D&D General Using Tarot Cards in D&D

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Have you ever used a deck of Tarot cards in your D&D games?

Like many small businesses during the pandemic, a tattoo shop owner in Guildford was struggling to keep her doors open. To help keep the lights on and her staff paid, she created a Kickstarter for a custom-drawn deck of Tarot cards. (It ended up being a success; it was 240% funded and her shop was saved.) And now I have a beautiful, hand-drawn, high-quality deck of Tarot cards!

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Photo and Art Credit: Esme Baker for Kickstarter

I don't practice divination, and I'm not big into Renaissance-era card games. But I do play D&D, (and also Call of Cthulhu, and Old Gods of Appalachia, to a much lesser degree.) And like they teach in improv acting classes, "everything is a prop." So I'm looking for ideas on how I can use a Tarot deck in my tabletop games, D&D in particular. Has anyone ever made use of a Tarot deck in their games? How? From character creation to dice replacement, table props to adventure hooks, I'd like to hear your stories.
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Reddit tells me that I can use the Tarot deck as a stand-in for the Deck of Many Things, but I can't find anyone to elaborate on this. If you've used a Tarot deck in this manner, how did you map the DoMT cards to the Tarot cards?

I've heard of DMs using Tarot cards during character creation, too, but again: Reddit is really lean on specifics.
 




ichabod

Legned
Well, there's the Curse of Strahd method, where you do a reading for one of the characters at the beginning. The cards determine who the main ally is going to be, what item they need to have, who is Strahd's lieutenant or something like that. But you have to be careful. In CoS, there's some bad choices that can really make it hard on the players, to the point where many people recommend not using the cards.

What I might do is have the deck scattered around. As they find each card you can give it to them. Each card could have small magical effects, but combinations of cards could have more powerful effects.

Oh, and this appears to be a conversion:
 

Meech17

Adventurer
BACKGROUND: SKIP AHEAD IF YOU DON'T CARE AND JUST WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE CARDS

I'm running a 5E game for some mostly new players. In our last adventure they were all level 2, and they had just met a higher level wizard who I am trying to position into being their patron. They had found a couple of magic items in the dungeon from the first quest and wanted to get them identified. (I had really hoped they'd have the courage to just try shooting the wand at something, or someone but they're more cautious than I was as a new player it seems.) The Wizard agreed, on the condition that they went and scouted out the swamp a few hours from his tower, as his familiar had traveled there the day before to forage for alchemy ingredients and never returned.

I set up a stereotypical witch's hut in the swamp and they go to inspect it. They clamber up onto the porch and are confronted with a door. It worked with the wizard's tower, so they just tried knocking. From inside they hear a weak, old voice.

"Oh my.. Who is it?" The Halfling Wizard who has sort of been the face of the part, and a senior citizen himself introduces himself, and the party. The old frail voice from inside calls out again.

"Well, I love visitors, but I can barely hear you. Please come let yourself in, I can't get around too well anymore, or else I'd come to the door." The party reluctantly opens the door, and are hit with humid air, which smells of mildew mixed with incense. In the middle of the tiny room, which is overcrowded with wall to wall shelving, adorned with bottles, and books, crystals, and other oddities and endities sits a little old woman at a table.

The Wizard lays his old man charm on her. "Well what's a sweet young woman like yourself doing all out here by your lonesome?" They banter back and forth for a bit and she offers to read his cards. I describe the room as being too crowded for the whole party. Two people will have to wait on the porch and listen in. The Wizard, along with the Gnome Sorcerer, and the Half-Orc Paladin walk in and the wizard sits at the table. Our Elf Ranger and Tabaxi Barbarian listen in from the doorway.

THE SCAM: START HERE FOR THE CARDS
I don't actually own Tarot cards myself but I printed out a list where I had matched Tarot cards to playing cards. 10 of hearts was like the Life card, and the King of Clubs was the death card and so on. I had picked three out made sure to keep them tucked into the slip case when I pulled the deck out and passed it to a player, and asked him to shuffle it for me before the game started.

Once he shuffled it I gently slid the cards into the case so that the three I picked were on top, and set the deck down in front of my screen for the duration of the session. Once the witch was ready to read them their future I asked them to grab the deck and deal the card off the top. They read it, and I ask them to consult my list. They tell me what "Tarot Card" it was. I knew what all these were going to be and had kind of practiced this before hand, but I hemmed and haw'd for a minute while I tried to "Figure out what it meant"

I don't remember what the cards were but essentially one was about success.. I talked up about how they must be heroes! She could feel their heroic energy radiating off of them. This was true, as they had previously saved a village from some Goblins

The next card was like The Sage or something. Someone wise had entered their lives recently and could prove to be a good asset. Maybe the wizard from earlier? Maybe this sweet old lady?

Lastly was not Death, but it was some other bad card. Various Tarot sites I had read as research described it as accepting loss/failure/defeat, and learning to accept that which we can't change. With this the witch looked into the Wizards eyes, and I looked at the player, and I reached out and held her hand in mine, described the witch doing so to her character. I said this stupid blah blah about accepting defeat, and then asked her to roll a Wisdom save, because she was casting Charm Person.

Roll Initiative. BOOM, Witch lady is actually a Yuan-ti, snakes drop from the rafters, snake men climb out of the swamp onto the porch.
It was a really fun encounter.

TL;DR: I just used it for flavor. Don't really have any mechanical advice.
 
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Stormonu

Legend
As @ichabod says, I first ran across using Tarot (Tarrakota in Ravenloft) cards for the various Ravenloft adventure incarnations, including Curse of Strahd. Randomizing Strahd's goals and the locations of various objects makes the adventure have a lot of replayability.

The old Forbidden Lore set for Ravenloft had a section on how you could use card (or dice) draws to set up adventures, and an updated version is in Van Richten's, including using an Oigi (however you spell the darn thing) board as well.

The original Deck of Many Things is essentially a cut-down Tarot deck of the Major Arcana (and Minor Arcana?).

For character creation, look at the Ultima series of games. I think it was Ultima 5 that used a tarot-like method to generate your character. Seventh Seas also had a method to do the character's background (and possibly full generation) using tarot/poker cards.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
I don't practice divination, and I'm not big into Renaissance-era card games. But I do play D&D, (and also Call of Cthulhu, and Old Gods of Appalachia, to a much lesser degree.) And like they teach in improv acting classes, "everything is a prop." So I'm looking for ideas on how I can use a Tarot deck in my tabletop games, D&D in particular. Has anyone ever made use of a Tarot deck in their games? How? From character creation to dice replacement, table props to adventure hooks, I'd like to hear your stories.
As much as I'm generally loath to recommend him due to certain attitudes and overall style, I have been wanting to try out the Angry GM's adventuring/dungeon building tarot technique. That article is thankfully a bit less needlessly abrasive than the average.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Dragon 77 and the Encyclopedia Magica Vol. 1 (A-D) had a Tarot Deck of Many Things.

Everway was an indie game that made heavy use of a tarot-like deck as a randomizer, and I think is now for sale again.

Otherwise, just off the top of my head, coins=thieves, swords=fighters, wands=wizards, cups=clerics. The High Priestess, Hierophant, Magician are character classes as well. You could always make your own deck with beholders and dragons and such and shuffle for the next encounter.
 

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