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Choose Your Fortunes Wisely
Design & Development

In February, we released the first D&D Fortune Card set, Shadow Over Nentir Vale. These cards provide a quick and simple way to give your character a little luck and add an additional element of customization. However, as with any new supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, we don’t expect every game table to use them in the same way. We’ve asked members of the D&D blogging community for their take on the cards, and how they might adapt them to fit with their own game. Here are there are answers.

Alternate Uses for D&D Fortune Cards

by Timothy S. Brannan

I’m currently involved in an ongoing game with my two sons. We had been playing 3rd Edition and then moved on to 4th Edition, even playing the new “red box” starter set at Gen Con 2010. We took a break from 4E until we could get a more regular time down, and have been playing through the history of D&D with various box sets and books I have since I started playing in 1979.

When Fortune Cards were announced we were all very excited. Now, my boys love cards. Whether they’re power cards for 4th Edition or the cards of their favorite CCGRPGs, they love to able hold something in their hands. We all thought this was going to be a fun element to add to the game. Well, we got behind schedule and wanted to finish up the adventure we were playing: “Return to the Caverns of the Vampire Queen,” a home-brew dungeon crawl using the old Moldvay/Cook versions of the Basic and Expert D&D rules. I figured, what the heck, adding the cards should be fun.

And it was.

Since it’s my boys who are playing and they can’t get to our FLGS without me, I could buy and then go through all the cards. We have about 70 now, and I divide them into Attack, Defense, and Tactics (just like rules say). The boys can have 30 cards and must have at least 9 of each type in their hands (the last 3 can be anything they like). I play them according to the rules: They can be drawn each round/turn and either used, discarded, or kept. The trick is translating the cards into a language that Basic D&D understands. The easy ones are Attack and Defense, that simply provide bonuses; those cards are taken at face value. Sometimes, though, translations are needed. So At-Will, Encounter, and Daily powers have to be judged. Typically in our games, an At-Will means any type of attack and Daily is usually a spell. Since most cards I have list Encounter and some other form of attack, we just use the one that makes the most sense in that situation at the time. It has the effect of making the cards much more flexible than I think they would be in D&D 4th Edition.

Some of the movement-focused cards need a bit more careful judgment. The position and placement of characters are more important now than it was back in 1981, but since my kids also love to use minis, we adapt our knowledge of 4th Edition to these new rules—so we still do things like shift or take 5 ft. steps.

Cards that allow a saving throw to be rerolled still do exactly that, even if “saving throw” has had different meanings over the past few editions. Some cards, for example, mentioned being bloodied. We have adopted that rule in all our games to mean that you have less than half your hit points and are now -1 for everything. Same is true for flanking and combat advantage. We just use our 4th Edition knowledge to modify some the Basic-era rules.

In the end, the cards are a lot of fun for all of us and a couple of times have really helped out a character in need; they’ve even gotten my boys to work together more, since many of the cards affect another character. I find they are no more obtrusive than using drama points from other games.

About the Author

Tim Brannan has been playing role-playing games since 1979, when he first got his hands on the hardcover Monster Manual. Since then, he has played more games than he can recall and freelances for a number of companies. Most significantly, he was a main author on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG and was the designer and author of the Ghosts of Albion RPG. Tim lives in the Chicago area with his wife and two sons. You can find his blog at

The Power of Fortune

by Dave Chalker

Some groups are concerned with the additional power level granted by Fortune Cards—that they’ll give players even more power for no cost. One way to control this would be to handle Fortune Cards as an in-game resource, like an item or a feat:

Amulet of Fortune
Level 3+ Common
You are granted the power to control your fortunes.
Lvl 3 +1 680 gp
Lvl 8 +2 3,400 gp
Lvl 13 +3 17,000 gp
Lvl 18 +4 85,000 gp
Lvl 28 +6 2,125,000 gp
Lvl 23 +5 425,000 gp
Item Slot: Neck
Enhancement: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will
Property: You may draw and use Fortune Cards as described in the Fortune Card rules.

Disciple of Fortune
Prerequisite: Charisma 13+
Benefit: You may draw and use Fortune Cards as described in the Fortune Card rules.

Fortune's Fickle Favor [Divinity]
Prerequisite: Channel Divinity class feature, must worship a deity related to fortune, luck, or fate
Benefit: You can use the fortune's fickle favor power.

Fortune's Fickle Favor
Utility Power
You call upon your deity to help in a time of need, but fate balances the scales.
EncounterChannel Divinity, Divine
Free Action Personal
Effect: Draw six Fortune Cards. Divide them into two piles. The Dungeon Master takes one pile for use with any of your enemies in this encounter. You take the rest, and can give them to yourself or any ally for use by the end of the encounter.

Fortune Favors the Unfortunate

I know several DMs who use various mechanics to take a bit of sting out of frustrating situations. Some provide bonuses to later attacks when missing, and some adjust the rules when losing a turn due to being stunned or dominated. This variant encompasses all of those situations and more, to provide a bonus to players caught in a run of bad luck.

You will need to separate the Fortune Cards into piles for Attack, Defense, and Tactics. Ignore the normal rules for Fortune Card acquisition. Whenever a player misses with an attack for the first time during his turn, that player draws an Attack card (even if the power already has a Miss or Effect line). The first time a player is hit with an attack in a round, that player draws a Defense card. If a player ends his turn and has not made an attack since his last turn, that player draws a Tactics card.

Masters of Fortune

Finally, there may be those who have embraced Fortune Cards and are using their own deck, but want a further layer of customization. For a campaign that’s focused on over-the-top heroes with unique combat styles, consider the following:

Players start out with a card of their choice as a "signature move.” Any player who has used their signature move can spend a standard action and replace a used card with any card from their deck. Additionally, replace a used card with any card from the deck when bloodied by an enemy.

About the Author

Dave Chalker is the editor-in-chief of, co-founder of the RPG Bloggers Network, co-host of the DM Guys podcast, and designer of the board game Get Bit! He once said to his dad, "I didn’t know you were friends with Gary Gygax," to which his dad responded, "Well, you never asked!"

Streamlining Your Fortunes

I happen to like Fortune Cards, although I don’t use all of the rules provided with them. I plan to use them for different things in my game—everything from their intended purpose, to new ways to reward players and help my poor little monsters.

Elect a Helper

Ask someone in the group to remind everyone about card maintenance. I know I forget to do it and my players do too. Ensure they know the rules and are friendly with the reminders.

Advanced Planning

Change the trigger for drawing a card from the start of the turn, to the end of the turn. Turning a card over at the start interrupts my thoughts and I forget what I want to do. Plus, I feel pressured to rethink my turn to get the most use out of the card. If I make it at the end of my turn, I no longer have these problems and the maintenance time isn’t part of my turn. The feel isn’t quite the same but I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

Limit Duplicates

If a player chooses to build his own deck, he may have no more than 1 copy of any particular card for every 10 cards in the deck. A Living Forgotten Realms admin suggested this rule and I adopted it right away. Without it, I worry that we lose the benefits of a deck’s randomness.

Use as Boons

Use the cards as a one-time boon for creative roleplaying and problem solving. Other rewards, such as random XP loot, are often too abstract, don’t fit into my story, or are too much of a reward for the action. What I need are small bonuses that fit well with the story. For example, let’s say a player decides to say a small prayer before entering a graveyard combat to ask the non-evil spirits for their blessing. I would ask the player to make a religion roll. If she succeeds on a moderate check, I would give her a one-time use of the Phantom Ally card; if she succeeded against the hard DC, I’d give one to each member of the party. The cards would be usable only for the next encounter.

What About the Monsters?

Finally, I wouldn’t mind my monsters getting a little Fortune Card love. One way is to draw one card each round. Only one member of each NPC group, such as gnoll archers or goblin cutters, may use the card. This limit gives me some of the fun and challenge without making my monsters, especially minions and low-level creatures, too powerful.

Another method is to create a deck from the cards the players used the previous round. After a player uses a Fortune Card, he places it in the middle of the table. On the next round, the DM may choose from that batch of cards with one use per monster group. If fortune doesn’t favor the party with cards useful to them, their enemies don’t find favor either.

About the Author

Tracy Hurley is a recent convert to Dungeons & Dragons. When she's not planning her groups' next foray into the wonders of Arcadia, she writes for her blog,, and podcasts her heart out. You can often find her on Twitter, as SarahDarkmagic, rallying her tweeps and bringing a bit of chaos to the land.

Playing with Fortunes

by Robin Stacey

If there's one thing I know about players, it's that they like to fidget with things at the game table. Fortune Cards are a great way for Dungeon Masters to reward players and give them something to fidget with, all at the same time. I plan to offer a draw of the deck as a DM Reward whenever it feels appropriate. This could be at the end of a session where the players have made good progress toward an as yet incomplete goal (such as the end of sessions 1 and 2 in a 3-session adventure), or when the players complete an encounter particularly well but there's no treasure or other reward (beyond XP) to show for it.

These cards represent the Lords of Fate (or whoever) smiling down on the characters' actions and granting them just that little bit of karmic fortune to help them on their way. Just like the Greek gods of old, heroes sometimes gain their attention and the gods use subtle twists of fortune to aid them on their way. It's wise not to be too favored of the gods though, as sometimes that attracts exactly the wrong kind of attention from that deity's rival!

Players can use any card they possess once in any one encounter, and no more than one per session. The game mechanics of the card must weave into the action in a convincing way. For example, a player could use Balance of Fate and say that the orc stumbled on a patch of rough terrain and glanced into the blade (rerolling the attack roll) or that a lodged grain of dirt unhooked the last pin to crack the lock (rerolling a Thievery check). Likewise, Careful Aim could be described as the ally ducking behind a stone just at the moment you unleash the fireball.

My group did consider linking Fortune Cards to Action Points in some way, perhaps allowing a second card to be drawn when an Action Point was used. We decided against it though; to our minds, Action Points represent the heroes making their own luck (so to speak) by pushing themselves and using extra effort. That goes against our plans to use Fortune Cards as divine or otherworldly influences. The two are similar, but not the same.

Players are, of course, free to bring their own Fortune Cards, but they can still use no more than one per session. I'm thinking about there being a limit to the number of cards a player can possess (lucky 7, perhaps) or having some minor negative bad luck effect to represent the rival gods' meddling in their affairs. We'll see. As of yet, it’s a bridge uncrossed and for now I'm happy to keep the options open. It might be enough to warn the players about possible bad luck without needing any game mechanics in place.

After all, they do say it's best not to push your luck, right?

About the Author

Robin Stacey is a business analyst, writer and artist in the UK. He is addicted to twitter and posts at Greywulf's Lair about role-playing games and his fumbling attempts at 3d art. His DM style is best described as "loves deathtraps and waving his arms a lot".

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