Fate (AKA Wizards of the Coast) has placed a review copy of the Deck of Many Things and the DnD Book of Many Things in my hands. This TTRPG bundle aims to change the destiny of Dungeon Masters everywhere, altering the chaotic power of the famous deck and offering new ways to wield it.
And the results resemble a sky full of stars – sparkling in places, but empty-feeling in others. As the DnD 2023 release schedule draws to a close, here are my complete thoughts on the Deck of Many Things and its accompanying DnD books.
The Deck of Many Things
Before I talk about the books in the bundle, let’s take a look at their companion product, a new version of the Deck of Many Things. This deck of cards reprints the original 22 cards from the well-known 5e magic item, and it adds 44 new cards known as ‘The Deck of Many More Things’. The aim here is to provide a deck DMs can tailor to their preferences.
The original Deck of Many Things was known for derailing many DnD campaigns, and the new deck has caused similar havoc with Wizards of the Coast’s shipment plans. On October 28, Wizards announced it was delaying the physical release of both the Deck and Book of Many Things due to manufacturing issues.
I received two copies of the Deck of Many Things for our review, and both had such issues. Cards bend in different directions, meaning the decks don’t lay flat on the table. The art in many cards isn’t properly centered, and card borders often aren’t straight. Additionally, one deck was entirely missing a single card.
Wizards of the Coast has already announced its plans to rectify these production errors (and even I’m getting sent a replacement). Because of this, it felt important to acknowledge the deck’s production issues, but they haven’t been factored into the review’s final score. Once I’ve received my replacement, I’ll update this review to better reflect the state of the deck.
The Book of Many Things
The Book of Many Things is a sourcebook filled with lore, adventure hooks, DnD monsters, magic items, star signs, traps, dungeons, and DnD backgrounds – all themed around the Deck of Many Things. It’s split into 22 chapters, each of which also provides advice on how to use the deck’s original cards.
Along with the Book of Many Things, the product bundle features a Deck of Many Things card reference guide. This instructs players on using the deck to create fortune readings and adventure spreads that can be used as DnD encounter builders.
Who is the Deck of Many Things bundle for?
The Book of Many Things offers very few mechanics for D&D players, with no new content for DnD classes or DnD races. It does offer plenty of roleplaying prompts and a handful of 5e feats and backgrounds, but the remaining content is mainly aimed at Dungeon Masters.
This is also a book for DMs who aren’t afraid of a bit of DnD homebrew. The Book of Many Things provides plenty of material for a deck-themed campaign (including a few pre-written dungeons), but the majority of the writing will be up to you.
Is the Deck of Many Things bundle good or bad?
The Book of Many Things and the card reference guide are stuffed with a range of content, but it’s hit and miss in terms of quality.
There’s a lot to love in both books. The deck can now be used to generate NPCs, player-characters, random journey encounters, in-game benefits, or entire adventures – and each method feels innovative and useful. Each new card has a fairly mundane benefit, but this balances out the more chaotic cards from the original Deck of Many Things.
Many dungeons, feats, items, and organizations offer interesting prompts to get a DM’s creative gears whirring. It’s just a shame this inspiration isn’t consistent. For every excellent DnD one shot idea or character backstory, there’s a shallow encounter or a mundane magic item.
Repetition is a major issue in the Book of Many Things. With so many items and encounters themed around a limited set of cards, similar mechanics and motifs appear endlessly. Basing a book on the Deck of Many Things is an intriguing idea, but the concept can only stretch so far.
The book is a well of potential ideas for a DM, and I’d be keen to see more books of this style from Wizards of the Coast. However, I’m skeptical of its success as a practical reference book. If I needed to find specific information during the game, the book’s layout would be more hindrance than help.
Key information for using the deck is spread across the bundle’s two books, organized by theme rather than function. The mechanical effects of the original Deck of Many Things aren’t clearly mentioned in the book – and for ease of reference, I’d have liked these to have been reprinted, even if they’re already in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Thanks to the physical Deck of Many Things, this is a Dungeons and Dragons product with an above-average price tag of $110 (£110). If you specifically want to create a campaign based on the Deck of Many Things, I’d say there’s enough value for money here to justify the cost. But if you only have a casual interest in what the deck can do, the inconsistent quality of the bundle may mean it’s not for you.
The new Deck of Many Things is a unique storytelling tool, and its accompanying books offer a range of interesting and innovative ways to use it in your campaign. However, not every star in the Sky of Many Things shines brightly, with repetitive and shallow content occasionally standing out.