Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cards as an Organization Mnemonic

Using Cards

The cards are meant to concentrate and prepare details that are relevant. In a Top Heavy game like GURPS, Open RPGS, HERO, Chunkier version of DnD and other Games breaking down information in the cards acts as mnemonic that allows the player and GM better access to information and constructive problem solving. The information is not limited to be displayed in an 8x11 space, all the space behind the GM's screen becomes a plot organizes for before and during the game.

This is not for just the GM, this is meant so that the GM can assign players to do this for their characters. It helps the GM and helps the game.
  • Modes.
  • Load-Out.
  • Special Actions
  • Conditions

What you will need

These are 3” x 5” cards or ISO standard of A7. There are bigger Index cards and un-rulered index cards (being blank sheets). Whats nice about them is that they card-stock and are already pre-cut for your arrangement behind the GM screen.
You will also need a printer and computer, if you want to be modular with your information. Ideally a Doc Template for the cards, as well as good Doc notes of everything you are keeping track.


These are cards that describe the current status and attention the character is doing. It allows the GM and Player to automatically check regarding instances the Mode is relevant. If we were to go a bit about psychology, its a set of expectations the Character has.
Scouting Mode – the character is focused in looking for threats and moving more quickly than his main party.

Hiking Mode – the character is more focused in optimal movement to energy reserve performance in trekking. The economy of his attention is focused on pacing, looking for best footpaths, hydration and the time.

Detect Lies or Credibility Detection Mode – the character is using this skill to vett a target person, to make an assessment of their credibility or the consistency. Anytime the target character is conversed with, the character keeps note of personality traits.

Diplomacy mode – trying to please and keep a civil discussion. (reminds me of the Techniques in TTC's Effective Communciation). The character is concentrating in controlling many intrapersonal, interpersonal, and diplomatically strategic points. Such a character would be very civil, polite, and keenly on the pulse of the social situation.

In these modes, the character is more predisposed to notice or react quickly to a specific set of expectations. The GM enforces economy of attention, and points out trade offs the players may or may not realize. When players or character try to do more than one thing at a time, the GM will note the diminished effectivity of their performance in their skills and passive abilities. It is in these redistrubtion players and the GM have risks and strategic objectives to consider. 


Character Load-outs when prepared allow the players to more accurately deal with the logistical challenges of the encounter. A character can have their combat load, their marching load, or their large, uncarriable, possessions as separate cards with their own notes and details.

Typical are a Civilian Load, what the character carries in non-combat or adventuring situations; Combat Load or variations of combat load (light, heavy, etc...); their uncarriable possessions like their mount, car, house, secret cache, etc...


Conditions are a list of details that can be in effect on the character. These are the various status the character can be in: Wounded, Exhausted, Critically Wounded, various kinds of emotional states (Angry, Berserk, Demoralized), special psychological conditions that can kick in (Panic Attack, General Seizure, Etc.).

Special Actions

These are maneuvers  detail heavy techniques, spells, special abilities, and prepared combination of actions. Information in the card will include costs in actions, resources, and mechanics, and the trade-offs and consequences.

Card Tools to facilitate Narrative Combat

Narrative combat or high cycle rate events and activities (cycle rate: going through all the characters, cycling, many times) can be better adjudicated through Cards tools. The cards merely break down actions and reactions/opportunities. Having the cards help tracking the trade-offs of the character, in their condition AND in the battle field.

My problem with narrative combat, is that I don't have the mnemonic device of a tactical layout. Instead I have to keep track of actions and activities. Taking away the simplicity of looking at spatial relations when looking at figs; cards can help by providing a spatial relationship between actions and events. One of the advantages of figs is that, they easily relay information on the status and circumstance based on just a glance.

Example of Usage

Lay out where everyone is in respect to everyone else. The GM assigns values to every side: the GM's side can 12'o'clock or primary threat, the other sides as flanks. Players and the GM can determine how many layers will they stack against primary threat zone and against the flank zones. The GM can then place visible threats outside his Screen to oppose what the players have in each zone. Proximity and Card Position can show ranges and overlapping envelopes of access. You can use figs as paper weights (LOL).

Ex. Instead of Frontal Force you have one card with notes on visible no. Additional notes below the card. Flanking forces is just a card, unless the GM breaks out an autonomous/small force to do something else. Any prepared manuver is its own card.

Next is the GM assigns strategic points within the terrain (If any; i'll make a table to roll for various terrains) which he can use and draw into the zones. These zones are a Zero-Sum game; so its exploited by one or the other force.

The basic rule here is when elements add up, and the situation is becoming complex I should simplify and the break things down to elements up to 3. I re-abstact them back to 3 elements at most to keep things simple and manageable. The cards clarify the objective, while I adlibe/improvise what is happening without losing sight of the element's objective.

Its like Hyrdation – you do it because your conditioned to do it on circumstances that “feel” appropraite. When your confused, like when you are thirsty,  its too late; do it as it gets harder to track things. Like when “I feel this is getting more complicated – simplify and re-arrange elements back to back the primary”.

Open RPG Skill draft
Intelligence or Wisdom
You are skilled in obscuring your position and presence. You still make noise but you are highly aware of what noises carry and what blends into the background. You can be seen, if the person knows where to look for you. You are able to see what route makes the least noise, maximizes a concealment and improves security to your destination. You are able to optimize the use concealment, and are very self aware what may be easily exposed of your person. You also know how to blend your visual wake with the movement noise in the background. The better you are, the more natural, consistent and reflexive your actions become.
Mode. Characters who use stealth mode, increase the difficulty to be detected by their skill modifier.

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