As mentioned previously, three Kickstarter projects seeking to fund sets of gaming accessory cards were launched at the beginning of April. I decided to do a review of each of them, to see what each of these similar, but different, projects were bringing to the table. Short Order Heroes and Character Cards have been reviewed, which leaves the last project: Toolcards.
Toolcards, by Jim Pinto, is a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter that is currently ongoing (though not for much longer) and closes on 09 May 2013.
The basics: For $25 you get 104 double-sided cards on standard playing card paper; for $30 the paper is upgraded to premium. Every $12 after that gets you an add-on deck (for the first two); the third is $10, the fourth and each subsequent is $8. The cards look clean, the information is easy to pick out, nothing is cluttered.
What you get on a card is a series of cues, each for a particular area, noted by the associated symbol. Reading down the card, they have a name and job, a legendary story or location, a monster, a special item, a scene element, and a question (or statement, depending on the side). At the bottom of the card are two numbers, one goes from 1 to 20, the other from 1 to 100. Finally, at the base is a mood to describe a scene. For the base deck, there are 100 standard cards, as well as one Doom, one Potion, one Ward and one Trap.
As mentioned above, the cards are doubled sided. The primary difference between the side is the question/statement, and one side seems to support high fantasy more, while the other supports low fantasy more. There are also a number of 30 card expansions that follow different themes and, accordingly, feature different information appropriate to that theme. These include Wards, Dooms, Potions, Traps, Undead and Interrogation. Quests and Cults are currently stretch goals.
The premise here is pretty straight-forward: a lot snippets that can be used to flesh out an idea, or as a place to start. Any GM can use these to help with putting an adventure together - it is a big stack of places to start. If you're quick on your feet, these can be an excellent tool during a session to keep things rolling forward. I say that because some of the information may be difficult to incorporate on the fly and then develop as you continue forward with it.
Where I see these having the biggest value is in support of a Dungeon World game. The free-wheeling nature of that game in conjunction with the flavor of these cards is almost a match made in heaven. These are all about taking advantage of open spaces and can directly support any hard move you want to make - they are the moves. Need to show signs of an approaching threat or reveal an unwelcome truth? Scene elements and questions/statements have you covered. Even better? There is a 30 card deck of Dooms.
Secondary to Dungeon World is a Fate game of the fantasy genre. There is all the information you will need to build and populate a scene on the fly. Since mechanics in Fate are easy to sort out as you go along, this can be a great tool to add some traits to a scene, or create entire plots as needed.
These cards have about the perfect amount of information on them for me to easily assimilate into a game. I would mostly use them when putting things together initially, but they are a great place to reach when plans (inevitably) go off course. The specific nature of the expansion decks allows you to tailor them to your game. For example, I know I would never get much mileage out of Traps - they're just not my thing, not really. Wards, maybe. Dooms, on the other hand, are definitely my thing. Interrogations sound interesting as well - ways to create characters (almost certainly useful for Fate-style games) and questions to drive game dialog.
Honestly, there are no real criticisms that I have to offer for this product. The only minor one that I would have is the symbols used to indicate a particular category aren't always evocative of what it is supposed to represent. However, the information contained makes it so that distinction is not difficult to figure out from context. See, minor, not a real criticism. Toolcards are either a thing that you are going to want at your table to help you build a scene or plot on the fly, or they aren't.