Flip-a-card: Twists

April 23, 2020 - 4 min read

This is a discussion of a couple of non-standard card types, and some rules for creating them.

New cards in play

This is implicit in the design, but I need a way to spell it out clearly:

During play, any player can propose a new card. The final decision is up to the Referee. New cards can have any rules the group finds appropriate.

Furthermore, there’s a couple of stock rules that such cards can have:

Discard to get a hit.

Flip to get a hit. Flip back if the circumstances of the card permit its re-use.

This lets you essentially write cards that work like Fate boosts, giving a one-time or limited-use success. An example of this happened during the playtest on the 19th, where the characters had impressed the decorated commander of a military expedition, and her favor was considered important enough to the players to commemorate. We created a new card, then flipped it for success when it came time to talk to the king.


The idea of a “twist” originated in Grand Adventure, where actions could have side effects or consequences, and a variety of “generic” twists could be drawn from a deck. The example twists I provided are:

  1. Animal! An animal — wild or tame, yours or theirs or nobody’s — intervenes. Sudden tiger attacks, heroic actions from your noble steed, whatever. What animal is involved? What goes out of control thanks to bestial instinct?
  2. Betrayal! Somebody’s side has a traitor, and their defection screws up a lot of carefully laid plans. Who defected, and why? What happened next?
  3. Caught! / Noticed! You failed to escape detection by the sentries or gendarmerie. Now they’re after you, or raising the alarm. How important was it to stay unseen? What happens to you if you’re caught?
  4. Chekhov’s Fireball! Some minor detail you overlooked earlier comes back in a big way. That kid from the first town is the daughter of this town’s mayor. The pendant worn by the female healer is the key to saving the world. How big a deal is this?
  5. Disarmed! / Spell Backfire! Your special abilities blow up in your face. How bad is the result? How quickly can you recover?
  6. Fall! There’s a cliff, a ledge, or somewhere to lose your balance. Do you go all the way in? Does somebody need to save you?
  7. Fire! Things catch on fire, or an existing fire spreads. Dungeon delvers’ torches, spare lanterns, errant fireballs — anything could be a source. How does the spreading fire complicate the scene? Does it head toward anything or anyone?
  8. Fools Rush In… You do something impulsive and rash, driven by the heat of the moment. How does it go badly? What would have been lost if you hadn’t rushed in?
  9. Forgot Something! A critical detail eluded you at the wrong moment. Your alchemy lab just blew up thanks to a missing ingredient. You brought all the paperwork to sign but left the bribe at home. How badly does this complicate your plans? Can you improvise a replacement?
  10. Inspiration! A rousing speech, a momentary glimpse of greatness, or something else lights a fire in somebody. What is the source of the inspiration? Was it genuine, or just a trick?
  11. Lost! While running down a tunnel, directions got mixed up, and now we’re.. somewhere we didn’t expect. Where did we end up? Did something chasing us get lost too, or is it still behind us?
  12. Made It Worse! Your efforts only complicated the situation. Your lock pick broke off in the lock. You cut off the Hydra’s head, but two more grew back. How does this go badly for you?
  13. My Big Mouth! You say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Insulting the Orc’s mother, or casually making a fool of the Duke, is never a good idea. What’s the fallout from your action?
  14. No Sell! Your opponent is unfazed by what you just did. Does it make them angrier/tougher? Do you have to change tactics?
  15. “Oops…” An embarrassing, rather than fatal, error. Do you shame yourself or lose reputation with someone whose opinion you value? What will it take to get it back?
  16. Pinned! You’re stuck by something, like a heavy rock, a huge monster’s claw, a cave-in, or something similar. Is it going to be effort getting you loose? Is there anything interesting where you are now?
  17. Revelation! You learn something both surprising and important. The dragon was the good guy. The Duke is really a shapechanging elf. You’re really the amnesiac Dark Lord. Is this revelation going to change your plans radically?
  18. Riposte! Your opponent comes back with a devastating counterattack, whether physical or social. Does it put you on the defensive? Do you have a way to deal with it?
  19. Romance! Love, fondness, or attraction comes into play in the scene. A PC or NPC might have a sweetheart who becomes part of the action, or is put at risk by some action. Or, a PC or NPC may find someone else distractingly interesting! What is the nature of the entanglement? How does it complicate things?
  20. Trap! You step on the wrong flagstone, say the wrong code word, or miss a conversational pitfall. Bad things have been set in motion. Can you outrun them? Will they cut you off from one exit, forcing you to choose another?

A suggested rule here is that a player can draw a twist card from a deck. If the twist makes sense, they can spend it to get a hit on some challenge they’re facing. The twist then comes to pass as a complication, with the group answering the questions posed by the twist.

Individual characters might also have twists written for them. For example, a brash and adventurous rogue might have a card that says something like “Kinna steals something”. This can be brought into play to get characters into trouble, letting them meet one challenge but probably creating others. Character creation might then include creating a selection of twist cards.

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