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Using CCG’s as RPG aids

©2004 - Randal Snyder

The following is an example of how to use cards from Magic the Gathering in your role-playing game. This is not a conversion, but rather a guide that the GM can use for random terrain, encounters, and treasure.

Using the guide below you need one deck for your Lands, one for Encounters, and one for Treasure. You can also use other CCG games to augment this further. 

Lands:

MtG has five basic lands: Mountains, Plains, Swamps, Islands, and Forests. When creating your “map” you need a separate stack of cards to represent your landscape deck. You should stack your deck with the appropriate percentage of cards you expect in your country. Below the lands are explained on how they can be interpreted in a gaming environment. 

Mountains – represent hills, mountains, or rocky terrain. This can include volcanoes, chasms, rifts, or other terrain that includes drastic changes in elevation. 

Plains – are valleys, open brush lands, or rolling hills. This can be fertile or infertile in that the plain could be a farmland or desert. The general feel of the land is flat and containing very little change in elevation. 

Swamps – represent unpleasant lands either as a swamp, marsh, or a dingy mine, or other uncomfortable, though usually wet, area. Swamps can either have a lot of vegetation or have none.

Islands – are either lands or sources of water such as a lake, ocean, or large river, or are a group of islands, reefs, or some other land mass surrounded by water such as a peninsula. 

Forests – are woodlands of thick vegetation. This can be any kind of forest imagined, but the general theme is that the area is fairly densely covered in some sort of plant life. 

Using Lands:

Each land represents a grid on a map. Generally speaking this could be a 1 x 1 mile area or a 10 x 10 mile span. It’s up to the GM. 

One important thing to note is how lands can be seen. A mountain land should be seen from one to three “grids” away. In addition, from a mountain grid, it is possible to see additional distances in all directions. However, a mountain will block the view beyond the mountain. All other lands are assumed to be at the same elevation. 

First, pick a card for your character’s starting location. Then pick a card for each surrounding land in each direction of the grid (hex grid uses 6 and square grids use 8). If the characters are on a mountain, pick cards for one more grid in all directions not blocked by another mountain. Always pick the cards starting with the North, unless the view is blocked by a mountain. 

Each card should be marked on a grid so you have a record/map that will not change in the event of an accident. When characters move into a new grid, the surrounding lands will have become visible to them. In addition, they have a chance for an encounter with some creature. In a sparsely populated region, an encounter may happen 1% of the time. In densely populated areas may have as high as 80%.  

Encounters:

When characters move from one grid to the next, there is a chance that they have a meaningful encounter. This is not your typical passing travelers who simply wave and continue on, but rather something that causes the characters to take notice. This is where the Creature cards come into play. 

You should stack the deck with a theme for the area. If there is a large elven population, there should be several elfs in the creature deck. The first step is to decide how many Encounter cards to pick. Note that a single card can represent one or several creatures, particularly in the case of a card called “hoard” or “swarm”. 

Roll once to determine how many Encounter Cards to draw, and then roll for each card’s disposition. Note that the disposition is the creature card’s disposition when first seen. For example, if two cards are picked, and one is Violent and the other Benevolent, this might indicate that the Violent card is attacking the Benevolent card. Alternately, it could illustrate two factions that oppose each other’s rule or view of the “strangers”. Note that “Neutral” disposition will likely follow the example of a more opinionated creature. 

Encounter Table

Die Roll (1d6)

Encounter Cards

Disposition

Treasure

1

1

Violent

No

2

1

Hostile

No

3

2

Neutral

No

4

2

Neutral

No

5

3

Friendly

No

6

3* Reroll

Benevolent

Yes

 

Using Creatures:

The creatures in Magic can be roughly connected to creatures in many resources for your particular game system. If something similar exists in your system, use that creature. If not, you must design a custom creature for your game. The abilities listed on a particular card can be ignored if you like, or can be used to enhance the uniqueness of the encounter. 

Note: For Dungeons & Dragons, 1 point of damage might be equal to 1d4. Two points might be equal to 1d8. 3 = 2d8, 4 = 3d8, 5 = 4d8, 6 = 5d8, 7 = 6d8 etc.

Treasure:

The last part that can effectively be used for RPGs is treasure. Magic artifacts and spells can be used as scrolls and such, but these are fairly powerful items. The GM should adjust how common an artifact or spell is based on their style of play, but as a general guide, a roll of 6 on 1d6 indicates that the creature has an artifact. All creatures are likely to carry non-magical treasures such as weapons, armor, and coins. Note that a creature’s special treasure should be picked before any combat begins. This way, if an object can be used against the PCs then it is known before hand. 

Spells, Instants, Enchantments, etc.

The various spells of Magic the Gathering can be used to an extent. Perhaps a creature has a spell as a scroll or memorized to be cast when needed. Spells could be enchantments already in place either in the area, on a creature or item, or even as treasure. 

Also note that the damage a card offers must be relative to your game. A single point of damage in MtG is lethal to weak creatures and 4 points should easily kill a “normal” character who is unarmed or inexperienced. Even if 1 point does not actually “kill” a creature, it is enough to knock it out of combat. 

Aliens/Predator CCG

Though out of print, the Aliens/Predator CCG includes some interesting elements that could be included with other CCGs.

Indoor Map

Using one deck of the Aliens/Predator locations, you can create random maps. Simply roll a die to determine how many locations are attached to each room. Then roll to decide what direction each card is placed. 

Keep in mind that the description of each card needs to be suited to your particular game. Thus a “Machine Shop” may need to be adjusted to “Smithy” for a fantasy campaign.

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