History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Writing Tools: World Roulette

I’ve accumulated a large collection of card-based writing tools, each of which is useful to different parts of my writing process. So I’ve decided to do a series of posts about the various decks I own and how I use them in my writing.

I’ve talked previously about World Roulette as a worldbuilding tool, which is what it’s designed to help most with. But World Roulette can also be used as a general creative prompt system for art, roleplaying games, and writing.

The cards each have two sides: a light side, featuring a theme and four articulations of that theme, and a dark side, featuring two dynamics. The themes are larger worldbuilding aspects, while the articulations drill down to a specific aspect of that theme. The dynamics, on the other hand, can offer more nuance to what you’re looking at.

One of the keys to World Roulette is being able to draw connections between the cards you draw. For example, if I draw the themes of “life force,” “distance,” and “trends,” there might not be much immediately to put those three things together. But as I look at the articulations, I find “longevity/mortality” in relation to life force, “determining pace” relative to distance, and “style/aesthetics” for trends. All of this might lead me to consider a world in which the elderly are revered, they are the trendsetters in the fashion world and the pace setters when it comes to travel. When I add the dynamic of “health and wellness,” this makes me think that perhaps it’s not just elderly folks but folks who have outlived the normal lifespan, which adds to why they hold a prominent place in this society. If I wanted to turn this into a story seed, I might draw more cards to answer question and inform a potential plot. As an example here, the next card I drew has the dynamic “luck, auspicious times and objects.” So maybe longevity is supplemented by some sort of auspicious object. Now we’re getting to something that could be a plot, as perhaps an elderly person wants to achieve extra longevity and thus sets out to find one of these legendary objects.

The cards for this set are perfectly square, and the box they came in was a little on the snug side, which is why mine live in the fancy custom box pictured to the side. But the cards and the deck size are a perfectly shuffle-able size for my small hands. The design is pretty sparse, though the font choices give the cards a bit of elegance (it’s more apparent on the unshown light side of the cards, but you can also see it at Light Grey Art Labs’ website).

The downside of World Roulette as a deck used to inspire stories is that it can sometimes take a large number of draws from the deck before you find a place to start your story idea. You may have lots of elements that seem really cool, but nothing for a plot until you’ve pulled several cards (I drew five in my above example) and thought about the different ways to combine them.

In summary, use World Roulette for: world building, society/location elements for roleplaying games, and potentially story seeds.

The World Roulette deck is available in the shop at Light Grey Art Labs’ website.

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