Tell me about your NPC tarot generation. What excites you about it?
Well, there’s a lot of ways to generate NPCs. Tables and dice rolling, making them like PCs, pre-gens in books. But all of these, for me, end up feeling flat and two-dimensional when you’re trying to make a bunch and fill a world. So this all started with a game of Vampire the Masquerade 20th. I had my deck sitting in front of me and decided to pull a card. And suddenly, my NPCs had motivations and methods to them that helped round them out! That’s the most exciting part for me: I can quickly figure out interesting NPCs and my players get a more interesting and immersive world with people in it instead of flat cutouts.
How do you interpret the cards for characters? Is it themes, or pulled from tarot lore?
A lot of interpretation is based on what the situation calls for. I use both the Archeon tarot and Golden Thread and both have pretty good guides for meanings. For instance, one of the first times I tried this, I made an NPC in V20. I had no ideas for him and he was basically a plot hook but I wanted him to be interesting. I pulled the Six of Wands inverted, Eight of Words, and the Fool for past, present, and potential future then cards for sources of these where it was needed and a plan for the future and present. He turned out to be a well-intentioned jock with a troubled home life that kept being in the wrong place at the wrong time but found by the right people that allowed himself to run with what life handed him. Way more than what a table could have ever given me and so much to work with in play.
You've mentioned that you're working on GM tools. What are you currently doing on that project?
For the GM tools project that expands on this whole idea, I’m testing out spreads I theorized to make sure they actually work and making graphics for everything. It’s been pushed to the backburner a bit admittedly.
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The GM tools are just meant as an alternative to tables and things found in GM guides and supplementary materials. Or something you can use in conjunction. It’s like having multiple methods to solving the same math problem. The spreads cover things from NPC and World generation to Stars Without Number-style GM turns to figuring out what to do for a session. Like I said, just different ways to solve the math problem.
What would an example be of a spread you would use for a GM?
One spread I really liked and that kind of surprised me with how well it worked out. It’s a four-card spread for one-shots. It gives so much potential information for a world very quickly. I used it to help a friend make a Dungeon World one-shot that turned out pretty well. I want to test it more but it pleased me so much.
How have you tested the tools - have you used them in different games, with different people, etc.?
Most of my testing has been a mix of practical testing in games and theoretical testing of how things might work. The practical testing has been in different systems and games: Vampire, Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, and some D&D. The groups haven’t been as diverse as I’d hope but I’ll keep using these and testing.
Thanks so much to Allie for answering my questions, and being understanding for the delay on posting this! Make sure to check out A GM's Tarot Guide: NPC Generation on DriveThru, as well as looking out for Allie online:
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