Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Many Things

The Deck of Many Things is one of Dungeons & Dragons most infamous magical items. It is a deck of cards with mysterious powers. Simply drawing a card from the deck can bless a character with unimaginable power or curse them with unspeakable horrors. This deck is the subject of D&D’s latest release, The Book of Many Things.

For many, The Book of Many Things is a bit of a curiosity. For starters, this supplement comes with a heavy price tag. The MSRP on this particular release is just a tad over $100.00. That may seem like a lot at first glance. But, once you realize what’s included, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Your $100.00 will net you both the actual book, complete set of physical Deck of Many Things cards, and a hardcover card reference booklet. That’s right, this release is more of a boxed set than just a simple book.

I first encountered the Deck of Many Things in Dungeon Magazine #19. This was back in 1989, around the same time that 2nd Edition D&D was first coming out. I had only been playing for a few months at this point but reading the adventure that featured this magical deck really captured my imagination. This magazine included several pages (front and back) of cards that you could cut out and use to create an actual physical deck. Prior to this, players were expected to either use regular playing cards or roll dice to determine what card they would handle in game. Over the years, I’ve purchased a few third-party printings of the Deck. But it’s nice to finally have an official product from WotC.

It’s important to note that this release was originally scheduled for November of 2023. However, early printings of the cards themselves were riddled with errors and quality issues. This problem was so bad, that WotC ultimately decided to halt production and and find a new manufacturer. Rumor has it that some of these early versions made their way into the wild. Thankfully, if you decide to purchase The Book of Many Things after reading this review, it’s likely you’re going to get the new an improved version. With that in mind, I can only speak to the quality of the final product in  this review.

Before getting into the details of the book itself. Let’s take a moment to discuss the cards that are included in this set. When the Deck of Many Things was originally conceived back in 1975, the deck consisted of twenty-two unique cards. Over the years various alternate versions have been discussed and released. But this time, WotC has officially expanded the deck to a whopping sixty-six card total for this release. The cards come in a nice collector’s box. Each card is uniformly cut with gilded edges and foil artwork on the face of each card. I was pleasantly pleased with the quality of the cards themselves. I’ve included a few pictures below as examples of what to expect.

The cards in their case, with the included reference guide.

 

The gilded edges

 

It’s hard to see in the picture, but the borders and text boxes include a foil design.

Turning our attention away from the cards, let’s discuss the books. First up, I want to talk about the reference guide that is included in the card case. It is a thin, hardcover, coffee-table style book. The binding seems to be of a good quality. It doesn’t feel like a cheap afterthought inclusion to the set. This book includes rules on how DMs can use the deck in a variety of ways. For example, the first section of the book provides an outline on how to use the cards as an in-game prop for divination (ie: a Tarot Deck). The next section provides guidance on how DMs can use the deck to generate random adventure ideas. I found both of these options to be a bit surprising and unique. This wasn’t something I was expecting from this release but it is certainly a welcome addition. The rest of the book is dedicated to providing details and rules of each of the cards included in the set. (It is important to note, that some of the rules included here supersede the Deck of Many Things rules found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.)

Next, let’s talk about the actual The Book of the Many Things. This is your standard D&D supplement book. The twenty-two chapters in the book are named after the twenty-two cards in the original Deck of Many Things. The first five chapters consist of a “Dungeon Master’s Toolbox” – contents about the cards themselves and how to use them in an existing campaign. Chapters six – nine present a number of character options. Chapters ten – thirteen detail a number of astrologically-themed ideas that can be inserted into an existing game. Fourteen – eighteen focus on various adventure locations related to the deck. And the final four chapters are dedicated to a handful of new monsters and characters.

I’m not going to go into great detail on every single chapter, but let’s look a little closer at some of the information included here.

The first chapter provides a really cool summary on the history of the deck throughout the various editions of D&D. As someone who enjoys details, I found this chapter full of really cool information.

Chapter two actually provides some background information into the origins of the deck itself (in terms of in-game lore). It also provides advice on how the DM can create smaller custom decks or handle the use of the cards in any game setting.

Chapters three – five expand on the various “spreads” and rules included in the Reference Guide and also provides a guide for using the cards to generate puzzles and treasures. – All of this is optional but I found these concepts to be pretty insightful.

The character options found in chapters six – nine cover class-specific magical items, feats, spells, backgrounds, etc. I found the majority of these to be well thought out and interesting. Personally, I’m not sure if I would want to use everything included here at my table. But I didn’t see anything that I would consider to be throwaway material.

Chapters ten – thirteen detail various organizations and individuals who have a particular interest in the Deck of Many Things. It includes advice on how to work them into an existing game. At first mention, this may sound like more fluff than anything else. But, I have to admit that after reading much of what was included here, I can certainly see situations where I would bring these ideas into any game where the Deck is involved.

As mentioned above, chapters fourteen – eighteen provide details and maps for a handful of Deck-related locations and dungeons. Nineteen – twenty-two give stat blocks and adventure hooks for a number of Deck-related monsters and NPCs.

When you take the wealth of information provided in The Book of Many Things and combine with the tangible cards themselves, you end up with what is most likely the most interesting D&D supplement in recent years. There’s so much you can do with this product that I find it difficult to put into words. You really have to see this material to grasp the value of what’s included here. Sadly, I fear that bad press related to the prototypes of the collection and the hefty price tag will cause players and DMs to turn a blind eye to this release. But take my word for it, there is good stuff to be found here. In fact, I hope this is a sign of things to come with the future releases WotC has slated for 2024.

 

Tabletop

Old Game Hermit

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