The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck is a thing of the now
Tarot cards are “having a moment,” according to The Washington Post. The five-hundred-plus-year-old cards saw their sales skyrocket as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country, while Kickstarter reported that backers pledged more than $20 million to tarot-related projects over the past ten years.
At the same time, Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games have also been growing in popularity for some of the same reasons. So it was only a matter of time before someone combined the two. Enter Jon Taylor and Jef Aldrich, two professional podcasters from San Diego who put together the so-called Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck, repurposing the classic major and minor arcana of the tarot into familiar archetypes from RPGs, with bright and cheery illustrations by Zachary Bacus, colored by Hank Jones.
The Fool, for example, becomes the First-Level Adventurer, “poor in experience but rich in enthusiasm,” while the Wheel of Fortune becomes the D20, “the master of fate in many D&D campaigns.” In the thick booklet that accompanies the deck, each card gets a visual depiction as well as a brief description of both its role in the traditional tarot and how that role has been repurposed to give it an RPG theme.
While the deck is ostensibly an all-purpose tool—useful as both standard tarot deck and RPG campaign inspiration—its various iconography and ideas are all pretty clearly tied to Dungeons & Dragons, the world’s most popular roleplaying game, and probably also the most familiar to anyone likely to pick up a product like this. Though the deck isn’t a licensed D&D product, some callouts and references will be familiar to any D&D player, from the names of skills and spells that are repurposed as cards to images like the Font of Wisdom, formerly the High Priestess, which looks an awful lot like a D&D mind flayer.
In their efforts to keep the RPG elements front and center, the authors of The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck have done more than rename cards and write colorful descriptions, however. Alongside the usual information on how to use a tarot deck the traditional way—how to place cards and how to read them—the booklet that accompanies the deck also includes suggestions for how to incorporate tarot into your roleplaying games, from using the cards to generate NPCs and random encounters to using them to replace dice. This idea has already been put into use by numerous RPGs that have used playing cards in place of dice over the years.
In a world full of tarot decks and game aids, who really needs an RPG-themed tarot? No one, obviously. But if you’re the target audience for this deck, you don’t need to need it. My letting you know that it exists will be more than enough. And for those who have an RPG nerd on your gift list, The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck retails for $24.99 from Simon & Schuster.