Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Recommendation -- Toolcards

One of the things I've been avoiding for the past year or so is Kickstarter. I've been happy to make myself available to friends as a stretch goal, as if getting an adventure written by me was something to chase after.... However, I didn't want to get sucked into actually backing any projects. One of the things I work on assiduously, from a personal development perspective, is the Delphic exhortation to "Know Thyself." I try to figure out where my emotions or actions are coming from -- honestly, clearly, directly. So I knew that once I started backing projects on Kickstarter, I'd never stop. The genii would be out of the bottle.

How right I was.

A long time ago, Wizards of the Coast (prior to being acquired by Hasbro) put out a roleplaying game called Everway. I thought it had a lot of potential, not the least of which was because it emphasized the use of cards (because, you know, WotC). You were encouraged to use cards -- any cards -- to create your character. I liked it because it allowed you to take images from any trading card game and use them in Everway -- expanded versatility. It also gave the whole thing a Tarot card feel. I'm a fan of the archetypal aspects of the Tarot, in the Jungian sense. 

But, that's not what I learned from Everway. Jonathan Tweet (or was it Greg Stolze) was working on the first supplement for the game, and he talked in an interview about the concept of "breaking the egg." By putting two disparate words or ideas together, the human mind tries to reconcile those two elements into one. It's why we think two completely unrelated events actually have a causative relationship because one follows after another. However, it's that process of combination that "breaks the egg" and inspiration pops out. 

I ran out and bought a bunch of those magnetic poetry sets and tossed them on my 'fridge. They cover a lot of different subjects. When I got tired of writing and needed a break, I'd go out to get some coffee, and put two words together at random. Then, I'd try to figure out what the phrase meant. So you might pick "love" and "knife"... what is a "love knife?" Maybe it's a blade crafted to kill your rival in romance. Maybe it's a foul, cursed blade created by the Witches of the Dark Glade to kill a lover who has cheated... Anyway, I'd never have thought of that if I didn't "break the egg." 

Which brings me, the long way around, to Toolcards

Designed by jim pinto (yes, he spells it that way), Toolcards are a way for the GM to quickly and easily come up with those elements he can't create on his own. You know how it goes. The party meets a mysterious stranger; the stranger is only there to drop a clue and walk off. However, the party takes a liking to him, asks a million questions, and now you've got an NPC for which you have NO information. Or maybe someone finds a magic item, something minor, and you decide to dress it up a bit. After all, how many freaking +1 daggers can you have? But, you have no idea how to give this particular +1 dagger some character.... 

In these cases, you go to the Toolcards

Each card has two sides -- a high fantasy side, and a low fantasy side. That right there is pretty genius, because it makes the cards useful to any kind of campaign. Each card has nine different elements. They're just bits of information. Like a name. And a monster. There are more "flavorful" elements, such as a magic item or atmospheric element (such as "rattling chains"). What you do with these elements is up to you. For example, maybe the rattling chains are the predominant sound you hear on the docks; maybe they presage a vengeful ghost. 

Going back to the names and monsters for a bit. On the sample card pinto mocked up, he's got "Balemir, the Rainshaper." What the hell is a "Rainshaper?" The sample monster isn't just "goblin" or "skeleton." It's something like "vengeance troll." What's a "vengeance troll?!" It's that kind of "breaking the egg" that's got me excited about Toolcards. They prompt you to think. To be creative

And, in my campaign, the Rainshapers are an order of Druids who specialize in making it rain. And vengeance trolls are a magical creature you summon to kill the object of your revenge; they just keep on coming... 

So far, the Kickstarter has unlocked cards suitable for wards, dooms, and potion. More are on the way. And even these are pretty terrific, because you don't necessarily need to use the doom cards to predict a doom. You can draw a doom card for a magic item, thus "breaking the egg" even further. "You find a sword with two stars engraved near the hilt..." Or "you drink the potion and red boils appear on your neck..." 

In an environment where we see yet another elf archer and the taverns are filled with mysterious strangers -- in a world where we've seen all the fantasy tropes before -- Toolcards are a way to spice things up. To make something new. To breathe some life into your games. Heck, I might use these when creating my next player character, too. So they're useful to you players, as well. 

I urge you to give them a look, and remember my words: Break that egg

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