Playing Card Selector

DNDNames Playing Card


Playing Card illustration

Playing Card Selector

Playing Card Generator

Virtual Deck of Cards

Random Playing Card Generator

Random Card Deck Generator

Random Cards

Random Playing Card Generator with Jokers

Online Deck of Cards Generator

Playing Cards Aren't Dice!

While the standard conventions of Dungeons & Dragons use a variety of polyhedral dice, some game masters (GMs) and players have created mechanics that utilize playing cards. While it may be blasphemous for some players to stray from their sacred piles of shiny dice, integrating alternatives can help bring new life to what may have become repetitive gameplay. From tracking stats to mapping dungeons or even generating non-player characters (NPCs), playing cards can provide unique ways to approach the game.

Still, the novel approach of using playing cards is not entirely foreign or new to D&D. The Deck of Many Things arose in First Edition within the pages of Greyhawk and the original Dungeon Masters Guide. This deck is a wonderous item that uses cards to manifest magical effects, some of which can be campaign-altering. However, it wasn't until the Tarokka Deck emerged as part of Curse of Strahd that gaming groups began using cards as a direct method to alter the direction of a campaign. Within the fantasy realm of Dungeons & Dragons, these decks are quite different from playing cards, harkening more toward a tarot deck, but GMs may also use playing cards as a readily available alternative.

How GMs Can Use Playing Cards

The most obvious and straightforward way to integrate playing cards into a session is through mini-games. Players wishing to unwind at the city's prominent casino, get in a game of cards at the local watering hole, or try their luck in a back-alley game of chance, can present opportunities to introduce real-life card games. These can provide a fun departure from the core game while possibly allowing players to increase their stores of gold and platinum.

But we can go beyond face value. Cards may also help to create a campaign's unique flavor or atmosphere. An American frontier setting or casino heist may provide the perfect environment to use playing cards as trackers for things like hit points, spell slots, features and traits, and initiative. GMs could also choose to resolve skills challenges or contested skill checks with a shortened game of war or high-card draw.

Regardless of the setting, game masters have crafted maps, created NPCs, expanded upon encounters, generated puzzles, and altered plots using playing cards. Constructing a simple map by placing cards on an open table is easy, but some have defined specific rules associated with random draws from the deck. Card value and suit may determine terrain, direction, encounters, and treasure. Similarly, cards can help determine an NPC's personality, the severity of an encounter, or provide random events that change the campaign's overall story.

How Players Can Use Playing Cards

A deck of cards can supply engaging role-play opportunities that expand upon the traditional rules and create a sense of drama at the table as players reveal their cards. For example, many spellcasters require a focus, like a cleric's holy symbol or a wizard's crystal ball, but one could also choose a deck of playing cards. Using a deck as an unconventional focus, the player could draw cards to randomly select a spell or determine a desired spell's efficacy. Wild magic users could similarly use a deck to define their arcane failings. These agents of chaos could go a step further by asking their GM to alter the Wild Magic Surge table to align with the visuals presented on the cards, helping everyone at the table join in on the suspense of the reveal.

As entertainers, bards provide many opportunities to incorporate playing cards as a prop, game mechanic, or some combination of the two. The College of Spirits, for example, allows players to spend their Bardic Inspiration dice to perform random abilities. These abilities manifest through the oration of tales from the spirits, determined by a dice roll. However, a deck of playing cards could allow additional storytelling options by expanding upon the existing mechanics. Different suits could represent specific spirits competing for the metaphysical stage or define emotional overtones that influence the story's narrative.

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