Gamers who play role-playing games are really authors and screenwriters, whether they realize it or not. Gamemasters create detailed plotlines, characters, and sets to allow their players to participate in the “theatre of the mind” that occurs every time they sit down at a gaming session. Players often work to create intricate backstories for their characters, weaving a framework which justifies their heroes’ powers and abilities, as well as their personalities and the way they interact with the world and their comrades.
But like any author, gamemasters and players can sometimes get hung up on “writer’s block”, not sure where their campaign arc should be going, the motivations behind an NPCs actions, or, for player, what personality of hero they want to play in a new game. It can be a frustrating experience for GM and player alike, and can affect the enjoyment of the RPG experience.
Artist and writer B.J West, who has worked on games such as The Sims, SimCity 3000, and The Sims Online, has started a Kickstart program to fund a card system designed to inspire stories for authors, screenwriters, gamemasters, and players alike. Story Forge claims to offer ways to help create plots, add dramatic tension, and blast through writer’s block, regardless of what sort of writing you do…
Story Forge Card Deck
- Designer: B.J. West
- Illustrations: Keoni Chavez
- Publisher: Kelp Entertainment
- Year: 2012
- Media: Boxed Large Card Deck (88 cards) + Instructions
- Price: $20.00 + $5.00 S&H (Available after successful Kickstart project – March 20, 2012)
Story Forge is a card system which can be used by writers of all kinds – authors, screenwriters, playwrights, RPG gamemasters and players – to develop characters, villains, stories, and plotlines for any genre. The Story Forge deck contains 88 cards which contain two story elements, top and bottom, so that the card holds different meanings depending on which end is up. The cards are divided up into “suits” to help in interpretation and extrapolation of the story or character element, and a booklet which offers both instructions for using the cards, as well as a storytelling card game called “Story Poker”.
The production quality of the Story Forge cards is very good, designed as large tarot deck sized cards, with colorful back design, and a concise description of the story elements presented on the cards. The cards come in in full-color box, with a 32 page folded instruction booklet, with solid writing on how the cards can be used, as well as illustrations showing various patterns the cards can be laid out in order to create character personalities and various story plots.
The illustrations on the cards are simple but iconic, and are adequate for quickly identifying the type of card , and how it can influence the “reading”.
The Story Forge Cards
Story Forge cards are very similar to a tarot deck, with large cards that can have different meanings depending on which way they are read and which “concept” is right-side up. In fact, the cards are laid out in patterns, not unlike how tarot cards are placed during a reading, in order to determine the important concepts and forces which act on the story or character, in both a positive and negative way.
Certainly, using Tarot cards to assist writing is not a unique idea, and there are books that have ideas on how to use Tarot card readings to bring characters and plots into focus, most notably the Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner. But while the Tarot has a wide range of influences contributing to its cards’ meanings, ranging from religion and myth to astrology and superstition, the Story Forge cards are designed to take advantage of sources often referenced by authors:
Each card illustrates a unique concept: plot twists, reversals of fortune, or character archetypes. You will find the seven deadly sins and their countering virtues as well as the four horsemen of the apocalypse and their opposites. There are cards that represent the various stations of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and The Hero’s Journey. Some cards speak of humanity’s finest strengths and most tragic flaws, while others evoke the powers of gods and the universe itself. The author also offers a wide range of card layout patterns to provide a range of story and character development. In fact, there is a video of the author creating a character personality and background story on the Kickstart site which is pretty cool to watch. You can also check out a couple other demos on the Story Forge Cards homepage. Other layouts include “The Action Movie”, “The Love Story”, the “Noir Spread”, and even “The Heroes Journey” spread, which is based upon the writings of the myth-expert, the late Dr. Joseph Campbell.
I must admit that fooling around with the cards is quite fun and a little addictive, and the fact that they are completely genre-neutral allows them to create characters and plots for any game system and setting, from fantasy to horror to science-fiction. The “Character Quick Pick” and “Character Background Spread” allow for one simple and one complex method for character development, and I think it would be something really fun and unique, as a gaming experience, to base an entire campaign on players making characters made with this method.
Overall Score : 3.9 out of 5.0
Story Forge Cards are really a cool concept, not only from a role-playing gamers point of view, but for anyone that enjoys writing. It is undoubtedly a nifty tool for overcoming writer’s block, and can expand the “theatre of the mind” for roleplayers on either side of the screen by giving them more to think about in terms of character backgrounds, motivations, as well as plots and story arcs.
While I’ve never done a pre-release review on a project still in the “Kickstart” phase, Story Forge Cards seems like a product the RPG community might want to consider rallying around and to see it take off. They are decently priced, useful to GM and player alike, and and the Kickstart price is essentially a pre-order!
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note : This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of this product from which the review was written.
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 3.75
- - Design: 4.0 (Good looking cards, straightforward instructions and design)
- - Illustrations: 3.5 (Decent artwork, simple iconography with color coding)
- Content: 4.5
- - Crunch: 4.0 (No real crunch - it’s system neutral – but cool layouts for card spreads!)
- - Fluff: 5.0 (Excellent fluff, tons of story elements, addictive to play with)
- Value: 3.5 (About what I’d expect to pay for a deck of cards of this size and design)