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The following rules are the product of several pages of forum discussion found here. Before making any rules changes, please discuss them in the thread. Spiffing up the style, on the other hand, would be much appreciated.

(The following is all taken entirely from a forum post and so may be somewhat disorganized.)

The Basics

TV Tropes The Trading Card Game is all about two (or more!) writers vying for control of a shared story. Each player takes the role of a writer and adds to the story using ideas in the form of tropes. Players take turns adding tropes to the story until one writer has all of the influence over the story. Players take turns in sequence until either one player wins or all other players are eliminated.

Before we get to the rules, let's go over some of the concepts that will appear throughout the rules.

Card Types

There are three types of cards in the game.

  • Trope CardsTrope Cards are the basic cards that make up a player's deck. A deck needs at least sixty Trope Cards.
  • Character CardsCharacter Cards represent characters in the story and simply need to be kept somewhere handy apart from the other cards. There are only fifteen standard Character Cards, so it shouldn't be too hard to get your hands on at least a few copies of each.
  • Writer Cards — A player's Writer Card reprsents the particular writer the player has taken the role of. In most games, each player will only need one Writer Card, but it is generally good to have a few more handy, just in case.

The Game Areas

Cards in TV Tropes The Trading Card Game will inhabit different zones throughout play. Two of these zones are Card Piles and the other three are Story Zones. All of the details in of the story will be represented by cards in one of the three Story Zones; all cards in these zones are said to be In Play. The two Card Piles contain trope cards that are Out of Play. A player's current Writer Card is always said to be In Play, while unused Character Cards, extra Trope Cards, and unused Writer Cards are said to not be In Play.


  • Idea Pile — The Idea Pile contains face-down Trope Cards representing individual ideas that the writer could have in the future. At the beginning of the game, a player's deck becomes his Idea Pile, and the pile usually gets smaller from there as the potential ideas are used.
  • Trash Bin — The Trash Bin contains face-up Trope Cards representing ideas that ran their course in the story or were discarded by a writer as not being good enough. It is generally very difficult to retrieve cards from the Trash Bin.
  • Storyboard — The Storyboard is the main Story Zone and the area where most of the action of the game takes place. By default, Trope Cards enter play in this Story Zone. Returning things from one of the other zones to this zone is informally called "retrieving".
  • The BusThe Bus is a Story Zone that contains characters, locations, and other story elements that were written out of the story with the possiblity of returning later. Things in this zone are said to be On the Bus. There are several Trope Cards and Writer Cards that allow the retrieval of things that are On the Bus.
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  • Afterlife — The Afterlife is a Story Zone that contains characters, locations, and other things in the story that have been killed or destroyed. Retrieval from this zone is generally more difficult than retrieval from The Bus.

The Points

There are two types of points in TV Tropes The Trading Card Game: Story Points (SP) and Influence

  • Story Points represent how many story elements a writer can handle at once. Character Cards and Trope Cards each have an SP Cost. Writer Cards have an SP Limit that is the maximum total SP of all of the cards the player controls.
  • Influence represent the influence a writer has over a story. Players begin the game with 0 Inf and win the game by collecting [Placeholder] Inf.

The Cardinal Rule: The text on a card overrides the rules of the game if they are ever in conflict.

The Structure of a Turn

The Active Player is the player whose turn it is. Unless otherwise specified, all actions are taken by the Active Player.

A turn has three Phases:

  • The Beginning Phase
  • The Scene
  • The End Phase

The Beginning Phase

The Beginning Phase has four parts, which must be completed in order:

  • Resolve all effects that end at the beginning of the turn.
  • Draw a card (two cards?)
  • Perform Standard Actions (see Taking Actions below). Note that a Standard Action can only be performed during a Scene unless something on a card indicates otherwise.
  • Set the Scene: choose all Characters and Tropes that will be used in the Scene, and set all others to the side.

The Scene

Once all of the Characters and Tropes have been chosen for a Scene, the Scene begins. During the Scene, the Active Player may play Tropes, bring Characters into play, activate Trope/Writer abilities, and otherwise perform any actions allowed by a Trope or Writer. Whenever the Active Player has completed all of his actions during the Scene, the Scene ends. Resolve all effects that end at the end of the Scene, then proceed to the End Phase.

The End Phase

The End Phase has three parts that must be completed in order, just like the Beginning Phase.

  • Perform Standard Actions (see Taking Actions below). Note that a Standard Action can only be performed during a Scene unless something on a card indicates otherwise.
  • Resolve all effects that end at the end of the turn.
  • Discard cards until you no longer exceed your maximum hand size.

Taking Actions

There are two kinds of general actions a player may take during a Scene: Standard Actions and Interrupt Actions. Either of these may also be considered a Meta Action.

Standard Actions

Three of the actions that players can perform are considered Standard Actions:
  • Playing a Trope
  • Activating an ability of a Trope already in play
  • Any Writer Ability

Whenever the Active Player is able to take a Standard Action, he has the option of doing so or passing the action. In either case, that option falls to the next player in turn order. This process continues until all players capable of taking Standard Actions pass their action, at which point the Phase progresses.

Interrupt Actions

Some actions that would otherwise be Standard Actions are be considered Interrupt Actions either by the action description or by the effects of another card.

If a player performs either a Standard Action or an Interrupt Action, players have a chance to respond to that action with an Interrupt Action before the first action resolves. Think of it as putting a new action on a stack on top of the previous action. (Yes, this rule is pretty much the Stack from Magic: The Gathering.) The option of first response goes to the player who performed the original action and passes around until every player has had an opportunity to respond. If a player does decide to respond, that action goes on top of the stack and a new cycle of response options begins. Whenever all players pass their response chance, perform the action that prompted the cycle and pick up the last incomplete cycle where it left off.

Example: Troper X, Troper Y, and Troper Z are playing a game. Troper X performs Action A. He has the option to respond first, but chooses not to. Troper Y has the option of responding and performs Action B. First response to Action B goes to Troper Y, who declines. Z and X both decline (in that order), so Action B resolves. Since Action B was Troper Y's response to Action A, the option of response to Action A goes to Troper Z, who declines. Action A then resolves and gameplay continues.

Note: Actions that can be peformed as Interrupt Actions should be rather rare and generally be actions that can only make sense if they are interrupting another action. Tropes can generally be played during another player's turn, so there is no need to make an Action and Interrupt Action just so that it can be played during a turn other than the controller's own.

Meta Actions

Both Standard Actions and Interrupt Actions can also be considered Meta Actions. If a Trope has the Meta subtype, both playing the trope and activating its abilities are considered Meta Actions. All Writer abilities are considered Meta.

Meta Actions have two special properties:

  • They can be performed during a phase other than the Scene.
  • They cannot be interrupted by non-Meta actions.

The Parts of a Card

Each card has several fields that can contain information relevant to the game. Some of these can appear on multiple card types.

  • Name—Each card is named after one of the tropes on TV Tropes. Any two cards with the same Name are functionally identical.
  • Ability TextAbility Text includes all card abilities that are not covered by one of the other relevant fields. Character Cards do not have Ability Text
  • Quotes TextQuotes Text features one or more quotes that epitomize the Trope or Writer. Character Cards do not have Quotes Text.
  • SP Cost—The SP Cost of a card determines how much of a writer's SP total is used up by the card. Writer Cards do not have an SP Cost.

Character Cards

  • Age — The age of the character falls into one of [Placeholder] Age Categories: [Placeholder].
  • Gender — The gender of the character falls into one of [Placeholder] Gender Categories: [Placeholder].

Trope Cards

  • TypeTrope Cards may have one or more Types, each of which has its own rules and potential Subtypes. The rules specific to each Type and Subtype will be discussed later in this document.
  • Genre — Most Trope Cards have a Genre, which is also indicated by the design of the card frame. Tropes that are not associated with any particular genre are Universal. The Genres are:
  • [Placeholder]

Writer Cards

  • SP Limit — This number is the maximum total SP worth of cards a player can control while the Writer Card is active.
  • Favored Genre — This is the genre that the writer is most comfortable with. Tropes only take up 75% (round up) of their SP Cost if they are in this genre. (Writers generally have only one Favored Genre, but it is possible for a writer to have more or none at all.)

Types of Trope Cards

  • Plot DevicePlot Device Tropes represent development of the plot, characters, or settings. These Tropes remain in play for a limited time (often just one Scene). Once they have reached the end of their duration, these Tropes are put into the Trash Bin.
  • CharacterizationCharacterization Tropes are Tropes that can be played on Characters. These Tropes remain attached to the Character so long as the Character remains in play. Whenever a Character changes zones or is chosen to be part of a Scene, all Characterizations go with. Characterizations cannot change zones or be chosen for a Scene independent of the Character the Trope is attached to.
  • SettingSetting Tropes represent different aspects of the world the story is set in, as well as representing specific locations in that world. Settings are always part of a Scene unless the Setting has a subtype that allows it to behave otherwise.
  • PhlebotinumPhlebotinum Tropes represent all technological and magical elements of the story. Phlebotinum is the Type that is most commonly paired with other Types.
  • ArcArc Tropes represent an intended direction for the story to take. They all have conditions that must be satisfied, after which the effect of the Trope changes. Both the "before" and "after" effects may be one-time or ongoing.

Universal Subtypes

Some Subtypes can appear on multiple trope Types.
  • MetaMeta Tropes are Tropes that represent outside influences on the story. They do not have to obey the internal story logic, which gives them powerful game-altering a price. Meta Tropes are generally Universal and are the only Tropes that can reference the player controlling a card. Additionally, Meta tropes generally cost Inf.
  • InterruptInterrupt Tropes can be played as an Interrupt Action. These tropes generally have an Inf cost in addition to an SP cost.

Characterization Tropes and Creating Characters

When you play a Characterization, you may choose not to play it on a Character currently in play. In that case, you may take a Character Card and put it into play with the Characterization attached. Remember that Character Cards cost SP! This is the only way to create new characters unless a Trope or Writer has an ability that indicates otherwise.

Characterization Cards have several standard stats. They are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Combat
  • [Placeholder]
An individual Characterization may have values for any combination of these.

Characterizations may also have one or more subtypes. These include:

  • Hero
  • Villain
  • Love Interest
  • [Placeholder]

Characterizations may only be played on a Character with compatible traits. In general, this means that Characterizations that specify a Gender or Age may only be played on Characters who have a matching value for those categories. Most Characterizations will not specify either one. Some Characterizations may specify other conditions, such as Combat > 5 or Hero. If a Character is not granted those traits by another Characterization, the new Characterization cannot be played.

If a Character has multiple Characterizations that specify values for a given numeral stat (such as Combat or Love), the Character has the highest value granted. If there is a contradiction between the value given by standard stats and the value given by the Ability Text, the Ability Text takes precidence.


Settings have one major subtype: Location. When choosing Tropes and Characters for a Scene, no more than one Location may be chosen. In contrast, all non-Location Settings must be chosen.

Settings generally grant passive effects instead of activated abilities.


If a Phlebotinum Trope is also another Trope Type, it behaves as though it were of that Type.

If a Phlebotinum Trope is not of any other Trope Type, it can be included or excluded from a scene at will.


Whenever the conditions for an Arc are met, its second set of effects resolve immediately.

Completing Arcs should generally reward a lot of Inf, cause major changes to the board, or both.

Arcs with the Beginning Subtype generally have an ability that allows a player to begin the game with the Arc in play if the player gives up something specified on the card. If a non-Beginning Arc has its conditions fulfilled, remove all Beginning Arcs from play and nor more such Arcs may be played.

Arcs with the Ending Subtype generally allow a player to win the game so long as they have some fraction of the required total Inf.

When You Are Not The Active Player

When it is time for the Active Player to choose Characters and Tropes for a Scene, the other players may (in turn order) choose tropes to be included before the Active Player makes his selection. Making such a inclusion costs you [placeholder] IP for an unattached trope and [placeholder] IP for a Character (and all of its Characterizations). Once all such inclusions have been made, the Active Player may either accept them or pay [placeholder] IP to exclude them. Once the Active Player has paid for all of his exclusions, he selects the remainder of the tropes he would like to include.

Whenever you take a Standard Action during another player's turn, there is an Inf cost. If you are playing a Trope, you must match the SP cost in Inf. If you are activating the ability of a trope, you must pay the SP cost of that trope in Inf. Writer abilities will specify the Inf cost, if any.


  • Avert
    • "Avert _______" means that _________ cannot be played. This generally appears on Setting Tropes that are mutually exclusive with other setting tropes.
    • "Avert _______ [condition]" means that __________ may not be played if it would meet the stated condition. This is more common on Characterization Tropes where some Characterizations would be mututally exclusive on that character.

More to come!

Running Out of SP

If you lack the SP to pay for a Trope or Character, you may send cards you control to the Bus in order to free up SP. This is treated as an additional cost for the Trope and requires you to pay the total SP cost (including that of tropes you do not control) in IP. Things that may be sent:

  • Characters (with all Characterization Tropes still attached)—this may also free up SP for your opponents if they played Characterizations on that Character
  • Phlebotinum that is not also another Type
  • Locations

After you choose which Tropes and Characters will be sent, each player in turn has the option of taking control of some subset of those Tropes and Characters (taking up SP accordingly). If a player chooses to take control of a Character, that that player also takes control of all Characterization Tropes you control that are attached to that Character. All other Characterization Tropes remain under the control of their original controllers.

Limited Inf

As it current sits, players in a multiplayer game remain in the game until someone wins—contrast with an "elimination" game like Magic: The Gathering, where the goal is (usually) to be the last one standing. If we don't mind this, let's carry on. If we would like "elimination" multiplayer, we will need a rule for eliminating people that does not play completely differently from a duel. Anyway, here's my idea:

Set an Inf Max that is calculated via some formula based on the number of players and the Inf goal (to allow for both, say, 30 Inf games and 100 Inf. games). Put that much Inf in a common "pool". Distribute some fraction of that Inf. equally amongst the players. Players are eliminated if they reach 0 Inf. Players win when they reach the desired total. Now here's the tricky part: what happens when the pool runs out? Ideas:

  • If a player would draw from an empty pool, each other player (or every player, including the guy about to take Inf.) tosses 1 Inf. back into the pool. Repeat as necessary.
  • If a player would draw from an empty pool, he takes 1 Inf. from each player in turn...
    • In turn order
    • In order of Inf. totals (defaulting to turn order in the case of a tie)—this could either go from least to most if we want a cutthroat quicker game or from most to least if we want more equalization.

Under Construction


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