scissors, playing cards and role playing itemsI have always believed in simplifying the role playing experience for myself whenever possible. The business of GMing a role playing game holds too many complexities and points of preparation to make it any harder. If I read an adventure, I will take notes. I will litter the text with highlighting, Post-It notes, sticky bookmarks or index slips. I will photocopy bits for personal reference, or transcribe important elements into a notebook. If I can photocopy three different bits and fit them on the same page, all the better. Actually, I have a thing I did for a Dragon Age adventure that ended up being a sort of booklet, containing snippets of rules, maps, characters and notes – all gathered into one spot. I wanted to fit it all in, so some of it didn’t even appear the right way up. I scanned one thing, then another – then cut them up and created a weird sort of GM support decoupage of something. All very crafty and chaotic – but, it helped a great deal in the end.

Recently, I have taken to preparing a deck of flashcards, using index cards, pre-prepared flashcard ‘packs’ (often used by students) or simply printing out sheets of text that I then glue to playing cards. When I ran a demo game for Advanced Fighting Fantasy at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham last year, I got a pack of Avery sticky labels (probably borrowed from my wife’s eBay supplies box), wrote notes on each label by hand, and applied the individual labels to playing cards. I made half of them at home, then took the rest of the stickers with me on the trip down. I think I may have finished the last of them off in the hotel. Given you can get cheap playing cards for very little and economy labels from a stationery store almost as cheaply, it seems to me a worthwhile investment for the struggling GM. On the upside, I can now play Fighting Fantasy with a moments notice and have most of the key spells for the different magic-using classes ready to deal out to the relevant players (including most of the spell from the Sorcery! series).

With this in mind, I’m going to include a set of ‘useful cards’ to accompany my first adventure module, “The Stench of the Sea“. You can see a prototype for the cards in the attached thumbnail (click it for a better look). I haven’t settled on the design, though the item described in the example does appear in the adventure – that much is true. I wanted to see what an actual card would look like, so it didn’t make sense to make it up completely. I think I’m going to benefit more from taking the time to actually have something close to a finished product. It fits on a playing card – and I may yet fiddle with the format and font to make the most of the real estate. In practice, you might get this to print on a sheet of Avery-style stickers, but I’d rather not aim for anything like that as it presupposes a brand of sticker! Instead, you print these out on thin paper (or just standard printer stuff), cut out, and stick the little ‘label’-sized nuggets to one side of a playing card with a Pritt Stick.

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