DMs Guild Review – Pact of the Gambler

A card-based gambling subclass for Warlocks.

A review copy of “Pact of the Gambler” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Brandon Cedeno

Pact of the Gambler isn’t the first subclass to use playing cards as a resource – but I still love seeing it every time. The concept of a card-based resource system and gambling theme is very enticing, but a class built on gambling and random chance is a tricky thing to properly balance.

The Pact of the Gambler is a Warlock who serves The Gambler. Who or what that is I have no idea, and the supplement doesn’t bother to explain it, beyond bestowing a magical 54 deck of playing cards.¬†

These cards fuel most of your abilities, and even your spell slots – at least I think. The expanded spell list, which includes Dissonant Whispers, Calm Emotions, and Clairvoyance are “cast through your Pact Deck, in which you remove the amount of cards equal to the spell level from the deck to the discard pile.”

Does this mean I could potentially cast Dissonant Whispers over 50 times per Long Rest, when the discard pile is finally shuffled back in? What about up-casting? It’s a bit too vague with the details, and the potential seems far too powerful.

That’s not all I can use my deck for. As a bonus action the Gambler can draw and discard a card from their deck. The result depends on the card drawn, with the suit dictating the damage type and the number (or face) dictating the damage. A red 2-4 results in 1d4 fire damage, whereas a Jack could deal 1d10 Force damage. Aces grant a Luck point (presumably the same as the Feat) while Jokers allow me to roll on the Wild Magic Table, a new d100 table provided at the end of the supplement with all kinds of crazy goodies (and silly flavor).

To make even further use of the cards, every few levels the Gambler can choose from a list of 30(!) Dealer’s Gambits. These Gambits are my favorite part of the class, adding lots of cool new features that utilize the Pact Deck in fun ways, from simple things like using cards to heal, add to AC, or reduce incoming damage – to using 15 cards to trap enemies in a literal house of cards.

The other subclass features are Hole Card, Ante Up, and Loan Shark contract. Hole Card grants a self-revive in the form of discarding extra cards to a sidebar, expended when you reach 0 hit points, while Ante Up lets you throw multiple cards instead of one on your bonus action. Both a very powerful – probably too powerful.

Than you have the oddly lame Loan Shark Contract at 14th level. You have to touch a creature, have them fail a CHA save, then use your reaction over multiple rounds to increase a magic counter from 1 to 4, all to give them a single level of exhaustion. Oh and if the creature damages you at all they reduce the counter. A ridiculously convoluted, underwhelming capstone feature.

I love seeing playing cards used for a card and/or gambling-themed class, and Pact of the Gambler has a lot of fun features. The Pact Deck attacks are fun – though the bonus action may be too much, and Dealer’s Gambit abilities add a ton of customized features. But the deck may be giving the Gambler way too many resources to work with compared to other classes. A neat idea that doesn’t feel well balanced.

Pros:

  • Use actual playing cards to power spells and attacks
  • 30 Dealer’s Gambit abilities to fine-tune your gambler.
  • A new d100 Wild Magic table.

Cons:

  • Full deck of 54 cards grants way too many resources.
  • No artwork whatsoever.

The Verdict: Using playing cards as a resource is a fun idea and thematically rewarding, though Pact of the Gambler also highlights the challenge in balancing a card-based subclass.

A review copy of “Pact of the Gambler” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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