Using Poker Cards instead of Dice (a hack of a hack)

I was working on some rules hacks for a Weird West FitD idea before I found “A Fistful of Darkness”, which is perfect for what I wanted to GM and stopped me in my game design tracks.

My group has really enjoyed using cards (only tarot cards until now) for other games. It gets everyone gathered around a single deck and makes everything feel more personal.

That said, I think FitD dice systems are pretty awesome as they are and I want to retain as many of the dynamics created by those existing systems as possible.

These optional rules assume knowledge of the systems they augment. I am 100% sure I have missed some places that these changes might invalidate / overpower some Special Abilities. I’m also aware that these rules won’t work well on Roll 20 and other digital gaming sites.

So, here are some of the ideas. I hope they are useful or at least interesting:

Feel free to comment on them here or on Google docs.

Note: These are the rules I’m playtesting and they are subject to change. They are an amalgamation of ideas from this site and elsewhere, not my wholly original ideas.

Credit / Attribution to @monkeyEcho @ebrunsell and @Sohkrates for > inspiration


Wow. This is brilliant! I’m also hitting my head on the table regarding the statistics of the action draw. It’s obvious…once someone points it out. My questions - do you reshuffle after each draw? does each player have their own deck? If not, the percent success / failure changes based on previous actions. I’m OK with that. Early success has a negative impact on later draws. Perhaps the player can determine (once) during a session to shuffle all discards (including the GM’s Jokers). So, 3 questions-

  1. Could I use the action draw in my Adrenaline hack? The Scoundrel crew has an Ocean’s 11 vibe, so it would be an awesome option. Plus, I have a custom poker deck that I’m working on. I would provide credit, of course!
  2. Any thoughts on how I could use Craps for Downtime action?
  3. How do you see using cards to determine resisting stress?
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We only use a single deck so that everyone had to gather around. We shuffle once at the beginning of a session and shuffle all the discarded cards back in when the deck is empty (even if this is in the middle of a draw, it almost always is). Yes, the chances of Success and Failure do shift as the cards are used, so it’s important to shuffle the cards well. I give each player a free deck shuffle once per session (most never use it).

I would recommend having the Players’ draw all of the cards for their action (especially if you are using the Joker / Aces rules) because the chances of finding those increases as their Action rating increases, and that is intentional.

Can you use this? Absolutely, as is or modified to your heart’s content.

Craps is a great idea for Downtime as well. I’ll see what I can come up with for that this weekend.

I have Blackjack rules for Indulge Vice listed in the Google doc. Let me know if they seem too difficult as written. I’m trying to simplify the math on how much Stress you clear when you lose to the House.

Thanks. I think the blackjack for Vice makes sense. You might want to look at Dylan Green’s @CasterShell Blades Against Darkness Super Turbo hack. He just has players gain stress 1 to 1 for a resist roll. So, 3D costs 3 stress. It fixes the potential issue that your card draw has with resistance. (6 stress-roll).

I’ll try to think of some different ways to do downtime as well.

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Yeah, I hadn’t considered card-based Resistance Draws yet. I’ll look into that soon as well.

Just chiming in to mention that Roll20 does have card deck functionality, and supplies you with a standard deck of cards when you create a new game :wink:
I’m actually using it to do shitty Tarot reading for our own A Fistfull of Darkness game since they chose a fortune teller as their initial contact. I draw a major arcana card and let them use it as a Devil’s Bargain if they can motivate it, and if it’s still left at the end of the run they get some Doom (Heat) for not following their fate.

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That’s not all that shitty. I’d actually make them do the fortune telling when they cash it in!

Here is my “divination” special ability from one of my hacks. But, I like your Devil’s Bargain approach too!

“Divination: You catch glimpses of the future through patterns in the sky, entrails, cards or other methods. Twice per session you can assist a teammate without paying stress. Describe the augury and how it helped the situation.”

Hey - I’ve been thinking a bit more about this. So, I do like that the probabilities change as the deck is drawn down. I also see a connection to the engagement roll.

About the only thing that I don’t like about the engagement roll is that it only impacts the first action. So, bad engagement = initial desperate position. But, after that first action, the default is risky.

What if you used the engagement roll to modify the deck. So, if you roll (or draw) a desperate position for engagement, you take a few of the face cards out. This skews the draw probabilities towards failure to represent that the score is not going well.

In addition, take a look at Dylan Green’s “resistance pool” from his Super Turbo hack. At the beginning of a session, you could remove the Ace & Jokers and then draw 10 cards from your deck. Keep them face down and “spend” them to resist, push yourself, activate special abilities, etc. Spending all of your cards is just like gaining 10 stress…

Going through the deck and looking for cards is a lot of work at the start of a score :stuck_out_tongue:

Technically the Engagement roll only applies to the initial situation, but if they don’t handle it well it’ll both eat into their resources (Stress etc) and it could cause clocks to be started and such.

We have a discussion of what the card means when it’s drawn, and then usually when it’s used too: “Ok so reversed Strength: inner strength, self-doubt, low energy, raw emotion, how the heck does that apply when you’re trying to shoot someone?” :smile:


My deck just arrived.

I’ll be building a custom posse “Coven” and my group will be making characters next Saturday to play “A Fistful of Darkness” at least through the end of the year.


Looks very cool!

Off topic here, sorry:
Regarding aFoD: Just posted new Hellstone Claims rule in the main aFoD thread. If I can help you with anything, let me know.

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Anything you post here is on-topic as far as I’m concerned. I’m reading the rules update now. Thanks!

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Reading the title, I was thinking drawing cards to make Poker hands, which got me poking at probabilities.
From some brief searching:
The odds of getting a pair or better in five cards: 49%
The odds of at least a pair in seven cards: 82%
Which is close enough to the dice odds for 4+ for me to say you could start with 5 cards as 1 die and add a card for each extra die.

Digging a little more, the odds of better hands drop off FAST. You could make 6 just having a royal pair or better, and a Straight or better is a critical success.



That seems doable, though I worry about it being potentially too slow for regular play, but playtesting might show otherwise.

We only use Poker draws (as soon in the Google drive document in the original post) for a very specific event (duels) in our game currently, but we might give your idea a try sometime.

@Gavin_Moore -
3 years on, how did your card mechanic work out in your game?

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We ran 8 sessions with the rules in the Google Drive document (linked above, link still works) and they worked really well. We play almost entirely online now and have moved on to some other Forged in the Dark games where playing cards are less appropriate, but we go back to A Fistful of Darkness we’ll definitely continue using the alternate rules!

Sadly, we never got a chance to use the Poker Duel rules :stuck_out_tongue: