Thursday, May 9, 2013


Here is an idea I think I'll try with my group tomorrow.  First the roots of the idea:

1. James Raggi posted about having players put two index cards in front of them on the table showing what was in their hands (because he was tired of what characters had at hand being nebulous to their advantage).*

2. Cyclopeatron gave a little orange lantern-card to place on the table in front of the person holding the party's light source.

3. My friends have gotten very excited about Munchkin and it helped clarify things immensely when my friend got the deluxe edition for his birthday, because it has a visual way of showing everyone's level.

Now, I know you need to know someone's level in Munchkin because it's a competition, but it made me think of one of the most common questions my players ask each other: "How many hit points do you have left?"

I thought it might be easier to build a sense of tension if they saw how hurt their comrades were.  That the ever present decision of how far to push it would be more visible to everyone if they could see some more information about each other right on the table.  So here is a draft at a display to try and do that:
I figure I would print it 8.5x5.5 inches and have each player place one in front of them.  A paperclip could be slid along the track to indicate HP.  Obviously this only works for low levels.  I suppose I could ditch the numbers and just have boxes represent full, 1/2, 1/4 hitpoints or something to make it useful for higher levels.

I put a place for a shield card so players that can carry shield will remember they have one to splinter, also a spot to place a big d30 card.  I put those because in the heat of things players sometimes forget these options and their party mates will better be able to remind them.

The middle space is for Brendan's roles idea.  I thought it would be neat to make cards for vanguard, rearguard etc. and have players think about what they'll be doing rather than just where they are standing in line. They pick their role, grab that card and plop it down.  If they get hurt and change roles, they need to change cards.

I don't have an explicit space for light source, or what weapon players have (though that might be less important).  But maybe the light could be in front of all this.  Or I could just make smaller boxes.

*I don't think that I read that when it was first posted, but it has been years since I did.  I'm always surprised at how long ideas will burble on the back burner.

Update: Here's draft 2 with cards:
I don't think I'll need the "light bearer" role if we just use the torch/lantern card to indicate that.  I don't see the roles as set in stone, in fact what is so cool about them is that it can be an aid to renegotiating who is doing what; if you lose half your hit points you may want to shift roles and then everyone else needs to think about theirs too.

I think the shield slot can pretty much substitute for tracking both hands closely; if a fighter is carrying a lantern and a weapons, no shield, etc.  Of course the possibilities are endless, but what they are holding has been less a problem in my group then what each of them are doing.


  1. I like the idea of the "tent" in front of the player, maybe add "marching order" position?

    For a more visual way of representing HP you could use poker chips: white chips are 1hp, red chips are 5hp, and blue chips are 10hp.

  2. And I thought we were good with having a stand-up name tag. This is neat. If you're taking a cue from Munchkin, have a spot for each hand. The left hand could be a shield, a torch or lamp, or another weapon. The right would be their preferred weapon.

  3. Very clever, but to be honest, I really don't like a lot of stuff on the table - character sheet and dice are usually as much clutter as I can stand, both as a player and referee, so I tend to balk at cards, tokens, &c. Something I really need to get over, I suppose.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    @jeremiah: I've been using scrabble tiles to track marching order but it leaves something to be desired. Each time a hallway narrows for example I have to clarify how they are arraying themselves. I'd rather know Player A sees himself as the "vanguard" and will interpose himself between danger and the other whenever he can. Poker chips are a great tool, I'm mainly avoiding them here because I use them to track ammo already.

    @Brett: I'm hoping I won't need two hands (see my update) but you could make the shield spot left hand and the d30 spot right hand and squeeze the d30 in somewhere else.

    @BV: Hey, I'm with you the minimalist, and it's harder because the house we play at doesn't even really have a table, just a couple low coffee tables pushed together. But I'm hoping this will help this particular group run a little smoother. So, a little more clutter for a little more immersion in the imagined world.

  5. I like this, in part because it is starting to go the way of a computer RPG game, where you "dress" the dolly by filling in slots...

    As a practical matter, I used name tents with character names, and a yellow sticky for light sources as needed. Having something that stands up a bit was useful for me, because the table was crowded with the usual junk of gaming. You migh have this as a combination by having the first bit of the page fold.

    As for hit points, you might just have sort of an arrow that points to "bruised, bloodied, injured, critical, unconcious", as that seems both more imersive and more practical for multiple levels of players.

    1. I finally got around to creating a larger version of your HUD. It has an injury tracker, mini character sheet, and a name stand up.

    2. Awesome! Thanks for coming back here to let me know.

  6. I like this. Keeping track of party formation and light sources is good. I've had so many games where the players retroactively convince me that a trapped door or ambush shouldn't count because they were actually prepared really well, in a way that happened to conveniently match the challenge, and just didn't tell me. I get sick of it.

    If I can play Devil's Advocate for a second though, are you sure the characters would know each other's hp? In the chaos of battle, can people really gauge each other's damage that well? They might not even know if other party members had been hit at all, or even approximately how much damage they'd taken. It seems more like you'd know your own health, at most. With all the adrenaline pumping, it might be hard even to tell how much damage has been dealt to you. If anything, it would increase tension and realism to take away information rather than add it.

    That's just a small point. I'm not sure if the confusion of a poorly run gaming table mimics the confusion of a battle at all. Just some thoughts off the top of my head. Anyway, I'm 100& behind everything else here. I think I'll have to try out your party formation cards- they seem like a useful addition, especially if you want to include some kind of tactical thinking without using a battlegrid and miniatures. Nice post.

    1. Sorry, I typed 100& instead of 100%. Please ignore the typo.

  7. Sorry I didn't respond, work has been a lot of responsibility lately.

    @Lasgunpacker: I'm interested in what a name pyramid/character sheet might look like. And yeah, the doll aspect of crpgs simplifies what is and can be worn incredibly.

    @Ozzie: Thanks. I think this is one of those counterintuitive things, where by making it less like a simulation it makes it more immersive. I mean, in an actual dungeon delve we would see each other sweating and limping and realize how close we were to getting killed by the last pack of rats. But at the game table it can all be abstract, especially as get distracted from the game world for long moments (making monty python jokes etc.) So I think seeing how one more hit might kill me could make the gamer at the table feel stuff similar to a person in a dangerous situation.