The Pandemonium Deck

edited February 2013 in Make Stuff!
I got a bee in my bonnet about making a variant deck of many things based on the Decktet deck and roughly following the path laid out by Madness at Gardmore Abbey. As I got into it, I realized something about my approach and need your creativity to flesh it out.

As you probably know, the deck of many things has a well-deserved reputation for breaking campaigns, where the result of one card would could derail all the action into some odd (and, to the group, inconvenient) place. There have been a number of variations of the deck, most of which seek to solve this problem by gimping the effects of drawing cards.

I want the pandemonium deck to go a different direction: rather than avoid the campaign derail, embrace it, but set things up so that everyone is expecting, even demanding, the derail. I have the basic shell of how to do this figured out. The specifics are a bit crunchy and don't matter a whole lot for the purposes of this post. In broad strokes:
  • No one ever finds the ''deck'' whole. People find individual cards.
  • If cards are present at a battle, one of them exerts an "influence" on the battle providing a moderate benefit that moves at random around the battlefield. (There are other assorting tricks, like forcing your card to be the influencing one, etc.)
  • Gathering more cards provides the owner with bennies.
  • If the players decide to make tracking down cards a thing they care about, at a certain point, mechanics kick in that accelerate this process (abilities to locate cards, communicate with those that have them, etc.)
  • Once the entire deck is assembled (presumably after quite a bit of effort), a ritual allows the more classic "drawing a card from the deck" major mojo. There is a slight bit of control here (draw three, but choose the one that takes effect, etc.).
  • Drawn cards disintegrate and reform at random elsewhere, so must be collected again before another draw can be made.
The part I need help with is the "major mojo". I need events that upset the status quo of the campaign, in a way the characters find themselves caught up in. The person who drew the card might get a huge benefit or a huge curse, but either way, their life (and the life of his allies) gets complicated. The ''deck'' wants to spread chaos. If it has to fulfill the dreams of the person who drew a card to get it, so be it.

I'd like responses to provide effects for what happens when various cards are drawn, keeping the following in mind:
  1. Each card has a name, and the event should relate in some way to the name. Card images can be found here.
  2. Don't worry so much about mechanical effects (if you want to add or suggest some, fine). Instead focus on what happens to the person that draws the card. If the nature of the world matters, assume a typical Pathfinder fantasy aesthetic.
  3. When a card is drawn, the deck has the ability to subtly spread rumor and innuendo (not necessarily the truth) about what just happened to parties who would be most interested in doing something about it. Given that the deck wants to cause chaos, who does it tell, and what does it tell them?
  4. Don't worry if other people have already posted an idea for a card. Post your own anyway.
  5. Keep the post short, down to a few paragraphs.
  6. Don't be afraid to go huge and epic when spreading chaos.
  7. Don't be afraid to go quiet and subtle when spreading chaos.
  8. Think about what you and your group would do if you drew this card in a typical d20 campaign, and edit accordingly.
The cards of the deck are: Author, Bard, Battle, Betrayal, Borderland, Calamity, Castle, Cave, Chance Meeting, Consul, Darkness, Desert, Diplomat, Discovery, End, Excuse, Forest, Harvest, Huntress, Island, Journey, Knot, Leaves, Light Keeper, Lunatic, Market, Merchant, Mill, Moon, Mountain, Origin, Pact, Painter, Penitent, Rite, Sailor, Savage, Sea, Soldier, Sun, Watchman, Wave, Windfall, Window, Wyrm

Some examples:


You gain a pile of gems and jewelry. Within weeks, evidence is made public proving you have the most legitimate claim to a specific noble title. The deck makes sure that the public is aware of this evidence, particularly the person who currently holds that noble title.


You are granted three wishes, but can only use them on behalf of someone you hadn't met before drawing the card. The deck makes known that you have these wishes, and will spread conflicting rumors about how you will choose who gets them.


You and everything you carry are destroyed. Your mind and soul are grafted into the body of an elder kraken in the largest body of water on your world. You gain all of its stats and abilities, but control the kraken's body and actions. You can also cause minor tidal waves. The only escape from inhabiting the kraken is to destroy. If you manage to make five coastal cities uninhabitable, the effect ends: the kraken dissolves, leaving your original form behind, naked, but otherwise the same as when the effect started. When you target a new city, the deck lets everyone there know you are coming.

Light Keeper

You gain a reputation as a prophet. At least once a day, when your conversation can be overheard in public, an eavesdropper will be filled with the conviction that one of your comments, however innocuous, is the key to some great life-changing truth. If you engage in any sort of public oratory, several people in the crowd will be similarly affected. Unfortunately, you have no control over which statements will be latched onto by the listeners. Affected listeners will largely rearrange their life in order to pursue this truth. Some will try to follow you anywhere you go. Others will openly worship you and do anything you ask (other than stop following you). As the number of followers increases, debates will likely arise among the faithful, as most of them will be reacting to different, possibly contradictory, statements made by you, which may even give rise to violence and schisms. The deck makes sure that those in power know of a growing cult to a false prophet in their midst.

I'm sure you all can do better!


  • Sphinx

    You are destined to sire or give birth to a to child of great promise and power. He or she will overthrow a powerful ruler and marry the prince consort. The parents' names will surely go down in history. The deck makes this condition known to the general public.
  • This thread met my expectations, almost exactly.

    Here is how it turned out anyway.
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