Cartomancy: A RPG, A Card Game, An Open Source Toolbox project video thumbnail
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$5,975 pledged of $7,000 goal
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By Daniel Warmke
$5,975 pledged of $7,000 goal
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About this project

“When I saw the new kickstarter page for Cartomancy, it didn’t take much for me to back it” —David Schirduan, Blogger and Game Designer

Take a modern roleplaying game and deconstruct it. Take away all the trappings that we think of as essential for RPGs because of tradition: dice, statistics, equipment, even in some cases the GM. From the pure core of fantasy that remains, tempered by game rules, create something new with completely new assumptions: that is the process that created Cartomancy.

Cartomancy is a card-based roleplaying game. This doesn’t mean that you simply substitute cards for dice in resolving mechanics—although that is true, so far as it goes. More importantly, the conventions of card games—hand management, straights, kitties, trumps, window cards, widows and all the rest—form some of the most basic conventions of Cartomancy. 

This means that it it plays differently than a dice-based game. A die can be rolled an infinite number of times, whereas a card can be played but once, making every action a sacrifice. You never know what a die will show before it is cast, but when the cards are dealt at the beginning of a Cartomancy scene all of the luck is in place and it is up to the players to see if their hands will win or lose. As cards are fundamentally different than dice, so is Cartomancy fundamentally different from other RPGs. 

The Game

“[Cartomancy is] a card-based roleplaying game that's awesome and exciting…” —Cameron Miller, Game Designer

Cartomancy is a 200+ page, digest-sized, black and white game book written by Daniel Warmke and illustrated by Jessie Parrotti and Emily Vitori. It creates fast, focused game sessions using a couple decks of cards, some poker chips, and your friends. It is universal in that you can play any setting you like, from love stories between gods played out over eons, to scientists trying to stop a deadly disease from sweeping the world, to adventurers planning on kicking in dungeon doors for gold and thrills. There are 3 included playsets that modify the rules to particular settings and play styles, but the system is extraordinarily malleable. 

It is not a universal system in that it cannot do things in a small way. Characters have defining powers that make big things happen in the world, and stories are painted with a broad brush of conflict. For those looking for subtlety and minutia, there are a hundred excellent games that focus on details on the market; Cartomancy is not one of them. 

Cover art by Jesse Parrotti
Cover art by Jesse Parrotti

The Playsets

“The base Cartomancy guidelines are exciting, but I get positively giddy over Toytastrophe” —James Bulls, Playtester and card based game enthusiast

It is one thing to say “universal toolbox” and call it a day, but another to produce setting to go with system. Cartomancy has three different playsets (you could call them “mod’s,” “settings” or “adventures”) packaged in and already available in our playtest hideout. There are more waiting in the wings for stretch goals to be unlocked. 

You want a game with radical mechanics but a conservative setting? Play Four Kings, an adventure and setting that should feel comfortable to most fantasy game alumni. Want to get crazy and play without a Game Master? Play Consoles & Cards where you can play solitaire or co-op in a JRPG inspired setting. What you really want is a war-game where you empty a chest of kid’s toys on to a table and fight it out with cards? Toytastrophey mods the RPG rules to allow for two or more player tactical games. All are included in Cartomancy and use the same rules.

The Jack of Spades and and the friend you wish was imaginary
The Jack of Spades and and the friend you wish was imaginary

The Kickstarter

This game is coming out. It has been play-tested and modded to dozens of settings and has produced fun in every one. But if it is sent into the world without a proper sendoff, it is fated to a lonely existence where only a handful of players have seen its spark. What this Kickstarter campaign allows us to do is give it some adventuring companions to make Cartomancy's journey epic:

  • Card decks: Even though you can play with any deck of cards, we want to introduce a deck of cards that is evocative of the concept of adventure in a roleplaying game rather than any specific setting: savage spacemen, cybernetic mages, kodiak bear ninjas—whatever the fevered mind of our artist brings forth. 
  • A players’ guide: We have all been at the first session with a new game system where everything bottlenecks at a single copy of the book. We aim to eliminate that problem for Kickstarter backers by including a staple-bound (note: see stretch goals below!) copy of the most essential rules as an additional play reference. 
  • A free for commercial and noncommercial use online system reference document. We want to give these rules over to the gaming community as a whole so that the unique pieces of this game can be incorporated into other games without restriction.
  • A hardback cover: If you didn't know, distributers and retailers take a massive cut out of the price of RPGs you buy online or at brick and mortar stores (not complaining—something has to pay the bills at my Friendly Neighborhood Gaming Store), and that cut makes it impractical for us to print a hardback version of Cartomancy for retailers at a reasonable cost. However, the magic of Kickstarter allows us to offer a limited-edition hardback to you and make this the sort of book that we ourselves want to own. 
  • A community: YOU are the most important adventurer to add to the Cartomancy party. If you are there to play the game, mod the game, and tell others about it, then Cartomancy will succeed. If we don’t have players like you, it will fail regardless of stretch goals and funding levels. Simple as that. 
Card art and interiors by Emily Vitori
Card art and interiors by Emily Vitori

Stretch goals:

Many backers think that their individual contributions don’t matter very much in the grand scheme of things. After all, it would take 700 PDF backers to make this project a reality… so who cares about a drop in a bucket that large? Such backers don’t understand how important one enthusiastic person is. We have decided to give more ways than money to show your support and have three different stretch goal tracks. Help out with as many or as few as you are willing and able to. Let’s make this the best possible game when it ships!

Fund the project to make the game! Obviously we can’t make games without funds coming in!

7K Green light and publish. With three playsets: 3 Kings, Toytastrophe, and Console & Cards. We will be offering cards, a Kickstarter-exclusive hardback edition, and soft-backs. The base game is licensed under noncommercial creative commons. 

10K Double card packs (two per order) for all Awesome and above backers and introduce a second card back (red and blue deck).

15K Free bonus book for all Awesomest and above backers: a staple-bound Player’s Guide containing the player’s guide section of the rulebook and the power guide. More copies of the player’s guide will make character creation a breeze! 

25K Toytastrophe rules will be included in the bonus player’s guide so that you don’t have to let your vile opponent touch your copy of the main game. 

Free tee shirts and more

If you post a link to smokeandmirrorsgames.com/cartomancy or to this Kickstarter and back at the Awesomest level (or above) we will send you a tee shirt with your rewards. Tell us in the comments section of this page where we can find your link.

Alternatively, if you post substantive content in our Google+ Community you will get a tee shirt. Send in a play report, host a hangouts game, or put up a rules hack; you will go on the list.

Here's the fine print. Some restrictions/limitations apply: there are only 50 shirts supporting both giveaways, only to Awesomest (or higher) backers, and only one bonus shirt per customer. Sorry about requiring the $50 backer level; shipping would kill us otherwise.

In addition to scoring a tee shirt for yourself, you will also benefit the community. For every ten links and/or community posts, we will add more content to the Cartomancy ruleset. (Note that, although each individual is limited to one tee shirt, by both linking and posting you can add two points to the added-content tally!)

10 links/posts: Add one additional dungeon, The Water Temple, on to the Consoles & Cards playset.

20 links/posts: Add Space Marshals, an additional full playset hailing from the golden age of adventure science fiction to all books (4 total playsets).

30 links/posts: Add a running battle on the rapids after the adventure at The Water Temple to C&C.

40 links/posts: The System Reference Document containing all of the Cartomancy rules will be posted on our website under a full Creative Commons Attribution license. This means that you will be able to use those rules in any way that you like, commercial or non-commercial, just so long as you say where you got it. We think this will really let the community grow, but it will require a significant amount of labor to make happen, which is why we need to know that you are enthusiastic before we take the plunge. (More in the FAQ for information freedom nerds.)

50 links/posts: Boss fight! Add a quest at the Air Temple, Airship rules, and a Big Boss Battle to C&C.

Risks and challenges

Are there challenges to be overcome in putting out an indi-RPG? Oh my yes. Let the author, Daniel Warmke, tell you about it:

In 2008 I wrote a setting for d20, the system of the week back then, got the art and editing together and did the final layout… then Uncle Same handed me mobilization orders to the mid-east. While I was gone, the license changed and the product I had was no longer viable. After another couple of years of day jobs and school, I wrote Cartomancy in 2012. As soon as all my ducks were in a row, orders came for Afghanistan.

I think that the extended development process for Cartomancy has made it into a better game—and the US Department of Defense has pinky promised not to send me anywhere until well after the game ships!

From here on out, we have printers selected and priced out, shipping plans developed with multiple contingencies depending on how big things go, art contracted, and text that is finished except for holding on for your input and a final round of proofreading. We are allowing plenty of time until our promised delivery date because the world is big and strange and obstacles are not confined to the tabletop. We will make our timeline and will deliver a great RPG.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Cool. Playtest copy available right now. This is a fully playable game, but writer Daniel Warmke is padlocked to his desk, awaiting your feedback! What you have to say will shape his revisions to the final product. (look under update #1 for your link)

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Cooler. Final PDF copy with art and unlocked bonus features, your name in the book in teeny weeny font, and immediate access to the playtest copy. 

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Awesome. Final PDF plus deck of cards illustrated by Emily Vitori shipped to you (free US shipping!), as well as the playtest PDF right now and your name in the book in teeny weeny font. If we reach our stretch goal (see below), we will double all cards so that you will get two full decks of cards—one with red back and one with blue.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Awesomer: Softback copy and PDF with art and unlocked bonus features, a deck of cards (two with the unlock!), your name in the book in a respectable font, free US shipping, and immediate access to the playtest copy.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Awsomest: Hardback copy (Kickstarter exclusive!) and PDF with art and unlocked bonus features, a deck of cards (up to four with the unlock!), free domestic shipping, your name in the book in a font your grandma can read, and immediate access to the playtest copy.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Set the Example! Rename an example character from the Cartomancy main book, Pete in this case, after yourself or a loved one (or a beloved character). In addition to your character swashbuckling through the final version of the book, you get everything from the Awesomest level and a brief epigraph in the front of the book. Unreasonably obtrusive or offensive content will not be accepted; be cool.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Giver: 5 hardback copies for retailers or gift givers and 5 decks of cards, but no other rewards. Note that, with the exception of this, the hardback edition will not be available for retail and, if you are within a reasonable driving distance of a team member, we are always interested in doing signings.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Jack of Clubs: Immortalize a character as the Jack of Clubs in the Cartomancy deck. You provide the specifications (i.e. genre, description, equipment) and Emily Vitori will put your card in the hands of everybody who backs this Kickstarter. In addition to this you receive everything from the “Awsomest” reward level, a high resolution version of your card art, and the physical original.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Queen of Clubs: Immortalize a character as the Queen of Clubs in the Cartomancy deck. You provide the specifications (i.e. genre, description, equipment) and Emily Vitori will put your card in the hands of everybody who backs this Kickstarter. In addition to this you receive everything from the “Awsomest” reward level, a high resolution version of your card art, and the physical original.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    King of Clubs: Immortalize a character as the King of Clubs in the Cartomancy deck. You provide the specifications (i.e. genre, description, equipment) and Emily Vitori will put your card in the hands of everybody who backs this Kickstarter. In addition to this you receive everything from the “Awsomest” reward level, a high resolution version of your card art, and the physical original.

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    Jack of Hearts: Immortalize a character as the Jack of Hearts in the Cartomancy deck. You provide the specifications (i.e. genre, description, equipment) and Emily Vitori will put your card in the hands of everybody who backs this Kickstarter. In addition to this you receive everything from the “Awsomest” reward level, a high resolution version of your card art, and the physical original.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Queen of Hearts: Immortalize a character as the Queen of Hearts in the Cartomancy deck. You provide the specifications (i.e. genre, description, equipment) and Emily Vitori will put your card in the hands of everybody who backs this Kickstarter. In addition to this you receive everything from the “Awsomest” reward level, a high resolution version of your card art, and the physical original.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    King of Hearts: Immortalize a character as the King of Hearts in the Cartomancy deck. You provide the specifications (i.e. genre, description, equipment) and Emily Vitori will put your card in the hands of everybody who backs this Kickstarter. In addition to this you receive everything from the “Awsomest” reward level, a high resolution version of your card art, and the physical original.

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Funding period

- (30 days)