I like to keep 3×5 index cards in my Game Master’s Kit.
I have ruled cards, blank cards, white cards, red cards, yellow cards, blue cards.
And I have cards with quadrille-grid printing.
Of all these, the ones I make the most use of during a role-playing game, especially Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, are the grid cards.
I find that they are very useful in a pinch and make the game go smoother in a variety of ways:
Mini Maps: I find it’s easier to draw a room on the card in advance and pass it around than it is to stop the game to draw on the game mat. It’s also useful when the party splits up (Why do they do that?) and you don’t want Party A to know what Party B just ran into.
Instant Tokens: No matter how much I prepare, no matter how carefully I lay aside figureines and printed tokens for all the NPCs, monsters, animals, and dopplegangers, it’s guaranteed that my players will somehow bring upon the appearance of some creature that I have not prepared for. I write the species or draw a really really bad caricature, and cut out along the grid lines for the right size token, from 1/4-inch-by-1/4-inch to 3-inches-by-3-inches. Voila, no need to stop the action.
Short NPC Sheets: In the chaos of combat, where each player is controlling one combatatnt and I am controlling five, ten or even twenty combatants, flipping the pages of the notebook where my NPC stats are all kept is tough, and often leads to complete chaos. By placing the stats on the small graph, I can track each NPC’s attacks and damage easily without having to show the players “my hole cards.”
Tracking Expendable Supplies: In Dungeons and Dragons, it is important to track the use of expendable supplies, such as torches, arrows, water and rations. I use a card for each player’s set of expendables and outline boxes to represent the carried amount. As each unit is used, I can simply cross off a box. This is specially useful for supplies like torches that burn by the minute or ammunition that is shot in battle.
Tracking Combat Initiative: I normally track initiative on full-page graph paper. However, not all combat is going to last very long. When I expect a short fight,I track initiative and hit-point damage on a 3×5 grid card.
The utility of 3×5 grid cards always surprises me. I try to keep at least one unopened package of them at hand during any game I master.
Do you use index cards in your game, or some other notation format? How do you make the best use of these notes?
I am currently seeking to join or form a gaming group in Denver, Colorado, for a weekly or biweekly game of Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, or Traveller, or mix thereof. If interested, please contact me.