The Tarokka Deck, distinct from the German Tarock or Tarok, is an addition to the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) "Curse of Strahd" adventure game. The deck comprises 54 black-and-white cards designed by artist Chuck Lukacs and, inspired by real-world Tarot cards, adds unpredictability that keeps players engaged throughout the game.
The Tarokka Deck also includes a bonus card game called Prophet's Gambit, designed for 3 to 5 players. This engaging and somewhat chaotic game challenges players to strategically assemble poker-like hands using a combination of shared, hidden and face-up cards over the course of three rounds.
Players aim to create the strongest hand using shared, hidden, and face-up cards over two rounds. During each round, players either play a card, covering their previous card, or discard a card to activate a High Deck card's ability. After two rounds, the Focus card may be kept or discarded, and players reveal their hands. The player with the best combination of cards, including the Focus card if kept, wins the game.
The deck is comprised of forty Common Cards (similar to Minor Arcana), which is divided into four unique suits: Glyphs, Pentagrams (stars), Coins and Glyphs; and 14 High Deck cards, marked with the crown symbol (equivalent to the Major Arcana). Each High Card represents powerful figures and forces within the game’s world of Barovia. The suits are numbered from one to ten, with the 10th card being the “master of that suit”.
The box also includes a booklet with the rules for Prophet's Gambit, a game that is played using the “Curse of Strahd” Tarokka Deck (see Prophet’s Gambit sidebar).
A crucial event in the game involving the Tarokka Deck occurs during a fortune-telling meeting with the mystical seer Madam Eva. This reading unveils key narrative details, including the locations of significant items, the adventurers' route, and the ultimate confrontation with the Dracula-like nemesis, Strahd von Zarovich. The wide range of outcomes adds immense replayability to the adventure, ensuring no two games are the same. A Madame Eve fortune teller miniature model is also available for purchase to be used in the game (shown on the left).
Although not strictly required to play the "Curse of Strahd" adventure, the Tarokka Deck elevates the campaign by adding depth, flavour and a sense of mystique.
The Tarokka Deck's inclusion in the "Curse of Strahd" adventure game highlights the growing influence of tarot and tarot-like cards in mainstream pop culture, and also demonstrates their timeless appeal for modern audiences. These mystical cards, rich in symbolism, have evolved beyond their purpose and become a captivating addition to games, movies and other forms of entertainment. See my article Branded Tarot Decks and Modern Mystic Lifestyle for more on this.
Also see my review of the Dungeons and Dragons Tarot, published by Wizards of the Coast.
High Cards (Major Arcana)
|The importance of some physical object that must be obtained, protected, or destroyed at all costs
|Great rage or passion; something bestial or malevolent hiding in plain sight or lurking just below the surface
|Defeat, failure, and despair; the loss of something or someone important, without which one feels incomplete
|A single, powerful individual of an evil nature, one whose goals have enormous and far-reaching consequences
|Isolation and imprisonment; being so conservative in thinking as to be a prisoner of one's own beliefs
|The looming past; the return of an old enemy or the discovery of a secret buried long ago
|The imminent death of one rightly or wrongly convicted of a crime; false accusations and unjust prosecution
|Death; disaster in the form of the loss of wealth or property, a horrible defeat, or the end of a bloodline
|A being of great importance whose life is in danger (who might be helpless or simply unaware of the peril)
|The presence of a spy or a minion of some greater power; an encounter with a puppet or an underling
|Something unexpected or mysterious that can't be avoided; a great quest or journey that will try one's spirit
|A hidden source of information; a fortunate turn of events; a secret potential for good
|Inspiration and keen intellect; a future event, the outcome of which will hinge on a clever mind
|One who has been compromised or led astray by temptation or foolishness; one who tempts others for evil ends
Common Cards (Minor Arcana)
The Swords suit represents conflict and challenge, symbolising the trials adventurers face in their quest; the Pentagrams (stars) suit embodies hope and guidance, reflecting the light that guides heroes through darkness; the Glyphs suit signifies knowledge and arcane power, illustrating the secrets and magical forces that shape the world; and the Coins suit stands for wealth and material gain, reminding players of the tangible rewards and resources at stake in their journey.
|One of coins
|Those who like money yet give it up freely; likable rogues and rapscallions
|Two of coins
|Charity and giving on a grand scale; those who use wealth to fight evil and sickness
|Three of coins
|Commerce; smuggling and black markets; fair and equitable trades
|Four of coins
|A rare commodity or business opportunity; deceitful or dangerous business transactions
|Five of coins
|Like-minded individuals joined together in a common goal; pride in one's work
|Six of coins
|Sudden change in economic status or fortune
|Seven of coins
|Those who steal or burgle; a loss of property, beauty, innocence, friendship, or reputation
|Eight of coins
|Corruption; honesty in an otherwise corrupt government or organization
|Nine of coins
|Hoarded wealth; those who are irreversibly unhappy or who think money is meaningless
|Master of coins
|Anyone for whom money is important; those who believe money is the key to their success
|One of swords
|Justice and revenge for great wrongs; those on a quest to rid the world of great evil
|Two of swords
|Just and noble warriors; those who live by a code of honor and integrity
|Three of swords
|War and sacrifice; the stamina to endure great hardship
|Four of swords
|Inner strength and fortitude; those who fight for power or wealth
|Five of swords
|Great heroes; a sudden reversal of fate; the triumph of the underdog over a mighty enemy
|Six of swords
|The brutal and barbaric side of warfare; bloodlust; those with a bestial nature
|Seven of swords
|Bigotry, intolerance, and xenophobia; a mysterious presence or newcomer
|Eight of swords
|All that is wrong with government and leadership; those who rule through fear and violence
|Nine of swords
|The coming of suffering or merciless cruelty; one who is irredeemably evil or sadistic
|Master of swords
|Strength and force personified; violence; those who use force to accomplish their goals
|One of Pentagrams (stars)
|A new discovery; the coming of unexpected things; unforeseen consequences and chaos
|Two of Pentagrams (stars)
|The pursuit of knowledge tempered by wisdom; truth and honesty; sages and prophecy
|Three of Pentagrams (stars)
|Inner turmoil that comes from confusion, fear of failure, or false information
|Four of Pentagrams (stars)
|Those guided by logic and reasoning; warns of an overlooked clue or piece of information
|Five of Pentagrams (stars)
|The triumph of nature over civilization; natural disasters and bountiful harvests
|Six of Pentagrams (stars)
|Magical or supernatural power that can't be controlled; magic for destructive ends
|Seven of Pentagrams (stars)
|Lies and deceit; grand conspiracies; secret societies; the presence of a dupe or a saboteur
|Eight of Pentagrams (stars)
|Unnatural events and unhealthy obsessions; those who follow a destructive path
|Nine of Pentagrams (stars)
|The coming of an unexpected supernatural threat; those who think of themselves as gods
|Master of Pentagrams (stars)
|Mystery and riddles; the unknown; those who crave magical power and great knowledge
|One of glyphs
|Serenity; inner strength and self-reliance; supreme confidence bereft of arrogance
|Two of glyphs
|Those who spread wisdom and faith to others; warnings of the spread of fear and ignorance
|Three of glyphs
|Healing; a contagious illness, disease, or curse; those who practice the healing arts
|Four of glyphs
|Those who protect others; one who bears a burden far too great to be shouldered alone
|Five of glyphs
|The ambivalence and cruelty of nature and those who feel drawn to it; inner turmoil
|Six of glyphs
|A fundamental change brought on by one whose beliefs are being put to the test
|Seven of glyphs
|Liars; those who profess to believe one thing but actually believe another
|Eight of glyphs
|Strict adherence to a code or a belief; those who plot, plan, and scheme
|Nine of glyphs
|Betrayal by someone close and trusted; a weakening or loss of faith
|Master of glyphs
|Enlightenment; those who follow a deity, a system of values, or a higher purpose
Member since March 15, 1997
Adam has been involved in developing the site as well as reviewing new decks and conducting research. He is particularly interested in innovation, Kickstarter and East Asian cards. He is a member of the IPCS and webmaster of the EPCS.
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