February 22, 2011

Fortune Cards = Awesomeness

The new Fortune Cards are exactly what I have been looking for. I’ll be honest and state that I will not be using them as written; i.e. players will not be allowed to form their own decks and use them each turn, at least not in the “official” way. My player’s characters are powerful enough and don’t need a tailor-made play aid to bump them up further. While the cards are not all that powerful if the players are able to purchase their own and build their own decks it will provide them with an edge. The Fortune Cards will be the province of me, the DM, to be handed out as rewards and incentives.

For some time now I have wanted a set of cards to hand my players when they have reached an achievement or done some great deed, mostly when they choose to do the “right” thing instead of the easiest or most expedient. I was actually in the early stages of gathering some graphics to make my own cards when I saw the advertisement for the cards. So I waited to see what they are like and they are perfect for my needs. They look nice (especially how horrible my home-made ones would have looked) and the powers granted are at a nice level, not so powerful to be disruptive and not so weak to be useless.

I will be using the cards differently than the “official’ rules dictate. As per normal rules the players will only be able to draw 1 card at the beginning of an encounter. Thereafter at the beginning of their turn they can keep the card or turn it in for another draw from their deck. However, once they use the card they have in their hand there is no more drawing new cards from their deck at the beginning of their turn.

Deck building is also done much differently. There are two ways cards are used. The first is that they are given a card to be used and once used it is gone. Second is that I allow a player to draw a card and they then use it to add to their permanent deck. The player who drew the card for his permanent deck has a couple of options. If the player has more cards than the other players in the group he must pass one of his cards onto another player who has less cards than he does, either the one he just drew or one of his other ones. This will allow for the party to stay equal on card numbers; one player getting all the achievements will not allow him to have all the cards, but he still has a perk for gaining the achievement himself in that he can dictate which cards he gets to keep.

Instead of the players running out and buying a bunch of cards and building it to be a powerhouse, they will be building their decks much, much slower. How they get the cards they may wish to add to their deck in completely dependent on me, the DM; the rate at which they get the cards is up to me. I suspect that the players will complete their finely tuned decks at around level 30, which would be a perfect time. I am also hoping the cards will have more meaning as they will be harder to attain.

There are a number of ways I am planning on handing out cards...

I love the concept of achievements, and so do my players. Some time ago I provided my players (2 different groups) with a list of achievements (number of critical strikes, most damage in a single attack, most damage taken in an encounter, etc) and they are most diligent about recording the information. It’s a way to accomplish things even when they are not leveling up and a form of friendly competition in what is a cooperative game.

I’m going to expand on this concept a bit. I am going to add specific and unique achievements they can get, such as ‘Kill 4 minions in one attack’, ‘End a combat dying’, ‘Kill a foe with a critical hit’, ‘Get 2 critical hits in one encounter’, etc. Basically these are difficult to get achievements. I will not tell the players ahead of time what the achievements are; I don’t want them pursuing them, I want them to be a fun thing that happens during game play, not an objective. Also each achievement can only be gained once. These cards are used to build their permanent decks.

Major Quests
The characters just spent 4 levels and 6 months of play time to track down and defeat the evil menace that had been building for some time. At this time I would give the players another card for their permanent decks. This is a fairly subjective evaluation but for my campaigns it will be clear for myself.

Bad Luck
I believe bad luck can make for a frustrating night of game play. Thus after the first time a player misses a roll each time he misses a subsequent roll he is allowed to draw a card face down and hold onto it. Once he gains 3 cards, by missing three more rolls in a row, he can look at the cards and keep one, using it as he likes. Subsequent missed rolls allow another draw and he can keep or discard the card as he pleases; only ever having 1 in his hand. Of course, once he makes a die roll all the cards go away. These cards are not added to a player’s deck but are rather one-shot uses.

5 Minute Day
To avoid the 5 minute day (this is when the party takes an extended break after ever encounter to replenish their dailys) I will allow each player to draw a card when they reach a milestone. The extra cards go away when used or when the characters take an extended break. Thus, they have more incentive to push themselves. Similar to Bad Luck, these cards are not added to a player’s deck and are gone once used.

-Second Wind. One option I am considering is to allow the players to draw another card when they use a second wind. I am limiting the use of their cards by only allowing 1 per encounter, so allowing for another card draw during a second wind may not be a bad idea. However, I want to first see how all this plays out; I can always add this option in later.
-Deck vs. Single. Because I am limiting a players deck to only be used once per encounter I always have an option of allowing for a single draw at any point I want without messing with balance. This means if I feel the players did something really brilliant I can allow a person or the group to draw another card in addition to the one they drew at the beginning of the encounter as a one-shot card.

A couple of side notes:
-Besides the power cards there are included other utility cards. The two I’ve seen thus far are a Condition Tracker and an Initiative Tracker. I am looking forward to using the Initiative Tracker. It allows you to pencil in Name, Initiative, Perception, Defenses etc. I will get one for each character and a couple for the DM Monsters. One of my players handles the initiative order during combat and now instead of recording who goes when at the beginning of each combat, he can now simply lay out the cards in initiative order (and readjust for when people delay actions) and then do it again at the next combat. Should make his life much easier.
-I no longer play any of the earlier editions (though Pathfinder is on my to-get list) despite having 3 bookcases of older editions. I would be curious to know how easily these cards could be used in a 3.5 campaign. At first glance it seems like most of the cards could be easily integrated.
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