Sunday 3 October 2010

Old School Accessories: Story Path Cards

This is the first in a series of posts where I dig out all my old school accessories, game aids etc and try to explain how they work in a game session.


Designed by Mark Rein Hagen and originally published by Lion Rampant as "Whimsy Cards" before being republished as "Story Path Cards" by White Wolf in 1990. There were 2 decks available: "The Path of Horror" and "The Path of Intrigue", both containing 24 tarot sized cards.

The cards feature a number from 1 to 7 and are played by either players or DM, in sequence starting with #1, a "Theme Card" which sets the overall tone, then 2, 3 and so on until a "Climax Card" is played. Playing cards allows players to influence the direction of the storyline or to gain extra insight into NPC motivations or find out rumours. Players are given cards by the DM either as rewards for good roleplay or heroic actions and can be played at any time, the DM being the final judge of the ultimate effect of any card. The DM can also use the cards to randomly generate an adventure or story path.

Big thanks to +Reuben Beattie and  +Regis Bacquet for providing the text for the missing cards.

1 1 Hint of Madness Theme Card: The hideous wails of a thousand sorrows rise from the pit, slowly growing into a crescendo of madness.  This Path explores that aspect of reality, or lack of it, which deals with life on the edge.
2 1 Lost Cause Theme Card:All efforts and ambitions are doomed to failure and defeat.  Ultimately, everything that the characters attempt will fail - they are on a lost cause.  There may be a way out, but only after this streak of misfortune plays itself out
3 1Sense of Foreboding Theme Card: The apprehension of danger foreshadows great peril.  Something in the air portends calamity, misfortune and death.  What is going to happen to you, or rather - when is it?  The horror of anticipation should permeate this Path
4 1Vast Unknown Theme Card:The universe is broad and contains much within it that is unknown, and ultimately, unknowable.  Mysteries, secrets, hidden terrors, dark horrors, and all that lurks beyond our sight can be a part of this Path
5 2Eerie Sounds Describe a strange, nearly unidentifiable sound resounding from the depths of the night - cackling laughter, God-foresaken howling, whispering voices, or a cry in the dark.  "What was that!  Did you hear something?"
6 2Sickly Stench Describe a horrible, nauseating smell of unidentifiable origin.  The smell might be of import to someone, a clue to what they are searching for.  "Its stench is like a cross between burning rubber and milk that's been left out for a month."
7 2Unnatural Silence Where there was once sound, noise, life, now there is only stark brutal silence.  Inexplicable and sudden, the absence of noise makes the heart grow cold.  The clutch of fear grasps all with this somehow sinister change in events.
8 2Unnerving Premonitions Describe to a single character a dark but uncertain vision of what may await them if they persevere in what they are doing.  Make it as sinister, malignant and apocalyptic as you desire - perhaps it really is only a vision.
9 3Fleeting Glimpse Through the trees, out od the darkness or from the shadows, the characters catch sight of something horrible or strange that fills their hearts with terror.  Describe in detail what they see, but who or what it really is might not be known for some time.
10 3Ominous Omen Introduce an enigmatic omen of peril into the story - a black cat crosses the rod or the characters discouver the moldering corpses of a previous expedition.  Something suggests future evil, but the significance of an omen is always uncertain.
11 3Strange Apparition Describe the appearance of a phantom, haunt, spectre, marsh-fire, will-o-wisp or even a delusion.  Something that is conjured out of the fog or supposedly seen in the shadows.  Whether real or hallucination will be discovered soon enough.
12 3Suspicious Stranger Introduce a stranger to the story - a cloaked wanderer, a sly guttersnipe, or a brutal bounty hunter.  Someone of a sinister nature that suggests, rightly or wrongly, of future peril - an outsider in your midst.
13 3Remembered Dream A relevant dream is recalled by a character. Describe the specifics of a nightmare, daydream or vision in an evocative and compelling manner, in a way that relates to the character's personality. What the character makes of it, however, is up to him. (Missing Card Text Supplied by: Regis Bacquet)
14 4Hapless Victim An innocent is harmed, sacrificed, or oppressed.  Perhaps they are hoodwinked, duped, tortured, or brutalized.  Describe the appearances of the situation, but leave the specifics to the GM.
15 4Open AssaultClimax Card: The anticipation is over and the horror finally emerges in its full splendor - there is no need of dread, for terror will do.  Describe an attack of some sort upon a character or characters by an agent of the horror.
16 4Something's Missing Describe the loss of an object, person or animal which might have been important to a character, and explain why it might be missing (it had better make sense).  Whether it's really gone or not, or if the character is just imagining things, is up to the GM.
17 4Unknown Lurker Describe to a character the sensation that someone or something is lurking near them, just outside the periphery of their vision.  Identify how evidence of this fiendish prowler was obtained: tracks, sounds or maybe a confrontation.
18 5Horrifying Discovery Discoveries are not always heroic, they are often horrific.  Describe a discovery by a character in a way that will appall and frighten the players.  The close presence of such perversity is startling even to the most jaded.
19 5Sudden Panic Describe the frenzied emergence of dread and horror in a character or characters, or its residual effects.  It could  be just a false alarm, or they might have seen, heard or sensed something.
20 5Unforseen Calamity Climax Card: Because of what was overlooked and misunderstood, a great tragedy occurs, and something of consequence to the characters involved.  What appears to happen is up to you - what actually occurs is up to the GM.
21 6 Abduction Climax Card: Someone or something is taken away, kidnapped or stolen - or an attempt is made to do so (perhaps just the results of such could be discovered).  Describe what is seen, but leave the results to the GM
22 6 Disfigurement Something or someone has been marred or had their aesthetic value reduced, creating something of unpleasant and perhaps horrific countenance.  Describe what is seen in as much gruesome detail as you can.
23 6 Misguided Hope It is hope that leads us onward into the future, and sometimes it is only hope that that keeps us going.  But sometimes hope proves to be misguided.  How was the hope misguided and what is likely to result because of it?
24 7 New Found Escape Climax Card: Describe a potential way out of the situation, an escape which will take a character or characters out of harm's way.  It must make sense and fit the story, otherwise it's going to be Vetoed out from under you.

1 1 Animosity Theme Card: Hostility is prevalent and open, and hate affects everything in this Path, tainting and corrupting even the player characters.  This ill will may be openly expressed or harboured secretly in the heart, waiting to reupt at a later time.
2 1 Betrayal Theme Card: All is deception and treachery.  You can trust nothing and no one.  This Path explores the double-crosses, faithlessness, and betrayals of a story of intrigue.  All cards played in this Path should relate to this theme of betrayal.
3 1 Things are Not as They Seem Theme Card:What seems to be one thing is actually another.  What was once certain is now unknown.  This Path explores the confusion and mutability of what is thought to be known - the reality behind the veil of "truth."
4 1 Vengence Theme Card: The sweet fulfillment of righteous revenge is a driving force.  It directs, mutates and consumes all that it touches.  The effects of someone's avenging nature must touch every card that is played along this Path.
5 2 Lasting Impression An impression is made or an old one is reborn.  Perhaps the emotional effects of a forgotten experience reawakens within the character's mind, which may be of some import to the current situation.  Perhaps something occurs which will never be forgotten.
6 2 Meaningful Glance The observation of a meaningful glance between two characters might illuminate the mysteries and secrets of the intrigues that are involved.  What really is seen and what it signifies are determined by the GM.
7 2 Mysterious Stranger Introduce the appearance of a new and strange character into the story.  This individual forbodes an uncertain and mysterious future.  This card also allows you to describe in more detail anyone the GM has mentioned in passing.
8 2 Overheard Conversation Relate to a character or characters a conversation overheard, making sure to describe how they happen to be within hearing distance.  You should only describe the situation and let the GM relate the details of the conversation.
9 2 Taint of Corruption The stench is everywhere and unavoidable, whether it be political, social or animal.  It corrupts everything it touches, and always leaves its residue behind.  Describe what type of corruption it is and what type of mark it leaves behind.
10 3 Convincing Argument A character is convinced, either enthusiastically or reluctantly, of the validity of another point of view.  They are swayed by the words and logic of another's argument.  Whether they are pretending, confused, or truly convinced is up to the GM.
11 3 Hidden Weapon Describe how a weapon of some sort is being carried secretly by a character, giving another character a chance to spot it.  This could be a physical tool of destruction, or something less substantial, more subtle, nd far more dangerous.
12 3 Veiled Threat A threat is made, though not in direct terms, for a degree of subtly is employed.  While the magnitude of the threat may not be fully understood and the characters are unsure of what was said, the overall meaning is quite clear, "… or else."
13 3 Ulterior Motive Describe the covert intentions of a character, motives that a character may have besides those already known. This ulterior motive may have been discovered by a character, or it could be something shared by the players (at least at first). (Missing Card Text Supplied by: Reuben Beattie)
14 4 Double Cross Climax Card: After a deal or understanding has been reached, a betrayal is made which could drive a character into ruin.  Describe the moment when the character first realizes something is amiss, but leave the details up to the GM.
15 4 Malicious Intent A character does not mean well for those who oppose him, and concocts an evil plan.  The full nature of the enemy's design and what may later befall his enemies is likely to be unknown.
16 4 Secret Message A message or a letter was either seen being passed along, or was somehow intercepted.  Describe the details behind the observation or the interception.  The GM will determine the contents of the message, if it can be understood at all.
17 4 False Accusations An attempt is made to bring suspicion upon a character, through gossip, innuendo, or open accusation. Describe the details behind the accusation, but if it will substantially alter the plot, you'd better speak with the GM first. (Missing Card Text Supplied by: Reuben Beattie)
18 5 Impasse A deadlock is reached from which there seems to be no escape.  Opinions and positions are entrenched and no one's giving an inch.  It does not seem as if the dispute can be amicably settled and a more extreme stage of conflict might soon be reached.
19 5 Mistaken Identity Someone or something is taken for something else.  Embarrassment and even injury may result because of it.  Describe how the blunder was made, and the GM will decide how it will be concluded.
20 5 Uncovered Weakness Climax Card: A situation may reverse itself as a weakness in the opponents' defenses is uncovered.  Secrets are revealed, new information surfaces, or the missing scale on a dragon is spotted.  Victory may soon be possible.
21 6 Inopportune Arrival They arrived just in time - just in time, that is, to screw things up.  Something or someone just arrived to the chagrin or disadvantage of someone.  Unwelcome relatives, hated rivals, or perhaps the police.
22 6 Startling Discovery Climax Card: What has been found is a surprise to all, giving great insight into what is being investigated or pursued.  Though not all may be made clear, much is revealed by the discovery (as described by GM).
23 6 Unwelcome Visitor Someone or something appears in the scene that does not belong, yet is not necessarily an enemy or a danger.  They may complicate matters with their presence, but could actually be of some value later on.
24 7 Unexplained Aid Climax Card: The cavalry comes to the rescue, bringing unanticipated help.  The rescue, however, may not be without its price.  Describe the aid as it is first perceived but leave the details to the GM.