Once Upon a Time Rules Variants
In designing the Once Upon a Time 3rd Edition storytelling card game, we came up with lots of variants that didn't make it into the final version. Here are some of the best for you to enjoy:
Multiple Endings (from OUAT 2nd Ed)
In this version you're dealt two Ending cards at the start of the game, either of which you can play to win the game. This is a good variant to use if you're just learning the game, and can also be used for balancing the game if some players are more experienced than the rest: Give the less-experienced players two ending cards to aim for.
Exchanging Endings (from OUAT 2nd Ed)
If you're telling the story and pass play on to the player on your left, then you can discard your Ending card, picking a new one from the top of the Endings deck. If you do this you must take two cards from the top of the Story deck instead of the one card you would normally take for passing. You can't discard an Ending card and a Story card at the same time.
Tales for Tots
Remove the Interrupts to simplify the game for children. Each player simply plays a card and tells the next part of the story, than passes the story on to the next player, so that there's no interruption at all.
For even easier play, try playing with fewer cards per hand, or even with no hands at all! With no hands, each player turns up the top card from the Story deck and adds the next sentence of the story based on it, then passes the story on to the next player.
If young players are having trouble thinking far enough in advance to work towards a particular resolution, leave the Endings out entirely so that you win when you play your last card. Or do away with competition and just have the story end when the last Story card is played, with no winner declared.
To encourage collaborative play, use just one Ending for the entire table, so that everyone steers the story to the same resolution.
Endings and Story cards are shuffled together, and a player may "win" whenever he comes to an Ending that makes sense. This also works in the context of a multi-player game where all the cards are dealt out; each time a player comes up with an Ending he wins the "trick."
At the end of the game, a player can challenge the winner if he thinks he had an ending that would have been more fun and made more sense. The other players vote to determine the final winner.
Treat the game as consisting of THREE decks — Story cards, Ending cards, and Interrupt cards. That way, you could say that a hand of cards consisted of, for example, 5 Story cards, 2 Interrupt cards, and 1 Ending card. That has the obvious advantage that everyone definitely gets two chances to interrupt, regardless of how easy or difficult a hand of Story cards they're dealt. You can play your Ending card when all your Story cards (but not all your Interrupt cards) are gone. This removes the issue of Interrupts piling up in your hand at the end of the game.
Using this rule, a player can't play 2 cards of the same Category in succession. This discourages card-slapping play, but it also slows things down with added player challenges to the Storyteller, and makes it harder for her to play cards.
Playing with Expansions
If you simply shuffle an expansion into the basic deck, its flavor gets lost in the mix. Removing a third of the original cards works much better, and note that each deck has an individual deck icon in the bottom right corner to make it easy to sort them. The deck with the crown icon is the Nobility deck and has the general theme of wealth, urban settings, combat, and imprisonment. The one with the cottage icon is the Commoners deck and deals mainly with poverty, the countryside, and social interactions. The one with the monster icon is the Outsiders deck, which has as its theme the non-human, wickedness, places far away, and travel.
Also, the theme of an expansion is heightened if you simply replace the original Ending deck with the expansion Endings, instead of mixing them. If people are trying to guide the story to a nautical Ending, the story automatically becomes nautical, after all.
Playing with Duplicate Decks
If your friend happens to have a copy of Once Upon a Time, too, or if you own both 2nd and 3rd Edition, try mixing all the Story cards together and playing that way. Played cards aren't "safe" any more, you can interrupt a Story Card with its duplicate, and you can have duplicate cards in your hand. It's fun and fast and silly!
Roleplaying with OUAT
Use the Story cards as an aide for roleplaying games. Deal out a few cards to each player, and let them play cards during the game to change the plot in a way that relates to the card. To make it more challenging, deal some to your villains, too!