Using Tarokka Decks in Dungeons and Dragons

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on

Recently, my daughter’s D&D campaign had concluded a year-long story, and after taking a few weeks off to do other things, we started it back up recently with a new story.  This time I was struggling to decide what kind of story I wanted to do for her, so I decided to let the Fates decide using a Tarokka Deck from the Curse of Strahd adventure.¹

The Tarokka Deck is an in-game prop that looks similar to a Tarot deck, but is more thematic to the adventure.  It can also be used to play a card game (rules included in the package).  The Curse of Strahd adventure guide provides some rules about how to use a Tarokka Deck as a way of telling fortunes for the players, but really this is just a way to randomize certain points of the campaign so it’s a different adventure each time.

I wanted to do something similar for my daughter’s campaign so I created an adventure hook where she encountered some itinerant Vistani² at a nearby encampment, and she had her fortune told by the elder Vistani matriarch as a kind of friendly, good-will gesture.

I adapted the ritual outlined in Curse of Strahd and laid out the cards like so:

  1. left card (from the main deck) – the character’s past
  2. top card (from the main deck) – the character’s current situation
  3. right card (from the main deck) – something in the near future
  4. bottom card (from the separate high-card deck) – something the character wants
  5. middle card (from the separate, high-card deck) – the outcome

My daughter did all that and came up with a “fortune” that … with some creative interpretation on my part, managed to build a cohesive history of the character, and a basic outline of her next adventure.  It worked well because it was a fun, mildly spooky moment, and unbeknownst to her, it let me generate a skeleton framework for her next campaign and allow me to fill in the rest later.

Even if you don’t own the Tarokka Deck, Curse of Strahd and other resources show how to make your own “deck” using a normal pack of playing cards and mapping the suit and number to the same cards in Tarokka.  From there, you just need to drum up an elaborate ritual to “tell the party’s fortune” and let them basically pick their new adventure.  😀

¹ I own both but haven’t actually been able to use either one for their intended purpose yet.  The Curse of Strahd is much too dark of an adventure for my daughter’s campaign, so I am saving it for other adult campaigns in the future.

² Vistani in Dungeons and Dragons are a bit of a awkward subject due to their stereotyping of real life Romani people, but at the same time they fulfill an interesting niche in Dungeons and Dragons lore.  I tried to paint a more positive image of the Vistani from what I knew of Romani culture (emphasize Indian heritage, deemphasize negative stereotypes) while maintaining an aura of mystery thanks to the Vistani’s planar-travelling ability.  I hope it worked.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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