Tales of the Common Folk provides me with endless delight as it comes together. Not only is it sliding neatly into a good size as development trims out the worst of the excess, but it hits its target so very solidly.
I got a large part of the idea initially from the gypsy tarot deck–better known as “a deck of cards” in most places. While it has well-documented innocent origins and plenty of use for mere entertainment, there remains a dubious character quality to cards and card players. The four suits relate to four different areas of fortune: Spades or work and labor, Diamonds or finances and glory, Clubs or violence and conflict, and last but not least Hearts or romance and relationships.
Fortune Telling is a common con with many charlatans. I would encourage any believers or readers who are on the fence to check out this book which deconstructs many common con artist tricks with stage magic to show how easily taken-in an uninitiated audience member can be. Like Astrology and the horoscope which runs in the local paper, the interpretations of the numbered suits and face cards are generic and interpreted via cold reading or another method of information gathering. It is an expensive and time consuming way of flipping a coin, really, to seek advice from a deck of cards as to what to do next in life.
Still, it is the reflection of the power of stories and our spirits’ ability to fill in gaps that strikes me more than any thought of anger or disdain for those who are involved with charlatanry. Why not tap into the natural human drives toward symbolic reality, openhandedness, and freedom to teach and guide the young and entertain ourselves?
Just like the tarot decks with their Major Arcana, Tales has a number of interpretable characters in the character deck to be used for inspiration or expiry of things in our chests and close to our hearts, able to unite us and bring us closer together as well as sharpening skills when approached with the same exciting causal stride that has always followed a deck of cards. We’re getting the second wave of art coming in now, piece by piece, and it is looking good. It is unusual to want demure cards, but in this case the engine is designed to get you started and then get out of the way as soon as you’re rolling.
Once we finish with it and find a method of production that suits our needs, I look forward to showing you some of my forays into this method of group storytelling.

Creative Collaboration

Storytelling has been an essential part of family and community life for as long as communities have been around. While being able to tell a good story is recognizable as a positive feature, most people would say it is not essential. But is it?

From its contribution to social engagements or its importance in helping you pin down a shady speaker, from its impact in presentations before business clients or in entertaining children, storytelling has impact across the board in massive though often unobserved ways. The creative engine Tales of the Common Folk is made to provide an educator help in teaching one aspect of storytelling: collaboration.

Creative collaboration, making things with others’ input, is actually opposed by many education systems which isolate creative energy in an attempt to concentrate it. When, say, musicians are gathered in a group or band in schools the atmosphere created is more of a top-down hierarchy that limits the discovery of the process by focusing on root disciplines—in other words, instead of the class focusing on their specialization such as band or drama, the class is carried out so as to treat the students like hard drives by downloading them their authority’s vision.

There are many reasons for this, but ultimately it leaves the next generation sorely lacking in this critical real-world skill. Every professional band and musician is influenced by collaboration with others, from producers and recording studios and marketing agents to fellow musicians and band members; every successful writer makes concessions to market forces and the people producing and buying the books, even Charles Dickens and Procopius. In business, marketing professionals and business partners dance to the beat of collaboration with their creative energies too, yet children are taught to obey and follow rather than being given feedback or criticism of their free exercise. They grow fragile, looking around for a prophet to show them a vision when we need each and every one of them free.

Tales of the Common Folk is a small card-based engine designed to let kids of almost any age mix with peers or adults to tell stories together. It incentivizes cooperation and is modeled after fair-play practices in many familiar games, so it is quick to pick up. The initial hesitation I have observed in playtesting indicates a lack of clear framework, which is the whole point: Give them some creative space. Few limits, maximum interaction, social engagement with a purpose. I am thrilled with how it has come together and how it is used by the groups I’ve shown it to. Right now, it’s having some art redone and I’m tinkering away on the rules insert back in the workshop. I’m very excited.

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