Game Changers: Using a “Deck of Powers” to change your game.

Welcome to our first post in a new column: Game Changers. This new regular feature will be a place for me to throw out mechanics, cards, or tools that might in some way change the way your game functions. These are in no way finished products or meant to be used for every game. More likely they are for the more adventurous DMs who want to spice up their games from time to time. Constructive criticism is always welcome, as is any testimony from DMs who have actually used something from an article.

A while ago I had a thought, it was a good thought. But then some one who hates dungeons and other fun things convinced me that my idea was stupid. Well I started to think about my idea again and I have come to a different conclusion: my idea could be lots of fun! So what’s this awesome idea you might ask? Well if you couldn’t tell by the title my idea is to use a deck to determine a players character’s powers before each fight. It’s an attempt to bring some of the random fun from gamma world into 4e. It is not the same as omega tech or alpha mutation but is a some what removed system for using powers in a similar way.

Now before you go off on me that it would kill the story or whatever hear me out, because I’m right on this one. I know that lots of players want to have their character as optimized as they can; with gear and powers that all play in concert with one another so they can tear the game a new one. But I for one am not an optimizer, I enjoy playing in a world where the characters have flaws in both their personalities and their powers. That means that at times they just are not the beat down machine they could be and at others they are so on their game it hurts, the DM mostly. If you enjoy your characters and your worlds more along these lines you might like my idea. If you are an over optimizer and all you want to do is rape what ever your DM throws at you, please don’t sit down at my table.

How does this system work?

  • During character creation of a level 1 PC each player builds their character as normal until they get to their powers. At power selection each character gets to choose one at-will and one encounter power. Utilities and feats would also be selected per the regular character generation rules. Then the players print out all of the daily powers and at-wills available to them at that level; these would then go into two separate decks.
  • At level three when a PC would gain an extra encounter power the player would select one permanent power from the previous deck and create a new deck with the new powers available to him/her. This would give the PC one static at-will and one static encounter power along with one random at-will, daily and encounter power.
  • Each time the player is able to choose a new a new daily or encounter power for their characters that new list of powers becomes the deck and one power from the previous deck becomes the new static encounter/daily power. At any given time each character should have no more than one random power from each category.
  • At the beginning of each fight the player would draw one card from each deck and use those powers in battle along with their permanent selections. At the end of each encounter each unused random power goes back into the deck.
  • Players may have the option to discard their powers after each combat if they want to “test out” different powers.

This system can be used by any player who wishes to try out multiple powers before they commit to anything. For those looking for a way to fit this system of play into a story it’s easy. As characters level they train to use their new powers. Anyone who trains in an form of combat learns a large array of moves and techniques; this system simulates a character learning new combat skills or spells and trying them out. Some may work better for the character and others may fail. In the end the player gets to select the one that fits the best for his/her character and move on to the next tier of powers.

If you end up using this in your game please let me know how it goes. I’ll be running some online play tests for this in the next few weeks so I might revisit this topic again soon in the future.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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