The world doesn’t really need another variation of the deck of many things, but I built one anyway. I wanted to add something like it to my Ptolus/Pathfinder campaign, but had some slightly different objectives than I’d seen from other variations:
- based on the Decktet deck
- focus on individual cards instead of the whole deck, somewhat like Madness at Gardmore Abbey does
- make assembling and drawing from the deck something the players would have to go out of their way to accomplish, instead of just lobbing the full-power, completed deck into a campaign
- make drawing cards more difficult, but even more campaign altering than the original deck of many things if the players buy into it.
Though I requested some assistance with the deck from Story Games, I didn’t expect this to bear much fruit. My expectations were met.
If you have read this far, you probably know the deck of many things has a well-deserved reputation for breaking campaigns, where the result of one card would could derail all the action into some odd (and, to the group, inconvenient) place. There have been a number of variations of the deck, most of which seek to solve this problem by gimping the effects of drawing cards.
I wanted the pandemonium deck to go a different direction: rather than avoid the campaign derail, embrace it, but set things up so that everyone is expecting, even demanding, the derail. In broad strokes:
- No one ever finds the ‘’deck’’ whole. People find individual cards.
- If cards are present at a battle, one of them exerts an “influence” on the battle providing a moderate benefit that moves at random around the battlefield. (There are other assorted tricks, like forcing your card to be the influencing one, etc.)
- Gathering more cards provides the owner with bennies.
- If the players decide to make tracking down cards a thing they care about, at a certain point, mechanics kick in that accelerate this process (abilities to locate cards, communicate with those that have them, etc.)
- Once the entire deck is assembled (presumably after quite a bit of effort), a ritual allows the more classic “drawing a card from the deck” major mojo. There is a slight bit of player control here (draw three, but choose the one that takes effect, etc.).
- Drawn cards disintegrate and reform at random elsewhere, so must be collected again before another draw can be made.
The resulting deck can be found here: Pandemonium Deck
Update: I converted this artifact to Dungeon World as the Whispering Deck.