Exploring the use of Tarot cards for D&D
If you are like myself, you are a regular Game Master for running tabletop roleplaying games like fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. As anyone who does something regularly I seek ways to improve my skills with little tips and tricks to add extra enjoyment for all involved. Recently I began looking into tarot cards and how they might be able to enhance the game. As I did my research I asked friends do readings or even had strangers do a reading in the past at events and the like. I found there are a lot of useful tools when you look at how in depth tarot cards and their meanings can get.
Divine your 5E D&D dungeon with Deck of Many
When you are looking at a tarot deck you know there are 78 cards in all. There are 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana, which are divided into four suits. I am barely a novice when it comes to making interpretations of the cards, only having done a few readings. However I like to think I am incredibly creative when it comes to the game. So when you look at the cards you can use the actual meaning of the cards, the imagery or text on the card or however it inspires you.
In D&D and other RPGs random roll charts can be used to decide what happens next. I know many Game Masters either do this during the session or during campaign prep. It can be helpful when you are stuck for ideas or when you want to add an element of chaos into your game. A tarot deck can add this in new and interesting ways.
When I look at the minor arcana I know there are 14 of each suit. The suits are cups, pentacles, swords and wands. You can use the standard interpretation but if you are looking for something different you can look at the cards as such. Cups could be an encounter requiring roleplaying or diplomacy. Pentacles could be something offering financial rewards. Swords is easy — this is to your combat encounter. Lastly wands encompasses some element of magic. Now you have a base concept to work from. You can then draw a second card to further inspire you or use the card and party level to see how the encounter unfolds.
The major arcana offers more powerful effects. If you feel these cards are too powerful or offer an unknown element into your game, feel free to set them aside as you are using your deck for gaming. You can also use or not use the upright or inverted interpretations of the cards. Remember — you are only looking for inspiration of what comes next. You are looking to have fun and make the game easier, not looking to have the cards stress you out.
If you are proficient with reading tarot cards you can obviously have the party meet a fortune teller and you can do a reading for the character, just like you were doing a reading for a person. This can get heavily into the roleplaying pillar and possibly allow characters to explore new plot lines either they had not revealed or you are trying to bring out to the rest of the party. The much loved 5E D&D adventure Curse of Strahd uses it’s own version of tarot, the tarokka deck, as a storytelling tool and a way to randomize important elements of the campaign.
Another fun concept is to use the cards and dice to determine your dungeon. Figure out how many rooms you are looking the dungeon to include. Once you make this determination you can use the cards to fill in what is in each room. Roll a d4 for each room and give the cards a good shuffle then use that many cards for each room. The cards can represent elements of the room like traps, loot, terrain or hostile creatures. This element allows for the most fun interpretation of the cards and can give you a lot of enjoyment in creating dungeons. If you think this idea seems like fun give it a try. If you want me, Nerdarchist Ted, to do a dungeon this way and make a post on it feel free to comment below. If I get enough requests I certainly will explore this idea in depth.
If you are looking to get a really cool tarot deck to make your dungeon with then our friends over at the Deck of Many have got you covered. They have been making cool spell cards for use with 5E D&D and now they are expanding the set plus adding in the tarot cards as a option. The Deck of Many Animated Spells, Tarot and More for 5e DND Kickstarter looks awesome and I cannot wait to get my own set and see the whole deck. After all I did say lets get some inspiration from the artwork and every tarot deck is different. So lets help out this awesome Kickstarter. Check it out and find the pledge level that works best for you here.