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.
|3||Sword and Sorcery (think Conan the Barbarian)|
|4||Post Apocalyptic Wasteland|
|11||80’s Action Flick|
|18||Black and White Horror Movie|
|22||Trippy Ontological Mystery|
|24||Silver Age Super Heroes|
|25||90’s Comic Book|
|27||Regency Period Piece|
|30||Magical Girl Anime|
|37||Sword and Sandal|
|42||Asimovian or Clarkeian Speculative Fiction|
|43||Cosmic Horror (think Lovecraft or The Slender Man)|
|53||Wagon Train to the Stars (Star Trek, Firefly)|
|56||80’s Teen Movie|
|57||High School Musical (think Grease)|
|58||Hong Kong Action Flick|
|60||Young Adult Lit|
|61-62||Classic Dungeon Crawl|
|63||Contemporary Dungeon Punk|
|65||First Person Shooter|
|66||Chanson / Chivalric Romance|
|71||Real Time Strategy|
|73||Cheesy Religious Tract|
|75||Martial Arts Tournament|
|76||Saturday Morning Cartoon|
|77||Reality Show (documentary style)|
|79||Reality Show (Talent Competition)|
|81||Foreign Art Movie|
|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.