Variant Rules for the Opera Decks

Basic Rules: Back Here

For those who must win:

There are people who get pleasure from games only if there is potential for victory. Okay: each card used has phrases on it: every card drawn is -2 points, and every phrase used, consistently, in a single story, about one character, is +1 point. If challenged to justify your claimed score, and you can't, by just telling the story, with all the needed phrases used, your score is 0, because winners have to perform under pressure.

Whoever can justify the most points wins.

Not everybody must play to win. Win-players should use their phones to take pictures of the cards they encounter, so they don't have to take everyone else's cards. If the play is for stakes, you'll want to have umpires and watch the picture timestamps.

The Three-Act Structure Rules

The traditional three-act structure for dramas divides the story into exposition, character development, and climax. But in a crowd, not everyone will be on the same turn! And it won't work to have only one protagonist-- everyone being their own protagonist is the whole point.

So, every player wishing to have a 3-point arc have one of their very own, and will play in a three-step loop:

First Turn: Disaster

After generating a character in the usual way, the first encounter describes a disaster. The card could tell about some completely harmless thing, but for a 3-part player, that thing turns out really badly. Say you draw the "Eats a Lollipop" card-- it was poisoned and now you're blind! "Makes a new friend"? Say hello to my little friend-- pow! Recovery from the disaster is the arc of the story, so if you make it trivial, your story will also be trivial.

This means that whoever you're drawing the card with is your nemesis, and you'll need to face them again in your third turn. Talk to them about that!

Second Turn: Coping

In the second act, the character completes the action that sets them up for their final victory: Rocky finds a good coach and takes it serious. Luke meets Yoda and lifts rocks. Frodo loses a Fellowship and gains a Smeagol.

This means that your second-turn's character/partner is a mentor of some kind. Or, maybe, they just give you a huge gun.

Third Turn: Victory?

The nemesis is met again, and *it* goes down. Maybe the victory is like in Hamlet: a pile of dead people, some smug. Maybe you want happily-ever-after, whatever.

Arc Matching

The three-act rules give different roles to players, depending on turns. You're in a crowd, and everyone is playing independently, so when you pick a person at random, they'll usually be in a different spot on the arc. This is fine; it's just more data to use for story generation.
So, if two players happen to be on the same turn, their characters have teamed up, and could share nemeses as well as resources.
If one player is on Disaster and the other on Victory, there's a win/lose situation. This could start a feud. Which is interesting, so, use it! A character whose Victory caused the other person's Disaster could have a sequal story, in which their denouement is ruined by a sudden visitor from the past.

3-act structure on Wikipedia
5-act structure for fancy people

Detective Stories

Part of storytelling, always, is character description. Usually, you make a character, describe them, and that's that. But in some stories, like in spy novels, some or all of that initial description is false.
The joys of Crime and Spy stories include: seeing a seemingly normal person do something unexpected and strange, finding out whodunnit, dramatic betrayals!

To achieve this with an Opera Deck game, use two cards for character creation. The first card gives your character's public persona, and the second is who they really are. You want your character to have conflicting goals (You know, the ol' "I love you! Then I KILL you!! THEN I KILL MYSELF!!!"), secret goals ("Because IIIII am the Last Romanov PRINCESS!").

You'll need to play more rounds per story arc, and within the same group of people who all know the story, so that they can form expectations about your character. There's no betrayal before trust-building!


The game is played in a crowd, in a place. It is possible to pick specific locations and label them as having in-game significance. There will be signs up explaining the specifics for your site.

For example, if your game has a fairy-tale theme, a certain area could be declared to be "The Giant's Castle" or "The Dungeon". This is helpful, because it adds more information to your scene-- it gives you more to talk about.

Given that you're in a crowd, if you're planning on meeting back up with your group at a certain place, you could agree that this place is your home village, or the king's throneroom-- someplace suitable for final actions before you go.

Special Performers

Event organizers could have brought in players with special roles. For instance, at an historical site, they could be actors role-playing a particular person. These players could have special cards or disclose secret locations.