Aura strong (all schools; chaotic); CL 20th; Slot none; Weight —
This worn fortune-teller's (and gambler's) deck bears an evocative image upon each of its forty-five cards. The deck contains six suits (in order: moons, suns, waves, leaves, wyrms and knots) with a complex structure. For each suit, there is an Ace and a Crown. Ranked between them are other cards numbered 2 through 9, each with two suits. Four Courts each have three suits and are ranked beneath Crowns. Four Pawns each have three suits as well, ranked below Courts. The Excuse has no suit or rank. Suit combinations do not occur with equal frequency. All cards also have a theme or meaning, written on the face of the card (one third represent people, one third represent places and one third represent events). Some cards appear the same when upside down, some do not.
Using the Deck in a Campaign
The deck of many things has long been considered "campaign breaking", where drawing even one card might derail the whole campaign into a different direction. While many variations of the deck have tried to correct this by reducing the impact of card effects, this design goes the other way, making the drawing of the card even more monumental and campaign changing; however, the pandemonium deck is never found intact, and draws can't be made from a partial deck. Instead, focus is put on individual cards. When (and if) players choose to fully assemble the deck to draw from it, everyone will be expecting (even demanding) a draw from it to radically alter the campaign.
By focussing on the individual cards as more minor magic items, it allows groups to "dabble" in using the deck without having to jump in the deep end. Further, it puts the decision to upend the campaign solidly in the hands of the players. A GM might introduce a card or two into the game. If the players seem motivated to find other cards, then the deck can become a more major force in the campaign. If not, then the players have gained some interesting trinkets and life goes on. Should a campaign go full bore into assembling the deck, however, the point at which the ritual is completed and someone draws a card should be an obvious turning point to all involved. It's also possible for something in between, assembling groups of cards to gain their cumulative effects, but never finding the last card, or refusing to use the full deck even if fully assembled.
To support this, the mechanics help accelerate the search for the cards as more are accumulated. At first, cards are likely to be found one at a time, but as the campaign becomes more serious about assembling the deck, the mechanics should help to foster clashes between groups trying to assemble the deck, at which point the victor will gain all the cards of the loser.
Cards of this deck are never found fully assembled, as the deck has the ability to scatter itself under certain circumstances. Most who come across cards find them singly. Individual cards are no more or less durable than mundane cards; however, should a card be seriously damaged, it turns to dust and a new copy forms at some other random location in the world. Note that, since the new copy is not technically the same object as the damaged card, no one has ever handled the new card, which prevents divination spells that require such handling from locating it.
Individual cards make their presence known when combat begins. Whenever an initiative check is made, the GM randomly selects one of the cards possessed by the participants in the combat. This card then exerts an influence on the battle. A spectral icon representing the influencing card appears on the ground in a random square adjacent to the character who owns the selected card. Anyone standing in the square containing the icon gains the influence effect listed for that card, so long as they remain in the same square as the icon. If the character moves out of the square (or the icon moves out from under the character) the influence effect ends immediately.
Any spell-like abilities granted by cards function with a caster level equal to your level. When an influence that grants a spell-like ability leaves a character, the character can no longer use the spell-like ability, but any instances of the spell cast while the character was under the influence remain running as per their normal duration. (In contrast, characters under an influence that gives them an ability "as if" under the effects of a spell lose that ability immediately when the influence leaves them.)
At the start of each round, the icon moves 1d4-1 squares in a random direction (roll 1d8, with 1 indicating north and the other numbers indicating compass going clockwise). If the icon would move into an obstacle (e.g. wall, the edge of a cliff, etc.), it instead just stops. Any creatures standing in the final destination of the icon immediately gain the influence effect of the card.
Characters who own cards may spend a standard action attempting to force a card they own to become the influencing card. Success on a Use Magic Item check (DC 18) causes any existing influence to vanish, and a new influence icon to appear at a random square adjacent to the card owner. Any character in that square immediately gains the influence effect of the new card. Characters under the major effect of a card (see below) may attempt to manifest the influence of that card even if they don't own it. If they do possess it, they add +10 to the check.
The character who owns the influencing card may spend a move action attempting to move its icon. Success on a Use Magic Item check (DC 20) allows the character to move the icon up to 15'. Any creatures standing in the destination square immediately gain the influence effect of the card.
As more of the cards come together, the deck gains potency. If a single character holds multiple cards, they bestow additional effects, depending on the number of cards and their suit combinations. All applicable effects from the following table apply if you owns cards that qualify. All spell-like abilities granted by the deck function with a caster level equal to your level.
|any 6 cards
|You emit an aura of chaos as if you were a cleric of a chaotic deity.
|any 12 cards
|You are constantly protected from law.
|any 18 cards
|Your alignment shifts one step toward chaotic. You may cast magic circle of protection from law 3 times/day as a spell-like ability.
|any 24 cards
|You may cast dispel law once per day as a spell-like ability.
|any 30 cards
|You may cast discern location once per day as a spell-like ability, but only to locate other cards from the deck; however, see the Notoriety section, below.
|any 36 cards
|Your alignment shifts one step toward chaotic. You may cast word of chaos once per day as a spell-like ability.
|any 42 cards
|You may cast cloak of chaos once per day as a spell-like ability.
|three moons + three suns
|You may cast quickened flare burst at will as a spell-like ability.
|three waves + three leaves
|You may cast endure elements at will as a spell-like ability, which reaches to medium range.
|three wyrms + three knots
|You may quickened detect chaos at will as a spell-like ability.
|three moons + three wyrms
|You may cast quickened deathwatch at will as a spell-like ability.
|three suns + three leaves
|You may cast defoliate at will as a spell-like ability.
|three waves + three knots
|You may quickened detect law at will as a spell-like ability.
|You may cast suggestion at will as a spell-like ability.
|You may cast prayer at will as a spell-like ability.
|You may cast true seeing on yourself at will as a spell-like ability.
|You may cast scrying at will as a spell-like ability.
|one card of each rank + the excuse
|Once per day, you may broadcast a sending which is heard by any creature who owns six or more cards. Any responses are also heard by all who heard the original sending.
|moons of each rank
|You may cast beast shape iv twice per day as a spell-like ability.
|suns of each rank
|You may cast sunbeam twice per day as a spell-like ability.
|waves of each rank
|You may cast seamantle twice per day as a spell-like ability.
|leaves of each rank
|You may cast plant shape iii twice per day as a spell-like ability.
|wyrms of each rank
|You may cast form of the dragon ii twice per day as a spell-like ability.
|knots of each rank
|You may cast maze once per day as a spell-like ability.
|All 15 personalities
|You may cast symbol of persuasion once per day as a spell-like ability.
|All 15 places
|You may cast find the path once per day as a spell-like ability.
|All 15 events
|You may cast contingency once per day as a spell-like ability.
Completing the deck
Should one character assemble the complete deck, it reveals its true power. Details of a ritual lasting ten minutes and culminating with cards being drawn from the deck are implanted in the owner's mind. The deck (and, therefore, the effects listed below) considers those present at the ritual to fall into one of three categories:
- The reader is the character performing the ritual. This is the deck's owner. If one person gives the deck to another in order for them to become the reader, the recipient immediately becomes the deck's new owner (able to use all its powers) and is under no particular obligation to give the deck back.
- The querent is the character who will draw from the deck and be targeted by the resulting effect. In the descriptions of major effects below, "you" refers to the querent. The querent cannot be the same character as the reader.
- The witnesses are everyone else present at the ritual, not including the reader or the querent. Witnesses are just spectators most of the time, but some major effects target the witnesses specifically.
At the climax of the ritual, the querent draws cards from the deck. If lawful, the querent may draw only one card. If chaotic, the querent may draw up to three cards. Otherwise the the querent may draw up to two cards. Once the cards are drawn, the reader chooses one of the drawn cards, and the major effect listed for that card activates, targeting the querent. Major effects are permanent and cannot be eliminated without powerful magic, such as a wish or miracle.
Afterwards, each card drawn turns to dust and a new copy forms at a random location (as mentioned above). The reader immediately becomes aware of the new location of the card that was activated (but not the other cards drawn, if any). No longer in possession of a complete deck, the owner must track down the lost cards in order to complete the deck and draw again.
Some major effects also cause additional cards from the deck to vanish and reappear elsewhere. This may happen in one of three ways:
- When the deck divides, undrawn cards are placed at random into four separate piles, as evenly as possible. Unless the effect says otherwise, one pile, chosen at random, remains where it is. The other piles teleport to different random locations within 100 miles.
- When the deck is distributed to a specific group, undrawn cards are randomly allocated to the creatures in the group mentioned in the text, as evenly as possible.
- When the deck scatters, all undrawn cards teleport to different random locations within 2,000 miles.
Created to spread chaos, the deck possesses a rudimentary consciousness which helps further that aim. This consciousness wants the cards to be found and used, so whenever cards transfer to new locations, they will never wind up anywhere too obscure or unaccessible (e.g. surrounded by solid rock, the bottom of unclimbable ravine, etc.). Instead, they tend to appear in places where they might get found eventually (e.g. the bottom of a chest in an attic, the pocket of a rarely used coat, tucked into a library book, a family crypt, etc.). The deck is most content when its presence sows discord or upsets the status quo, and favors getting cards into the hands of destabilizing forces (like your average group of PCs).
When adjudicating matters related to the deck, keep the desires of this consciousness in mind. Take the Windfall card, for example, which makes the querent heir to a noble title. While this might result in a character taking up the reins of power peacefully, the deck would much prefer that a full on civil war broke out instead. Along the same lines, the deck wants people to fight over its cards when trying to unify the deck.
The deck uses a subtle ability (called the Notoriety) to spread information to further its own ends. This ability is under the control of the GM and works in four ways:
- Any time a card's major effect is activated, the GM should read and apply the listed Notoriety section for that card when planning the future of the campaign. The Notoriety will usually inform some third parties about what has happened, though perhaps not in a totally truthful manner. Generally, the parties gaining this information will be the most motivated to act on it, either threatened by the results of the major effect or sensing a new opportunity for themselves. GMs should carefully consider what those contacted by the Notoriety do with the information they receive and how their reactions will cross paths with the PCs. The GM should feel free to alter how the deck uses the Notoriety to fit her own campaign, keeping its goals in mind.
- When a single character gains control of 15 or more cards (one third of the deck), everyone who sees that character will know, at least subconsciously, that the character owns a sizable portion of the pandemonium deck. GMs should consider how people react to this knowledge, taking their alignment and other motivations into a account. Some may want to steal the deck. Some may want it as far away as possible. Some may not care at all.
- Although it prefers to rely on luck and happenstance, the deck may rarely help expose a card that has been hidden for too long by placing an unconscious suggestion in the mind of someone nearby that might result in the card being found—something like "maybe I'll get around to cleaning the attic today" or "that jacket I haven't worn in years is back in style" or "ransacking the old man's wine cellar will be profitable".
- As mentioned above, anyone gathering two thirds of the deck can use discern location to find other cards. Any time this ability is used, the Notoriety informs anyone who owns six or more cards of the result. Other types of divination (including discern location spells from other sources) do not trigger the Notoriety in this way.
The Notoriety works in very subtle ways, creating rumors, dreams, gossip, speculation reported as fact, gut reactions or even minor shifts in memory. Often, creatures who gain information from the Notoriety wouldn't even be able to tell you how they came by the information. They just know. Maybe they've always known. The Notoriety is the proverbial "they" when people start tall tales with "they say that…". No one confirms it, but people believe it anyway, at least enough to act on it.
If the entire deck is assembled and then the cards ordered (first by rank, then by the first suit on the card), a dispel chaos spell will cause the deck to disintegrate forever.
The influence effects are not intended to be balanced with each other; some are clearly better than others. Cards with numeric ranks tend to be on par with second level spell effects. Pawns, Courts and Crowns tend to match third level spell effects. Aces are a bit stronger. Since these effects abandon you when the icon moves, their design choices tend to err on the side of being stronger. Unlike the major effects, influence effects are always constructed as a benefit; however, since the icon will move at random, this does not necessarily translate into a benefit for the card's owner or her allies.
In some cases, suits are linked to abilities (moons=wis, suns=cha, waves=dex, leaves=con, wyrms=str, knots=int).
Major effects were designed to have an even mix of "good", "bad" and "neutral" for the querent, 15 effects of each kind. This is somewhat subjective, however, so your mileage may vary, particularly since even the good effects come with some Notoriety. Wyrms are almost always bad. Cards with what the author of Decktet calls "sympathetic combinations" are almost always good. Generally, "neutral" effects mix things that are good and bad for you, but are almost always more good than bad. The "bad" in some effects (particularly the drawbacks of the neutral effects) involve reactions of others to the effect and/or providing knowledge about the effect to others. This is completely intentional. The main design idea is that life for you might get better or it might worse, but it will always get more complicated, often by pointing the agendas of other people at you.