Deck of Many Genres

Mandatory Legal Disclaimer: side effects of bringing the magic item in this post into a game with a group that takes their games too seriously or that aren’t already expecting some serious weirdness may include rage quitting by players, blank stares, loose teeth, lost friendships or, in extreme cases, critical existence failure.

Recently while at my desk, an idea occurred to me for a magic item that might inspire far more dread in the hearts of players than even the infamous Deck of Many Things… as the title suggests, this is none other than The Deck of Many Genres. This is a magic item that is best reserved to particularly open-minded, experimental or creative play groups and GMs, and would clearly be much easier to use in a game like FATE, Wushu, Capes or Savage Worlds that can be retooled to new genres on the fly without hours of number-crunching misery. Alternately, a wily or enterprising GM might have stats generated for existing characters from your D20 or whatever game in FATE, Capes or something similarly fast and fluid that can be taken to hare off into crazy land with this thing as a side jaunt.

Anyhow, when some poor fool unsuspecting or brave adventurer draws a card from this unassuming deck of enchanted playing cards, the genre of story in which the current adventure is taking place takes a hard shift into that which is represented on the card, which might be a style of roleplaying game, movie, literature, video game or TV show. Characters and plot points remain, as do their antagonists and the people around them, but are shifted into forms that are recognizable yet more suited to the new type of story in which they find themselves… until somebody draws another card. For example, if your dungeon crawling quest to topple Evil Warlord the 18th gets turned into an 80’s-era teen movie, your play group turns into the band of lovable misfits, the dungeon and its monsters (and the inevitable village nearby) become their school/mall/whatever and associated inhabitants, bullies and such while Evil Warlord the 18th himself becomes the corrupt/lame/overly strict principal/bossy parent/other authority figure, while if the game turns into a Kaiju story, then the party leader’s mother-in-law becomes the rampaging monster. It’s probably best if the deck only allows so many cards to be drawn in a given allotment of time, though players foolish enough to try playing 52-card pickup with it deserve a suitably horrible, mind-screw fate that would make the endings of Neon Genesis Evangeleon, FLCL or The Village seem sensible by comparison.

I’d love to include rules for using a regular deck of playing cards to simulate one of these like the classic Deck of Many Things, but I had too many ideas to fit onto a 52-card deck so I’m not going to bother (if you want to, go right on ahead! I’d love to see what makes the cut on yours). Instead, I’ll go for a percentile chart, though you could always just print the name of each type on a card and draw easily enough.  Anyhow, here’s the chart. Be afraid.

% Roll Genre
1 Film Noir
2 Space Opera
3 Sword and Sorcery (think Conan the Barbarian)
4 Post Apocalyptic Wasteland
5 Soap Opera
6 Spy Drama
7 Kaiju
8 Disaster Movie
9 Zombie Apocalypse
10 Urban Fantasy
11 80’s Action Flick
12 60’s Sitcom
13 Romance
14 Music Video
15 Fairy Tale
16 Murder Mystery
17 Slasher Flick
18 Black and White Horror Movie
19 Buddy Comedy
20 Greek Tragedy
21 War Movie
22 Trippy Ontological Mystery
23 Wuxia
24 Silver Age Super Heroes
25 90’s Comic Book
26 Musical
27 Regency Period Piece
28 Sports Show
29 Lifetime Special
30 Magical Girl Anime
31 Blaxploitation/Exploitation Parody
32 Bollywood
33 B-Movie
34 Silent Picture
35 Oscar Bait
36 Romantic Comedy
37 Sword and Sandal
38 Political/Conspiracy Thriller
39 Western
40 Pirates
41 Professional Wrestling
42 Asimovian or Clarkeian Speculative Fiction
43 Cosmic Horror (think Lovecraft or The Slender Man)
44 Planetary Romance
45 Gothic Novel
46 Ancient Mythology
47 Alternative History
48 Shakespearean Play
49 Low Fantasy
50 High Fantasy
51 Cyberpunk
52 Steampunk
53 Wagon Train to the Stars (Star Trek, Firefly)
54 Adventure Story
55 Heist Picture
56 80’s Teen Movie
57 High School Musical (think Grease)
58 Hong Kong Action Flick
59 Summer Blockbuster
60 Young Adult Lit
61-62 Classic Dungeon Crawl
63 Contemporary Dungeon Punk
65 First Person Shooter
66 Chanson / Chivalric Romance
67 Platformer
69 Dragon Ball
70 Super Robots
71 Real Time Strategy
72 Screwball Comedy
73 Cheesy Religious Tract
74 Anthropomorphic Animals
75 Martial Arts Tournament
76 Saturday Morning Cartoon
77 Reality Show (documentary style)
78 Tabloid Journalism
79 Reality Show (Talent Competition)
80 Disney
81 Foreign Art Movie
82 Samurai Drama
83 Pretentious Vampires
84 Social Media Updates
85 Satire of the original genre
86 Fanfic based on your game
87-88 Draw again and combine with your last genre
89-90 draw two and combine
91 draw two and combine with your last genre
92-93 draw one and combine with original genre
94-95 Choose or invent your own
96-00 return to original genre unless already there; then roll again

One of my personal favorites is “Social media updates.” Imagine, for the few minutes it will take before you are horribly murdered, your game turning into this:

@PaladinMan: #OMG our GM is the worst. #getmeoutofhere
@SquishyWzzrd: inorite? #thisgamesux
@CNTheef: #Dontlooknow. @B00bieBard is taking another selfie. #OMG
@B00bieBard: U wish ur girlfriend was h0t lik me. #canttouchthis
@BBEG: I’m still here, guys. #rollinitiative

The mix and match options have a lot of potential as well. High School Musical Super Robot Reality Show! *head asplodes*

Wow. I so want to inflict this on my players use this in a game. Therefore, I am going to GM’s Hell.

Alternate means of using the concept of the rapid magically-induced genre shift in a game without bothering with a deck of cursed playing cards might include introducing a twisted reality-warping monster along the lines of Q or Mr. Mxyzptlk to the narrative and having them hurl the party through the associated genre shifts either randomly or in some particular pre-planned and thematic or didactic/revelatory progression.

If you think this idea is nothing but daft tomfoolery, well that’s just swell, and I’m not sure why you bothered to stick around long enough to get to the end of this post. If you’ve got ideas how to make this bit of craziness even better/crazier/more psychedelic, or how to employ it or a variant thereof without your play group rioting and hanging you up by your toes, feel free to comment here.



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One Response to “Deck of Many Genres”

  1. Jumping Genres! | Casewerk: More Internet Ravings Says:

    […] What are you looking at? « Deck of Many Genres […]

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