Friday, November 23, 2012


Is less really more?  One of the things I went back and forth a few time in the design of EPOCH were the complication cards.  This deck of plot twists is really intended to provide players who have been struggling to make their character the ‘most interesting’ with an idea for a significant and unexpected complication.  Paired with a flashback token it should allow the player to reveal some fairly interesting and surprising material.

Usually the player pulls a card, looks at me with eyebrows raised and says “No way!  I can never make that work.” Then during the next tension phase reveals some really surprising and interesting twist, foreshadowed with a flashback, often which wins them the next Challenge Round.  Not always of course, and it’s often harder to weave the complication in later in the game, once the story of the character has been more established.  But in the games I’ve run the complications seem to do the job they are designed for.

In designing the cards, I went with a very simple layout – just a white card with a single word or phrase.  Nothing else.  I thought a lot about adding some additional prompts.  For example, there is a card called “Hidden Wealth”.  I had thought about adding some prompts suggesting it might include a lottery ticket, treasure map, inheritance, stock portfolio, trust fund, blood diamonds etc.  In the end I decided it was best not to provide the prompts and let the players imagination fill in the blanks.  

Next year, however, I hope to be able to offer print-on-demand card decks for EPOCH, removing the need to print, cut and stick a whole lot of cards, and allowing me the opportunity to re-design the cards.  Do you think I should include prompts – or not?

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