Fortune Cards, and why WoTC should just man up

I’m seeing an awful lot of hate for stiff cardstock on the intertubes lately, and little of it makes sense. Ok, none of it makes sense. What, pray tell, has stiff cardstock ever done to you?

I’m talking about the announcement that WoTC have released the D&D Fortune Cards and therefore wiped out humanity, begun World War IV and killed all the fluffy bunnies, all at the same time. At least, that’s how it seems. Of all the things WoTC have done (including relaunching the Character Builder as a web app, publishing enough errata to fill the Smithsonian and still somehow managing to have the worst laid-out website known to man), you’d have thought that releasing a set of collectible cards for 4e D&D would be way down the list of things to hate.

And you’d be wrong.

Me, I don’t get it. If you don’t like ’em, don’t buy ’em. Personally I think they’re pretty neat and plan to get a few sets to give as GM rewards for my games. Players like tangible stuff to fiddle with, and that’s exactly what these are. Perhaps I’ll stick a couple of them in a treasure horde as a boon, or let the players draw one at random one a Milestone point. I dunno yet, but I do see the possibilities for their use in-game.

Do they imbalance the game and make players who have them somehow “superior” to players who don’t? Nah, not really. No moreso, I’m willing to bet, than characters who were generated using powers from the Arcane/Martial/Divine Powers books are more powerful. In comparison to the excesses of Third Edition Supplement escalation, 4e has done a commendably good job of  keeping a lid on things with no one class outshining any other in terms of ability.

The great thing about the Fortune Cards is they are low cost, and that’s always a Good Thing for your FLGS. Folks are more likely to pick up a booster pack of Fortune Cards while they’re there, and anything which puts coffers in your FLGS’ till is allright by me.

D&D has flirted with cards (collectible and otherwise) throughout its long history. We had AD&D Wizard and Priest Spell Cards and I still have my pristine 1991 Collector Cards Factory Set (worth a small fortune on eBay dontchya know). The D&D Fortune Cards are nothing new.

In my opinion, Wizards of The Coast haven’t gone far enough into the collectible card market with these Fortune Cards. They should finally man up and release the Magic: The Gathering Campaign Setting and finally give D&D the kickass setting it deserves. The world of Magic is every bit as exciting and dynamic as that of the Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun or Eberron, and has a history and backstory that is tailor made for role-playing. It’s about time the two teams at WoTC finally buried the hatchet and got around to milking the cash cow we want them to milk rather than skirting around it by releasing good-but-half-hearted collectible cards for D&D. Unite the two brands, and everyone wins.

What say you?

32 Comments on “Fortune Cards, and why WoTC should just man up”

  1. “The great thing about the Fortune Cards is they are low cost, and that’s always a Good Thing for your FLGS. Folks are more likely to pick up a booster pack of Fortune Cards while they’re there, and anything which puts coffers in your FLGS’ till is allright by me.”

    Bingo! You know what the #2 top selling RPG item was in 2010 at my FLGS (EndGame, Oakland CA)? Gamma World Booster Packs (full Top 10 at

    I probably won’t use them myself (I would have rather have seen some *bad* luck thrown into the mix as well), but I never heard anybody complain about the option to use cards in Pathfinder or the AD&D Collector Trading Cards in the early 90s.

    WoTC and 4E simply continue to be the easy target for so much hate and venom. Some simply won’t be happy until both die and go away (there was actually a blog post to that effect yesterday). Nerdrage is a firm part of this hobby now. What I find most disconcerting (as someone who plays and enjoys more early edition games than recent) is the direction that the majority of the rage seems to be coming from: those who don’t play 4E, are completely unaffected by it, and who ought to know better.

  2. A friend of mine stated it very nicely, “a player shouldn’t have to take many actions to generate action by their character.” That’s the core problem with 4e in my opinion. Fortune cards just add to that, although they seem like they might function as a one action per one action item. I will try them out to see if that’s the case for my players.

    I agree wholeheartedly with bringing the M: TG setting to D & D. Frankly, I wish WotC would devote their energies to settings rather than mechanics. Simple mechanics, convoluted settings, seems like a formula FTW.

  3. I think they look like they might be quite fun. If people want to buy a pack and bring them to the game, I’ll be happy to let them. If it adds a little of the strange randomness of real life then I can cope with that, in fact I rather approve of it. We’ll have to work out how we’re going to use them – at the moment, I’m thinking I might buy a pack every week and dole one out to people who do something I really like rather than give them XP – but that’s hardly a new thing. Until I’ve seen them it’s hard to tell.

  4. I’m glad to see them going with the cards. It helps put an end to the arguement between the people who were claiming D&D 4e was a computer game vs. the people claiming 4e was a card game. All you card game folks win! ;-)

  5. My only issue with the cards is if they become required for organized play. Otherwise, it’s the GM’s choice whether to allow them at the table, and if they become unbalancing or players always have too good cards, the GM can easily solve it.

    In previous games I’ve had what I called the Fate Deck, where I drew a (tarot) card for each character. The effects were a mix of story and mechanics, with some giving the PC a one-shot bonus for something. So the idea isn’t that foreign.

    And as much as I like to support the FLGS, this just isn’t something I’ll be spending my gaming dollars on.

    1. As I understand it, the reasoning is to ensure that the FLGS makes something out of hosting the sessions, and thereby encouraging more FLGS to take part. It’s a commendable goal, though I’ll admit just a little ham-fisted.

      I’ll give them credit for trying though :)

  6. Some FLGS deserve to go out of business since they are usually not Friendly, though.

    However, if WotC is so hell bent on combining all of their games into one, they should release that Magic: the Gathering campaign setting everyone’s been waiting for. They might as well meld the two games into one and just . . . do it.

    Despite the fact that a DM is more constrained in what he can do to portray what he has in mind in 4th edition than in earilier editions of the game (sorry Greywulf, but that’s my Experience running it).

    1. With you on all counts. As with anything else, there are good and bad Local Gaming Stores. Such is life, I guess.

      I’m a fan of both 3rd and 4th edition, and though I prefer 4e as a GM, 3e is a great system too. Which edition anyone favours is entirely down to personal taste.

      1. You know, there’s another campaign setting that missed it’s opportunity to be a D&D setting a second time — the World of _Record of Lodoss War_. The original campaign was played using Dungeons and Dragons (BEMCI) until TSR, inc. rejected it.

        The World came out under Sword World RPG. With Slayn, Etoh, and Deedlit speaking incantations and saying prayers; it could have been a great D&D world here in America (and in the Isles).

        After all, you can’t go wrong with Slayn calling on the Powers of Creation in an incantation to create a shield which caused several gargoyles to become unbalanced and staggered. And he himself getting tired after casting a spell (Slayn is a Wizard).

        Group SNE lost a lot of opportunities to bring Lodoss to America under the OGL. Back in the Early 21st Century, Wizards of the Coast would have jumped on a _Record of Lodoss War_ License.

  7. I have to agree on the subject of M:tG. I haven’t played it for years (since I decided I had to have some kind of limit on expensive hobbies), but I do recall that it had some interesting stuff in the fiction they released with each supplement. Obviously they have a ready made supply of fantastic artwork to go with any release.

    I don’t suppose there is a good online resource describing the setting anywhere? If there is, I might be tempted to make use of it (as if I needed an inspiration for another campaign)

    1. Coreworlder:

      I have to agree on the subject of M:tG. I haven’t played it for years (since I decided I had to have some kind of limit on expensive hobbies), but I do recall that it had some interesting stuff in the fiction they released with each supplement. Obviously they have a ready made supply of fantastic artwork to go with any release.
      I don’t suppose there is a good online resource describing the setting anywhere? If there is, I might be tempted to make use of it (as if I needed an inspiration for another campaign)
      Coreworlder´s last blog ..A new basic power for Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition

      I think this wiki can give you a lot of info on the differents worlds of magic and its fluff.

      Wizards did publish a Planewalker’s guide to alara (one of the worlds used in the games) that is more fluff than anything else. Maybe it can be used as a basis for a dnd conversion. I bought it, but i have to admit i have yet to read it.

  8. I would LOVE to see a M:tG Campaign Setting release. I can’t imagine it being anything short of pure awesome.

    Heck, I’d rather play that than M:tG . . . I can’t afford another CCG, but another campaign setting would be delicious.

  9. d20 saw a lot of companies printing critical hit decks, fumble decks, and a thousand other something-on-a-card decks, and nobody seemed to complain that they were disemboweling D&D foreverz. some people just have an axe to grind with 4e.

    1. and regards the MtGCS thing, half my current campaign setting is stolen lock, stock, and two smoking hellkites from shards of alara. so preach it, brother.

  10. I think that most of the “hate” on WotC is because they are the major corp. player on the block. People are always more likely to wish for the mighty ones to fall (microsoft and others over the recent past come to mind outside of gaming).

    I am indifferent on either side of the cards since I won’t using them, but I do find it odd that WotC is trying to find an inexpensive product for FLGS sales since they are pushing play to the stores which now have to allocate space for play and nothing guarantees sales. I remember about a decade ago when Games Workshop made many of the same marketing decisions and there was quite a few FLGS’s that went under. Premiere stores, organized store gameplay, rewards for stores, early content purchase….saw it all before, just hope it works well for the small town FLGS’s as well as it does for large population area suburb FLGS’s.

  11. Well, the difference between these cards and other card types is that their intent is NOT to be doled out by the DM, but specifically for players to buy boosters and build decks and bring them along, and they specifically say it’ll be required for some Organized Play events. Read the official WotC link, it’s all spelled out there.

    You know, I used to play M:tG. One booster is ‘low cost.’ Having M:tG as a hobby is not low cost. You end up spending more and more to be competitive. And people don’t want someone else’s character being way more effective than theirs (and since it’s a party-based game, you don’t want your cleric being suboptimal because that player doesn’t want to invest in the cards…). This is designed specifically to have the same “one is cheap, in general you spend all your money on it” dynamic as M:tG.

    Sure, you as a private home DM can decide not to use them or use them whatever different way you want. The cards aren’t imbue with evil ink or anything. But if they are allowing/requiring them in Organized Play, they become part of the default expectation of players, and as you move to different play groups and players come and go from yours, you will be pressured to go to it.

    1. I sold my card set and put a down payment on a house. Not bad for wasting 4 years.

      If still had said cards, my fireball deck would fetch $33000.

  12. D&D 4E copying Hackmaster 4E. I’m not sure what to make of this, it’s a bit like watching your dad trying to be cool. Just when I thought D&D couldn’t get any more self-referential. Hackmaster was PARODYING excessively gamist tendencies in D&D, and the brains trust at WOTC makes it part of the main game. Wow. Out of touch much?

  13. I don’t understand all of the negativity either. I’m planning on picking up a pack or two just to give them a look. Also, having played both Magic and D&D before they belonged to the same company, I would also love to see a campaign setting crossover.

  14. @Mxyzplk:
    I do agree that it is a mistake to require them, even for “some” organized play. That’s a dangerous road to walk. However, I’m still just curious as to why everyone is *SO* against them, when, I’m guessing, most of the people upset don’t play 4e, much less organized 4e, much less organized 4e that will require these cards. The newest version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is almost entirely card based, Paizo has been producing themed card decks with mechanical bonuses for years. I can only imagine that it isn’t the card format, but rather perceived money-grubbing by incorporating random “gotta-catch-em-all” chance. I guess I have difficulties seeing the difference between convincing players to spend $4 a pop at a chance to be more powerful versus spending $30 bucks buying a new book with those options, which frankly has been happening since 2nd ed, at least.. WoTC exists to make money. Hasbro exists to make money. If the cards don’t prove popular, I doubt Wizards will continue to support them — so I guess my question is: why do *you* dislike them so much?

    1. I do play 4e, and have played some organized 4e, and now I’ve seen some of the cards (WotC posted images) I’ve moved from ambivalent to anti.

      They provide out and out benefits, to the extent of “Have a bonus” not “Spend an action to get a bonus”.

      It looks like if you don’t pay, then your character won’t be as good and lead to feelings of letting the team down or of being behind in competing to be the MVP depending on your group dynamic.

      1. All the other cards out there are the same, including Paizo’s Gamemastery stuff.

        I would only have them as DM hand outs if I had them at all.

        More to the point. I feel that this addresses a side issue with less than imaginative players and DMs. If all you are doing is kicking in doors and killing monsters then this will be some welcome variety.

        For the role players this is more exciting stuff to happen.

    2. It’s more than worrying about someone money grubbing, it’s that I keep hoping they’ll move D&D back towards being an actual role-playing game so that maybe (5e?) I get to play it again. But moves like this

      1. Show a complete and absolute disregard for anything approaching in-character simulation – “powers just happen” and aren’t based on the in world fiction
      2. Are unfair from a game point of view, giving an advantage to those who spend loads of $$ and time on ‘deck building’ vs anything in the domain of roleplaying

      New books had good options, but one person could buy the book and everyone could freely use it. Information isn’t always free and that’s fine. That’s a huge conceptual divide from “you have to buy more and more to get the sweetest powers and everyone has to buy more and more to keep parity.”

      And in the end, it takes the focus of D&D more and more off of roleplaying. First it was to minis combat, now it’s to card mechanics. If I wanted to play a board game, I’d be playing a board game. I like to roleplay, but “the world’s largest roleplaying game” is deliberately supporting that less and less.

      1. Powers certainly don’t “just happen” in my game, nor in any other 4e session I have ever played or watched. If you just went through the mechanics or the game then yes, you would end up with something that’s more like a board game.

        The same could be said of any other edition of D&D or any other game. Imagine playing Classic D&D by rolling to hit, checking the to-hit table, deducting hit points then mechanically moving onto the next player.

        Role-playing is, and always has been, about imagination first, and rules (any rules) second. Imagination is just as present – if not more so – in our 4e D&D sessions as it is in any prior edition. The difference is that I don’t hear the words “I hit him” any more when a player’s turn comes around in combat. Instead, a player might say “I aim low with a Spinning Sweep”, or “Herris takes Careful Aim and aim for the head”. The Powers help facilitate the role-playing and inject something into the narrative which provides an in-game reward. What’s not to love?

        The Powers and these new Fortune Cards are there to help spark the imagination. For example, one of the previewed cards is “Self-Sacrifice” – play it and your hero takes the hit meant for an adjacent ally. Does it make the character mechanically more powerful for playing it? Heck no, but it does wonderful things as a story-telling device. It’s acts like that out of which blood-bonds are formed.

        As I (and many others) have said before if you don’t like them, don’t use them. They’re an interesting optional extra, nothing more.

  15. I agree with pretty much all of what Greywulf says.

    The cards are a big deal for the stores. I went to the Gamma World Gameday and was required to buy some of the Gamma world cards. I spoke to the proprietor and he says that it really helps him. 15 people X $4.50 pack so he’s pulling in $33.75 for hosting for 3 hours. Some people are complaining here without realizing that the proprietor is only making $10 hour, less rent.

    Most people don’t realize or care that these guys have to pay rent. You know, bills, and such. These packs go a long ways to providing a means of rewarding ALL involved. Players and Stores.

    Perhaps we should just man up and put these businesses out of their misery?

  16. I think this is a first move towards an entirely card-based D&D experience (which, btw, I fully welcome, as I’ve been running my 4e game like that for a year now with custom cards).

    How about $15 for a deck of 60 Martial Powers or Arcane Powers. Or magic items. Make a very basic set of general rules, and put the specific rules on the specific cards that use them. Etc. etc.

    1. I’ve no objection to cards. WFRP3 is a great RPG. Dominion and Race for the Galaxy are great games.

      I do object to packs containing random cards with some being better than others. It turns the game into “He who spends the most is best”.

  17. Collectible? Groan. The cards seem interesting, and if I could get the specific 8 cards I want most for $4, then I might be on board.

    Maybe WotC’s idea is to get groups to meet other groups for trading. That’s not gonna happen in my group. Only 1 of my players might buy these. They rest won’t want to spend the money, or don’t want to add any more complexity to combats.

    I’m not opposed to optional cards, but I am opposed to the collectible sales method spreading into more parts of D&D. Minis are already sold in partially-blind, rarity-tiered, randomized packs (I find these obnoxious, so I always buy singles, but the rarity scheme still jacks up the prices I have to pay). Will powers be released in collectible packs next? I hope not. If it happens, my group will probably convert our characters to Pathfinder.

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