The Best-Laid Plans: An Alternative Action Spread

When querents bring a planning question to the table, they typically have at least a rough idea of what they want to do, although it may be founded more on hope and conjecture than clear-eyed foresight. Most are aware they need a fall-back position, or “Plan B,” to which they can resort if things don’t go as intended. These alternatives are usually even less well-thought-out than the primary course of action. This spread is designed to offer additional guidance in the event the initial reading shows the desired path to be flawed.

I’m a sucker for designing “hidden” (face-down) cards into a spread that are brought into play only under certain conditions. This is my answer to “clarifier” cards, which I see as an avoidance tactic that dodges having to think too hard about the original pull. Here I provide two “option” cards for each step of the Plan A trajectory. The idea is that only one of the cards will be turned face-up (my “Lady or the Tiger” scenario) to show the best way to recover from any deficiency in the original proposal. If a Plan A position is weakened by a card that is unfortunate by nature, reversed, or elementally ill-dignified by its neighbors, one of the two option cards can be tapped for further advice. Not all Plan A steps will necessarily require an alternative viewpoint; it should be reserved for those situations where the outlook is truly clouded and not just treated as idle-curiosity data or “oh, by the way” padding for the main reading. Where Plan A looks like smooth sailing, these cards aren’t used at all. In such cases, the spread will take longer to set up than to read.

I’ve also included a “quintessence” step that is to be used only if a Plan B card is brought into the picture. The “quint” is a calculated roll-up of the numerical values of the Plan A and Plan B cards (fully described here: that is intended to show larger forces that may be put into motion by the querent’s decisions. This will always be a trump card, and is traditionally viewed as a major external influence entering the matter. As used here, it would be invoked by the querent’s activation of Plan B. Here’s a brief example: Card #1, the preparatory phase of Plan A, is the 7 of Pentacles, showing that the financial status of the project is unfavorable; Alternate Card #1 is the 8 of Swords, indicating that there are no good options; the “quint” card is the Devil: enter Shylock, the unscrupulous money-lender.

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