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5E Curse of Strahd...tarokka deck necessary?

Jack Hooligan

How often are cards pulled from the Tarokka Deck? Is it frequently throughout the campaign or more of a one encounter deal?

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I think just once, as a role-playing prop, at the start of the campaign to randomly determine the locations of the McGuffins. You could just as easily select what you want or put it to a die roll.


Space Jam Confirmed
Basically once, but it could happen in more than one way.

First off, you should do a drawing yourself (or just pick your preferences) before the campaign starts. This way, even if the players never do an in-game drawing, you still know where the treasures are, who the ally is, etc. Because the drawing isn't guaranteed to happen in-game at all. If it does happen, your "private" drawing gets replaced/updated.

The most likely place the drawing will happen is with Madame Eva at the Tser Pool Vistani camp.

If it doesn't happen there, the adventure provides a "back-up" option of having Ezmerelda do it after the party meets her (she can be introduced in any of several different locations, at the DM's preference).


If your question is whether you need to get a Tarokka deck to play Curse of Strahd, the answer is no. But if you want one or have one, there are other adventures that use it. Also, there are some fun DM's Guild supplements with suggestions for additional uses.


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Its really important for setting the theme and tone of the adventure, but it generally only happens once.

However, one could probably arrange 3 separate readings, and split the information they give between the readings.


Space Jam Confirmed
You definitely don't need the actual physical Gale Force tarokka deck. There are lots of ways to do it, including just using regular playing cards.


I've run Curse of Strahd twice, didn't need the deck either time, and am of the opinion that it's not at all necessary. Like Burnside, I drew the cards before the campaign started and when the PCs met with Madam Eva we role played the session out. This way I didn't have to fumble around during the game looking up what each card they drew meant.

Tarokka Cards have been a D&D prop since Ravenloft was a separate campaign setting in the 1990's. I vaguely recall one issue of Dragon in the 90's having a cardboard insert of Tarokka Cards to punch out. They also did a Deck of Many Things as a card insert at one point.

Do you need them for any adventure? No. They could be replaced with a die roll, or using a regular playing card deck. . .or if you have a regular Tarot deck you could use that one instead of the D&D themed Tarokka one.


They're not strictly necessary, no. In fact, I would highly advise against a live roll at the table, as you can have items turn up at very unsatisfactory places. It's best to rig the deck, don't tell the players, and have things happen where the DM choose, so you're catering the story the way you want. Also, the number of options the deck provides is overwhelmingly too many, as if someone is going to run this adventure 5 times for 5 different groups and always wants something new. I highly doubt that will happen.

We are playing in Roll20 and I simulated a table, put the cards I had created in the GM layer and had players say "I will pick a card" and I made some stuff up about Madame Eva shuffling the deck and laying down a card. They never knew it was all meticulously planned. I even turned Pidlwick 2 into a little evil ally to find in Vallaki and what was in the deck, rather than leaving him in the castle until way, way late in the campaign.


I wanted more use out of the Tarokka deck (we used a real tarot deck and converted), so I adapted a DMGuild project in which the cards could be kept for powers. My players could draw 1 card and keep it, or ditch it. Once used or ditched, cards were lost forever. Anything from the High Deck couldn't be ditched and carried a curse that once overcome, turned into a boon.

EDIT: Link to DMGuild Tarokka Deck Unleashed (now $1). This got me started though I cannot find my alterations (likely buried in old binders). They were few (some adjustments to mechanics, customization to my game). Attaching my Tarot deck conversion.

Anyway, for OP, this is a way to make the Deck useful past the reading itself.

As to my reading, added a 6th card to the reading. Why? Simply to expand the places to explore. I broke the sword into a hilt and blade (I replaced the "light saber" with a crystal blade like the original weapon had, stats with the spoiler).
Sunsword: [because we saw a sunblade in a prior campaign and because it seems cheap to have a unique item be…non-unique], modify telling (p11) to a weapon with the vengeance of the sun. The apprentice Calebria escaped with both blade and hilt after they were separated, dispersing them before her death in the wilds. This requires a 6th card, that which must be healed, as per the Tser Pool reading, below.

Replacement: a hilt and guard forged of platinum. The separate blade is crystalline steel. Once within sensory range, the hilt reveals that to bond the two, the user must complete the Bonding ritual and imbues knowledge of how.

Bonding: beseech the Morninglord for 8 hours with the blade and hilt held in place. At the end of the Bonding, it will seal together perfectly, and the blade will illuminate with a dim blue light (that can never be turned off). The weapon is sized as a longsword but amazingly light (can be wielded as a finesse weapon as if proficient with short sword). The blade always glows with a dim blue light. If it knows it is within sensory range of a vampire, the light changes to a brilliant sapphire, as if enraged. Becomes a +1 weapon. Weapon reveals next two rituals.

Mental Fortitude: defeat an evil by wit, stratagem, or other non-combat stratagem. Once done and another Bonding completed, unlocks Fires of Day. 1/long rest, can raise blade above head as action and say phrase “Lumina zilei!” Creates a 10’ radius globe of daylight centered on you. Any good character can expand the globe by 10’ each round as a bonus action, max 60’. If a round passes where the globe is not expanded, it persists in that size for one minute then vanishes.

Defeat Darkness: damage a vampire or other suitable creature of the night (DM discretion) with the blade. Once done and another Bonding completed, unlocks Vampire Bane (+1d6 radiant damage to vampires, add +1d6 if used by a good character), and the Fires of Day can be recharged after a short or long rest.

Madame Eva reading:
Within, all is dimly illuminated in pools of red light. A small, low table stands across from the doorway, covered in a black velvet cloth. Glints of light seem to flash from a crystal ball on the table as a hunched figure peers into its depths. She speaks. Her voice crackles like dry weeds. Her tone soars and falls like the wind outside. "At last you have arrived!" Her sudden cackling laughter bursts like mad lightning from her withered lips.

“I already know why you are here. First, payment. You will know what to give.” She gestures to a time-pitted copper bowl. (any donation, or if nothing – “Indeed, knowledge of the future can be a curse instead of a blessing and,” she cackles, “worth nothing.”)

Her age-worn voice intones: The stars say six is the number of this day. One for the past, one for hope, one for power, one for that which must be healed, one for the future, and one always for the son of darkness.

Shuffle the cards until you feel right. Then draw (each player should draw and place one as they feel is right, for their destinies are intertwined).

First, the past..

Second, hope so we may escape the follies of our past…

Third, power

Fourth, for on the number six power is crossed on the East, the sign of renewal. This means something will be born, or must be healed. (use this card to make the shape of a cross atop card #3)

Fifth (card placement 4), the future

Sixth, the son of darkness…

She nods at the placement of the cards. A vistani girl enters the wagon with a steaming cup of tea, handing it to Madame Eva. She closes her eyes, takes a sip, nods and sighs. She reaches for the First.


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A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
As others have said, you don't need it. Note that if you DO get the Gale Force set, it come with rules for a stand-alone card game, so you can still get use from it outside the adventure if you enjoy playing card games.


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'd prefer to use the deck more, rather than less.

Maybe split the adventure into distinct parts, and draw a card in each part, don't tell the party what the card means, but know behind the screen what each one means in a given section of the adventure. So, The Dark Lord will usually mean that Strahd shows up and presents a complication, but the others will mean something different in the dragon church than in Vallacki.

The 2nd edition setting had far more guidance and uses for Tarokka. Used correctly, its a great way to add flavour to a Ravenloft campaign but its use in the original module and Curse of Strahd is rather limited.

Savage Wombat

I used the rigged deck trick myself, but with a twist - I set up the basics of a standard tarot reading ahead of time, with a card to represent each of the PCs. I had a player shuffle the deck (I wanted the random element) and then dropped the initial cards on top when I slid the cards back for play.

And despite having no sleight-of-hand experience, I pulled this off - the players were astonished the way the cards seem to predict the characters, because they never thought to watch my hands when I started dealing.


40th lv DM
You definitely don't need the actual physical Gale Force tarokka deck. There are lots of ways to do it, including just using regular playing cards.
And there's been better looking decks made over the years. Including regular Tarot cards (you just need to note down wich cards are what Taroka results)

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