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A ghost, trapped in the tree planted above her grave, finds herself exploring the world when the tree is transformed into a ship's mast. A lonely princess explores a crypt, hoping to find a new name and escape her fears. A merchant, far from home, plays a game of riddles with the guardian of a mountain pass.

A TALE BEFORE YOU GO is a storytelling game for one player. To play, you will need a standard deck of cards. You can tell your story orally or write it down; a tale can be spun in as little a ten minutes, or stretched out to thirty or more minutes.

Discover the character at the center of your tale — their fears, wishes, secrets, and wants. Are they a stranger to this land? What do they yearn to find? What shadows haunt their past?

Follow as they meet strangers, make choices, and suffer (or enjoy) the consequences.  

The tale you spin may reveal an unexpected moral lesson, an illustration of a forgotten holiday, a reassuring reminder of the magic in the world -- or something else entirely.

The ghost turns the ship's sails into truth-telling tapestries to set herself free. The princess offers herself to the crypt's elemental guardian and takes its name. The merchant turns back, defeated by the riddles but enriched by the moonstones he found in the mountainside.

Designed & written by Portia Elan, with illustrations by Charles Ferguson-Avery of Feral Indie Studio.

CategoryPhysical game
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(12 total ratings)
TagsFantasy, Folklore, journaling, Singleplayer, storygame, zine


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Click download now to get access to the following files:

A Tale Before You Go Zine.pdf 3.2 MB
A Tale Before You Go (single page no folds).pdf 3.2 MB
How to fold a zine.png 514 kB


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I ended up telling the story of Ilyana, a merchant from distant seas who found herself browsing a wine cellar. She always enjoyed a good drink and party, and only wanted to be loved and known by all. And yet, while she enjoyed her travels to exotic lands, Ilyana had a gnawing feeling that she left something important behind. She wished she had the power to fly so she could be anywhere easily, and never miss out on anything in life.

One day while in the market of the new land she was visiting, someone Ilyana had never met but felt so familiar to her welcomed her to the land and invited her to stay as her new home. She felt trepidation at the thought of giving everything else up to stay here. However, she had been so happy staying with these people and their customs, she decided to stay forever, and truly make a new home out of this land, swearing to never give love as good as this up again.

So, overall, this is a great game! I wrote this story a little differently to follow the prompts more strictly in journal in one page, and I think about 15 minutes. It's a nice way of creating little folk tales or fables. I tried to go for a distinctly happy ending with my story, but there is definitely room to tell stories with other tones. You could also easily reflavor certain elements to fit the kind of story you're aiming to tell (such as changing the princess to a prince or some other kind of noble person). You do have to supply a fair amount of detail to the story yourself, but that's to be expected of such a rules-lite game, and is a strength executed very well here.

Give this game a shot, it literally costs no money and little time to try, and it really helped me to create a satisfying little narrative in a matter of minutes.

Great set of prompts, interesting use of dividing the standard deck of cards into three decks and an altogether very nice feel. Thank you

"With a pocket-zine and a deck of cards, A Tale Before You Go can help you whip up a story in quick order, with some evocative setting bits and a straightforward story mechanic. Now that I’m trying to sum it up (and since the story can be told orally as easily as written down): if you’re needing a story for bedtime with the kids, keep this game at hand." 

You can read the Cannibal Halfling Gaming actual play review here.