Since the first edition, dungeons and dragons has always had a lot of charts and rules for players to memorize and reference. Just ask a third edition player how to grapple and he’ll throw a fit. The commonly referenced charts were on the Dungeon Master’s Screen, but things have become much more complicated with 4th edition. Now every class has a extremely comprehensive list of very specific powers which they use and they gain a new power about every level. There are usually 4-6 powers at each level and when it comes to fighting for your characters life you don’t want to have to take the time to look through the charts for that one power you know you had that would be perfect for the situation. You need to be able to reference it immediately.
Power cards are the common solution to this problem. Wizards of the Coast sells their own power cards for each of the available classes, but they’re not perfect. With Dragon Magazine releasing new powers every few days it is impossible for these cards to be comprehensive or keep even keep up with the new powers. Plus, you end up with a lot of power cards you don’t need that just sit in the box, taking up space and wasting money you’ve spent. It is possible, however, for you to make your very own power cards.
There are many variety of home-made power cards. The most basic is usually just a 3×5 note card with the important information written on it. These are fine, but I feel a power card should be as comprehensive as possible while allowing the most important rules to stick out. From the research that I have done, the best power cards from from Ander’s set.
To use Ander’s power cards you need a few things. First, you’ll need to download the Magic Set Editor (MSE), a program developed for the creation of cards for Magic: The Gathering and similar collectible card games. The program is free and very easy to use. Next, you need to install Ander’s MSE Set. This is the basic information the program needs in order to set up your cards. Just extract the files to the MSE directory and you’re pretty much good to go.
To make things easier for when you start, it helps to have some cards to start with. The best place to find some mse-set files with pre-made cards is The Dungeon Crawl. They have a lot of the earlier books, but not the more recent stuff. Unfortunately you’ll have to make those yourself. Once you understand the basic format of Ander’s set, however, it isn’t a problem at all. Just fill in the information and format it as you please. I try to follow the same general format for all of my cards so the information is more quickly readable.
Once you know what you’re doing you can expand your tasks. Besides just powers, I’ve started making different cards for various things I need my players to know such as item cards so they can keep track of their item properties and powers. I’ve also created simple cards for their contacts. Each of these cards gives them a brief description of an NPC, where they can be found, who they are, and what they can expect from them. This is very useful when they aren’t completely sure what to do next as they can talk to their contacts to get information.
You’ll definitely want to print the cards as well. The set editor is designed to print cards around playing-card size, but I think those are a bit too small. Instead, I created a 4″ x 6″ document in photoshop and I copy the images created by MSE into it. I can then print them onto 4×6 note cards and cut them in half getting two 2×3 cards with each print. I’ve found this to be a good size as they are easy to read and hard to lose. If you want to go the extra mile, you can laminate them as well. For important cards I usually cover them in a layer of transparent packaging tape which not only protects them from the inevitably soda spill, it also allows you to write on them in permanent marker. Permanent marker won’t come off easy, but if you go over it in dry-erase marker it will wipe right off.