Constellation Cards

Table of Contents

Introduction

When we look at the night sky, we can see constellations. Cygnus the swan, Orion the hunter, Canis Major, the Big Dipper. Our eyes see the stars, but our imagination supplies the pattern.

This is a role-playing game (RPG) that uses cards, such as 3"x5" index cards. You will need a printed set of the cards that come with the game. You will also want a supply of blank cards, and something to write with. The game is ideally played by 3-6 people, but it can support any number of players, even solo play.

The cards supply rules for handling characters, challenges, combat, and so on. But like the stars that form a constellation, the cards can only suggest an outline. You must bring your imagination and your passion, and fill in the shape of the story yourself.

Although many of the cards and examples have a high fantasy flavor, you can use this game to depict any setting you want. You may need to create, rewrite, or remove some cards to achieve the specific genre you want.

Just tell me what to do!

You're going to draw three Character cards: an Upbringing, a Role, and a Focus. From those, you'll imagine a character that you want to play.

When it's your turn, tell us what your character does. If someone challenges the action you take, either flip one of those Character cards to meet the challenge, or draw a Condition card if you'd rather take a consequence.

When it's not your turn, listen to what the other players are saying. When you hear something that would be risky or difficult, and you have a fun idea how it could go differently for them, pose a challenge.

In addition, look at your own flipped-over Character cards. They talk about ways to flip them back. When you hear one of those things happen, flip the card back.

There's more, but that's the basics!

Can I…?

You can!

Each player can pose challenges to other players' actions. Each player can suggest new cards, or new ways to use existing cards. Each player has a voice in how the game should proceed.

The rules don't exist to tell you what you're permitted to do. Instead, they provide structure for the game's conversation, like a cup into which you pour your ideas and give them shape.

Treat the rules like another player at your table. They have very fixed opinions on how things should work. When you feel stuck, they'll tell you ways to move the game forward. On the other hand, if everyone in the group feels they know how things ought to proceed, you don't need the permission of the rules to do that.

The rules are going to help you the most when:

  • The players aren't sure how things should happen, or the group can't agree on a course of action
  • The group hopes the rules can surprise or inspire them with a new idea
  • It feels appropriate to add external tension or complexity to a situation

The Basics of Play

You play this game by having a conversation with your fellow players. During that conversation, you tell the story of a group of characters going on a grand adventure in an imaginary world.

These rules are tools you can use to hold the conversation. They give you terms to explain what you mean, and guidance on how to steer the conversation.

At the start of each session, organize cards into stacks. Put each of the Core Rules cards into the center of the play area, as a reference. Make sure every player is familiar with the agendas. Finally, start having your conversation!

If this is the first time your group is playing the game, start the conversation in the "Session Zero" section.

Otherwise, the group should set up scenes and pose challenges, described in the "Scenes and Challenges" section.

Player Agendas

During the conversation, you as a player have an agenda. Following the agenda when you speak will help keep the game moving forward. The game provides cards five agenda cards, summarized below. You can use these agenda cards as written, adapt them, or create your own.

The principal narrates the actions of a specific principal character (PC). PCs are the viewpoint characters and protagonists of the story you create.

The facilitator is responsible for managing the spotlight, which is a metaphor for whose narration is in focus at the moment. As a facilitator, you ensure that everyone's voice is heard.

The loremaster answers questions about the fictional world, its inhabits, history, and details. As a loremaster, you make sure the players understand what the characters would know about their world.

The referee clarifies rules questions or constructs rules to adjudicate situations mechanically. As a referee, you make sure everyone agrees on how to use the mechanics of the game.

The storyteller narrates for ensemble characters (ECs), also called non-player characters (NPCs). As a storyteller, you narrate for all ensemble characters, interacting with the PCs and helping drive the story forward.

In many other tabletop roleplaying games, there is a Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM). If you want to have a GM run the game, that person will be responsible for all the non-principal agendas, and every other player is a principal. Otherwise, each player can make use of any of these agendas any time it makes sense.

Using the Cards

The game uses both sides of its cards. Only one side, the one that's facing up when the card rests on a surface, is considered active at a time. Cards will have rules for when to flip from one side to the other.

Cards have names. Sometimes it's the same name for both sides (for example, "Guardian") sometimes not (for example, "Hurt/Wounded"). Cards have types, indicated by symbols. Cards typically have rules and/or narrative prompts. Individual cards might call for other props, like dice or tokens.

The front side of a card has an up arrow symbol. The back side has a down arrow symbol.

Standard Card Types

The game comes with several standard types of cards. When you create your own cards, you can use these types as a reference.

Core rules describe how to play the game, or provide rules for other cards. Character cards describe elements of a PC, like their upbringing. Condition cards reflect harm or hindrance affecting PCs during play. Encounter cards set up scenes and conflict for the PCs to deal with. Plot cards represent ongoing or recurring story elements. Oracle cards provide random answers to player questions.

Organizing Cards

At the start of play, the group should organize the cards, front side facing up, into stacks. Cards are sorted by their specific type, so for example all Condition cards go together, and all Character Focus cards go together.

Unless a rule tells you that the order of cards in a stack is important, you should randomly shuffle each stack once all cards have been organized.

Arranging Cards in Play

A card is either "in play" - out on the table or other play surface - or it's in a stack along with other cards of its type.

When a card enters play, it either goes to a particular player, or into the center area of play, depending on which type of card it is. Character and Condition cards always enter play in front of a particular player. Plot and Encounter cards go to the center. When cards are played together, they stay together.

You are bound by the rules on any card in play, whether it's your card or not.

Using Cards

You can draw a card from its stack, to get a random card.

You can pick a card from a stack. In this case, you can select any card you wish, not just the top card.

You can flip a card that's in play, going from front to back side or vice versa, if the rules on the card say you can.

Finally, you can discard a card back to its stack. When you do this, shuffle the stack again.

Creating New Cards

There's magic in creating your own cards. When the group makes a new ruling, or wants to recognize a new element of the world they're creating, they should create a card to represent that thing.

You can use the existing cards as examples, but not limits on what's possible.

Players who speak as Referees should review new card rules. Players who speak as Loremasters should review the fictional elements on cards. For example, if someone wants to add a card called "Demonic Strength" in a game where demons aren't already an element, the group should either understand and accept this, or suggest alternatives to achieve your goal for the new card.

If a new card violates the someone's boundaries of safety or comfort, it is the group's responsibility not to accept that card at the table.

The Universal Rule

When you're looking for ideas or inspiration, pick two or more cards, pair them together, and interpret what they tell you.

Many cards already exist to make this happen. Player characters happen when you pick three character cards, for example. Encounter cards exist to give you random situations to confront. You can mix the emotional Oracle cards with other types of cards to suggest a feeling.

There are other ways to use this rule. For example, you can create character arcs for individual PCs. Have each PC pick one of their character cards, or draw one at random. Pair these with another PC's cards for a story about those characters. Or pair them with an emotion card to suggest a feeling for a story.

If you've got plot cards already created, pair them with a PC's card, to suggest a specific way that the plot element comes back into play. Maybe "grateful villagers" comes up in combination with "Dreamer", meaning an eager villager has followed the PCs from their home, inspired by a particularly idealistic PC. What will the group do about this?

You can also draw unused character cards from their stacks. For example, you might draw the Tech Focus card, and an Amazement emotion card. You could use these to tell the story of an inventor whose gadgets attract the PCs' attention, or who needs help making or recovering an important gizmo.

Sometimes, our imagination just needs a push to get started. The Universal Rule lets the cards provide that push. The rest is up to you.

Starting the Game

"Session zero" is a common name for the session where players come up with characters, build a world together, and otherwise decide what and who and how they're playing. Actual play starts in session one, and continues through future sessions.

If you're playing in a one-shot, "session zero" and "session one" happen at the same time.

Your goal during session zero is to complete the following:

  1. Discuss boundaries, including the use of RPG safety tools
  2. Agree on a set of core rules with which to start play
  3. Create pole stars, or focal points for your story
  4. Create player characters
  5. Optionally create faces for any notable groups you've created

Boundaries and Safety Tools

The physical and mental health of every player must be respected, by every player in the group.

Every player is encouraged to read the TTRPG Safety Toolkit Guide by Kienna Shaw and Lauren Bryant-Monk, found here:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/114jRmhzBpdqkAlhmveis0nmW73qkAZCj

This game already includes the X-Card, by John Stavropoulos. The group may adopt other safety tools at their discretion.

Like any tool, TTRPG safety tools do nothing by themselves. They must be used as intended. You, the player, and each of your fellow players are responsible for ensuring safety. You use the tools to achieve this goal.

Choosing Core Rules

The following cards represent the core of the game: "Character Cards", "Condition Cards", "Challenges", the X-Card, and the Agenda cards ("Principal", "Facilitator", "Loremaster", "Referee", and "Storyteller"). You should place these cards at the center of the play area, for reference. The X-Card in particular asks you to read its contents at the start of play.

The game comes with other core rules, like the Crisis cards. Choose whether to include them in the game, and flip them as needed.

Finally, you can devise your own core rules. These can be any mixture of mechanical and fictional. For example, in a game where characters share a mystic bond, you might write a card like this:

"When you meditate and visualize yourself in the Astral Temple atop the Everclouded Mountain, you may interact with anyone else so meditating at the same time."

Such cards can add options and flavor to a campaign. You don't have to write down all your campaign truths this way, though, only the ones that directly impact the players.

Pole Stars

Pole stars are what your new game is about, at least at the start of play. They're elements of the game world, like "rune magic" or "the dragons" or "the westward migration", around which character drama will revolve.

The group as a whole should decide on one or two pole stars to begin the game. This is a chance for players to suggest themes or elements that they like.

By the end of the first session of play, each player should know their PC's position toward each pole star. For example, Tana wants to learn rune magic, while Woody mistrusts it. Basler is curious about it, but Emory is ignorant of it. You can decide on positions during session zero, or discover how your PC feels as you play them.

Pole star positions shouldn't put PCs into direct conflict with each other. If one person wants to kill dragons and another wants to protect them, the party may fall apart the first time they encounter a dragon! In this case, pick a new pole star, or new positions. However, some disagreement is not only acceptable, but encouraged. The purpose of pole stars is to drive drama, even between your PCs.

If every character has a very similar position toward a given pole star, pick a new pole star. For example, If everyone thinks dragons are cool and should be protected, pick a new pole star that's related to dragons, like "dragon tamers". If you come up with a cool thing to include in the world, but it doesn't work as a pole star, that's okay! Include it anyway.

Example pole stars and positions

(Protect, manipulate, befriend, get help from) the young prince

(Join, resist, investigate, distrust, infiltrate) a major religious order

(Research, exploit, explore, warn the world about) the elemental imbalance

Creating Player Characters

You can create a character by choosing character cards, as well as a name, a history, friends and family, and other parts of an identity. As the group creates characters, each player can ask the others details of their characters, either to flesh out their backgrounds or to imagine how characters might interact.

Character cards fall into three types:

Upbringing tells us about a character's backstory and relationships

Role tells us a character's motivation, goals, and nature

Focus tells us about the tools or style a character uses to achieve their goals

Each player chooses one card from each type. You can pick a specific card you want, or draw at random. No two players should end up with the same card. Any player can put a card back and pick another one if they're unsatisfied with the card they got.

If you don't have a strong idea of what you want to play, start by drawing at random.

The cards don't limit your character. You can play a courageous character, even if you don't have the "Courage" card. Instead, character cards tell us what sort of stories your character will be at the center of, like tales of bravery, cowardice, and betrayal for a character with "Courage".

Finding your character

No single character card dictates your PC's identity. Instead, you'll discover your character somewhere between the cards. Read the cards in combination with each other, and get a sense of what they are telling you. For example, a character with the "Soldier" and "Secrets" cards might be a trained assassin, a dishonored deserter, or a gladiator with a dark past.

Making your character

There are multiple ways to create a character type you wish to play. If you can't make your ideal PC from the existing cards, talk to the GM. You can rewrite or create cards to match what you have in mind. Whatever you end up doing, your PC should still begin with three total character cards.

Bringing characters together

Once you create characters, the group can decide why and how they begin the game together. Look at the pole stars for ideas, or come up with something else. Suppose that the game has a pole star like "the old forest". One character wants to explore it. Another went to stop their friend, fearing the forest's dangers. A third is the guardian of the forest. The group decides these three meet at the forest's edge.

Introducing PCs

Once PCs have been created, each player takes turns introducing their PC.

Each player describes a typical day in the life of their PC. What do they do? How do they dress, how do they act, who do they interact with, where do they go? What do they think about, or dream about? During this time, other players should ask questions at appropriate moments, to elicit details about the character.

During this description, the player should describe a problem the PC might typically have to solve. In game terms, they are posing a challenge to their own character. The player should then flip over one of their character cards, and describe how they meet that challenge by using that card.

Later on, the player can bring up a complication that might arise, based on the back side of the card they flipped. Describe how that complication affected the PC's daily life. Then, flip that card back, since the complication was narrated in the game.

If the player doesn't have ideas for challenges and complications, other players can make suggestions. Once every player has had a turn, introductions are done!

Creating Faces

A Face is a type of ensemble character (EC). The point of a Face is to turn a "what" (like the Empire in Star Wars) into a "who" (like Darth Vader). Characters can't interact with religions, social movements, or governments, but they can interact with characters who represent or embody those things.

The Face's actions should reflect not only their own personality, but the nature of what they represent. Likewise, it should be possible for characters to change the intangible by affecting the Face.

It's possible for a complex situation to need multiple Faces, each one representing one aspect of the situation. For example, a world-dominating empire might have two Faces: an honor-bound and efficient military commander, and a plotting politician, privately at odds with each other about how the Empire should be run.

The characters can also learn about factions in conflict by interacting with their respective Faces. For example, the honorable military commander and the heroic but impulsive Rebel leader might have a history with each other.

To quickly create a Face, follow these steps:

  1. Draw an Oracle - Emotion card
  2. Name the source or object of this emotion in the Face’s life. For example, ”they feel Grief at the loss of lives under their command” or ”they feel Loathing toward these Rebel scum”
  3. Start with at least one conflict, either internal or external
  4. If desired, add more conflicts

There is no ”right” number of conflicts, but 1 is good for a low-ranking individual, and 2-3 indicates someone with more story importance.

Creating Internal Conflicts

  1. Draw another emotion card
  2. Name the source or object of this emotion, just as before, e.g. ”they feel Admiration toward an Imperial officer”
  3. Relate this new emotion back to their primary emotion, e.g. ”the Imperial officer was responsible for harming many Rebels”

Creating External Conflicts

  1. Name another character (a Face, PC, or other character) or another faction or group
  2. Name a shared sphere of influence or interest, e.g. ”the military occupation of our lands”
  3. Name a point of contention between the Face and that other party within that sphere, e.g. ”the other Rebel commander is much more aggressive than I prefer”

Scenes and Challenges

A scene starts with a driver. Something is at stake, or there's a question that needs answering, or a situation has become complicated, and PC choices are how we resolve it. A scene ends when the players are satisfied with the new state of affairs, or can't find any further way to act on the situation. Typical scenes would include exploration, investigation, personal interactions, overcoming obstacles, or combat.

For example, the PCs want to extract a prisoner from a dungeon. They play through a few scenes, answering questions like "can we get in without being spotted" and "how do we get the prisoner safely out" during each scene.

The resolution of a scene should create a new driver to kick off the next scene. If this doesn't happen, the group should decide how to proceed, or ask questions about the situation until a new driver suggests itself. If the driver is invalidated somehow during the scene, follow the change if possible.

For example, say that the prisoner has been freed. Perhaps the group is now being pursued by dungeon guards or bounty hunters, and must find ways to evade pursuit. And once that's done, where does the group go next? You as players might ask questions like "now that the prisoner is out, what do they want to do next?" or "did the prisoner overhear anything important while in the dungeon?"

On the other hand, if the prisoner has been secretly collaborating with their "captors", maybe the PCs must now determine the reason for the betrayal, and survive their own escape from the dungeon.

The way to resolve drivers in a scene is for players to pose challenges, and for characters to meet those challenges.

Example drivers for a scene:

  • We need to reach the castle to warn the king
  • What's the chieftain really planning?
  • We have to escape the dungeon
  • Why were these villagers rounded up for arrest?
  • We want to find an old adventurer who knows about this amulet
  • Which of these three spirits can we trust?
  • We're trying to locate a farmer's lost sheep in a dangerous forest
  • Can we get across the mountain pass in time?
  • We need to scout the area for bandits
  • What does the dragon want in exchange for the sapphire?

Creating Scenes

When you want to create a scene, but you aren't sure where to begin, you can use the Universal Rule. Put some cards together and interpret the results. You might pair character cards, or character and pole star cards, or any other combination that sounds interesting. You might do this at the start of the game, when nobody is sure how to start, or when the party has resolved a plot and isn't sure where to go next.

When you are starting the game, or in the downtime between adventures, you might just create a scene where the driver is "what do your characters do in their ordinary lives?" The scene might follow each PC over the course of an hour or a day. Other players can ask questions about a PC's activities. The scene ends when everyone feels satisfied with the outcome.

Using Encounter Cards

The game comes with a set of Encounter cards, which you can use to create random encounters. This might mean traveling pilgrims, monsters the party must fight or avoid, or dangers to be overcome.

To create a scene using these cards, draw two Encounter cards, then draw one Emotion card. The emotion will indicate the dominant feeling you want the encounter to evoke in the players or characters. The Encounter cards will give you some initial ideas about what to describe, as well as prompts that you can use to guide the scene and challenges to pose to the players.

You should use the PCs' character cards and pole star positions to create encounters in which the characters have a personal investment or interest.

If the cards you drew don't seem to spark any ideas, it's okay to draw replacements. However, it's often better to try and make do with what you have. Be creative, and interpret the cards broadly.

Example Encounter

Say that you draw the Flying, Hybrid, and Vigilance cards for a scene on the road in a fantasy world. Here are a few ways to interpret this combination:

First, there's a flying creature with a hybrid nature, like a gryphon (with an eagle's head and wings, and a lion's body), that's flying over the countryside, keeping a close eye on things. It might be a wild creature (perhaps guarding a nest?), or act as the mount for a person (who's looking for someone or something in the region). This might be a combat or stealth encounter.

Second, there might be a camp of hunters, soldiers, mages, or other experts who are monitoring hybrid flying creatures (such as gryphons) in the area. Perhaps they've been a menace to road travel, or perhaps a camp of hunters is trying to obtain eggs and train the young creatures as mounts. This is a social encounter, where the party must evaluate the motives of the group and decide what to do about it.

Third, there might be hybrid beings - elementally infused animals, faerie-touched human beings, or people whose limbs are partially made of plants - who are wary of flying creatures, such as territorial dragons or hunting hawks. This might be an investigative encounter, where the PCs try to understand the situation and perhaps take a side.

Characters

A scene includes characters. This includes some or all of the PCs, as well as ensemble characters (ECs). Anyone speaking from the Storyteller agenda can portray ECs, or the group can decide as a whole how they'll act. When setting up a scene, everyone in the group should understand which ECs are present. Describe their appearance and actions.

There's one ensemble character that appears in every scene: the location. What is the time of day? Of year? How light or dark is it? What is the weather like? The terrain? Is this indoors, outdoors, or underground? You should "speak" for the location as a character, too. It may start raining, or the clouds may cast a shadow over someone's face at a significant moment. The location should reflect the emotions that are driving the scene.

Genre Conventions and Boundaries

Sometimes, we play to find out what's going to happen next. But often, we have some kind of assumption, stated or not, about what can or can't happen.

For example, a destructive force like army or plague threatens a peaceful village. Many players would be uncomfortable if this actually happens. The group should respect that feeling. The way to respect it is to change the drivers for the scene. For example, we can go from "does the village get annihilated?" to "what does it cost to save the village from annihilation?" The challenge of trying to stop the event will be plenty exciting (and dangerous), without bringing up what might be a dark or triggering outcome.

Some situations might be narrative dead-ends. If the PCs stay in a dungeon for years, the game grinds to a halt, for example. You can change drivers like "do we escape the dungeon" into "how do we escape the dungeon" to handle this. The PCs might encounter a prisoner who has a way out but needs their help to enact it. A hostile force might invade the dungeon, helping free the PCs in the confusion. Earthquakes or flooding might damage the dungeon itself, permitting escape through chaotic conditions. You can assume the escape, and still make a situation dangerous and exciting.

Challenges

When you hear any player narrating something their PC is doing and think “it would be reasonable and interesting if that didn’t work the way you want”, pose a challenge to that player. Give them an alternative outcome, what you think might happen instead, then let them tell you how they meet that challenge. If what they say doesn’t immediately make you think “yeah, that’d work”, ask them to flip a Character card or take a Condition.

You can flip a Character card from front to back to meet challenges. You must explain how the situation ties back to the theme of the Character card and its prompts. For example, if you are escorting a prisoner out of a dungeon and are challenged along the way, you might say "because I'm a Guardian, I can keep my charge safe from something", then flip that card to the back side. You can't flip Mercantile in this situation, except perhaps by bribing a guard.

If you don't have a Character card available, or one that can reasonably be applied to the situation, you can also draw or pick a Condition card, or escalate a Condition you already have. Other rules might allow you to meet challenges in other ways. For example, you might say "the guards shoot arrows, and I'll take the Hurt Condition by being hit in place of the prisoner".

Condition cards can also impose challenges when you take actions that the condition would affect. For example, if you are Undergeared, you might not be able to set up your camp in dangerous territory. If you are Exhausted, any sort of travel might pose a challenge.

Sometimes, you want to flip a card because you feel it gives legitimacy to your action. This is okay! As a player, you can challenge yourself. If you do this, remind other players that you did.

Meeting Challenges with Conditions

Condition cards keep track of how hurt or inconvenienced each PC is at the moment.

The rules for condition cards are:

  • You are bound by the fictional implications of the condition until discarded
  • You can't take a condition that doesn't make things more complicated for you
  • Play a condition card, face up, to get a hit
  • Flip the card face down to aggravate the condition and get another hit
  • Discard a face-up condition by spending a scene attending to it
  • Discard a face-down condition by spending downtime attending to it
  • Discard the card when its fictional context is no longer applicable

Condition cards do more than just measure harm you've taken.

Provide success at a cost

Examples:

The fighter wants to attack a target, but doesn't have another card they want to flip for success. They can trade injury to themselves or their weapons to get a hit. This would be the "Hurt" or "Undergeared" condition.

The prophet is leading the way through the wilderness and needs to meet a challenge to get out. They can share their rations with the group to get everyone further, but go hungry in trade. This would be the "Weakened" condition.

The thief wants to buy some new equipment in town, but can't find what they need. They can take the "Obliged" condition to get it from a crime-lord, who now has an interest in how they're using it.

Drive drama and worldbuilding

Examples:

The wizard becomes "Magicked". They can spend a scene to clear it - but what does that look like? Do they need to hunt for herbs in a guarded forest? Make a deal with an extradimensional entity Consult a dangerous wizard colleague? Cast a spell of cleansing from an unknown spell book?

Will a character who has been "Mutated" by magic or ancient traps be well received in town, or by their family? Will they embrace the condition if it gives them power? Or will they make a dangerous bargain to undo it?

As the enemy closes in, a character who is "Wanted" says "The rest of you go ahead, I'll hold them off." They spend a scene describing how they do so, buying time for the party to escape. If someone is "Pursued", it might take longer. The group might disperse into the forest for a week to let things cool down.

When do conditions not apply?

Conditions are temporary changes to a specific PC's life. They aren't a list of limitations compared to some hypothetical standard of "normal".

The monk who's been blind from birth doesn't have the "Hindered" condition card. On the other hand, a bard who overtaxes their voice might be "Hindered" until they recover.

A noble character whose backstory says they're on the run from an evil relative isn't "Wanted". Another PC who angers the same relative might become "Wanted".

A golem character who doesn't sleep can't take "Weakened" to get a success by staying awake all night.

What does attending to a condition mean?

Attending to a condition can mean one of two things: recovering from the condition, or adapting to the new circumstances of that condition.

For example, if a character loses the ability to walk by taking the Impeded condition, it might take several months of magical effort and physical therapy to restore it. Or, the character might acquire a wheelchair and become proficient with its use. Either way, the Impeded condition card is discarded at the end of that downtime, and no longer poses challenges for the character.

Meeting Multiple Challenges

You only have to meet a given challenge once, no matter how many alternatives are proposed. For example, if one player poses a challenge like "the guards might spot you and raise the alarm", and another poses a challenge like "the guards might spot you and attack", you don't need to meet two challenges. If you don't meet it, the players who posed the challenges should decide amongst themselves which outcome to enact.

However, the same action might pose multiple challenges. For example, if you attack a Flying Armored dragon, you must overcome the fact that it's both Flying (by having a ranged weapon, or by striking when it dives at you) and Armored (its scales are tough, and you must either find a weak spot or have a powerful weapon). In addition, if you have the Weakened Condition, you might need to overcome that challenge too.

In this case, you can use a mixture of Character and Condition cards to meet the challenge. For example, you might say "as a Soldier, I stand up when everything says to stand down" to overcome Weakened, then "I wait for the dragon to dive at me, then spear it up close. In doing so, I get knocked away like a rag doll and my spear shatters". This lets you take the Hurt and Undergeared Conditions, thus meeting the challenge.

Failure and Complication

It's possible to not meet a challenge, if you don't have an applicable Character card and don't want to take a Condition. In that case, whoever posed the challenge gets to narrate their proposed alternative outcome. For example, when escaping a dungeon, a player might pose a challenge like "the guards attack your group and the prisoner is wounded".

Nobody likes to feel like they failed. But sometimes, a setback can do more good than harm. Aside from its impact on the story, there are mechanical benefits to failing.

You can pose a challenge to another player, and your alternative can flip back one or more Character cards if the challenge isn't met. For example, say that Tana's Magic card and Basler's Secrets card are both flipped. Woody is readying an arrow to attack an enemy wizard from hiding. Tana's player offers a challenge: "you shoot, but the wizard has a spell of reflection, and a magically glowing arrow darts right back at you, showing your position to their comrades."

This means Woody doesn't get to succeed at the attack, but narration satisfies two conditions: "fall prey to a side effect or curse" and "give yourself away at an inopportune moment". If Woody's player accepts this outcome, Tana and Basler get to flip their cards back - useful for the upcoming fight!

If it's important to the player to the succeed, they can also choose to take a Condition card that matches the narration. For example, Woody's player might say "I'll take the Hurt condition, as the arrow arcs back and strikes me".

Ending a Session

As you play, your characters will develop. They will change the world around them, and they will change too.

To reflect these changes, at the end of each session, the group should do three things: character evolution, creating plot cards, and revisiting pole stars.

Character Evolution

Your Character cards help define your character, by telling the group the sort of plot beats where the character is in focus. Any character can be brave, but the character with Courage has bravery as an explicit part of their story. But stories change.

At the end of each session, you can do one of two things.

First, you can trade one Character card out for a different one. You aren't limited to trading out the same type of card for another one. For example, a Solitary character who has learned to cherish and protect their new friends might pick the Guardian card and discard Solitary. This doesn't mean your character has lost their abilities or experiences, only that they aren't as important to their story now.

Second, you can add a new Character card. You can pick an existing card, or create a unique card. This might be a new power or skill you acquired, a boon companion who now travels with you, a special item you now carry, a blessing or benefit you've secured, or anything else that's happened to you during the game.

Creating Plot Cards

As a group, you can create one or more "plot cards". Like Character cards, they are intended to represent plot beats or story elements. Unlike Character cards, they can be used by every player in the game.

Plot cards can use the same rules as a Character card - flip to get a hit, flip back when a complication is narrated. For example, the PCs rescue a village, and intend to return there again in the future. They might create a Plot card, usable when they need something from the village, with complications arising when someone from the village comes to them for help in return.

You might want different rules for other Plot cards. For example, the party might obtain a favor from the Queen. Once they use this favor (to meet a challenge, perhaps), the card is discarded, and the PCs must earn another favor if they want the relationship to continue.

Plot cards can be edited later, or discarded, based on the dictates of the story. For example, if the Queen withdraws her favor, the party can't use that Plot card. On the other hand, perhaps the Queen's cousin lived incognito in a village the PCs save from destruction, and she becomes a reliable ally. In that case, the rule on the Plot card might change from "discard on use" to something else.

Revisiting Pole Stars

The players and their characters will discover new things they care about in the campaign. When that happens, the group can choose to rewrite or replace an existing pole star, or add a new one.

Individual players can revise their positions toward existing pole stars, either to strengthen their feelings or to shift toward a new attitude.