Recently I had the opportunity to run a fun halloweeny one shot for my players and I wanted to share what I put together for them. I’m going to break this into two sections, this one talks about the idea behind the narrative, and the second will go into the rules I used.

The basic premise is simple: The players are snatched form their regular lives and dropped into a magical maze of sorts. Each room they enter has two doors, leading into new challenges and tasks. On i’s own, a simple enough idea, but it is dramatically complicated by the introduction of The Arcana cards.

Each player is bestowed a single tarot card from the major Arcana. These cards each grant an incredible power, as well as a dangerous drawback and a vow that the bearer must fulfill. As if this were not enough of a restriction, if anyone is able to successfully guess the card you drew, the power, the drawback or the requirement they can immediately take that card away form you, making it their own.

This basic premise sets the stage for a game of secrecy, paranoia, deceit, and danger. Direct conflict is far too dangerous, anyone with a power that would be overtly useful in a fight would be too easy to deduce, plus killing someone doesn’t give you their card. It’s a game of chasing shadows.

The encounters are essentially just a way to try and push and coerce the players into making use of their abilities and exposing themselves to eachothers guesses. The real threat is the arcana and their abilities and curses. As the game continues the web of requirements, banes, boons, alliances and secrets becomes ever more tangled until it entirely ensnares the players.

Along with this challenge the players are also able to, hopefully, slowly unravel the reason for their abduction. This is the work of powerful fey creatures who have decided to use humans to settle a dispute between the Seelie and Unseelie court, each side believes that humans truly belong to them, and these trials are meant to be a way to determine the right answer once and for all. Their actions and re-actions will be judged and evaluated and in the end a choice must be made.

The rooms are magical constructs spun from dreams and are far beyond conventional physics. A sprawling playground in an infinite city has a junglegym with a door that leads to a babbling brook. Each room has multiple doors, always denoted in some way by a color. Green, Yellow and Red. As the players pass through, they may begin to realize that Red doors denote perils and serious threats, yellow doors mark obstacles and tests of skill, and green doors are measures of personality, and values. This serves several purposes. On a surface level, it allows players to determine the amount of risk they should take, based on their resources. A hurt player may lean towards a green door, while a hearty or capable one might take the red. However, players roughly equal in condition and ability may be forced into similar choices. This creates small conflicts that can become the seeds of betrayal, and can also provoke the use of some abilities. Lastly however, the premise is a misdirection. A green room is not always going to be safer, it merely has less of a threat. Some cards have requirements, such as other players being hurt, needing to perform significant actions, or other such things. Card with drawbacks like those might actually be in far more danger if the room has nothing to oppose them.

Once the players have passed through enough trials or unravelled the mystery they will eventually be brought before the Fey to hear their judgement. This is usually just when the playtime has about run its course, but you may pick a certain number of trials ahead of time if you wish to.

This game made for a tense, dramatic, treacherous and incredibly fun one shot adventure and I hope you get some use out of it too. Stick around and soon you’ll also get to see the mechanical side of all this through the lens of a world of darkness game.