Game: Complete Spell Cards
Publisher: The Other Game Company
Review Dated: 31st, August 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
There you go. It is possible to come up with a product that’s both a good idea and not for everyone at the same time. It’s the wittily titled The Other Game Company who is responsible for this paradox slaying and they manage it with their first product at RPGNow. I don’t think it’s right to say that Complete Spell Cards will make or break your d20 game but I do think they can deal 3d6 Cure or Inflict.
The spell cards are those standard d20 spells from the core rules printed into a card layout. You’ve the name of the spell at the top, the school and descriptor just below. There’s the spell’s level, components and casting time above the range, effects, saving throw and duration. The third-quarter of the each card has room for a description and below that there’s an entry for the material components, boxes to check when the spell’s prepared and a note for the spell resistance. The cards are designed to be double-sided and the back repeats the spell’s title and then devotes the rest of the space for a continuation of the spell’s description.
This works well as a PDF product, better than a paper product bought off a shelf would because although you have to print off your own cards you can do so as many times as you want, on different coloured paper and in any combination that suits you. I don’t think the spell cards would work if you had to try and protect them like a rare Magic: The Gathering card and since they’re printable you shouldn’t have this problem.
The first thing any would-be buyer of the Complete Spell Cards should do is check to see that they can print the cards and then read them. The text gets very small. Tiny. So miniscule that some printers might struggle. My printer copes but I wouldn’t want to squint at the resulting cards without my glasses. The Other Games Company has a free demo of 8 pages of spell cards. Check it out first. Print it out. If you can’t master the art of printing the even numbered pages out first, turning the paper around, putting it back into the printer and then printing the odd numbers out for the backs of the cards then there’s no point buying the supplement.
Once you’ve checked that you can make the Complete Spell Cards you have to decide whether you want to use them. This depends on the style of your gaming.
I’ve vivid memories of running the gaming club, many years ago, back at school. Every year there was an influx of new papers as kids from the primary school moved into the secondary one. Pretty much without exception we’d intercept them with games of Paranoia so we could cope with the mass of players and tiny number of GMs. Later we’d move those newbies who stuck around into steady games. One year, the newbie who ended up in my game seemed to be struggling, he barely did anything in game and didn’t look as if he was having fun. I think he died horribly – the character, not the player. He wasn’t put off and we helped him create a second character. The new character was much less powerful and had only two spells and a few abilities. He did amazingly well. Our newbie found a dozen innovative uses for his pair of spells. He had fun. The problem had been that he had been swamped before, couldn’t take a hold of his previous character’s abilities and magic. He’d written the game mechanics for his new character down on a scrap of paper and with this for reference he was able to relax, play the character and have fun. I think the Complete Spell Cards could achieve a similar success.
It isn’t just newbies who might do well with the spell cards, any gamer who appreciate the tactile translation of spells from the book to paper pieces around the gaming table.
The reverse is also true. I know some gamers won’t like the idea of bringing dozens of playing card clutter to the table. If you’re trying to suspend disbelief then you may very well object to gaming pieces being used.
It isn’t hard to create your own spell cards. Scribbled notes will do. Why pay for a complete set? This question is especially potent if you’re playing a Paladin and don’t want to buy wizard, ranger, sorcerer, cleric, bard and druid magic.
The Other Game Company point out that the chances are your GM can use all of the other cards. I think that you’ll use them all eventually, if you like them, that is. The PDF product is designed nicely. There are separate PDFs for each character class. If you are just playing a Paladin then you need only open the Paladin PDF and print it.
In fact, it’s these extra touches of professionalism from The Other Game Company that make the difference. On the GameWyrd scale a product that does what it promises to do scores 5/10. You go up and down in the points there for slip-ups and successes. Rather like a GM screen or a fancy character sheet it’s virtually impossible for the Spell Cards to wow with surprise successes. They do what they do – and that’s it. However, as noted, there’s a stalwart determination to do well here and that’s been successful. There’s no single card called Detect [Something], for example, there are individual cards for Detect Evil, Detect Good, Detect Chaos, etc. The spell card layout stays entirely compatible with The Other Game Company’s free blank spell cards. Those spells with really long descriptions and which might need a special card are dealt with through super sized cards (as an option). There are additional slips of paper to print out for easy access to the Summoning charts. I don’t like the way the core rules describe a spell along the lines of “… works exactly like … except … ” and neither does TOGC, there’s no spell card like that, those spells have been re-written and this ensures every spell card is complete.
I don’t think a review can really help you decide whether you like the spell card idea. You either already know or will need to try the idea to find out. If you know you like the idea of spell cards then beeline to Complete Spell Cards because they’re exactly what you’ll want. If you’re not sure and want to try the idea first then it’s twice as important to download the free demo. There are enough demo cards there to use. Visiting TOGC’s website and using the blank spell cards (write in your own details) for free will ensure you’ve spell cards to match your spells in your trial run. I’m always interested in the combination of lateral thinking and professional gloss and the Complete Spell Cards have that. I’ll be watching to see what else The Other Game Company comes up with.