Last October, I threw my West Marches players into Castle Ravenloft for fun (they weren't trapped by the mists, they were transported home at the end of the session) and while in it, they found The Deck of Many Things. No one dared use it at that time.
A few sessions later, Dean's paladin was slain. They decided to use the deck, hoping to get wishes to restore him. Two characters pulled cards, and all were bad (a Minor Death attacked then the Sorcerer lost all magic items; the Thief was imprisoned on his first draw). No one else has dared to use the deck since.
Two new players (a married couple, I teach English camps with the husband during summer and winter vacations) joined us today. They rolled up a Human Cleric (the wife) and a Human Berserker (the husband, obviously - and yes, my homebrew "barbarian" is called a Berserker).
They had a few old rumors and I gave them a few new ones. They decided to follow one of the new ones. They found what they were looking for quickly, but weren't able to get it because the medicinal mushrooms grew all around an owlbear's nest. And they were worried that one of the level 1 or level 2 PCs would die. So they went back to town to research options for dealing with owlbears without getting into melee, and possibly capturing it - as a fellow in town is known to pay good money for captured curiosities.
While in town, we mentioned that the Deck had been discovered. And after I mentioned Alexis's post about the Deck from last week, they decided why not? The worst that could happen would be having to roll up a new PC.
So Julian drew 3 cards. He drew Star (+2 to prime requisite, Con in his case), Balance (changing his alignment from Neutral to Chaotic), and Knight (gain a 4th level Fighter henchman...and yes, his character is only 1st level).
Marie also decided to draw 3 cards. She drew Flames (gaining the enmity of a devil or demon...since she's a Cleric she was happy, declaring this "Instant back-story!"), Gem (gaining 20 jewelry or 50 gems, she took the jewelry...which is funny because she rolled the minimum of only 30 gp as starting gold!), and Sun (gain a miscellaneous magic item -- an amulet vs scrying, and 50,000xp!). I decided in this case to ignore the no more than 1 level gain at a time rule as this shot her up to 7th level in one go.
Seeing these results, Don decided to have Phil, his Halfling Ranger, draw as well, but only 2 cards. He got Comet (defeat the next monster you meet and instantly gain 1 level), then Rogue (a henchman turns against you...and while he doesn't yet have a personal henchman, last session, they did hire three retainers to accompany them on their adventure, so one of the two survivors now hates Phil).
They headed out into the Marches again, and the first encounter was with 3 goblins...but who had potentially friendly reactions. Phil didn't want to start a fight, so he asked for a careful wording of the card. It says "Defeat the next monster you meet to gain 1 level." He challenged one of the goblins to rock-scissors-paper, best 2 out of 3. He won the first, the goblin won the second, and he won the third! So he shot up to 3rd level (he was getting close already but it's still a nice boost for him).
Later, they encountered two wights. The wights drained a level from Sir Tom of the Deck (the new henchman), but then Eygwynn used her new 7th level Turn Undead ability to vaporize the two wights. So it all worked out in the end!
Fun stuff, everyone was having a ball, and now I've got some hooks for fun things to throw their way in the future. Julian and Marie are DEFINITELY coming back next session.
28 minutes ago