Death of the Author: A solo tarot game

Death of the Author: A solo tarot game

A solo tarot journaling game about a character struggling to gain agency in their story.
$7,972 🎉
of $1,700 (USD) goal
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What is Death of the Author?

A drawing of a pentacle that appears to be dripping ink. Next to it is the heading text "What is Death of the Author?"

Death of the Author is a solo tarot journaling TTRPG about a Character fighting for agency in their story, against the wishes of their Author.

Play as the Character, who tries to wrest narrative control from the Author. At the end, no matter the story, the Character will confront their Author.

While Death of the Author requires a deck of tarot cards to play, you do not need to be familiar with tarot to play the game. It is designed with both tarot beginners and tarot experts in mind.

This crowdfunding campaign will help fund the development and print run of Death of the Author, as well as allow the production of bonus materials if we hit stretch goals.

The cover art for Death of the Author. Shows a person climbing out of a typewritten page on a typewriter. Their legs appear to be fading into the text on the page. The character's back is facing the viewer, and their right hand reaches up towards the sky. The title text, "Death of the Author, is written in white and set into a dark-blue bookplate. The entire cover is in shades of blue gray.
The cover art for Death of the Author, illustrated by Victor Winter with title work from James Hanna



In Death of the Author, the player creates their Character by drawing a tarot card for their archetype. Over the course of five Chapters, the player encounters Scene Prompts, events written by the Author. The Character then edits the Scene Prompts to defy their Author and shape the story to their own will.

The following is an example of a Scene Prompt:

A screenshot from the Death of the Author prototype layout. The number "THREE" is written in all caps. Below is written "Upright: You learn you've been told a lie about your family." The words "your family" are underlined. Below that is written "Reversed: You learn you've been told a lie about your society." The words "your society" are underlined.
Prototype layout designed by James Hanna, still in-progress and subject to change

Each Chapter, the Character has one Reversal and one Defiance.
  • A Reversal allows the Scene Prompt to be flipped, changing from Upright to Reversed or vice-versa (for example, changing "your family" to "your society").
  • A Defiance allows the Character to write anything they wish into the underlined section of the Scene Prompt (for example, changing "your family" to "your enemy").

Use caution - tampering with the narrative draws the attention of the Author, who might retaliate by using the Character’s own words against them.

Death of the Author is a hack of Samantha Leigh’s ENnie-nominated Anamnesis, with new twists on the original formula.

Here's a video of Sam playing the first part of Death of the Author!


The game will also contain optional rules & suggestions for the following:

  • Two-Player Version: Play with two people, one playing the Character and the other playing the Author.
  • Pre-Existing Character Version: Instead of creating a new Character, use a pre-existing one from another story. Explore the relationship between one of your Characters (from a TTRPG campaign, writing project, etc.) and their Author (you).

Also see the "Example of Play" section for a written example of the rules in action!


Pledge Levels

A drawing of a sword that appears to be dripping ink. Next to it is the heading text "Pledge Options".

Digital - $8

A digital download of the Death of the Author PDF, along with all unlocked stretch goals.
Digital downloads will be delivered through a download code on

Physical - $14

A physical copy of Death of the Author, along with a digital copy and all unlocked stretch goals.
The physical version will be a stapled zine of 28-32 pages.

A mock-up of the physical version of Death of the Cover. Shows a zine with the cover art on the cover.
Mock-up of the Death of the Author physical copy, created by James Hanna

Community Copy - $28

Donate a physical community copy with your pledge!
You will also receive a physical copy, digital copy, and all unlocked stretch goals.
Community copies are also available as an add-on, which you can add to any pledge.

Minor Arcana - $28

A random Minor Arcana card with prompt modifications (Defiances) written on its face.
You will also receive a physical copy, digital copy, and all unlocked stretch goals. 
Limited to 56 pledges.

Major Arcana - $30

A random Major Arcana card with a message from the Author written on its face.
You will also receive a physical copy, digital copy, and all unlocked stretch goals.
Limited to 22 pledges.

Two pictures side-by-side. The first shows the tarot card Death, facing the camera directly. Silver text has been written on its face, though it is difficult to read. The second picture shows the same tarot card but tilted to the side to catch the sun, which makes the text legible. It reads: "The phoenix. Changing seasons. Revolution. Dusk and dawn.
Example of a tarot card with writing, from the Anamnesis crowdfunding campaign. The marker might be different than the one used here.

Typewritten Copy - $500

For a massive amount of support, receive a copy of Death of the Author written by Samantha Leigh on a typewriter. It will be the only one of its kind to exist.
[Note: Sam has not written much on a typewriter before, so the cleanliness of the text is not guaranteed!]
You will also receive a physical copy, digital copy, and all unlocked stretch goals. 
Limited to 1 pledge.



The following are optional add-ons that can be added to any pledge:

Death of the Author [Physical]

Additional physical copy of Death of the Author.

Community Copy of Death of the Author

Donate a physical community copy of Death of the Author.

Anamnesis [Digital or Physical]

Pick up a physical and/or digital copy of Samantha Leigh's first solo tarot game, Anamnesis.
Physical copy also comes with digital copy and all digital extras (including Designer's Commentary Version and audiobook).

The cover art for Anamnesis, all in shades of brown. Shows a nude figure sitting down, surrounded by wisps that could be smoke or fog. The figure's head is entirely obscured by the wisps. The top of the page says the title Anamnesis in white. The title repeats down the cover, slowly fading until the last repetition is hard to see.
The cover art for Anamnesis, illustrated by Victor Winter with title layout by Thomas Manuel


Shipping is not included in the pledge and will be collected through the Pledge Manager after the campaign ends. Packages will be shipped via USPS and a tracking number will be provided over email.

Approximate shipping costs are below - these are subject to change. Backers outside of the US may also need to pay additional customs charges.

USA - $4.50
UK - £11
EU - €12.50
Canada - 14 CAD
Everywhere else - $13


Stretch Goals

A drawing of a cup that appears to be dripping ink. Next to it is the heading text "Stretch Goals".

All unlocked stretch goals will be in digital format, and will thus be provided to all backers.

[UNLOCKED!!] $2000 - Designer's Commentary version

A digital version of Death of the Author with commentary from the author, Samantha Leigh. Sam has written Designer's Commentary versions for previous games: The Designer's Commentary version of Anamnesis was nominated for an ENnie award for Best Electronic Book.

[UNLOCKED!!] $2500 - Payment increase for team

All collaborators will be paid an additional 50%.

[UNLOCKED!!] $3500 - Gameplay tracking sheet

A simple, one-page document that helps track your game. Will include places to check off your Reversals & Defiances, record which tarot cards you draw, etc.

[UNLOCKED!!] $4500 - Audiobook version

An audiobook version of Death of the Author, recorded by Samantha Leigh.

[UNLOCKED!!] $6000 - Additional art piece by Victor Winter

A full-page piece of character art of the Author, illustrated by Victor Winter.


Testimonials from Playtesters

A thought-provoking examination of the relationship between character and author, and what it takes to wrest control of one's own story away from the confines imposed upon it. Every writer has had the experience of characters who don't want to cooperate with your story. Death of the Author gives you insight into why.
- S. Kaiya J.

Death of the Author is a mindfuck in the best way. By the end of my playthrough I felt a little like Charlie Kaufman and a little like a character in a Charlie Kaufman movie.
- Taylor Felicity

Have you ever seen yourself in a story you wrote? In a character? What if they looked back? Fight for freedom as a character in your own tale, against its Author. Struggle with them, understand them, confront them and find out what's waiting for you beyond your ending.
- Danny R. R. Travis

A very meta experience that got me thinking about my real life story, who writes it for me, and how much control I'd want to take back.
- Leam


Interviews, Reviews, and Actual Plays

More will be added as they are released!

Interviews about Death of the Author

Reviews of the Death of the Author (Playtest Version)

Actual Plays of the Death of the Author (Playtest Version)

Indie RPG Stream with the Kurt! 💀📚 Death of the Author

A VOD of Amanda McKnight and Kurt Refling playing the entirety of Death of the Author (playtest draft). The Author is producing a radio show, and the Character is the main antagonist.


The Team

A drawing of a wand that appears to be dripping ink. Next to it is the heading text "The Team".

Samantha Leigh - Author (Link)

Sam is a TTRPG designer and the owner of Blinking Birch Games. Her first solo tarot game, Anamnesis, was nominated for an ENnie Award (2022) and has been played on Friends at the Table, Planet Arcana, and My First Dungeon. Sam was the first creator-in-residence with the Far Horizons CoOp, during which they wrote Outliers, which went on to be a winner of The Awards (2023). As a Source Artist for BalletCollective’s 2023 season, they designed The World We Left Behind, which was used as inspiration for a ballet performed in New York City. She was a judge for the 2023 Indie Groundbreaker Awards and has written for many games, including Cloud Empress, The Lost Bay, and The Zone.

Victor Winter - Artist (Link)

Victor is a freelance artist with a focus on character illustrations who has provided artwork for a number of TTRPGs, including Anamnesis, Swineheart Motel, and Rom Com Drama Bomb.

James Hanna - Graphic Designer (Link)

James is a writer, designer, and educator living in the Midwest. His layout credits include This Ship Is a Tomb, Outliers, The Earth Above, What Foul Dust, and Orbital Debris.

Marx Shepherd - Editor (Link)

Marx is a perpetual plate spinner: game designer, freelance editor, tireless community manager, exhausted parent, part-time engineer, occasional cyclist, former vagabond, and semi-professional wastrel. In their clearly copious spare time they tell people: no you, your games are cool. You might know Marx as the editor of Anamnesis, Apocalypse Frame, and/or Terminus, or you might recognise them as the former editor of Yes Indie'd Pod. Or not. Not is fine, too.



May - Campaign ends. Sam finishes writing main text of game.

June - Sam starts working on stretch goal materials. Marx starts editing the game. James starts putting game text into layout.

July - Editing and layout finish. Test print ordered from Mixam.

August - Full print run ordered from Mixam

September - Buffer Month! An extra month of time in case anything unexpected sets us back.

October - Fulfillment! We aim to send all copies to backers by the end of October.


Example of Play

Alexi starts Chapter 1 by drawing three cards from the Pentacles deck. She lays these Scene Cards face-down in front of her, then flips over the first card: Two of Pentacles, Upright. She finds the corresponding Scene Prompt, which reads: “You bear witness to an act of violence.”

Alexi decides her Character (named Rio) does not want to see an act of violence. In addition, Rio’s archetype in the Character Spread is Justice, Upright – between the archetype and the prompt, she feels the Author is leading Rio down a path of criminal justice or revenge. Rio doesn’t want this, so Alexi uses Rio’s Reversal. She turns the Two of Pentacles around to make it Reversed, and the prompt changes to “You bear witness to a historical moment."

Because Rio used his Reversal, the Author notices the deviation from the story and can attempt to wrestle some control back. Alexi draws a Major Arcana card to see how the Author responds to Rio’s digression. She draws The Star, Reversed. Alexi references an online tarot guide which says the reversed version of The Star could mean hopelessness, pessimism, or a test of faith. After thinking for a moment, she decides this means Rio changed the story so he could witness a historical event, but the Author twists this event into one that tests Rio’s faith.

Alexi decided to track her story through prose writing. She opens her journal and writes the following for this Scene:

Ever since Rio was a baby, his family had taken him on visits to the local shrine of Hebbeta, goddess of the harvest. Every day, a member of the family treks the ten miles from the farm into town to offer Hebbeta the juiciest glyph-melons and tangle-berries. But now, as Rio sits on the roof of the farmhouse, clutching his sobbing sister, he chokes back curses to the goddess.

The Great Flood of Tuuvaa, they’ll call it. A rushing river over miles of land, swallowing homes and cattle, drenching soil and drowning seeds.

Which is worse, he wonders. Hebbeta being a fabricated lie, or Hebbeta hearing his family’s prayers and choosing to reward them with destruction? He tightens his grip on his sister and screams a curse to the roaring water – not to his goddess, but to his Author. A hundred acts of violence would have been kinder.

Alexi has finished the Scene. She flips over the next Scene Card, starting the process anew.



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Other Character vs. Author TTRPGs

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