DDI Character Builder Power Cards (I)

October 9th, 2008 | Tags:

I’ve been very curious about the power cards that the D&DI Character Builder can generate. Yesterday, Wizards released some sample paragon characters, which seem to have been generated by the Character Builder — including power cards. I think they’ve done some things right, but the cards have some flaws — both serious and minor.

Here is an example, the Dwarf Fighter’s Reaping Strike:
Reaping Strike

My first issue with the cards is that they are too static in design. The generic card designs look to have been designed by people familiar with card design (of which there are many at Wizards), but that may be the problem. In card games you play with cards that are all nearly identical, but the abilities and objects for which players want cards are numerous and have large variances in the type and quantity of data that needs to be represented.

In Wizard’s gives us four major types of cards:

* Purple: the player, action point, and second wind cards
* Utility: blue cards for class utility powers
* Item: yellow cards for magic (or non-magic really) items
* Attack: the green (at-will), red (encounter), and gray (daily) cards for the remaining powers/abilities from races and classes.

In defining types of cards, they then try to create standard areas for the data normally present in powers of that type — but in many cases this just results unneeded verbiage and wasted space. For example the Divine Challenge Card:
Divine Challenge
In the body, of the card the text is squeezed down to a nearly unreadable font because of wasted space (and some unnecessary info):

* Why is there a “Used” check box on an at-will power? And in general the point of a power card is to be able discard it when used then recollect at the end of the encounter or after resting so you don’t have to check of used powers and make sure you erase your “used” marks.
* There are far too much space is used to convey the range of the power — twice.
* The power is not an attack so the “ATTACK vs. DEFENSE” area is wasted
* The “additional effects” section is empty but still exists, thus taking up empty space.
* the bottom line is entirely wasteful — we don’t need a logo on every card, nor should we need the “AT-WILL POWER” text — the card is green…

Using the card template I created in Excel, here is my Warlock’s Curse card:
Warlock’s Curse
While not as pretty as the card from Wizards it is very readable because the font is much larger which I could do because I did not waste space on unused boxes and irrelevant definition. There are only 7 sections:

* Name box: colorized by the refresh period of the power (green for at-will in this case)
* Keywords box: no label is present which saves space
* Action box: again no label since it is very obvious what the meaning is
* Type/Range box: one clear way description of the type and range
* Body box: in Wizard’s card the body is less than half of the size of the card, in mine it is over 3/4 of the card
* Origin and level box: similar to Wizard’s card, but no label and combined to save space
* Reference box: as small as possible with no label.

In my card not only is the text presented in a font that is readable there are three blank lines and has indentation to aide readability.

What should guide the “sections” of a card is not what may be needed for the majority of powers, but what is needed for the specific power in question. If for a specific power the character has a feet or other ability that requires additional text be placed in the card add the “additional effects” section into the card. Or if a power isn’t an attack and doesn’t have a target (such as the Halfling Racial Power Second Chance), don’t include the attack and target sections of the card. A large section of white space is better than bits of white space in unused categories.

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