The Ultimate RPG Campfire Card Deck by James D’Amato

subtitled 150 Cards for Sparking In-Game Conversation.

This is an interesting world- and character-building tool that, as with any tool meant to spark conversation, relies heavily on the participants to make it a success. I can see this kind of deck going over well with play groups that are interested more in collaborative acts of imagination than in hack-and-slash survival competitions or numbers-oriented dice chucking. You’d think that would be the majority of players, but the kind of openness and vulnerability involved with being honest and creative makes a lot of people’s skin itch. Things have definitely gotten better in recent years, especially with the rise of indie games, but lest we forget Dungeons & Dragons started as an intentionally deadly speed run of a war game. Why flesh out a back story and potentially grow attached to a character your Dungeon Master was almost certainly actively trying to murder?

But for playgroups that care more about telling a cool story together as opposed to scoring imaginary points against one another, this is a great way to explore and expand upon characters, relationships and setting, especially if you have the kind of gamemaster who actively listens to players and incorporates their desires into the overarching story. It’s also great for gamemasters who maybe need a filler session in the narrative, as well as for games that don’t require a gamemaster but whose players are interested in expanding on their backgrounds collaboratively.

Towards that end, there are six card categories included here, plus the all-important X card. For those unaware of this safety tool, it’s a card that allows any player to remove a specific card from the current game play session without needing to explain why. The rest of the cards are divided into questions regarding Your Past, Your Present, Your Companions, Your Dreams, Your World, and Hypotheticals. The insert included with the deck has a neat basic version of Gameplay, but groups could pretty much adapt those rules to whatever form best suits them.

The conceit is that player characters would be sitting around a campfire — or in a tavern, or at any point in their adventuring downtime — and fall into conversation, the way people do in real life. Each player draws two cards: one to answer and one to ask another character. This can lead to fascinating insights, especially with the sheer range of questions available in this deck. There’s also no compunction for characters to answer honestly, which can be just as illuminating as the truth would be.

And for imaginative players stuck in mechanics-happy groups, this is a great tool just to sit with and use to contemplate your own character’s backstory. Outside of RPGs, this is also a great writing tool for primarily fantasy settings. While hardly indispensable, this is a valuable creative deck for people looking to explore fiction from perhaps novel perspectives, presented in a manner well in keeping with its gameplay origins.

The Ultimate RPG Campfire Card Deck by James D’Amato was published August 1 2023 by Adams Media and is available from all good booksellers, including

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