In this game, encounters are generated on the fly using a standard deck of playing cards, jokers included. Each day, the players deduct from their food/water rations or take starving damage. Then the GM slaps a card down on the table. Everything about the encounter is on that card, mechanically speaking, of course.
The suit of the card tells you what kind of encounter this is:
- Clubs - nature. This could be a storm, an earthquake, a collapsing building, falling tree, or whatever else tickles your fancy. The one thing it must be though is active. No tree blocking the road or anything like that (though that could be a component, provided there's some other element, like a raging fire behind you). You could even say they've wandered into the middle of a minefield. Not exactly nature, but close enough for me, and I'm writing this game, so if I say it's okay, it's okay. This, like all encounters, must place you in immediate danger.
- Spades - violence. Call them whatever you like, this is a wandering monster encounter.
- Hearts - ancient hazard. The exact nature of this varies according to what ruined your world (no, I'm not talking about the players; be nice). This can be a plague village, spoiled food, parasitic infections, radiation zones, drifting chemical clouds, or anything else that threatens the health of the travellers in a way that doesn't involve cutting, crushing, burning, or shooting them.
- Diamonds - gear. Pull a second card and slap it down on this one. The encounter involves some kind of gear that you might be able to scavange. That doesn't mean it's passive treasure waiting to be harvested. I mean, it could, but what old school GM isn't out to hurt his players in the worst way possible? We're talking Tomb of Horrors here! So instead of putting that fully functioning .50 cal machinegun with pristine ammo in a carrying case and handing it to the party, put it on an automated turret and drop that thing into a plague village. The players trip the automated defenses when the walk in, discover everyone dead from a strange disease, and then face the gun when trying to get out. Apparently someone set the defenses to keep the sick in before everyone died, see. Now, if they can successfully deal with the encounter, they have the added benefit of possibly walking out with the gun too, but it will be shooting them in the meantime....
I know, that doesn't mean much now because you don't know how dice work. That's another post, coming next.
And then there's the face cards. These add certain mechanical twists to the encounter. Grab another card and slap it down in order to get the difficulty, but use the suit of the face card. If you draw another face card, you apply its effects as well and keep going until you get a number card.
- Jack - The difficulty of this encounter keeps mounting. Add one to its difficulty every day you don't completely succeed.
- Queen - These encounters are especially punishing. Partial successes still reduce their difficulty, but they deal damage as if 2 points higher if you haven't overcome them yet. Thus if you reduce a Queen encoutner to 6, it deals 8 points of damage.
- King - The difficulty of this encounter isn't reduced by partial successes. You need to clear it all at once or not at all.
- Ace - Draw two cards. Both encounters occur simultaneously. Again, if you draw face cards, keep applying them and draw until you pull a number.
- Joker - There's no cooperation allowed in this encounter. The bandits manage to split the party up and hunt them individually. The fire separates them. Automated defenses in the old tech building seals them in different sections. Whatever the reason, each player is on his own.