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Character Cards - Instant NPC Just Add Water's video poster

A deck of playing cards that double as a set of instant characters for use in roleplaying games, fiction or storytelling. Read more

pledged of £900 goal
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This project was successfully funded on May 17, 2013.

A deck of playing cards that double as a set of instant characters for use in roleplaying games, fiction or storytelling.

About this project

What are Character Cards?

Character Cards are a tool for creating fantasy stories, whether you're writing a piece of fiction or running a roleplaying game. 

Each card details an individual who can be readily slotted into your story. Or, if you want more variety, they're designed to be easily combined to create truly unique characters.

Character Cards are geeky playing cards.

A standard 52 card deck, with 2 jokers.

Character Cards are a self-contained game

Designed for its own trick-taking game in addition to its other uses

Who are we?

We're two Manchester roleplayers, Laurence Hensel and Stephen Coffey, who had a cool idea and decided we should make it a reality.

Why are we making Character Cards?

Every GM has their own strengths and weaknesses and every game presents its own challenges. Sometimes it can be difficult to improvise an NPC under pressure.

Character Cards solve this problem. We long ago realised that having a set of pregenerated NPCs helped: but the more we had the harder it became to pick one. Drawing a card is fast and the information is all right there in one place.

The structure of a card

Each Character Card has a rank and suit, like any playing card, but it also has a character description, which is composed of several sections: one for each suit ♣ ♦ ♠ ♥, and a fifth for its secret.

The ♣ section describes the characters connections with others, their social standing, or something similar.

The ♦ section describes their main physical trait, something that is obvious when you look at them.

The ♠ section details their profession, what it is they do to earn a living.

The ♥ section describes their hearts desire, whether it be the person they love, or simply a hunger for power.

The secret is, well, just that, something that most people don't know about the character or even something they don't know about themselves, such as their true ancestry.

Generating Characters

The simplest way to use your deck of Character Cards is to shuffle it and draw a card whenever you need a new NPC or side character within your game 

If you desire something more individual than that, the modular nature of the cards (with five cleanly separated traits) becomes significant. By drawing a card for each of the five traits you can instantly generate a completely unique character (with over 300 million possibilities you'll never get the same result twice).

Or, if you know one thing about the character before you draw, you can simply ignore that section, while still using the rest of the card. For instance, if you know your character is a popular socialite in the town, you would ignore their  description while using the rest of the card to fill out their other aspects.

Use in writing

Many of the greatest stories are driven by interesting characters, and the relationships between them. Generally you will know your major characters better than anyone else (except hopefully the reader), but for less important character - bit parts, and minor recurring characters for example - you may have some idea of what role you want them to play, but not really who they are.

This is where Character Cards come in - by drawing a card, or a few cards, you can give what would have been a throw-away character a bit more believability, make them more compelling.

Or you could use them as a story-seed, a jumping off point to get your creative juices flowing. Draw a card and use the various traits and plot hooks built into each card to spark your imagination, or draw or generate two or three characters and work out what would happen were they to meet. Now we have met our £1800 stretch goal we will be doing precisely this at least once a month for the next year, so for an example, see this update

Playing Games

In addition to all the other games you can play with a deck of cards, Character Cards have an extra one built in.

We've given each card a value for all 4 suits, creating a trick-taking game where everyone can participate in every trick. 

In addition, each cards secret has a modifier value, allowing the card to be discarded to alter the value of a card, and thereby change the outcome of the round.

Add Ons

Extra decks. For each extra deck you want simply add £8 to your pledge.

Larger decks. You can replace any of your decks with a larger deck (3.5"x5": twice the size of a normal deck) for £8. So, to add a large deck to a pre-existing pledge, add a total of £16.

T-Shirts. You can add a Character Cards T-shirt to your pledge for an extra £22. These are a one-off product, only available to backers of this Kickstarter. And my mother.

Supporting Local Stores

As part of this Kickstarter we're trying to support local game stores. When we produce the deck, you'll be able to have it sent to your local game store for pick up. For every five decks delivered in this way, we'll send one extra one to the store as a thank you.

We save money on the postage, the store gets some free stock, and you get an excuse to go in and browse the merchandise; everyone wins.

To check if your local store is participating, look at the FAQ below. If they're not listed, you can contact them and let them know about the offer.

Stretch Goals

We've now got enough pledged now to produce the deck. Everything from here on out is gravy... tasty, tasty gravy. We'll keep improving the deck as much as we can as funding increases.

  • £1100 - We will commission an artist to draw us new and unique suit symbols   Achieved
  • £1250 - We will commission three different images for the back of the cards, and backers can vote on which one they prefer  Achieved
  • £1800 - We will write or commission stories starring characters from the deck and publish one a month on our web site for the next year. Achieved
  • £2000 - Upgraded Store Rewards: One bonus deck for every four their customers choose to pick up. Achieved
  • 200 Backers- We'll release a story every fortnight instead of every month. Achieved
  • £2600 -Expanded Deck: 13 extra cards in every deck, including 4 extra court cards and 9 major arcana. Achieved
  • £3000 - One Character Portrait each month, for the next year. Achieved
  • £3333 - An extra Character Cards story every month. Achieved
  • £3750 -Further Expansion: Another 13 extra cards, filling out the remaining major arcana, for a total of 80 cards per deck.

Risks and challenges

We have already scoped out three possible suppliers for the cards, and the same number for the T-shirts, so if there's a problem with one or two of the possibilities we've got back-up plans.

We've paid a lot of attention to the experiences of other Kickstarters, and have prepared for a worst case scenario (everyone ordering the lowest margin items from places with high shipping costs), and while we'd be left with no excess, we would still be able to fulfil the pledges.

If the project massively exceeds our goal, we may have to hire people in order to get all the shipping done. Fortunately, if we have that problem we will also have the money to solve it.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • Our local game store in Manchester, Fanboy 3

    UK Stores

    Replay Games, Bangor, Northern Ireland

    Waylands Forge in Birmingham

    Spirit Games in Burton on Trent:

    Rules Cardiff:

    Proud Lion Comics, Cheltenham

    Avon Toys in Leamington Spa

    Traveling Man in Leeds

    Tabletop Tyrant in Leicester:

    Acme Games in Llandudno

    Orcs Nest in London

    Patriot Games in Sheffield

    US stores

    Twenty Sided Store in Brooklyn:

    Yottaquest in Cincinatti:

    Last updated:
  • Yes!

    We are licensing them under the Creative Commons Attribution licence. This essentially means you can use them free of charge or limitation in anything you want, but if it's publicly available we ask that you mention us somewhere - a link to, for example. Letting us know and even sending us a free copy would be nice too, if you wanted to!

    For characters generated by taking elements from various cards we don't think it would be possible to limit that even if we wanted to - a shout out would be nice, but is not necessary in that case!

    Last updated:
  • The numbers represent how "good" or "powerful" that aspect of the character is, but don't reflect how much it defines the character. For example Sir Philip Basset's profession is a Questing Knight, which is reasonably high status, but it does not define who he is - that would be his desires. Meanwhile Karla Gennel is defined by her profession as a bar tender, but it has a lower value than Sir Philip's Spades score because it is a lower status profession.

    The secret is slightly different in that it acts as a modifier to the relevant suit (which may or may not be the defining suit) whenever it is relevant. For example Karla's saving will allow her to move up in the world and open her own bar some day, so they will act to improve her profession from bar person to land lord. Philip, however, is haunted by his past and that serves to weaken his resolve and make him doubt himself.

    Finally, the numbers will become relevant when playing the trick-taking game, as explained above in the Playing Games section

    Last updated:
  • No, they have the same set of cards, just at a larger size. This does include any additional cards unlocked through stretch goals.

    Last updated:
  • Not in this Kickstarter. However, there's enough support that we will be launching another Kickstarter for a different genre once we have arranged delivery of our rewards for this one.

    Last updated:
  • We're actually doing two separate print runs. One in the US, one in the UK. It keeps costs down.

    Should we reach a high enough pledge total, this may change to one print run, and doing a single large shipment between the two, followed by seperate fulfilment in the UK and US.

    All other nations are being handled from the UK, because that's where we're based.

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge £2 or more

    27 backers

    Background Character

    Just a little something that makes things real. We'll send you a PDF copy of the deck when it's complete. This is included in all higher levels.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge £8 or more

    52 backers All gone!

    The Early Bird

    Get in early for a cheaper price.

    UK and US shipping included. Add £3 for shipping elsewhere in the world.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge £9 or more

    215 backers

    The Villager

    One Character Card Deck.

    UK and US shipping included. Add £3 for shipping elsewhere in the world.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge £17 or more

    52 backers

    The Hunter

    Two decks of Character Cards.

    UK and US shipping included. Add £3 for shipping elsewhere in the world.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge £30 or more

    2 backers

    The Tailor

    Villager + An Awesome Character Cards T-Shirt

    UK and US shipping included.
    Add £3 for shipping elsewhere in the world.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge £75 or more

    4 backers Limited (5 left of 9)

    The Adventurer

    Name a Character Card. Possibly after a character of yours, or one of your nemeses. You also receive two decks of Character Cards

    UK and US shipping included. Add £3 for shipping elsewhere in the world.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge £150 or more

    1 backer Limited (3 left of 4)

    The Hero

    Work with us to design one of the Character Cards. You also receive four decks of Character Cards, and a T-shirt with your card on it.

    Shipping included

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (35 days)