Digital Changeling

August 31, 2011

D&D Initiative Cards

Filed under: D&D,Games,GM aids — Eva @ 9:48 pm
example initiative cards laid out on the table

Several initiative cards

When I started running 4th edition D&D I was intimidated by the prospect of being in charge of a combat. The sheer amount of information that you need to handle during a fight is kind of overwhelming. There are piles of monster defenses, initiatives, and all sorts of powers to juggle. The GM needs to make sure combat flows smoothly, which seemed incompatible with keeping all of that stuff straight and keeping 4 to 6 players on task.

Luckily, I met Jeff Sorensen at GenCon and he showed me how to use monster initiative cards. These cards let me literally hold all the stats I needed for a fight in a single hand. This massively upped my confidence in my ability to run fast, fun combat encounters.

a page of example monster init cards

Monster cards for some of my NaMoDesMo creatures*

When I got home I made up my own quarter-sheet card template similar to Jeff’s and started making cards. I made cards for monsters and cards for heroes. They made my game seem so much more polished when I had them ready to go each week.

All my monsters “take 10” on initiative to speed up the beginning of combat and the players write their initiative values on their cards and pass them up to me. Then I sort the cards by initiative and flip through them as the fight progresses. I turn cards sideways to denote PC’s holding actions and move their card if they delay their entire turn to a different place in the order.

As I collected more and more of these cards I realized that I needed somewhere to store and organize them if I was going to reuse them. So I commissioned a custom recipe box on etsy from this gentleman. I affectionately call it my box of death.

recipe box with lid open to show that it's full of monster initiative cards

The box of death

I make my cards with a semi-manual process because it forces me to read through the creatures’ abilities and consider how they could be used in combat. I pull the text for a monster from the Compendium using my D&D Insider subscription and then format it onto a Word template manually. The template has been refined many times over the last two years. When I’m done formatting, I print my cards on cardstock and cut them with a paper cutter.

Sometimes I make custom monsters for game sessions and sometimes I pull from what’s in my box. At the moment I’m working through the first Monster’s Vault in my spare time and making cards for all the monsters. I already did something similar with the MM3. This gives me lots of random monsters to pull from if I need to create an encounter on the spot.

If you’d like to make your own cards for personal use, please feel free to use my monster card template or my PC card template. If you redistribute monsters made with the template digitally I ask that you link back to this post and credit the template to me. (I hope it goes with out saying, but) Please don’t redistribute the blank templates, instead link to this post if you want to show them to people. ;)

Both templates are Word files and I can’t promise they’ll layout correctly in other programs like OpenOffice. I’m not a graphical designer, so my layout ability is shaky even without Word “helping” me. The text uses styles, so when you add new powers, you’ll want to look at the existing styles and reuse them. If you want to use the same icon set that WotC does, this gentleman has made a lovely font called Game Icons available for that purpose. I’m too lazy to use it much of the time, but it’s really neat!

If you use my templates I’d love to hear any feedback you have. I’ve tried to make them as usable as possible over the last two years. I’m sure that other people will have different thoughts and use cases beyond my own.

* A pdf version of this set of monster cards is also available. I’m slowly making cards for my NaMoDesMo creatures, but don’t currently plan to releasing the rest of these publicly.

August 29, 2011

Does being a gamer change how I think about copyright culture?

Filed under: Copyright,Games — Eva @ 11:40 pm

My husband recently posted this link about the evolution of copyright on twitter. It’s an interesting article which I’d highly recommend reading. One quote in particular stood out for me:

I spend quite a bit of time with teenagers through my work with the Pirate Party. One thing that strikes me is that they don’t watch movies, at least nowhere near the quantity I did when I was a teenager. Just like I threw out my TV set 15 years ago, maybe this is just the natural progression of culture. Nobody would be surprised if we moved from monologue-style culture to dialogue- and conversation-type culture at this point in history.

I’ve heard other people talk about how works that you can’t interact with “damage” culture and how things that society does to remix them, like fan fiction and anime music videos, are a way of “repairing” culture. That whole concept always sounded ridiculous to me. Now I’m wondering, did it sound ridiculous because I don’t think culture is damaged by a movie or did it sound ridiculous because for the majority of my life I’ve been acclimated to the idea that if you love Star Wars and want to tell a Star Wars story there is nothing wrong with getting your friends together and playing a Star Wars table top RPG?

I started identifying as a gamer in my teens and part of being a gamer is assuming that almost any “monologue-style” piece of culture is fair game for you to turn into a game (which I would think qualifies as something more conversational). We don’t get in trouble for this. No one issues DMCA take down notices on our campaign journals or sicks SWAT teams on our Friday night gaming group.

No one tells us that we’re bankrupting Star Wars movies when we run a Star Wars RPG.

In essence, I already “own the rights” to play with mainstream culture as much as I want. So for me, where’s the “damage”? Before today I didn’t really consider the fact that most people aren’t free to do that. They don’t have an outlet to love things in a creative way that’s not technically criminalized. I still don’t see that as cultural “damage” but I do think it’s screwed up. Someone writing fan fiction isn’t hurting Star Wars monetarily any more when they post it online than I am when I sit down with my friends for an evening pretending to be Jedi.

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