The December RPGBA Blog Carnival is hosted by Mike Bourke at the Campaign Mastery blog.
The theme for this month is plot twists. Mike describes the theme as follows:
The subject this time around is going to be “With A Twist” – surprises, plot twists, the unexpected in any form, and anything else that’s relevant to these subjects.
Cards With a Twist
One of my purchases from Dragonmeet 2014 was a set of the Plot Twist Cards: Flashbacks. This is another release from Paizo Publishing in their useful Game Mastery line. This pack of 51 unique cards is designed to add narrative input into your game.
This vividly illustrated deck opens up a new experience of shared storytelling, providing players with ways to suggest events during any adventures.
Anatomy of a Card
Each of the 51, standard-sized cards is illustrated in colour. In the style of most CCGs, the top half of each card is a piece of artwork, with text on the lower half. Along with a title, the centre of every card has one or two lines of writing. This central text provides a direct mechanical effect for the card.
However, it is the bullet points below this rules text which offer the most potential for adding a twist to your game. Here are four possible ways to have the theme of the card impact the plot at your table. As to be expected from Paizo, these suggestions have a loose fantasy feel, but are generic enough to be applied to almost any setting. This is not always true of the art, where a few modern images appear.
From a storytelling perspective, it is these plot suggestions that hold the most potential. When a Player uses one of these cards, they have the opportunity to add a twist of their own to the current plot. This serves to empower the Players in your game, and thereby increase their engagement.
Furthermore, this plot twist will be equally surprising to the GM. This is a perfect way to keep the game interesting for the GM, when you can never be certain where the Players are going to take your game.
Plot Twist Rules
Four cards with rules and OGL text are included in the pack. According to these rules, the Plot Twist cards should be handed out during character creation, and whenever a Hero gains a level. A Player may play a Plot Twist card at any time, choosing either the mechanical benefit, or the alteration to the story based around one of the prompts on the cards.
There is also advice to the GM here about how to implement the cards. Essentially, the GM is left in charge of their game, and may interpret any alterations to the plot according to the broader needs of their game.
Plot Twist Cards in HeroQuest 2
The way I run HeroQuest already includes scope for the Players to snatch control of elements of the plot and background. Thus, I shall be using these Plot Twist cards in a much narrower function. I shall use these cards as one of the options in the Narrative Outcomes chart.
These Narrative Outcomes will be explained in another post in the New Year, as I hone the idea further. The current version has a second dice rolled as part of any Contest. The result of this additional dice determines which narrative outcome occurs, such as awarding small mechanical effects, or focusing the narrative along particular lines. These Plot Twist cards will form one of the assigned narrative outcomes.
How would you use the Paizo Plot Twist cards? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.