This game uses a standard 52-card playing deck. Each player starts with seven cards, and can keep them secret, or selectively reveal them at any time. GAMEPLAY The players are members of a doomsday cult, attempting to bring about the apocalypse. The GM narrates the story and describes the challenges the cult faces, drawing a card to represent each challenge, and placing it face down on the table. Players must reveal a card from their hand to resolve each challenge, using its suit to help narrate their solution: - Clubs: Zealous cultists. - Spades: Arcane knowledge. - Hearts: Influence within society. - Diamonds: Funds and assets. Show everyone the challenge card. Players who revealed a higher rank card of a different suit draw another card, discarding down to seven. Players who revealed a lower rank card (regardless of suit) must discard it, unless it’s their last. ENDGAME When the deck runs out of cards, the apocalypse begins! Everyone calculates their score, as if their cards were a poker hand. The GM does the same using the challenge cards. If the GM wins, describe how the cult is thwarted. Otherwise, the player with the highest-ranking hand summons an Eldritch Abomination, and narrates the resulting apocalypse.
This mini RPG is based on my Primordial Horrors setting, where the PCs take on the role of insane cultists and eldritch abominations, working in the shadows to bring their mysterious plans to fruition.
My goal was to have a challenge resolution mechanic with three possible outcomes (failure, basic success, and exceptional success) that supports both competitive and cooperative play. While the players’ primary goal is simply to bring about the apocalypse, they’re also competing against each other to be the “lucky” one who summons the Eldritch Abomination.
The card-based approach facilitates the design goal by allowing players to selectively reveal their hand to each other. Knowing which cards the other players are holding gives you a better chance of predicting which cards might be drawn for the challenges, so this allows players to work together when they’re doing badly, or keep their knowledge secret when they’re doing well.