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A spooky card-based microgame for four people! In Jack's Trick, you're trying to avoid taking on the curse of Jack o' the Lantern.
78 backers pledged $567 to help bring this project to life.

About

$567

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 Once there was a very wicked man called Jack, who tricked the Devil into refusing to take his soul. He wanders the world now, ever searching for a way into Heaven or Hell, ever unable to rest. He carries with him a gourd lit by an ember from Hell itself. A few times in a year, when chains are loosed and doors unlocked, he has a chance to end his curse, to pass along his lantern, and name a new Jack. 

That might be you, if you aren’t quick and clever. 

Artwork by Miguel Santos
Artwork by Miguel Santos

A Spooky Card-Based Micro-RPG

Greetings, and welcome to Jack's Trick! As the header says, Jack's Trick is a spooky card-based micro-RPG...but what does all that mean?

Spooky

Jack's Trick is a game with some menace. It's not necessarily true horror, but it's not all fun and laughs, either. In Jack's Trick, you're competing against the other players to see who gets stuck wandering the Earth forever as the new Jack. Jack only gets the chance to lay down his curse on nights when the veil between this world and the next is thin, when good, virtuous people shiver and huddle close, and the wind wails outside. 

You know, the spooky kinds of nights.

Card-Based

This is easy - Jack's Trick uses a standard deck of playing cards. More specifically, it uses a Euchre deck, which includes only the Ace through 9 of all four suits. The rules for Jack's Trick are a modified form of Euchre, which is a trick-taking game popular in Ohio and Michigan. If you don't know how to play Euchre, or indeed what "trick-taking" means in this context, don't worry, it's all explained in the game's rules.

Micro-RPG

An RPG is a "roleplaying game," a game in which all of the players take on a persona to act and speak for them within the fiction of the game. Most RPGs have a "Game Master" to set the scene and control characters other than the ones the players portray; Jack's Trick does not, and those kinds of decisions are made collaboratively (that includes controlling Jack himself!). 

Jack's Trick is a "micro" RPG because it's short, it's meant to be played in one evening, and the players don't need to do a lot of reading or memorize a lot of numbers and systems to play it. Once the players understand the rules of the game, you can play a full game of Jack's Trick in about 2 hours.

Artwork by Miguel Santos
Artwork by Miguel Santos

The Kickstarter

Our Kickstarter for Jack's Trick is only running for two weeks - why?  It's because most of the work on Jack's Trick is done. The writing is complete, the art is finished, all we need is a bit of layout and it's ready to go. 

A few other considerations:

  •  Why run a Kickstarter at all, if it's that close to completion? Because it's close to completion, and close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. We still need some funds to finish it up.
  •  Why is there no print option? It's a micro-RPG, meaning that a print option doesn't make a lot of sense - it's too short. Also, I'm considering doing an anthology of micro-RPGs, but that project is very much in the idea stage, and I don't want to do a print version of Jack's Trick if I'm just going to turn around and offer it in another book later.
  • How do I get the PDF? Once the PDF is finished, I'll send out coupon code links to download the PDF via our friends at DriveThruRPG!

How to Play

Here's a brief explanation of how to play Jack's Trick. Obviously, the full rules go into greater detail, complete with an example of play. 

The first thing the players do in Jack's Trick is answer five questions collaboratively: 

  •  What is the setting? When and where is this game set? It can be anywhere and in any time period, as long as it's on a night in which the land of the dead and the land of the living are close - Halloween night is an obvious choice, but it might also be the anniversary of an important event. 
  •  Who are the characters? Each player creates a character and defines their relationship to the other characters. Each player also has a special gift, defined by a suit of cards - spades is a gift of the body, clubs is a gift of the mind, hearts is a gift with dealing with others, and diamonds is a gift of the supernatural. 
  •  What are their sins? Each of the characters feels guilty about something - it's how Jack can sneak his curse into them. What did the characters do that they now regret?
  •  How are they hiding? Everyone is hiding, either literally or metaphorically. If it's Halloween night, maybe everyone's wearing a mask. If it's a dinner party, maybe the characters are all there under false pretenses. 
  •  Who is Jack? Jack often takes the form of an authority figure, but sometimes he prefers to be a servant or employee - someone who can be out of sight and out of mind. Jack always carries a light source of some kind.

Once you've answered these questions, it's time to play! Play in Jack's Trick consists of improvised roleplaying until a conflict arises, at which point everyone plays a hand of cards. 

Before we go on, though, let's define some terms.

Taking Tricks: A trick consists of each of the four players playing a card. Those four cards constitute a trick. The highest card of the first suit played or the highest trump card takes the trick, meaning that the player who played the winning card collects the four cards and keeps them nearby. 

Trump: In a card game, trump is a suit that beats all the others. That means that if hearts is the trump suit, the highest heart played in a trick takes it. 

Bowers: In Euchre (and therefore in Jack's Trick), the highest card in a given hand is the jack of the trump suit, and the second-highest card is the jack of the same color. Those jacks are called the bowers (right and left bower, respectively). So if hearts is trump, the highest cards in the hand are, in descending order: jack of hearts (right bower), jack of diamonds (left bower), ace of hearts, king of hearts, queen of hearts, ten of hearts, nine of hearts. The left bower is considered part of the trump suit, so if hearts is trump, the jack of diamonds is considered a heart for that hand (that's probably the rule that most often trips up new players, so watch out for the left bower!).

Following Suit: This means that you have to play the suit that was led in a trick, if you can. So if the first player in a trick plays a club, you have to play a club if you have one, even if it means losing a card you'd rather hold on to. Likewise, if you don't have any of the suit being played, you can play whatever you want, which lets you play trump on a non-trump trick. 

(Let's have an example of that last one: Assume hearts is trump. The first player leads the ace of clubs. Second play follows with a nine of clubs. Third player has no clubs, and plays the nine of hearts, trumping the trick. The fourth player would like to play a higher trump, but they have the queen of clubs, so they have to play it (following suit), even though there's already been a trump card played.)

Every conflict in Jack's Trick consists of five tricks. The game ends when every suit has been the trump suit in one hand. At that point, whoever has the least tricks becomes the new Jack, takes up the lantern and wanders the Earth, cursed forever. If the players somehow manage to tie the game, though, Jack loses. He's unable to pass along his curse and he has to wait for a new opportunity. 

There's more to the game, of course - the gift suits I mentioned before can alter who takes a trick - but that's the gist of the game. I'll explain the rules in updates to the Kickstarter as we go, but if you have questions, please ask them in the comments!

Risks and challenges

This is my standard "Risks & Challenges" spiel, so it'll look familiar if you backed our other projects.

Any Kickstarted project carries a risk, one that I like to call "the flammable cat." When I worked for White Wolf Game Studio as the developer for the Dark Ages line, we would occasionally say, when a book was delayed, that somewhere along the way a cat caught fire.

Obviously, no actual felines were ever combusted (not to my knowledge, anyway!), but the point was that with an endeavor like an RPG book, any number of things can go wrong. They're not anyone's fault - people get sick, have car accidents, relatives pass away, babies are born, and so forth - but they do slow things down. The trick to keeping things on track isn't to safeguard against the flammable cat. That cat is GOING to catch fire at some point.

No, the best plan is to have a fire extinguisher handy. To break the metaphor, what I mean by all this is that I'm sure something's going to go wrong or get delayed. In this particular case, most of the work on Jack's Trick is done - all that needs to happen is for Thomas to lay it out and put it in the proper format, and then it's ready to go.

Growling Door Games has run and delivered five successful Kickstarters, and only one of them suffered any notable delay (Undead, for Chill(r) Third Edition). In that case the delay was because of artwork coming in late, which isn't going to be a problem for Jack's Trick, since the art is already done.

We hope you'll join us for some spooky fun with Jack's Trick!

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    Jack's Trick PDF

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    Spooky MidWinter!

    I'll host a game of Jack's Trick for you and two or three friends at MidWinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee, WI (January 10-13, 2019). You're responsible for getting to the convention, I'll provide the sheets, the cards, and the game.

    (Note: I say "host" and not "run" because Jack's Trick is GM-less, so if there's 3 players, I'll play, and if there's four, I'll host and explain the game.)

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    Spooky Origins!

    I'll host a game of Jack's Trick for you and two or three friends at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH (June 12-16, 2019). You're responsible for getting to the convention, I'll provide the sheets, the cards, and the game.

    (Note: I say "host" and not "run" because Jack's Trick is GM-less, so if there's 3 players, I'll play, and if there's four, I'll host and explain the game.)

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    • Jack's Trick PDF
    • Game at Origins
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    Spooky GenCon!

    I'll host a game of Jack's Trick for you and two or three friends at GenCon in Indianapolis, IN (August 1-4, 2019). You're responsible for getting to the convention, I'll provide the sheets, the cards, and the game.

    (Note: I say "host" and not "run" because Jack's Trick is GM-less, so if there's 3 players, I'll play, and if there's four, I'll host and explain the game.)

    Includes:
    • Jack's Trick PDF
    • Game at GenCon
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Funding period

- (12 days)