Card Arcana (Pectomancy)

I have played various card games since I was small: War, solitaire, go fish, Uno, then later rummy, gin, hearts, poker, blackjack, and canasta. Along the way, I discovered Tarot cards; better decks have a wonderfully mysterious ambiance that makes you want to believe they have power. Years later, trading card games were introduced, and again I was enthralled, combining the fantasy of the mystical with gaming and chance. Short, simple game play and lack of depth or elegance eventually dulled the charm of even those, though.

Since that early exposure, a variety of anime and children's shows themed around trading card game experiences have emerged. Most are mediocre, but they do present some interesting concepts. The thin exposure I have had to those shows, and the slightly deeper exposure I have had to actual trading card games and tarot have all been left to percolate and now things are bubbling!

The Cards: 

Cards are made from a variety of materials, selected for their various metaphysical properties and their conductivity of arcane energy. The various solutions and treatments that are used to cure, pulp, enamel, etch, or otherwise treat the card stock are also specially selected for their properties and potency. More exotic and usually potent cards are often made from compounded materials, with perhaps a bone laminate on the face, a leather backing, and a metal edge treatment.

The pigments and surface treatments of the cards are compounded from various materials ranging from minerals, plant extracts, lard, blood, bile, ichor, etc. The potency of such compounds are usually related to the nature of their source, the synergy they create with other ingredients and the card stock itself.

In general order of potency, not withstanding the natural properties of the source :
  • Thick paper
  • Woven fiber 
  • Leather
  • Wood (solid or plied)
  • Metals (enameled, etched, engraved, and/or stamped)
  • Scale, Horn, or Bone (solid or plied)
Most cards have only one or two effects they are capable of alone.  Some cards can be inversed, such as love charms that can also be used to produce enmity. Skilled card-casters can combine cards, stacking potency or modifying effects.

Simple cards are constructed from pulped fibers, usually plants attributed with various medicinal or metaphysical properties. The illustrations are simple with limited glyph-work. The effects of these cards tend to be love charms; wards; sleep aids; cures for minor poisoning, skin rashes, sore muscles, etc; or causing such effects. More potent effects of these simple cards involve mending minor wounds and broken bones, igniting flammable materials, or producing light. Many paper cards are intended to be consumed when used, such as a pack of cards intended to be used as matches or temporary light sources.

More sophisticated cards, made of lacquered cloth, leather, or wood, usually have greater capacity for energy transfer, so the extent to the effects are far greater. The imagery is usually more refined, with moderate glyph-work.  Some of these cards are simply improved versions of the simpler paper cards, but the greater energy potential allows effects such as curing or inducing paralysis, pain, or unconsciousness; electrical shocks; etc. Cards with this level of workmanship are rarely intended to be consumed when used.

Metal cards can be relatively simple, but are usually inscribed, etched and/or enameled with ornate illustrations and complex glyph-work.   The durability of metal cards makes them ideal for fiery uses, and their natural conductivity allows them to produce large effects.  The simplest metal cards are often used like modern lighters or flashlights, with more sophisticated cards being used for small pyrotechnics.  The most elaborate metallic cards can produce large destructive effects.  Generally speaking, because of the attributes of metallic cards, they are not used medicinally.

Scale, bone, and horn cards tend to be particularly potent if the sources are creatures with natural energies. These cards are usually the most ornate, with intricate illustrations and glyph-work, usually rendered in pigments made of the various fluids from the same creature that was used to make the card-stock.  This class of card is often used to summon creatures or manipulate whatever natural energies the donor creature had.

Card Casting:

Card-casting requires the user to be attuned to their cards. The method for this involves a series of rituals to cleanse the card of any old aura sticking to it, then to cleanse the caster of any auras sticking to them, and finally, a binding ritual to put the caster's cleansed aura on the card. The more sophisticated and potent the card, the more extensive the rituals for attunement. Simple paper cards can be attuned very quickly, metallic or bone cards require lengthy rituals and may take weeks of repeated effort to finally bind the card. Some casters are incompatible with some cards or classes of cards, and attempts at attunement will fail, and may even have negative consequences for the caster, the card, or both. Such incompatibility is often obvious, but in the cases of the most potent cards, the only way to find out is try and fail, often catastrophically.

Once attuned to the cards, the activation of the card is usually based on its potency, the energy levels of the caster, and the cards effect. Powerful cards are normally made of materials that augment the energy of the caster, allowing them to conserve energy. Badly made cards, poor caster/card compatibility, or improperly attuned cards require the caster to push more energy. The most potent cards, especially summoning cards, usually require material aids. Summoning cards might require blood and/or flesh, Fire effects may require brazier of burning coals, etc.

Card-casting is done by holding a card appropriately (don't point that fire-jet card at your head!), and either invoking aloud or focusing inwardly on the card's glyphs to push energy into and through the card.

The Craftsmen:

The artisans who make finer cards are skilled card-casters, and the greatest casters are the ones responsible for the major summoning cards and other major cards. Minor cards, particularly paper cards, are usually made by student casters, and it isn't uncommon for the first 'deck' a student owns to be crafted entirely by his own hand.

Students also make stacks of disposable igniter, glow, and charm cards, as well as various other cardsets to be sold off or traded for other goods and services, offsetting the cost of apprenticeship.


I envision card-casting soldiers with small decks of cards crippling, burning, and electrocuting in combat, or using cards to tend the wounded; master craftsman card-casters using cards to precisely shape stone and assemble buildings; town doctors using cards to tend to the ills of the community; and so on.

The images in this post have been culled from the internet over the years. If you own the images or know who does, please let me know and I will properly attribute or remove them.