Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In The Cards...

Back in the Eighties, as part of the usual goings-on in our local gaming group, I started using little scraps of paper for the magic scrolls that the players discovered.  Each scroll would have a cryptic title and sometimes a little note or sigil/glyph on it.  If the player misplaced or lost the scrap of paper, the scroll was likewise lost.  When the player wanted to use the thing, they would hand it back to me and the ramifications and consequences of the scroll's activation were then played out.  It worked really, really well.

I did not invent this idea.  I'm not sure who might ultimately deserve blame/credit, but I was inspired to do this by none other than Dave Hargrave, the Man From Arduin.  You see, back in the Seventies, Hargrave produced a set of cards for spells, treasure items, etc.  You can still find Hargrave's cards here.  Those were the first ones that I heard about, and that's where I got the idea to draw-up my own set of Scroll Cards.

One particular refinement that we found particularly effective and entertaining was to write down a set of 3 or 4 different titles/spells on each scrap/scroll.  The person attempting to use the scroll then would choose which of the spells to trigger, release, set-off or set into motion.  They lost the other ones as part of the cost of activating any one of them, unless they were particularly adept at working with scrolls, employed a very skilled scribe, etc.  This little twist made the players make a choice as to which spell to use.  They knew that whichever one they chose, they stood to lose the other two or three options...unless they took very particular, specific precautions.  This approach to scrolls set in motion several different plots, scams and adventures in and of itself.

After a few years of using crappy little hand-scrawled scraps of paper, I set up a biz-card template in MSWord and ran off a few dozen random scroll-cards.  To say that this worked out very well would be an understatement.  Things happen, time passes and people come and go, and eventually I found myself scheduled to run some scenarios at a local gaming convention.  The old scroll cards were looking fairly crappy, after years of hard use by soda-slopping, snack-food gobbling gamers, those cards that hadn't gotten 'accidently' lifted, used to pick teeth, or ripped into confetti, etc.

So I put together a new set.  The ones shown up above.  The artwork shifted a bit after printing them off of another machine than the one I used to build them.  But they worked.  People at the convention found them a lot of fun to use.  They didn't need to know anything about Difficulty Class, Dice Modifiers, or anything else.  All they needed to do was pick a particular spell by name and declare that they were using it, and hand me the card.  You could say that it worked like magic.