|Adventures in Power Cards
||[Sep. 27th, 2008|11:40 am]
One thing my visit to the local RPGA Game Day taught me is that the science of pen + paper roleplaying has advanced far beyond what I remember from the olden days.
These days, initiative tracking is often done by cards. These cards also frequently contain other useful information, like what your passive perception and insight scores are, what your initiative modifier is, and sometimes even what your defenses are. The GM sorts them into the order that initiative will go, interspersing the monster cards appropriately, and uses them to run combat. If you ready an action, the GM turns your card vertical to remind themselves, if you delay to a specific intiative order, they just resort the card, and if you delay indefinitely, they'll hand you your card so you can hand it back when you're ready to go.
I remember when you used a character sheet until the HP section was transparent, then rewrote the character sheet and continued. Of course, the natural extension of that was to do combat tracking on a separate piece of paper. Now?
You put your character sheet in a sheet protector and scribble over it with transparency markers.
I can't believe how brilliant an idea this is.
This was less useful in the age old days, because powers were complicated and really, really irritating to transfer to cards. And fighters didn't have powers. You also had the problem as a spellcaster that, while using cards to track your spells was a great idea, it ran into problems when you tried to memorize two of the same spell.
Powers in 4E are much simpler. You have At-Will powers, Encounter powers, and Daily powers, and that's pretty much it. You can use the card ONCE in a given time period. There are a handful of exceptions, but they're limited enough that they're not so much of a pain to track. So, how do you track whether you've used up your really awesome cool daily power today? Turn the card over. Simple, easy, straightforward. Card face-up? Can use. Card face-down? Can't use. (And for the "use twice in one encounter powers", usually people turn the card sideways after the first use and face-down after the second use.) The power descriptions are very simple and easy to transfer.
So, since I'm playing a genasi warlord with two elemental manifestations, I figured I could use some help tracking things. I dug around on Wizards' forums, and found a few suggestions for printing out power cards. Several of them felt a little half-assed. Eventually, I found a set of fighter power cards that were done in Publisher... and were entirely image based. Useless. But seeing it inspired me to play with Publisher, and creating my own cards wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. I ran out to Staples to pick up some card stock so my power cards weren't jokes to be discarded after a single session. Also, inspired by the HP tracking idea with transparency markers, I intended to pick up some sheet protectors, a binder, and some transparency markers.
I got three of the four. No transparency markers. Bleh.
Anyways, I came back home and stuck my brand-new card stock in the printer, printed my cards out and... got smeared toner. They're still usable (it's just a bit of dotting and streaking), and I'll still use them, but it wasn't exactly what I was imagining. However, I figured it'd be nice to know how to do it right in the future.
"Aha!" my mind provided. "I bet you have to change the printer settings!" And indeed, it was so. I found card stock in the paper types and gleefully hit the print button.
...and it started flashing a yellow warning at me.
...okay. Check the paper, open and close the printer innards, the light goes green...
Churn, churn, churn, nothing. Yellow flashy light.
I spent the next 20 minutes figuring out how it wanted me to feed the paper into the damn machine. I had to (more or less) hand feed it. And the sheet that came out was toner perfect, but slanted. Oops.
Well, it was a valuable lesson none-the-less.
BTW, my power card templates are reusable, so if you have Publisher, I'll share my file with you. They're actually in color, but see print-ready grayscale sample:
Oh, and one other issue. My printer's black and white, so I'm going to annotate my cards with highlighter to make it a bit clearer what type of power they are.