Purple Index Cards: On-the-Fly Setting and Plot Collaboration




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  1. #1
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    ř Ignore SabreCat

    Purple Index Cards: On-the-Fly Setting and Plot Collaboration

    Abbreviated Version
    Want to spruce up your D&D4 game with rewards for players roleplaying, adding to the setting, introducing plot twists, and making dramatic descriptions of their actions? Do as follows!

    1. Buy 150 index cards.
    2. Download http://cheri.shyou.org/~sabrecat/docs/Purple_Index_Cards.docx.
    3. Print the document onto the index cards.
    4. Deal out two cards to each player at the start of each session. Played cards go into a discard pile. Collect unused cards at the end of the session and shuffle them back into the deck. When about half the deck's cards have been used, shuffle them all back in!

    The Backstory


    Index cards are a DM’s best friend. When setting up my face-to-face D&D 4e campaign, I bought a bunch of colored cards for various purposes. White cards would track hit points, initiative, etc. and come in handy for taking general notes. Red, blue, and yellow cards would be used to record quests: major/storyline quests, side quests, and characters’ personal quests, respectively. Green cards were for noting major NPCs and factions in the setting, and recording the party’s favor or disfavor with them.

    But in your typical pack of colored index cards, that left one unused color: purple. What was I to do with those?

    After a bit of brainstorming, I came up with the following system. I love new-wave roleplaying games where all the players share in the authorial role traditionally granted only to the Dungeon Master. Unfortunately, in my experience telling the players “oh, by the way, you can make up setting information too” in an otherwise traditional game rarely goes anywhere. Between the mother-may-I setup of the rules and a bit of blank-page paralysis, players never made use of the authority I granted them. With the use of these purple cards, I’d give the players discrete ways of hijacking the DM’s seat, providing jumping-off points for creativity and rewarding them for collaborating in game authorship!

    My first go at the deck also included cards that didn't so much create collaboration opportunities as encourage the players to try new tactical tricks or reward them for spectacular success/failure in combat. In this draft, I've split them out to their own deck--still purple, just used differently.

    How It Works

    At the start of the session, players are dealt two cards each from the main deck. They choose one to keep for the session, and return the other to the deck. If they don’t use their card before the next deal, they can choose to hang on to it and forego drawing any new cards, or return their current card to the deck and draw as usual.

    A card is also turned face-up from the Achievements deck at the start of each session, replacing an unscored Achievement there, if any.

    Players can choose to use a card in hand at any appropriate moment, following the card text. Any player can choose to score the visible Achievement when its conditions are met, or hold out for a better score on it.

    “Minion XP” means experience equal to a minion of the party’s current level, and “Monster XP” means experience equal to a standard monster of the party’s current level. This experience is shared among the party as normal.

    Skill Challenge-related cards are meant to work with Stalker0’s “Obsidian” houseruled skill challenge system; the “in-combat skill challenge” cards will probably need adaptation to work with core skill challenge rules. Similarly, some references to “factions” are meant to dovetail with a system in which the party works on long-term Skill Challenges with groups in the setting, trying to win them over to the PCs’ cause.

    Despite the placement of this thread in the 4e forum, I expect this could work in any fantasy RPG where players normally gain experience by defeating monsters or other traditional means: earlier D&D editions, Pathfinder, GURPS Fantasy, etc. You'd need to fill in different values for the rewards, and tweak some terminology, but the basic system should still work fine.
    Last edited by SabreCat; Saturday, 30th July, 2011 at 02:24 PM.

 

  • #2
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    ř Ignore SabreCat
    The Cards

    Achievements

    Better Part of Valor
    Score this card when your party opts to leave the field of battle instead of fighting on to eliminate every opponent.

    Gain XP as if all remaining opponents were in fact defeated, plus Minion XP.
    Double Team
    Score this card when you use a readied action such that you and an ally attack with flanking on the same enemy on the same initiative count.

    Gain Minion XP.
    Dunno About You, But I’m Still Good
    Score this card when you reach a milestone.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if this is at least your second milestone since the party’s last Extended Rest.
    Forgot the Safeword
    Score this card when you are Bloodied or when you are knocked unconscious.

    Gain Minion XP if scored for Bloodied, Monster XP if scored for going unconscious.
    Running the Gauntlet, or, I’ll Take You Down With Me
    Score this card when you suffer three or more Opportunity Attacks in a single turn.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if the attacks bloody you or knock you unconscious.
    Walk the Plank!
    Score this card when you cause an enemy to take falling damage from forced movement.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if the damage reduces the creature to 0 or fewer hit points.
    Warband Savior
    Score this card when you revive two or more allies from unconsciousness in the same combat (or the same ally two or more times).

    Gain Monster XP.
    You Almost Had It That Time
    Score this card when you or an ally either miss by 1, or spend an Action Point to attack and miss, or miss with a daily power, or roll minimum damage on an attack.

    Gain Minion XP per condition fulfilled. (Yes, you can get all four at once. Good luck.)

  • #3
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    Main Deck

    !
    Reveal this card when a combat encounter is laid out or initiative is rolled. The party may attempt a Physical Skill Challenge to try to avoid the combat.

    Gain Minion XP if you fail and must fight anyway, or normal skill challenge XP for other outcomes.
    …And It Sucked
    Reveal this card instead of making a Religion skill check to learn background information. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take, make it up yourself. At least some of the information you impart will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a tidbit, or Monster XP for a fleshed-out tale.
    A Plague O’ Both Your Houses
    Reveal this card to declare that two extant factions are embroiled in a bitter feud.

    Gain Minion XP; +Minion XP if you elaborate on the source of the feud; +Minion XP per involved faction with whom the party has built 5 or more influence successes.
    Because I Could Kill You, That’s Why
    Reveal this card instead of making an Intimidate check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll—narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with your bravado and/or the NPC’s reaction to it.
    Bring Down the Chandelier
    Reveal this card in combat. You introduce a Physical Skill Challenge that, if completed, will gain the party some advantage (such as a one-off blast attack, creating or clearing a hazard, etc.).

    Gain Minion XP.
    But Soft! What Light from Yonder Barstool Breaks
    Reveal this card to fall in love with another character (PC or NPC).

    Gain Minion XP if this results in flirtatious roleplay, or Monster XP if you immediately take a Personal Quest to bed or wed that character.
    Can’t We Talk About This?
    Reveal this card when a combat encounter is laid out or initiative is rolled. The party may attempt a Social Skill Challenge to try to avoid the combat.

    Gain Minion XP if you fail and must fight anyway, or normal Skill Challenge XP for other outcomes.
    Death Save Center: Under the Scythe
    Reveal this card instead of making a Heal check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll; narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table or introducing new information with your description.
    Didn’t You Notice the Tattoo on His Arm?
    Reveal this card to declare that an extant NPC is a representative of a faction. If the NPC is already a known faction member, this can make them a representative of both factions, possibly as a double agent.

    Gain Minion XP if the NPC’s new faction is an existing one, or Monster XP if you invent a new faction for the purpose.
    Don’t I Know You from Somewhere?
    Reveal this card when you meet a new NPC. That character becomes part of your backstory—you’ve been friends, or comrades in arms, or enemies, or the like at some point in the past.

    Gain Minion XP if you leave the connection to the DM to define, or Monster XP if you explain how you know him/her.
    Don’t Worry, I Know Just the Place
    Reveal this card when your party needs/wants to go to an establishment of some kind—tavern, weapons shop, brothel, guildhall, etc. That location now exists.

    Gain Minion XP if you just define what the place is, or Monster XP if you give it a name, and the name and some detail about its proprietor/proprietress.
    Eh, I’ve Had Worse
    Reveal this card instead of making an Endurance skill check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll; narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for impressing the table with description of your grit and hardiness.
    Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
    Reveal this card instead of making a Diplomacy check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll; narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with your description of your wiles and/or the NPC’s response.
    Graceful as a Moose
    Reveal this card when you fail a skill check, or to turn a successful skill check into a failure. Provide a colorful description of what happens instead of your character’s intent.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if what you do brings additional trouble down upon the party (describe how).
    Here’s the Catch
    Reveal this card when fulfilling or turning in a quest. Narrate a complication or reversal that leaves the business of the quest not fully resolved.

    Gain Minion XP if this merely delays your reward, or Monster XP if it chains the quest into a new one as a result of the plot twist.
    I Am the Rumor Mill
    Reveal this card instead of making a Streetwise roll to investigate the local talk. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take, make it up yourself. At least some of what you “hear” will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a tidbit, or Monster XP for juicy gossip rich with potential.
    I Don’t Like Your Tone, Drifter
    Reveal this card when interacting with an NPC. That NPC takes an intense, personal dislike of you. You can at any time undertake a Minor Personal Quest to regain the NPC’s good opinion, ending this effect when fulfilled… or just live with it!

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if the NPC is an ally critical to the party’s success in some way.
    I Find Bloodspattered Armor Sexy
    Reveal this card when interacting with an NPC. That NPC falls in love with your character. You may at any time undertake a Minor Personal Quest to break the NPC’s heart, ending the attraction when fulfilled… or just go with it!

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if the NPC is hostile to the party (you can’t fulfill the above quest if you kill him/her).
    I Have a Plan
    Reveal this card when a combat encounter is laid out or initiative is rolled. The party may attempt a Mental Skill Challenge to try to avoid the combat.

    Gain Minion XP if you fail and must fight anyway, or normal Skill Challenge XP for other outcomes.
    I Know These Woods Like the Back of Your Ass
    Reveal this card instead of making a Nature skill check to gather information about a wilderness location. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take on the result, describe the wild area yourself. At least some of the information you impart will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a tidbit, or Monster XP for an elaborate, DM-useful description.
    I Minored in Kuo-Toa Cultural Studies
    Reveal this card instead of making a History skill check to learn background information. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take on the result, make it up yourself. At least some of the information you impart will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a tidbit, or Monster XP for a lengthy and entertaining tale.
    In the Third Chapter of the Necronomicon…
    Reveal this card instead of making an Arcana skill check to learn background information. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take on the result, make it up yourself. At least some of the information you impart will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a tidbit, or Monster XP for a full and entertaining lecture.
    I Went to School There
    Reveal this card when interacting with the world map. Add a location to the map.

    Gain Minion XP if you name it, or Monster XP if you also immediately invent a quest involving that location.
    Leap of Faith
    Reveal this card instead of making an Athletics check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll; narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with your stuntwork.
    Like a Shadow, I Am
    Reveal this card instead of making a Stealth check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll—narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with description of your sneakiness.
    Limit Break Cutscene
    Reveal this card when you hit with an encounter or daily attack power or use an encounter or daily utility power. Narrate its effects in detail.

    Gain Minion XP for brief “flavor text,” or Monster XP for entertaining the table with your mighty power.
    Meant to Do That
    Reveal this card when you miss with an attack, or to turn a hit into a miss. Provide a colorful description of what happens instead of your character’s intent.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if you choose to have the attack strike an ally.
    My Nose Is Keener Than Your Eyes Will Ever Be
    Reveal this card instead of making a Perception check to assess your surroundings. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take, make it up yourself. All reasonable scene description will become reality.

    Gain Minion XP for a bit of local color, or Monster XP for full description with secrets and potential danger.
    My Gods, Look Out Behind You!
    Reveal this card in combat to introduce a new environmental hazard (trap, threatening terrain such as a fire or rockfall, dangerous weather, etc.). The DM assigns its stats based on your description.

    Gain Minion XP if it is placed/acts to the party’s advantage, or Monster XP if it endangers them.
    Oh Yeah, They Totally Are
    Reveal this card to declare that two extant NPCs are lovers. (They totally are.)

    Gain Minion XP, +Minion XP per PC who is in love with or romantically involved with either NPC, +Minion XP per active quest involving either NPC.
    Ooh, Shiny!
    Reveal this card when a skill check to search an area (usually Perception) fails to turn up anything interesting.

    Gain Minion XP and find a treasure parcel anyway.
    Out With It, Already!
    Reveal this card instead of making a social skill check (Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate) to get an NPC to divulge information. Take control of the NPC and spill the beans however you see fit. At least some of the NPC’s information will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a brief utterance or two, or Monster XP for elaborate plots and revelations.
    Saved by Kitty Litter
    Reveal this card when a new map is drawn or laid out. Add new terrain features (difficult terrain, blocking terrain, concealing terrain, elevation changes, interactable objects like barrels…) to up to 10 squares.

    Gain Minion XP.
    Say That Again, You Pestilent Cur
    Reveal this card and take deep offense at something another character has said to you.

    Gain Minion XP if you spit/bristle/throw a barb in return, or Monster XP if you challenge them to a duel or something similarly drastic.
    Spelunky Hax
    Reveal this card instead of making a Dungeoneering skill check to gather information about a delve location. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take on the result, describe the dungeon features yourself. At least some of the information you impart will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a tidbit, or Monster XP for elaborate, DM-useful description.
    Strange Bedfellows
    Reveal this card to declare that two extant factions are allied.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if you also detail the particular project or common enemy that brought them together.
    The Cavalry Has Arrived!
    Reveal this card in combat to deploy a force of minions, a number of them equal to the size of the party. They immediately roll initiative, and act next turn if they roll above the present initiative count.

    Gain Minion XP, +Minion XP if you explain who they are and how/why they managed to arrive when they did.
    There’s Always a Malcontent
    Reveal this card during combat. You introduce an in-combat Social Skill Challenge that, if completed, will gain your party some advantage (such as the desertion or defection of an opponent).

    Gain Minion XP.
    The Subtle Art of Fate-Baiting
    Reveal this card and utter something prophetic about what will happen next scene. E.g. “I sure hope there’s not a beholder behind that door.” Some aspect of what you say will come true.

    Gain Minion XP for something cute or beneficial, or Monster XP for something dangerous or with truly portentous implications.
    This Reminds Me of That Time When…
    Reveal this card and recount (in character) a tale of your exploits from before you joined the party.

    Gain Minion XP, or Monster XP if in the telling you introduce an NPC, quest, faction, or location to be used later.
    Uphill in the Razor Sand (Both Ways)
    Reveal this card and describe (in character) some aspect of your homeland’s culture or an anecdote from “back home.”

    Gain Minion XP for a quip or factoid, or Monster XP for detail that introduces new themes, plot hooks, or ideas relevant to the situation at hand.
    We Must Not Let Them Interrupt the Ritual!
    Reveal this card in combat. You introduce an in-combat Mental Skill Challenge that, if completed, will gain the party some advantage (such as warding an area, banishing or damaging a monster, or providing an attack boost).

    Gain Minion XP.
    We Will Meet Again
    Reveal this card when you reduce an enemy to 0 or fewer hit points. Instead of killing that creature or knocking it unconscious, you allow it to escape the battle with a few parting words.

    Gain Minion XP for an ordinary monster, or Monster XP for a “named” or “boss” enemy.
    What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Halflings?
    Reveal this card instead of making an Insight skill check to glean information about an NPC’s motives, alignment, personality, etc. Rather than roll and hear the DM’s take, make it up yourself. At least some of the information you impart will be true.

    Gain Minion XP for a glimpse, or Monster XP for a detailed character study.
    Wire Fu
    Reveal this card instead of making an Acrobatics check with a nonzero chance of success. Narrate what happens instead of rolling and having the DM tell the result.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with your stuntwork.
    Would I Lie to You?
    Reveal this card instead of making a Bluff check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll—narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with your guile and/or the NPC’s response to it.
    Yoink!
    Reveal this card instead of making a Thievery check with a nonzero chance of success. Don’t roll—narrate what happens.

    Gain Minion XP for simply claiming success, or Monster XP for entertaining the table with description of your craftiness.
    You Fools! It Was I, All Along!
    Reveal this card to declare that an NPC in the scene is in fact someone else, in disguise. The revealed identity can be an existing character or a new one.

    Gain Minion XP for naming the person, or Monster XP if you then explain the reason behind the impersonation.

  • #4
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    ř Ignore SabreCat
    What's Next?

    Suffice to say, I've had a fantastic time using these cards! For instance, just last session, the party's Dragonborn Bard played "I Find Bloodspattered Armor Sexy" to have a white dragon fall in love with him. ^.^ Of course she tried to carry him off to her lair...

    Please share this idea and the cards' content with anyone you like. I'd love to hear how things go if someone else tries this!

    I could also use feedback! If you have ideas for more cards, I can always stand to expand the deck--the players have seen most of them by now. Or even if you have a better title for a card, a better wording, whatever, let me know; I'm eventually going to put together a document people can download, sized to print each card at 3x5.

    Thanks for reading!

  • #5
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    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

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    ř Ignore weem
    Very cool - I would enjoy this as a player

    In my game (a 4e game) we use Aspects and Fate Points. The Fate points are printed cards that have various uses (printed on them) including one that lets them affect the plot/game world.

    My friend uses the same thing in his game, so to give you an example, I was playing my Goblin Rogue when myself and the other PC's busted out of the basement of an Inn, in a town my character was familiar with. I handed the fate card to the DM and said, "I want to take us to my safe house". I didn't have one, we never discussed it, but he responded with "Ok, you head there" taking the card.

    I love these kinds of things. My players don't use them in this way as often as I would like, but we're getting there. The only reason I could not use your system as you have it here is that we do not use XP - I level the players when i feel it is appropriate and fits with the campaign... so something else would have to be gained as a reward.

    But like I said, it looks fun to me - good job

  • #6
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    ř Ignore Zinovia
    These sound like they would be a lot of fun in play. I don't reward xp as such in my group, so we'd need a different reward for using them to cause more trouble for the party. I'll give it some thought. I like a lot of your ideas, and the names are great. Thanks!
    Red meat isn't bad for you. Fuzzy green meat is bad for you.
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  • #7
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    ř Ignore SabreCat
    Thanks for the comments! My players like XP--perhaps because they all play quite a bit of console RPGs (Dragon Age being the current favorite), I don't know. And for me, the pace of advancement of by-the-book experience is almost right... meaning that players earning an encounter (or two)'s worth of XP per level via purple cards feels right on. I'd be interested to hear suggestions for alternative rewards, though!

    weem: Are your fate cards randomized, too, or does every fate card have the full suite of abilities printed on it? Spirit of the Century style Aspects would be a neat way to "upgrade" this system... maybe, if I can't get a good infusion of new cards into the purple deck, we can transition to that when we have a major campaign shakeup (like getting to the paragon tier).

  • #8
    Member SILVER SUBSCRIBER
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    ř Ignore weem
    Quote Originally Posted by SabreCat View Post
    weem: Are your fate cards randomized, too, or does every fate card have the full suite of abilities printed on it? Spirit of the Century style Aspects would be a neat way to "upgrade" this system... maybe, if I can't get a good infusion of new cards into the purple deck, we can transition to that when we have a major campaign shakeup (like getting to the paragon tier).
    Yea, they have listed on them what they can be used for - nothing random there. Examples of some...

    +1 Attack* with @Will
    +2 Attack* with Encounter
    +3 Attack* with Daily
    Recharge an Encounter
    Recharge a Daily (requires 2 FP's)

    *These are immediate interupts and we allow asking of the DM...

    PC: "would two more allow me to hit?"
    DM: "yes"
    PC: "ok, I use it" etc.

    Two more uses, though I forgot how they are worded....

    One was to counter the DM when they try to compel an aspect etc, the other was to affect the plot as in the example I gave above.

    ...I think there was one more but I'm not remembering right now... could be wrong and that might be it.

    We use Aspects - obviously a borrowed idea - to great effect in our 4e games

  • #9
    I like these. I can see these making an otherwise grindy 4e game much more interesting. Maybe you can get Willow to try them at FMW?

  • #10
    any play-testing done with these yet?

    and when are you formatting them as cards with illustrations?

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