Sizzle Cards: A fun way to add excitement to a campaign!

2009 June 17
by Dante

Over the weekend one of our frequent commentors and all-round good guy, Todd Bradley, invited us to a D&D game that he is running.  This marks the first time that Stupid Ranger and I have played D&D with a  group comprised entirely of people we’ve never met before, so it was pretty exciting.  They have been running through a D&D 3.5 module named The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde, and it seems to be fun so far!

Adding a little spice

Todd has employed a very fun method of adding a little flair to his already fun campaign: sizzle cards.  Each player gets to draw a slip of paper at the beginning of each session that contains a special action that the player can invoke to affect the game in some way.  I haven’t seen the majority of them yet, but I got one that said “That’s no monster, that’s a guy in a costume!” which I assume means I could’ve turned a monster into a costumed person.  Another player invoked a random rockslide.  Someone else in our group told me they had one before that caused a successful hit to cause arterial spray to blind the attacker for the rest of the battle.

The players informed me that this wasn’t all fun and games, and that the Dungeon Master had the option to interpret the card creatively.  My old DM used to do this same thing with any of the Wish spells, but it was certainly always fun to try!

There’s a lot of things that I like about this approach to adding some random behavior and fun to a campaign.  It gives the players a little irreverent control over their surroundings, and the element of surprise is there since nobody else knows what Sizzle Card you have but you.  I like that it keeps the DM on his toes too, I’m sure a lot of thought goes into the Sizzle Cards and how they can impact the planned portion of the module/campaign.  Finally, it allows the DM to use some of those random content ideas that invariably pop into mind when you have to run the game instead of play.

Todd informed me that this idea wasn’t originally his, so thanks to whoever originated this idea!  Also, thanks to Todd and his group of players for inviting us into their group.  I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of new post ideas originated from such a great group of people and much fun to be had as a result!

9 Responses leave one →
  1. June 17, 2009

    That is the type of fun gameplay I love to hear about. We have fate points (we keep tabs on with playing cards at the game) where you can get a little narrative control..but something about the specified absurdity of the sizzle cards strike a deep chord with me.

    Especially with the wierd things you could pull at wierd moments..

    How do you react to the dragon your epic opponent is riding being a man in a suit? With Hilarity I imagine.

    If he’s not opposed to it I’d love to whip up a batch of my own and post them (and give credit of course for the idea)

  2. Dante permalink*
    June 17, 2009

    Maybe if we’re lucky, Todd will show up and donate a few more ideas to the cause!

  3. June 17, 2009

    The official statement of the house rule for this campaign is this:

    At the start of each game session, draw one plot sizzle card from the hat for each player character. Try hard to use each card in a creative and interesting way before the end of the session.

    That’s all there is to it. Some of the cards can be a benefit to the PC, some can be a hindrance, and many are just a little weird. Here are the ones various players pulled out of the hat at last weekend’s game:

    – You were afraid you might fumble, but you didn’t.

    – You get lost on the way to the latrine, and find a potion in a glass vial with a brass label.

    – Last night you had a bad dream about werewolves, so you eat garlic all day.

    – Rockslide!

    – Today, you see everything as it truly is.

    – That’s no monster! It’s just a guy in a costume.

    That last one was inspired by a plot turn in a play I was in a few years ago. Some of the more infamous plot sizzle cards are these:

    – Arterial fountain! All successful slashing or impaling attacks against you hit an artery. You take an extra HP of damage from each attack. But the fountain of blood squirts directly into the eyes of the attacker, blinding him temporarily.

    (That one really turned the tide of a particular battle.)

    – You catch the villian with his pants down.

    (That one came up in the previous game session at a really inopportune moment. I took it to mean that the villian – the main evildoer from this entire adventure – somehow was in this room instead of her lair. And I took “pants down” to mean that she was in a very compromising position with two of her minions when the PCs walked in. On the plus side, the PCs got a free surprise round while she pulled her pants back on. On the minus side, they were forced to fight the boss monster well before they were ready.)

    Another of our house rules is our own modified fate point rule, defined like so:

    Fate Points

    We’ll use a modified Fate Point house rule.

    * Characters start with 3 Fate Points
    * They receive one Fate Point each time they go up a level
    * No character can have more than 5 Fate Points

    A fate point can either be spent to:

    * Choose in advance the result of any one die roll
    * Force any player or the DM to re-roll any die roll after the fact

    (You can’t combine #1 and #2)

  4. Dante permalink*
    June 17, 2009

    Thanks Todd!

  5. tman permalink
    June 18, 2009

    That’s a great idea! More, more!!

  6. Stephanie permalink
    June 18, 2009

    These are similar like Whimsy Cars, originally published by Lion Publishing in the early or mid 90’s.

    They could be played on yourself, another player, or an NPC/monster. Here’s a list of what they did:

  7. June 19, 2009

    Well, I don’t want to give too many of them away, so that new ones will be as big of a surprise as possible to my players. But here are a couple other plot sizzle cards:

    Your friends and comrades didn’t know it, but a month ago you found a copy of your favorite book, but it was written in a foreign language. You’ve been secretly teaching yourself the language by reading the book over and over. Add 1 new language to your character sheet.

    You jump forward and shout, “I can’t let you get away with this!” Take a +8 Luck bonus on your next attack.

    Not enough zeroes. Multiply the number of coins you count by 10.

    These aren’t the ______ you’re looking for. Gain +10 Luck bonus to all Disguise checks today.

    You’ve got painful gas and bloating.

    It’s definitely laundry day.

    You figure it out before anyone else.

  8. June 22, 2009

    Hey, I threw up a sample of Sizzle cards over at my blog, (which links back here)

    Love to hear your feedback.

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