Enchanted Pencil's
Playing Card 
Story Generator

All you need is a standard deck of 52 playing cards.

Welcome to my card-based writing prompt and story idea generator. This is a system designed to help you write stories for an existing cast of characters. If you tend to hoard OCs, ARPG characters, or you're the GM of a tabletop campaign, this is the perfect system for you!

You use this system by drawing up a hand of cards. This "hand" describes a single "chapter" of your story. The card's number and suit describes the elements that appear in the story and the direction of the plot. Further down on this page, I've listed different "generators" based on the stories you may want to tell.

What makes this system special and different from other, similar d20 systems? 1: These plots are more complex and therefore more interesting and compelling. 2: I like the tactile feeling of shuffling cards :)

Number cards

Each character in your cast corresponds to a number card (2-10).  

If you have less than 9 characters, give your favorite(s) multiple numbers or remove the extra cards. You could also assign your extra numbers to other recurring elements in your story that you want the chance to write about (but first you'll want to double check that these elements aren't a face card). 

If you have more than 9, change the cast list each chapter or add more cards from a different deck.

Face cards

Face cards describe additional story elements to help spice up your chapter. These are described in the generators below.

You could assign a specific thing to each card ahead of time if you wish (for example, Queen of Clubs: the local high school), or just wing it when you draw one.

Suits

Suits describe the direction the plot will take in your chapter. 

A "flush" happens when three or more cards have the same suit. The plot of a flush is a turning point where something permanent happens that the characters and story cannot go back from. It's a big moment, like the climax of an arc or season finale. When drawn early on, it's a fantastic inciting incident for a broader story arc.


Now it's time to draw your first hand!

I recommend drawing a hand of 3-4 cards, but you're free to draw as many as you want. Less cards will generate a shorter and simpler plot, while more cards will be long and complicated with multiple plot elements, and may be more difficult to write.

Any numbers that appear in your hand indicate the characters who appear in this chapter. If you draw multiples of the same number, those characters get the most screen time in the chapter. If you draw only face cards, feel free to reshuffle and draw a new hand... Or just roll with it, you might come up with something brand new.

Unless you drew a flush, you will have multiple suits in one hand. You can choose to pick the one that you have the most of and ignore the rest, or you can challenge yourself by finding a way to include all of them and writing a chapter with a more complicated plot structure.

Remember, this is just a story idea generator. You can play as loose or as strict as you'd like to what your hand describes. If you get a better idea, you don't need to follow the cards, just write what you've been inspired to write! That being said, challenging yourself to stick closely to these rules is a great writing exercise that will surely improve your storytelling skills! 

The Generators

The lists below are tailored for specific genres and types of stories. There's some online games and ARPGs that I participate in that I wrote generators for as well.

This is the generic version that I use as a template for other generators below.

Face cards

Ace: A major argument, battle, or test of skills 
Jack: An important object
Queen: An important location
King: A new character

Suits

♠ Spades: Problem Solving
    Flush: A much larger problem is revealed that will take multiple chapters to resolve.
    Description: This plot is about some sort of concrete problem that needs to be solved. Something is broken, something has been lost, someone is missing, etc. The stakes don't need to be high, and the problem should be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, this plot acts as the setup to a much larger problem that will loom over your story for the next few chapters.

♣ Clubs: Slice of life, worldbuilding, or atmosphere
    Flush: A major event occurs that changes the status quo.
    Description: This plot is about establishing the setting or describing the daily life of your characters. In a light-hearted story, it might just be fun filler and comedy. In a worldbuilding chapter, your characters may play a passive role, acting as an audience stand-in to learn things, or you might choose to write something highly descriptive that barely involves characters at all. On a flush, something happens that permanently changes the status quo. You may even use it as an opportunity to remove a character and add another, or switch generators.

♢ Diamonds: Character/Relationship building
    Flush: A fundamental aspect of a character or relationship permanently changes (for better or worse)
    Description: This plot is about developing a character's personality, or developing a relationship between two or more characters. It could happen in the present, or could be a flashback to describe a backstory. On a flush, something fundamental changes in a character's personality or in a relationship. A character could have a life-changing revelation or turn to the dark side. A relationship could change from friendship to romance, or it could irreparably dissolve.

♡ Hearts: Conflict
    Flush: The loser of the conflict must pay a terrible price
    Description: This plot is about a conflict between a character and someone or something else. That something else could be another character or element in your hand, or something else that you make up. This conflict is more abstract than a "problem" and doesn't need to be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, one of the characters in your hand loses the conflict at the end of the chapter, and must pay a terrible price for it.

This is a generator for your HARPG (Horse Art Role Playing Game) stables. It works best in a modern and realistic setting, but fantasy riders or horses are by no means incompatible.

Depending on how large of a cast you want to work with, a horse-rider pair could be assigned a single number card, or you could split them up.


Face cards

Ace: A training session 
Jack: An important object
Queen: A different location (besides the stables)
King: A new character

Suits

♠ Spades: Problem Solving
    Flush: A much larger problem is revealed that will take multiple chapters to resolve.
    Description: This plot is about some sort of concrete problem that needs to be solved. Something is broken, something has been lost, someone is missing, etc. The stakes don't need to be high, and the problem should be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, this plot acts as the setup to a much larger problem that will loom over your story for the next few chapters.

♣ Clubs: Daily stable life 
    Flush: A major event occurs that changes the status quo.
    Description: This plot is your opportunity to write about what daily life is like at your stables. On a flush, something happens that permanently changes the status quo. You may even use it as an opportunity to remove a character and add another, or switch generators.

♢ Diamonds: Character/Relationship building 
    Flush: A fundamental aspect of a character or relationship permanently changes (for better or worse)
    Description: This plot is about developing a character's personality, or developing a relationship between two or more characters. It's also a great opportunity to develop a horse/rider relationship, or establish a brand new one. This could be written in the present or as a flashback. On a flush, something fundamental changes in a character's personality or in a relationship. A character could have a life-changing revelation or their life's path is changed to a completely new direction. A relationship could change from friendship to romance, or it could irreparably dissolve.

♡ Hearts: A show, competition, or race 
    Flush: A horse or rider suffers a permanent injury  
    Description: This plot features a show or competition at its center. On a flush, something goes terribly wrong, and one of the characters in your hand suffers a permanent injury. They may even die, depending on the tone of your story. Whatever happens, their career as an equestrian will change forever.

This is a generator for your HARPG (Horse Art Role Playing Game) herd. It works best in a setting that has a touch of fantasy and magic. While it doesn't include an outright human/rider element, you can still definitely include them, you just won't get any plots about training or shows.

Face cards

Ace: A major test of skill  
Jack: An important object
Queen: An important location 
King: A new character

Suits

♠ Spades: Problem Solving
    Flush: A much larger problem is revealed that will take multiple chapters to resolve.
    Description: This plot is about some sort of concrete problem that needs to be solved. Someone is sick, a foal got lost, a terrible storm is rolling in. Usually, the problem should be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, this plot acts as the setup to a much larger problem that will loom over your story for the next few chapters.

♣ Clubs: Daily life or worldbuilding
    Flush: A major event occurs that changes the status quo.
    Description: This plot is about establishing the setting or describing the daily life of your characters. You could choose to write about what daily life is like in your herd. In a worldbuilding chapter, your characters may play a passive role, acting as an audience stand-in to learn things, or you might choose to write something highly descriptive that barely involves characters at all. On a flush, something happens that permanently changes the status quo. Something catastrophic could happen to the world or environment, or your herd hierarchy changes or even splits in two.

♢ Diamonds: Character/Relationship building
    Flush: A fundamental aspect of a character or relationship permanently changes (for better or worse)
    Description: This plot is about developing a character's personality, or developing a relationship between two or more characters. This could be written in the present or as a flashback. On a flush, something fundamental changes in a character's personality or in a relationship. A character could have a life-changing revelation or their life's path is changed to a completely new direction. A relationship could change from friendship to romance, or it could irreparably dissolve.

♡ Hearts: Conflict
    Flush: The loser of the conflict must pay a terrible price
    Description: This plot is about a conflict between a character and someone or something else. That something else could be another character or element in your hand, or something else that you make up. This conflict is more abstract than a "problem" and doesn't need to be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, one of the characters in your hand loses the conflict at the end of the chapter, and must pay a terrible price for it. This could mean banishment from the herd, a permanent injury, or even death.

Inspired by the d20-based lorelocke designed by Aetherstorm. I've even done my own run through of this, which you can read here. In this system, death is optional, and also much less frequent than vanilla lorelocke. The challenge more comes from elegantly integrating all the plot elements that you draw in your hand into a coherent chapter. This really challenges your storytelling skills, I can tell you that from personal experience!

Face cards

Ace: A high-stakes battle or test of skill  
Jack: An object that exists in-game
Queen: A location that exists in-game
King: A new character

Suits

♠ Spades: Problem Solving 
    Flush: A much larger problem is revealed that will take multiple chapters to resolve. 
    Description: This plot is about some sort of concrete problem that needs to be solved. Something is broken, something has been lost, someone is missing, etc. The stakes don't need to be high, and the problem should be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, this plot acts as the setup to a much larger problem that will loom over your story for the next few chapters.

♣ Clubs: Worldbuilding
    Flush: A catastrophic event occurs that changes the world.
    Description: This plot is about describing a unique aspect of your world. You could elaborate on the magic system, society, geography, local customs, etc. Your characters will play a more passive role, acting as an audience stand-in to learn these things, or you might choose to write something highly descriptive that barely involves characters at all. On a flush, something happens that permanently changes the world. If you get a flush early on in your story, this could act as an inciting incident that sets the characters off on their adventures. If it happens later on, you could choose a previously-established element to go in and completely change.

♢ Diamonds: Character/Relationship building
    Flush: A fundamental aspect of a character or relationship permanently changes (for better or worse)
    Description: This plot is about developing a character's personality, or developing a relationship between two or more characters. It could happen in the present, or could be a flashback to describe a backstory. On a flush, something fundamental changes in a character's personality or relationship. A character could have a life-changing revelation or turn to the dark side. A relationship could change from friendship to romance, or it could irreparably dissolve. 

♡ Hearts: Conflict
    Flush: The loser of the conflict must pay a terrible price
    Description: This plot is about a conflict between a character and someone or something else. That something else could be another character or element in your hand, or something else that you make up. This conflict is more abstract than a "problem" and doesn't need to be resolved at the end of the chapter... unless you drew a flush. On a flush, one of the characters in your hand loses the conflict at the end of the chapter, and must pay a terrible price for it. In a lorelocke, this character pays the price of their very life.

Tips and advice

Get out of your comfort zone

Or don't, depending on your goals. Maybe you just want to grind out a bunch of stories for ARPG xp... Or maybe you want to grow and develop as a writer! Leaving your comfort zone may be uncomfortable, and you might not have the best product afterwards, but you WILL become a better writer for it!

Motivation, needs, goals, dreams

Try giving each member of your cast of characters at least one driving need or motivation. Bonus points if their need involves the other characters. When your characters have a strong drive like this, it makes stories MUCH easier to write. Giving your characters a sense of purpose gives your story a strong sense of direction, too, which makes it more compelling to read and write!

Beat writer's block

The hardest part is getting started; luckily, this system solves that problem. The second hardest part is to keep going! Use a tool like Write or Die or The Most Dangerous Writing App to force yourself to keep writing and really tap into your creativity.

Shake things up

Change out some characters, or try a brand new generator and see what happens! This system can only get you so far before you start drawing similar hands and running out of ideas.

You can also try combining this system with other writing generators and systems. Here's my personal go-to sources of inspiration:
- Finding a Fiasco playset that fits my genre and looking at the "Locations" "Objects" and "Needs" lists.
- Springhole.net has tons of niche generators as well as general writing tips and articles.
- Reddit's Writing Prompts subreddit is better suited for inventing stories from scratch, but I've occasionally found ideas that can be used with an existing cast, and some of my best short stories have come from it.

ADD YOUR OWN

Did you design your own generator that you'd like to be added to the official page? Drop me a line in the form below.

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