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D&D 5E Shenanigans - The Deck of Many Things


Back in 1E, when the party was ridiculously overpowered (they were averaging about 27th level), these morons decided to play the ultimate game of Russian roulette poker using a Deck of Many Things. They each risked some magic items into the pot, then dealt out 5 cards each. They each flipped over one card at a time, with the option to stop after each one. Last man standing wins (best hand wins ties). It did not end well... but it definitely gave me plenty to work on afterwards!

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Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
This is a really good encounter, btw. Well done.
Yoink. Borrowing that.
Thanks! Here's the full write-up, if you want it.


This is a one-shot random encounter that can be inserted into any ocean-born adventure. It is intended to be run as an extended random encounter–a way to break up the monotony of long voyages, where the party is essentially going from one random encounter to the next.

Here, the party can replenish their supplies, repair the ship, and even trade some goods with the locals…but if they stay too long, they might be lost forever!

The Harborlight Inn​

The party has stumbled upon a strange floating tavern, built on a gundalow (sailed barge) and bedighted with lanterns. The smell of incense, pipe smoke, and rich food wafts toward the party’s ship, and the sound of lively music and carnival barkers reaches their ears. This floating party-barge is filled with all sorts of exotic delights–and dangers!

Things the Players Know​

Harborlight is an immense floating platform, made from an oversized gundalow (sailed barge), and fitted with two large masts and sails. A floating dock/marina is built on the southernmost barge, and a number of small fishing vessels and keelboats are moored there as well. The tavern itself is a large, three-story wooden structure, but there are a number of smaller tents and wooden stalls set up outside for vendors. Bunting, colored lanterns, and flags are strewn between tent posts and buildings, giving it the appearance of a carnival or festival.

In total, about 200 humans, elves, feyblood, satyrs, and selkies can be found here.

Reveal the following information to the players if their character succeeds a DC 15 History check (characters with the Sailor background make this check with advantage):
  • Similar to Herla's Wild Hunt, this town floats on the ocean, moving freely between the Feywild and the Material Plane. In either world, it resembles a wooden tavern built on a gundalow, with a few hundred people visiting it at any particular time.
  • On the Material Plane, Harborlight only appears at twilight, and only on calm days after a terrible storm or deadly encounter where desperate mortals will be most inclined to accept aid.
  • Time moves differently here, on the fringe of the Feywild: every hour that passes is a full day on the Material Plane. The party will feel this in strange and subtle ways: while their perception of time hasn’t changed, their mortal bodies still feel the passing of time at the normal rate. While in Harborlight, it seems like they are constantly thirsty, hungry, and exhausted, although they suffer no penalties or harmful effects.
  • The ruler of this court is an Archfey known as Laindeir (pronounced "LON-jeer.) Laindeir is very friendly, and is renowned as an excellent host.
  • There are a handful of merchants and vendors here, where rare and expensive goods can be found (think "Goblin Market," but on a barge.) Some very powerful items and services can be bought here that cannot be acquired anywhere else…for example, legendary magic items are available for purchase, and Vincenzo could have his arm fully restored. However, money and traditional currency are not good for trade here–the Fey barter in other more esoteric forms of payment.

Things the Players Don’t Know​

Tonight at sundown, Captain Laindeir will lead the community in a special ceremony that they call “The Candle-Walk,” or sometimes “The March of Lights.” They will explain that it is sort of a tavern tradition, to celebrate the end of a hard day’s work. This is a lie; the procession is part of a ceremony that will open a portal to the Feywild. When the parade is completed, it will send the whole town of Harborlight back to its home waters of the Feywild, along with everyone visiting and every ship moored to it. If the party doesn’t keep their wits about them, they could end up trapped in another world!

Setting the Scene​

The theme of this adventure is “temptation.” Do everything you can to tempt the party into spending too much time, spending too much “money,” and enjoying too many of the comforts offered here in the Harborlight Inn. But don’t cross the line: the players should be tempted but not pressured or coerced–at least not until after the Candle Walk, anyway.

People to Meet​

A few of the critical NPCs for this adventure are described below, along with some notes on their intentions, backstory, and weaknesses.

Captain Laindeir​

(They/Them pronouns, pronounced “LON-jeer.” It comes from the Irish word for "lantern.") This boisterous, bearded satyr will greet the party as soon as they arrive, even using their dimension door spell to appear suddenly on the deck of the approaching ship. They hold a glittering wooden goblet decorated with Sylvan runes, and wear a heavy captain’s coat. A beautiful glass lantern bobs quietly in the air next to their right shoulder.

Captain Laindeir is preparing for tonight’s festival. As they talk to the PCs, other townsfolk wander up and ask questions about party supplies, decorations, and such. If asked, they will explain that every Friday night at the Harborlight Inn is a special parade called the Candle Walk, also called the March of Lights, where everyone grabs a candle or a lantern and goes out onto the deck to sing a song. “It’s my favorite day of the week!” they explain, raising their lantern. “It’s my reward for a hard week’s work, to properly ring in the weekend!”

What Laindeir doesn’t tell the party is that an hour spent here at Harborlight is a whole day on the Material Plane–so if the party stays until midnight (sixteen hours from their arrival), they will have lost more than two weeks of time. They also neglect to mention that the Candle Walk is a magical ritual, and the purpose of that ritual is to send the Town of Harborlight and everyone in it, back to the Feywild.

Captain Laindeir is a kidnapper by trade: they intend to extort the party for their most precious belongings (see “The Moneychanger,” below) in exchange for passage back to the Material Plane... or, if they are unwilling to do so, sell them to the Queen of the Seelie Court for her to do as she pleases. If the party falls for their trap, Captain Laindeir’s mannerisms will change immediately. They will cackle with delight, and reveal their true form: a malevolent Archfey from the Brackish Court, and introduce themself as “Olccoinneal,” (derived from ‘bad candle’ in Irish, pronounced “ol’ coin NEAL”) They will inform the party of the reality of their situation (they are now in the Feywild, where a day spent here is a whole year back in the Material Plane.) They will explain that the party is now a captive of The Brackish Court, and they will now pay them three Tokens apiece or spend a year in the brig–long enough for everyone back home who knows and loves them to grow old and die, and long enough for their deeds and history to fade from memory. Then they will be sold to the Queen of Winter and Darkness, to do with as she pleases.


The party has met Belcanzor before. This bald, blue-skinned genie runs a traveling shop on Taevara: it can be found in Westra in the spring, Crownsport in the fall, and Threshold in the autumn. Today he is dressed in blue, and he’s genuinely delighted to see the players on “his day off.” (This is a hint to the players that the passing of a day here amounts to a whole season on the Material Plane.) He will beckon them to join him at his table for a drink.

If the party asks him if he will be participating in the Candle Walk, he will shake his head. “No, I’ll need to be back in Westra about an hour before the singing begins. I can give you a ride with me, if you want to meet me in my tent later.” This is yet another hint that time passes differently here, and that they might be trapped here for a good while longer than that if they don’t leave with him.

If the party asks him if he has any merchandise for sale, he will smile and wink. “Today is my day off, my good fellow, but…” he will reach into his pouch and produce a bundle of black silk, “...what kind of merchant would I be, to refuse my favorite customers!” He will untie the bundle and unroll it, revealing a small collection of jewelry. “Everything is on sale today! By the kindness of our Captain, everything costs only a single token. Have a look!”

Belcanzor’s Inventory: 2d6 random Wondrous Items of Rare and Very Rare frequency, and one Ring of Wishes.

Whirl, the Trinket Merchant​

Whirl is a beautiful green-haired pixie with luna moth wings, less than a foot tall. She is good-natured and friendly (maybe with a bit of a mean streak), and enjoys having a good laugh as much as a good drink. “I’m a cheap date,” she might say, since she can get drunk off of a mere thimbleful of rum. She has a small shop set up in one corner of the tavern floor: it’s little more than a box of random trinkets, sitting on an ‘empty’ table, with a small sign that reads "Take Something, Leave Something" in both Common and Sylvan.

Whirl is a practical joker, but also a shrewd businesswoman. She observes her little “Fairy Market” silently, while invisible from a nearby shelf overlooking her table. If someone takes something from her shop without leaving something in return, she will assume they are trying to play some kind of joke on them and respond with a “joke” of her own…she will curse them until they make proper payment. Her curses usually take the form of childish practical jokes, such as:
  • They audibly fart whenever they make an important Persuasion or Intimidation check, giving them Disadvantage on the roll.
  • Whenever they attempt an Acrobatics or Athletics check, they begin sneezing uncontrollably, giving them Disadvantage on the attempt.
  • Whenever they attempt to hide or move silently, they develop loud hiccups, giving them Disadvantage on the attempt.
When the party first arrives at this “Market,” they will notice the tent is completely empty. Inside is a single upright barrel, with a wooden tray atop it. Inside the tray is a selection of trinkets and gadgets, with a sign that reads “Take Something Leave Something” written on it.

Inside the tray are 3d6 random Trinkets and 1d6 magic items of Common rarity.

She is looking forward to the Candle Walk, because she made a special lantern of her own to carry. It’s the flowering pod of a lantern plant, that she has cast a light spell on. She knows that the Lantern Walk is a portal, but she assumes that it's an elaborate and harmless practical joke...she doesn't feel the need to warn the party about it.

Cricket, Barista at the Court of Cakes​

The bartender is a teenage Feyblood (Dryashi) with hair the color of verdigris and pale skin. She wears a green apron over a white dress, and speaks with a ‘valley girl’ accent. When the party first meets her, she will be discussing the upcoming Candle Walk with Captain Laindier at the bar, while mixing a coffee cocktail.

A variety of snacks and drinks can be purchased here, all for the cost of a single token. In addition to the standard bar fare, the following treats are also on offer:

Everdark Coffee: ”One cup of this coffee, and you’ll never sleep again!” Drinking a cup of this coffee will permanently bestow the Trance ability (as an elf), and immunity to magical sleep effects.

Faerie Cakes: these small cupcakes come in a variety of flavors and colors. Eating one of these cakes grants the ability to cast the Enlarge/Reduce spell without using a spell slot. Once this spell has been cast in this manner, it cannot be cast again until after a Long Rest.

Meat Pies: Incredibly rich and filling, eating just one of these hand-pies “will last you for the rest of your life.” Seriously: eat one of these, and you will no longer need to eat food to survive. (You can still eat, and you still enjoy the taste of food, you are just immune to the effects of starvation and you never feel hungry.)

Treacle Tart: “The sweetest thing you’ve ever tasted,” Cricket will insist. A single slice of this caramel and custard pastry costs 1 Token, and it will permanently increase a character’s maximum hit points by 1d8 when eaten.

Feel free to invent other, similar snacks and beverages. When you do so, ask yourself "What would a Starbucks look like in the Feywild" and run it through a Through the Looking Glass filter.

The Moneychanger​

The Moneychanger is a mysterious fey creature with purple skin and a bald head, and four spider legs that emerge from his back (he usually keeps these folded close to his body, so as to not disturb people too much). His face is completely featureless except for a broad, toothy smile. Despite his lack of eyes and ears, he is extremely perceptive and insightful, and can intuitively sense when others are being dishonest with him (Deception checks against him automatically fail, and Insight checks that he makes always succeed.)

The Moneychanger sits at a very large, polished wooden table. To his left is a set of golden scales, and to his right is a small silver tray upon which rests a deck of cards.

Gold and silver are not valid currency here in Harborlight…in fact, the players might be horrified to learn that their coins have all turned to leaves, and their gems have all turned to rocks. The only valid currency used here are little wooden coins called “Trade Tokens,” and all goods, services, and activities in the Harborlight Inn can be purchased with just one of these wooden coins. These wooden tokens can be acquired at the Moneychanger’s Table.

To acquire a token, a character must first make an offer. The Moneychanger isn’t interested in money, gems, or gold–-he is rather unorthodox and particular about what is considered “valuable.” Any one of the following things can be traded for one single token:
  • An eye (permanent -2 penalty to Perception and Passive Perception)
  • Your sense of urgency (speed permanently reduced by one-third)
  • Your youth (character ages to 10 years short of their maximum lifespan)
  • Your soul (character cannot be raised, may also gain Archfey pact if they wish to multiclass with Warlock)
  • Your sense of self-preservation (permanent -2 penalty to AC)
  • A fragment of your arcane knowledge (permanently lose a known spell or spell-like ability, metamagic power, warlock invocation, or similar class feature)
  • Your most prized possession (any currently-attuned magic item)
  • One year of exercise (permanent -2 penalty to Strength)
  • Your reflexes (permanent -2 penalty to Dexterity)
  • Your vitality (permanent -2 penalty to Constitution)
  • A favorite memory (permanent -2 penalty to Intelligence)
  • A secret you promised never to tell (permanent -2 penalty to Wisdom)
  • The best dream you ever had (permanent -2 penalty to Charisma)
  • A talent or natural gift (permanently lose one feat)
  • A favor, which the Moneychanger will call in later.
These are just examples; the players should be encouraged to make their own offers. In the most rudimentary terms, a token should be comparable to an ASI or feat, or a Very Rare magic item. Unused tokens can be exchanged for their original purchase price, if the party returns before the Candle Walk begins.

Alternately, the character can attempt to win a Token for “free” by drawing a card from the deck on the silver tray. It is a Deck of Many Things, and The Moneychanger will award them with a Token if they draw certain cards (such as The Star.)

The Silkenpillow Lounge​

In the far side of the cavernous tavern, opposite of the sound stage, is a smoking lounge called “The Silkenpillow Lounge” (colloquially known as ‘The Lounge’ or perhaps ‘The Pillow.’) Here, patrons all recline on overstuffed pillows and couches, and partake of a variety of smokables in great glass pipes and hookahs. Shortly after the party arrives at this corner of the tavern, an inebriated minotaur will announce that "the hookah smoking contest is about to begin!" A handful of satyrs, elves, and the minotaur will all take a seat on comfy pillows and invite the party to join.

Rules for the Smoking Contest: First, you pay the entry fee: one Token. You will be given a special commemorative (and collectable) hookah pipe, signifying you as eligible for the contest. These pipes are fairly mundane here in Harborlight and elsewhere in the Feywild, but are quite valuable back home on the Material Plane, especially among collectors of Fey magic.

All contestants begin the game with a number of Clarity Points equal to 10 + their Constitution modifier.

Each round, a lovely djinn will come by and swap out the shisha bowls of the hookahs, replacing them with a fresh bed of charcoal. Then she will tell everyone at the table what sorts of herbs, resins, and other substances they are about to partake of as she swaps out the water and loads the bowl with a generous helping of the dried substances, which begin to sparkle and smoke atop the hot coals. Then everyone at your table takes a deep toke on the hookah, and makes a Constitution save against the DC of the particular smoke.
  • If you pass, nothing happens.
  • If you fail, you lose 1d4 Clarity Points.
  • If you roll a nat-1, you lose 2d4 Clarity Points.
  • If you roll a nat-20, you recover 1d4 lost Clarity Points.
There might be other effects as well, depending on the herb that you’re smoking. You might be poisoned, turn bright purple, gain levels of exhaustion, fill your pants, or float 3 feet off the ground for several minutes, depending on the concoction.

If you drop to 0 Clarity Points, you fall unconscious and are eliminated from the contest, and dragged off to a stuffed pillow to sleep it off over the next few hours.

The contest will go on for as long as it needs to, until a single winner prevails. The last person standing wins the Grand Prize!

Grand Prize: the winner of the Hookah Smoking Contest contest wins a wish!

Twelve Rounds: contestants who make it to the end of the contest will get to smoke the famous Ship of Fools–a rare and legendary herb that is so psychedelic that it has been banned by both the Temple of Dawn and the Merchant’s Guild. This is your only chance to get a taste.


Round 1, Stormclouds:
The first smoke of the evening is a strain of pipeweed that has been laced with resin and flavored with sweet nettles and rose petals. It was selected specifically to humiliate as many people as possible, and “thin out” the crowd significantly (to save the more expensive smokes for the true contenders.) As such, it has a DC of 16.

Round 2, Snow Train: A lightly-aged tobacco with an impressive amount of lavender and honey on the tongue. Save DC 12, and it only deals 1 point of damage on a failed save (2 on a nat-1). It’s one of the more mild smokes of the evening.

Round 3, The Velvet Sea: A thick, acrid, leathery tobacco (or perhaps seaweed?) that has been cured in rum and crusted with salt. Those who fail their save throw begin to hack and choke and cough so severely that they also gain 2 levels of Exhaustion (4 levels, on a nat-1). The save DC is 13.

Round 4, Foggy Noggin: this thick, sickeningly sweet tobacco has been blended with pipeweed, brown sugar, and probably opium. The save DC is 14.

Round 5, Plushhammer: a brightly-colored blend of dried flower petals laced with resin, it has a full body and rich floral nose. All who partake of this herbal blend immediately fall under the effect of a Bless spell if they pass their save throw, or a Bane spell if they fail (in addition to the 1d4 points of Clarity). The save DC is 15.

Round 6, Comfortably Numb: a narcotic smoke blended from pipeweed, belladonna, and deadly nightshade flowers. The save DC is 16, and those who smoke this soothing, numbing blend gain the benefit of the Calm Emotions spell for the rest of the contest. Those who fail gain the Poisoned condition for the rest of the contest.

Round 7, Wolfman’s Brother: this brownish-red powder looks distressingly like dried animal dung, and tastes like singed hair. All who smoke it begin to sweat profusely, quickly becoming drenched from head to toe as if they had been dunked in the sea (save DC 17).

Round 8, The Golden Prophet: a powerful herb blend that looks and smells like tea leaves. It is medium-sweet, with notes of honey, caramel, and hazelnut on the finish. All who pass their save throw recover 1 lost Clarity Point, and receive an omen from an otherworldly entity per the Augury spell. If possible, try to work in a warning about the Lantern Walk and the possibility of becoming trapped in another world. The Save DC is 18.

Round 9, Whiplash: These dried flower petals are an alarming shade of magenta, and have a strange metallic aroma, like flint or sulfur. The save DC for this smoke is 19, and all who partake of it lose one ongoing status condition of their choice (such as the Poisoned condition, the Bane spell, or one level of Exhaustion).

Round 10, Banshee: this transparent, honey-colored rock is ground to a powder right before your eyes, then added to the shisha bowl. More of a chemical than a plant, this Infernal drug excites the senses and clears the head–at a price. The save DC is 20, and those who pass their save throw gain Advantage on their next save throw. Unfortunately those who fail it gain Disadvantage on their next save throw.

Round 11, Frog Fart: made by master foragers from Arbori, this dubious concoction is made from whole dried tree frogs in a variety of colors. These amphibians are pounded into a coarse dust and mixed with a few dried flower petals and mushroom caps to create a potent, leathery, and strangely sweet-tasting fume. The save DC is 21, and those who fail their save throw begin to hallucinate, seeing all living creatures as some kind of anthropomorphic frog (make all Charisma-based skill checks at Disadvantage). The effects last until they complete a short or long rest.

Round 12, Ship of Fools: the most legendary smoke of all! This herbal concoction is prepared fresh to order, right at your table, from an assortment of resins, mushrooms, insects, and flower petals. Those who partake of this life-changing smoke are in for a religious experience: it is easily the most delicious tobacco(?) you have ever tasted, rich and sweet and tangy and fruity and spicy, the flavors keep changing and swirling and spinning around. All who taste it are forever changed. The save DC is 22.

If you smoke the Ship of Fools and pass your save throw, your intestinal fortitude permanently changes. You may gain your choice of either the Resilient (Wisdom or Charisma only) or the Telepathic feat. If you do, you permanently lose 2 points of Constitution. If you already have both of these feats, you gain nothing.

If you smoke the Ship of Fools and fail your save throw, you may gain your choice of either a permanent +1 to Wisdom, a +1 to Charisma, proficiency with all Wisdom save throws, or proficiency with all Charisma save throws. If you do, you permanently lose 1 point of Constitution. If your Wisdom and Charisma are both 20 and you are already proficient with Wisdom and Charisma saving throws, you gain nothing.

The Candle Walk Begins​

An hour before midnight, all of the town’s residents will light these special paper lanterns, hang them from these long poles, and then start walking through Harborlight Inn with them. The entire establishment grinds to a halt: businesses all close, clerks abandon their booths, and even the players themselves get swept up in the throng if they fail a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw. As they walk, they will all start singing a beautiful, haunting song in Sylvan, called “Lights to Guide Us Home.”

The lanterns and the singing are all part of a ritual that will open the gates of the Feywild. As they sing, the stars will fade and the sky will begin to brighten, as if the sunrise was coming early. This isn’t the sunrise at all: the gundalow is fading away and rematerializing in the Feywild–the land of perpetual twilight. Characters can notice this happening with a successful DC 16 Arcana check (characters with strong bonds to the Feywild, such as Pact of the Archfey warlocks, Oath of Ancients paladins, and certain races, make this check at advantage).

Ideally, this will kick off a mad dash to get back to the ship before the hour is up…no small task, considering most of the ship’s crew have been enthralled and are now participating in the Candle Walk!

The Ritual Is Completed​

At midnight, the Candle Walk ritual is concluded, and the town of Harborlight has been transported back to the Feywild–along with everyone in it and every ship moored there. So if the party hasn’t unmoored their ship by this time, they will very likely be trapped here. And this is when Laindeir reveals his true colors.

Escape from Harborlight​

The escape from this magical trap is an adventure in and of itself, and is beyond the scope of this encounter. There are three "built-in" means of exit in this encounter; feel free to add more:
  • Winning the hookah smoking contest. The winning character will be granted a wish, which they could use to get home.
  • Drawing the Fate card from the Deck of Many Things. This will let the party undo their decisions that led to their capture.
  • They could buy the ring of Three Wishes from Belcanzor.

Certainly for my DMing style, you have to be willing to burn it all down. Whether that be characters, the entire arc, the whole setting, or the whole campaign.
Well, "burn it all down" might be a bit of an overstatement, but you have a good point: if you are highly invested in your campaign setting and story, dropping a Deck of Many Things in it is like throwing a live grenade into a fireworks factory. It can permanently change things that you and/or your players might not want to change. It can delete your whole character, even.

I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches, and I'm allergic to railroads, so I'm okay with a little bit (or a lot!) of chaos in the game world. Other DMs would be rightly apprehensive.
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Back in 1E/2E was playing my group through I6 - Ravenloft & I10 - House on Griffon Hill at the same time. The group found the deck in the bowels of Strahd's castle (and I used the cardstock deck from Dragon magazine), and they had a plan ... I think everyone drew at least 3 cards. I remember the paladin drew the Knight (gaining a henchmen), someone got the Gem, and more than a few wishes were pulled via the Moon. The Monk drew the Flames, and ended up attracting the eye of Orcus upon them. The rogue drew The Void*, but the group was able to use one of the wishes they ended up to roll back time and allow him to redraw (I don't remember what was drawn after that).

The best one was the cleric, who pulled the Comet - defeat the next creature (solo) to go up a level. That next creature turned out to be a Shadow Demon, and it was a helluva fight as the first thing it did was drop darkness on the fighting area. This was back in the day of "guess the square your enemy is in to even make an attack roll", and he didn't have any sort of spell counter for the darkness (and was human to boot). The cleric ended up going through most of his healing spells to survive the fight, but did finally win in the end.


Only about a year later in my brother's game I would learn that one of the players had marked the deck (by crimping the corner of the Moon card - and Void & Donjon - ever so slightly) - thus the abnormal number of Wish draws (of which my brother had partaken). I was pissed. So, I paid him back by drawing a total of 28 wishes for my own character, and then pointing out what they had done (I only kept the 3 wishes I had got from the original draw of the Moon - which was when I noticed it was marked).

I never have, and probably never will, use the deck again.

* Turns out this card had only been drawn because the rest of the group hadn't yet informed the player the deck had been marked. I'm pretty sure I remember them pulling him aside after the draw when they were planning how to fix it, and informed him at that time.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Well, "burn it all down" might be a bit of an overstatement, but you have a good point: if you are highly invested in your campaign setting and story, dropping a Deck of Many Things in it is like throwing a live grenade into a fireworks factory. It can permanently change things that you and/or your players might not want to change. It can delete your whole character, even.

I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches, and I'm allergic to railroads, so I'm okay with a little bit (or a lot!) of chaos in the game world. Other DMs would be rightly apprehensive.
I think it works fine in the right style of game, and at the right time. (Wrapping up the campaign in two months, because someone's moving cross country at that point? Out come the cards!) I certainly wouldn't drop the deck on the table during the middle of a tightly plotted campaign that I cared about.


About two years ago, I was playing with a DM who loves gonzo, overpowered stuff. In this particular campaign, he would routinely hand out tens of thousands of GP for completed quests… AND he had most magic items readily available for purchase by the PCs.

My first purchase was a Hat of Disguise, for the LOLs; but one of the other players was a little chaos gremlin, and immediately picked up a Deck. He also made a habit of drawing from it during combat, which resulted in:

- Gaining enough XP to immediately go from Level 5 to Level 11 (or maybe 14), which brought the game to a halt while he picked out all his new class abilities and feats.

- Summoning a demon, which he had to fight one-on-one, while the rest of us tried to continue with the main fight.

- Drawing The Void card, leading to an improvised side quest to rescue his sorry buttocks.

- and probably a few others I’ve forgotten.

Several sessions later, when the PC went down in combat, I (the Cleric) ran over to get him back up… but only after making sure to liberate the Deck from his possession. The other PC was never able to figure out what happened (multiple lousy Investigation checks from him, or outstanding Deception checks from me).

Not long after, I missed a session, and when I came back the DM had allowed the player to buy FIVE new Decks during the session I missed.

Luckily, the campaign wrapped up not long after.


Victoria Rules
Well, "burn it all down" might be a bit of an overstatement, but you have a good point: if you are highly invested in your campaign setting and story, dropping a Deck of Many Things in it is like throwing a live grenade into a fireworks factory. It can permanently change things that you and/or your players might not want to change. It can delete your whole character, even.

I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches, and I'm allergic to railroads, so I'm okay with a little bit (or a lot!) of chaos in the game world.
More to the point, IME the players love that chaos!

Otherwise - assuming they knew what it was - they'd have their characters run away fast the moment a Deck appeared. Dunno 'bout you, but I've never seen that happen.


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
More to the point, IME the players love that chaos!

Otherwise - assuming they knew what it was - they'd have their characters run away fast the moment a Deck appeared. Dunno 'bout you, but I've never seen that happen.
A bit of both in this group. The druid was happy to draw a card (or five) from the Deck, just to see what would happen. But the monk and the artificer didn't even want to be in the same room with the Deck once they knew what it was.


Victoria Rules
A bit of both in this group. The druid was happy to draw a card (or five) from the Deck, just to see what would happen. But the monk and the artificer didn't even want to be in the same room with the Deck once they knew what it was.
Yeah, for me it depends on the character I'm playing.

As player my first thought is always "gimme gimme gimme!" if-when a Deck comes up, but if I'm playing a cautious or lawful or practical character I have to temper my out-of-character desires and instead do what the character would do: decline to draw any cards while standing by to help deal with any outfall from other people's draws.


More to the point, IME the players love that chaos!

Otherwise - assuming they knew what it was - they'd have their characters run away fast the moment a Deck appeared. Dunno 'bout you, but I've never seen that happen.
My concern with playing it like the OP did was that the player didn't know what it was. The last time I brought one in, the players knew exactly what it was - in fact they had to go on a quest to find universal solvent to be able to access it. And then two of them lost their characters, but that was a choice they made, so...

But OP obviously knows their group, so as long as everyone is having a good time, then it sounds like a fun way to play it.

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