July 22, 2012

Flashcards

By Paul Baldowski

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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