Pick a card, any card, any card at all . . . and that card might help you build your character, overcome challenges, and even tell you something about the world you’re playing in! All you’ll need is a deck of cards and a copy of Suited from Escape Box Games! After this little book and its first expansion landed in the Independents in-box, I took a look and found a game that can adapt to any genre, get started right quick, and provide a session that doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae while providing exciting stories with some unique mechanics. Want to know more? Read on!
The first thing you’ll notice about Suited is obviously the deck of cards, but the second part is that you use the deck for everything up to and including character creation, a process that is actually randomized. Your Stats are Clubs (Health/Strength/Stamina), Spades (Speed/Flexibility/Hand-Eye Coordination), Diamonds (mental quickness), and Hearts (ability to connect with others), all of which are determined by the first card of the relevant suit you draw from the deck. The next Club and Heart you draw determines your character’s Descriptors, how they are commonly described by others (i.e. Proud and Calculating). Then the next Diamond you draw will determine your Fame, how well you’re known and how easy it is for you to acquire goods. The next Spade determines your Spades Bonus, a special ability that makes your character unique, usually by conveying a bonus on a skill and an ability, like Survivor’s Hunting +2 and immunity to ambushes.
Another Club, Heart, and Diamond give your character three items, and then you’ve got 7 points to distribute across whatever skills you can come up with (max +3). Actual play? Super simple. Whenever there’s a chance of failure, flip a card from your deck. Add the most relevant Suit Stat, skill, item bonus, and the value of the card to get your Action Result, which will determine whether or not you’ve succeeded. There are a few more quirks, like what Suit of card you draw (same Suit as your Stat gets you a beneficial flavor effect, same color but different Suit causes a negative one), an option to retry failed checks, and tie-breakers for opposed actions, but that’s the core of it.
So what kind of games does Suited allow you to play? Well, it’s a generic system, so technically any kind of game you can think of, but first you’ll need a Playset! The Free Sample Edition includes Noir, Western, and Post-Apocalypse Playsets while Booster Pack #1 includes Pelts (think Redwall), Space Time, and Wuxia Gushi. Each of these playsets has both a Player Table and a GM Table. The Player Table is where you can find the descriptors, items, and Spades Bonuses to make your characters with. The GM Table is used to build the setting and, more specifically, the adventure; for instance the Noir playset has the villain, their main crime, the inciting incident, the location it occurred and a clue to find, and the client who has hired the player characters. A Booster Pack #2 coming soon will provide more of these playsets, and you could even create your own (more on both of those later)!
Now I could go on about the game myself, sure . . . but hearing from the creators is always better, right? Luckily for us, creators Ted Pick Jr. and Erin Johnson were more than willing to answer some questions about the game’s design process, some tips for playing the game, advice for writing playsets of your own, and the future of Suited!
Reading through the Booster Pack, I see that Suited got its start as a two-page rpg, and that it has since gone through some changes. What gave you the initial idea for a genre-adaptable card-based RPG, and could you write a little bit about those changes?
“The idea for Suited was spawned by a combination of games we had recently been playing and the fact that we had a 16-hour drive ahead of us. We decided a fun way to spend the time driving was to design our own Tabletop RPG system. I had recently been teaching Fiasco to a local gaming group and really loved the way that Jason Morningstar made it a Universal game that allowed people to create their own tables and charts for any setting they could ever want to play. It was really important to me that we do something similar for our game. The idea for using a deck of cards came about for two reasons; the first was the fact that we had just picked up a copy of WYRD’s Through the Breach, an awesome Tabletop game that is played using a customized deck of cards specific to the game (but you could use a regular deck in a pinch if you needed to). We loved the idea of using cards and wondered why it is that you never really hear of games doing that? That was reason one. Reason two was because you don’t always have a bag of dice on you, but nearly every house, hotel, hostel, and shop has a cheap deck of cards lying around. So we wanted to make a game that you could get everything you needed to play it for only a couple of dollars if you didn’t already have everything.
As for the changes, originally we had all of the rules for the game, character creation, and the character sheet crammed onto a single 8.5×11″ page of paper with the Noir Player Playset table on the back of it. It was cramped but legible and allowed you to play the game, but it was nothing visually impressive. As we played and added more playsets we ran into more situations the rules didn’t cover, which required more rules, which required more description and explanation, and the next thing we knew we had a 20 page booklet!”
It’s possible for a group to be using multiple decks of cards; have you found that playing with multiple decks impacts the game/the odds in any way?
“While the game is designed to be played with a single deck of cards, we actually prefer to use a single deck for character creation to avoid overlap and then have everyone use their own decks or share a deck with their neighbor for the game itself. We’ve found that the game speeds up a lot more when everyone had they own decks (less reaching for the deck, less passing it around, less having to shuffle the discard pile) and while the occasional ties do happen they are very easily settled and broken. As far as affecting the odds, the main thing that you tend to see is that everyone using their own deck causes more of the Action Flavor Effects to occur than usually occur when everyone is sharing.”
You’ve included some very handy GM’s advice [as part of Booster Pack #1]. What sort of advice would you offer to the players sitting down for a game of Suited for the first time?
“Suited isn’t your typical tabletop game and shouldn’t be played as one. A game of Suited should always run by the Rule of Movie Cool. Is the action a player is trying to do something you would see happen in a movie of that genre type? If so, then allow it! You want to have a parkour expert that jumps off walls and does crazy flips while fighting? Have at it. You want to play a more serious character that stays behind cover and takes people out from afar? Go for it. Don’t let you, or your character, be constrained by what you think is expected of you. If you have a crazy collection of starting items and a Spades Bonus that doesn’t seem to go with them, then think about what sort of crazy person would end up with this odd collection of stuff and try to run from there. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with and how fun it is. My other main piece of advice is to focus on the story and less on the card flips. A card should only be flipped when there is a good chance of something bad happening if you fail at what you are trying to do.”
Suited is created under a CC license, so we may very well see other designers creating material for/based on the game. What would your tips/tricks be for someone looking to write, for instance, their own Suited playset?
“Ha! Our hope in making Suited a Creative Commons game was that people would take it and run and start making their own playsets. There are so many genres and game types out there that it would be hard for us to make a Playset table by ourselves for all of them! We typically take anywhere between 4-hours to a week to make a playset. There are some days where we will be on a long drive and we’ll jokingly start working on a playset and the next thing we know we’ve taken it very seriously and completed an entirely brand new playset by the end of the drive. So our suggestions:
For the Descriptors, look at a list of adjectives and slang for your Genre. You want the words to feel like they truly belong to your playset (We’ll be supplying a list of Descriptors in the final book)
Look at your Genre and come up with a list of items that you tend to see a lot in books, movies, and games for that genre. Create a list of those items and split them into 3 categories: Common Useful Items, Weapons/Armor, and Expensive/Rare.
Spades Bonuses should be something that is powerful but not overpowered. They should at most provide a +3 bonus (unless you are working on a super powered setting, then limit it to +5) and for the automatic success powers they should only work twice per game. Again, you want the spades bonuses to be named and described in such a way that they fit your genre.
The hardest part for us is usually the Gamemaster Table. Items and Spades Bonuses are usually pretty easy, but creating your own fill in the blank form can be daunting. All of our generators are typically 2-4 sentences long with seven blanks in them. Think about the stories in your Genre you like and consider what are some common occurrences in them? If every story has something in common that happens every time then be sure to include it!
One last piece of advice on creating your Gamemaster Table is to avoid filling in the table by having one of the blanks be a Villain’s name. Gamemasters and Players are good at coming up with names (no matter how hard they protest it) and worst case scenario it is easy to jump onto a random name generator website. You only have seven blanks, use them wisely!”
One more expansion. and then a kickstarter! Any sneak peaks? What sort of playsets can we expect to see in Booster Pack #2?
“Whew! We cannot express how exciting it is to have our game out there and hear that people want us to kickstart it! It really helps us focus on making more for you guys. And while we don’t want to give everything away we can share some information about the Expansion and also some stand-alone releases we are looking at. The second expansion, creatively labeled Playset Booster Pack #2 will be released at the end of this month on DrivethruRPG. Inside of PBP#2 will be three new playsets: Plunder, Super Powered, and In the Shadows. Plunder will be a Pirate-themed playset in which the players are all members of a crew that are being pursued across the high seas. Super Powered is a goofy, tongue-in-cheek playset in which the players put on the cowls and capes (or no capes, their call) of superheroes that have been called in on a mission to stop a rampaging villain that has taken hostages! The final playset, In the Shadows, will allow the players to take on the role of a colony of either humans or supernatural creatures that are living in a modern day setting that suddenly have their entire way of life potentially being dragged out into the light, or if humans . . . into the shadows.
As for other sneak peaks, we can indeed confirm that there are a few stand-alone playsets that we are planning on releasing during times that are significant to them. We can say for example that there may be a stand-alone playset released this coming November that will have its own special rules system for playing a Suited game without a set Gamemaster and should encourage a lot of fun and debate among the players!”
Any final words you’d like to give to our reader?
“Yeah, we’d like to thank all of them for taking the time to read this interview and hopefully check out our game. This project started as just a way to relieve boredom and the responses we have been getting from it are truly awesome. The long term plan is to take the all of the files we are currently releasing as free or Pay What You Want on DrivethruRPG and combine all of them into a single, nice physical copy. We want to flesh out the Quickstart rules in the Free Sample Edition to provide for more examples, include some side bars on how to handle some of the kooky stuff our players have come up with, and have a good-sized section on running a Suited game as the Gamemaster that includes tables for NPC’s, Scenarios, and more. We can’t do all of this though without the support of you and your readers. So again, thank you all so much!”
You can find both the Free Sample Edition of Suited and the Booster Pack #1 on DriveThruRPG; the Free Sample Edition is, duh, free and the Booster Pack #1 is Pay What You Want. Suited is a solid little game that looks about as fun to write material for as it’ll be to play. If you’re looking for a rules-light, material-light, quick-to-learn and quick-to-play experience that’ll focus on the Rule of Cool, then give Suited a look yourself.
Pick a card, any card, any card at all . . .
Thanks to Ted and Erin for sending us a copy of the game! You can send them comments/feedback/suggestions/etc via email at EscapeBoxGames@Escapeboxgames.com, follow them on Facebook, or get in touch on Instagram/Twitter @Escapeboxgames.
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