Dramatic Effects and Plot Development Cards

The cards described here are derived from the Dramatic Effects cards introduced with West End Games' DC Universe super-hero roleplaying game (published in 1999) and from the Plot Development cards introduced with the DCU RPG's JSA Sourcebook (published in 2001). Both were in turn inspired by similar concepts in earlier West End Games products like TORG. I originally adapted the cards to Mayfair Games' DC Heroes RPG rules for my later DC Heroes campaigns, then adapted them again to the Angel / Buffy RPG Unisystem rules when I started running the Lost Angels game.

Dramatic Effects Cards

Dramatic Effects cards are useful for encouraging roleplaying and increasing player involvement in adventures. They come in two types: regular, which don't have an image on the face; and fate, which do have an image.

Each regular card contains a phrase to be spoken or a description of an action the character must make. Once the player inserts this into the adventure at an appropriately dramatic or comedic moment, the player receives the reward listed on the card. The player only gets the reward if, when she adds the action or dialogue, it moves the storyline forward or gets a laugh from you or the other players. This reward may be used immediately, or it may be saved for another time.

Fate cards don't require any roleplaying. Instead, when the character needs an extra boost, the player places the appropriate card face up. He then promptly uses the bonus that card gives. The rewards from fate cards must be used immediately; they cannot be saved.

Using Dramatic Effects Cards

Just before the game session begins, shuffle the deck of Dramatic Effects cards and deal them out to the players. The exact amount of cards each player receives depends on the number of people in the group: for two to four players, give them four cards a piece; for five to seven players, give them each three cards. Place the remainder of the deck aside—no one may receive any new cards until everyone has played all of the cards that they currently have. Furthermore, if anyone plays her card poorly, she does not receive the reward, but, at the Director's discretion, she may try again with a new card (from the leftovers). Once all cards have been played, shuffle the deck and deal again. At the end of each session, you may either want to collect the cards to shuffle and re-deal them at the beginning of the next session, or you may opt to have the players keep the cards until the next time the group meets.

Plot Development Cards

While Dramatic Effects cards can help players get into roleplaying, Plot Development cards allow players to participate even more in the flow of an adventure.

The top half of each Plot Development card describes a potential twist in the story, while the bottom of the card contains some questions or comments relating to it.

The player may connect the Plot Development to the adventure's storyline, to another idea generated from other Plot Development cards, or come up with an entirely new facet of the adventure.

While the player initially describes the new Plot Development, the players' characters' perceptions of the situation may not be entirely accurate. The Director has the final say on the Plot Development's true manifestation in the storyline. Certainly, Directors should minimize any suggested Plot Developments that could seriously damage the playability of the main story.

Using Plot Development Cards

At the beginning of each game session, the Director shuffles the Plot Development cards separately from the Dramatic Effects cards. Then he deals two or three Plot Development cards to each player, depending on how much control he wants to give to the players.

Plot Development cards may be played at any time. Once a card is used, it's placed face down in front of the Director. If the latest spin on the scenario links to a previously played Plot Development, then place the new card on the one with which it's associated.

Creating Plot Developments can have other bonuses aside from the ability to influence the adventure. Here are some suggestions for the Director to reward use of Plot Development cards by awarding the player Drama Points for doing so. If the player employs a card and does not link it to a previously played Plot Development card, he receives 3 Drama Points. If the player uses a card and links it to a previously played card, he receives 1 Drama Point for the card he just played plus 1 point for each card in the set. For example, if three cards are connected to each other and the player places a fourth down, he would get 4 Drama Points. Players receive new Plot Development cards for creating par-ticularly entertaining additions to the adventure.

At the end of the game session, the Director may want note which Plot Development cards were played and how. This can help him with the adventure next time.

Arts and Crafts

The linked PDFs contain Dramatic Effects cards and Plot Development cards for use in an Angel or Buffy game. You may want to print them on or glue them to cardboard or stiff paper for durability. There is also a PDF that can be printed as the reverse side of the cards.

The PDFs of Dramatic Effects cards and Plot Development cards also include blank regular cards for you to fill in with your own dramatic effects and plot developments. For Dramatic Effects, you can write down actions or bits of dialogue that will help your adventure. Alternatively, you can use other, more general stereotypically heroic actions and phrases. Then choose an appropriate reward, such as 2 Drama Points, act first in one round, heal 5 Life Points, reroll a failed skill attempt, and so on. For Plot Developments, you can write them down with an appropriate inspiration that you game.