A Look at the New Deck of Many Things

The magical item, The Deck of Many Things, has a long history within D&D, first created for the Greyhawk setting and then appearing in every edition of the game in some fashion, either among magic items in the DMG or as part of various adventures. The new Deck of Many Things product set for 5E doesn't just reprint a synthesis of prior versions of the Deck (or Tarot) of Many Things. It both expands it and provides an abundance of related material for both DMs and players.

The Book of Many Things_Alt Cover_Front_Art by Couple of Kooks.jpg

As with modern D&D products, it comes in two physical versions – a mass market set and one with a limited edition cover for game and hobby stores. Both varieties are packaged in a sealed box with a tear strip. Inside is a standard sized D&D hardcover book, The Book of Many Things, and a slipcased box that contains the deck itself and a smaller hardcover reference guide to the cards, the latter the upscale equivalent to the small booklets that commonly tarot decks.

The set gives you 66 cards – 22 for the classic Deck of Many Things plus the 44-card Deck of Many More Things. All of them have a gold foil treatment and gold edges, with fantastic art. The additional cards are rationalized as cards created over time by powerful mages, either joining the original deck or becoming variant decks, depending upon your campaign preference.

If one word was used to sum up this product it's flexibility. The designers clearly went in with the intention to honor the past while also making the Deck of Many Things something that can be used in a campaign of any level, depending upon the cards the DM chooses for their deck, and one that doesn't have to break a campaign, which was a frequent complaint (and source of many player stories). A DM could use the classic deck or combine the cards into a wide variety of themed decks with varying power and threat levels. It's also possible, if the DM chooses, to handle the decks and even if use them for in-game divination without triggering the deck like any handling did in some prior editions.

DoMT Deck Reference Guide.jpg

The Cards​

The Deck of Many Things Reference Guide, the slim hardcover that accompanies the cards in the slipcase portion of the set, does several things I like. It starts with information on how to customize the DoMT in your campaign. Then it explains how an NPC or character could use the DoMT for divination purposes in a game, along with examples of different types of spreads.

Then for DMs is information on how to use the cards for an “adventure spread,” i.e., using the cards to create an adventure outline. There's also a variation called the dungeon spread as well as an example of how to use the adventure spread in the game to give players a hint of what's to come. The latter comes with a random chart of various fortune tellers your players could meet.

I really like how they detail the cards. Each card gets its own page with a large image of the card's art, though the cards themselves are the same size as a typical tarot deck so the art is showcased nicely in both places. Each card entry, organized alphabetically, has meanings for both its upright and reverse position, just like a classic tarot deck. Even better, both positions get an overall meaning and associated meanings for it to represent a person, location, treasure, situation, and creature or trap.
The Book of Many Things_Trad Cover_Front_Art by Ekaterina Burmak.jpg

The Book of Many Things​

While the cards and its reference guide is packed with information and inspiration, The Book of Many Things has even more. In fact, it's so full of options and ideas for players and DMs that if I tried to address all of them, my review would be longer than the book.

What it doesn't have is a new subclass utilizing the deck, but it does have a Cartomancer feat that allows spellcasters to use a deck of cards as your spell focus, along with a few card tricks like Hidden Ace. Three new spells are also included – Spray of Cards (2nd level), Antagonize (3rd level), and Spirit of Death (4th level). Honestly, this close to the release of the 2024 revised Players Handbook, I wasn't expecting a new subclass so I'm not disappointed.

TBoMT has 29 stat blocks with monsters/NPCs ranging from the 1/4 CR Minotaur archaeologist to the CR 25 Grim Champion of Desolation. In fact, 15 of the stat blocks are for NPCs/monsters with CRs 11 or greater with five of those CR 20+.

Cartomancer by Joanna Barnum 06-001.sage.png

Two of those stat blocks are for Asteria and Euryale, two high-powered NPCs that could be used as patrons, quest givers, etc. The two, along with the goddess Istus, are involved in the first ever origin story created for the DoMT. Previously the wondrous item was just a point of mystery and you can still have it that way in your campaign.

The origin riffs off the fact that in the classic deck only card has a proper name, Euryale, and features a medusa. Here, Euryale is a powerful druid who takes in and heals a wounded princess. The two grow as close as sisters. When the king drags his daughter back and prepares to execute Euryale, Asteria cries for aid and, when the goddess Istus appears, beseeches her for a way to change her and Euryale's fate. The goddess relents, plucking the constellations from the sky to become the first DoMT, but warning that their fates would change in unpredictable ways.

Asteria is also the first canonically autistic character in D&D lore. The word “autistic” isn't used in TBoMT, but anyone familiar with certain behaviors, such as not looking a person in the eye, is clear. Besides, co-designer Makenzie De Armas has been talking about the creation of Asteria, and how Makenzie used their autistic symptoms when creating Asteria. Honestly, I just enjoy the idea of paladin/druid quasi sister NPCs living in the Outlands and popping up in campaigns. Since they also get adventure hooks, you get ideas for how to do that.

Asteria by Tinnel Lovitt.png

Another thing I like about TBoMT is that it makes life easier for a DM using the deck in their campaign. For example, traditionally when you draw the Flames card, a fiend is supposed to show up. In the past, that meant the DM had to be prepared with a chosen fiend or wing it. In TBoMT you get three fiend options, complete with stat blocks, tips for how to work them into your campaign, and how to roleplay the fiend. Of course, you still select your own if you wish, but this approach makes things easier for busy DMs.

The book comes with a lot of guidance for how to use the deck and its related material in any campaign. From how to use the deck without breaking your campaign to how to use the cards to create random encounters, there's a lot of material to use. Adventure hooks abound. One chapter features puzzles, riddles, and traps you can drop into any campaign. The thieves guild The Moonstalkers contains rogues that are all were-creatures. Those who want to join must agree to being changed.

The chapter related to the Star card provides a way to connect the deck to a zodiac, providing more divination options. Players could also be born under a prophecy to add more role-playing flavor.

Rewarded art by Brian Valeza.png

The Fates chapter features two new backgrounds – Rewarded and Ruined. It also has four magic items as well as 23 charms or supernatural gifts. Generally charms disappear after used a set number of times. For example, the Charm of Balance allows you to use your reaction to deal force damage to a creature within 60 feet that just damaged you. The damage applied is equal to one half of the damage done to the player. This charm vanishes after being used three times, but others disappear after a single use.

The Gems chapter features more magic items, which is appropriate since the Gems card grants wealth to the character that draws it. This chapter also has advice for DMs as to how to keep great wealth from removing all motivation to adventure from your player characters as well how to handle players that want to use wealth to buy powerful magic items. Tips for how to incentivize spending money in the campaign is also included. The 22 magic items in this chapter are each inspired by one of the original cards, such as Fool's Blade, which allows the wielder to fool opponents, and Rogue's Mantle, which is infused with magic for deception.

Four chapters focus on options and advice for players. The Rogue chapter has suggestions and new magic items for skill-based characters such as bards, rogues, and rangers. The Sage chapter has information for arcane characters like wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks, as well as info on the additional cards (The Deck of Many More Things), as well as the previously mentioned Cartomancer feat and new spells.

Euryale by Tinnel Lovitt.png

In addition to the other material mentioned in the Fates chapter, it also has information and magic items for characters connected to divine energy, such as druids, clerics and paladins. Traditionally when the Knight card is drawn, the players gain the service of an ally. The Knight chapter provides a new creature that could appear, as well as advice for how DMs can work allies into a campaign and adventuring group. It also includes new magic items and character advice for combat-focused characters like fighters, monks, and barbarians.

The Sun chapter offers up the NPC band the Knights of the Solar Bastion, whose members try to protect people from the deck. On the flip side, the Comet chapter describes an apocalyptic NPC cult whose members want to use the deck to destroy the universe.

Four other chapters focus on locations. The Jester chapter introduces the magical Seelie Market, which a moonstone dragon carries through the sky. The Throne card traditionally provides players with a keep. The matching chapter has details for such a keep, though it's not an abandoned location. The Ruin chapter features Gardmore Abbey, a location previously associated with the DoMT. There players will encounter Mekkalath the dragon.

The Donjon chapter focuses on a huge techno-magical prison within an extra dimensional space. Because the Void card traditionally whisks a player's soul away, this chapter provides advice for DMs on how to handle sessions where players may not be able to play their normal character as well as options for where the souls can go when a player draws the Void card.

Dragon_Art by Ivan Shavrin.jpg

Drawing Conclusions

Regular readers of my reviews know by now that I like flexibility in game supplements and adventures so I can customize material to fit my campaign. In that regard, I almost feel like this Deck of Many Things set was designed expressly for my tastes. That shocks me because when this product was first announced, I assumed it would be a deck of cards with basic information for using them.

Instead, co-designers Jason Tondro and Makenzie De Armas really put a lot of thought and work into creating a multi-functional set that's just as useful to players as DMs. When I say it's packed with material, it truly is – NPCs, creatures, magic items, spells, backgrounds, a feat, locations, adventure hooks, and a ton of advice for DMs and players.

I also really like that they provides options and examples for how to create deck combinations that won't break a campaign and can be used at any party level. I used the deck as a Maguffin in an early campaign of mine and even though it went well, I've never been interested in using the deck again in any campaign. This DoMT set has changed my mind.

I especially appreciate that they really considered how to make it easy for a DM to use the deck in their campaign by providing creatures and NPCs to address cards drawn, and included a ton of advice on how to do it successfully. Adding equally good material for players makes it even better.

When something has production values this high and pairs it with an abundance of versatile material for players and DMs that has both breadth and depth, rating it is easy – A+.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Nebulous

Legend
The physical release has been delayed until Q1 2024. Right now, D&D Beyond is the only version available to anyone.
Roll20 has it.

In this Roll20 Package, you'll find everything from the book and more!

An Adventure Addon containing:

  • All adventure text laid out in easy-to-read handouts!
  • Every map, with pre-placed tokens, GM layer information, and Dynamic Lighting support (requires plus / pro subscription)!
  • All statblocks from the adventure content pulled into your Journal, ready to play!
  • Dozens of handouts from the adventure content.
  • All Rollable Tables and Macros from in and out of the adventure content!
A Compendium containing:

  • Every new creature statblock, with in-app drag and drop!
  • All rules text in Compendium pages, ready to drag into your game!
An Art Pack containing:

  • Over 180 tokens and handouts, including PC and NPC border variants, to drag into any game.
 

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FitzTheRuke

Legend
So... if they "changed the lore" about the Deck, out of curiosity, can anyone tell me (in a nutshell) what the OLD lore was?

I used the deck in 2e, but I don't remember anything about it beyond what some of the cards could do. Where was the lore first written up? How does it differ from the "new" lore?
 

darjr

I crit!
So... if they "changed the lore" about the Deck, out of curiosity, can anyone tell me (in a nutshell) what the OLD lore was?

I used the deck in 2e, but I don't remember anything about it beyond what some of the cards could do. Where was the lore first written up? How does it differ from the "new" lore?
I dint remember a lot.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
So... if they "changed the lore" about the Deck, out of curiosity, can anyone tell me (in a nutshell) what the OLD lore was?

I used the deck in 2e, but I don't remember anything about it beyond what some of the cards could do. Where was the lore first written up? How does it differ from the "new" lore?
The deck dates back to at least the 1E DMG (it might have been in the OD&D Greyhawk booklet, I'm not sure). The lore for it was "this thing sure is weird, isn't it?" And that's it. It was simply an ancient mystery.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
The deck dates back to at least the 1E DMG (it might have been in the OD&D Greyhawk booklet, I'm not sure). The lore for it was "this thing sure is weird, isn't it?" And that's it. It was simply an ancient mystery.
That's what I thought - but there are claims in this thread that it was "changed" for this book. Do they just mean "added", rather than "changed"?
 

Kurotowa

Legend
That's what I thought - but there are claims in this thread that it was "changed" for this book. Do they just mean "added", rather than "changed"?
Kinda sorta? There's a wiki entry for the Deck that gives a Forgotten Realms specific history, and attributes it to the Neverwinter Nights computer games. Which is technically a pre-existing origin, but not exactly a well established or highly canonical one.

So if you wanted to be pedantic then it's a change, but really it's mostly added.
 

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