30 Mar An Interview With the Designer of Cartomancy
I recently discovered Daniel Warmke and his interesting game “Cartomancy” on Kickstarter. It uses cards instead of dice to resolve actions – these are actually playing cards, rather than game-specific cards.
In his Kickstarter video he speaks (somewhat tongue in cheek) of how this will change the future of Tabletop RPGs. But you never know – he may just be right!
I got the opportunity to ask him a few questions – here is what he said.
Why do you feel Cartomancy will change gaming?
Indi games are where innovation is at these days but most of that creativity has been channeled in a very particular direction. If you think of games as a spectrum with games lacking any story element on one end (poker, chess) and games with no rules content on the other (cops and robbers, tea party) then traditional RPGs can be thought of as a midpoint. Most indi games push the envelope on the story side (getting closer to little boys shouting “bang bang”) and they are doing an amazing job. I love story games like Fiasco (our first release was actually a Fiasco playset) but I wanted to go the other way. I wanted to make a game that was fun as a game, in the way that board games and card games are fun, and then use that as a platform to tell stories.
What is Cartomancy’s greatest innovation?
None of the mechanics are innovative, the only thing innovative is that they are in an RPG. When I first had this idea I literally started looking up card game mechanics and with every game I studied I asked myself “would that be cool in a game with a plot?” Let me give you one example: Go Fish is one of the first card games that many kids around the world learn and play centers around a pond or river of cards dividing the players. I love the physicality of that spread of cards and so I imported it into Cartomancy as “The Chasm” an obstacle that can represent any barrier which must be crossed in the fiction of the game.
What’s the advantages of playing with cards instead of dice?
You roll a die you take what you get. Playing a card is a whole different experience. You have freedom to choose any card in your hand but you are also constrained by that hand. That feels a lot more like real life to me: the results I get from actions are not truly random but are dependent on how much time and energy I am willing and able to put in. When you play a card it is gone; there is a sense of sacrifice to playing a card that you can’t mach with rolling a die. I’m not going to throw away my dice any time soon (there was originally a scene in the Kickstarter script where we showed dice being thrown into a trashcan but we cut it as it almost felt sacrilegious) but I do love the feel of cards.
What sort of games would Cartomancy lend itself toward? Is it truly universal, or does it
caterto some particular “styles” of play more than others?
We do things in a big way. Think of it this way: in D&D and its progeny you have a sheet with dozens to hundreds of statistics, abilities and skills. In Cartomancy you have your life, your draw number and perhaps two or three powers. You can make one of these guys on a index card if you don’t mind waisting half the card. That simplicity lets you focus to an extraordinary degree. Take the Heal power and you are defining your character with one broad brush stroke. The same thing goes for adventure design; this is for telling pure stores without getting bogged down in minutia.
You can more information on Cartomancy on its website here.
You can find Cartomancy on Kickstarter here.