Monday, February 19, 2018

A Dragon On Dragons


It is one thing to read about dragons...
and another to actually meet them.

Your kind view us as giant flying snakes with lions-heads. You look at our forms, but you do not truly see us. You see the scales, the wings, the fire-breath, but you do not see the dragon.

We are like cicadas

Silently dwelling under ground, organizing, biding our time, known only to those who know to look for us, but otherwise forgotten. For ages, to you, we slumber, until the time is right- and then we wake, filled with wrath and fury! Our wings fill the skies and block out your sun! Then, as suddenly as we appeared, we are gone again without a trace, returned to our saturnian dwellings, waiting once again, dreaming of the next great rampage.

We are like magpies

So enamored with the beauty of things, we adorn our nests, our homes, with all things gilt and glorious. Your kind whine, "Oh what could the big lizard possibly need such wealth for? He'll never spend it on a thing!" But I ask this of you: Of what value in exchange is treasure unworthy of possession? Treasure is valuable in its own right, for its own sake, for the pleasure it was designed to bring! Only fools and the weak would willingly trade a fortune in joy for a meal he could otherwise have taken. Like dragons, the magpies have no fools, far wiser than any king of man.

We are like house cats

If we dwell among you, it is because we choose to do so, and not because of any act of man. If we attack you, it is because it amuses us to do so, and not because of any personal slight. Those among you are thought of as "domesticated" despite your complete inability to control us, while those in the wild are thought of as "stray" and somehow more dangerous than the 50-foot death-god sleeping in the old watch tower. When we hunt, we kill for the joy of it, hunting in ways which extend the thrill of the chase, toying with our prey, letting them think that there is hope where there is nothing but our waiting jaws. We take territory, and protect it with jealousy, fighting fang to talon from others who would challenge our stake of land.

But most of all, we are like men

Filled with lust and violence, our skulls inset with lying tongues. Our minds are filled with cynicism and vitriol, our thoughts are devious and cruel, our desires are darker than any words can hope to match... And yet, somehow, despite all of this, we still manage to find the time to brew a pot of tea and have a polite conversation about esoteric philosophies and symbolic abstractions. While filled with hate, we sign treaties; while filled with rape, we sign laws. We shape the land and all who live within it to our will. Your kind are but mere pawns in the games the dragons play.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Homebrew Curse of Strahd Adventure

The following is a homebrew adventure for the Curse of Strahd D&D board game.

ADVENTURE STORY

You have arrived in the grim town of Barovia, on the demiplane of Ravenloft. This realm is ruled by Count Strahd, a powerful vampire, who enacts his cruel and unjust rule upon the captive citizens through violence and fear. Only Count Strahd knows how to leave this land, and he remains hidden in his palace-crypt, Castle Ravenloft.

ADVENTURE SETUP

Place the start tile on the table.

Place Kavan on the bone pile adjacent to the staircase.

Place each hero adjacent to the staircase.

Get out and set aside every single game piece. Group them by type.

Shuffle and put all of the monster tokens face-down into the box lid or a cup so they may be randomly drawn.

Set aside the Icon of Ravenloft token with its adventure treasure card.

Shuffle and put all of the other item tokens face-down into the box lid or a cup so they may be randomly drawn.

Shuffle the coffin tokens and place them face-down in the box lid or a cup so they may be drawn randomly.

ADVENTURE RULES

The Curse of Strahd: To prevent people like you from easily attacking him, to protect his power, and to keep the people of Barovia under control, Strahd has cursed the crypt. Every time a person enters the crypt, the layout completely changes, making it nigh impossible for a single person to make any kind of progress. If there are no heroes in the dungeon at the end of a player’s turn, remove all tiles, tokens, and monsters from the board, shuffling any active parts back into their respective piles/decks.

The Sun: Place the sun token on the 12 hour sun track. Each time a hero draws a white tile, move the token one space to the right. When it reaches the end of the track, the sun sets and the dungeon becomes more dangerous as the Night Effects rule begins. During night time, each time a hero draws a black tile, move the sun token one space to the left. When it reaches the start of the track, the sun rises, and the Night Effects rule ends.

Night Effects: At night, each player draws an extra encounter card at the start of their villain phase.

The Attack: If any 3 different villains are defeated at least once each before the third sunset, The Attack rule ends. On the third sunset, Count Strahd launches an attack on Barovia, destroying their businesses and institutions, and killing their leaders and professionals, leaving the town a burning disaster area, crawling with monsters. The Town rule ends, and monsters who take their “otherwise” condition instead move 1 tile in the direction their tile is pointing. Each time a monster is on a staircase tile at the end of a player’s turn, it is removed from the dungeon and the player must discard a healing surge token.

The Town: If a hero ends their turn adjacent to a staircase, they can leave the dungeon. At the start of their next turn, they take a Town Phase. During this phase, they may do any of the following, once each:

  1. Discard 1 XP card to draw 1 treasure card, or discard 1 treasure card to the XP card pile, representing 5 XP. 
  2. The player may discard a minimum of 10 XP, or an item token, to buy an extra healing surge token.
  3. The player may discard a healing surge token and add an unplayed hero to their control. Each hero gets their own separate turn.
  4. If the player is holding an item card, item token, or adventure treasure card, they may choose to leave it in storage in Barovia instead of bringing it back into the dungeon with them. (A token that is paired with an adventure treasure card, like the Icon of Ravenloft, must move with its card.) The player may also choose to retrieve any items in storage.

At the end of their town phase, the hero is placed on a square adjacent to a staircase, restores HP equal to their healing surge, and ends their hero phase.

Rewards: The first time each hero returns to town after destroying Klak’s Artifact, that hero is rewarded by the Cleric, by drawing 1 treasure card. If a hero returns to town with the Icon of Ravenloft, they may give it to the Cleric  (discard it) and draw 1 treasure card per player, ending The Attack rule. If Kavan has been cured and exits the dungeon, each hero draws 1 treasure card. If a hero returns to town with Gravestorm’s Phylactory, they may give it to the Cleric (discard it) to make that dragon their servant, in return for 3 treasure cards.

Special Treasure: Whenever a player would draw a treasure card, they may discard an XP card to instead draw a treasure token.

Coffins: If a tile with coffins is added to the dungeon, place a coffin token on that coffin. A player may open a coffin by picking it up as an item. When a coffin is opened, follow the directions written on it.

Strahd’s Army: When a hero would place a monster on a tile during their exploration phase, they first draw a monster token. They add the specified number of monsters to the tile instead. If a specific monster or villain is drawn, add them in the place of a monster.

Artifact Effects: If a hero cancels an encounter card, they take 1 damage. Whenever a hero draws a white tile, they may discard a treasure card to gain a new power, by shuffling their unused power cards and drawing from the top of it. These effects end if Klak’s Artifact is destroyed.

Kavan: This villager is the person who opened the crypt for you. He has been bit by Lord Strahd, who is trying to turn him into a vampire thrall. Because the monsters recognize him as one of them, he may move freely throughout the dungeon. Monsters on the same tile as Kavan do not activate during a villain phase. Villains on Kavan’s tile still activate, but their attacks and effects do not target him. Traps still target him, and he has 4 HP. During a player’s hero phase, they may use one of their moves to move Kavan instead. Kavan has a speed of 5.

Kavan’s Vampiracy: When the sun sets, Kavan becomes a vampire, using the Young Vampire card. When the sun rises, he turns back into Kavan. If Kavan is cured and adjacent to a staircase at the end of a player’s hero phase, they may have him leave the dungeon, but he can not return.

Howling Hag: Among the monster tokens is the Howling Hag. If her token is drawn, place the Howling Hag villain on the tile instead of a monster. If she is in the dungeon already, she instead teleports to the new location. Even if she has already been defeated, if her token is drawn again, she returns to play.

TILE RULES AND EFFECTS

Chapel: Each player with a hero in the dungeon places a monster on the chapel tile. Place the icon of ravenloft token on the chapel’s altar. Until the icon is removed from the dungeon, each player draws an extra encounter at the start of their villain phase.

Laboratory:  Place the villain, Klak, on the Laboratory tile’s bone pile instead of a monster, unless Klak is already in play. Place Klak’s artifact on the laboratory tile. If Klak’s Artifact is destroyed, the Artifact Effects rule ends. Place The Gravestorm’s Phylactory token on the laboratory table. The phylactory may be picked up as an item. Even while being carried, the phylactory can be attacked and has 1 HP and 0 AC. If a hero is carrying the phylactory, any attack which targets that hero targets the phylactory instead.

Dark Fountain: If Kavan is still in the dungeon, place 4 HP on the fountain. If a hero and Kavan are on the Dark Fountain tile at the end of a hero phase, remove 1 HP from the dark fountain. As long as the Dark Fountain tile has at least 1 HP, each hero adds 2 monsters to the dungeon within 2 tiles of themselves at the end of their hero phase. If the dark fountain has 0 HP, the Kavan’s Vampiric rule ends.

Arcane Circle: Place the Gravestorm Dracolich villain on the Arcane Circle tile’s bone pile instead of a monster, unless it is already in play. If a hero is holding Gravestorm’s Phylactory, replace every instance of the word “hero” on its villain card with the word “villain or monster”, as the Dracolich will fight in your service as long as you hold its soul hostage. While a hero is holding Gravestorm’s Phylactory, Gravestorm counts as a hero. If Gravestorm’s Phylactory is or has been destroyed, Gravestorm loses 10 HP instantly. Place 5 Time Tokens on the Arcane Circle tile. Each time a hero begins and ends a single hero phase on the Arcane Circle tile, discard 1 time token. If all 5 tokens are discarded, the Howling Hag rule ends.

Secret Stairway: Place the Zombie Dragon on the Secret Stairway tile’s bone pile instead of a monster, unless it is already in play.

Rotting Nook: Place the Zombie Dragon on the Rotting Nook tile’s bone pile instead of a monster, unless it is already in play.

Workshop: Place the Flesh Golem on the Workshop tiles bone pile instead of a monster, unless it is already in play. Shuffle the 6 reaction tokens and place them face-down as a stack. Instead of attacking the golem, a player may give it a treasure token or item treasure card (by discarding it) and draw a reaction token. If the player draws an enrage token, the golem attacks twice this turn. If the player draws a calm token, put it on the golem’s villain card. If the Golem has 3 calm tokens on it, its only action is to move 1 tile in the direction it’s current tile is pointing. If the Golem is on a staircase tile at the end of a player’s turn, remove it from the dungeon. If it did not have 3 calm tokens on its card, The Town rule ends, as the Golem rampages, destroying everything of value.

Strahd’s Crypt: Instead of drawing a monster, place Strahd on the bone pile of the Strahd’s Crypt tile. If he is already in play, place him there anyways and return him to full HP.

RUMOURS

Kavan was bit by Lord Strahd, and is turning into a vampire. To protect his friends and family, he has locked himself into the crypt. He has opened the door to let you in, in the hopes that you will help him end his curse.

The Howling Hag is everywhere in the dungeon. She attacks mercilessly and without warning, making the dungeon utterly inhospitable. She is sustained by a magic circle.

The Howling Hag’s magic circle can be destroyed, if a living person stands within the circle for a certain amount of time. After this, she need only be slain to be sent to her eternal rest.

The Howling Hag’s magic circle is protected by Lord Strahd’s most powerful servant, the Dracolich, Gravestorm.

Gravestorm is a fickle monster, who serves Strahd out of fear alone. If Strahd did not have Gravestorm’s Phylactory, it would not serve him.

Gravestorm’s Phylactory is protected by Klak, one of Strahd’s minions.

Klak maintains a magical Artifact which spreads the evil and chaos which emmenates from the dungeon and shrouds Barovia in danger and misery.

The Icon of Ravenloft is a treasure from before Strahd’s rule, belongs to the people of Barovia, and prevents evil from entering its domain.

There is a secret stairway out of the crypt, but it is guarded by a zombie dragon.

Strahd has been building new minions to bolster his army, but so far they are stupid, and easily converted to be allies.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Story By Cards

The following is a copy of my own notes while practicing story writing while using playing cards for prompts when I hit writers block. It has been left as-is. Feel free to take a look for an example of what this method can do. If you just want the results, scroll to the bottom and read the draft of the story.

PROMPT: Past-Present-Future Spread

6H 8S XD

==========

SIX OF HEARTS MEANINGS

A Boot, Sax, Sex, Spotter, Whiteskin
From the changes of the 5 comes the need to ADJUST to the value of 6.
Exhausted from all that change and restlessness, Sixes don't like to move forward. The past needs to be reevaluated and reflected upon. We need to stop, look and listen. Sixes bring us people from our past, feelings, thoughts and health issues we may need to deal with not later, but NOW. Debts repaid, or entered into. Sixes are karmic - the result of past actions or the sowing of seeds to come. For good or for worse, things remain the same.
Diamonds - Values - Security - Dharma
6 of Diamonds - Completion of Obligations
Karma for the 6 of Diamonds - True Worth
Six of Diamond symbolizes the need for understanding VALUE. A very successful and satisfactory life can be built for the Six of Diamond when money is not made the sole objective.
The acquisition of knowledge is not easy for the Six of Diamonds; there are obstacles and frustrations for them. There may be difficulty in acquiring an education in early life -- or there may be unwillingness to bother with it on their own part. Money, however, is vital to the people born under this card. Often times they want to begin earning it even before they know where, or how! The women of this Card should strive not to depend on their personalities for success, and the men not seek a wealthy marriage to promote their own objectives.
For both men and woman Six of Diamond, finances tend to go to extremes and remain in one state for a long time -- either way up, or way down.
An early marriage, but an unhappy one and one not destined to last. A second marriage would also be unhappy.
Balance
Responsible
Nurturing
Sixes are order, union, fairness, and cooperation.
(The Payer)
Card of Financial Responsibility
This card represents taking full responsibility for payment of financial debts, handling investments, or the need to start budgeting your finances. It may indicate an overall improvements in your finances. Help may come from family and friends in the repayment of loans. Money might be spent on a vehicle, as in purchasing or trading in a car, paying a car loan off, spending money for mechanical repairs, or troubles on a car trip.
Relationship problems, arguments. Separation.
Problems in a second marriage.
ANXIETY Further material unrest; one is starting to lose control of that which is in and around one.
The 6 of Diamonds more or less assures steady progress and as you continue to move forward, you will be recognised for all that you have achieved. Enjoy this time of peace while it lasts and make the most of it.

==========

EIGHT OF SPADES MEANINGS

Fat Lady, Ocho, Snowman, 8 Land, Race track, Time travel, Hog Nads, Spotter, Whiteskin, Pusher, Spot
From the victory of the 7 comes the POWER of the 8.
8s are a strong number and seek CONTROL.
Eights are the number of will, strength and force. They can be bossy and must be handled with care! The number 8 is the number of work and gains that are made because of that work. In its positive state, the vibration of the 8 will get us back to where we want to be. It has restorative powers. In its negative state, the vibration of the 8 will attempt to conquer and destroy.
Spades - Wisdom - Labor - Acceptance
8 of Spades - Power in Work
Karma for the 8 of Spades - Materialism
These people have a keen sense of their inherent obligation to work. They have been known to tax their health and sacrifice their loved ones in their drive to get things done. The Eight of Spade often ends up inheriting property or money from their parents or will otherwise obtain substantial help from family members.
Although primarily concerned with hard work, this Card does have a higher calling. It is often considered the Healers Card. Should the 8 of Spade use their enormous spiritual energy, and the application of higher wisdom to accomplish their goals, they are sure to find their place among the great ones.
Still another class of Eight of Spade will realize nothing besides their innate power. They work solely for the amount of money they can amass, and the joy of being called a "big shot"!
False friends, traitors, someone who will betray. Most of the trouble can be avoided if caught early on. Examine all relationships closely.
Power
Abundance
Movement Eights are special, powerful, successful, well-organized, and contain wealth.
(The Workaholic)
Card of Work
This card represents health and work matters. Obstacles can be overcome. Opposition may be present from others. Examine relationships closely. A crossroad relating to work or friends. Plans may go awry or friends let you down. Time for a vacation.
Temptation, misfortune, danger, upsets.
Trouble and disappointment. Plans go awry. Friends let you down. Cancellations.
LOSS The loss of something physical or mental.
The 8 of Spades brings with it obstacles, disruptions and unforeseen problems. It can be very easy to feel like there is no end to the bad luck or that there is not a way out, but as long as you only try to make small changes rather than big ones at this time, progress can still be made.

==========

TEN OF DIAMONDS MEANINGS

Dime, Sawbuck, Bo Derek, Spotter, Whiteskin, Broadway Card, Honor Card, Big Cassino
The last number - the biggest number - the sum total. This is the number of SUCCESS, the number of achievement and the number of fulfillment.
10s are usually a wonderful number to have in predictions and will strive to give their best and create success and fulfillment. On the other hand, the 10 is very capable of reducing itself to the number 1 (1+0=1) and when this happens, the inflated ego creates a false sense of security and we end up tripping over our own personal pride.
Diamonds - Values - Security - Dharma
10 Diamonds - Material Control
Karma for the 10 of Diamonds - Expediency in Associations
The Ten of Diamond is the most important of the money Cards, and not surprisingly, placed in the exact center of the Life Spread of Cards. Man chose to make money the pivotal point around which all life revolves, and the 10 of Diamond is the most powerful of the money cards to symbolize it's success.
The majority of 10's of Diamond make excellent merchants, and marketing execs, and will almost always succeed - one way or another - where money is concerned.
The 10 of Diamonds like to stand well in the world, and want their surroundings to give evidence of prosperity. The positive 10 of Diamonds have a strong sense of universal obligation, and enjoy shining their spotlight of success on those less fortunate. While the negative 10 of Diamond are able to amass their fortunes with equal brilliance, they are ruthless, and known to be self-centered.
Money. Money being the driving force of a journey or partnership. Greed.
Renewal
Accomplishment
Success Tens are ambitious, successful, powerful, and can be obsessive.
(The Money Tree)
Card of Prosperity
This is a card of financial success and is the best money card to appear. There will be financial success, especially in a business which requires travel. This is a great card to have when starting a business. Changes are occurring with financial success.
A change in financial status, often for the better.
Money and travel highlighted. Fortunate changes.
FRAUD Lies, deceit, sin.
The 10 of Diamonds is a card of achievement and it is very likely that there has been success and reward. The only negative side to this card is that it may be too much of a good thing; an example of this is where you may have been working for a promotion, but now there is just too much work to handle.

==========

Brainstorming:

A lone man, driving his old green car through the woods on a foggy and overcast early morning.
He just finished having sex with his ex wife from his second marriage.
He is on his way to pay off a debt.
His life is spinning out of control, and he is desperate.

Seeks power and control
Attempts to conquer and destroy
Materialism
Willing to sacrifice loved ones to achieve his goals
came into an inheritance
Betrayal- obvious in hindsight
Workaholic
Plans may go awry or friends let you down. Time for a vacation.
Temptation, misfortune, danger, upsets.
Loss
Meeting with the assassin

Success
False Ego
Ruthless
Self-Centered
Greed
Renewal
Fraud, lies, deceit, sin

This is apparently a revenge story, with a thoroughly unpleasant protagonist. I need to justify his vengefulness, and add some element of interest surrounding the protagonist. He can't just be a wretch who has his ex killed for money.

Perhaps the ex won custody in the divorce? Bad, but not worthy of execution.

What of the second ex? How does she fit in? Should she fit in? :O WAIT! What if the second ex IS THE ASSASSIN HE HIRED?

OK, So maybe we can add in the second ex manipulating him, tricking him, lying to him, which partially inspired him to hire an assassin. In the second act, he discovers her betrayal, laments the needless death of his former wife, and then fears for his own life. Instead, he confronts her.

In the end, somehow, he gets out of it. Maybe he kills the assassin or something? Seems a little extreme- he only acted as a second party until now. Hm.

So what was the assassint lie though? How could she inspire such wrath in him? Let's draw another card to act as a significator for our protagonist.

Our protagonist is a King of Hearts. Let's just read that one a bit...

Cowboy, K-Boy, Knight, Monarch, Sergeant, Coat Card, Court Card, Face Card, Figure, Liner, Paint, Paintskin, Picture, Picture Card, Redskin, Rembrandt, Royal Cards, Picasso, Monkey, Broadway Card, Honor Card, Charlamagne, Charles, Suicide King
Hearts - Emotions - Relationships - Love
King of Hearts - Paternal Love
Karma for the King of Hearts - Easygoing Inactivity
By nature, these people are the most desirable people on earth and the most worthy of love. They will respond to any true call for help from any quarter - and you can forget to thank them if you choose; it will make no difference to them.
The front they present to the world is kindly, friendly and magnetic. They give an impression not so much of power but of peace, protection and "safe harbor". Within themselves, however, they know they have the full power of love, a power invincible!
Sometimes, we find the Kings of Heart are quarrelsome and overbearing. They are met with constant disappointment in others, and are frequently deceived or betrayed.
When we meet a King of Hearts on their own terms and tune into their love and kindness, they never bring us anything but joy. They are the heart and center of family life, and harmonizer of friends.
Represents an influencial man, someone who has the power or ability to do something good for the querent.
Leader
Power
Wisdom Kings are fathers, teachers, leaders, discipliners, and in positions of power.
(The Saint)
Card of Holiness
This card represents an influential man, someone who has the power or ability to do something good. It can represents a man who is a loving father, the conception or birth of a child, the perfect lover, or partner. He is very romantic and passionate. He is affectionate and emotional, but is give to rash judgments.
A fair-haired man with a good nature; or a man with Water signs predominating in his chart. Fair, helpful advice. Affectionate, caring man. This man helps you out without much talk. His actions reveal his kindness and concern.
A good-natured, fair-haired man. Good advice.
SELF-DESTRUCTION The taking of oneself, literally or figuratively, for selfish and worthless causes.
This is an extremely affectionate King who is looking for love and an emotional connection. He wants to settle down and is very family minded and is not afraid to show how he feels.

Aha, of all the cards, the suicide king! He's self-destructive at least!
Frequently decieved and betrayed.
Easily disappointed by others
Has the power to do something good for the querent- the querent being himself in this case.
I like the idea of him being a more mild-mannered sort. Perhaps a teacher?
Given to rash judgements

Ok, so he's an overall good person, but he's gone through a string of bad luck. Two major relationships in his past resulted in divorces. Part of that is likely his fault- he jumps to conclusions, and judges people too easily. He is a negative of the KH. He wound up being convinced because of his easily agreeable nature, and because he makes decisions too easily without enough information to make informed decisions.

But what was the lie?

OK, let's draw a card for our antagonist: The assassin ex

She's a 4 of Hearts.

Boat, Four Spot, One Legged Ace, Broken Ace, Sailboat, Sharp Top, Spotter, Whiteskin, Wheelcard
The opportunities of the 3 bring the need for structure and SERVICE as symbolized by the number 4.
4 is a base number and is considered the number of luck and good fortune. Sometimes, we can feel TOO lucky with this number and we wind up feeling smug, complacent or stubborn.
Positively expressed, 4s symbolize SATISFACTION.
Negatively expressed, 4s are lazy and bored!
Hearts - Emotions - Relationships - Love
4 of Hearts - Protection in Relationships
Karma for the 4 of Hearts - Self Satisfaction
The majority of people born with this card have a strong sense of fairness, justice, tolerance, and understanding. They make good judges, counselors, leaders, and directors. There is also a strong attraction to the theatre - and with even a small amount of talent, a measure of success in this field is assured.
The pitfall of this Card is self-satisfaction. The negative 4 of Heart can become very smug, taking all the credit for their success. When this happens, their success does not last long. Self alone has no power for this Card. The 4 of Heart should never ask what can this person, this job, or this project do for them, but rather - what can I do for thee!
The Four of Hearts have so much to give to the world! And if only they could realize their satisfaction in life is measured by the amount of their giving.
The bachelor or old maid card. This card represent someone who is too fussy in their selection of a partner. Someone who, by their picky nature, is destined to remain alone.
Stability
Hard Work
Formation Fours are stable, fortunate, serious, and protective. Fours are dependable.
(The Protector)
Card of Commitment
The card means feeling protected and secured in love, marriage, and/or family. This card is a strong indicator of commitment or marriage. The card has a positive influence for a happy family and social life. The foundation of love is strong when this card appears.
Travel, change of home or business.
A change, a journey or a move of house/business. A late marriage.
INSPIRATION That spark of genius that arises when one is touched by love.
A solid emotional state is indicated by this card. This can refer to the way you are feeling inside or to a relationship or friendship. No matter what may come, the strength of these feelings and relationship connections will stand strong and not be shaken.

"Broken Ace", I like that.
Complacent and smug- she thinks she has this in the bag
Also lazy- her arrogant sloppyness is what is her undoing
Her pickiness is what undid her marriage to our hero; she divorced him.

Hm. Not much to use as a deception there. Maybe, instead of looking at the liar, I should look at the lie itself...

THE LIE TOOK THE FORM OF THE ACE OF DIAMONDS

Alas, As-Nas, Bull, Bullet, Eyes, MasterCard, One Spot, Rocket, Seed, Sharp Top, Spike, Spot, No-Spotter, Whiteskin, Wheelcard, Broadway Card, Honor Card, Pig's Eye
The Beginning "I AM". The Ace ranks supreme importance as the ego and we call it the ACE.
The Ace is the Card of DESIRE. It is the WISH Card, the HOPE and the I WANT.
If we can turn our desire for self into a desire for ALL, the Ace may be called the Card of the ALTRUIST.
Diamonds - Values - Security - Dharma
Meaning of the Ace of Diamonds - I AM Worth.
Karma - Acquisition
Ambition is the key word for this card, and usually in form of cold, hard, cash.
Contacts are very important to the Ace of Diamond. They like secrecy in connection with their associations; both business and personal. The Ace of Diamond can be incredibly charismatic, able to focus their magnetism to achieve success. They are curious about metaphysics and spirituality, but they have a hard time believing in such things unless they can profit from them.
There can be a lot of obstacles and difficulties for this card - and it's mostly the women who suffer in the realm of relationships and matters of the heart. The negative Ace of Diamond has issues with greed for money and power. The positive Ace of Diamond are willing to love for love's sake alone, thus able to reap the personal and material success so strongly desired.
an important message. A letter or package/gift arriving, the contents of which are very important.
Beginnings
Independence
Self-Discovery Ones have positive energy in the start of a cycle. Ones contain ambition, activity, and drive.
(The Ally)
Card of Messages
This card represents an important message that will be received regarding a union in either love or business. It also means the desire for money or enterprise in earning money. In love, the card can signify a marriage proposal. In business, a new partnership is forming which will be financially beneficial.
Change; a message, often about money, and usually good news.
A ring or present of jewellery. News about money. A letter.
MATERIALITY The physical; the temptations.
The Aces represent a beginning or new journey. The Ace of Diamonds shows new beginnings in relation to new projects and ventures and can also indicate working or socialising with a group of people who draw out the creative aspects of your personality.

Seed. He's supposed to be fatherly, and I already considered a custody loss in the backstory... Hm... Perhaps something regarding his children?
Ambition for cold hard cash. That is indeed the motivation behind the lie.
Secrecy regarding social connections
She seduced him as a part of the lie.
An important package or letter- the initiation of the lie was delivered.
The lie is at the very beginning of our story; it is the root of all events that unfold.
The letter regarded either love or business.
Physical temptation

So, really, our story is more of a mistery plot founded upon a revenge plot in the prologue.

But this is a terrible situation he's in! He's banging the villain, and he doesn't even know it! If he isn't careful, what's stopping her from killing him and taking everything all for herself??

How is he going to escape this black widow's web? How will he even discover that he's trapped??

OK, I already decided that she will be discovered due to laziness. But what, specifically, could it be? There's only two things connecting Four to the con through King:
1. A falsified paternity test and letter.
2. The money paid for the assassination.

The letter being around is pretty convincing OF the lie, so I'm not sure how it could backfire.

The money though... Maybe if she did something stupid with it that makes its value stand out to King in some way? It's all in cash though... What about the packaging?? Maybe he sent it in a particular box- and one day he found it back in his home and empty!

But what of the climax?! How does he get out of this? Let's leave it to chance! Time for one last single card draw!

THE FIVE OF HEARTS

Five Spot, Nickel, Pedro, Fever, Spotter, Whiteskin, Wheelcard
From the stability of the 4 comes the RESTLESSNESS of the 5.
Fives symbolize CHANGE. Life is change: "Creation, Preservation, Dissolution". As well, the middle point of anything is the point of change as either which way, nothing will ever stay the same. The number 5 IS that middle point.
5s symbolize fluctuations, travel and variety. A fickle heart or a fickle mind. A new experience is most definitely desired.
Hearts - Emotions - Relationships - Love
Five of Hearts - Changing Affections
Karma - Dissatisfaction With Personal Life
Five of Heart want complete and total satisfaction in everything. No half measures! Trouble is, things never seem to happen that way - so all the good stuff must be elsewhere! Not.
The people born with this Card tend to seek, then change, then experiment, then scatter their forces to the wind. When their position in the charts brings obstacles and difficulties, they often blame it on their environment or associations, and they fondly imagine they can escape it all by moving on. Socially, the 5 of Heart are oh so vibrant, fun, and full of spit and vinegar! On the inside however, their quandaries tax their health and leave them gasping for air.
There are of course, those 5 of Hearts who have learned to accept their circumstances and make the very best of them. There are also the "lucky" 5 of Hearts; ones who profit by gifts and inheritance!
Indecisiveness: The querent's inability to make up his/her mind on a subject. A tendency to make and break plans with others.
Change
Freedom
Variety Fives are adventurous, free spirited, versatile, and progressive thinkers.
(The Separator)
Card of Separation
This card represents changes in love, family, or home. There may be a chance for a separation, break-up, or divorce. It could also represent changes to a home, such as remodeling, moving to a new location, or a family member leaving the home. It could be as simple as a trip or a family member going off to college. In relationships, there may be a need to worry over indiscretions. Also, plans may be broken during this time.
Jealousy; some ill-will from people around you.
Jealous people around you. Take your time to make any decisions.
APATHY Disinterest. One of the more dangerous of the evils.
There may be disruptions in feelings and relationships when this card appears. You will do yourself no favours by turning a blind eye to the turmoil. If you can face the disturbances now, it will help with the upheavals and doubts.

He pulls a switcheroo of some sort.
He cuts her out of his life.
He changes the locks.
He sends the kids away to somewhere safe.

OMFG HE CONFRONTS HER.

He deliberately antagonizes her, forcing her to take desperate action. She's put too damn much into this con to give up now just because he's having a fickle heart! She's falsified documents before. She's killed for money before. She can do both again! With no kids in the house, there will be no witnesses.

She breaks in, fully intending to force him to sign a false will leaving almost everything to her, with paltry inheritance for the children. He stalls. He wastes her time. He starts arguments over little things and major things, he never signs the paper. Then the police arrive, responding to an anonymous tip delivered by a recording over the phone. Speaking of recording, he has microphones planted in each room of his house. He wasnt expecting a full confession, maybe proof of his death at best, but this worked out far better than he had planned! His suicide mission was a success!

Oh, snap, I should be doing a draft by now!

==========

Draft:

King was married, and had some kids.
That relationship ended because he made rash judgements and lost respect and trust for his wife.
The wife took custody of the kids, which he is deeply upset about.
Later, King married Four.
That relationship didn't last long; she left him out of annoyance and boredom.
Then he gets a letter in the mail.
It's a paternity test from the custody suit, with a letter explaining that lab contamination had altered the results of many tests. The tests were redone, and these were the results: Them kids aint yours.
He calls the first ex and loses his shit- weeping and falling apart, of course.
A few days later, Four shows up. They've only been separate for a week, and he's hurting.
She came to try and patch things up, but ends up being the shoulder to cry on.
She seduces him.
After some discussion, it became apparent that the ex still had King listed as her beneficiary should she die- and that custody of the children would go to him in such an event as well.
He is angry- but he is also the one who notes these things. Four doesn't push him into it, she just lets it happen naturally.
King and Four watch a movie about a mafia hitman. That night, on a whim, he does some looking to see if such a person is real.
He finds one.
He hires them.
We enter the story several days later.
The ex is dead, and he has instructions on where to leave payment.
He secretly celebrates for himself by taking Four out on the town. She arrives dressed to the nines, silks and diamonds, and fancy lingere later that night to boot!
He drives to the dead drop the next morning, and drops a package without postage or address into the mail box. It's a secure lockbox that he bought just for this occasion, he throws the key out the window as he drives into the fog.
Later, things seem great! And terrible!
For the first little while, especially during the mourning scenes, we get frequent flashbacks revealing the events preceding our entry to the plot.
The money comes in!
Then the kids move in.
He remembers loving them, and still does- but he is also still angry at the apparent infidelity, and that anger involves the children now in his care as well.
All the same, he tries his best to be the better man and care for the children- with the encouragement of Four.
Then the funeral. For the first time in years, he sees his ex, the woman he used to love, but now she is dead, in a coffin, surrounded by people mourning her death. His children are weeping uncontrollably, her father looks devastated. Four does not go to the funeral, feeling it would be inappropriate.
Guilt begins to eat away at him. Life happens, good and bad, but all mixed together with paranoia, guilt, depression, and fear.
Little does he know, he and his children are currently in the grips of pure evil.
The letter was falsified, created by a bribed employee of the lab that did the tests. The con artist? Four. That assassin he hired, the one who killed his ex? Four. The one he just recently proposed to again? Four.
While Four is out dress shopping (This time, it will be THE dress!) King is going through the garage, looking for his original tuxedo.
He finds a lockbox.
It's the lockbox.
It has to be.
He hides it and goes on with his day.
Later that evening, he tries to open it, but to no avail. He doesn't have a key.
Of course not, he threw it away in that farmer's field!
I has a plan.
He convinces Four to have an outdoor wedding, and pays the farmer to use the field for the event.
In the days leading up to the party, he takes every opportunity to search for the key.
After the wedding, one of the kids asks if he lost a key. He says yes, and the little girl hands him the lost key!
The next night, at 3AM he finally opens the box.
Tenthousand dollars. Full pay. Not a bill missing.
He closes the box and goes to bed next to a murderer.

==========

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Game of Hope



Originally a variant of Snakes & Ladders made by some old german guy, the game used a pack of cards in the place of a board. The game was developed using a piquet deck as the prototype, and so individual cards have playing card equivalencies. When the final version was sold, these equivalencies were published on the cards, so it could double as a piquet deck. What is truly unique about the game of hope, is that the booklet also contained a game of oracles; a cartomancy guide. It was extremely simple and vague, but essentially roughs out the foundation for the grand tableau spread in lenormand decks! In fact, the game of hope is the ur-deck for all petit lenormand packs. This is where the german school of cartomancy began: a silly game for children.

There is a detailed translation of the original rules. I have clarified, simplified, and specified those rules so that anyone may play the game today. I have made one change though: The original game used actual money for the counters, and the winner of the game won whatever money had been paid into the game. It was a gambling game for children. I have removed the gambling element because it was poorly implemented and thus not fun.


SUPPLIES:


1 Petit Lenormand deck. (Or a piquet deck if you know the card equivalencies)

2d6

Objects to use as tokens. Coins work well.

Objects to be used as counters. Other coins can do well.


THE SETUP:


Deal out the cards in numbered order into a 6*6 grid to form the board. (This is silly, what's the point of using cards if the board is static?? For a touch more fun, shuffle the deck and deal them out to the grid at random.)

Each player starts with 8 counters.

Each player rolls the dice to determine turn order. Higher rolls go before lower ones. Reroll ties.


THE PLAY:


Players take turns rolling the dice and moving their tokens along the track of the board.

On the first roll, placing your token on the first card counts as the first step of the turn.

Play begins in the bottom left card, movement flows rightward and zig-zags upward, such that the top left card is the last space in the board.

Certain cards cause a player to move their token once they land on it at the end of their turn. Arriving on a new card because of this action does not trigger the new card's action.

If a card requires you to pay counters, and you do not have the counters to pay, your turn is forfeit.

First player to remove their token from the board wins.


CARD EFFECTS:


Ship: Place your token on the birds card.

House: Pay 2 counters to gain entry.

Cloud: Go back 4 spaces.

Snake: Pay 3 counters.

Coffin: You can not move on your turn unless you roll a double, or until another player lands on this card.

Whip: You can pay 2 marks to move ahead 2 spaces.

Fox: Place your token on the tree card.

Star: Gain 6 counters.

Tower: Pay 2 counters.

Mountain: You can not move on your turn unless you roll a double, or until another player lands on this card.

Crossroad: Place your token on the garden card.

Heart: If you are a boy, place your token on the woman card. If you are a girl, place your token on the man card.

Ring: Gain 3 counters.

Book: Place your token on the garden card.

Letter: Pay 2 counters.

Man: Place your token on the sun card.

Woman: Place your token on the moon card.

Key: Gain 2 counters.

Fish: Pay 2 counters.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cartomancy as Writing Prompt


I've done a couple of articles about divination already, so hopefully people will have some idea of what I'm getting at with this. Cartomancy is a form of divinatory spiritual practice intended to communicate with metaphysical powers. Traditionally, cartomancy is done to divine information about the future, but there is also a meditative school which uses cartomancy to explore the self through guided introspection.

All of this is, of course, a scam. There are no higher powers guiding the order of cards in a deck to cryptographically convey hidden messages to poker adicts. That's ridiculous. Cartomancy is a form of cold-reading that uses cards as guides to pose probing questions of your querent which sound like cryptic visions. The querent reacts in whatever way your "insight" most closely connects with them, and the rest is confirmation bias. It's pretty cheap to be honest. Modern cartomancers employ many other tools in the con as well. Some have philosophy and psychology diplomas under their belts, many are professional hypnotists, a few spy on querents in the waiting room to pull a hot read.

Really, all the cards do is give you a prompt about what to talk about, and in what order. This guarantees that your predictions always have unique structure and sound fresh. It prevents you from forming a habitual structure that would act as a tell to your lies. But if cards can do that for con artists, why not for other people? How could we repurpose this extremely effective tool?

I have found that cartomancy can easily be used as a writing prompt for authors. I have used it many times in the past to plan adventures for RPGs, and also just to practice writing. This article is a guide on how to take a cartomantic system and repurpose it for writing.


To begin using cartomancy as a writing prompt, you first need to assign a symbolic lexicon to the cards. That is to say, give each card an abstract meaning. You can make your own lexicon from scratch, or you can go the easy route and use one that already exists. I opt to just use the existing systems, because they have been proven to be highly versatile and robust within a competitive market.

Still though, cartomancers are a finnicky lot, and they all disagree a bit on what each card "means". Nobody has truly standardized it. So go on Google, search for card meanings lists, and copy as many as you can into a book. Give a page to each card and just list all the meanings you can find for it on that page. That'll get you a good cultural cross-section of the trends and conflicts in the professional community regarding each card. This book will now be your guide to the deck as a prompt.

Now you need to learn a bunch of spreads. See, early on, cartomancers discovered that a single vague card was rarely good enough to warrant their pay. It wasn't enough to say "you will receive a letter". People wanted to know when, what about, from who, etc. Their solution? Draw more cards! Certain patterns became so common with certain question types, cartomancers began drawing all the cards at once to skip the extra questions from the querent. Cartomancers with showmanship skills arranged the cards in seemingly important formations with specific order to give a visual appeal to the process. This marketing technique slowly became standardized over the centuries, and is now known as a card spread. Some of these spreads are beautiful and elaborate, while others are little more than a hand of cards splayed out on the table.

A spread is, essentially, a blank story skeleton waiting for details. A great example is the "general situation" spread of 3 cards, one card each for the past, present, and future. The most basic spread is a single card. You ask the deck a question and draw a card. That card represents, in some way, the answer the spirit can tell you. Hogwash. It's a random slip of wood pulp. Go browsing google and collect as many spreads as you can find. These will be the tools you use to formulate your prompts.

Don't want to do the leg work? Fine. Here, use mine. This is my collection of card meanings for the nameless deck. At the end is a huge collection of spreads as Well, and it opens with a history lesson about how playing cards came to be.


OK, time to write a story! Get out your pack of cards and shuffle it. The first thing you want might be characters. Choose a spread system you think could be used to describe people. Generally, the more important the character, the more detailed a spread you should use. Tertiary characters rarely need more than 1 card. Start with your protagonist. Add characters as the story demands them. Draw cards for your characters. Read the meanings of each card and consider the context of the placement of the spread. As an example, let's make a character using just the meanings from the above image. Note each card has multiple meanings. I'll just choose whichever one I feel is more interesting.

Protagonist, 3 card spread: Ace of diamonds, 3 of clubs, Queen of spades.

Past: A ring. The character is married.

Present: Secret admirer. Someone wants the protagonist to engage in an affair.

Future: False friend. Someone is going to stab the protagonist in the back.

Bam. We now know what our story is about; temptation of infidelity and betrayal. If we wanted to know more about the protagonist, we could pull more spreads. For example, a pinwheel (5 card) could be used to arbitrarily determine ethnicity, gender, age, hair, and eye color- if you've found meanings for those to apply to cards.

Next we need an overall story structure. Choose a spread. I like the 3 card spread, replacing past/present/future with first/second/third act. Then, for each act, I break it down into 3 more 3-card spreads. And so-on. But there's nothing stopping you from throwing a zodiac spread (12 card) for the overall story, a Celtic cross (10 card) for each chapter, or any other system you choose. Just remember, the more details your prompt has, the more writing you will wind up doing to connect it all together.

From the example above, let's make a 3-part short story about our unfortunate protagonist. Remember, they are trapped between treachery and temptation.

Act 1: 2 of Hearts
"Your next love affair will surprise you."
Holy dang the hero went and gave in to temptation!

Act 2: Jack of Hearts
"You are continually in someone's thoughts."
You'd think it's his mistress... But what about that traitor?

Act 3: 2 of Spades
"A sudden journey."
The story ends with them travelling far for some reason.

OK, so let's brainstorm a story off of that!

Our hero is a married man. A female friend of his has been pining over him for years. The story opens with her seducing him. The two fall in love in secret. The friend, however, has a husband- a good friend and coworker to our protagonist. He discovers the affair. Bad shenanigans happen. Eventually, the hero leaves his wife and runs away with the mistress, fleeing for adventure.

Not bad! Sounds like an exciting story. Depending on the details, it could be turned into a harlequin romance, a mystery, a space opera, all kinds of stuff!


Basically any and all divination techniques can be used as the foundation for a writing prompt. Remember, all of these tools were developed for the purposes of telling convincing lies about the future. Divination is simply a form of criminal storytelling.

Personally, I like to cross the three cartomantic traditions, using whichever suits my purposes for the prompt I need. The three schools can be characterized as focusing on three broad subject types.

Tarot focuses on emotions.

The nameless deck focuses on people.

Lenormand focuses on things.

So if you want to know if someone is lying to you, go with tarot; if you want to know who is lying to you, go with playing cards; and if you want to know what they are lying about, go with lenormand.

If you're interested in Lenormand, I also have a PDF of compiled lessons and meanings on the lenormand deck by Labyrinthos Academy, located here.