I want to make a con artist style character and so I was looking to use magic to cheat at gambling. So my question is would it be possible to use prestidigitation to modify cards to guarantee victory?

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    \$\begingroup\$ In high stakes situations I would not rely on magic to con and cheat because there are too many ways to prevent it or notice it. By level 11 rogue with expertise in sleight of hand should have a minimum sleight of hand check in the 20ies. Plus, sleight of hand can be used in many more cons and cheats than prestidigitation. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruse Apr 5 '18 at 5:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd prefer to use an Arcane Trickster's Mage Hand Legerdemain to make it seem that the luckiest player at a table is cheating by reverse pick-pocketing cards, then as fighting erupts steal everything in sight (the Rogue is not playing, but drinking in a corner to better disguise his spellcasting). \$\endgroup\$ – Tenryu Apr 5 '18 at 6:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think one of Robert Aspirin's books (Little Myth Marker?) had a high stakes poker game in a magic heavy world. It was discovered that one of the players had been heavily cheating throughout the game, but no one could figure out he was magically doing it. He was using old fashioned slight-of-hand and marked cards. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Apr 5 '18 at 14:00

Probably, but with complications

Prestidigitation has an effect listed that would be relevant to this answer:

You make a color, a small mark, or a symbol appear on an object or a surface for 1 hour.

It seems very reasonable that you'd be able to make the markings for a specific card appear, which could give you a sizable advantage. However, this plan would not be without complication.

I'd say that if you had a card with markings on it (say, a Two of Clubs) and you wanted to change it to a better card (say, an Ace of Spades), it would be difficult to cover up the original markings. Any close inspection of the card would show that it essentially has an Ace of Spades printed on top of a Two of Clubs. You'd probably have to use either specially designed cards to mitigate this problem, or find a way to sneak blank cards into your hand and mark those. Either of those would come with risks and potential ways to get caught.

Additionally, prestidigitation has Verbal and Somatic components. This means that it will be very difficult to cast without being noticed - especially if you're, say, sitting at a table playing cards. It would depend on how your DM rules it, but making arcane gestures and saying arcane words will be difficult to pull off.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unless the character is a Sorcerer, with the Subtle Spell metamagic. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Apr 5 '18 at 4:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think covering up the markings is too hard to be honest. It would just require a blank card symbol and an ace symbol cast on top of each other. Though I don't know if two spells cast on the same surface will override each other or just be layered on top of each other, but that's another matter entirely. \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Apr 5 '18 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnHamilton Maybe, and at that point it'd be up to your DM. Even if that did work, it'd probably take two separate castings of Prestidigitation. Essentially, no matter what you do there are high complications of being caught. \$\endgroup\$ – Dacromir Apr 5 '18 at 8:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ And you have to be sure that the opponents didn't have the same card in their hands. \$\endgroup\$ – Malkev Apr 5 '18 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnHamilton If you have the time, the spell also allows you to dismiss any effect as an action, so you do not need to worry about layering. Thinking about it, this might also be a way around the problem of components. If you can turn a card into another (a six into an eight might for example work) do so in private before the game and then simply dismiss the effect during it. \$\endgroup\$ – mlk Apr 5 '18 at 15:21

Yes with a caveat

Per the description:

You make a color, a small mark, or a symbol appear on an object or a surface for 1 hour.

And that, I would think, would fall under the ability of making one card look like another; at least long enough for a round of cards. However, the cantrip has both verbal and somatic components. So every time the con man changes a card, it's going to be pretty obvious.


Yes, prestidigitation can modify cards

You make a color, a small mark, or a symbol appear on an object or a surface for 1 hour.

However, by a strict interpretation, a mark or symbol may not be enough to hide the real suit or number, like drawing with a marker on the card.
But even with that strict interpretation, you could cast prestidigitation twice, first to make a color that covers the real number or suit and then again to make the new suit or number appear.

Prestidigitation has vocal and somatic components

So, it would be basically be impossible to cast prestidigitation undetected right in front of the other players, unless you use the subtle spell metamagic.

Prestidigitation can be detected

Fortunately, this cantrip is not an illusion so it bypasses truesight.
However, anyone capable of sensing magic would notice the modified cards. If the card game has high enough stakes, it would be reasonable to have a judge who can cast detect magic.

But cheating successfully is not guaranteed victory

In some games, if the same card appears too many times, then players can prove that somebody has cheated somehow and may call off the game.
In other games, cheating can only improve the odds of victory.


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