Cards on the Table

You know what this hobby needs more of? Cards.

There’s been a few thoughts floating around recently that have slowly condensed into an idea.

The old question of why D&D and Magic don’t collaborate on a setting has been raised.
I’ve been playing the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.
I haven’t been finishing Numenera, or Blue Planet, or Iron Kingdoms, or…. Etc.
Fate and ARU got me heavily into index cards.
I like pretty pictures.

I learn really well from cards. When I did my law degree it was all about cards, with cases and precedents on them. It’s the same for most people trying to cram info. While at University I also played a bunch of CCGs, and I remember the stats of a Serra Angel more readily that the salient facts of Donaghue v. Stevenson.


Similarly with game prep. Getting my notes onto cards makes me concentrate my info into digestible chunks. I can riff away on them, and not take up too much real estate on the table. I’ve gotten great mileage out of Paizo’s various card offerings, for items and especially NPCs. A picture tells a thousand words after all.

Where I struggle now is finding the time to digest a 300+ page setting encyclopaedia, and goodness knows RPG publishers love them. Even shorter works, like adventure, I have to revise and make notes just like when I was studying. It’s work, enjoyable to an extent, but work nonetheless.

So why can’t I get a card deck that shows me a setting rather than a hard back book? This goes back to the Magic/D&D question. I don’t actually want a Magic setting book, I can get all the knowledge I want from the cards themselves. Now, I’d like them to be reformatted for the purpose of writing and presenting adventures from, but that’s no more difficult than formatting them for their current purpose.


Take Numenera. No please, take it. It’s doing my head in. The setting is big, and unwieldy and I’ve tried to plough through it more than once. Everyone tells me about the lovely art, so let’s make that even more of a feature. Give me the Numenera setting presented as a deck of cards, with places, people and plots in abundance.

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game has already shown it works the other way round. You can get damn close to a traditional RPG game using cards. I was never ever going to play through Rise of the Runelords RPG in this lifetime, but in the next weeks I’ll finish it in its excellent card game format. Yeah, I’m sure I’ve lost a little nuance, but I know all the main points, and I had a great time, and I actually finished it! Not nothing is it?


So what I want now is a card set that gives me a D&D adventure as a DM. No book, just cards. All the bits are easy enough, monsters, loot, NPCs scenes. I actually don’t think it’s beyond the wit of WotC (or whoever) to get the plot down on cards either. Just think of the flexibility! Maybe I’ll have a go with a classic module and see if I can distill it into a deck. Bet I can.



Filed under RPG

4 responses to “Cards on the Table

  1. John Clayton

    I feel your pain. Paizo have done sterling work with the range of aids supporting their adventures. “You meet this guy”, flip card across table. “Hey, look, you found this weird gizmo!” pass card to player. Their decks are superb. And the pawns? Love ’em. With DriveThruRPG offering print on demand for cards, more companies should explore the option. Oh, and DriveThruRPG should explore a European base to drop-ship from, I’m not ordering a deck and paying postage from the US.

    Anyway, Some Assembly Required, but there are some excellent card templates on RPGNow for creatures, scenarios, items and the like: – My son and I spent a happy afternoon making up a CCG for him and a friend to play.

    Oh, and Fate + ARU? Winning combination.

  2. Agreed. I’m a relative newb to rpg and appreciate any help that can be given to make it easier – time is limited and any helps are appreciated.

  3. kelvingreen

    The Pathfinder card game is so close to being an rpg that I would not be at all surprised if Paizo published a book detailing how to use it as such. All it really needs is character generation rules and guidelines on how to create adventures.

  4. Adventure: Maximus (, although marketed for kids, is a card based RPG. All characters, equipment, locations, and baddies are cards. The characters are mostly pre-gen, but the equipment helps make them special as do some prompts on the character sheet. It’s sort of a mix of card game and RPG, with a Maximus Master running the world and the NPCs.

    There IS a book, but the book pretty much only tells you how to read the cards – spell effects, costs, damage, etc. are on the cards themselves.

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