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A card deck to inspire stories, words, and characters

What is Image Storytelling?

The Image Storytelling System is a set of tools to help tell compelling stories with your friends. There are rules or guidelines and an accompanying deck of cards with words on top and bottom. You might think of it like Tarot if Tarot had been designed for storytelling instead of divination. It is a Tabletop Roleplaying Game – like Dungeons and Dragons, Powered by the Apocalypse, or Fate – but designed to be simpler to use, and easier to approach.

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Why use cards instead of dice?

The very first iteration of Image (almost a decade ago) was designed with dice and tables. But what we realized was that playing cards are just a better randomizer than dice are. In a single easily available deck you have a d4 (suits), a d12 (numbers), and if you use words top and bottom, as Image Storytelling does, a d100.

More importantly, cards carry meaning beyond the numbers they represent. Take the suits, for example. If you were to try to use 4 sided dice to pick between the 4 principle character archetypes (rogue, healer, mage, warrior) and rolled a 2, what would that mean? Without a table it’s hard to say. Warrior maybe? Healer? Who knows? But with suits you have intuitions to draw on. With very few exceptions, when we ask people which of those four fits a spade, the response is rogue, while hearts represent healers.

If it still seems like a gimmick to use playing cards instead of dice, consider that cards with words do have a long, rich history of being used for stories in the form of Tarot or Lenormand decks.


Your system is *very* light. Why?

In building our rules we started from the ground up, stripping away everything from other systems and only adding back what actually improved storytelling, either through conflict resolution or inspiration.
To be clear, we are very much of the belief that good storytellers will tell good stories regardless of the system, and we have fond memories of playing D&D, L5R, Gurps, Fate, etc. But we found that often the storyteller told better stories by ignoring the rules. It’s a well-known fact that good dungeon masters hide a lot of sins behind their screen - fudging rolls and requirements (*cough* *cough* grapple *cough*).  But if discounting rules really adds to the experience, why have them in the first place?
In one campaign we played we were sneaking into a dark temple and found ourselves looking over a small ledge where cultists skulked below. Our fighter (a new player) excitedly described how he would jump down off the ledge and pummel the enemy before drawing his weapon and engaging! The DM rummaged through rules for several minutes (slowing momentum) before deciding that the jump would require an additional skill check and the unarmed attack could do a maximum of 1 point of damage (much less than a sword). The player dejectedly chose to walk the 25 feet down the ramp to swing at the cultist with his sword instead. It was the right move from the perspective of optimal game mechanics, and the wrong move entirely from the perspective of engaging stories.
So many role-playing podcasts and videos we follow have great actors, and interesting plots, but spend half their time flipping through rule books. How have we been convinced that juggling hard to remember rules is the best way to tell fun stories?
Having said that, if you do like “crunchier” systems, Image cards work well with existing card based role playing games like The House Doesn’t Always Win (fairly light), or Project Dark (slightly crunch). Both of which we’ve played and enjoyed!

Who is Image Storytelling for?

Role-Playing Games

Image Storytelling is a lite RPG that uses playing cards instead of dice. Think Tarot, but for stories instead of fortunes.


Image Storytelling can be used as a tarot deck and we have a tarot guide book to help you interpret the cards. 


Image Storytelling will help you create characters, settings, and events throughout your story. 


Image Storytelling Decks