MoonHunter Sayeth 20171209


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You are such a Card
More ways to use 3x5 cards

The Internet Fairy did not sprinkle connection dust on our home line and work was busy. I am now armed with coffee and free wifi, so friday's post is today.

MoonHunter uses "cue cards" for many things in his gaming. It is one of Core Things to Know. There are many ways to use them depending on your style of gaming. The Core section shows eight ways to use cue cards. This post will show some more.

Now keep in mind, that while may of the ways to use cards require tangible 3x5 cards, I am not always using them. Yes, I do scribble a note or two during game. Most of the time, I tend restrict my note format to that size. I do this on my computer, using pages with (Using a format of 4.5 column with 2.75" / 10 lines of text blocks). I print them out and stick them to a 3x5 card or print them directly on stock). This size restriction keeps brevity first and foremost in your mind.

Character Sheets: Crib all the core data of each character on a 3.5 card. This keeps you from asking players what their perception roll is or what is their normal stat of something.

Casting Cards: Small images and bits of description for your your ready cast of characters.

Minion/ Monster Cards: If they are not cookie cutter extras, you can keep them together.

Monster pool : Replacing an encounter chart, you can put all the enemies in a region (dungeon, ruin, dark forest, etc). Need an enemy, pull it out. This keeps you from having the same encounters over and over again. Plus you can even customize the enemies some (Narg is the Troll that used to control The Bridge, but is now bitter about the other Troll who kicked him out).

Random Encounter Pile: Each Location or region would have a pile of ideas (or stats and such) that you can whip out on a moment's notice. Not my cup of tea, but some of my friends swear by it. I could see it being useful.

Equipment Cards/ Treasure Cards: The classic. The player has the item/ treasure, you hand them the card.

List Cards: Have trouble coming up with names? Make a set of cards with one name per card. Have trouble coming up with business names, descriptions of the road, and so on? Make a number of list cards. It allows you to keep your best work on the subject together in its own deck, so you don't freeze or forget them when you need them.

Dice Cards: Randomizers when you forget your cards. I had one friend make a deck of 216 cards, so he could have perfect probability for his 3d6 game. (If you get lucky in the begining of the adventure, you will be less lucky in the latter part.)

Initiative Order: Every character has a card. Put them in the order that they will "go off" in the combat.

Tactic Cards: Too tired to come up with a cool tactic for bunch of goblins or just number 6? If you have a set of these, you can just pull a card and see how they are going to attack . (Bonzai! Charge? Okay, ...)

Action/ Note Card: Things often come up in a game that should be addressed before the next session. This is the To Do List the session generates. Reminders to make certain cards, update certain cards, and extra cards to pull out. You have the cards out, you can use them. (GM's Journal is where these things go for me, but again, your mileage might vary.)

Now for more techniques...

Manual Mind Mapping: Mind Mapping is a great brainstorming and information mining tool. It uses connections to help people see the relationships between ideas. Back before we had cool programs to help us, we did mind maps with pen and paper. I found I needed to make more and more connections and ran out of space. Using 3x5 cards and positional relationships to replace lined pieces, allowed me more flexibility. I write and rewrite and replace cards all the time in this process. This low tech bit allowed me to shift stuff around and think geographically quickly and intuitively. Once the map seems to work, I can transfer it to paper.

Data Maps: Related to mind maps is Data Maps (or Flow Charts). While I tend to think graphically, your mileage may vary. You can use the 3x5 cards to create a data map for your purpose. You can add and delete "boxes" easily. You can add more comments and branches. Once you are done you then transfer them to a single paper form.
Data Maps are used for
Location Maps:
Plot Maps:
Time Map:
Character/ Relationship Map
If you want to see this explained in detail, follow the link

Now with Data Maps and Mind Maps cards can be used in a different way. Cards could be used for "the arrows" between items. You can mind map events and locations (organizations and important peoples too). Keeping track of how they are connected can be complicated. Using cards to do it, allows you to play around with it. Then you can make a more permanent situation. Now with a location data map, you can make the "path" between the two places something with a bit of description or a challenge or something. In a relationship map, you can "explain the relationship" between the two. The arrow going one way might say, infatuated with, and the arrow the other might say "using". In a mind map, the line might be a personal or "use note" only if I decide to add magic, for example

Plot Maps are my favorite thing to start with on 3x5 cards. I take them from the various plotlines and mix them together for each session or set of sessions.

Event Cards: Notes for events and situations that should be occurring in the chronicle, perhaps this session. This will includes descriptive bits to use and possible things that could happen during the event.

Chapter Cards: These are sections of the chronicle story arc that you detail out. You list the themes, ideas, and one or two event cards on the chapter card. The Card for the chapter on the moment can be kept out or kept in a prominent place in the GM Journal (pocket on the front page).

History Process: Each Place of note will have a card (Location Map). Given the scale of things, there may be groups and organizations, or just people. History is build in phases. Sometimes the phases are long, sometimes they are short. Each one is numbers, so you can keep it straight (and the phases are listed on a side piece of paper). Each phase a card is used to note what happens to the location or group/ organization). Cards can be created to show relationships between things. New things, groups, locations, or actual things, can be added to the the spread. Laying it all out helps you see how connections might form, where new things might be needed, or that history needs to be applied to a group or location (wow, that group has not been used for three phases... should I do something with it or make it go away?)

Some people use the History process to create settings. You can use cards to create a setting.

Now you can do it The Microscope Way. However there is more you can do.

Setting Cards

If you are using cards for world building, organization is actually really important. When I am building really building a world, I use a worksheet. I make sure that I have an entry, or in this case a card, for every category. Some categories might have more. I make sure that cards are kept in the appropriate location and in their category.

One Point I have to Stress. Scale is not an issue here. I build worlds, continents, kingdoms, regions, town, and neighborhoods all with the same idea. (If you need to you can build smaller areas by pulling an answer from a larger area. )

Worksheet Categories

Themes and Images: Major controlling ideas, visual images to be incorporated, small important ideas, key bits, the most important world themes.

Worlds Specs: Planetological lists... if needed.

Terrain: Major terrain features, environment, climate, appearances. Remember that cities and even buildings have terrain. This section will have sooo many cards, as the setting gets built up.

Flora/Fauna: All things alive (or independent ambulatory) be they domestic, wild, predators, or just important to people.

Resources: Things both renewable and non-renewable.

Races and Peoples: Descriptions, coloring, profiles, and modifications to any rule mechanics. This includes ethnic/ subtypes of peoples as well.

Cultural Overview: This is the culture in broad simple strokes. Major themes of the culture. Languages/ Morals/ Common Beliefs/ the Unknown/ Needs

Calendar/Standards: Weights, Distances, Measures.

Institutions-Major: Areas of control and Power. These should be the important groups for both the setting AND the adventuring characters.

Laws and Morals: Legal rules/ responses/ punishments/ and manners. Social and moral rules are often more strictly enforced than laws.

Family: Types/ Sizes/ Values

Social classes: Formal and Informal/ Birth and Earned.

Political Power: Institutions and groups of political/social power, control, and who enforces the control. The power structure of the area.

Economics: Money/ trade/ value/ subsistence/ working/ monopolies

Religion: Beliefs/ Organizations/ Groups

Technology and Common Power: (Using Clarke's law and that power is just a technology in many environments)
Military Weapons and Tactics
Industrial/ Production
Math and Science: Math Engineering, Algebra. These things are the foundation required for other cooler sciences and building projects. Many "primitive peoples" had more complicated math abilities than we have today.
Information: Writing/ Printing/ Processing. How does it get moved?
Other Knowledge:

Holidays: Historical, Cultural, Religious, Political

Transportation: Land/ Sea/ Air(?) and other

Arts/ Literature: Forms/ Usage/ Needs/ Ideals

Shadow: Criminals/ Assassins/ Deceit/ and those on the margins of society.

Power: Magic per type, Psionics, Other. Notes on users, attitudes towards it and practioners, and prejudices.

Paranormal: Weird beasties, supernatural entities, spirits, demons, Gods, the Unknown.

History Brief: Every world has two histories, the actual one and the one that people believe is true.

Rules: Special modifications in game system needed to accommodate the world. This could be a power system, special skills and races, and items.

The Old Worksheet is gone over in detail here.

Once you have all these cards created, you can put them in an appropriate order to create a setting packet

It is interesting to note that many of these uses of 3x5 cards are used by novelists to create setting and plot out stories. I am not sure which came first the gamer use or the novelist use.

Three by Five Cards are the utility tool for a GM. A Hundred and One uses... a hundred and two if you count the one my wife created... coaster for beverages at the table.

Appendix: How do you keep these cards organized.
1) My traditional solution is rubber bands and pencil pouches (which my kids know as cord or gear pouches). This would keep the three piles I needed, to be used tonight, to be updated in the computer file, and possibly needed. (There was always one extra card that had a "I need to print out"/retreive this card.... to tell me what to get next. The pouch was handy because it could store markers, pens, character markers, and dice.

2) Highlighter Lines: It is a highlighter line across the top of the card (usually over the card's name or purpose). Different categories of cards would have different colors. I use this for keeping different plotlines straight. You might use it for other things.

3) Card Box: Your local or internet stationary story will have them. Most will hold about 2000 cards. You can get bigger ones (especially if you go with craft store storage options). Card boxes and boxes holding boxes of card is the reason I started keeping cards in a digital form. (Okay and losing a card box.. that was the real motivator.)

4) Rings and Hole Punches: Easier to access individual cards, harder to shift them around as you need them. I would combine them with color keys (#2)

5) Colored Index Cards are used by many. I always find myself running out of the right color when I needed. You might be able to keep your inventory logistics better than I.

6) Scanned Version of the Cards: Kept on cloud or disk, they are ready to be retrieved at a click. You can keep the images in folders that mimic the boxes.
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