Dungeons and Dragons Item: Deck of Many Things


I’m going to be talking a little bit today about the Deck of Many Things. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a very… Depending on who you’d ask some would call it a notorious item. It certainly has a lot of name recognition. I decided to read it because I was curious about what it did. After flipping through it, all I can say is Wow it’s uh, quite something. In case you don’t know I’ll give you a brief summary. What I was told Is that the idea is the Deck of Many Things is a deck of about at most twenty-two cards, sometimes less than that. When you draw a card it’s like the reverse of a tarot deck: Instead of predicting the future, it makes the future happen, depending on what you draw. However, half the cards are good and half the cards are bad. So the deck is just as likely to give you something as it is to take it away from you. And it’s put into the game to add variety and surprise. However most DMs I talk to never use it in their games because it basically breaks everything: Making the characters too high level, low level, Giving them too much stuff they didn’t earn, or introducing irrelevant plots. The first thing that hit me from reading it was that I was lied to! The deck seems to tend a bit more to the bad side than good. Also some people said that there’s a slight risk of the end of your character. Yeah, no. That might be True of the Pathfinder and 3.5 deck, but it certainly isn’t true for the Fifth Edition one. Reading through, it is almost 22% chance that your character will just be done. First off: the worst card effect in the Deck in my opinion? Balance. The card changes your Alignment. Lawful becomes Chaotic. Chaotic becomes Lawful. Good becomes Evil. Evil becomes Good. and Neutral does nothing. Since most of the characters in D&D are Good, if they draw this card and become Evil they are Done™ In my opinion, this is the worst card effect in the Deck to draw because at least if your character dies, they’re just gone and you might get a cool story out of it. I’ve seen characters become Evil through magic, madness, or whatnot and the evil can undo all the good that adventurer did during their life, leading to a very bitter end. Well, There is another card, Flames, which might be worse. You piss off a demon, who goes around murdering your friends, loved ones, and ruining your life before torturing and killing you. Uuh… It’s a toss-up. I don’t know which one would be worse for me. They’re both pretty bad Next the good card, Comet. For Comet if you defeat the next encounter single-handedly it gives you a level up. Now, at first I just read it without thinking and thought to myself, “Oh hey it gives you a level,” but then it took me a moment to reread. Single-Handedly. You. Single-Handedly. have to handle the next encounter. Okay, what kind of character can handle an encounter on their own? And if they can, then they don’t need an extra level! What’s even more interesting is the card Fool, which takes away XP, Does it automatically when it’s drawn. You don’t have to lose a fight or anything. So if you want to gain XP you gotta work for that shit! What do you think this is, magic? If I wanted to work for things, I wouldn’t be drawing from a magical Deck Which Causes Things to Happen Instantly! With Throne, it gives you bonus Persuasion and you get your own Keep. However… Unlike other versions of the Deck, in 5th Edition the Keep is infested with monsters and it’s yours as long as you slay the monsters and claim it as your own Okay, wait so couldn’t they just claim any monster-infested keep as their own? I mean you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons. You’ve gotta pass like 13 on your way there. Then I want to talk a little bit about the card the Skull It summons an Avatar of Death to fight you. You must take on this Avatar of Death alone. Now, one of the interesting things that struck me about this is I read through the Avatar of Death stat block and he’s… actually kind of takeable. It starts with half of the hit points of the one who summoned it, has Truesight so you can’t escape from it, is immune to most Conditions (necrotic, poison, and Turn Undead), it does 1d8+3 Slashing + 1d8 Necrotic so about 11 damage per round Which is an automatic hit so it doesn’t need to roll. The only thing which is scary is that the Avatar of Death has an Armor Class of 20, so it’s tough to hit. You know, I don’t know who’d win in a straight-up fight. I think a fighter would have a much better chance than a wizard. My wizard has 15 hit points so the Avatar would have 8. I think it might come down to one roll to see who kills who. Then there’s The Vizier. Which lets you ask the GM a question and he has to answer it. Let me tell you right now, This card, more than any of the other ones, will break your game. All the other ones are more manageable than this. If the players ask “What’s the villain planning?” or “Where does the Evil Lich keep his phylactery?” Those plot lines are Over. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but most people don’t even realize how powerful/game-breaking scrying information is. So there’s about two to five Cards that will just end your character: Balance, which changes your Alignment Donjon, which entombs you in a state of suspended animation extra-dimensional sphere Flames, where a devil tries to kill you The Void, which sucks out your soul and Skull, which summons the Avatar of Death. Two of them are guaranteed instant Game Overs The other 3 are more questionable, depending on your stats, Alignment, and how vindictive the GM is. As it is, I would never run this in one of my games. I don’t care about wrecking my story; I just care about wrecking the players’ story. If they had this paladin who drew Balance and suddenly became Evil and started killing people it would be interesting, but more in a schadenfreude way. Listing off some of the other good things that you can get in The Deck are: the service of a knight; change your past; Get gems; Get a magic item; and lastly wishes. You could pull 1d3 wishes from the Deck. I always find wishes to be weird things in fantasy, the reason being that in most mythology wishes actually do Terrible Horrible Things to the people that find them and most people end up back at the start with an understanding of why they never wanted those in the first place. So I don’t know why they’re given here supposedly as good things. Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong because then again D&D probably shouldn’t follow actual mythology too closely. After all, the entire concept of the knight’s quest for the Holy Grail is that the young adventurer never actually succeeds. He never becomes immortal A quest is about discovering the power inside of yourself. He’s technically supposed to discover that he doesn’t need bitchin’ magic swag because he has bitchin’ magic swag in his heart. Yeah yeah. It’s a good thing we don’t do that in our games. However, this might be surprising, but I still like the item. What you can do is take this item and start with it as a base, and then mod it and build on the item to suit the game. So when I run it I’ve made up my own magic item which I call the Deck of Destiny. It refreshes every day. Players could only draw one card per day, which would either curse them, give them a bonus, magic item, shrink them, grow them into a giant, turn them incorporeal, etc. I also got rid of the “boring” effects like Imprisonment or the Void where they would just be gone for a day. I modified the item so to add a little bit of variety to how they go about solving problems. Another way you could mod the deck Is to keep Rogue and Flames and instead make the deck introduce more plot elements into the game Like you become embroiled in a political conflict Or someone falls madly in love with you Or You could have the cards in the Deck create new encounters like summoning a monster. If they kill the monster they get some kind of a bonus. Or you could make the deck have nothing but minor benefits and how the players draws in on endgame bonus [?] Ultimately, if you have the Deck of Many Things, you want to want the players to draw. If they don’t draw, then it just doesn’t add anything to the game. Some might like playing the Deck just straight. I mean what what are the odds that I’m going to get the Void and get- Goddamnit! Every time!

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