Roleplaying games are not about dice.

Wait! Wait! Hear me out.

Roleplaying games are an awesome way to create an adventure in which you are the hero, building a story in a fantasy world. Dice are tools, used toward that end. They add excitement by way of random results, determining random paths for the story, while also providing us with a physical connection to the game – something we can touch, in a game that is played mostly in the mind.

There are many different ways to use dice, such as D20, various dice pools, One Roll Engine or Star Wars’ narrative dice. But there are also cards.

Cards have several unique characteristics that differentiate them from dice, in ways that still haven’t been fully explored in RPGs. Here are a few:

1. I can have a hand of cards. That means that I can, for example, choose one result over another, or keep cards for later. The cards in my hand can say something about my character, in an ongoing way, unlike dice, that are usually used for a single resolution.

2. My hand is mine. Dice are waiting to be rolled, but the cards in my hand remain with me (until they’re played), representing something about my character and my possibilities, in a way a die never can.

3. There are lots of actions you can take with cards. Just in your hand, you can show them, play them – one at a time, or in a specific combination – discard, draw, tons of stuff. You can have a deck of your own, or a deck for the whole party; cards can be laid out and remain on the table, or just drawn and discarded; etc. There are so many ways cards can make you feel stuff! Got hit? Lose a card! One of your options is lost, for now. Got a critical hit? Lose it randomly. It hurts!

4. Cards can be counted. If you’ve drawn a 7 of Clubs from a deck, you know you won’t get another 7 of Clubs until the deck is reshuffled. This is amazing.

In essence, cards and dice allow for different methods for task or story resolutions, but so far, only dice have received proper respect and usage in RPGs. I think that lately, with the rise of Print on Demand (POD), which allows people to easily print and cut decks, we’re seeing a rise in card-based RPGs as well. I know I’m going to contribute to that trend some day soon, but for now, you should check out the Kickstarter on the right.

Phoenix: Dawn Command isn’t the first RPG I’ve seen that uses cards, but it seems to be one of the tightestWatch a demonstration of the basic mechanic, and see for yourselves. The cards allow for a style of play that builds the description for the character’s action in an organic way, while allowing for planning ahead, in a way that dice by themselves simply can’t achieve. Also, think about the influence of holding a hand full of, basically, art, and how it must affect the feel of the game at the table.

I’m very picky about Kickstarter projects, but this one captured my heart and wallet. I implore you to consider helping to push it to the goal.
You might want to check out the episode One Shot Podcast did with this system, to get the hang of it.