Rules, shortest possible version:

All of the Opera deck games are role-playing games; if you've ever played one of those, this will be simple.

In general, you're at some kind of event. There are a pile of cards available. Everyone should get 5-10 cards. Each card shows a list of categorised phrases.

1) Pick one card and use the "past", "present", "goal", and "visual" phrases to make a character.
2) Find someone to play with. People who are playing will be obviously carrying cards. All the cards have either an "A" or an "O" on their backs. "A" means "I'll play with anyone", and "O" means "My friends only".
3) Choose a card with them. That card's "other" or "action" phrase determines what happens to your characters, and the other phrases give colorful details.
4) Talk to the other player, interpreting the action in light of your characters' pasts and goals, until you run out of things to say.
5) Then go back to step two.

There are many, many variations.

That's the game, now the niceness rules:
1) Do not approach people who don't have cards out.
2) Do not act out the actions; describe them. Acting out creates uncomfortable situations.
3) Do not touch other players at all.
4) If someone says something dumb, don't try to fix it. Just say "Yes, and!" and move on.
5) If you have problems, talk to an umpire.

Rules, longer version:

Again, this is a game to be played by everyone in a crowd, at an event. There are rules for the people in the crowd, and rules for the people running the event.

First, the rules for players in the crowd.

Rule Number One: Only try to play with people who explicitly show that they want to play with you.

First, you should clearly signal that you wish to play by having cards in hand.

Second, this is a role-playing game, and many people won't play them, ever. Hearbreaking, I know, but you're not their mom, so leave them alone.

Third, if someone is holding cards and doesn't act like they want to play, with you, right now, leave them alone, and be nice about it, or that's harassment. Okay? Sheesh.

Fourth, all the cards have A's or O's on the back. A means "I'll play with anybody", and "O" means "I only want to play with people I already know."

Okay, I know I'm fussing; I'll move on.

Rule Two: Tell, Don't Show

Describing your actions is less agressive than acting them out. If a fight is in the cards, do not pretend to fight, just discuss the fight.

Do not touch other players. If a card says that two characters, for instance, kiss, that is not a reason to kiss anyone.

Even when you have the other player's consent, acting out actions can create the impression that acting out is expected, and put other players in uncomfortable situations.

Rule Three: Yes, and

The goal is a lively flow of conversation. But, inevitably, wit will fail, and someone will only be able to come up with something dumb, or gross, or otherwise wrong! It's much harder to keep going if you correct it, or try to improve it, or to even note aloud that they have failed. They get embarrassed, everyone has to remember what's in and what's out, you have to negatiate what to keep, yuck!

Don't say "no." Just say "yes, and," and move on. It keeps the scene going, helps your partner feel confident, and is nicer.

OK Let's Play: Equipment:

Again, this is an event-based game. You need a crowd!

Each player needs 5-10 cards. Whoever is running the event should have a ton of cards. so there should be a pile nearby somewhere.

Cards come in sets; they are computer-generated; there are thousands in a set,
but, again, they're interchangeable, and you only need 5-10. All of the cards should be from the same set.

There is an online card generator-- be aware of the sets!

Cards and Phrases

Their fronts look like this:
Note that there are eight categories: Past, Present, Goal, etc., and eight phrases. Different card sets might have different categories, but the rules will be pretty much the same.


Start by picking a card. It doesn't matter which one, or how you pick it; let's use the one above as an example.

You'll create your character by imagining a biography for it, using the phrases on your card as hints. Where is this person from? What are they trying to do?

You know, everyone thinks that they are simply a rational actor responding logically to their situation, but so much of everyone's situation is internal, or in the past, or a side-effect of their physicality. These attributes, when observed, comprise a character. The cards provide sparse but helpful details.

This card hints at a terrible, tragic past-- excellent! Your character may be a wreck, but remember that you, personally, are a face in a crowd needing something to talk about. Making up a scandal and then gossiping about it is completely fun! Details to work in are: excess knowledge, night screaming, a lost love, and the shakes. Your beautiful family was killed! Maybe. And you just want to forget them, and whiskey is good for that. But... what did you learn that brought on this tragedy? Who did this? Why is the star lonely?

Alternatively: You befriended the lonely star, and it told you a secret that worked on your soul and.. changed you. And now you hunt in the night, alone, trying to forget, to forget SO MANY THINGS. But what secret? What are you doing, really? How will you escape it? Will you escape it? And seriously, what is a "lonely star"? Other than what you thought it was. What did you think it was?

You don't want answers for everything; if you have all the answers, what's left to talk about? Questions help other people talk to you.

Since this calls itself a "game," you might expect to be able to win, but, nah. In the standard rules, there are no winners, and no clear ending-- it's a French Art Film of a game.

Although, there are alternative rules...

This starts your story, but you need more data: time to

Get out there and mingle!

Again, you're at some event, so you're likely to meet other players. Keep the cards out, ask nicely, let them decline and don't be a jerk about it...

Once you meet another player, trade stories-- remember, your only real goal is idle talk.

Once you know enough to proceed, pick a card-- one of yours, one of hers, shuffle them together and draw-- doesn't matter.

Then, like fortune-tellers, read the story of your characters' encounter out of the card.

Let's do an example. You're playing by talking to someone: let's say she's a mystic, waiting for a sign. Together, you pick this card:

The "Related" line gives the verb for the encounter. She's giving you advice, and apparently, you're blowing it off. There's a case of beer in play, so you're at least able to go to a bar. You could choose to look into the matter of the large diamond. You could explain how one of you came to be so well- and visibly- armed. Given your situation, it's not hard to understand. Your family is dead, so it's not homeless.. hmm. Ghosts? Wandering?

Well, if she's giving you advice, then maybe she's not wandering so much. Or maybe she came into the bar and acted like a nut to get a beer. Maybe you knew each other before-- a hidden realtionship? Why is she talking to you? Doesn't she know you're bad news? You've got a 45 and a bad secret; what happened to your family is starting to look fishy.

Meta-note, the two characters are going to have to talk a while before anyone knows enough to give any advice at all, and that's fine, because the whole point of this game is to get you to talk. Meta-talk works, too: you and the other player could talk about the kind of conversation the characters have. Maybe one character wants to have one kind of conversation, and the other, something else? But why? You could end up spending ten minutes deciding how he makes eye contact.

The story you started with might not be the one you end up with, and there's no one to say how it should go but you.

That's the game. To win, meet a stranger and be interesting.


Many of the goals do not make sense, or do not make sense in your context. Plot holes are a feature of this game. You put up with it in GoT, so relax.

Happens! A) Don't be a jerk about it. B) Play as a ghost. C) You wake up covered with blood ow. D) Alternative timeline. E) Luckily, there was a surgeon! F) Buuut--- you had a twin!
Most people would rather talk about themselves/their character, so the cleverest thing to say is always a question for the other player. This is true for all human interaction.
Not applicable; this is not a play-- it's improv. Sense of place and surprise are more important than resolution. Even more important? Keeping the chatter going.

Although, I mean, if you really like you some structure: see the three-act rules.

Your goals determine your actions-- but the other player can't see your goals; they only see what you tell them. The more complex your invisible goals, the more interesting your actions will be. You don't have to use all the modifiers, but I think the best players would.

Often, players have strong wills and want things to go a certain way. In general, the story that uses the most card phrases is "better", but that's more of a guideline. Talk it out. Use rock-paper-siscors. Ask a third person to referee. Part ways and tell it your way. Relax, it's just a game.

Soap Opera.

Other ways to play, and rules for specific sets.

How to set up a game event.

Have fun! Neal McDonald