How To Generate Ideas With Playing Cards

Picture this: you want to write a story or develop an RP campaign, but you're dry on ideas. So you want to get up and go find some random generators, but as luck would have it your WiFi has gone AWOL. You look around. All you have is your notebooks, pencils, and... a deck of cards! Yes, this deck of cards can save you from your creative dry spell if you know how to work them. Here's a system you can use to turn any deck of ordinary playing cards into a random idea generator.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Card Meanings

This system is inspired by, but does not precisely correspond to other systems already out there. The meanings it uses are explained through contextualizing each pip card as part of a narrative, which will hopefully make them easier to remember and apply to your creative work.

1: Realization, summoning, opportunity. This is the beginning of our character's story, story arc, or subplot. Maybe somebody offered this character a job or asked for a favor, or maybe this character started to want something or decided that something had to be done, or maybe this chracter simply realized there was an adventure to be had.

2: Deciding, comparing, balancing. At this point, the character might need to ask questions like: "Is this really worth it? What about the risks? If I go after this, will I have time for what I'm already doing? If not, is that okay?" Or maybe the character has to ask, "Is my life really all that balanced right now? Am I honestly happy with the way things are? Are things really okay?"

3: Beginning, preparing, setting out. The character decides to accept or go after it, whatever it is. At this point, the character might prepare for the venture by collecting necessary supplies, calling up friends to bring along, or seeing what kind of advice or assistance Mom/Grandpa/Cousin Riley/whoever has to offer on this.

4: Advice, guidance, direction. This character knows that homespun wisdom and/or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will only go so far, and goes to ask an old master for some help. Or maybe the old master just shows up to help regardless. Either way. Once this advice or guidance is given, the character will head off into the unknown!

5: Setback, obstacle, complication. Everything was going just fine until it wasn't! Maybe somebody lost the treasure map, maybe the whole party had a big argument and now they're all mad at each other, maybe their hideout was compromised, or maybe they've run into a problem they have no idea how to handle. Or maybe they just got out there into the world and discovered that everything was a lot harder and far more complicated than they thought!

6. Recoup, recovery, regroup. Our character or characters find a way to get out of their pickle. Maybe they resolve their argument, maybe somebody solves the seemingly-impossible problem, maybe the main character discovers a shiny new item that comes in useful, maybe somebody offers them shelter for the night, or maybe they learn some critical facts that help them navigate this confusing new world.

7. Restart, resumption. Now that everything is resolved (or mostly resolved), things can get going again. Of course, everybody might still be a little uneasy and feel a little confused and uncertain, but it's okay. They just gotta stick with it and they'll get it together.

8. Mastery, confidence, restoration. Now everything is going as smooth as it can be going right now. Our characters have gotten themselves together and are ready to tackle the big challenge... or at least, they feel ready!

9. Final preparations, anticipation, readiness. This is it now, the moment before the big finale. Maybe there's a big battle up ahead, or maybe it's almost time to get out there on stage, or maybe somebody's just had an important epiphany that made it clear what has to be done next.

10. Completion, finish, return. It's all over now! It might have been a victory, or it might have been a defeat. Either way, it might be time to pack it up and go home now, or it might be time to stop and ask, "What do we do now? Where do we go from here?"

J. Seekers, questers. These represent characters who are after something, whether for their own ends or on the behest of someone else.

Q. Advisors, guides. These represent characters who have advice to offer, whether good or bad! They might be therapists, teachers, family members, or even opinionated next door neighbors.

K. Masters, leaders. These represent characters who are in charge. They might be bosses, team leaders, and of course, actual rulers and governors.

Remember that nothing needs to apply to any specific exact point in the story! For example, a 1 could apply to something that happens mid-way through the story, and 5 could very well be how it all starts! 7 might be somebody's overall attitude toward life ("just gotta get back on the horse and keep going, is what I say!"), and 9 could be the general state of an entire region ("we're ready for ANYTHING!").

Part 2: Elemental Flavoring

Associating card suits with elements is by no means a new idea, and for good reason! By giving the suits elemental corresponences, each card is given additional meaning and nuance. Here's a quick run-through of which suit corresponds to which element, and what sorts of things that might mean for it.

You might also like:

Character Traits To Roll Your 2d6 For
Easy Offline Randomization Ideas
Playing Card Picker

Character Development Questions
Plot & Story Development Questions

"Is This A Good Idea For My Story/Setting/Character?" - How To Answer This For Yourself!
"How Can/Should I Do This Thing With My Story/Setting/Character?" - How Figure It Out For Yourself!
Simple Ways To Brighten Your Life & Exercise Your Imagination

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