“Sorry, my Karma just ran over your Dogma.” ~Anonymous
A lot has been written about Karma over the millennia since its foundation in Eastern religions. But while Karma may have its origins in Eastern philosophies, there have certainly been plenty of Karma proponents among western writers and philosophers – whether they realized it or not. There are all manner of Karmic sayings and quotes, even from the Bible, which is rather ironic considering that most theologians consider Karma to be the antithesis of Faith:
“Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein.” ~ Proverbs
“Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds.” ~ George Eliot
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Realize that everything connects to everything else.” ~ Leonardo DaVinci
In many respects, fantasy role-players are well acquainted with Karma too, at least when you consider the jokes and jibes heard around the gaming tables over the years. Claiming bad dice luck on having done something evil in a past (real or character’s) life to offering the last piece of pizza to the Dungeon Master to “appease the gods”, the concept of “what goes around, comes around” is really not all that foreign of a concept to most gamers.
And now, Creation’s Edge Games has introduced a way to throw a karmic twist into your 4E Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, with their new release: Karma Deck!
- Authors: Matt Kline
- Cover Illustrator: Shaman’s Stockart
- Publisher: Creation’s Edge Games
- Year: 2010
- Media: PDF (16 pages)
- Retail Cost: $5.00
Karma Deck is a 4E game supplement which provides karmic “boons” to be offered to Player-Characters as rewards, or used by Dungeon Masters to introduce the “hand of the gods” at an appropriate moment during game-play. The Karma Deck consists of 52 “karma-power” cards which can be printed on cardstock to produce a physical deck, with detailed instructions and recommendations on how the cards can be used in a campaign setting.
The production quality of the Karma Deck is very good, with each page containing four full-color karma cards. The cards are neatly laid out, front and back, so that they can be printed on card stock, cut out, and then folded and glued to create a rather nice “playing” card appearance. The Author was also considerate enough to provide two other versions of the Karma Deck in the same package: a low detail, “printer-ink friendly”, black-and-white version, and a full-color version without “backs” to save at least a little ink.
The writing on each of the karma cards is good, and even a bit amusing, offering both flavor text and karmic power to enhance the experience of using them. I did find a couple typos, and a couple of grammatical errors, but nothing which seriously detracted from the quality of the product.
The Instructions for using the Karma Deck are simple and straightforward, and the Author introduces the intent of use right from the start:
An in game reward system for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
We’re all familiar with the concept of Karma- simply put, do bad things bad things happen to you, do good things good things happen to you. Karma Deck focuses on the good. The cards represent boons bestowed upon the players for services rendered, or future services rendered.
Simply put, these cards can be given out as “divine boons” (see Dungeon Master’s Guide 2), in place or in addition to Action Points at Milestones, or as rewards for services to powerful entities, such as gods or exarchs. These cards can even be used, claims the Author, to rescue a gaming session from a bad streak of dice rolling or an encounter which is going to result in a TPK (Total Party Kill), to bolster the Characters at a critical moment.
The cards are designed to be handed out, and then used during a gaming session as a one-time “power-up” before being returned to the Karma Deck. Many of the powers are free actions, immediate interrupts, or immediate reactions, and are definitely designed to provide needful assistance to a party of heroes when the chips are down:
A perfect attack gives you momentum to try another. A convenient enemy unwillingly gives you a target.
Your not sure what’s heading your way but you suddenly feel as though you could dodge any assault.
That was probably the hardest you ever hit anything in your life. You can’t take all the credit though…
The boons and blessings provided by the Karma Deck range from bonuses to damage, defenses, and saves to healing surges, temporary hit point gains, and even a free Action Point. In general, the karmic powers are not particularly overwhelming, but they might be vexing for a Dungeon Master if used or overused on some occasions, so the Author does provide DMs with a simple but effective out:
~ The DM has a right to overrule the use of cards in any give situation. The DM has the last word on how or if the card’s ability functions.
Although the Author does not mention this, it could be quite an adventure (or perhaps an entire campaign!), to use these cards to help both Player’s and villainous NPCs, particularly bosses and elites. It would be a rather interesting way to representing a battle of wills between two divine entities!
Overall Grade: A-
Karma Deck is a really nifty supplemental product for D&D 4E, which could add an interesting new dynamic to many campaigns. The cards are good looking, easy to use, and have some great powers to throw around during an encounter. And despite a few grammatical issues, the cards are written in a fun and heroic sounding style. They do a great job filling in a niche in the treasure and reward system which was only just introduced in the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, but unlike divine boons, are designed to be deity non-specific, so the Karma Deck can be used in any campaign setting without difficulty. And the price is pretty decent for how much use DMs and Players could get out of the product.
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.
- Presentation: A
- - Design: A
- - Illustrations: A
- Content: B+
- - Crunch: B+
- - Fluff: A-
- Value: B+