I was working on this long article on how I’ve been cardified – I was making my own DM cards for NPCs and Monsters and running my D&D Encounters combat with them. I was even going to post some examples of my output to share. But the truth is, after 20+ weeks of DM’ing Encounters and now 8 weeks of Season 4 with these accursed “Fortune Cards” being in-play, I still haven’t settle on my DM behind-screen note taking. I’m down to about 2 methods, both of which require some printing out of things at work before 6PM on Wednesday nights. If I forget to do that or work interferes with my planning then I resort to the standby pencil-and-paper method where you just scribble everything down on the back of something else.
So, I’m going to further delay that post and jump on this flash of inspiration I just had. In the DDI article “April and Beyond” I found out that a.) we’re only going to get non-serious jokes because this accursed month has one day called “April Fools Day” in it (1 day of jokes, 29 days of not-jokes, but I still only see AFD Fluff in this month’s “issue” of the “magazine content”), and b.) the Despair Deck is rapidly approaching.
I know that my cohort, Matt, is not what you’d call a “fan” of Fortune Cards and I think I can summarize his opinion of them based upon what I half-heard him telling his players during DND Encounters a few weeks ago. It actually wasn’t so much as telling them as standing up behind a podium yelling it at the top of his lungs making wild, gesticulating movements and they seemed to chant in syncopated agreement at this Two Minutes Hate. He said something that really struck me as being a good point.
His thoughts, and I’ll let him clarify or elaborate, revolves in part around in-game mechanics for why these Fortunes are being gifted to these slime we call “Players” at our table. Part of that statement I might have thrown in for good measure, I’ll let you debate what that is.
What in-game explanation do you have for not granting opportunity attacks or shifting your full speed plus the square root of your initiative modifier times your level divided by the number of adjacent enemies? Fortune Cards are giving you little perks or buffs but how do you explain them? Divine intervention? What if your character doesn’t have a deity? What deity is handing out fortune to non-believers? Don’t they have enough of their own followers to fill their time with? Is it some extra special benefit of their training that allows them to avoid certain doom because back at the Inn the night before they spent extra time flipping a card over? Who’s to say!?!
<insert Matt’s elaboration/flames here>
So when I saw this preview of a single card from the Despair Deck, I thought- you know? These a different. In the accompanying play setting for this deck of cards, the Shadowfell, you’re characters are in a very foreign environment. And one of the effects of being here in this alien land is that the characters are under constant barrage from weirdness and sorrow at their surroundings. All of a sudden, this Despair Deck has a perfect explanation of why they are being introduced into the game.
You’re pulling a random card (hopefully not as often as once per turn) that says “hey, this place is cuh-razy- you’re extremely jittery here. Until you can get over this, you’re going to be kinda out of it.” So they’re dazed because of the strangeness of their surroundings. I get that.
But then on the flip side, once they’ve been able to overcome that despair, they receive a boon- as you would when you overcome great adversity. This particular preview card (which, in case you missed it, is displayed at the April and Beyond link at the top of this post) you can’t become dazed again for the rest of the day. I get that. You’ve (somewhat) acclimated to your situation. Good for you. Just don’t go to sleep…
So, whereas, I’m still teeter-tottering on the fence about Fortune Cards (why do the “official WotC rules” allow for deck stacking?) (80%+ of the time, my players have forgotten they exist so it slows down game play when they interrupt combat by saying “Oh, I should have flipped over my card 3 turns back” and people stop to say “Aww man, you should have done that!” …. STAY ON TARGET ….)
So, whereas, I’m still teeter-tottering- I’ll say that I’m slightly more on the side of the Despair Deck. They sound like a fun way to spice up your Shadowfell campaign/adventures.
Will using Despair cards be anymore fluent or natural by the time they come out? Will people still be willing to spend $4 on a pack now and again? Will they be disappointed that their Fortune Cards are now obsolete? Will they, in fact, be obsolete?
I don’t know yet.
Just don’t stack the deck.