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These were the rules to Dvorak from 2000 to 2007, before they were rewritten. For the latest version, see Rules.
The rules to Dvorak are also available in Slovak and in French.

The Ways of Play

Dvorak can be played in one of two ways - you can take a deck from the archives and play it as a standalone card game (in which case you only need the Basic Rules), or you can take a pile of fresh blank cards and create a new deck from scratch (using both the Basic Rules and Creative Rules).

The game can also be played online via telnet or Thoth, as well as the obvious real-life bits-of-cardboard approach. Depending on how you're playing, getting started is slightly different:

Real Life, New Deck
You'll need a pack of blank cards (unlined 5x3" record cards do the job quite nicely; business cards are okay for more laconic or squinty games) and something to scrawl on them with.
Real Life, Archived Deck
You can either copy each card onto a blank one by hand, or print the deck out from the Web page.
A printed deck can be played with as-is, glued onto cardboard (sticking them artlessly onto larger record cards works reasonably enough) or slipped into a plastic deck protector with a spare other-card-game card to bolster it.
Telnet, Either
Virtually any computer with an Internet connection can do this, with no extra software. Connect to AbsoluteMUSH and seek out a known Dvorak player.
MUSH players may wish to have the Dvorak Engine command list open in another window while they play, for reference; if you're completely new to MUSHing, the basics are covered in this brief introduction.
Thoth, Either
Thoth is a graphical card-game engine designed for email or real-time online play - refer to its Web pages for details on installation and usage. A couple of decks from the Dvorak archive are available for use in Thoth, and the latest versions of the software support dynamic card creation.
Nobody's really tested Thoth for making a new game from scratch; the process will be properly documented at some future date.

The Basic Rules

Ninety-Nine Word Summary

All you really need to know about playing a Dvorak deck can be said in ninety-nine words:

  • Shuffle the cards into a draw pile.
  • Draw five cards each. Choose who takes the first turn.
  • Each turn, draw a card from the top of the draw pile, then play a Thing and/or an Action. (Things go onto the table in front of the person who played them, Actions go face-up onto the discard pile.)
  • If you've got more than five cards in your hand at the end of your turn, discard down to five. Then it's the next player's turn.
  • When the draw pile's empty, shuffle the discard pile to make a new one.
  • And that's it.

The rest of the Basic Ruleset just clarifies and explains things a little more carefully - if you've played other card games before, or are feeling impetuous, you can safely ignore it all until you need to check something. Get playing.

Actions and Things

Whatever you're playing, there are two types of card in a Dvorak deck; Actions and Things.

Actions represent one-off events, and can affect any aspect of the game. Some Actions specify that they can be played out of turn, either as a response to something else happening or with no excuse at all.

When a player plays an Action card from their hand, it has the effect the card specifies and is then placed on the discard pile. Some example Action cards from the deck archive are:

Take a random card from an opponent's hand.
Secret Identity
Destroy a Hero or Villain card and replace it with a Hero or Villain from your hand.
Take Off Every Zig
For each Zig you control, destroy a Base.
Would You Like A Jelly-Baby?
You may play this card at any time to stop an Action from affecting you or your hand (but not your Things).

Things typically represent physical objects, or states of affairs. When a player plays a Thing card from their hand, it is put on the table in front of them and remains there until another card does something to remove it. When a Thing is "destroyed", it goes to the discard pile.

Some Things do nothing except exist (owning them perhaps being useful for other purposes); other Things might - if their card text says so - have an effect on the game while they remain in play, have a one-off effect when they're first played, or have effects that trigger when something else happens. Examples of each of these types of Thing would be:

Any number of Actions may be played each turn.
Cardboard Box
When Cardboard Box comes into play, its controller may draw a card.
Doomsday Device
If a Location is destroyed, destroy all Locations.

Some Things can be played "onto" other Things. When you play these, you choose an existing Thing for them to be attached to, and they usually give that Thing some sort of bonus or penalty while they remain in play. If a Thing is destroyed, any Things that were played onto it are also destroyed (although not vice versa). Examples might be:

Flak Armour
Play onto a Thing - that Thing gets +2 to defence rolls.
Short Circuit
Play onto a Thing - that Thing may not use its Actions.

There's one other type of Thing that tends to crop up fairly often - a Thing that gives its controller the ability to do something instead of playing an Action card, during their turn.

The shorthand "Action: [do something]" means "In place of playing an Action, the controller of this card may [do something]". The produced effect counts as an Action, to all intents and purposes (although the Thing card stays in play). For example:

Action: Choose a Body Part from the discard pile and put it into your hand.
Cone Rifle (Blue)
Action: A lower-Clearance Troubleshooter discards two cards at random.
Vorpal Blade
Action: Snicker-Snack! Destroy a Monster.

(Where a card says something like "Destroy a Thing" or "Discard a card", it carries the implicit suffix "...of your choice.")

Starting the Game

(If you're making a new deck from scratch, you should first create at least five times as many cards as there are players - see #Starting the Creative Game.)

Take all the cards in the deck and shuffle them together, placing them in a face-down pile, in easy reach of all players. This is the draw pile, where cards are drawn from throughout the game.

Clear a space next to the draw pile for the discard pile, which is where discarded cards will go, face-up.

Each player then draws five cards, and the game begins, starting with a randomly-determined player.

Turn Structure

A player's turn, in Dvorak, is divided into four simple stages, which occur one after the other:

At the start of a player's Turn, that player draws a card from the the top of the draw pile.
(If the draw pile is ever empty when a player needs to draw from it, the discard pile should be shuffled and turned over to make the new draw pile, which the player then draws from. If both the draw and discard pile are empty, cards may not be drawn.)
During this stage, the player may play one Action card and one Thing card (or just one or the other, or nothing at all). They can play a Thing then an Action, or an Action then a Thing; there's no fixed sequence. Thing cards are put into play on the table, Action cards are placed face-up on the top of the discard pile.
If the player now has more than five cards in their hand, he or she must discard cards from their hand to the discard pile, until only five are left.
The turn ends and it becomes the next player's turn, proceeding clockwise or alphabetically or however you want to do it.

Things You Can't Do

Players aren't allowed to look through the draw pile, although they may browse the discard pile at any time.

Players aren't allowed to look through each other's hands, but they are allowed to see how many cards another player has in their hand.

Players can't discard cards whenever they feel like it; they can only discard cards when a card tells them to, or when they're discarding down to five at the end of a turn.

(Players can't discard below five at the end of their turn, either.)

Special Rules

As well as the cards, a Dvorak deck may have any number of Special Rules - these are additions or alterations to the basic Dvorak rules, and are in effect throughout the game. An addition might be something like "Each player has an amount of Gold, which starts at zero and is affected by cards.", an alteration could be "Hand size is three instead of five."

Special Rules should be noted on paper (or on a spare card) somewhere at the side of play. When printing a deck from the online archive, its Special Rules (if any) can be printed onto some of its cards - these should be removed from the deck before it's shuffled to make a draw pile.

Although Special Rules might be written on cards, they aren't considered to be cards for the purposes of the game - they aren't Things, they can't be destroyed by an Action that says "Tear a card up", they don't belong to any particular player, and so forth.


There's no fixed way to win a game of Dvorak; each deck has its own particular path to victory. Sometimes it's a Thing card, sometimes it's an Action, and sometimes it's a permanent Special Rule. Some decks have a single victory condition, others have a choice of several.

Some examples:

Big Brother
If a player controls three or more Ministries, they win the game.
Lightning Strike
If you control a Head, a Body, two Arms and two Legs, you win the game.
Special Rule
The first player to control five Laps wins the game.

Some decks don't have any ways to "win", as such, and instead progress by players being knocked out. In such a game, the last player remaining is the winner.

Conflicts and Precedence

If a card contradicts a Dvorak Rule (for example, a Thing says that its controller doesn't need to discard cards at the end of his or her turn, but the basic Dvorak Rules say that all players must discard down to five cards), the card always takes precedence. You can expect this to happen quite a lot.

Cards (and Special Rules) can occasionally contradict one another - you can usually resolve the conflicts with sheer common sense, but to be specific about it:

  • If one card denies something and another permits it, the denial always takes precedence. For example, if one Thing in play says "Players may not take cards from the discard pile." and someone plays an Action that says "Take a Thing from the discard pile and put it into play.", the denial takes precedence and the Action has no effect.
  • If two cards contradict one another on the same issue, but one is more specific - "Everyone's hand size is four" versus "The hand size of this Thing's controller is six" - then the more specific card (in this case, the latter) takes precedence.
  • If two cards flatly contradict one another with equal scope - "Everyone's hand size is four" versus "Everyone's hand size is six" - the most recently-played card takes precedence and the contradicting aspect of the older one is ignored for as long as the newer one is in effect.

Special Rules are treated as if they were cards, when resolving precedence issues.

(If you're creating a new deck, conflicting cards can and should be rewritten to clarify the contradiction - in the third example above, rewording both Things to "Everyone's hand size is increased/decreased by one" or adding an "If [the other card] is in play, destroy it" clause would be elegant resolutions, but even something as specific as "This card takes precedence over [some other specific card]" is fair enough.)

The Creative Rules

Blank Cards

In a game of Creative Dvorak, there is an extra pile of cards apart from the Draw and discard piles - the Blank Card Pile. This is, as the name hints, a pile of blank cards, and it should sit within reasonably easy reach of all players.

If the Blank Card Pile ever runs empty, it can be topped up with a fresh pack of blank cards. If your immediate environment runs out of blank cards, or your pens run out of ink, no new cards may be created.

Starting the Creative Game

Before a Creative game of Dvorak begins, players should create new cards until the draw pile contains at least five times as many cards as there are players - ideally about seven or eight cards per player.

This stage of the game is naturally a good time to agree on a theme for the deck, if any, perhaps including the means of victory and some terminology. ("Okay, a Frankenstein theme. This Lightning Strike card will be the victory mechanism, and let's say that Thing cards should represent either Body Parts, Staff or Equipment.")

Creating a Card

In a game of Creative Dvorak, any player may create a new card at any time - he or she simply takes a card from the Blank Card Pile and writes a title on it, along with any required card text and perhaps a picture. He or she should also mark whether the card is a Thing or an Action, by underlining the card title with a coloured pen, or something.

After a card has been created, it is presented to the other players for their immediate judgment - the game stops while they decide, and each player must say whether they are in favour of the card, or against it.

If every player is in favour of the card, it is accepted and shuffled into the draw pile. If any player is against it, however, it is rejected and set aside, having no effect on the game. (Although it can, of course, be adjusted and reproposed - even reproposed verbatim if the reasons for rejection were simple bad timing.)

Once a card has been accepted or rejected, play continues.

If you're playing the telnet MUSH version of Dvorak, new cards are created by entering:

newcard cardname/(A or T)/cardtext

For example:

newcard Armageddon/A/Destroy all Things.

The newly created card will be assigned a number, and all players will be informed of its existence, for voting.

If the card is accepted, any player may type approve number (where "number" is the card number) to accept that card and have it automatically shuffled into the draw pile. If it's rejected, either type repeal number to toss it into the repeal pile, or leave it in the vote pile for someone to amend and repropose.

Nomic veterans and those intrigued by the mechanics of democracies may like to propose cards which tinker with the voting process itself; reducing the pass requirement from unanimity to a majority of votes in favour, or requiring costs to be paid for veto votes. Establishing yourself as a dictator - denying all other players a vote - will guarantee a win, but will be difficult to pull off.

Amending and Repealing Cards

A player may, at any time, propose to amend or repeal a card which exists in the deck, but only if that card is in play, in the Discard Pile, or in the player's own hand.

A proposed amendment or repeal is voted upon in the same way that a new card would be.

If an amendment is accepted, the card is returned to its previous position in the game. If a card is repealed, it is removed from the deck entirely.

Those playing Dvorak on the MUSH Dvorak Engine (or, presumably, Thoth) can propose to amend or repeal any card, since changing a card does not reveal its location in the game.

Creative Special Rules

Special Rules are created in the same way as cards, and start taking effect immediately, if they are accepted. They can be amended and repealed in the same way as a card in play would be.

(Although Special Rules aren't treated as cards whilst in play, there is - of course - nothing to stop the creation of Actions with effects along the lines of "Repeal a Special Rule of your choice.")

The Aftermath

Once somebody has won the game, or the game has been abandoned through stalemate or boredom, any cards whose proposal was rejected can be reviewed and voted on again - it's often the case that an innocent card was voted down during play simply because someone didn't want it in the deck at the time.

Further amendments can also be made to the deck at this point - powerful cards can be toned down, weak cards can be boosted or thrown away, extra copies can be made of cards which need it.

When everyone's happy with the deck as it stands, you can either play another game with it (continuing to amend and add cards as you go), file it for future entertainment, or throw it away. The Dvorak deck archive would welcome a copy of the card list, though, if you're at all proud of or amused by it - send a deck listing to and we'll put it up for the world to print and play.

The Variants of Dvorak

Team Dvorak

With more three or more players, any Dvorak deck can be played as a Team Game with only minor rule adjustments:

  • Any player may spend an Action to give a card from their hand to one of their Team-mates.
  • Team-mates are not considered to be Opponents of one another.

When a player wins, his or her Team is victorious. (In games where players are knocked out, a Team wins if the players in all other Teams have been eliminated.)

Multi-Deck Dvorak

Although it's possible to make a normal Dvorak deck where two different 'sides' are in conflict (as in the Day of the Triffids deck), design is restricted either to blurriness (players aren't forced to pick a side, and can change and mix allegiances as much as they like) or redundancy (players are forced to choose a side at the start of the game, and the other side's cards are useless to them except as discard-fodder).

A more effective way to create a game with two or more distinct 'sides' is to have separate decks, each deck focusing solely on that side.

Multi-Deck Dvorak is played in the same way as normal Dvorak, except that:

  • Each player has their own draw and discard pile.
  • When a card is destroyed or discarded, it is sent to the discard Pile of the player whose deck it came from.

If playing creatively, new cards are created as normal, going into the creator's deck by default.

To avoid their flat rejection, however (Player B is unlikely to be enthusiastic about a card which only Player A can use), several cards may be proposed simultaneously on a tit-for-tat, discussional basis until agreement is reached:

   A : "I propose this Xenomorph Egg."
   B : "Okay..." [scribbles] "I'll let you have it if you approve this Flamethrower."
   A : "Four damage! Gah. I'll let you have it if I can have an extra Egg."
   B : "I suppose that's fair enough. Alright then."

(Player A gets two Xenomorph Egg cards to shuffle into his deck, Player B gets a Flamethrower for hers.)

CCG Dvorak

CCG Dvorak follows the style of collectible deck-building card games such as Magic: The Gathering - a fixed set of cards exists, with each player creating their own individual deck from copies of those cards. Decks are typically constructed around some thematic idea or a synergistic combination of cards.

To create the Card Set, players should spend a while creating and approving at least fifty cards, along with any necessary Special Rules (including restrictions on the construction of decks, if necessary). Alternatively, you can just print out a Card Set from the online archive.

Each player then builds their own deck of cards out of copies of cards from the Card Set. Unless otherwise specified by Special Rules, a deck must contain at least twenty cards, and can contain any number of copies of any card.

Those using the MUSH Dvorak Engine can build a deck as a text file by simply copying and duplicating the relevant newcard commands from the MUSHcode of the Card Set.

Built decks are played against each other as in Multi-Deck Dvorak. Players are free to "tune" their decks between games (removing unwanted cards or inserting copies of other cards from the Card Set), but are not permitted to propose new cards for them, nor to amend existing cards.

The Card Set itself, however, can be altered at any time, most notably if certain cards are proving to be overly powerful or ambiguous during play. As in standard Dvorak, such changes can only be made if no player objects to them. Any adjustments to the Card Set should be immediately reflected in every player's deck.

If a Card Set has been archived online and has attracted interest from players, any significant updates to the Card Set shall be grouped together, where possible, and announced en masse to the mailing list. Card Sets will be given version numbers for ease of reference - if a player's deck has been built with an earlier version of the Card Set, he or she should check and update it before playing any formal games with it.