play testing will tell. My questions will center around the usefulness to the players, and whether or not it establishes the right mood and atmosphere for the appropriate use of the cards. Of course how well it works will depend on the Gamesmaster's narrative skills in terms of how they choose to bring the cards and their effects into the game. A lot can be done with the kinds of ideas that you were suggesting CornMuffin, and the longer a character holds a given card the more likely it is that the card will begin to manifest its energies.
Eventually, when I formalize these ideas after much more play testing I will publish something on my findings and suggested methods of using the cards.