GameMastery Item Cards

By PaizoPublishing

Inventory Made Easy

Paizo Publishing is making an effort to position itself as the premier provider of affordable gamer bling in the market (although it must be pointed out that “affordable bling” is rather an oxymoron). This seems to be a natural outgrowth of their former publication of Dungeon and Dragon magazines, which provided cool adventures and maps and other support material for today’s role-playing aficionado and all for only several dollars a month, which is far more than Gamer Bling made while selling insurance.

Seriously. Gamer Bling’s dubious career experiences in the insurance industry were a far cry from a great adventure. In fact, once one accounts for the business expenses incurred, Gamer Bling made a mere few coppers. Nary a piece of blingy loot to be seen. All of which puts selling insurance a far cry from playing D&D, which (a) is an adventure, and (b) has actual loot, not advances borrowed at interest against future earnings imputed to the policy unless the chump who signed it gets buyer’s remorse and cancels. Honestly, does one ever get an IOU from a dead dragon? No! And Gamer Bling also wonders if the insurance company gets more money from interest levied against n00b salespeople than from actual premium payments.

Be that as it may, one of the problems people—players, that is, not characters—can enounter when amassing vast dragonlike piles of magical trinketry is that it can be hard to track who’s got which and what it does. And how! What is needed is a way to keep things organized and clear.

Which, coincidentally enough, is what Paizo has provided and therefore why this review is here. Presenting: Item Packs!

Simply put, Item Packs are assortments of cards that represent magic items for you to use in your fantasy campaign. On one side of each card is a nice full-color illustration of the magic item, along with a title naming the type of item represented. On the other side is a brief physical description of that particular item, along with a blank text box for player notes. At the very bottom of the blank box is a spot for the game master to put a key code so he can reference the item’s exact abilities later on.

The front and back of a sample item card from Paizo’s GameMastery line.

Thus Item Packs transform your phat lewt from a one- or two-line entry scrawled in pencil on the back side of your character sheet to a reasonably unique full-color tangible (if two-dimensional) object. Pretty cool.

The cards in each item pack are divided into categories, these being
• Armor (and Shield)
• Weapon (and Ammo)
• Potion
• Ring
• Scroll
• Piece of Wood (i.e., a rod, staff, or wand)
• Everything Else (headband to boots and everything in between)

Each category has a unique frame and background, which makes it quick and easy to sort cards into their respective types. Each category also has a unique icon to further aid you, but as these icons are located in the upper right-hand corner of the card, they are essentially useless for anyone but a left-handed person. And even lefties will sort cards by the frame; it’s just much quicker.

The art and description go hand in hand (I’m not sure whether the text is the art direction or filler prose produced ex post facto), and should serve to enhance the role-playing aspect of your game.

For example, consider this description of a wand: “This twisting wooden wand shifts from petrified to living wood at its notched and squared tip.” Okay, so… why the shift? Is it a wand of petrification? Will the living wood slowly turn to stone as its charges are used up? One assumes a living-wood wand would be made by elves, but then why is stone a factor; was it a curse? Sure, none of this helps you blow up kobolds, but it makes for an intriguing story, and may even be a plot hook in itself.

The cards are intended to be disposable. However, you also should not use wet- or dry-erase markers. At least not if you actually intend to erase the marks.

And, just in case you were wondering, the cards are 63mm x 88mm, which is standard Magic size.

Weak Points

There were some curious choices about how to classify certain items, and Gamer Bling suspects that those choices were made by drawing the inspiration for the cards from the DMG, sometimes without regard to logic. For example, the Wondrous Items class of cards includes a bottle. As in a bottle with a magic liquid inside. Which somehow is mysteriously not classified as a potion. So basically, a character handed this card will either know that the item is a wondrous item instead of a quaffing potion, or else have a reason to rules-lawyer the game master for the discrepancy. Neither option seems optimal to Gamer Bling.

The art has some curious qualities as well. First, much of the art tends toward the dark in flavor. Images of scowling faces and grasping claws and misshapen animals far outnumber those items that look like they might have been made by, say, Lady Galadriel.

All of the art is of just the item, floating freely in timeless space (or against a PhotoShopped background, as the case may be). Personally, Gamer Bling prefers his art to have the user pictured in it, or to have some sort of background, as if the item has been set out for display.

Little human glyphs dance on many items in Hero’s Hoard.

It's not magical, but it may cause sonic damage.Also, certain anachronistic symbols make repeat appearances. In Hero’s Hoard, the human petroglyph icon used by German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten appears no less than eight times, as shown above. Compare the glyphs above to this album cover from their 1995 release Strategein Gegen Architekturen:

The repeated appearances of these symbols make Gamer Bling’s suspension of disbelief more difficult. Especially when Gamer Bling hears EN’s “Tanz Debil” playing in his memory every time he looks at a card.

Mysterious monkey heads! Strange facial images appear repeatedly in Hero’s Hoard.

Also cropping up here and there is a mysterious ghosty simian face. For over two long years from the launch of this site Gamer Bling languished in ignorance (one might well wonder how this differed from his day-to-day existence), musing in the wee, dark hours of the night what on Earth these faces might be. And, at least, a gnoble gnight came to the rescue to save the fair maiden overweight middle-aged guy from his distress!

Sir Jay Thacker, first officially recognized gnight of the grealm now herewith dubbed “The Something-or-other Gnight”, points out that the artist in question not only likes listening to Middle-European musicians making monstrous mayhem on metallic memorabilia (a stretched, but nonetheless effective alliteration), he also likes to watch Japanese animated period pieces of bloody forest battles. German music, Japanese art, and if he likes to eat Italian food, then he has a trifecta of WWII Axis fetishism.

Because it is clear that the faces in question were inspired by the sylvan spirits of Princess Mononoke:

Haunted cards! Tiny woodland spirits infiltrate magic items!

Finally, those who are picky might not find something that fits their image for a magic item. If you just really feel that a given ring should be something on the order of a braided silver band with a single perfect white pearl, you’ll just have to cross your fingers that one of the currently available ring images fits that bill.

The Bottom Line

These are worthy accessories that fit neatly into 9-up card pages or the pocket of a binder, and they lend an easy way for gamemasters to give mysterious magic items to their players. Go ahead; spring for a pack and see what you think.

See also Gamer Bling Deathmatch #1.

Summary

Bling Factor: 7
Quality: 8
Utility: 9
Price: $9.95/deck, $3.49/booster
You Need: 1 of any deck, a 12-count display of the boosters

E-tail

GB needz affiliate moneys!Paizo does not offer any e-tail discounts or affiliate kickbacks to websites. Therefore Gamer Bling instead has hooked up with RPGShop for your etail convenience. RPGShop has very nice affiliate terms. Gamer Bling likes it when your convenience and his viability line up nicely.

The Future

With several sets out and more on the way, it seems that the economic model works for Paizo. Thus Gamer Bling expects to keep adding to this review page whenever he can get the attention of the fine folks at Paizo, who are too busy cranking out these and other excessories to send out review product. Feel free to write them and let them know they need to send Gamer Bling more stuff.

Products

First, let’s look at collation. Then we’ll get to the assorted packs available.

Economics

Each Hero’s Hoard and Relics of War booster contains the following assortment:
2 weapon/ammo
1 shield/armor
2 potion
1 scroll
1 wand
1 rod/staff (50%) or ring (50%)
2 miscellanea
1 completely random foil

Thus, given the even rarity, and discounting the foils, this is how things look when busting a display:

 

Category Set size Qty / Disp Set / Bstr Full Set / Disp
Armor 15 12 7% TBD
Weapon 24 24 8% TBD
Potion 18 24 11% TBD
Scroll 10 12 10% TBD
R/S/Rng 11 12 9% TBD
Wand 10 12 10% TBD
Misc 22 24 9% TBD

Thus you can see that, barring getting 3 different armor foils, you cannot complete a set from one booster display. Likewise, due to random sorting, your odds of getting a set of weapons are virtually nonexistent.

Now, on to the economic details.

You can pay $9.95 (or 18.4 cents per card; a steal of a deal) and you get your basic 54 magic items. Or you can spend roughly four times as much ($41.88, or 31.7c / card) and get 132 magic items, some of which are duplicates.

But how much is enough? That depends entirely on the assortment of magic items likely to be found in your campaign.

Shadows of the Last War, the Eberron adventure by Keith Baker, has the following magic items that are likely to be picked up by dedicated dungeon crawlers, for which the availability of said item in the packs is noted:

Item Item Pack1 Hero’s Hoard Relics of War
Breastplate
Chalice n/a n/a n/a
Cloak
Double scimitar (1) n/a n/a
Gem (2)
Haversack (3) (3) (3)
Lantern n/a n/a n/a
Light mace
Longsword
Necklace (4)
16 potions* (5)
Scroll
Steel shield
Wand

* Perhaps half a dozen different varieties
(1) Must substitute a double sword
(2) Must substitute a pearl
(3) Must substitute a bag
(4) Must substitute prayer beads
(5) About 4 potions shy; must double up on similar potions

The Transmuter’s Last Touch, a Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classic by Jeff LaSala, has the following magic items:

Item Item Pack1 Hero’s Hoard Relics of War
2 torches n/a n/a n/a
5 potions (3 types)
ring
scroll
battle axe

As you can see, both of these adventures, which were randomly determined by what Gamer Bling happened to have handy, will consume an inordinate number of potions from your collection. So game designers need to stop relying on potions and put more variety in their work. Or else Paizo needs to cater better to the needs of their audience, who seems to like potions.

Item Pack 1

This is a straightforward deck of 54 fixed cards, for $9.95. Roughly two dozen of these also appear in the Hero’s Hoard set, below. This set is the only place you’ll find the fan-favorite double sword.

Item Pack 2: Hero’s Hoard

This is a 110-card set. Roughly 24 of these cards were poached from Item Pack 1 (for the hard-core collector, these have different set symbols), while the remaining cards are all-new. Each $3.49 booster gets you 11 cards. This is the set where you’ll find the spiked chain, tower shield, halberd, crystal ball and ornamental headgear.

Item Pack 3: Relics of War

This 110-card set features items “touched by the struggle of good against evil,” and includes such treasures as a unicorn’s horn and demonhide armor. While the illustrations still have that same moody feel as the other packs, you do get some cool paladinesque items like a winged helm and such. Look here for epic items like the withered hand, great axe and greatsword, a cube, spiked gauntlet, and assorted monk gear.

Item Pack 4: Adventure Gear deck

This is a fixed deck of 54 cards that covers all the basic gear that adventurer’s use for a mere $9.95. You know, stuff like blankets, rope, oil, etc. It makes it easier to tell the gamemaster you have something if you have its card…

Item Pack 5: Dragon’s Trove

Product Expected June 2007. Review copy expected sometimes in the next decade. Actual review expected shortly thereafter.


2 Responses to “GameMastery Item Cards”

  1. I just ordered a pack for my DM for Christmas (oops, hope he doesn’t read this too soon!) I figured anything I do to encourage more bling for the players is a Good Thing(tm).

  2. I love these [dandy] things. I want more and more. Eric Mona, get me involved.

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