The Deck of Many Things has a storied history in Dungeons & Dragons. It both inspires awe and instills fear in characters (and players) who find it. Some consider it a campaign killer, by either making some characters ridiculously overpowered or by outright killing others. Some look at it as something to introduce as the “endgame” to a campaign–a cathartic release to have fun with once the main story-line is completed. I look at it as any other GM tool; It can be carefully wielded to a desired effect or its use can be botched and lead to unintended consequences. Either way, I do not believe the Deck of Many Things has been given the Ubiquity treatment….until now.
The Ubiquity Deck of Many Things follows the format of the early versions of the D&D one–it’s based on a 78-card Tarot deck. Newer versions of the D&D DoMT appear to have fewer cards, which is understandable as I found it challenging to come up with 78 different card effects!
However, I wanted to make the Effects Chart match the typical Tarot card sets you may buy on Amazon and the like. You can find all manner of cool looking decks, from medieval to cosmic imagery to cards with slick gold edges to even holographic ones. I chose a Cthulhu themed deck to maximize its use across genres. I can see it used in a typical fantasy type setting, found in an ancient Atlantean Temple in the Hollow Earth, or stumbled upon by an elite unit in Quantum Black.
The Tarot cards I bought have a descriptive term printed on them in addition to the name of the card. This was helpful as I could match an effect with the descriptive term on the card. Not all Tarot cards have this feature, but you may find it useful if you want to design your own effects.
Compared to some of the effects of a Deck of Many Things in D&D, I have toned down many of the effects. Things like instant death or being transported to a prison far away are gone. I wanted the DoMT to be a fun addition to an adventure or campaign, not something that destroys the storyline. With that in mind, the effects are more nuanced– boosting or penalizing Attributes and skills, granting new Talents, affecting the wealth or possessions of the characters, adding new Flaws or Motivations, or even adding new story threads that can be woven into a campaign.
Implementation into a Game
Here are just a few guidelines I would use when putting a Deck of Many Things into an adventure. Of course feel free to change as you please–it’s your game!
- A Deck of Many Things is a unique, powerful, and mysterious artifact. It’s introduction into the game should give the players some indication of its power. It shouldn’t be the loot off an random henchman or found on the street.
- It should always be a player’s choice to draw from the Deck. It should also be made clear that there are good outcomes AND bad outcomes.
- Each character can draw from the Deck up to three times. Once a card is drawn, the effect takes place immediately–a character cannot change their mind if they do not like the result.
- Once everyone has drawn (or not drawn), the Deck of Many Things disappears! Perhaps it goes to another location. Perhaps the Gods take it back.
Please note that some of the terms used are specifically for my fantasy version of Ubiquity. You may need to change some wording to use these in one of the published games. For instance, “Psi” would be “Sanity” and “Psionic” would be “Psychic.”
- The Fool: Do not get experience for this session.
- The Magician (or The Mages): Gain the Magical Aptitude Talent. If you already have this Talent, your Magic skill level goes up by 2.
- The High Priestess: Gain the Theurgy Talent. If you already have this Talent, gain a Talent that has Theurgy as a prerequisite.
- The Empress: Suffer a permanent -1 penalty to your Passive Defense rating.
- The Emperor: Gain a +2 level bonus to Bureaucracy Skill.
- The Hierophant: Gain the Honorable Flaw.
- The Lovers: Gain the Lovelorn Flaw for a member of your party.
- The Chariot: Gain a permanent +2 bonus to your Movement.
- Strength: Gain a +1 bonus to your Strength attribute and your max Strength goes up by one.
- The Hermit: Suffer a permanent -1 Penalty to your Charisma attribute.
- Wheel of Fortune: Gain the Pawn of Prophecy Flaw.
- Justice: Gain the Vengeful Flaw.
- The Hanged Man: Suffer a permanent -1 penalty to your Health total.
- Death: Your negative Health track only goes to -3 (rather than -5).
- Temperance: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Archery Skill.
- The Devil: Gain the Addiction Flaw.
- The Tower: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Linguistics Skill.
- The Star: Gain a permanent bonus +2 to your Health.
- The Moon: You immediately contract Lycanthropy.
- The Sun: Once per session, you may automatically succeed at a Skill check.
- The Last Judgment: You will face some kind of reckoning in the future.
- The World: Gain 5 Experience.
Suit of Wands
- Ace of Wands: A potion appears that will heal all Health and restore all Psi when drank.
- Two of Wands: Gain the Refuge Resource.
- Three of Wands: Gain the Inspire Talent.
- Four of Wands: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Survival Skill.
- Five of Wands: Gain the Disfigured Flaw.
- Six of Wands: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Ride Skill.
- Seven of Wands: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Brawl Skill.
- Eight of Wands: Gain a +2 bonus to your Movement attribute.
- Nine of Wands: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Melee Skill.
- Ten of Wands: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Intimidation Skill.
- Princess (Page) of Wands: Gain the Danger Sense Talent.
- Prince (Knight) of Wands: Gain the Dodge Talent.
- Queen of Wands: Gain the Greed Motivation.
- King of Wands: Gain the Highborn Talent.
Suit of Cups
- Ace of Cups: Gain the Curious Flaw.
- Two of Cups: Gain the Animal Affinity Talent.
- Three of Cups: The gold you are carrying is doubled.
- Four of Cups: Gain the Mentor 2 Resource.
- Five of Cups: Your Pack disappears.
- Six of Cups: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Gambling Skill.
- Seven of Cups: Gain the Hedonist Flaw.
- Eight of Cups: Gain the Lazy Flaw.
- Nine of Cups: Gain the Overconfident Flaw.
- Ten of Cups: You no longer need to eat or drink to survive.
- Princess (Page) of Cups: Suffer a permanent -2 penalty to Perception.
- Prince (Knight) of Cups: Gain a +2 bonus to your Animal Handling Skill.
- Queen of Cups: Gain the Fearsome Talent.
- King of Cups: Gain the Animal Follower Resource.
Suit of Swords
- Ace of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Acrobatics Skill.
- Two of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to Diplomacy Skill.
- Three of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Empathy Skill.
- Four of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Medicine Skill.
- Five of Swords: Take 2 Lethal damage immediately. It cannot be mitigated.
- Six of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to an Academics Skill.
- Seven of Swords: Gain the Depressed Flaw.
- Eight of Swords: Once per session, you may interrupt the usual initiative order and take your turn when you wish.
- Nine of Swords: Gain the Sadist Flaw.
- Ten of Swords: All your gold disappears.
- Princess (Page) of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Con Skill.
- Prince (Knight) of Swords: Gain the Rank Resource.
- Queen of Swords: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Stealth Skill.
- King of Swords: Gain the Feint Talent.
Suit of Pentacles
- Ace of Pentacles: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Focus Skill.
- Two of Pentacles: Gain the Animal Antipathy Flaw.
- Three of Pentacles: Gain a +2 level bonus a Craft Skill.
- Four of Pentacles: Gain the Follower Resource.
- Five of Pentacles: Gain the Danger Magnet Flaw.
- Six of Pentacles: Gain the Jack of All Trades Talent.
- Seven of Pentacles: You will fail at a task in the future.
- Eight of Pentacles: Gain the Alertness Talent.
- Nine of Pentacles: Gain the Criminal Mind Talent.
- Ten of Pentacles: Gain 1000 gold.
- Princess (Page) of Pentacles: Gain the Easily Lost Flaw.
- Prince (Knight) of Pentacles: You are compelled to give away 10% of everything you earn to a charity.
- Queen of Pentacles: Gain a +2 level bonus to your Investigation Skill.
- King of Pentacles: Gain the Cool Head Talent.