Journey Deck

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The Journey Deck is a divination tool from Downwarp used in a way broadly similar to the Tarot: A number of cards are laid out in specific patterns, and a reader interprets their sequence and interrelation to gain some insight into a situation for the 'journeyer', the individual asking the question (who may also be the reader). The specifics are distinct from the Tarot, though, starting with the fact that there are only 54 cards. This happens to be the same number as in a standard deck of playing cards (counting jokers) which certainly comes in handy in a place where most personal belongings are scavenged. Of course, finding a single complete deck of cards is also not all that likely from scavenging, it's likely that a Downwarper putting together a deck will have to combine several scrounged incomplete decks into a full one, but that's still one of the more straightforward ways to put together a set of 54 similar-but-distinct bits of paper.

Although the card count is the same, the structure is different; instead of four suits, there are three, as well as a number of out-of-suit cards, like the Tarot's Major Arcana. Readers differ somewhat on how they arrange the suits and out-suit cards, some considering each suit to have 12 cards, 9 'number' cards and three 'face' cards, then breaking up the remaining 18 cards into two non-suit groups, while some only count the 'number' cards as part of the suits, gathering the 'face' cards together in a third non-suit group.

Since the structure of the deck is distinct from that of other decks that may have been scavenged, the cards must be heavily customized. Each reader customizes their deck, either altering the cards themself or bartering for illustrations from other artists. The This makes each deck a unique and personal object, and Gridwalkers tend to believe this sort of work is necessary for the deck to work at all, in that it creates or awakens the spirit in the deck that will speak through the cards. Some decks are lavishly illustrated, while others simply have lettering across mis-matched playing cards, but each one is a treasured possession of its owner.

Though all decks are unique, the shared Gridwalker worldview and deck structure traditions mean it's usually not hard for one reader to recognize the markings and meanings in another reader's deck. The structure described below may not cover every deck perfectly, but it gives a good idea of the general shape of things to expect.

The Suits

Half the cards in the deck are numbered cards aligned with the three Core Nodes of the Circuit: Spark, Steel, and Smoke. The Cores have their traditional broad meanings of creation, pattern, and transformation, respectively, with a bit more elaboration included in the suits:

  • Spark includes data, signals and the process of becoming, it's the bridge between the internal and external, and thus is close to both Air and Earth in the classical elements.
  • Steel is the most likely to be concerned with the physical world, as well as social and emotional closeness and communion. It has the most ties to classical Earth and Water.
  • Smoke is psychological and ephemeral, its interpersonal concerns are often those of instrumentality; getting people to do things. In classical terms, it is Water meeting Air.

(On the subject of classical elements, it's worth noting that all three are considered to have ties to Fire; the Circuit is after all a description of the creative process)

Each suit has nine numbered cards; One of Spark, Six of Steel, and so on. Each one also has another traditional name which gives a closer pointer to its actual divinatory meaning:

  1. Font of (Core)
  2. Herald of (Core)
  3. Inner (Core)
  4. Core (Core)
  5. Fractured (Core)
  6. Outer (Core)
  7. Conduit of (Core)
  8. Well of (Core)
  9. Flowing (Core)

This suggests a process running from inception to completion, and that colors the meanings of each card. The specifics vary from one element to the next, but some commonalities can be found:

  1. The Font is the root or first glimmering of the element; for instance, the first initial notion of a greater work (in the case of the Font of Spark)
  2. The Herald brings the nascent element to the attention of the journeyer. This often represents an actual person, and also often a choice; the journeyer can accept the summons, or turn away, Either could be the right choice, depending on circumstance.
  3. The number three calls back to the three-part circuit itself, and refers to the manifestation of the element inside someone, a driving force or the beginning of skill.
  4. One more added to the three represents the journeyer standing in the middle, establishing mastery, now almost halfway through the cycle.
  5. But with increased skill comes increased risk, and it's the way of the circuit that too much force is the very thing that causes problems. The fracture is the element misused, betraying itself.
  6. Direct effect of the element on the world. This can be negative - a direct progression of 5's fracture, or a true show of power thanks to the lessons learned in overcoming the fracture.
  7. The Element acts through the Conduit, which, like the Herald, is sometimes an actual person, and always a force of change. The cycle is nearing its end, and each element is always changing into another, so the Conduit is dynamic and often at least a bit ambiguous. They are the inverse of the herald; they will not be ignored, for good or ill.
  8. The Well is the inverse of the Font, the element in its fullest flush, and, perhaps, a moment of respite or glory before it moves on to be something else.
  9. The Flow is the culmination of the cycle, a true expression of the element, and as such, on the verge of changing into the next element in the cycle. Endings are always beginnings.

Illustrations on these cards are similar to what you might expect in the Tarot, with one to nine 'instances' of the element on each one, though in this case instances are likely to be fairly broadly interpreted. Sparks may be literal bolts of lightning, or icons of data, or scorch marks on a circuit board. They're less likely than tarot cards are to show people, though nearly all Conduit and Herald illustrations focus on a person.

The Tribe

The Tribe cards are the 'face' cards of the deck, and as mentioned above, they occupy an ambiguous space; some readers see them as forming their own set of nine, while others split the cards up by elements and add them to each suit. Regardless of how it's categorized, the nature and correspondences of the Tribe card is well-established: they almost always represent people in a reading, even moreso than the Heralds and Conduits. Each tribe card has two attributes, a 'role' of Scribe, Builder, or Alchemist, and a 'stage' of Growing, Working, or Teaching. Each set of attributes also maps to the elements, as Spark, Steel, and Smoke respectively. Thus, there are also two different ways that the Tribe members can be grouped with the suits; some readers put all Scribes with Spark, and others group all Growing cards with Spark.


The roles derive originally from the circuit-golem 'genders', the three crafts that need to come together when creating a new synthetic person in the Downwarp tradition. As such, this aspect of the tribe cards still has a slight gender connotation, though not to the male/female schema. Golems that manifest one of these genders, or someone known for taking on that 'gender' in golem creation is likely to be associated with that role in the cards, but it's by no means prescriptive. The roles are more about what you do than what you are.

  • The Scribe works with data and concept; in the golem reproductive process they are in charge of writing and infusing the programming into the constructed body. Elsewise, the scribe can be found caught up in their own creation, performers, writers, and dreamers.
  • The Builder does hard, impressive work in the physical world. They build things to last. In golem construction, the builder is responsible for creating the basic frame and appearance of the new golem. Other builders can be found ordering the world, whether it's managing people or raising office buildings.
  • The Alchemist brings change where it's needed. They create the systems by which a golem works, tying programming to body. In other situations, the alchemist is always there to make things better, or at least different; the bartender, the doctor, the assassin.


The stages are points along the journey of personal development inside your role. A gridworker goes from learning, to practicing, to training and refining. Even so, there's no particular expectation to move from one stage to another; some people seem to be most set as teachers, others never lose the unfocussed exuberance of a student. Further, even though the stages seem to have a loose association with age, age itself doesn't mean much in a society where immortality and rebirth are common. Stages are not about how good you are at something, they're about what you do with your knowledge.

  • A Growing tribemember acts as if everything is new, and may be new themself, to the world or to their role. They're full of potential and inspiration... and naivety. They don't know what is and isn't possible, and as such can make wonders or messes. They're the sort of person who's always starting new projects, and has a hard time finishing any of them.
  • A Working tribemember is confident and established in whatever they do, they make a clear contribution and a clear difference. They'll do what they need to and do it well, though likely without a lot of innovation. They're the person you call on when you need help or support through the long slog of implementation.
  • A Teaching tribemember has seen it all, and grown tired of doing it. They feel they're best suited to move others through their own stages, or even teach a new role. Working didn't provide enough latitude for them anymore, and they want to make changes. In day to day life, they're the sort of person you go to when you feel stuck and need a different perspective.

The canny reader understands that no one is ever always in one stage or role, the notion of changing from one to another is build into all six descriptors, and as mentioned above, the tribe cards are more about how someone acts than their fundamental nature.

The Tribe card illustrations are, of course, always people. They often have some elemental symbolism, though it depends on tradition whether it's tied to role, stage, or both.

The Scenes

The scenes represent places things happen, whether physical, emotional, or symbolic. They are inherently environmental, but their meaning could be literal, or simply suggestive of the mood of a situation. Given they usually refer to external influences, the Scenes have some things in common with the major arcana of the Tarot, but while the Majors point to big cosmic forces, the scenes are much more mundane, talking about the social connections and environmental factors that you can easily see and feel, if you think to look for them.

In a reading, they tend to modify the other cards near them, talking about the circumstances surrounding them, as well as social influences and overall mood. Unlike the previous sets of cards we've discussed, the Scenes have no established elemental correspondences, though individual readers might have their own systems of ascribing elements to them.

Since the Gridwalk Deck originates in Downwarp, the scenes are mostly taken from the palette of somewhat-run-down urbanism. Again, these are not necessarily literal, and each scene always comes with a canonical templated phrase that helps suggest how they can be applied in other circumstances.

  1. The Flat - "Where you're Safe": Home and hearth, Safety and family and baseline, for good or ill. This is the place from which journeys tend to begin, or where you return when they're done. This implies minimal social involvement, it's one of the most solitary scenes.
  2. The Study - "Where you Learn": Potential and development, but also sometimes rote and drudgery. This is one of the cards most likely to have different names in different decks too; 'school', 'club' and 'salon' are other common ones. It implies more social entanglements than the Flat, which, as happens in places of learning, can be strongly positive or strongly negative.
  3. The Workshop - "Where you Build": Downwarp is a place of makers; with everything always wearing down, it has to be. The workshop is a location where someone does the things rewarding to themself and thier community. This may not always be building objects; building social ties and communities is just as important.
  4. The Highway - "Where you Salvage": A good chunk of Downwarp is uninhabited junkland, good places to scround and scavenge. Many of these were apparently formerly massive highways, which leads to the common name for this scene. This implies work, often solitary, that isn't glamorous but is necessary. It also implies some help from outside sources, since Downwarp seems to provide well for its inhabitants via salvage.
  5. The Bazaar - "Where you Trade": The bazaars are the most active and vibrant public spaces in Downwarp, so this is one of the most strongly social cards, and a strongly positive, supportive one as well. There's no little implication of traditional capitalism here; basic needs are provided for by the rudiments of Puzzlebox's post-scarcity systems, after all, the bazaar is where you go when you have or want something new or exciting, and are looking to barter experiences and stories as well as works.
  6. The Streets - "Where you Fight": This doesn't quite mean what it sounds like. In a place where death is a minor inconvenience and the environment makes it difficult to violate someone's personal consensuality, conflict is usually more ideological than visceral. Factions vie for converts and defectors, causes look for support, art-war is waged. Still, it's hardly pleasant. The Streets are just as social as the Bazaar, but its polar opposite in mood; oppositional rather than supportive.
  7. The Stage - "Where you Perform": When you've done something you're really proud of, and you don't want to trade with it, or use it to convince, but just want to show off, this is where you go. The Stage is putting yourself out there for the world, bringing your best and trying to make a difference without being sure what the response would be. Often, the audience is seen as distant from yourself, in contrast to the close collaboration of the Bazaar.
  8. The Club - "Where you Party": When your long struggle is done, for the day or week or longer, this is where you go to celebrate. It doesn't have to be thumping music or flashing lights, but the Club does usually represent a social space, even if it's a quiet one full of comfy places to sit and thick curls of smoke. The Club is joyful release and reward, coming together with others and leaving renewed.
  9. Outside - "Where you Explore": Downwarp is big, possibly unbounded, but it isn't all there is. There's a whole other universe out there, full of even stranger things. There are plenty of reasons to go out there, and it encompasses everything else here; work, salvage, trade, reward. Outside is the most likely to be modified even by other scenes, but it stands well on its own as well to mean 'endless possibility' or even 'the unexpected'.

The art for the Scene cards varies the most from one deck to another; since many readers make their own decks, they tend to use places that are personally meaningful to them or those close to them. Usually the scenes do show locations, sometimes focussing on a certain central image, sometimes showing a wide expansive view. If they show people, they almost always show them as crowds, without much individual detail, to ensure the card can be read without seeming to refer to anyone specific.

The Themes

The Themes are the big ideas and powers that can intervene in the workings of Downwarp (and the rest of the puzzlebox). They're not all entities, per se, but many of them are often seen that way, especially given the animist outlook that predominates in Downwarp. As such, the Themes fill a very similar role to the Major Arcana in the Tarot deck, speaking to difficult-to-control external and esoteric forces at work in the worlds.

The Themes also form a companion set to the Scenes, the meanings of cards at the same position in each set often mirroring each other. In a sense, the Themes are the "as above" to the Scenes' "so below"; having even one pairing of Scene and Theme in a reading often dramatically affects the reader's interpretation of the cards, amplifying their combined (or individual) implications, especially if they're in complementary or opposing positions.

The specific names and representations of the Themes are very specific to the milieu they came from, and the correspondence might be hard for outwarpers to understand at first glance. The descriptions below try to unpack the origins a bit, but those who are still confused can just rely on using the symbolic meanings and not worry much about the more literal origins.

  1. Tree - The Cube Tree stands at the center of the Puzzlebox, in a space all its own, outside the warps, yet seemingly serving as a crossroads between them all. Some believe the Cube Tree is the heart of the 'Box, while others think it's the mind. Nearly everyone assumes it's an entity, and somehow related to the creation of the Puzzlebox itself. In a reading, the Tree references beginnings, uniqueness, singularity.
  2. Mirror - The Magic Mirror is a shimmering substance that can seeming appear anywhere, made of willful nanoassembler or something stranger. It acts as both a replicator and a cross-warp transit system, but seems as if it could do nearly anything, if one could just work out how to ask it correctly. The Mirror Theme represents unbridled potentiality, plenty, and movement, all figurative and literal.
  3. Circuit - The Circuit has been mentioned before, it's the central tool and metaphor of  Downwarp mysticism, the flow of energy through Spark, Steel, and Smoke. As such, its Theme directly references that sort of willwork and creative process, as well as productive work and progression more generally.
  4. Entropy - Things fall apart in Downwarp. Entropy seems to have the advantage, it's always in ruin, and it seems that if anyone wanted to build it up, they wouldn't get far. And yet, people still live there. For the inhabitants, there's more to it than aesthetics. Sure, some like the look of rusted metal and crumbling buildings, but for many it's more about the challenge of building something from what you find, and keeping it going. This Theme represents that challenge, the hardships we willingly accept that make life interesting.
  5. Datasphere - One of the other services the Puzzlebox provides is ubiquitous connection. Whether by implants, psychic link, magic mirror access, or something else, everyone has the ability to talk to people they know and find information. It's second-nature to speak to friends over the datasphere, and use it as a secondary brain. Like all the Puzzlebox's services, it seems to have a personality of its own, which is earnestly helpful, but sometimes a bit flighty. Still, in a reading the Datasphere usually speaks to external sources of support and social ties.
  6. Virus - Generally, damage can be fixed via a restore from backup. Generally, Puzzleboxers have resources to protect themselves from things they don't want to happen. But generally, these generalities don't apply to the Strangevirus. The Strangevirus is a piece of the essence of one of the other warps, gone very very bad. It twists and corrupts in ways that get right around the defenses that everyone takes for granted. The Virus Theme represents change you don't want, violation of consent, or at best, simply unthinkable incomprehensible interference.
  7. Museum - Twined around and through the Puzzlebox are the impeccably designed extradimensional corridors of the Museum. The Museum seems to be separate from the 'box, but still a related... organism? Entity? No one is sure. Like the Puzzlebox, is has its owned themed areas with their different correspondences and rules, but where the Puzzlebox is ad-hoc and personable, the Museum is perfect and austere, showcasing the best things the multiverse has to offer. A a Theme, it represents excellence, perfection, and external interaction of a positive (or at least non-destructive) sort.
  8. Renewal - It's been mentioned before, but the impact is big enough that of course it has its own theme. Barring extraordinary conditions or personal choice, death isn't really a thing that happens in the Puzzlebox. Bodies don't age unless they want to, and the Backup System is yet another service that watches over everyone. A death and renewal usually means you learned something, and got a fresh start. Some cultures, especially in Downwarp, even use personal death and backup-restore as part of rituals. This Theme represents the freedom provided by that system, and the productive cycles of change that it allows.
  9. Grid - The names given to this Theme vary, but the concept is simple. It's also called The Box, The Mess, the Universe, or the Multiverse. The name Grid, though, references a concept in Candescent Engineering, the grand superstructure, the sum of all ways and paths along which energy can flow. The underlying theme is easy to see; it's completion, totality, abstraction and sometimes even transcendence.

Though their meanings are abstract, most of the Themes do correspond to something that has a physical existence or effect somewhere in the Puzzlebox, so the sorts of imagery on the Themes is often centered around a relatively concrete representation. Still, they are the most likely to have quite a bit of abstract elements as well, often around the borders, where a concrete Theme seems to reach out and subtly pervade the space of the rest of the card and, by implication, beyond.

The Road Spread

Cards are laid out in this order, starting with the pre-chosen Traveller (Marked as T, below) then from 1 to 9:


The Traveler - In most cases, this is selected beforehand from the Tribe cards to be the one most closely matching the journeyer’s position in life, by the joint agreement of journeyer and reader.

  1. The Road Behind - Preceding circumstances, how the journeyer got to this point.
  2. The Road Ahead - Immediate future circumstances, probably has some bearing on why the journeyer is asking whatever they are asking.
  3. The Companion - Someone or something accompanying the journeyer on the journey; personal external factors.
  4. The Traffic - The general environment and circumstances of the path; impersonal external factors.
  5. The Roadblock - Something the journeyer will have to overcome as they make their way forward.
  6. The Crossroads - The point in the journey where the journeyer will have to make an important or difficult decision. The card here helps you recognize it, though not which way to go; it should be read closely tied to the Paths, revealed next.
  7. Path 1 - One immediate result or influence on the Crossroads choice. Both paths should be laid at the same time, and flipped together.
  8. Path 2 - Another immediate influence or result from the Crossroads. Usually mutually exclusive from Path 1, but not necessarily.
  9. The Destination - Outcome and result, may tie into one of the Paths, helping make a decision, or may be totally oblique to it all; the road is never entirely set.