The very first mechanic I dreamed up for this game was the one that involved cards. At the time I was unclear on exactly how it would work, but Alan spent eighteen months grinding on it with is alpha-test team, and out of that effort sprang the thing we now call the MAYHEM! deck.

Many of you have asked what the MAYHEM cards will be like, and we’ve teased you a bit by dropping some card names on you. This, unfortunately, is not the post where we reveal the MAYHEM! deck in its full glory. This is the post where we show you our late-beta designs for the cards.


Here’s the card back and the face of the card currently designated as A-11. This one falls into the category that we call “beneficial, permanent.” It’s generally beneficial, and its effect lasts for as long as the character does.

Here are four more samples.



Like playing cards, we’ve grouped the MAYHEM cards into four “suits.” For now they’re designated A, B, C, and D, which, while not very imaginative, is easy to keep track of.

  • A (blue): Beneficial, Permanent
  • B (green): Beneficial, Temporary
  • C (orange): Detrimental, Temporary
  • D (purple): Detrimental, Permanent

As I detailed in the D6³ permutation post, these cards will come up on about 25% of your successful die rolls. You can spend a RiPP to ignore the card, and the Game Chief can override your decision to play or not to play the card by awarding everyone a RiPP. If you’ve spent a RiPP to dodge the card, you’re getting two RiPPs back.

An Alternate Mode of Play

This is not where we tell you that you should omit the MAYHEM! deck from your Planet Mercenary game. This is where we tell you that if you feel so inclined, you can use the MAYHEM! deck as a regular old deck of cards, mapping A, B, C, and D, to Spades, Clubs, Hearts, and Diamonds (or mapping letters to suits in whatever manner you prefer.) There will be at least 12 cards in each category, and if there are more than 12, the additional cards can be set aside. There may also be a wild card or two whose effects are “Cosmetic, Hilarious” or some such, and these will make good Jokers.

Rolling With the Mayhem

The trick with the MAYHEM! cards is to NOT think of them as helpful or unhelpful. All of them will add to the story you are telling, and taking the bad with the good will make your story better. The flavor text on each card might help that along a bit, but ultimately it’s going to fall to you to take the effect from the card and turn it into something awesome.

Consider the Duckling card (A-04). If a fire team has bonded to you, but they’re heavy weapon experts, and you’re usually running with a team of stealthy types, you now have a conflict. Role play that!

Player You: “Sergeant Tibbs, I need you and your team to go with Lieutenant Player Character Rosa for this operation.”

Game Chief (as Tibbs): “But sir, you’re our favorite. You’re amazing. We TRUST you!”

Player Rosa: “Tibbs! The fanboy thing is bordering on insubordination. I need you and your big guns backing me up, because there’s hamburger to be made and I don’t want it made out of us.”

Game Chief (as Tibbs): “Yes Ma’am. If you say so Ma’am.”

Player You: “Tibbs, do me proud of over there. I want to enjoy burgers WITH friends, not OF them.”

and so forth… That piece of story conflict will allow you, Rosa, and your Game Chief to ham it up in character any time the heavy weapons fire team is in the scene. The fun you have will be worth the -1 skill check penalty Rosa’s team suffers from, and the results of their slightly-more-likely failures will further color the role-play.

Note: We do have cards that will un-bond your fire team from you, and we have a card that will anti-bond a fire team to you. They’re terrified of you, and it makes them extra effective right up until you need ablative meat…

Does This Make You Nervous?

We’ve heard from a lot of people, including a few play testers, who have expressed concern about the MAYHEM! cards “screwing up their game.”

They’re nervous. Perhaps you are too. It’s possible that this anxiety stems from a fear of failure, a tingling sense of doom-around-the-next-corner.

Jeff Goins wrote: “Without conflict you don’t have a story. You have a reality show.”

If you’re nervous, that’s because there’s an actual conflict waiting for you in Planet Mercenary. And fortunately, conflict is not only the source of story, it’s at the heart of humor, and trust me, you want this in there.

No Need To Proof These

These are drafts that Howard bashed out across eight hours on Saturday. They’ll get bashed on repeatedly by Howard, Alan, Sandra, and the late-beta wave of play testers before they end up in people’s hands. Little things like text alignment and font consistency will be fixed long, long after we’ve refined the text and checked the numbers and ensured that these are the best RPG tools they can be.

Note also, 52 is a semi-arbitrary number. We picked it because it was easy to get a price-quote using it. Should we overfund with sufficient over-fundage, additional cards might be added. Sorting them out of the deck in order to play Poker might get tedious, but a bigger deck would be worth that hassle.