Whimsy Cards are a near-universal role-playing accessories originally
published by Lion Rampant in conjunction with their innovative and
influential game, Ars Magica. This was a deck of cards with
plot devices on them. Each player would get one at the beginning of
the game, and would play them at some point during the game when it
would make the story more interesting (or make the PC's lives more
difficult!). If the GM liked the use of the Whimsy Card, the player
might get another one to replace the one she played. Use of Whimsy
Cards is always subject to GM approval and/or modification.
To give you a feel what Whimsy Cards were like, this is a listing of
the cards that were found in the original Whimsy Card deck.
- Abrupt Change of Events
- Suddenly things are not happening the way they were a moment
ago. Alliances switch, secrets are revealed, and new
- Added Animosity
- The ill-will between characters grows past current levels. This
animosity can be openly expressed or harbored secretly in the
- Bad Tidings
- Someone gets bad news. It might affect play or it might be news
of distant and still important events.
- Bizarre Coincidence
- Two or more things come together against incredible odds. Old
friends (and enemies) run into you in the supermarket, you just
happen to have the rare item you need in your closet,
- Change of Heart
- A character's feelings change and alter a decision. Pirates
spare prisoners and hassled innkeepers decide to make room for
you after all.
- Double Jeopardy
- Failure carries a double penalty. It could mean the normal
penalty doubled, but it could also mean a penalty in addition
to the normal one.
- Draw a Blank
- Emotional Release
- Strong emotions are let out. What are the emotions, and what
triggers their sudden eruption? Is it a healthy release or a
- Someone covets something that another person has. The envy
could be expressed as an outright attempt to get the object of
desire or something more subtle.
- Erratic Behavior
- Someone or something exhibits wild, unexpected behavior. Could
be party members, enemies, mounts, spells, or equipment.
- Error of Judgment
- Someone's better judgment fails. The trouble that ensues
depends on the specific error that is made.
- Extreme Caution
- Someone exercises extreme caution. Is the caution necessary, or
is it exaggerated? What is the disadvantage from using so much
- Desire for wealth diverts a character from normal activity. The
object of this desire can be specific (e.g. a certain necklace)
or general (e.g. gold!).
- Horrible Failure
- What was a simple failure becomes a disaster. Attempts to
persuade people backfire, arrows strike the wrong targets, and
the wrong demons get conjured.
- Inopportune Arrival
- Someone or something shows up to the chagrin or disadvantage of
someone. Unwelcome relatives and hated enemies are
- Internal Conflict
- Conflicts arise within a person or within a group. How did
these conflicts come about? How can they be resolved? Are they
hidden? Poorly hidden?
- The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head. How does the
jealousy show itself?
- Delight floods a character, making the world seem
beautiful. What brings about this wonderful feeling?
- Lasting Impression
- An impression is made, or an old one is reborn. Emotional
experiences return to a character affecting actions or
something happens that will leave an impression for years
(e.g. a scar).
- Wrath rises in a character toward someone or something. Even if
the anger can be held in check, it will affect the person's
- Misguided Love
- Love affects a character in ways others fail to approve of. The
character seems out of control. (To the lover of course, the
love is true and wonderful; to others, it is misguided.)
- Misplaced Trust
- Undeserved trust is or has been placed in someone or
something. "Faithful" hirelings desert,
"sturdy" ropes break, and politicians are
- Moral Dilemma
- A character is faced with a moral question. What should the
character do? What are the personality traits or personal
values that make the decision to difficult?
- New Role
- You take over another character, either of a player or of the
gamemaster. The original owner can ask for it back and veto
your actions while you have the new role.
- Ominous Omen
- Something suggests future evil, an event that portends
calamity, misfortune, or death. The players might not
understand the significance of the omen.
- Parting of Ways
- People or things go their separate ways. The parting can be
happy or sorrowful, anticipated or sudden. Depending on the
circumstances, those who part might meet again.
- Personality Clash
- The personalities of two characters come into conflict. The
cause of the clash and the gravity are up to you. How could the
conflict be resolved?
- Sympathetic sorrow for another person affects a character's
actions. This pity might provoke action or merely set a
- Pivotal Decision
- Someone is faced with a decision that will affect something
dramatically. A potential ally chooses sides, or a leader
chooses a plan of action.
- Second Chance
- Someone gets a second chance. Maybe that bullet missed the
heart after all, or maybe the character realizes something that
allows a second skill attempt. You must give the reason.
- Someone is very lazy. Guards become lax, squires neglect their
duties, and bartenders give you slow service.
- Something Missing
- Something that should be here is not. The seriousness of the
lack depends on what is missing. It could be your sword or a
friend you were supposed to meet.
- Special Circumstances
- Unusual conditions change the normal course of events for good
or ill. The circumstances can be personal, such as character's
mood, impersonal, such as the weather.
- Spectacular Success
- What was a normal success becomes spectacular. Those rare,
unexplainable feats are now possible. The gamemaster must watch
this card because it is easy to abuse.
- Sudden Reversion
- Suddenly someone or something reverts to the way it used to
be. People revert to earlier patterns of behavior and problems
go back to the way they were at the beginning.
- Tables Turn
- Something in the situation reverses, an advantage turns in to a
disadvantage, a disadvantage turns into an advantage. It is a
surprise to all.
- Things Are Not As They Seem
- Characters have been deceived, perhaps without malicious
intent. The truth need not be known now. A good card for a
secret note to the GM.
- Trade Places
- You take over the role of another character and the player who
was running that character takes yours. Either of you can end
the trade at any time.
- Turn for the Worse
- Things were going well, but suddenly something comes up that
changes things for the worse. What is the change? How can those
affected overcome the new problem?
- Ulterior Motive
- A character has motives besides those that are already known,
and the ulterior motive can conflict with the surface motive. A
good Whimsy for a secret note to the gamemaster.
- Unexpected Aid
- Much to your surprise, aid shows up. Aid could be anything from
fog that helps you sneak into an enemy camp to the arrival of
the cavalry. But does this aid have a price?
- Unexplained Consequence
- Someone's actions have results that were not, perhaps could not
have been, foreseen. The result can be good or bad, minor or
- Unexplained Event
- Something happens. You don't know why.
- Vivid Detail
- Break into the storyline to describe something in detail so the
whole group can share the image. You cannot directly change the
course of events, but you might inspire the GM.
John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Tue Apr 26 17:33:51 2005