How To Use Venger's Decks
Ever used card decks in your tabletop roleplaying game? If the answer's "no" or "yeah but I don't think it worked", here's a little guide. Once you've had a read, be sure to let me know how you get on!
the magic of rpg card decks
First up, there's no right or wrong way to use card decks at your table. Use them in whatever way makes you comfortable, in whatever way enhances the fun for you and your fellow players.
At the table, depending on the RPG you're playing, when you're thinking about encounters you might already use tables, random encounter generators, apps & dice, amongst other things. Using card decks is just another tool, another thing you can use to generate encounters and story or character arcs.
Venger's Decks are tailored to generic systems & settings. So for example, if your Dungeons & Dragons party is adventuring in an urban setting, you can pick up The Dweller or The Dweller Quickening card decks to generate your encounters. Or maybe your Pathfinder group's messing around in the wilderness, in which case you can grab The Outlander or The Outlander Quickening decks. The quickening decks are suited more for quick draws at the table, as there's less information to take in at speed, but they can still be used for advance session prep.
Here's the idea.
You can shuffle your deck and draw cards at random (even in front of the players to increase tension!). You can pull out from the decks any cards you've used already in the campaign, or ones you don't think fit your setting or what else is happening in the next session. You can get your players to draw the cards, or take your time to flick through them before your sessions, to think through what encounters might work. But when it boils down to it, you can use them however YOU feel works. The sky's the limit!
Pick a card, any card - here's the how!...
Inspire & Improvise
OK, so two scenarios to begin with:
First, you've a game coming up. A new campaign, a one-shot, a session within an ongoing episodic story arc. Whatever it is, you're thinking about what the players will experience, what their goals are, what they might want or love or find totally cool. You're thinking about how they, and you, might have fun around the table. But you're coming up short. The ol' brain just ain't playing ball.
Second, you're in the midst of a session. The players have just decided to do something for which you've neither planned nor anticipated. Or there's a lull, or they're taking an age to decide what to do, or the party's on the move between plot points, or you just feel that something juicy needs added to shake things up. But right now you're stumped. You feel the players' eyes burning through you, waiting to be entertained!
In short, you need inspiration. So you grab your random encounter card deck, and here's what you do.
Right now you know where the party is. You might have an idea where it wants to go. The players have been talking about it, and you've been listening, right?
So armed with that knowledge, you pick up your deck, a deck that suits the setting the party's in right now. You then draw a card at random, or you flick through the deck until you see something you like. You then read the card you've drawn, and you mull over quickly how an encounter like this might come up, how it might fit where the party plans to be.
See, I'm not talking about planning the whole encounter. Rather, it's about:
- taking what you read in the card
- remembering where the party is right now, where it plans to go, what it wants to do
- thinking through how this encounter might crop up, how you can blend it into everything else that's been happening
- and then playing to see what happens!
What you read on the card is purely to inspire you, so it can be adjusted & flavoured however you think fits. So you can change or add creatures & monsters, switch combat for non-combat encounters, combine two cards into one encounter, anything really...YOUR IMAGINATION IS 100% IN CHARGE!
Then when a random encounter is rolled or it just feels right to run one, you'll have exactly what you need to boss it.
Want to know more about how to do this effectively? Have a read of my free book, Venger's Guide to Random Encounters for how best to use the decks, how chaos & randomness should come alive in your game and how to embrace it, and yeah, how to design and run encounters that'll rock your players each and every time. I've been running RPG sessions since the 1980s, and lay out in the guide the step-by-step process I've developed over the years!
And here's an awesome unpicking by Bob Mason (@BobWorldBuilder) of how to use my decks in the design of random encounters...
run a one-shot around the decks
Another great way you can use your random encounter decks is to take a deck, take your players' PCs or download some of the pre-made character sheets for The Party you can find here, and use them to create a one-shot session built solely around the drawing of random encounter cards.
The idea is pretty simple. You give the players their character sheets or have them fill out their own, you come up with a bit of an introduction to the session, something cool to hook them in (which can of course be inspired by one of the cards in the deck), and then at the first decision point, like the first corner they turn in the dungeon, let the players draw a card and have the party face whatever they've drawn. Or you as DM or GM can draw the cards and see what happens. Or if that's just waaaaaaaaay to chaotic for you, just draw some cards before the session and plan it out using your decks.
Either way, you & the players will be at the mercy of pure chaos. No need for long over-arching story arcs, immersion, emotive character development, all that serious thinking stuff. No need for you to feel the burning pressure of having to come up with anything.
It could take place in between campaigns. Or maybe if the DM can't make it to the session. Or it could be a fun break, or an ice-breaker for a new group, or even just a tutorial session for new players.
As a one-off, it's just the pure, unadulterated fun of getting some good friends around the table, and experiencing the joy of watching the characters cope with whatever flies their way from Venger's Realm of Chaos. Both you and your players will have no idea what's coming up next.
Trust me, you'll never forget that session!
And who knows, if you leave things open once it's completed, it could end up turning into the beginning of a longer campaign.
Have a listen to this hilarious podcast from Penance RPG who did just that. Listen to how they used Venger's Decks for a session of D&D 5e, and it should give you a fair idea how much fun this approach can churn out...
However you use them, like I say be sure to let me know, as I love hearing stories from those who've picked them up. Keep in touch @vengersdecks on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram, and remember to use the hashtag #VengersChaos!