Keeping Track of Character Traits

When I am not trying to come up with good articles and creative tips to share with you here at D*I*Y Planner I’m playing RPG games. I’m not talking about computer games; although I do play quite a bit of World of Warcraft. I’m currently involved in two different pen and paper and dice games. One is traditional Dungeons & Dragons, set in the world of Eberron; and the other is a White Wolf Mage game, set in our world. What does playing games have to do with productivity and planners?

Amazingly, a lot.

Playing pen and paper RPGs, is like starting a new project. In the old days, before computer RPGs where around, you had to do a lot of thinking and reading the rules books to come up with a cool sounding character concept. Then you had to roll dice and come up with the character’s traits. Of course, depending on what game you played, this process could take minutes or hours or even days to complete. The last character I made for the Mage game, took almost 5 hours to do on a Friday night. But the time invested in creating that character was worth it when I got to make the character come alive during the game session that next day.

Another thing the two have in common are the vast amounts of sheets that are associated with them. Depending on which game you play, your character could potentially take up the space of 30 pages of sheets that give information about who they are, what skills and abilities they have and any associated items or magical spells they may be able to cast. Sometimes it can get a bit daunting when you’re playing sessions and have a hard time looking information up quickly.

Last August, my RPG and productivity worlds collided and haven’t quite been the same since. I had just discovered the Hipster and was happily photocopying and putting together my first set of DIY Planner cards. I was also, working on a new character concept for a D&D game I had been invited to play. My hipster was light and so much fun to carry around I wondered how I could recreate that feeling for my characters ad their sheets. What if I could expand upon this idea and create a few other cards: one with skills, one for magic, etc. that could replace the standard 8.5” x 11” character sheets? They’d be right there with me, in my hipster, ready to go at a moment’s notice. No more worrying about lost sheets or keeping them updated, or hurrying to gather all my gear at the last second before a game started. However grand the idea was, I did not have the time to invest in creating these forms. Fortunately, the solution fell into my lap.

During the character creation process for this game, my Dungeon Master handed all his players a index card that contained key information on it. Most of the traits needed to perform actions, do battle, take damage was on this simple one sided card. He called it an initiative card. I asked him where he got them and while he didn’t design them himself (he found the card online somewhere), it reinforced my idea that the whole project was doable.

That index card became the the first step in what I hope will be a series of standardized d20 (the system that Dungeons & Dragons now uses) forms for my hipster. Who knows, maybe I’ll even create a few for the White Wolf system so my Mage, Cordy won’t feel left out in the cold. Until that day, I’ve attached the Initiative Card that I use for my d20 characters to this article. I still have no idea who created this card, so I cannot give proper credit yet. Even google failed to show me who did it, but a search for "Initiative Card and d20" did take me to The Game Mechanics and their version.

On a related side note, it was actually this idea to create a series of simple hipster RPG forms, that prompted me to contact Doug at his A Million Monkeys site. I was hoping that he and I could collaborate and create some card that I could use to track my character on without having to lug around all the books to my sessions. At the time, neither of us really had any extra time away from our work endeavors to even start an undertaking, but as you can see, the idea still lingers in my mind.

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index cards/ sheets

Well from my memories, I recall wading 3u hundreds of index cards/ templates when I was involved in these games. We made a lot for our own use, many we took from magazines, such like Dragon and others. In those days we just called them "sheets"... well, you can call them "index cards" now ;-)

Heh, I have a lot of

Heh, I have a lot of different character sheets and all sorts of devices for RPGs. I was just thinking about all the new ways I could involve my hipster into my life.

After all, david allen suggests that the only productivity methodology that can work for you is one that you can incorporate into your whole life eh? So why not involove games or hobbies. After all, I spend almost 40 hours a month in gaming so that's almost the equivalent to a week's worth of work.

At least... that's my take.

You should check out the d20 cards by 'The Other Game Company'

They have Monster, Spell and Psionics Cards. Also blank character cards, spell cards, gm helper cards d20 SRD handouts etc. I bought the set for next to nothing, has come in very handy indeed.

Here's a link to their free stuff:

Hi. Cool idea. Add me to the

Cool idea.

Add me to the list if you're still brainstorming on this.
Have you seen Firey Dragon Production's Battle Box? It's got action cards that detail combat rules for quick reference. The rules are on baseball-playing card sized paper.

Between Open office, web resources (like the Hypertext d20 SRD) and a few dozen generators on line, it's fun making RPG aides.

Timely post

I'm currently in the process of playtesting the latest version of Chaosium's Basic Role Playing system and your post has come at a really opportune moment.

- Neil.


What a marvelous idea! One of the commentors posted a link that took you too a series of Character and Spell Tracking cards. I can easily see adapting the Spell card for real spells! Just put sections for timing, intent, ingredients, etc. Because I'm not always inspired when I'm sitting on the living room floor with my BOS. Yet when I'm out and about and see or hear something....oh yeah. ;-)

~~Moleskines and a pint of Guinness are my drugs of choice.~~

huh...go figure

*blinks* yanno...i would have NEVER thought about that. wow. using RPG spell cards for real ones. wtf... i totally didn't think about that. so yeah... i guess that's a card to put into the DIY Spiritual pack... once i get around to working on that. :)

great clue by 4 suggestion, iScribe.

Nifty article.

Nifty article.

I've been into the Game Mechanics initative cards for some time - exceptionally handy forms. As a DM, the thing to watch out for is having the cards as your only reference base for the stats - A DIY matrix page is handy for instant DM PC / NPC rosters and the like.

I'm also a fan of Ronin Art's various Campaign Planner forms and use them regularly. I like to use them with the DIY Planner Creative Kit myself.

Where the card came from

Well according to the small print at the bottom of the card, it is an official RPGA Event tool, and the rights belong to Wizards of the Coast. It looks like they don't use that version anymore, but this leads to a very similar one:

I love those cards, we should make Jeph send us the pdf so we have a clearer version.

See ya next month Kaylee the human rogue ;)


Spark the warforged cleric of the Silver Flame

More Gamers!

I strongly second the recommendation of 'The Other Game Company" stuff. They're gamecard sized, so if you have the cardgame derangement you never have to worry about what to put them in! They have everything in that scale including some nice rule summaries.

I run events for the RPGA, and if you're ever at an RPGA-run big show, you can probably pick up extras of the index-sized cards, we always have some left over. There's also a 'freeware' version, for both d20 Modern and d20 Fantasy here:
The Game Mechanics also sells prefilled initiative cards for the various monsters from the Monster Manual. Very handy for those using this system to GM.

A blog post for something similar here:

Erisraven <= my gaming blog


I am a gamer girl at heart... I will pass this along. I'm so in love with all the information and helpful templates on this site~! ♥

my artwork

Blast from the Past

I used to play D&D a very long time ago.

To put it in perspective, I had been playing it for about a year when I went to a game convention and bought Dragon Magazine Number One !!
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Great for Neverwinter Nights, too...

Hey Folks,
These cards, especially all the free ones at TOGM are FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!! I no longer play pen&paper D&D, but I do spend time on NWN (1 and 2), the computer version of D&D. All the cards are great for tracking character ideas and stats, concepts for adventures to design and so on. I had wanted something mainly for character concepts and had been using the ones in the Hipster set, but these are much better - being designed for gaming.

Thanks so much for the links!