The problem with the Deck of Many Things always seems to be that it derails games and destroys pre-planned plot-lines. So here's an idea, don't let it do that. Instead, start a new campaign and as the first adventure the party goes on, have them do something classic, like retrieving some little magic items at the bottom of a Warren infested with Giant Rats or something like that. But then, at the bottom of a chest, they find the Deck. Then, as they draw cards, use that to decide what the campaign is going to be about. So with that idea, I present to you...
James R. Eads
The Deck of Destiny
The name is borrowed from Puffin Forest.
The cards themselves are glossy and finely made and look like they have never been used. They are found either in a deck of 20 or in small groups of 1d20. There are only 20 of them at one time. After a card is used, it vanishes from the universe until all the others have been used, or 1d100+20 years have passed, after which the deck's cards are gathered back together in a hidden place, ready to alter fate once more. Anyone who touches the cards or even gets near one can feel the magical power oozing off them. Each one feels like a small campfire in terms of magical energy. The cards, when inactive, frighten away animals and unsettle children, like a distant thunderstorm or a whining air-raid siren.
If a card is drawn or picked up and looked at, the card's magic will activate and the threads of destiny will be unraveled and rewoven into a new shape to fit the outcome selected.
1- Void: The End is Nigh. Some kind of event occurs that will start small, but rapidly grow larger, threatening the entire world. Perhaps the Evil Wizard accidentally unspooled part of the Fabric of Creation, or a Cult breached the protective shields around our universe, allowing one of the Elder Evils to manifest, or maybe the Aboleth has entered our world by stealth or guile. The Referee should feel free to be creative. If this event is not stopped, slowed or reversed, the world as you know it will end. The world may survive, but everything you know about this one will die.
2- Death: The Reaper Comes. One creature is cursed with death. The skull on this card changes after a minute, becoming the face of the creature who will die. That creature that is cursed is [1= The party's legal Sovereign; 2= An ally of the party; 3= A virtuous innocent or someone the party loves, preferrably both; 4= A member of the party.] This curse can be broken like a normal curse, but the requirements to do so will be very hard.
3- The Tower: The ground shakes and darkness covers the land. A disaster will befall your land. Wherever the party currently is will experience some kind of natural disaster, such as a volcanic eruption, wildfire, earthquake or etc.
4- The Devil: I looked into the abyss and felt it looking back. Then it laughed. An Evil Outsider has noticed you and it will make it its mission to destroy you. The Outsider will use whatever tactics it feels are necessary or likely to work. It may send assassins after you or trick you into going into a dangerous situation, or try to destroy you in other ways first, such as corrupting you and driving away your allies before coming in person to deliver the death-blow.
5- The Dagger: Glitter glitter, knives in the dark. You will be betrayed by someone you trust. The Referee should come up with a reason why someone the party trusts might have to sell them out. If none occurs to you, just wait. One will surely arise in time. But remember, the most important thing about this card is to make sure the party never forgets about it.
6- The Gorgon: I grind your bones to make my bread. A powerful monster will soon appear and attack the person who drew this card. It should fit the local ecosystem. If the players are tramping around in the desert, send a monstrous Wurm after them.
7- Ruin: Jingle jangle, but not a cent for the poor. The person who drew this card will experience a personal ruin; they will lose everything in terms of wealth and status. Every business they own will fail, every expensive item they own will be destroyed or stolen and all but their pocket change will be lost. Whoever you determine this is up to you.
8- The Moon: Oh fairest maid, silverhaired and distant looking! You get 1d3 Wishes, but these wishes will be twisted in a 1d3 [1= Mischievous way; 2= Malicious way; 3= Overly literal way.]
9- The Joker: Good evening, ladies and gentleman! One positive event that occurred to you in the past is undone, as if it never happened. The Referee is encouraged to indulge his sadism, just this once.
10- The One-Eyed Man: Oh, you poor thing. You receive a vision of the future. You are cursed to do what you saw in the vision even (especially if) you try to change the future. The only way to prevent this is with the Fool Card or by breaking the curse as if it was a normal curse.
11- The Magician: No fate but what we make. You receive a vision of a bad future. This future is inevitable, unless you do something about it. You know that it can be prevented, but you don't know how.
12- The Fool: Fortune favors the bold, Fate the foolish. One negative event, or any other you choose from the past is undone, as if it never happened. You forgot it, and so did the World.
13- The Sword: I have the power! You receive either a powerful magic item or know the location of one.
14- The Chariot: Sound the horns. We march. A war breaks out and their is need for your help. Whatever side you fight on will be victorious and if you survive, you will be a hero. If you die, you will become a legend. Alternatively, if this card is drawn mid-battle, the person who drew the card immediately has reinforcements for their side arrive.
15- The Vault: Let me see that map. You are granted the location of a vast cache of treasure. There may be defenders or guardians, but if you get there, you have a decent chance of having enough mmoney to buy yourself a kingdom or two.
16- The Crown: Heavy is the head. Either 1d3 [1= You; 2= A fellow party member; 3= An NPC you all know and like.] is revealed to have royal blood. However, the throne he or she is heir to is currently in the hands of a pretender.
17- The Page: I will not fight, because of course I would win. An NPC arrives and swears (his/her, equal chance of each) allegiance to the person who drew this card. The NPC will be an Adventurer of a random class who is 1d3 levels lower than the person who drew this card, with a minimum level of 1. The NPC will be a righteous man and will follow the person who drew this card unless mistreated, or if he sees his master to be evil. The NPC believes it is the will of the Gods that he follows this man.
18- The Sun: Stand in the light, but don't squander your time. You get 1d3 wishes, but if they are selfish, the wishes will be twisted as per The Moon Card. Otherwise, the wishes are granted non-maliciously.
19- Justice: Despite her blindness, she sees very well. One evil creature who is currently doing bad things or has not gotten his just desserts yet will suddenly get them, either through seemingly random catastrophe or because that evil creature's enemies will suddenly receive an opportunity to strike a decisive blow to the evil creature.
20- The Star: We're on a mission from God. The person who drew this card has a Deity or an Agent of Heaven appear before him and give him a Holy Quest, along with a special, innate magical ability and 1 free level in any class of their choice.
The Wild Unknown
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