The problem with the Deck of Many Things is that its effects are virtually guaranteed to send the campaign spiraling off in an unexpected direction. That’s its charm after all, but that’s also its curse. And for those of us who first experimented with the Deck of Many Things before we really had a grip on our GMing powers, it’s all too easy to let the story degenerate into shenanigans. What I’m saying is that that devious stack of cardboard is more hazardous to the health of a campaign than a Russian winter.

I’ve had two encounters with the Deck, one typical and one decidedly atypical. The first was the standard high school fare. The campaign began. We made characters, got attacked by rats, and then found the Deck of Many Things that they were carrying. (Thanks, random tables!) I forget exactly what happened to whom, but suffice it to say that by the time we were done our poor dungeon master laughed nervously, said, “I’ll figure this out next week,” and then never returned.

My second encounter was more recent. A GM friend of mine presented us with a quest hook involving “The One True Deck,” of which all other decks were but shadows. We drew because of course we did. I came away with the Gem and Laurel pulled Ruin. Since this was a super powered deck, we wound up trading back stories rather than the usual gained/lost wealth effects. Her noble fighter became a peasant, and my dirt farming wizard became a noble. It turned out to be a cool plot point rather than the annoying, “Well I guess we have to buy Laurel all new equipment” that it could have been. So…I guess my point is that a good GM and a little narrativium can turn chaos into story. Then again, that’s what we all do by default when we sit down to roll dice and play pretend.

How about you guys? Anybody out there ever manage a lucky pull from the Deck?