Here for the gaming? Here are some examples of how to use Tarot cards in RPGs!
The Quick Version
- A high-fantasy-themed Tarot deck, in both PDF and Print-on-Demand format.
- Designed to prompt self-reflection, writing, and role playing
- 22 Major Arcana, gorgeously illustrated, to inspire through their art.
- 56 Minor Arcana with guiding text, making them easy to learn quickly.
- A beautiful tuckbox containing hidden secrets.
- Final edits underway, but artists need paying!
- Free previews on Google Drive and DriveThruRPG!
- Not-a-Stretch Goal: Backers over $15 get access to all future versions of this deck!
The Longer Version
The Portal Tarot: The Apprentice is a deck of Tarot cards that has been brewing in my head ever since I found an old copy of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck sitting on a shelf in my dad's office when I was ten or eleven. Inspired by the images on the cards, my library-and-early-internet research on the history of the Tarot, and my love of fantasy fiction (Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles and Terry Pratchett's Discworld in particular), I've been evolving my own interpretations of the Major and Minor Arcana for decades.
The problem I had, as a small child, was that it took me f o r e v e r to perform Tarot readings, as I could only ever remember the meanings of the Major Arcana--all the intricate symbolism of the deck as a whole was way over my head. Since then, it has always been a dream of mine to make the Tarot deck that I really wanted for myself: Beautiful fantasy worlds and characters for the Major Arcana, and helpful text on the cards of the Minor Arcana, offering key-words and interpretations so I wouldn't have to look them up all the time.
And now, having spent the last year trying to make that dream come true, I'm almost there!
I teamed back up with two of the artists who worked on my last Kickstarter, The GameMaster's Apprentice: Fantasy Deck with me, Max Johnson and Elena Asofsky, and we built some amazing stuff!
The fully-illustrated Major Arcana, depicting my version of The Fool's Journey (the next two images below, on the left), is beautiful and can be interpreted visually.
The self-explanatory Minor Arcana, with keywords and example interpretations (below, on the right), will help anyone learn the cards quickly.
We also include two Quickstart Cards, each double-sided, with some basic ideas to get a new reader going (more tips are offered on our website).
These 2.75" x 4.75" cards are printed on DriveThru's premium stock: "11.6-pt. thickness, 320 gsm black core card stock from French paper manufacturer Arjo-Wiggins. This silk-finish stock is similar to, but superior to, the stock used on popular trading card games. It's slightly thinner for easier shuffling, but dense to give better rigidity and snap than thicker stocks. It's the best playing card stock we've found."
And then there's the amazing tuckbox, perfectly sized for the deck, conceals the mysteries of the Arcana themselves...
Even as the creator, The Portal Tarot: The Apprentice has floored me with its beauty, and so I hope you'll help me bring it to publication! While I have always been skeptical of claims about the esoteric nature of Tarot cards, I find myself drawn to the art, symbolism, and interpretation involved in reading them, the same way I was drawn into role playing, writing, and creative work in general. Even without attaching occult significance to them, the cards offer prompts that help us reflect on our selves, our stories, and our shared world. I find value in that, as it supports both personal growth and creative endeavors, and I would love the opportunity--with your backing--to make this deck available to all!
While this is my first Tarot deck, it is my third Kickstarter, and my eighth deck of published cards. I believe I have worked out my fulfillment process pretty thoroughly, but here are some quotes from backers of my last project:
What do we get?
All backer levels, from $2 on up, receive both print-and-play PDFs of The Portal Tarot: The Apprentice, and access to order the decks from the Print-on-Demand fulfillment service at DriveThruCards for as close to at-cost as possible! Look for the section below, DriveThru Fulfillment & Shipping, for more details, but the most important thing to note is this: In this campaign, ALL rewards include both PDF and Print-on-Demand access. While in my previous campaigns the PoD access cost more than the PDF rewards alone, this Tarot deck is truly best in print, and so I don't think it makes sense to separate the two.
At $15 or more, in addition to getting pre-retail, even-cheaper access to bundles that will be available via DriveThru in the future, backers also receive the "Not-a-Stretch-Goal:" Access to any future variants of The Portal Tarot. See the section below, No Stretch Goals! But... for more on this (including the part that is already available!).
Backer Levels: The Details
$2: PDF & Print Access (Financial Hardship Pricing): Whatever your reason, if you feel like you are under financial hardship or other undue strain (including if you determine that paying the shipping on the Print-on-Demand rewards would be unreasonably high), this level is for you. If you can afford slightly more, feel free to raise your total contribution to $3 dollars, or whatever other amount you want, but no worries if you can't! Thank you for your support, and enjoy access to the benefits of the $7: PDF & Print Access level, described below.
- Approximate total cost to you (backer level + printing): $18.50+shipping, or $2.00 PDF-only.
- Approximate retail cost: $25.00+shipping, or $10.00 PDF-only.
$7: PDF & Print Access: You will receive a PDF of the print-n-play version of The Portal Tarot: The Apprentice, as well as access to order the Print-on-Demand version for approximately cost, or about $16.50+shipping (compared with $25+shipping at retail price). As this is a full-color deck of 80 cards, I strongly recommend the Print-on-Demand option, but you get both codes to use as you wish!
- Approximate total cost to you (backer level + printing): $23.50+shipping, or $7.00 PDF-only.
- Approximate retail cost: $25.00+shipping, or $10.00 PDF-only.
$15: Creative Variety Bundle: Especially for writers, gamers, and other creatives! If you want more decks of idea-inspiring cards, you can back at this level and receive a Bundle that will eventually be available on DriveThruRPG: in addition to The Portal Tarot, you will receive both the image-based Deck of Tales (60 double-sided cards, with three large icons a few other things on each card) and the text-based GameMaster's Apprentice: Base Deck. The best way to find out if you want these things is probably to take a look at their sales pages, and at my previous Kickstarters (the original six decks, and the more recent Fantasy Deck), which have many explanatory videos. Each of these decks comes with the PDF and at-cost access to Print-on-Demand (~$5.50 per deck, plus shipping). You will also receive all the rewards of the PDF & Print Access level. Also, at this level and above, you will be given access to order any future variants of The Portal Tarot in the same manner as the primary one from this campaign (which is NOT a benefit that will be available in this bundle at retail!). See the section below, "No Stretch Goals! But..." for more information--but just FYI, 16 more fully-illustrated cards are already included, thanks to Elena's fast work!
- Approximate total cost to you (backer level + printing): $42.50+shipping, or $15.00 PDF-only.
- Approximate retail cost: $55.00+shipping, or $25.00 PDF-only.
$45: Ultimate Creative Bundle: If, after investigating the GameMaster's Apprentice line of decks I publish (and here are the first and second Kickstarter page links again, if you want to see the videos and info on those cards), you decide that you would like all of them at your beck and call when writing stories or making game content, this is the cheapest way to get them: in an even bigger Bundle product, before it becomes available on DriveThruRPG! In addition to the rewards of the Creative Variety Bundle level, you will receive PDF and Print-on-Demand (~$5.50 per deck, plus shipping) codes for all six GMA Genre-Decks, including Age of Sail, Demon Hunters, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, and Steampunk.
- Approximate total cost to you (backer level + printing): $105.5+shipping, or $45.00 PDF-only.
- Approximate retail cost: $175.00+shipping, or $85.00 PDF-only
Who are you, and why are you using Kickstarter?
My name is Nathan Rockwood; I have been designing and playing games in my spare time since I was in middle school--around the time I first picked up the Tarot, perhaps unsurprisingly, as my parents kept their old D&D books near where they kept their decks--and I've been writing professionally since 2005, when I worked on the Serenity RPG. I've enjoyed reading Tarot cards for inspiration in my stories and games for a little over 20 years now.
Though I own and run Larcenous Designs, LLC, my company is just me and my spare time. By day, I teach English and Video Game Design at a public high school to help support my family; while the annual income from Larcenous Designs does finally both cover my business expenses AND reliably let me commission a small amount of art, it isn't enough to fund a project like a fully illustrated Tarot deck within a reasonable time frame.
And that is why I'm here now! I've been fortunate enough to be able to plan ahead (several years) and pay for almost all of the art and layout for The Portal Tarot: The Apprentice you see on this page. However, I didn't quite manage to cover the final expenses of the project, and need your help to fund the remainder.
As with my first two Kickstarters, I am NOT budgeting the campaign target to include payment for my time spent writing and editing. Instead, I am setting my goal to meet the remaining financial obligations that stem directly from this deck; once again, the excellent Max Johnson has been willing to work with me on the basis of this Kickstarter funding, and while I was able to pay the phenomenal Elena Asofsky on completion of her art, my family had to lend my business part of the cash to do so. Because that loan came out of the savings I put aside from my teaching paycheck to cover my portion of expenses during the summer months, I have to make sure I repay it as soon as possible!
Meet the artists!
Funding Goal Breakdown
While the decks have been initially test-printed and look great, I'm still doing a final editing pass, and I hope to use the $1,600 from this campaign to pay for the following:
- $650 to cover the final payment to Elena Asofsky (repaid to my family).
- $450 to cover the final payment to Max Johnson.
- $200 (approximate) to cover test-printing and shipping the Tarot decks for multiple proofing attempts (the first round already done, and the last round yet to do).
- $200 (approximate) to cover taxes and fees.
- $100 for "I forgot something," which will almost certainly be for extra test-printing.
No Stretch Goals! But...
This project has no stretch goals! I find they delay delivery and complicate the process too much.
However, there is a reason I've dubbed this Kickstarter with a subtitle: The Portal Tarot: The Apprentice. While this first deck is done and just needs my artists to be paid properly before I can release it, I would love to create at least two, and probably more, variant decks in the future. I'm avoiding calling this a 'stretch goal' because I don't want to be beholden to a specific amount of money or time; I want to make this happen, whether or not this campaign over-funds!
The most important variant I want to make, if I am able to, is a fully-illustrated Tarot deck, called (tentatively) The Portal Tarot: The Master. Depending on whether or not Elena Asofsky or other artists I already know are available, these remaining 56 images could cost anywhere from $6,000-$12,000, and could take anywhere from six months to two years to acquire. While I love the current version of the The Portal Tarot, it is still a dream of mine to publish a deck with 78 pieces of unique art!
So, if this has a projected budget and a possible timeline, how is it different from a stretch goal?
I don't want to promise things I can't make absolutely sure I can do. Unfortunately, I'm not comfortable making a guarantee (like a stretch goal) that, if we reach X amount of money, I will deliver the fully illustrated deck in Y amount of time. Stretch goals felt appropriate with my first Kickstarter because the primary concern was writing text, which I could do myself, but 56 pieces of custom art is a huge order, and fulfillment would be almost entirely out of my hands.
Instead of a stretch goal, this is a different kind of promise. If this campaign funds--regardless of any specific amount of over-funding--and if I do make The Portal Tarot: The Master, all backers at $15 and above will receive PDFs for free, and the opportunity to order it in print via DriveThru at PoD cost, just like the deck this campaign is actually for (assuming DriveThru still exists, which is likely, but for which I can take no responsibility!). If I go on to make any other slightly-modified versions of this Tarot deck (which I am likely to, given the many variations I made of my first deck of cards!), the same will hold true--though other non-Portal Tarot decks with new art or text, or other new products not related to this one (such as GMA decks or books), wouldn't be included.
Pre-Launch Update: Because, A) I had to delay launching this Kickstarter from February to June for unrelated reasons, and B) Elena had the availability to work on this project recently, one part of The Portal Tarot: The Master is already available! Elena has illustrated the 16 'court' cards (the Page, Knight, Queen, and King of each of the Minor Arcana suits), and so all backers at $15 and above will be able to order them as an additional reward under the same terms as the full deck! For you, the PDF will be free, and the Print-on-Demand versions will total a little less than $3.00.
This does not raise the Kickstarter funding goal, but it does put a further kink in my personal finances, since I insist on paying Elena on-time; basically, if we don't over-fund enough to cover the cost, I may have to teach a session of summer school to pay my family back the amount I paid Elena for the art. But that's OK! I really wanted the art!
Beyond the possibility of more art and deck variants, excess funds will help me to cover the costs of operating a business: software licenses, website maintenance, and (hopefully) covering the cost of my time spent writing the text content of this deck!
DriveThru Fulfillment & Shipping
This campaign, like my previous ones, will be fulfilled through the OneBookShelf family of sites, for both PDF and Print-on-Demand orders. This has several major advantages: You don’t have to rely on my speed or accuracy for shipping, you don’t have to pay for shipping twice (DriveThru to me, me to you), and in the unlikely event of problems with your order, you have access to help from them as well as from me.
PDF rewards will be delivered by DriveThru for no additional charge, but will require a DriveThru login to claim. For any PoD rewards, you will receive access to order your decks at manufacturing cost (approximately $16.50/Tarot deck, or $5.50/deck for the Deck of Tales and GMA Decks), plus shipping.
Outside North America: Possible, but Possibly Expensive
While DriveThru’s shipping for cards within North America is fast, reliable, and reasonably priced, they do have potentially high shipping costs to other regions. If this might be a problem for you, you can read their estimated shipping chart here, which indicates that shipping to most regions would be $11-20, or consider adding a deck of my GameMaster's Apprentice cards to your cart and seeing what shipping is like to your area (keeping in mind that those decks are smaller, and so weigh less), before you back for a PoD deck of cards. If the cost is too high, you can also investigate package-forwarding services like www.ShipItTo.com, but I’m afraid I can’t offer any other forms of direct shipping; they would only get more expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone!
If you investigate shipping to your region and discover it would be prohibitively high, please feel free to back at the $2 'Financial Hardship/High Shipping' level, and consider the difference my apology for not having a better shipping solution.
Risks and challenges
After successfully fulfilling two Kickstarter campaigns within their projected timelines--the latter of which was only two months for the deck of cards it funded--I feel confident I understand the possible delays ahead, and have designed this campaign to minimize them as much as possible.
Currently, the cards are in a finished state and have been proofed, so I can send codes to backers with the click of a button. The only remaining hurdle to production is to finish paying those who helped bring it to life, since I can't offer The Portal Tarot to the public until they receive their full compensation; after working as an industry freelancer, I don't want to put them through the hassle of waiting for payment they've already earned while the publisher makes money.
If the KS funds, there is still technically the possibility that DriveThruRPG and DriveThruCards could mysteriously shut down, but given their status as a pillar of the indie game, PDF, and PoD industry at the moment, that seems unlikely. If it does happen, I would switch production to one of the many other services that exist to help board game designers fulfill promises; this would likely add a month or more to the timeline, since I would have to re-proof and possible re-format the card files.
Even if those hurdles are cleared, I could be hit by a bus and fail to send codes to backers. In the event of such a disaster, I've left instructions with other people that would enable them to fulfill it on my behalf.
Lastly, if there is an extremely high number of backers, it may take slightly longer to fulfill the project simply for logistical reasons, but DriveThru's ever-improving publisher toolset should be able to handle any volume I am likely to reach.
Overall, I am confident I can fulfill The Tarot Portal decks within 4-8 weeks after funding, depending on how long it takes to receive the funds from Kickstarter, pay my obligations, and then email codes to the backer lists produced by Kickstarter's system.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)