The Harrow Deck Cometh!
Friday, December 7, 2007
One of the most innovative things I've seen in D&D occurred back in the original Ravenloft, where the villain's motivation, treasure placement, and adventure goals depended upon the results of an in-game fortune-telling session. Even years later, I still recall that feeling of surprise and excitement when I first looked through that adventure. With Curse of the Crimson Throne, Pathfinder's second Adventure Path, we'll be trying something similar.
The Harrow deck is our fortune-telling tool for this Adventure Path. The deck itself is a 54-card deck broken down into six suits of nine cards each. While, in-game, these six suits and the card images themselves are "in character," it draws a lot of its inspiration from the mechanics of the game as well. The deck's six suits each symbolize one of the six basic attributes all characters are built around: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. And in each of those six suits, we have nine different cards for each of the nine alignments. Therefore, we have a chaotic evil Wisdom card, a neutral good Strength card, a lawful neutral Dexterity card, and so on.
Of course, the actual art on each of these cards hides its genesis in the rules behind symbolism and metaphor, so you don't have to worry about any weird self-aware metagame strangeness popping up (I doubt very much you'd ever hear a Varisian say something like, "that chaotic evil king has a really low charisma!"). The Harrow deck itself is an ancient divination tool used by the Varisians to tell the future and divine fortunes. Think of it as an RPG-version of the tarot deck.
Each of Curse of the Crimson Throne's six adventures are also tied in theme to the six suits of the Harrow deck, and as you play through this new Adventure Path, Harrow deck readings can provide valuable insights, helpful bonuses, or even unexpected perils and dangers. You can expect to see some recurring themes throughout the Adventure Path tied to the Harrow deck, but we'll be going beyond that. Players will be able to select a feat, "Harrowed," that'll let them use draws from the deck to hopefully tip fortune in their favor. Visit a rough-and-tumble bar down on the waterfront in Korvosa and you'll be able to gamble away your treasure in a game of Towers, a gambling game created by lowbrows and scoundrels using the Harrow deck (and designed by industry veterans Jason Bulmahn, Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff). And just as the infamous Deck of Many Things was inspired by the tarot deck, there might be a powerful magic Harrow deck waiting to bring all matter of mayhem to your group at some point in Curse of the Crimson Throne.
And the best part? We're making a Harrow deck you can use yourself, whether as part of your campaign, in readings of your own, or just as a fun fantasy-themed card game. Over the next several weeks, we'll be showing off Kyle Hunter's artwork for the Harrow deck here on our blog. Keep an eye out, and see if you can figure out which image goes with the chaotic evil strength card versus the one that goes with the lawful good one!