[ cup ]

At STAPLE in 2009 I had a conversation with Will Terrell. He picked up a comic he was selling and said he'd drawn the whole thing in under 8 hours. He'd started a 24 hour comic, got 16 hours into it, and decided it wasn't what he wanted to do. So he did this one in the remaining time. He said he can draw a comic he sells for $3 in less than a day, but writing one takes him months.

And that got me thinking. I'm a designer of roleplaying and storytelling games; I'm good at engineering structures that inspire storytelling (see Bacchanal for an example). What if I designed something that helped artists create stories for webcomics?

What I came up with is a deck of cards called The Well of Else.

Here's how it works. You turn over a card and it tells you how to advance your story based on the cards you've already played out, based on the characters you've created, their personalities, and their relationships.

 [ a warlord ]

If certain conditions aren't satisfied, you move down to the next instruction. There are several levels on each card. You'll either hit one with conditions you've satisfied, or you'll discard and draw another card. Maybe you create a new character. Maybe something transpires among characters you created previously. Have it happen in your webcomic. Trust the cards. They've got your back.

And they know the truth and lies of heroism. They set the monomyth aside, as a pattern in fiction with no relevance to how, say, America achieved independence, and create stories of epic cultural change that feel more like history than like Hollywood.

They did, uh, prove to be unusable by anyone but me.