Lore Master's Development Journal Volume 3: The First Set of Cards

by Peter Chiykowski

Read Volume 1 and Volume 2

Welcome to another Edition of the Lore Master's Development Journal! In our last issue, I took you back to May of 2022 and the brainstorm that would become Lore Master's Deck. This time, I'm jumping ahead a few months to explain how that initial creature creation engine started to morph into the deck you see today!

It wasn't until December of 2022 that I pulled the notebook brainstorm out again. The vision at this point was still to create a dedicated deck for creating creatures.

I was doing some worldbuilding for a home tabletop RPG campaign in an original maritime setting called Seadown, specifically a region called the Driftwood Islands.

A map of the Driftwood Islands


I love creating custom monsters for my worlds, so I decided to revisit my old brainstorming notes. I typed them up into a table of traits. I also quickly brainstormed a list of base creature types, which I called "Morphs" (short for "Morphology").

I took those lists, exported them to a CSV file, and used Adobe InDesign's "Data Merge" tool to automatically lay them out as text-based cues on cards. I ended up cannibalizing the print-and-play template from Deck of Worlds to create my deck.

The first draft of the deck worked surprisingly well! I would draw 1 Morph card and choose a cue to choose my base species, and then 3-4 Traits to individualize it.

Some Creatures from the first batch of cards


In my first session I remember creating the Stinksquid, a cephalopod that shoots rancid ink to defend itself (and which became the namesake of the Fetid Fjords in the map above). I also created Fleecydown Raptors, a species of big round birds prized for their ultra-soft feathers. The raptors actually became the premise for the first session of D&D my wife ever played!

Looking back at this prototype, it's interesting to recognize one missed opportunity - and how addressing that missed opportunity led to one huge breakthrough that's now a core mechanic in Lore Master's Deck!

  • The missed opportunity: I didn't create any link cues. This makes sense, because I was trying to get a prototype off the ground and wasn't really interested in developing any other card types, but I remember wanting to find a better way to tie my creatures into the setting.
  • The breakthrough: This is basically how I came up with primary cues and secondary cues, which are a key concept of the entire Lore Master's Deck system. The "Morph" cards were essentially the earliest version of the primary cues for the Creature cards, and the "Trait" cards became the secondary cues. That formula of starting with a base cue and then applying 4 modifiers to flesh it out is how every card type in the deck now works.

But I was very far away from having a complete product.

Instead I had some paper cards, a stinky squid, and a very soft bird of prey for my setting. I was also thinking a lot about the squid's ink and the raptor's feathers and how interesting it would be to have a deck facilitating the creation of materials for a fictional setting.

I had vague aspirations to release a 60-card creature deck as a standalone expansion that plays nicely with Deck of Worlds. Somewhere in my notebooks I also had some very, very loose ideas for other standalone expansions: Factions & Figureheads, and Cataclysms & Catastrophes.

Maybe I could release them at the same time? 

Or maybe there was a better way to bring them all together. Stay tuned for the next volume of the Lore Master's Development Journal to find out how the deck took flight! 

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