The Story Engine: Deck of Worlds

Created by Peter Chiykowski

A deck of worldbuilding prompts for creating imagined lands, local lore, and story-driven maps for creative writing and tabletop RPGs.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Unboxing the print sample + educator deck update + stretch goal progress + full circle moment
19 days ago – Thu, Apr 28, 2022 at 12:34:14 PM

I’m thrilled to share that the digital-quality print sample has arrived and received its initial review!

I recorded an unboxing video of Deck of Worlds, along with the 9 expansions, 2 playmats, and 4 storage boxes, and even did some quick demos of the main deck and the creative expansions.

(I was too excited to remember to ask people to "Like, comment, subscribe" while recording, so here's me requesting that for The Story Engine Deck YouTube now!)

We also have a medley of other production and stretch goal updates to celebrate!

  • Notes on the digital quality print sample
  • What happens next
  • Educator decks update
  • Stretch goals update (token sheets distributed and lesson plans in review)
  • The original 2019 Story Engine Deck comes full circle: available now in Chapters, Indigo, Coles bookstores across Canada 

Notes on the digital quality print sample

A digital quality print sample is a replica of the final full-quality deck produced as faithfully as possible using digital printers. The industrial printing equipment we’ll be using for offset printing and box assembly will give us the best possible quality product, but it’s not well-suited for producing a single sample unit. A one-off print sample is very important for making sure that the factory and I are 100% on the same page about how each box, card, and component should be assembled and arranged before we launch mass production.

The good news is that I’m absolutely thrilled with the sample! The deck looks, feels, and handles exactly the way I would like it to, and if this version went into mass production, I would be very pleased indeed! 

You’ll get a good look at it in the video! It’s high-quality enough that in the coming weeks I will be able to record full-quality demos of the cards in action.

It’s also given me a chance to double-check production details that will need some tweaking or discussion, such as:

  • adjusting the glue pattern for the main deck box so the hinged lid can lay flat against the table when open
  • possibly increasing the spacing between the thumb-cut and headline text on the back of the expansion boxes
  • making sure we have the correct logo orientation on all sides of the foldable storage boxes

These are the kind of details that I like to triple-check will be absolutely correct in the final print run.

What happens next

I’ve finished my initial review of the components but I want to take a couple of days to do a deep card-by-card review to make sure everything is looking perfect and there are no errors, duplicates, or missing cards.

Once that’s complete, I’ll send my notes to the printer and make myself available to confirm any details or changes that need review or clarification. Right now, it looks like any changes will be minimal and straightforward, so it’s likely we can steam forward into mass production very soon.

I am still waiting to receive proofs of the new Story Engine Deck expansions and boosters, but because they use existing templates that I have already produced with this printer, the approval process should be very simple. We are reprinting the original deck, expansions, and boosters as well as part of the same process.

Our print timeline is still looking great for our original estimate of October 2022 delivery. We have a generous amount of working buffer for production and freight delays, which is just as well given the ongoing challenges with global freight and the fact that this print sample took a little longer to reach me than expected.

Educator decks update

We have finished our initial allocation of free educator copies of Deck of Worlds unlocked through Kickstarter stretch goals. Last month we sent out reward surveys to all selected recipients via BackerKit, and last week we sent follow-up emails to the educators we had not yet heard back from. We also emailed the educators who were not allocated a physical deck to let them know they have a spot on the waitlist as well as free access to the PDF deck and future lesson plans.

If you applied for a free educator copy and have not received an email from me, please send me a DM via Kickstarter ASAP. It means you likely mistyped your address or my message has been caught in your spam filter.

Recipients who do not complete their survey by April 22 may yield their physical copies to a waitlisted school and be moved to a second waitlist in case any additional units become available that exceed the current waitlist.

Stretch goals update

The PDF token sheet has been distributed via BackerKit! This is a sheet of printable and cuttable tokens you can use to mark additional points of interest in your world that you would like to explore in greater detail through secondary maps, Adventure Prompts, and/or prompts for characters, locations, and items created using cards from the original Story Engine Deck.

The purple question mark token backs can be used to conceal points of interest from tabletop RPG players until they discover them.

We’ve also made excellent progress on the Deck of Worlds lesson plans. In early 2022 our curriculum developer Kendra completed first drafts of all six lesson plans in the Deck of Worlds series, and we’ve just completed our first round of edits on those. Next we’ll be doing a secondary edit and a line edit before putting the lessons into design.

The other outstanding stretch goals are in various stages of progress, but not with anything quite ready to share. We’ll continue to update you when we pass major milestones for development or release.

To recap, here is what is currently complete:

  • PDF early bird cards
  • PDF Oddballs & Outtakes expansion
  • PDF token sheet
  • PDF WorldCraft Club’s version of the Field Notes pages
  • PDF blank card pages

Here’s what we’re currently editing and designing:

  • 6 PDF Deck of Worlds lesson plans
  • PDF official version of the Field Notes pages

Here’s what we’ve been developing through notes, but the bulk of design and development will happen over the summer:

  • Card creator webapp
  • PDF of experimental play modes
  • 2 new PDF Story Engine lesson plans
  • PDF Story Notes pages for The Story Engine

The original Story Engine Deck comes full circle

While not related to the Kickstarter, I wanted to share an exciting update from the world of The Story Engine Deck!

10 years ago, when I graduated from university, I knew I wanted to make a career in storytelling and the creative arts. One of my first jobs was working in a Chapters bookstore in downtown Toronto. I absolutely loved it, and the staff there was extraordinarily supportive of me pursuing my creative work alongside my work in the store. I always dreamed of getting to put one of my creations in the store.

Eventually, I moved on to work full-time as a writer and later created The Story Engine Deck. And then last year, a representative approached me about placing the original Story Engine Deck in Chapters, Indigo, and Coles bookstores.

This week, the product officially launched in stores coast to coast and is available for online order as well.

The Story Engine Deck in the Indigo online store

The Story Engine Deck is coming home to where it all began.

I also want to assure you backers will be the first to receive all new products: Deck of Worlds and its expansions; the new Story Engine Deck expansions and boosters; and the sleeves, storage boxes, postcard set, and playmats. I firmly believe every crowdfunding creator should do everything in their power to make sure their backers are first to receive the products they create through their project. None of that is changing in any way. What’s available through the bookstore right now is the original Story Engine Deck, which launched on Kickstarter in 2019.

Thanks to everyone who has helped this project grow from a seed of an idea to a creative tool you can find in every province in Canada!

That's all for now!

I'll have more updates as production continues to move forward and I begin to record new demos! In the meantime, follow The Story Engine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more photos of the digital print sample.

As always, I'm available for questions and troubleshooting but here's a quick directory to solving the most common backer issues:

  •  If you want to access your Digital Downloads, follow these instructions.
  •  If you have any trouble accessing your files, contact BackerKit for help.
  •  If you need to update your address, you can still do that via your survey link. Details here, although US backers may need to DM me for help changing the state in their shipping address.
  •  If you need to update your pledge contents, DM me here on Kickstarter.
  •  If you have a general question about the campaign not covered by the FAQ, feel free to comment below or DM me here on Kickstarter.

Thanks so much!

New stretch goal PDF releases + postcard artwork + production updates + Zach's Kickstarter
about 1 month ago – Fri, Apr 08, 2022 at 07:41:01 AM

Hi backers!

I have a few exciting updates for you! Headlines up top with details below!

  •  New stretch goal PDF releases: the Oddballs & Outtakes bonus expansion and blank cards PDFs are now available in BackerKit! 
  • Sneak peek at more postcard settings
  • Production updates (slow but steady)
  • Last chance to back Zach's Dead Work comic anthology Kickstarter 

 New stretch goal PDF releases

The Oddballs & Outtakes stretch goal expansion has been distributed to all backers!

This digital-only expansion was unlocked as a stretch goal thanks to your enthusiasm for the project, and I'm so grateful I had the chance to work on it.

The cues in this expansion were reluctantly cut from the main deck due to limited space. During the editorial process, I was stockpiling intriguing ideas that were held back only because they were challenging for new worldbuilders, similar to other core cues (while offering their own original angle or twist), or a little too specific to deploy easily across different genres and world types. Some of these may even be familiar from various stages of the alpha and beta.

Cutting these was always hard, and it helped to know they would get the attention and use they deserve through your worldbuilding and storytelling.

Here's a set of sample cards!

As with the other Digital Downloads, you’ll need to have completed your survey and your pledge will need to be fully paid for you to access the ZIP folder with the print-and-play PDF.

Note that these cues did not get the same depth of review or proofreading that the main deck did. If you catch any typos or repeats, please send me a DM here on Kickstarter and I'll make a note to update the files in the future.

We also just released blank cards in both HQ and eco styles so you can get to designing your own cards! We'll follow this up with some tips for writing nuanced, compelling cues and creating balanced cards.

You'll find instructions for accessing BackerKit digital downloads in the bulleted list at the bottom of this update.

More postcard setting artwork

If you've been following along on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you've likely seen the art drops for the postcard settings by our artist and author collaborators. 

Here are two of the pieces we've been sharing, each of which was created using the alpha Deck of Worlds!

"Prisma Isle" by Meg McCurdy
"The Marsh of Feathers" by Thaleia Demeter.

You can find out more details about the postcards in the BackerKit preorder store.

Production updates

Things are moving ahead slowly but steadily! Just a couple of bits of progress to share!

  • The printer has finished checking and assembling our files and sent back a digital proof of the cards—these are all the cards laid out in enormous print sheets as PDFs. I'll be reviewing these and replying to the printer with any needed changes, after which they'll print, cut, and ship me a physical batch of cards to review.
  • I've finished the process of allocating educator decks and will reach out soon with the results via email. First I will need to import recipients into the BackerKit system so they can receive reward surveys and provide their shipping details.

In the meantime, we've been in touch with our regional fulfillment partners to plan freight.

Zach’s Dead Work comic anthology Kickstarter is ending soon

Our project coordinator Zach has been indispensable throughout the Kickstarter and production period.

His own Kickstarter project, a collection of indie comics by Canadian creators, wraps up in 44 hours and we'd love for you to check it out.

I'm especially excited to see Zach return to tell a new story about Thrud, the Norse mythology-inspired heroine of his post-Ragnarok setting! I really enjoyed volume 1 of that comic. If you like mythology remixes, Adventure Time, and Legend of Zelda, I think you'll like Zach's work. It serves similar vibes!

That's all for now!

I'll be back soon with more progress updates and stretch goal drops!

As always, I'm available for questions and troubleshooting but here's a quick directory to solving the most common backer issues:

  •  If you want to access your Digital Downloads, follow these instructions.
  •  If you have any trouble accessing your files, contact BackerKit for help.
  •  If you need to update your address, you can still do that via your survey link. Details here.
  •  If you need to update your pledge contents, DM me here on Kickstarter.
  •  If you have a general question about the campaign not covered by the FAQ, feel free to comment below or DM me here on Kickstarter.


February micro-updates! (All is progressing well!)
2 months ago – Thu, Mar 17, 2022 at 10:19:38 AM

Hello backers!

Things continue to move along nicely! There are no large-scale updates to share so far this month, but I wanted to check in quickly to provide some micro-updates on how things are coming along.

Our factory received and reviewed the massive delivery of files and is starting on producing a physical print proof. This means that by next month I should have a 95%-accurate printed copy to go over with a fine-tooth comb. I'll try to produce some updated photos and a sample video when that comes in.

For backers who deferred BackerKit charges until February 18, we will be charging your cards on Friday,

Early bird promo card PDFs were delivered to Kickstarter backers on February 2nd. I decided not to use the mass BackerKit notification since it was just a 2-page PDF, so you likely did not receive an email, but you'll find the files in your Digital Downloads via your survey link as usual.

Kickstarter backers are all getting an upgrade to their early bird promo cards. I know that my decision to allocate early bird cards based on which week each backer pledged caused a bit of stress and FOMO for some backers and I've been thinking a lot about those concerns. To simplify things a little but still provide an extra thank you to backers who helped get the campaign off the ground, I've decided to make sure that every backer is getting more than they were promised during the campaign. I've upgraded all Week 2, 3, and 4 backers to 8 promo cards, and all Week 1 backers to 10 promo cards. As you'll see from the available PDFs, these cards are a fun bonus largely focused on variant artwork and themes inspired by crowdfunding: collective action, collaboration, innovation, inspiration,  etc. Many of these themes are explored in other ways in the main deck. The promo cards offer fun twists and some nods to the deck's origins, but they are not needed to enjoy your deck to the fullest. As a reminder: digital-only backers are only receiving digital early bird cards and physical backers are receiving digital AND physical early bird cards.

We have updated all Deck of Worlds P&P packages on BackerKit to include a resized 8.5x11 guidebook. This should make home printing a little bit easier!

The Oddballs & Outtakes digital bonus expansion is about to go into design, so we should have that ready for download in the next 2-3 weeks! I will use the BackerKit Digital Download notification system to let everyone know when the download is up.

We have started to plan out the creative work for the remaining stretch goal PDFs. We look forward to providing you with new downloads in the coming months.

We're almost finished allocating the educator copies of Deck of Worlds. We will be contacting recipients around the end of February/beginning of March.

Our project coordinator/supporting designer Zach is currently Kickstarting a project of his own: an anthology of indie comics by Canadian creators. Check out Dead Work before the campaign wraps on March 4th. Zach runs a great Kickstarter!

That's all for now! As always, I'm available for questions and troubleshooting but here's a quick directory to solving the most common backer issues:

  • If you want to access your Digital Downloads, follow these instructions.
  • If you have any trouble accessing your files, contact BackerKit for help.
  • If you need to update your address, you can still do that via your survey link. Details here.
  • If you need to update your pledge contents, DM me here on Kickstarter.
  • If you have a general question about the campaign not covered by the FAQ, feel free to comment below or DM me here on Kickstarter.

Thanks so much!


Charging cards and delivering PDFs today
3 months ago – Wed, Feb 02, 2022 at 05:09:14 AM

Hi backers!

The big day is upon us!

In a few hours I will be charging cards for any BackerKit top-up payments (for shipping, VAT/GST, add-ons, pledge upgrades, etc.) and distributing PDFs. If you filled out the form or you contacted me about deferring payment to a specific date, then you will not be charged until the date we discussed.

The payment will be charged via the payment processor Stripe and will show as DECK OF WORLDS on your statement. If there is any issue taking payment, BackerKit will send you a notification email with instructions. Delays in payment will not negatively impact your pledge in any way, except that you won’t be able to access the files until payment is processed.

A Quick Guide to the Print-and-Plays

Update @ 7:30pm PST: cards have been charged and files are distributed!

The PnPs are being delivered via BackerKit’s Digital Downloads in a few hours! I've updated the download troubleshooting tutorial I made in the summer, and you can access it here.

There have been a lot of minor updates since the last uploads. A quick summary:

  • Updated print and assembly instructions
  • Proofreading cleanup of duplicates and typos
  • Standardization of some scaling issues on certain P&P pages
  • Minor content adjustments
  • Quality of life improvements to default PDF open view settings
  • Complete and revised guidebook
  • Updated designs for the Creative Expansion card backs

If you see any typos or issues with files (especially the HQ versions), please let me know! The HQ versions represent the content that is going to print.  While I and the hardworking team of proofreaders have done multiple passes of all content, it’s still possible we missed minor things. We can still make adjustments with the printer for a couple of weeks.

The eco versions are a separate file system and have not received the same depth of review, so there may be occasional adjustments to be made there over time. Let me know of any issues you find.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you dive in:

  •  Many URLs in the guidebooks have not yet been set up, but they will be in the coming weeks or months. (I expect most resources to be ready or have placeholder landing pages by April.)
  •  Stretch goal PDFs have not yet been delivered. (That will happen between now and the summer.)
  •  Early bird card PDFs have not yet been delivered. (That will happen in the next couple of weeks.)
  •  I’d like to eventually resize the main guidebook and expansion guidebooks for standard paper sizes. Right now they reflect the print versions, which are non-standard. Make sure to print using "Fit to Page" or "Shrink to Page" settings.
  •  I made minor improvements to my PnP templates that I'd like to eventually apply to the original Story Engine content I uploaded over the summer.

Next Steps

The files are ready for the printer! I’ll be doing the last pre-production check of all the folders and sending those off by tomorrow!

Updates will likely be a little slower for the next bit, but I’ll still keep you in the loop with periodic check-ins as print production progresses and we start to release the stretch goal content!

In the meantime:

  •  If you have any trouble accessing your files, contact BackerKit for help.
  •  If you need to update your address, you can still do that via your survey link. Details here.
  •  If you need to update your pledge contents, DM me here on Kickstarter.
  •  If you have a general question about the campaign not covered by the FAQ, feel free to comment below.

I’ll be a little slower to respond for the next 24-48 hours, but I will be sure to follow up on anything pressing!

Reminder: charging cards next week on Jan 18
3 months ago – Tue, Feb 01, 2022 at 03:18:39 PM

Hi everyone!

This is a short update reminding you that we will be charging cards in BackerKit using the payment processor Stripe on January 18 unless you've sent me a DM here on Kickstarter about an exception. The credit card line item will appear as DECK OF WORLDS or something similar and you'll receive a confirmation email from BackerKit. 

We will only charge you if you have a balance owing in BackerKit. This might include shipping, VAT/GST/HST, add-ons, post-campaign pledge upgrades, etc. that were not part of your initial pledge. You can double-check your BackerKit reward survey for a summary of your pledge and all costs associated with it. If you don't know where your survey link is, you can recover it here.

If there are any issues charging your card, BackerKit will send you an automated email with instructions. Don't worry, card errors and late payments do not negatively affect your pledge. You just won't be able to access the final PDFs until payment is confirmed. If you would like to defer payment by 1 week or 1 month, please fill out this form. Note that I won't be posting updates with specific reminders for those future charge dates.

As mentioned in the last update, you can still update your address any time via your survey link. If you want to change the contents of your pledge, you will have to DM me for support.

The Canadian credits mentioned in the previous update have been applied to backers in the relevant HST/PST provinces. All Canadian pledges should now show the final total. If you have a physical pledge tier in Canada and your base pledge shipping + sales tax is higher than the estimate provided during the campaign, please let me know via Kickstarter DM and I will check on this for you.

Otherwise, everything's looking smooth for delivering the PDF files next week! All cards have passed sensitivity review, curriculum review, and proofreading. The guidebooks and boxes are finished and getting the final look-over. We're now just triple-checking our exports to minimize the chance that any errors or inconsistencies go to print.

I owe a huge debt of thanks to A. Z. Louise, Sonya Ballantyne, Yasmine Fahmy, Kendra Harrison, Leigh Teetzel, Tyson Pink, and Eric Weiss for their help with the review process, and Zach Schuster (@ZMSchuster in the Kickstarter comments) has been an invaluable help keeping up with the graphic design needs and inputting changes as they come in.

Zach has a Kickstarter project of his own launching on February 2nd: an indie comics anthology titled Dead Work. You can sign up for the pre-launch notification here if you'd like to follow along!

Update Frequency

On my last campaign, I didn't schedule reminder posts in the 2 weeks prior to charging cards in BackerKit and it caused a bit of confusion. I like to learn from past campaigns, so I scheduled more this time. I actually think this time around I overcorrected by scheduling posts for a 2-week, 1-week, and 48-hour notice before charging cards.

I no longer plan to post the 48-hour notice. I've heard from a couple of people that there have been too many update notifications between Kickstarter and BackerKit, and I don't want anyone getting flooded, especially because I'll be updating again on the 18th.

If you do want to receive fewer notifications, you can manage Kickstarter notifications using these instructions.

I will post an update to Kickstarter on January 18 (shortly before charging cards) to explain the PDF delivery details.

Thanks so much!