GTM #200 - Shadowrun: Sixth World Tarot - "Drawing Destiny"
by Catalyst Game Labs

The Sixth World Tarot deck for Shadowrun is much more than just a tarot deck. Created by Echo and Lazarus Chernik for Catalyst Game Labs, the deck is a multi-tiered, masterfully illustrated game accessory for Shadowrun, Fifth Edition. It includes hundreds of puzzles for Shadowrun game-masters and players and is already supported by two other products, with more being planned. These books will help players use the cards in their games, presenting puzzles, plots and enigmas that can be at the heart of compelling campaigns.

In Shadowrun’s Sixth World setting, the Sixth World Tarot is a mysterious set of artifacts that have been appearing sporadically around the globe. Each card shows a character or event from the past, present, or future—understanding just what is being shown adds to the mystery and the power of the cards. Additionally, they contain hundreds of puzzles leading to hidden wealth, immense danger, or both. How these artifacts came to exist and why they depict the people, events, and clues that they do is another riddle for players to tackle.

Players can use these cards in their games to learn about and to manipulate the Shadowrun universe. Player characters have to earn each and every card, as they are unique and un-reproducible.  Cards can lead to huge rewards or great catastrophes.

The cards were built to work on many levels. On the first level, it is a fully functional tarot deck based on the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, with symbolism aligned to fit the dystopian Shadowrun universe. The deck contains five suits: Batons, Cups, Blades, Coins, and a trump suit called the Majors. Tarot fans will be intrigued at the unique take on the RWS images and interpretations, especially the custom tarot spreads for reading them.

On the second level, the deck is designed to be a Shadowrun campaign generator. A flip through the deck will immediately reveal a host of exciting visuals meant to stimulate a gamemaster’s imagination. The Ten of Swords, for example, depicts a dead person in an alley, with ten different knives and swords protruding from her back. A gamemaster may incorporate this card in their game with a brief introduction: “A woman approaches your team at a bar and shows you an image of her dead, in an alley. ‘I don't know what kind of sick game this is,’ she says, ‘but I want to hire you to protect me and stop this from happening.’, Alternatively, the team might already have the card in hand and then stumble across the scene themselves. They might not care initially, but when a reward is offered, something they see in the card could give them an edge in the hunt for her killer.

On a third level, there are clues to nearly four hundred unique puzzles throughout the cards. Many cards tie characters together to guide a GM in creation of a run. For instance, the Queen of Coins, the Eight of Coins, the Knight of Coins, and the Two of Cups all contain the same linked characters. Other sets of cards have linked secondary (or tertiary) clues. These puzzles may become runs with quick, valuable scores or violent and devastating conclusions. For instance, all the Twos from each Minor Suit contain random clues that don't go with anything but each other. Once they are understood to link to each other, the clues tell a story the gamemaster can complete on their own for the players to enjoy. There will be more information on these puzzles in the future, but gamemasters and players can find them on their own if they look hard enough.

Then there is a fourth level. The fourth level contains changing clues within the Shadowrun universe. There are obscure references and pieces of information that are missing some pieces — pieces that will be supplied in future products, possibly including new variations of existing cards. There may even be deeper levels — depending on how many lifetimes a player is willing to spend on it.

The Sixth World Tarot was illustrated and developed by artists Echo Chernik and Lazarus Chernik, who are lifelong players and contributors to the universe. They spent two years designing it, making sure it can be delved into as little or as deeply as players’ desire. It can be an easy visual run generator, or you can follow it all the way down the rabbit hole. There has been nothing like it before.