Monday, February 8, 2010

Resource Cards: The Holy Grail

One of my ongoing projects is to develop a set of resource cards, for use as props in D&D games. The idea behind those is to pass out the resource cards to the players, when they purchase equipment, find treasure, obtain rumors and clues, and so on. They therefore will have some tangible representation of the item or information, rather than simply writing the item or information down on their character sheet. That project was inspired by several things: the Paizo Gamemastery cards, the resource cards from the Civilization boardgame, and of course my much-beloved Magic Realm treasure cards.

While the Paizo Gamemastery cards are beautifully illustrated, I find them a little too large for what I am attempting: the Paizo cards are the size of a traditional playing-card (roughly 2.5” x 3.5”) while I am looking for cards that have a smaller footprint, say 1” x 1.5”.

Lately, I have let my resource cards project languish, but it is not forgotten. Here’s an example of a treasure card from Magic Realm, side-by-side with one of my prototype D&D resource card props. As an exercize in developing some resource cards, I am trying to re-create the Magic Realm cards, but with the addition of some simple artwork. Clearly a work in progress, but you get the idea.

Don’t let the card selection of the Sacred Grail fool you: as I have said previously, I neither like the Paladin class in D&D, nor do I have any interest in playing one. In my estimation, the specialist classes like the Paladin, and the introduction of 4d6 character stat generation, took D&D down the wrong path.

The Sacred Grail treasure, in Magic Realm, is a real boon to that game’s White Knight, as it supplies him with WHITE magic, and thereby gives him the ability to cast spells, away from the sanctuary of the Chapel. Of course, it is tempting for the other players (like me when I am playing the Black Knight) to cheese off the White Knight and simply sell the Sacred Grail to the Order, and thereby gain the 12 gold, but more importantly, the 50 fame points.


Norman Harman said...

Looks like you print yours so size/cutting isn't an issue But, when I hand made cards I found 3x5 notecards cut in half were nice size and easy to produce. They also fit well into card sleeves and 3ring sleeve pages of the type used for collectible cards.

Looking back at my crappy handwriting I think I should have printed them instead!

ze bulette said...

3d6 FTW! i'm still attracted to this idea, and being a hardcore index card user, the "resource cards" idea speaks to me. Norman might be on to something.

Jay said...

I too am a lover of the resource cards. I blame my first boardgame love for that.

P_Armstrong said...

I have been using Paizo's cards for my 2E campaign. I like them but I am still trying to figure out the best way to utilize/manage them.

Obiri said...

I have to say I don't understand the appeal of resource cards. We don't play with them so maybe I just don't know what I'm missing.

Is it a quick way to see what notable items you hold or just a way to make them feel more special?

Norman Harman said...


yes both of those, also a way for Obsessive Compulsives to fetishize over objects. There's a little more explanation in my link above.

Just like minis, music/sound effects, props, funny voices. Some people dig it, some people don't.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

@Norman: coming late to the game, as I did, I missed your post about treasure cards (you posted that in June, and I started blogging in August). Good post. The Paizo cards are about the same size as your hand-made cards. If you like the idea of that size of card, you should check the Paizo cards out (if you havn;t already). At least check out some of their sample cards on the Paizo site, to see if they are for you. Again, that size of card is a little bigger than I am thinking of.

@ze bulette: 3d6 ftw indeed! If I can ever get organized, I will try to post some of my resource card sheets on a free sharing site, so people can try the smaller cards out.

@Jay: so get off your butt and work on your Dungeon expansion already! I kid! I had Dungeon too, and loved the game (you really must try Magic Realm, if you liked Dungeon. At the risk of simplifyig too much ... Magic Realm is a more complicated, out-door version of Dungeon.

@Pat: I like the Paizo cards, though i'm not as fussy about the newest artist. Someone bought the last "weapons locker" set from TSB, are you poaching my TSB stuff again? The other problem I have with the Paizo cards is that they are TOO nice ... I don't want to ruin them by writing all over them. At least my handmade cards can be reprinted, if one gets lost or damaged.

@Obiri: partly what Norman said. Also, it's a convienient way to handle resource management. Plus, i'm a very visual person, so I like to have something that I can point to, and say, "this is what your magic sword looks like."

Anonymous said...


Great post; I'm currently in the process of designing a role-playing/card game hybrid that I'm pretty sure stems from my love of cards that represent real things :-).

PS--I'm jealous! I've been trying to run down a copy of Magic Realm for years, but can't find one in my price range :-( Even fantasy flight's 4e Talisman is out of print.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

@adventurematerials: then I feel doubly guilty, as I have two copies of Magic realm. I have also played three games of Magic Realm in the last five weeks. My last copy of Magic Realm set me back $50, which is a lot cheaper than eBay's prices. I keep hoping someone will reprint the game, but the copyright status is so unclear that it's just too risky for anyone to take the chance.

spielmeister said...

What appeals to me here is having something tangible in your hands as opposed to just listing something down on your character sheet. It adds a dimension of fun to your game as your players gain something that actually exists (even if it is just a representational token) when they do something right/are lucky. Plus the fact that a catchy, well-designed card is always a joy to look at.