Character Development and Discussion Trees with Tarot Cards


In old game books discussion trees were impossible but with choice script and other digital implementations it is now a reality.

Late one night I spied a youtube video of indie point and click game reviews. I can’t find it or my memory is faulty but I remembered the following.

At the beginning of the game you would choose 5 out of 12 tarot cards. Now tarot cards in real life have several symbols on them. They can be obvious or indirect making them seem hidden. What these 5 cards did was to define your character and later this would affect how you would interact with other characters in the game by limiting what questions you could ask NPC’s.

Thinking of this from a authors point of view I have come up with the conclusion that these cards hide a number system. This system represents the characters ability to communicate. Such primary trait would be Appearance, Speech craft, Body language, Witt and Knowledge. They would not be random numbers added to any dice roll but they would act like code words in the old paper game books. They would open up or close certain discussion trees available to the character.

Example 1 : “Do you know where I can find that dog?” Requires 4+ Body Language
Example 2: “Do you know where I can find that dog?” Witt + Body Language
. 3 to 5 = Goto #12 , 5 to 8 = Goto #14 , 9+ = Goto #20

In this way there is no dice rolling but there is random choice at the beginning when you create your character. Various elements of the game could change those values but it would be an impossibility in the old printed paper medium. ChoiceScript would shine there.

Is there a game that utilizes something like this for discussion? If so I’ld like to try it out.


I think most games tend to enable or disable choices based on your stats, which are determined by your choices thus far. I don’t think anyone has a game with quasi-random stats determined by choosing nonsense things at the start of the game but I could be wrong.


One of my favourite tabletop roleplaying games used a pack of cards for creating characters, combat and for casting spells. It was a lot more fun than just rolling dice. However, part of the fun was having those cards in your hands, being able to see them, playing with something that wasn’t dice.

The cards were part of a number system, it was just a different way to get random numbers. While choicescript could certainly use such a system, I don’t think it would be that fun since part of what choicescript does is make the mechanics invisible to the player so you can immerse yourself in the story.


As I mentioned the ‘tarot like’ cards represent your character. They are symbols of your characters abilities, ie its stats. So it’s not a case that the cards are nonsense but each card has a unique combination of stats. Similar to how the old “Magic the Gathering” cards combined different traits for your battles. Here they combine to create your stats. Some may be positive values, some may be negative. So instead of rolling dice to create stats your simply choosing which ones to boost up, or pull down. For example one card may add an enormous value to speech craft and knowledge but may draw down the values for body language and appearance.


It sounds more like the building of a game system than a story, which is not CS’s primary function/intent. Which is not to say it can’t be done, just that it’s not to say it can’t be done, just that it’s not the primary goal of CS and therefore might take some finagling. On the other hand, I don’t see any other system working better either so.

Anyways, conceptually I think it might be interesting. Say you start off five stats. Rather than a handful of options which affect each of the stats, you build a conceptually direct character based off of two concepts, one represented by one card, the other represented by a second card. (It would even split easily this way too, most of the cards represented two stats positively and the others negatively, and two of them, one of each group, representing an even distribution). As you progress rather than directly alter your stats (or in addition to directly altering them), you either reinforce your card choice or fight against it, which can be represented by your cards becoming dirtier or shiner as per the choice.

Hm, I may actually run with this idea on a different project at some point.


Tarot cards can be anything from concepts, to stations on the Tree of Life, to astrological signs/alchemical substances/other mystical correspondences, to playing cards. One of the reasons they became so popular is that at times when gambling was illegal but fortune-telling wasn’t, you could pull out the trumps and have a full deck of cards. :smile: So, making games out of tarot cards is in line with occult tradition.

My friends and I had a thing in a roleplaying game where we would draw a trump to determine the random effects of a spell. Each was related conceptually, e.g. the Tower would cause a nearby natural disaster.

There was also a (badly implemented, in my opinion) thing where World of Darkness tried to create vampire character classes based on the Seven Deadly Sins. It felt like they were trying too hard to make it conform, and cramming people into molds based on it; if it’s not creative and fun, I don’t think you should force it.

I love non-traditional versions of Tarot cards, like the specialty deck in the Chronicles of Amber where all of the royal family were trump cards and could teleport through their cards.

For another example of it being done really well - there’s a Heileen game (I think #2; they’re free indie games you can find on the web) whose character stats are modeled on sins and virtues. (Some, like strength and lust, are related to tarot cards.)
Edit: Oops, sorry. It is Heileen 2: Hands of Fate I was thinking of (the virtues and traits are mapped to mystical tarot cards as opposed stats.) But those games are now sold on Steam and no longer offered as free demos (except the usual limited kind.)