Monday, 10 October 2011

The Deck of Illusions

The Deck of Illusions is kind of the ugly, unloved twin to the Deck of Many Things. Whilst it shares the same design - pull a card from a deck to produce a random, magical effect - there's none of the risk that makes Deck of Many Things so thrilling to use. Essentially, all the cards are the same. You just summon an illusion.

I suppose the fun bit is coming up with how to usefully apply these illusions to your situation. This lich could be used to scare off your enemies, but it could also engage them in conversation, right? Perhaps even trick them into following it?

Sadly, no: the second edition rules seem to imply that the illusions aren't even under your control ("The illusions perform normal routines and respond to attacks - they should be played as if they were real creatures"). Back then, the vast majority of cards basically had a single use: scare the pants off your enemies from afar. Kind of sucks if you pull the Pixies card.

3rd Edition clarified the rules so that the illusions reproduced the effects of a Major Image spell, but locked into a predefined form. I guess we can actually control them now, but as they were relatively easily disbelieved with a save - at least, they were in my experience - I still view the deck as nothing much to write home about.

For my 4th Edition game, I thought this artifact deserved a reinvention. When creating the deck, I had a couple of design goals in mind:
  • I wanted to give each card an effect that had a clear use in combat. A few of these could be bad for the user, just like the Deck of Many Things. One of them - the Master - could even be deadly.
  • I wanted to preserve the ability for players to think up clever ways of controlling their illusions. In the end, this worked best as an at-will artifact power, separate from the card powers.

As you'll see, it turned out very differently to the old Deck of Illusions. I think you'll find it useful in your games: our group's wizard used it to great effect throughout H3: Pyramid of Shadows, so I've had a chance to rebalance the powers after seeing them in play. Oh, and check out the lore for the Prince card - after all his adventures, I couldn't write this up without mentioning our own, friendly wizard at least once.

It goes without saying that you're missing a trick if you don't print out the cards yourselves and provide them to your players as a proper handout. To that end, Sandy's working through the deck now, polishing up the card designs and presenting his own spins to each one. I'll be presenting his designs here on the blog over the next few months, after which I'll wrap them up into a single, made-for-print doc.

Lastly, if you do use it, make sure to drop me a line here and let us know how it went. It would really make our day to know our deck is being used at other tables!


  1. Cool information, man. Thx a lot.

    Jaa na !!

  2. Did you ever complete this in an all in one printable form? The last post I saw on this stated "halfway there".

    1. Unfortunately the friend was drawing the cards for me got a bit burned out. I'm still trying to persuade him to pick it up again! :)