Curse of Strahd - alternate uses of the Tarokka deck


No rule is inviolate
I'm in a slight creative slump. Running Curse of Strahd and just finished the last episode with an iconic Tarokka reading (using a real set of Tarot cards). I suddenly realized I'd like to find a way to keep use of the Cards in some way as it seems a waste to use them for 10 minutes and then never again (especially if I would have purchased the Tarokka Deck supplement). Looked online, saw option for Strahd to toss cards to affect combat, but I'd rather Eva give them some or all of the Deck, with cards having some effect.


- party is 3rd level, so effect can't be too overwhelming. Deck of Many Things = too much.
- A Tarokka deck has 54 cards: 40 "lower deck" cards and 14 "higher deck" cards. Maybe limit effects to only High Deck cards?
- Madame Eva isn't out to screw them over, nor Strahd.
- I'm thinking it'd be cooler to have unique effects for each card instead of a generic one (e.g. gain Inspiration use for 1 hour).

Higher Deck

The Artifact
The Hangman
The Beast
The Horseman
The Broken One
The Innocent
The Darklord
The Marionette
The Donjon
The Mists
The Esper
The Raven
The Ghost
The Temptress

log in or register to remove this ad


I had the same concern until I found this on the Eberron blog:

I didn't come up with it, but I think it's great. You basically have each player draw a card and tell a story about their character based (somewhat) on what they draw. So if you draw the paladin, they might have to tell about a time when their character overcame some great obstacle or had some triumph.

I had to create a conversion chart for the Tarokka deck but I used it once or twice and it's great. Really adds to the narrative of my games. I would use it more but the one thing I've found is it's some times hard to find the game time to bring it up. Other than that I love it.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
The card deck comes with rules for a game called Prophet's Gambit, which is basically Texas Hold'em with a D&D twist. If you are into minigames have them play the game for high stakes.

You can also give the players the option to change their fate by getting a new reading.

I like your idea of having the high cards having special in-game effects, both good and bad.

Shuffle the cards well. If they draw from the lower deck nothing happens. But maybe you want every card to mean something. I would state the party somehow comes across a powerful deck of cards. They can use it once per in-game day. After drawing a card it disappears from the deck.

Lower Deck Effects (all effects last for 24 hours, any boons not used go away after 24 hours)


Master of Swords - player gets advantage on all Strength and Constitution skill checks and saving throws but disadvantage on skill checks and saves for all other attributes.

If one to five of swords is drawn (those with positive attributes according to their descriptions in the book), the person who draws gets a corresponding +1 to +5 on any one attack roll for that day.

Six of swords - gives the character who select the card the Barbarian "Rage" ability one time.

Seven of swords - suffers from paranoia and fear of unknown persons. For one day, any time the player encounters a new person, they must make a DC 15 saving throw or suffer the fear condition around that person. THey can make a new save check each turn. If they make the save, they are immune from the fear condition for that person only, but will have to make a new check for the next new person.

Eight of swords-- character gets an avantage on one intimidation check

Nine of swords-- the players suffers the effects of torture. 3d6 psychic damage and 2 levels of exhaustion.


Master of Stars - player gets advantage on all Intelligence skill checks and saving throws but disadvantage on skill checks and saves for all other attributes.

One to Five of Stars: +1 to +5 on any magic attack, save against magic, or arcana skill check--one time only and must be used in 24 hours since drawing the card.

Six of stars - roll on the Sorcerers Wild Surge table and apply the effect to the player who drew the card.

Seven of stars - character is unable to tell the truth for 24 hours

Eight of stars - character is unable to make any attacks or otherwise harm undead creatures - all undead immune from any damage caused by the character

Nine of stars - a shadow demon is summoned, surprises, and immediately attacks the character who drew the card


Master of Coins - player gets advantage on all charisma and dexterity skill checks and saving throws but disadvantage on skill checks and saves for all other attributes.

One to Five of coins. The player get 1 to 5 gold pieces.

Six of coins. All of the players coins disappear and are transported to the sealed treasury room of the Amber Temple (X40).

Seven of coins. The player suffers from kleptomania and must make a DC10 saving throw whenever he first sees anything made of precious metals or gemstones.

Eight of coins. The player is compelled to intimidate weaker people to give him money for "protection" or asks for more money than is reasonable for services or help. Will demand that any debts owed to him or her be immediately repaid.

Nine of coins. The player will refuse to spend money or give up anything of value, demanding other party members pay for anything.


Master of Glyphs - player gets advantage on all wisdom skill checks and saving throws but disadvantage on skill checks and saves for all other attributes.

One to Five of Glyphs. Player gets +1 to +5 on one Wisdom skill check or saving throw.

Six of Glyphs. On the next Wisdom saving throw or skill check made by the character, he or she must roll UNDER the DC value rather than over to succceed.

Seven of Glyphs. The character acts CONTRARY to their IDEAL (personality charcteristic) for 24 hours.

Eight of Glyphs. Character must act in a Lawful Good manner for 24 hours. Any time they attempt to steal, lie, initiate violence (as opposed to responding to or defending themselves or others), or otherwise act contrary to stereotypical lawful-stupid manner (as determined by DM fiat) they suffer 1d4 psychic damage and suffer disadvantage on any attack, skill check, or saving throw related to that non-LG behavior.

Nine of Glyphs. The character will be placed under a Geas, cast at 9th level to kill another party member, but this Geas only lasts for 24 hours. It can be ended by remove curse, greator restoration, or wish.

Higher Deck

The Artifact

One weapon of choice becomes a +3 weapon that does an additional 1d6 necrotic damage as it becomes infused with a chaotic evil spirit. It is impossible to knock out a creature when attacking with this weapon. You can only attack for damage. If anyone else touches or attempts to use the weapon, the attuned character must make a DC15 saving throw or go into a rage and attack whomever touched it. The player must make a DC20 Wis saving throw to allow the weapon to be more than 5' away. Once per day, the weapon will attempt to convince another party member or NPC to attempt to steal it away from the attuned player. Anyone subject to this subtle effect must make a DC 5 Wisdom saving throw. Rolling a 1 is an automatic failure.

The Beast

The player is stricken with Lycanthropy. Roll a 1d6 to determine what form:

  1. Werewolf
  2. Wereboar
  3. Werebear
  4. Wererat
  5. Weretiger
  6. Wereraven

See the Player Characters as Lycanthropes section in the Monster Manual for effects.
For wereraven: The character games a Dexterity of 15 if his or her score isn't already higher. Attack and damage rolls for the beak are based on whichever is higher of the character's Strength and Dexterity. Fly speed of 50' in raven or hybrid form. See the Wereraven entry in the Curse of Strahd book for other details.

The Broken One

The player succombs to the hopelessness that pervades Barovia. The player suffers the effects of indefinate madness as a coping mechanism. Roll on the indefinate madness table in the DMG.

The Darklord

Summons Strahd. Strahd gets no save and appears within 50' of the person who drew the card. How Strahd reacts to this is up to the DM.

The Donjon

The person who drew the card and anyone within 20 feet of him or her are teleported to K74e and the other empty cells in the North Dungeon of Castle Ravenloft. If the card is drawn in a location (like a crowded bar) with many people, spread them out among the empty cells.

The Ghost

The person who drew the card becomes a Ghost. They retain all their skills and knowlege, but can only use most of them when in possession of a body, using the possessed persons attributes. In ghost form they cannot cast magic and their only attacks are those provided by the Ghost entry in the monster manual.

The Executioner

A ghastly figure in a dark executioners mask and robe points at the player and, saying "Judicaris, Poena mortis," and casts Power Word Kill before fading away.


A paladin who broke his vows and stayed loyal to Strahd dies without ever seeking atonement and was brought back by the dark powers as a death knight. This is a Death Knight with the following changes:

1. It rides a Skeletal Warhorse. The warhorse is same as Warhorse Skeleton, except the AC is 18. Otherwise the horse is the same as in the MM. If the horse is destroyed, it reforms in two rounds unless 11 HP of damage is done in the round before reforming. The Death Knight can mount the horse as a bonus action.

2. It attacks with a lance. It only has a lance. It has no long sword and get's no multiattack. If it is fighting on the ground it has disadvantage on attacks against anyone within 5'. It can use its parry reaction as normal with its lance.

3. The Death Knight cannot willingly leave its mount. If the mount is destroyed, it will not chase fleeing party members until the skeleton reforms and it can remount it. If the party is attacking it, however it will close melee distance or use other tactics to defend regardless of the horse skeletons location. If the party takes the bones, it will always know where the bones are and track them down. If the party throws the bones of a ledge, cliff, in water, etc. and if the party then flees the Death Knight break of its attack to retrieve the bones.

4. The Death Knight if mounted, will not dismount to follow the party anywhere the horse is unable to go.

5. It is up to the DM whether the Death Knight will attempt to track the party until it is dead and become a recurring threat.

The Skeleton Warhouse is meant to give the party a chance to escape from what is an over-powered encounter for this adventure.

The Innocent

Choose one good/helpful NPC. For example, Irena if the party failed to protect her. Or Gertruda. Or to help the party find Esmeralda or Van Richten. The person who drew the card experiences the effects of the "Find the Path" spell, except that instead of a fixed location, it shows the most direct and quickest route to the location of that person, wherever that person is, even if that person changes locations. The duration is the lifetime of the target-person OR it ends when the person is encountered, whichever comes first.

The Marionette

A Flesh Golem appears. The character that drew the card becomes the creator/possessor. If the party makes no attempt to disguise its nature, the NPC will mob the players and golem to destroy it. If disquised, there is a 5% when in a populated area of someone recognizing the person whose corpse it is.

The Mists

The player falls under a geas to travel to a level-appropriate location in Barovia and complete a major quest from that section.

The Raven

A were raven appears that is under geas to help the party, it will feel that it was called by a higher power of good to give all its efforts to assist the party.

The Seer

The location of any unfound item from the fortunes of ravenloft is revealed to the party. Otherwise the location of any other powerful item or helpful person is revealed.

The Temptress

A succubus/incubus will appear as an attractive humaniod of the same race as the character who drew the card. It will pretend that the character summoned it to barovia and seek the parties protection and offer to help until it can get the character alone to attempt to charm and use its draining kiss attack. It will act as if it is charmed by the player. Try to get the player t o believe that he or she summoned this person and has them under a permanent charm effect. If found out, it will plead for its life. It will offer to help the party stating that it was indeed summoned by the card and is now stuck in Barovia. It needs the party to defeat Strahd to escape barovia. This is not a lie. If strahd become aware if its presence in Barovia, he will want to possess and control it. The succubus will continue to help the party so long as it is in its insterest to do so. If brought into contact with the Vistani, it will attempt to charm them to get one of them to take it out of Barovia.


No rule is inviolate
Great stuff, exactly what I was looking for! Spent a buck to get the Tarokka Unleashed and think with a little tinkering (thanks MNblockhead!) can work up something for the next session that'll keep our deck in use. Don't plan on using the Despair mechanic (creative idea from the Unleashed publication), so a few cards will need substitute effects.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I also bought the Tarokka Unleased ("TU") document. Nice mechanic, but I don't think I'll be using it as written, but I will likely replace a number of my common deck effects with those of the TU. I don't want to limit it to spending inspiration to use. I want it to be a player decision. They can use it as offten or as little as they dare.

The despair mechanic is interesting but I don't like the decision of one player (to use the deck) to so strongly impact another (taking aware their morale). If I don't use the inspiration mechanic, then the despair mechanic would break the party. But even if not done often, I try to take great care in introducing mechanics that take away player agency and makes them play their characters a certain way. I already use the madness mechanic, with customizations. Adding despair on top of that is too much. I think the depressing nature of Barovia is better left as fluff. I should be imparted by DM descriptions and NPC interactions, not game mechanics (for the most part).

Based on the TU document, I am thinking of making all of the common deck card positive and changing many/all of the += to +5 effects with some of the more flavorful effects provided in the TU document.

Toucanbuzz, I would be interested in what your final version of the deck effects is. I'll try to find time to finilize and post mine here.


No rule is inviolate
Here's my modifications to the Tarokka Unleashed document that removes Despair as a game mechanic (which appears directly adapted from the Shadowfell 4th Edition Supplement). It gives the deck 40 beneficial cards and 14 "harmful until removed" effects. I've made the Cards into a magic item but retained the idea that like inspiration, only 1 card can ever be in effect.[sblock]

Tarokka Unleashed modifications

Madame Eva gathers the cards into a single pile, then with nimble fingers that belie her age, she has them reshuffled into one neat pile. She puts the deck carefully back into a stiff leather pouch, fixing a simple clasp. The seer then hands the pouch to you. “The cards tell me they are not done with you.” / You can sense the power of the cards, freed from Madame Eva’s reading. “The Cards will only react to those who participated in tonight’s reading, and they wish to see their fortunes satisfied. To that effect, they will…mostly…aid you. Ware the High Deck, for its power reflects both obstacles and inspiration to your purpose. But embrace the Lower Deck. Within its faces will come aid, of some kind. For while the Suit of Coins can represent avarice and greed, it can also in the right hands be a force for just causes. The Deck reacts to the nature of those who draw from it."

Mechanics: a short rest (or experimentation) will reveal the cards are randomized no matter if the party attempts to stack the deck or remove cards. As an Action, if one of the characters present at the hearing draws a card from the pouch, s/he immediately is affected. Once drawn in this manner, the card is permanently removed from the deck. The cards have no effect if removed from the pouch, though players can tally which cards are left. If even 1 card from the original deck is in the pouch, a random card will be drawn.


A player may only have 1 card effect active. If a player is under a detrimental effect of a High Deck card, s/he must get rid of the effect as listed before drawing another card. If a player has a Common Deck in play or a High Deck boon, drawing a new card (whether beneficial or not), removes the old card from play.
Common Cards: the bonus is immediately known to the player and lasts until used (as described) or a new card drawn. If Alignment matches the card, as listed the Player may draw 2 and choose one. The other is reshuffled.

High Deck:the DM should describe the effect as per the text but not reveal the mechanics unless otherwise obvious (e.g. a reduction in speed would be obvious, but not misfortune of enemy attacks until the player is attacked). As listed, players suffer the adverse effects until the end of a Long Rest, at which time they may attempt a “Despair” check to kick the effect and gain the Boon. If not listed, a Boon lasts until used or until the end of a Long Rest.

Despair check: Modified to be a flat roll, not a skill check or a save (magic won’t assist though anything that affects a d20 roll such as the Lucky Feat would, or other effects that bend fate as determine by the DM). I envision the player entering a misty dimension by linking with the card, attempting to bend fate. Before them is the antagonist and a simple wheel of fortune. The card being gestures to the wheel (perhaps grinning the entire time, a predatory creature showing its teeth or a friendly gesture?) and the player spins it. Red, you win. Black you lose. A player may attempt to influence the fates as listed in the card or as previous.

Modifications to cards:

1 of Swords, 8 of Swords, 1 of Coins, 1 of Stars, 7 of Stars: The reaction attack can also be a Cantrip attack spell.
6 of Glyphs: modify, lose HP = half the roll, rounded up. The d20 roll can be modified by the Lucky Feat.
2 of Stars: remove language “per turn” as the effect is gone once used.
Marionette: Player chooses another player who has a card in play to draw from the deck until they find a High Deck card. That player replaces the old card, reshuffles the card into the deck, and suffers effect from the newly drawn card. Discard this card if it affected another player, or if it was the last card in the deck. Otherwise, it is shuffled back into the deck.
If there is no player alive from the original reading, there is no effect. If no player has active cards, there is no effect. Discard this card if it caused a card to be replaced, or if it is the last High Deck card in the deck. Otherwise, reshuffle it.
Mists: This operates like Marionette except that it only targets players with an adverse High Deck effect. That player draws until s/he finds a second High Deck card, then chooses which one to keep. The other is shuffled back in. The drawer then draws until s/he finds a High Deck card and puts it into play. The Mists is discarded if it affected another player, or if when drawn the Mists is the last High Deck card left.[/sblock]
Last edited:


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Nice! Thanks for sharing. I'm almost done with my updated deck. But I won't be able to post it here in its entirety as I've taken a lot of the card descriptions from the Tarokka Unleashed PDF. Maybe I'll post with with my original text and for those I copied from TU, I'll just mention "same as TU".


You could use the cards for initiative. If a High Card is drawn, an advantage or complication occurs.

Madame Eva could give the party certain cards out of the deck; instead of drawing a card for initiative, the party could "burn" one of the cards given them to set their own initiative or one of the enemies, possibly with some narrative control over the effects of High Cards used this way.

Level Up!

An Advertisement