10 July 2016

Review: The GameMaster's Apprentice Base Deck

My reviews have not been too kind lately... and amazing and this product is....


Really, that is all I need to say. Go buy them. Now. Or a pox on all your houses.

Well, I probably should say more. Made by Larcenous Designs and brought to market by their crowd source campaign (plus it looks like some intense playtesting), the GameMaster's Apprentice is a deck of cards for a GM to use as a tool to improvise, describe, and overall use randomness to create the story and inspire events. This is the base deck which it generic; you can use it in any games. There are more decks aimed at specific genres (Sci-Fi, Steampunk, and horror which is my favorite in look, you got to see it). In addition there is a deck devoted to Dead Gentleman's Demon Hunters game, though it can easily work for others games of that genre. $19.99 per deck.

The deck has 60 cards, but since there is no need for a card back to hide the information it is two sided... that's 120 cards of goodness.

These are the first cards I have bought from DriveThruCards. I was doubtful about it. How good can print on demand (POD) cards be. The answer: darn good. If you are holding off buying cards from them because you are unsure about the results, these are as a good as a typical deck. Printing is very good, cutting dead on. I will, for sure, be buying more cards from that website.

But What Are They?
These are a deck of cards with "stuff" on them. This includes dice throws, outcomes, names, items, random locations, descriptions, runes and element symbols to interpret in any way you want, and so on, fourteen generators on each card (a really efficient useof space). As you GM and something comes up unplanned (you know how those pesky players are always asking something unexpected, or going somewhere unplanned or meeting an NPC you need to throw in, and so on), draw a card, read the generator you need, and improvise. Its it especially good when you are not on your game from being out all the previous night in a barely remembered haze of drunken debauchery and gang warfare, or even if you are planning out the next adventure in your campaign and needs something to get your imagination in gear.

I will only give a couple of examples, but you can see how it works in the PDF of the manual. Also, you can find your own uses as well.

Rolling dice is easy, draw and look at the circle up top of the card. It has rolls for the standard polyhedral dice. Great to hide the result of a roll in plain sight.

I really like the "likely odds" tool as I am enjoying the story of a game and like to be surprised as well. When you need to decide an outcome on the fly, such as is it likely there is a scorpion in that birthday present the hero got in the mail. Choose how likely it is (good, even, bad) and look to see if it yes or no for that likely hood. As in my world it is likely the result is bad and the scorpions are in there I look next to the "bad" entry. Darn. No. Well next time...

"Shopkeep, what is your name?" Draw a card, look at the names and pick one of the three. Virtue and vice could give the NPC a basic disposition as well.

Need to describe an area, that's here, with categories for sound, sight, etc. My guess it that the horror deck will be so useful just for this, as horror is so improved with original sensory information.

As I said you can write adventures with these cards. They give you ideas for why the adventure is happening, and places it might be at. It is not exact at all, it is vague to let ideas pop into your head. Best, it can inspire you to come up with plots you might never think of. It is like having a writing partner to bounce ideas off of when no one is available. You can even improvise a whole adventure on the fly such as when the planned adventure ends early, or to fill in when someone has to cancel at the last minute.

If you are a GM who just buys adventures and runs them verbatim, do not waste you money on these. If you make your own adventures, like to come up with ideas on the fly, or want to do so but want to get better at it, these are the cards you need.

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