This is a game about creating a unique tarot for a fantasy world, and using a group of companion’s journey to help illuminate the world and the cards.
This is a game for four players.
Each person should add things (if they wish) to two lists: Things We Don’t Want to See and Things We’d Like to See. These refer to elements of the fantasy setting, rather than Lines & Veils (which would have come before Set Up). So if you don’t dig Dragons, you can say “I don’t want to see Dragons.” Players can negotiate about these choices or ask for clarification.
Our tarot deck is set up like a conventional deck: four suits of face cards which run Ace through King, with Page and Knight as face cards (Note: might switch out the gendered names King/Queen), and a Major Arcana of unique cards which run 0 through 21.
Going around the table, each player will come up with a name for one of the suits (Nails, Scythes, Crowns, Hopes, Nothing, Roads, etc). They will then choose up to two themes which their suit revolves around. A list of suggestions will be available, or players can come up with their own.
Next, going around each player will name a character and give a brief description of who they are. They’ll also pick what that person wants. Again, there will be a list or players can choose their own.
These characters will be the comrades in our party. They’re not exclusive to a player and may get picked up to play by anyone later in the game.
We don’t have to delve too deep and it’s better to work in archetypes here.
Next, as a group, decide the purpose of the fellowship. What’s their big quest or journey? Again, list will be offered or they can make their own.
We should be all set for play.
The game is played in two-three rounds, depending on the time you have. In a round we take four turns, one for each player. Over the course of a round, everyone will have the chance to play each of the roles.
Play begins with the FORTUNE role.
The Fortune gives a name to a card, either one of the suit they named or a Major Arcana. They describe a little of what the card looks like and what it means. If the player chooses to name a suit card in the first round, they must name a Major Arcana in the second. If there’s a third round, they can name whichever they choose.
Play then moves to the READER role.
The reader first describes a little more about what the card looks like. The can describe a detail or element which was unobvious on first glance. Then they can choose to DELVE or REVERSE.
If they DELVE they describe a little about what the card’s imagery means in this fantasy world. Do it reflect a real world object? It is commenting on a political situation? Is it saying something about what is present or lost in this world? Basically they have the chance to explain some of the symbolism.
If they REVERSE, they describe the inverse meaning of the card. Based on the meaning described by the FORTUNE, they describe an antithesis or a complement. This doesn’t have to be the negative of the original meaning, but it should be transformed.
Play then moves to the HISTORY role.
The History then describes a situation or event which happened to either one of the Comrades or the party as a whole. This should describe an obstacle, problem, choice, or challenge to their quest and/or their desires. The situation should reflect some element of the card named by the FORTUNE—in meaning or physical details. (i.e. if there’s a cat on the card, the scene could revolve around cats).
Play then moves to the QUEST role.
Here the player takes plays out a scene of a comrade (either the one named by the HISTORY or their choice if the HISTORY described the party in general or more than one companion). They say how they faced the problem presented by the HISTORY. They can choose to narrate the solution/decision or they can play out what happens in character. If they latter, then the HISTORY can add elements or answer questions the QUEST has. The FORTUNE, the READER, and the HISTORY can play other comrades or NPCs as desired here.
Ideally these scenes should be short, 5-10 minutes at most. When the scene feels finished, someone says, “We turn over the next card.” Play then shifts clockwise, with the QUEST becoming the FORTUNE, and so on.
Once everyone has played each role, we begin a second round. It’s a good time to take a break, comment, etc. to signal the restart. If time permits, you can play a third round (or more).
Once that finish the rounds, we move to the READING.
We now do a kind of epilogue in which we build a short reading based on the cards we’ve created. You should let people volunteer for order, or if uncertain then follow the existing order shifting one position from the last scene of the previous round.
The First Reader: The True Challenge
This person reads the prompt: “While we know something of what faced the quest, the true challenge which faced them was this.”
They then announce an established card, telling us how it represents what really stood in the way of the companions: a force, an institution, bonds, history, distrust, etc. The player may choose to narrate the card’s upright or reversed meaning.
The Second Reader: The Final Leg
This person reads the prompt: “While we have heard about the travels and path the quest took them on, the final leg of the journey cost them this.” They then announce an established card, telling us what was lost, sacrificed, or stolen in the final steps. This could be something concrete, it could be a character, it could be a land which fell because they weren’t fast enough. The player may choose to narrate the card’s upright or reversed meaning.
The Third Reader: What Comes to Pass: Hope/Fears
This person reads the prompt: “While we know why they wanted to complete the quest, in the journey they realized something new about their desires which was this.” They then announce an established card, telling us what new hope or fear came upon the quest as they reached the end. This could be a revelation, a revealed cost, a new possibility, or the like. The player may choose to narrate the card’s upright or reversed meaning.
The Last Reader: The Outcome
This person reads the prompt: “But in the end this is what happened.” They then announce an established card, telling us what it means for how the quest ended. They can narrate a little or a lot. The player may choose to narrate the card’s upright or reversed meaning. This narration has the highest stakes, so the player should feel free to check in with the table.