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This worn deck bears an evocative image upon each of its forty-five cards. Mundane whispering decks grace the tables of fortune-tellers all over the world, said to be potent oracles. Among gamblers, whispering decks are said to make their own luck and favor the lawless. Tall tales sometimes speak of the cards in these decks whispering lies mixed with unpleasant truth, usually leading those who hear them to ruin or fortune (or both).
These pedestrian replicas, however, are but faint shadows of the one true Whispering Deck, a potent agent of disorder and turmoil. When fully assembled, the deck can potentially shape the world, in its way, but it rarely remains assembled for long. More often, its cards (and its power) are scattered, hidden in lonely corners or hiding in pedestrian versions of the deck. But the deck does whisper sometimes, planting an idea at just the right place at the right time to spread chaos and further its own ends.
Adding the Deck to a Game
The Whispering Deck should not be found intact. Rather, its cards should be scattered and, at least at first, discovered individually. By itself, a card provides some benefit to its holder, but need not become anything more involved than that. If and when the players focus on locating more of the cards, play may suggest fronts, or even whole campaigns revolving around various groups intent on assembling the deck for themselves.
Should the players decide to walk this road and succeed in assembling the deck, a big ritual becomes possible, during which cards drawn from the deck can radically alter the character's situation, even their world itself. Should such a ritual occur, often the deck will divide or scatter afterward, launching the cycle anew.
When adding the deck to a game, also consider that, having been created to spread chaos, the deck possesses a rudimentary consciousness which helps further that aim. As the cards of the deck are assembled, the deck's consciousness gains strength and focus. It wants the cards to be found and used, so cards 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). While it has little direct agency over the world, the deck can work through rumor, dreams and innuendo, particularly when it gets stronger. Any time people mention some nebulous "they" as having said something, or can't quite remember where they heard something, or spread rumors with no discernible source, that may be the deck working to change things.
The sections below detail a number of moves that players may gain access to as they assemble the Whispering Deck, but there is one special rule added to games making use of the deck: card influence. It is meant to represent how the deck influences the world to further its own chaotic ends and assumes you have an actual Decktet deck on hand (if not, you should be able to figure out some reasonable alternative).
At the start of each session, the GM gathers any cards in proximity to the PCs. This would include cards they have claimed as their own, cards that nearby NPCs might have, cards hidden near where the PCs are at the start of the session and so on. Any cards that might influence immediate events. One of those cards is then selected at random and shown to the table. That card is said to influence the session.
The GM will then read (or otherwise disseminate) the influence move associated with that card. For the rest of that session, all players may trigger that move and gain its benefits. The GM, likewise, can incorporate the influence of the card (using the influence move as a guide) when making moves during that session.
Some influence moves may indicate that the influence cycles. If this happens, the GM should gather cards as if it were the start of a new session, but omitting the current influencing card. A new card is drawn from this stack and becomes the new influence for the remainder of the session. The old influencing card no longer has influence and its influencing move can no longer be used.
The following moves can be triggered when dealing with the deck or its cards; however, the players need not be made aware of all these moves at first, much less the PCs. Certainly, if a player has the ability to trigger one of the moves, they should know they can, but some moves are not even possible until multiple cards are gathered in one place. The GM may want to hide such moves until the PC's have the cards they need or have done research into the deck.
When you hold a card of the Whispering Deck in your hand and focus on it for a few minutes, you lay claim to that card as being "yours". Unless and until someone else claims that card, your claim remains, no matter where the card actually is.
When you start the day with a claim on one or more the cards of the Whispering Deck, lose any previous hold, then hold 1. If at least one of the cards you claim has the adverse tag, gain an additional 1 hold. After you have made a standard roll, spend one hold to reroll one of the two dice and keep the new result.
Individual cards are no more or less durable than mundane cards. When a card of the Whispering Deck you claim becomes seriously damaged, it turns to dust and your claim on it is relinquished. A new copy of the card forms in some random location in the world.
Agent of Chaos
Through other moves, the deck may bestow an ability to cast a particular spell or spells. When you cast a spell granted to you by the Whispering Deck, roll+nothing. Take +1 if you claim at least one card with the adverse tag. Take -1 if the level of the spell exceeds your level. On a 10+, you cast the spell, but choose a consequence from the list below. On a 7−9, you cast the spell, but choose two:
- The spell has other effects as well.
- Whatever granted you the ability to cast the spell no longer grants you spells until you get a full night's sleep.
- You draw unwanted attention or put yourself in a spot. The GM will tell you how.
Avatar of Chaos
Through other moves, the deck may turn you into a monstrous beast. While you are transformed by the deck into a monster, you must abide by the following:
- You retain all of your stats and make basic and special moves as well as your form allows.
- You lose access to all class and race moves.
- Your base damage and armor become those of the monster.
- You gain 5 hold when you initially transform. Spend one hold to make one of your inner monster's moves happen, just like that.
- Gain any special qualities of your inner monster.
- You may not gain XP from following your alignment this session.
- You may gain XP by following your inner monster's instinct this session.
- If you fail a roll, the GM may use her move to narrate your monster taking over briefly and doing something other than what you were intending. This action should follow from your monster's instinct, abilities and situation.
- The circumstances which triggered the transformation will list additional conditions as well (including how long the transformation lasts, which type of monster you become, and so on).
Granted a Boon
In rare cases, the deck may grant a boon. When you claim a boon granted to you by the Whispering Deck, choose one of the following and describe what you want. The GM may make some adjustments, but what you request happens.
- The effect of any spell can be produced on, or removed from, any target.
- An effect that could be produced by a powerful magical ritual (Dungeon World, pg. 147) can be produced instantly.
- Counter the effects of any drawing ritual (other than one that granted that particular boon).
- All afflictions and maladies (debilities, damage, missing limbs, diseases, curses…anything up to and including death) can be instantly removed from one person.
- A single recent event can be undone and reality reshapes itself to accommodate the new result.
- Some other desire may be requested, but the more grandiose or litigious the wish, the more likely the deck will just give you what it wants, fulfilling your request only partially and/or in undesirable ways.
Cards of a Feather
When you claim at least six cards of the Whispering Deck, take +1 on any attempt to aid or hinder someone who claims a card of the Whispering Deck.
When you claim at least one card of each suit (from 3 to 6 cards) and draw a card to give you insight into a question, roll+CHA. On a hit, the image on the card animates and, through gestures or something similar, shows the direction or course of action most likely to upset the status quo. On a 7−9, also choose one from the list. On a miss, in addition to whatever else happens, choose all items from the list:
- You may no longer draw cards in this way today.
- You draw unwelcome attention or put yourself in a spot. The GM will tell you how (note, the unwelcome attention might come from the deck itself).
Packing the Deck
When you claim at least a third of the Whispering Deck (15 cards), everyone who sees you senses, at least subconsciously, that you control some chaotic mojo. Any who have come in contact with cards from the deck before will recognise this specifically as stemming from the deck.
Walking the Walk
So long as you claim more than half of the Whispering Deck (23 cards), your alignment is chaotic. If this causes a shift in alignment (Dungeon World, pg 34), choose a new alignment move.
Spreading the Word
When you claim the Excuse and at least one card of each rank and concentrate on "broadcasting" a short spoken message, all who claim at least six cards of the Whispering Deck will hear your words as if you were standing next to them, no matter where they are. Each who hears may respond with one short message of their own, which is also heard by everyone who claims at least six cards. You may do this only once per day.
Bedlam the Gathering
When you claim at least two thirds of the Whispering Deck (30 cards) and spend several minutes concentrating on a card you do not yet claim, you immediately gain knowledge of the exact location of that card, no matter where it is, even if protected by magic that otherwise would obscure or conceal it. You may use this move only once each day.
When you claim all four pawns of the Whispering Deck and a hireling you recruited makes demands of you (for example, due to a partial success on a Order Hirelings move), you can get them to stay with you without meeting their demands, as long as you give them something.
When you claim all four courts of the Whispering Deck and you make yourself available to the public to hear their grievances, the GM will tell you of at least one local opportunity to upend an orthodoxy, subvert an authority or upset an equilibrium.
When you claim all six crowns of the Whispering Deck and parley with someone, on a 12+, they not only do what you want, they change their mind about you and become your ally. They will no longer advance GM's dangers and will instead support your plans.
Up My Sleeve
When you claim all six aces of the Whispering Deck and one of the deck's cards is destroyed within near range of you, when a new version of the card forms (see Just Paper, above), it will appear within far range of you.
Cards on the Table
When you claim all 14 personality cards of the Whispering Deck, the deck grants you the ability to cast the Prophecy spell (Class Warfare, pg. 207). If you draw a symbolic connection between a personality card and the target while casting it, take +2.
Cut (With) the Deck
When you claim all 14 location cards of the Whispering Deck, the deck grants you the ability to cast the Rainbow Bridge spell (Class Warfare, pg. 209). If you draw a symbolic connection between a location card and the target while casting it, take +2.
When you claim all 13 event cards of the Whispering Deck, the deck grants you the ability to cast the True Discernment spell (Class Warfare, pg. 213). If you draw a symbolic connection between an event card and your current situation while casting it, take +2.
When you start the day claiming all ranks of one or more suits of the Whispering Deck (14+ cards), name one of those suits and take +1 ongoing to any rolls using the ability associated with it until the start of the next day:
- moons: +1 ongoing to roll+WIS
- suns: +1 ongoing to roll+CHA
- waves: +1 ongoing to roll+DEX
- leaves: +1 ongoing to roll+CON
- wyrms: +1 ongoing to roll+STR
- knots: +1 ongoing to roll+INT
When you claim all seven symmetrical cards when the card influence is first revealed at the start of a session, you may immediately force the influence to cycle.
When you claim all the cards in the Whispering Deck and perform an elaborate drawing ritual, while the ritual lasts you become the reader. Designate someone willing (other than yourself) to be the querent, who will draw from the deck and be the target of the ritual. All others present for the ritual are witnesses.
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, you (as the reader) choose one of the drawn cards, and the ritual result listed for that card activates.
Ritual results are permanent and cannot be eliminated without extremely potent ritual magic.
Afterwords, each card drawn disintegrates, reforming in a different random location (see Just Paper, above). You immediately become aware of the new location of the card that was activated (but not the other cards drawn, if any). No longer able to claim the complete deck, you must track down the lost cards in order to complete the deck and draw again. Some ritual effects also cause additional cards from the deck to vanish and reappear elsewhere (these cards remain intact, so remain claimed). 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.
Once the ritual effect starts, the deck will leverage the result by spreading rumor, dreams, lies, and sometimes even the truth, to sow more discord. Possible strategies it might employ are listed in the whispers section for each card.
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. Some suit combinations are considered sympathetic (moons resonate with suns, waves resonate with leaves, wyrms resonate with knots) and occur more often. Some antipathetic (moons execrate wyrms, suns execrate leaves, waves execrate knots) and can only be found in the Pawn and Court cards. These two tags are provided for your use, as they are a feature of the Decktet deck, but little in this document makes use of them.
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 (or effectively so) when upside down (tagged as symmetrical), most do not.
In cultures where mundane whispering decks are used for fortune-telling, some cards are considered "good luck". Such cards are listed with the auspicious tag. Other cards are "bad luck" and are tagged as adverse. Cards which are neither have the ambivalent tag. While the moves in this document make some use of the adverse tag, the others have no particular mechanical importance, but might be used for custom moves, verisimilitude, etc. The ritual result for each card was written to take this tag into consideration (i.e. auspicious cards tend to have beneficial ritual results), but this is somewhat subjective.
|Sea||Crown||location, ambivalent, symmetrical|
|End||Crown||event, location, adverse|
|Windfall||Crown||event, auspicious, symmetrical|
|Consul||Court||personality, antipathetic, ambivalent|
|Rite||Court||event, antipathetic, ambivalent|
|Window||Court||location, antipathetic, ambivalent|
|Harvest||Pawn||event, antipathetic, sympathetic, ambivalent|
|Watchman||Pawn||personality, antipathetic, sympathetic, adverse|
|Light Keeper||Pawn||personality, antipathetic, ambivalent|
|Borderland||Pawn||location, sympathetic, ambivalent|
|Pact||9||event, sympathetic, ambivalent|
|Darkness||9||location, adverse, symmetrical|
|Diplomat||8||personality, sympathetic, auspicious|
|Mill||8||location, sympathetic, ambivalent, symmetrical|
|Betrayal||8||event, sympathetic, adverse|
|Chance Meeting||7||event, auspicious|
|Market||6||event, location, auspicious|
|Forest||5||location, ambivalent, symmetrical|
|Soldier||5||personality, sympathetic, adverse|
|Mountain||4||location, sympathetic, ambivalent|
|Sailor||4||personality, sympathetic, auspicious|
|Battle||4||event, sympathetic, adverse, symmetrical|
|Origin||2||event, location, sympathetic, auspicious|
If the entire deck is assembled and then the cards ordered (first by rank, then by the first suit on the card), a potent magical ritual 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.
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 given the Whispers. Wyrms are almost always bad. 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.