Tarot is a most under appreciated tool in roleplaying games. If you need inspiration in a flash a quick tarot spread and give you tons of world building possibilities, devious plot twists or hidden clues. Here are some world-building tarot spreads from the most recent version of my Martian Muckraker RPG book followed by an example.
Planet Building Tarot Spread
This Tarot Spread can be used to develop alternate planets or fantasy worlds. This worldbuilding can be done to host a game in an off-Earth environment or to provide background to a player character or NPC’s backstory.
This Tarot Spread is shaped like a pyramid, with three cards at the bottom, two cards in the middle and one card at the top.
Each of the three cards at the base of the pyramid represent Three Key Historical Events that impacted the planet with chronological order read from left to right.
The two middle cards represent two Core Values that heavily impact the culture of the planet.
The top card says something about the Biological Traits of the key species of that planet.
Life is always in flux. When an environment is hostile life will adapt in strange and wonderous ways.. A three-card tarot spread can be used to generate a mutation. The first card reveals the mutation’s blessing or an adaptive advantage the mutation bestows. The second card is the mutation’s curse, or a drawback the mutation bestows. The third card reveals something about the relationship between the mutant and the non-mutant community.
Mad Science Spread
This Tarot spread is shaped like an X. The center card, which is revealed first, is the problem (real or imagined) the mad scientist is intending to solve. The two cards that are below the center card are called the leads they are what lead the mad scientist to become obsessed with this problem.
The top left card reflects on how effective the mad scientist’s solution is. The top right card is the unexpected consequence of his research.
This spread consists of four cards arranged in a diamond shape. The top card is the robot’s directive. The second and third card are technological features of the robot. The bottom card is a design flaw in the robot.
This is a tarot spread I drew for the planet building spread:
Starting with the planets history, we see the Seven of Cups. It inspires me to think of a culture that saw the riches the galaxy had to offer . . . but these were always far off. For a brief period the planet was able to compete and do well for itself and had a period of tranquility (Four of Cups), but this was soon to fall part to a period of scarity that caused people to cling to what they had (Ten of Wands).
Both of the values cards (second level of the period) look like trials. I interpet this to mean that the planets inhabitents, learning from their history subject themselves to trials to prepare themselves and furthermore seek to bring judgement on those who have wronged them.
As a result of this hard history the planet;s inhabitants biology has warped to make a warrior species (Nine of Wands).
Now you may have saw these cards and come up with a very very different story. But that’s part of the fun.
So tell me . . . for the mad science spread, what do you see here?