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Revisiting 4th Edition - Fortune Cards

An interesting mechanic that caught my eye as I returned to 4e was that of Fortune Cards. As I previously stated in an earlier post, one of the stores by my house still had a few packs of Fury of the Feywild. Those that have read this blog or read my tweets know that I am huge fan of the Feywild and the fey creatures that inhabit that realm, so when I was perusing 4e things from the past, picking up packs of cards with 'Feywild' in the set name was a no-brainer.

                                                        Image result for d&d fortune cards fury of the feywild                                                             
As I tweeted while writing this post, it's amazing to me that despite the Fortune Cards arriving on scene circa 2011, there is very little record of them online. It's difficult to find images of many of the cards, even when googling their specific names! I find that to be quite shocking, especially since I can find card lists and images for the Star Wars CCG and Lord of the Rings TCG, both of which have been out of print for about 20 years now. That being said, the mystery of the cards is kind of a cool feature in the Information Age that we now live in.

I do feel that one cannot talk about Fortune Cards without addressing another main issue I seemed to find while looking for information: many players seem to hate the fact that cards were brought into their beloved D&D games. Whether it was "I don't want to pay money" or "I don't want my D&D becoming a collectible card game" to "If I don't use these, players that do will be stronger than me", there were a lot of complaints. Overall though, it's been 7 years since Fortune Cards were published, and many new games with new mechanics have come and gone. Are Fortune Cards a fear of something new that was ultimately embraced in other games?

                               Related image

When I think of cards in tabletop RPG's, I immediately think of Monte Cook's Numenera and Invisible Sun RPG's. I've played very little Numenera, but I do know that there were cards to support random effects and one-use treasures. Invisible Sun has cards that the group draws that effects the session (or so I believe). These game systems are quite popular, with many people playing and commenting on their love for the mechanics. So, were Fortune Cards ahead of their time, or did Monte Cook's games just do something in a better way? Without having enough knowledge about everything, I can't truly say. What I can do is discuss my own thoughts.

Overall, I am in favor of Fortune Cards, though I do remember feeling a bit cold to them when I first read about them. I'm not entirely surprised, since at the time, I was the only person buying books. My friends were scattered in the college phase of life. Fortune Cards would be another thing that I would buy for everyone to use and probably not understand completely. I would be adding a mechanic to the game when we weren't playing enough as it was.

                                   Image result for d&d fortune cards

I do believe that all players at the table should be using Fortune Cards. It's an all-or-nothing mechanic, mostly because while I don't think they would break a game, you don't want one player getting an extra option while the other players don't. That just creates a negative play experience amongst the have-nots. This is an easy fix for my 4e revival, as every PC will have a deck, which leads me into my next point.

Fortune Cards allow for more character customization! Many players (at least on the old forums I perused) lamented that this was bringing a collectible card game (CCG) into D&D, yet these same players want more power & feat options. A Fortune Card deck allows for a PC to have that extra layer of uniqueness, as the deck can be built around the character to represent either personality traits or heroics/abilities the player wants them to have. This was reflected quite well in the Dragon article Character Theme: Fatedancer (Dragon 401) by Quinn Murphy. In it, the article discussed how each card could be tied to a personality trait the player could use as a roleplaying experience (something players complained 4e lacked). I have definitely done this with the various cards that I've opened, and plan on discussing it in depth with my character's creation.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my good twitter friend @sorcercerblob and his love for Fortune Cards and 4e. When I first started down this path of rediscovery last summer, he was just as excited as I was for Fortune Cards, and was working to track some of his own down as well. Another friend, Joe, donated his Fortune Cards to us, including some sealed packs! As I continue to look for these, I find that people selling singles of them are quite scarce. I'm awaiting an order of some promos and some sealed packs, so hopefully I can pull some extra goodies for character customization fun.

In summary, Fortune Cards are one of the distinctive (albeit optional) 4e mechanics, and I feel like I would be doing the edition a disservice if I didn't include them in my revisit. As they were optional, I don't think the outrage over them was truly necessary, especially if tables combined their cards into a community pool (or one generous player contributed to it). I'm also not the 4e min/maxer that led to so many talking about how the game was busted, so maybe I'm not unlocking that potential either. I do know that I can't wait to lay down a Dream Blossom field and put my card on the board to show the zone. That's definitely something I have never done in a D&D game before.


  1. I'm very happy you're making use of the cards I passed along. I thought they were a fun addition when they came out. I only used the cards once for my group, when I pulled them out for a climactic battle with a BBEG of the campaign. It made for a wild and memorable end to a story arc at that time.

    Although I've moved on to 5E, there's a lot I enjoyed from 4E. I wish I lived closer to you so I could barge in on the 4E campaign you're planning to run! I've got a warlord character whose eager to adventure again...

    1. Joe, I've been thinking about trying to put together a one-shot 4e adventure for Winter Fantasy (should we all be able to make it)!

      The awesome part (and tragedy) of 4e is that there is no more content being released, but there is such a wealth of things to look back on and explore, I don't really mind it at all. Despite hoping that my brother would DM our games, part of me is thinking that I may very well be leading this charge....I'm still holding out hope though. My satyr is calling to me!!


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