Fortune Cards

Wizards of the Coast just announced Fortune Cards, a customizable card component for 4th Edition D&D. The idea is, at the beginning of each encounter, a player would draw one card at random and use the card’s listed bonus or effect during said combat. Recently, Seth asked how they would affect our campaign.

At first glance, I said to myself in a Mr. T voice, “Damn fools stole my ride!” These cards are very close to the bonuses I grant players through my Bonus Action Points house rule. Next I thought, “Oooo! Pretty!” I like pretty things at the table. Lastly I thought, “Eight cards for $3.99?! Screw that!”

To me, the real question isn’t how Fortune Cards would affect our campaign. Instead, it’s how would they work alongside the in-place Bonus Action Points house rule? A lesser concern would be, how would they affect the overall balance of the game vis-à-vis players who choose to purchase versus players who abstain?

Regarding Bonus Action Points

With only eight cards to a booster pack, my assumption is that the initial run of Fortune Cards will probably come in a set size similar to Magic cards or D&D miniatures. Thus, we’re probably looking at about 100 or so unique cards. If these take off, I’m sure we’ll see new sets, like “Fortune Cards: The Wastes of Icewind Dale,” or “Fortune Cards: Lords of the Abyss,” or even “Fortune Cards: Elemental Magic.” We could even see class or race specific sets of Fortune Cards. All this would add a great amount of variety to a character’s arsenal, but would quickly dwarf my Bonus Action Points rules.

Regarding Overall Balance

On its face, introducing the Fortune Card system to our game wouldn’t affect the internal balance of the campaign world or D&D rules as a whole—after all, they’re tiny, one-time boons with small to medium-sized effects. Fortune Cards could, however, get unbalanced if only certain players purchased them. By reading Wizards of the Coast’s press release, it seems that the assumption is players would buy several packs and build a deck themed to their character. For example, if a player has a two-weapon fighting character, he would want to collect cards that gave him a boost with two-weapon fighting, while staying away from cards that gave bonuses to magic spells or the like.

For example, what if Brian found himself with a lot of disposable income and decided to buy himself ten booster packs? Then, out of those cards, he took out the ones that would help his character, and then traded the other ones in to some D&D store for more cards specific to his character. He would then have a bad ass Fortune Card deck to draw from. On the flip side, what if Cody fell on hard times and didn’t have the scratch to pony up for even one Fortune Card booster? There would be a disparity that we’d want to figure out a solution for.

Conclusion

I like the idea of Fortune Cards—but I also like my Bonus Action Points house rule. In the end, I’d probably combine the two. For example, I’d ditch the ten boons listed on the house rule page for Bonus Action Points (e.g. Accurate, Quick, Sturdy, etc.) and replace them with Fortune Cards. Then, I would keep player’s decks on my end of the table and hand them out as rewards for any reason a player would have received a bonus action point in the old house rule.

I’m not sure how we’d deal with players who would want to buy the cards versus players who wouldn’t. I suppose every week someone could toss in a booster of their own goodwill to a group deck, but it could grow confusing if for some reason a player wanted to take his cards back for a game at someone else’s table. It would also prevent a player from customizing a Fortune Card deck for a specific character.

Lastly, I wanted to address the fury these Fortune Cards have caused on the Internet. Cries of, “OH NOES! THIS IS TEH PROOF THAT D&D IS TURNING INTO A CCRPG!!!11!!eleven” has become a rallying cry for self professed 4th Edition haters. While it is true Fortune Cards are random and collectible, they’re not necessary to play 4th Edition. In fact, a DM is well within his rights to veto them at his table.