I took the bus down to our PO Box in Renton today to get caught up on GR mail. I got the box when I started the company, so I was working at Wizards (which is also in Renton) at the time. Back then it was very convenient. Now, not so much. Since the address has been printed on several hundred thousand books though, we keep it.
Anyway, one of the things in my box was the latest issue of Games Quarterly Magazine. While it no longer makes my eyes bleed, the magazine is a mess. It just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it for gamers, for retailers, buyers, or someone else? The article mix is thoroughly schizophrenic. Many of them are simply advertorials provided by the publishers themselves. Others seem little more than gussied up press releases, albeit several months out of date by the time they magazine comes out. In the midst of that there’s an in depth historical article for wargamers on the “missing panzers” of the Normandy campaign. Weird. What makes this salvageable at all is the few actual articles by game pros in there, though even those are fairly light weight.
What prompted this entry was one of the few decent reads in the whole magazine, the first of a new column called Steal This Idea by my esteemed colleague Jeff Tidball. Jeff’s basic plan is to talk about games that had some good ideas and how you can apply said ideas to other games you play. He kicks off with Everway, which is a brave choice. He talks about the idea of “Vision Cards”, which were part of Everway’s character creation process. Basically, the game came with a bunch of fantasy art cards you could look through while creating your character. You were supposed to pick five that related in some way to your character. The idea here was to use visual cues to help you create your character.
I was thinking about this on the bus ride home. It’s not a technique I use in my own games. Or rather, the card method is not. On reflecting on it, I realized that I do use this method, but in glorious 3D. Oftentimes, when I’m creating a character, I find a miniature first and then design the character to match the mini. Not only is this practical (“Geez, I can’t find any half-bugbear minis with spiked chains!”), it serves the same purpose as Everway’s Vision Cards. Before I start assigning numbers, buying skills, and all that, I have a 3D image of the character to work from. When I get really motivated, I paint the mini after I’ve done character creation and really bring the thing to life.
There’s one more bonus to this method as well. Should I not have something suitable in my thousands of minis, it’s a good excuse to get some new ones…