D&D Fortune Cards Disappointing, Unnecessary

D&D Fortune Cards give you the chance to add a random combat ability drawn from a deck of cards to your 4E D&D encounters. Because we all know the one thing 4E really needs is even more combat-oriented powers.

Fortune Cards come in packs of eight, which retail for $4 each. There are commons, uncommons and rares, and only the rares have actual art on them. All the other cards have a basic sigil in place of art (in fact, it looks like placeholder art), one sigil for each of the three types of cards: Attack, Tactic and Defense.

If used as directed, each player is supposed to buy Fortune Cards and build their own deck of cards, which must be in multiples of ten (i.e. your deck can have 10 or 20 cards, but not eight or 15). Each deck has to have at least three of each type of card. At the beginning of an encounter, you shuffle the deck. At the beginning of a turn, you can either draw a card (if you don’t currently have one in your hand), discard the card you have and draw a new one, or just keep the one you’ve got. So you only ever have one available for use at any given moment.

The cards let you do things like knock creatures prone, shift three squares, gain a bonus to attack rolls, etc. None of them are terribly exciting, not even the rares. In our playtesting, no one especially hated the cards, and we used them a few times to get out of tight situations, but people kept forgetting to use them (or draw new ones) because they were so bland. No one really cared all that much about them, even with our 2nd and 3rd level bunch of characters. Our Paragon/Epic level crew wouldn’t even bother.

(Here’s my suggestion for how Fortune Cards could have been infinitely better: Plot Twist Cards.)

Fortune cards are perfect for a certain group of players, the ruthless min-maxers who only want to get the absolute maximum damage-per-second out of their characters. The cards give you bonuses with no drawbacks. If your whole party buys enough of these cards to build tuned ten-card decks with the same killer rares (don’t worry, I don’t think they’ll be too expensive on the secondary market), then you will indeed improve your overall combat abilities.

But seriously, 4E combat takes forever as it is, and is already too much the focus of the game. The last thing we need is more powers to keep track of and slow things down. We tried a different method of using the cards, with the DM keeping one deck with all the cards and doling them out as rewards for cool moves or role-playing. That was better, but it didn’t change the inherent lameness of the cards themselves.

I really go out of my way to not relentlessly bash a product. I’m not one of the many Internet forum/blog/Twitter denizens upset that Wizards is “ruining D&D” by adding cards to it. There’s no nerd rage here. But I do hate when a product seems designed from the outset to relieve customers of their money without offering much in return. $4 for eight cards, seven of which have no actual art on them? Uninspired, bland card design? Retreaded powers with boring titles? (“Push Through the Crowd” “Whoops!”). Sorry Wizards, but I can’t find any redeeming qualities in Fortune Cards.

9 Responses to D&D Fortune Cards Disappointing, Unnecessary

  1. I WANT to be a DnD fanboy. I really do. I am not anti any edition! I like 4e! Or I did until I tried to run it anyway. I run a Weird Fantasy game with the World of Darkness Storyteller system…but I still gave WotC my money when I bought their miniatures…sadly those are canceled. Well, I still buy fluffy setting books…oh wait, they mostly publish crunch now. Damn. Cards? What? This is like a parody of what we all were afraid would happen when WotC bought DnD over a decade ago. Why. WHY.

  2. Sounds like these really aren’t for me. I’m more interested in the Gloom cards, or whatever they’re called, that are coming in the Shadowfell box. And the Deck of Many Things, too!

    I’m also pretty annoyed that the cards cost $4 (US) for a pack of 8, but the official rules say you have to have 10 of them. That means everyone has to buy at least two packs? That’s awful.

    I like the Gamma World ones though; I bought a few of those and some of the ones I got were killer.

  3. I had no idea what they thought these would do. All I know is that the only real use I’ve had for WOTC’s D&D recently is the miniatures. This makes me sad, because, like Mordicai, I want to like it. I really do, I just can’t get behind 4e as an RPG. My gaming group has been working into houseruling it into a miniatures game of a sort. More news on that as we get time to work on it. I’ve always thought of 4e as something more akin to Final Fantasy Tactics than D&Ds of the past. I love FFT, but I believe that 4e might work better PvP than PvDM.

    Addendum. How necessary are magic items to the fighter vs casters balence in 4? I’ve not played past 3rd level in fourth due to our campaigns only lasting 7ish months before reset. this could be key for 4e PvP

  4. Magic weapons/armor/amulets are equally as important to everyone unless you use inherent bonuses. Monster defenses/attacks scale assuming a bare minimum of +1 every 5 levels. AC defense is the highest defense, but weapon proficiency bonuses negate some of that.

    If you have a character around 4th level without magic items, if they are fighting monsters their own level or higher, they will have a difficult time of it.

    I’m not going to get into your “4e isn’t an RPG” thing, because, frankly, I don’t understand it.

  5. Mostly I just think that 4e would work awesomely as a tactical game. I was speaking in terms of within the party. If the fighter doesn’t have magic swords, is he significantly weaker than an equal level caster who also has no magic. I’m trying to make 4e into a skirmish game for players to compete with their own probably low level parties. My last 4e game was using the 1st monster manual when everything had tons o health and combat took forever. since them my group has chosen Pathfinder and my fellow DM and I have been working on a way to make competitive D&D out of fourth ed. I like 4e’s combat, it’s just not the RPG that I want to play. Playing 4e’s combat against another player would be quite fun on a small scale.

  6. @Billy: Gavin is right about the lack of magic items hosing everybody equally. Casters can get non-magic implements in order to use feats and class abilities. If magic is added in part , there are a few classes that are at a disadvantage for needing two items – clerics and paladins potentially need a weapon and holy symbol; melee rangers need two weapons, etc.

    There are two big issues I see for PVP:

    Ranged vs. melee. Most characters are optimized for ranged combat or melee combat. If a ranged attacker faces a melee opponent, it comes down to the arena. If the arena lets the ranged attacker stay out of the melee character’s grasp, then it’s gravy. If the melee character can close, then the ranged character is hosed. Some classes do both well or let you do ranged attacks in melee range, but if you need people to be verastile it will drastically reduce the builds.

    But the big, huge, enormous issues with PVP is role. In one-on-one PVP, strikers win most of the time. Here’s the roles through the filter of single PVP
    * Defenders have the ability to mark opponents. This is useless because your opponent is already attacking you. They have good defenses and hp, but they don’t do a lot of damage.
    * Leaders heal and buff their allies. They do get to use their healing powers on themselves to last longer, but many of their powers are useless without a team.
    * Controllers hinder their enemies. Many of their powers are area effects, and that’s often wasted on one opponent. If they are specialized in applying conditions they have a chance, but that’s often a boring battle. They also tend to have the least hp.
    * Strikers are optimized for doing damage. Most of the time they are doing 7-10 more damage at heroic level, and it goes up from there. Their midrange hp are balanced because they often have ways to avoid/reduce damage.

    I’m not saying you can’t make any role be good in the arena, but strikers have an innate advantage.

    I have a suggestion that helps both problems. Each entry is a two man team and they must be of different roles. One will likely be a striker, and the other will probably be split between the roles. This lets you play with different synergy. It also lets you have a melee and ranged character. I wouldn’t make this a requirement, though. Two melee vs a melee and ranged would be interesting. The arenas should have an open area for melee attackers and some areas better for ranged characters. One idea is a round floor with a raised ring around the edge. There would be a couple of ladders to the raised area.

    This also works with bigger teams. I was working on a tournament for a pbem with teams of five, but we couldn’t get enough teams.

  7. I was definitely assuming it would be team v team (maybe 4 v 4 to keep things moving relatively quickly). Because you’re exactly right, the “roles” make 1 v 1 unworkable.

    “Hi, I’m a Leader, I can shift your……aaaghhhhh…”

    “Hi, I’m a Striker.”

  8. It’s definitely going to be team versus team with likely no magic items if it equally hoses classes. The way I see it is we’ll likely only have 2v2 simply because it is likely the best number of folks that we’ll get together at a time. Also playing with the idea of 1 player per team, but playing more than one character. Terrain is probably something we will need to deal with once we get reasonable rules set down. I’m looking at teams of at least two, with no real limitations on which classes you can take. Magic items are out for the time being simply because we’re not sure how to balance those fairly. any tips on that front would be awesome.

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