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The description of the Deck of Many Things (DMG p. 162) states the following:

Before you draw a card, you must declare how many cards you intend to draw and then draw them randomly [...]. Any cards drawn in excess of this number have no Effect. [...]. If you fail to draw the chosen number, the remaining number of cards fly from the deck on their own and take Effect all at once.

So you have to decide on a number of cards you want to draw and then do so.
My question is:
What prevents me from simply declaring that I want to draw a single card, get its effect, then deciding if I want to risk another card?

If there is nothing that prevents me from doing so:
What benefit would it have to ever declare that I want to draw multiple cards?

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2 Answers 2

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You Might Only Be Able to Declare Once

Any cards drawn in excess of this number have no Effect.

With no duration described for this or similar limitation, there would be no effect created when drawing additional cards beyond what you've declared. Even if you announce some new number at a later point, those draws would be in excess of the originally declared number.

This interpretation is fairly broad as a limitation of the deck for what's written here, but it's consistent with previous edition's versions of the item which were more explicit.

3.5 > The character with a deck of many things who wishes to draw a card must announce how many cards she will draw before she begins. Cards must be drawn within 1 hour of each other, and a character can never again draw from this deck any more cards than she has announced.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That explanation did cross my mind but the 5e rules are unclear on this. The rules snippet from the old edition makes it very likely that it is intended to work this way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Mar 27, 2023 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's been inherited into Pathfinder, and PF 2e's description is even clearer than D&D 3.5e's: "You can never activate the same deck of many things again." I can only conclude that your claim that "You Might Only Be Able to Declare Once" is an understatement. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Mar 28, 2023 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ikegami My question was about 5e where this information is suspiciously missing. So it is not as obvious as you say although I agree with the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Mar 28, 2023 at 5:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Anagkai, We know, but historical evidence that coroborates the somewhat ambiguous English wording helps. You said this yourself above, so I don't why I have to explain this to you now. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Mar 28, 2023 at 6:22
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Why Would Someone Ever Declare More Than One Card?

One reason a character may wish to declare drawing more than one card at a time is action economy. In the case where a character is already in combat when drawing a card, or if the act of drawing a card causes them to enter a combat scenario a player must consider their action economy concerning further draws. As it is not explicitly stated in the wording of the Deck of Many Things, depending on how your DM rules it, choosing to interact with the deck and draw cards would likely either require the use of your Action or your free object interaction. Since a player only has one of either per turn, this could affect the use of the Deck of Many Things.

A player could in one turn declare to take more than one card and have all effects occur on that turn, as opposed to having to wait for their next turn to draw an additional card. Even if a DM were to rule that you could only physically draw one card in your turn of combat the specification that "If you fail to draw the chosen number, the remaining number of cards fly from the deck on their own and take Effect all at once" would require all effects to occur on that turn.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are there any issues with the alternative answer I have proposed above? Based on the ambiguity of the wording in 5e compared to previous editions or other systems, I know of and have played with many DMs who interpret the Deck of Many Things as more than a single use magic item, and with that interpretation I believe my answer is another valid reason for a character to declare more than one card drawn. If there is something I am misunderstanding that would impact the validity of my answer, I am open to feedback. \$\endgroup\$
    – gabbo1092
    Mar 28, 2023 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reasoning like this is what I'd always assumed for the oddly-detailed wording surrounding declaring draws; until seeing answers comparing earlier editions of D&D, it never occurred to me that it was intended as a limit on how many you could ever draw from this deck. That forever-limit makes a lot of sense, but this answer is a plausible interpretation of the 5e rules alone. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2023 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ And if they didn't intend to remove the limit on declaring another draw later, why did they take out that wording in the 5e version? Its absence seems significant. (Some other simplifications to magic items also resulted in oddness, like the 5e Bag of Holding now gives you the item you want, the same as the Handy Haversack. Apparently that used to be a unique advantage of the Haversack, but not it's just smaller with no major advantage.) Anyway, they simplified some item rules, and maybe didn't realize that they'd removed the wording that stops you from declaring another draw? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2023 at 21:49

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