GM Hoard: Cartomancy

Today’s Hoard is just a single item, but it’s a long one: a card reading from a stereotypical elderly fortuneteller in a dark little room on a nameless street. This is included in Fantasy Table Pack 2.

After I put together the tarot spread generator that’s part of the basic package, I thought about expanding it with the meanings of the cards, etc. However, I wanted those readings to be more keyed to the needs of a fantasy RPG. This would be problematic with the real tarot because the cards already have meanings — just not necessarily the ones we need.

So, in a burst of insanity, I designed a whole new deck. It has 46 cards, all individual like the Major Arcana, with meanings that can be worked into an RPG campaign. It came out better than I ever hoped; in fact, now I want an artist to draw me the real cards!

From the Notes: One of the reasons fortunetelling of any type works is that people who believe it to be true look for ways they can relate the details to their own lives. If their newspaper horoscope speaks of a relative having money problems, they’ll think “oh, that must mean Uncle John, my cousin said something about him having too much month at the end of the money; wow, this horoscope is right on!” Ignoring, of course, the fact that pretty much everyone knows someone with money problems. Since you are, after all, the gamemaster, and you had that card reading prepared on a printout you had ready to hand them, your players will be more than willing to believe that something, anything, relates to the reading. “It said a dark man of strength would oppose us — and look, the captain of the evil overlord’s guard has black hair and he’s kind of swarthy looking; he must be the one it meant.” This can add color to your game without any actual work on your part!

So without further ado,

1 fantasy tarot reading

The elderly fortuneteller neither smiles nor frowns. “I know you not, but the cards, the cards know.” She shuffles the cards and begins to lay them on the cloth in front of her.

The first card, which is inverted, depicts a weeping willow tree alongside a stream. “This card,” the fortuneteller says, tapping it with a gnarled finger, “this card is that which surrounds you. It is called the Willow Tree and reversed it signifies being blown about at the mercy of the winds of change.”

She lays out a second card. It depicts a transparent figure in front of a tombstone. “This card is that which opposes you. Its name is the Ghost. Your opposition benefits from knowledge of the past bringing understanding.”

She lays another card on the cloth, this one inverted and depicting a single feather. “This, the Feather, shows what aids you. Your opposition is hindered by fragility and weakness.”

She lays out another card. “This shows the person most involved in your future. It may be that a woman of faith shall hinder your progress.”

She pauses for a long moment, looking into your eyes, before she lays out the final card.

“This one,” she says, “This one shows what will come.” The card, which is also inverted, depicts a loincloth-clad warrior, battleaxe in hand, surveying the horizon. “This card is the Barbarian and reversed it indicates power misdirected by anger. Continue as you are, and this is what shall be. Think long on the Barbarian, for it means much to you.”