Whenever I hear people talk about using a Deck of Many Things in a Dungeons and Dragons game, they are either playfully gleeful about, or morbidly fearful of, the destruction that can be unleashed. Players are often unwilling to use a Deck of Many Things because their character could be greatly hindered instead of, or in addition to, being helped. So I came up with a table that takes some of the sting out of a Deck while leaving the pure random fun of drawing cards for boon or bane. This is my Lesser Deck of Many Things.
Deck of Many Things: A deck of many things (both beneficial and baneful) is usually found in a box or leather pouch. Each deck contains a number of cards or plaques made of ivory or vellum. Each is engraved with glyphs, characters, and sigils. As soon as one of these cards is drawn from the pack, its magic is bestowed upon the person who drew it, for better or worse.
A character with a deck of many things who wishes to draw a card must announce how many cards he will draw before he begins. Cards must be drawn within 1 hour of each other, and a character can never again draw from this deck any more cards than he has announced. If the character does not willingly draw her allotted number (or if she is somehow prevented from doing so), the cards flip out of the deck on their own.
Exception: If the jester is drawn, the possessor of the deck may elect to draw two additional cards.
Each time a card is taken from the deck, it is replaced (making it possible to draw the same card twice) unless the draw is the jester or the fool, in which case the card is discarded from the pack. A deck of many things contains 22 cards. To simulate the magic cards, you may want to use tarot cards, as indicated in the second column of the accompanying table. If no tarot deck is available, substitute ordinary playing cards instead, as indicated in the third column. The effects of each card, summarized on the table, are fully described below.
Plaque: Summary of Effect
Balance: You are geased to aid your next intelligent opponent.
Comet: You gain a permanent, inherent +1 bonus to hit.
Donjon: You automatically fail the next roll to resist any creature or effect that would restrain you.
Euryale: –1 penalty on all saving throws henceforth.
The Fates: Avoid any situation you choose . . . once.
Flames: The next creature you try to befriend attacks you as soon as they have the advantage.
Fool: Lose 10% of any experience points gained so far this level.
Gem: Gain knowledge of a great treasure (up to 50,000 gp, and it must have a EL 18th guardian).
Idiot: -2 to a random ability score.
Jester: You may cast a random effect from a wand of wonder as a supernatural ability, once per day.
Key: You receive the inspiration and resources to create a magic item worth up to 25,000 gp.
Knight: Gain the service of a CR 4 Outsider.
Moon: You are granted 1 limited wish.
Rogue: Allies refuse to aid you for the duration of one combat.
Ruin: An organization started by you, led by you, or that you belong to loses 25,000 gp worth of resources. Alternately, you take a permanent, inherent, -1 modifier to your leadership score.
Skull: You gain -10 penalty to all attacks against the next foe you face. That foe gains a +10 bonus to all attacks against you.
Star: Immediately gain a +2 inherent bonus to a random ability score.
Sun: The next time you make a request of an NPC, it is granted.
Talons: Next time you are affected by an area spell, you fail your save and so does one of your magic items.
Throne: An organization started by you, led by you, or that you belong to gains 25,000 gp worth of resources. Alternately, you take a permanent, inherent, +1 modifier to your leadership score.
Vizier : The next time you cast or consult a spellcaster for a divination, it automatically succeeds and you gain the maximum effect.
The Void: You suffer the effect of a maze the next time you are in combat, sharing your imprisonment with a succubus.
Strong, all schools; CL 20th
This version of the Deck of Many Things can probably put into a game at any level. Any effect that has a gp total attached to it can be adjusted up or down if the GM worries about in game effects. Use a treasure value equal to average party level +3 to determine the maximum value of an award, or your own judgment, whichever you trust more. Effects that change the nature of encounters with NPCs should probably be applied quickly, or they will be forgotten.