Toolcards: Fantasy is a systemless accessory for fantasy role-playing games.
By Jim Pinto
Welcome to the forty-sixth Designer’s Diary, a column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product. If you’d like to share your product in the Designer’s Diary column, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back the Toolcards: Fantasy Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/218255739/toolcards-fantasy-gm-cards
Toolcards are a new campaign aid for gamemasters to get their noses out of books and aid them in thinking on their feet. Toolcards: Fantasy provides random information at the fingertips of GMs that can embellish the world beyond mere stats. The cards have a myriad of uses from overheard conversations to treasure to encounters to scripting an entire adventure or campaign, each providing opportunities for side quests and atmosphere. Describing what they can do only limits their potential. Suffice to say, they do it all.
As a gamemaster, the hardest thing for me was coming up with NPC names on the fly. I can do it in prep, but not while I’m juggling 100 plot threads and nuances during a session. When I am preparing a session, I have a list of 20 names on a pad of paper for random NPCs. Add to that list magic items, monsters and rumors that I might use during the session and now my pad of paper is filled with clumsy charts. Eventually, I started making a stack of index cards with all this information on it, which I use during a session, drawing randomly from it, and it occurred to me how much a gamemaster like me might benefit from something that is more accessible and easier to use. This was the genesis of Toolcards: Fantasy.
I get most of my “muse” from non-gaming sources: song titles, non-genre movies, news, culture, history, and one-part imagination. I then look to build from every source I can, a level of detail that can create a more immersive experience for players and gamemaster alike. I don’t want to kill orcs, unless those orcs do something orcs have never done in a game. So, it’s important to always be paying attention to all the stimuli around me.
Not much research was involved; I looked to make sure I wasn’t copying anyone. After all, I felt this was such a simple solution to the problem of providing random information in a consistent and in-universe context that maybe someone beat me to the punch. After that, I looked into how this technique would help players and gamemasters alike.
I designed all the graphics, which are textural, but not obtrusive. The cover art shows a blacksmith hammering away, the way a gamemaster might “smith” a game session. Alberto Tavira, our artist, provided great visuals that I can only describe as stirring the imagination.
Toolcard provide faster, more inspired play while allowing the randomness that can spur on other adventures. It allows for the style of immersive gameplay with the flexibility that only randomness can provide in gameplay.
There’s nothing else like this out there; we looked before we began to build it, though Paizo’s cards work well with this idea as additional visual concepts. I already have ideas for 10 more thematic decks, to expand in terms of genres and backgrounds.
It’s just a lot of brainstorming and spit-balling, throwing stuff onto the cards and keeping what works. The true hard work of designing the cards was determining what the 6 main categories would be since there are so many opportunities in terms of elements that could have been added. We needed to limit ourselves to keep what we felt was the most useful for a gamemaster working “on the fly.”
Actually, being able to see the final product on kickstarter makes me realize how much work has gone into building this project. It’s a game aid that can add depth to a campaign while easing the job of the gamemaster.