Interactive Storytelling – Card Game Edition


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

In the last article on Interactive Storytelling, I attempted to introduce folks to the idea of telling stories through role-playing games.  As a storytelling vehicle, pen and paper RPGs are expansive, immersive, and–let’s face it–incredibly daunting, especially for people who haven’t attempted it before.  And there are a few drawbacks to these types of games, which may make the genre prohibitive for the general public (i.e. price and time investment, not only to prepare the story, character creation, and so forth, but they do require a good amount of time to actually play). Enter the card game.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Card games?  For storytelling?  I know it might seem counterintuitive, but stick with me for a minute. I’d like to introduce you to a few card games that are less well known, but are very good vehicles in themselves for participating in good storytelling.  The thing you’ll need to remember about storytelling through card games is that they are limited in their scope.  You won’t be creating the setting or non-player characters from the ground up, as in a traditional pen and paper game.  As a result, the story will generally be limited to the cards available.

Title: Once Upon a Time

Publisher: Atlas Games

The name really says it all.  Once Upon a Time is a card game in which the goal is to be the first to create a fairy tale.  Each player is given an Ending Card and Story Cards.  The player whose turn it is, referred to as the Storyteller, plays her Story Cards, which contain different fantasy elements, and attempts to guide the story toward her Ending Card.  The other players look for opportunities to interrupt and hijack the story, thus becoming the new Storyteller, and attempt to guide the story to their own Ending.  It is a great game for the entire family; it encourages cooperative play, imagination and improvisational storytelling.

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Lord of the Rings card game is another cooperative card game, but for 1-2 players.  Up to 4 players can play, but you need 2 Core Sets to do this.  The players control the characters from the Lord of the Rings, and powerful artifacts. They work together to overcome obstacles and story elements randomly played from the encounter deck to play through scenarios and complete quests.  Also, with the addition of Adventure Packs, the number of heroes, allies, encounters, quests, and scenarios keeps growing into an epic storyline that you can be a part of.

Title: Gloom

Publisher: Atlas Games

For those among us who have a darker sense of humor, I present GloomGloom is a card game in which each player controls a family of macabre ne’er-do-wells.  The object of Gloom is for each player to make his own family as miserable as possible, and play cards on the families of other players in order to make them happy.  Twisted, no?  The storytelling bit comes in when you play the negative modifier cards on your own misfits, thereby making them unhappy. Then you create a narrative in order to explain the negative modifier card you used.  This narrative element isn’t required as part of the game, but it’s so much more fun if you can explain each of the mishaps and misfortunes that befall your troubled family.

In a nutshell, storytelling card games like these will help bring you into the world of interactive storytelling without overwhelming you, or your wallet, with the limitless possibilities of traditional pen and paper games.


  1. PeavesOctober 23rd, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I think I want to play gloom. Thanks!! =) Party!! How many players is it? I’m sure I can look it up… thanks for this.

  2. Kevin RigdonOctober 23rd, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    You’re welcome! Gloom is for 2-4 players.

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