The Deck of Civilization

Over the millenia, cards have been used for gambling, entertainment, and prophecy. The decks used differ in various details from city-state to forest to desert lands, but as trade and travel bring new ideas across The Whorl, the "Deck of Civilization" has developed into a fairly consistent and resilient tool for fortune-telling. It is thought that Lakshmi herself guides those readings performed by those who are truly devout.

A typical deck consists of 48 cards divided into four "suits" of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. These cards are also divided into twelve thematic "houses" of four cards each. The cards, and the concepts they commonly represent, are:

The House of Heaven and Earth Suit Concepts
The Forest Earth Antiquity, Slumber, Life, Losing your Way
The Great River Water Cultural Exchange, Unity, Knowledge, Music
The Sea Water Mercurialness, Change, Sudden Danger
The Sun Fire Indifference, Arrogance, Hubris
House of Desolation    
The Dead Earth Decay, Terror, Compulsion
The Desert Earth Concealed Power, Thirst, Oppression
The Icelands Water Slow Dissolution, Buried Treasure, Survival
The Underworld Earth Secrets, Inscrutable Mystery, Madness
House of Contemplation    
The Ancestor Air Tradition, Continuity, Mythology
The Augur Air Prophecy, Luck, Riddles
The Mirror Air Self-Awareness, Opposition, Irony
The Monk Earth Discipline, Self-Control, Unworldliness
House of Strife    
The Blood Feud Fire Risk, Honor, Vendetta
The Broken Alliance Fire Murder, Amoral Action, Cold Calculation
The Secret Tryst Fire Illicit Lust, Dishonor, Betrayal
The Whispered Word Air Manipulation, Etiquette, Valuable Secrets
House of the High Castes    
The Nawab Fire Protection, Entitlement, Justice
The Saddhu Air Mystical Knowledge, Wisdom, Foresight
The Warrior Fire Martial Valor, Birthright, Glory
The Vizier Air Public Service, Efficiency, Cleverness
House of the Low Castes    
The Laborer Earth Planning, Durability, Reliability
The Merchant Earth Bargains, Travel, Distrust, Trade
The Slave Water Loyal Service, Sacrifice, Desperation
The Unclean Air Restitution, Scapegoat, Hidden Wisdom
House of the Blood    
The Matriarch Earth Motherhood, Comfort, Organization
The Patriarch Air Authority, Lordship, Control
The Daughter Air Bloodlines, Bittersweet Loss, Destiny
The Son Fire Ambition, Rebellion, Impulsiveness
House of Culture    
The Dancer Fire Beauty, The Arts, Seduction
The Garden Water Peace, Ostentation, Diplomacy
The Priest Water Intermediation, Higher Power, Pawn
The Scholar Air Lore, Tradition, Complexity
House of Fortune    
The Bride Price Water Alliance, Reconciliation, Family
The Date Palm Water Obligation, Renewal, Investment
The Harvest Earth Fertility, Continuance, Sustenance
The Spice Market Earth Subtlety, Luxury, Complexity
House of the Home    
The Hearthfire Fire Home, Domesticity, Comfort
The Heir Water The Future, Continuity, Legacy
The Marriage Bed Water Passion, Duty, Consummation
The Pyre Fire Endings, Consecration, Suicide
House of the City    
The Architect Earth Aspiration, Beginnings, Mathematics
The Arena Air Contests, Entertainment, Bloodlust
The Gladiator Fire Exaltation, Dangerous Risks, Fame
The Thief Fire Greed, Desire, Stealth
House of Beasts    
The Scarab Water Industriousness, Persistence, Royalty
The Serpent Water Warnings, Medicine, Unexpected Harm
The Songbird Air Beauty, Defenselessness, Hedonism
The Spider Earth Cunning, Traps, Patience

Game Use:
At character creation, each player selects one card that represents their character's inner self and a second card that represents their character's destiny. Each game session, the DM will deal each player three additional cards. These five cards constitute a player's "hand" for that game session.

During game play, players may "spend" a card from their hand for effects based on the card's suit as follows:

  • Air: Advantage on a Skill die roll
  • Earth: Advantage on an untyped Ability roll or Death save
  • Fire: Advantage on an Attack or Damage roll
  • Water: Advantage on a Saving Throw

At the end of the game session, players may attempt to spend any remaining cards in their hand for Experience Points by describing how their characters embodied or overcame the concepts inherent in each card. Each card the DM accepts is worth 100xp multiplied by the character level of the group, and goes into a communal pool. When all cards have been accepted or denied, the pool of xp is divided amongst the players, whether present or absent.  

Theme Card: Each game session has a "theme" card. This card grants a free 100xp multiplied by the average character level of the group for the xp pool, and if any player holds the theme card in their hand, they can justify it for xp automatically.

The Deck of Civilization

The Whorl ardhanari