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Card Game Review: Jason Tagmire’s ‘Storyteller Cards’

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Storyteller Cards is amongst the most versatile decks ever to grace the face of tabletop gaming. Each card in the 54 card deck is marked with the standard numbers and suits, even face cards with the jokers. While it could be used as a deck for regular card games, and awesomely so, Storyteller Cards has so much more to offer.

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Game designer Jason Tagmire launched the deck with a successful Kickstarter campaign after developing “the idea to help other people come up with ideas.” Juxtaposing images to create an idea has long been used to trick the human mind into determining a connection. It stands as a hallmark of the Dadaist art movement and is the driving force behind the classic Mad Libs. Tagmire takes that technique and presents 54 cards each with eight different elements that can contribute to creating a story.

Every card comes with an image illustrated by artist by Campbell Whyte. The style is somewhat cartoony and very approachable while still being rich in detail that provokes the mind’s attention. The images themselves could very well be stories, such as the science-fiction five of diamonds showing a sailor in classic uniform running in a spaceship while crying and tearing a letter, or the literary nine of spades giving the story of a determined businessman climbing mountains with a hand-puppet. Many of the images might be confusing or humorous, like the thief at the graveyard riding a toy truck, but one can never tell when flipping through them might bring about a bolt of inspiration. The five of diamonds shows a witch walking on a beach in the night, carrying a trunk of pirate treasure. That seminal image creates a flash of something out of Pirates of the Caribbean exploding through writer’s block.

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While the cards themselves are entertaining, the key to Storyteller Cards is using the elements from the cards to create stories. Each card contains a character, a location, an item, an action, a season, a letter of the alphabet, and a mood. Writers who are in need of a story can flip through the deck, piecing together a protagonist, detailing a plot, or simply developing background characters.

A printable guide on the website serves as an optional instruction manual listing creative games that can be played. Then, there’s “Director’s Cut,” which guides the players in outlining a movie by pulling characters, goals, resolutions, and plot twists from elements of the cards. “Once Upon a Time” serves as a mad-lib for younger or sillier creators, filling in the gaps with elements from the cards. More on the gaming side, “Freudian Knot” has players write a word inspired by their cards, shuffle them, and then guess which card matches which player’s word.

Storyteller Cards is a great, versatile, deck for anyone looking for fast and furious inspiration. It may be used for storytelling games at parties, serve as random elements for creative writing programs, or deal out parameters for an improv scene. Game-masters in role-playing games might want to keep a deck handy to quickly conjure background characters to fill that shadowy tavern. Of course, the deck could always be used for a quick game of poker, because everyone needs a break sometime, even witches carrying pirate treasure.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.
  • Julie Tallard Johnson

    I am addicted to such creative prompt tools and will look into getting this. Thanks for the review.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    This sounds like a great idea. It could be good to introduce into small group discussions for grammar school children. The author should post the age appropriate recommendation.

  • Danielle

    We’re looking to try it in small groups of children in a public library setting. Looks like a great creative tool to build confidence in collaborating and storytelling, and to help encourage a love of language and visual literacy.