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  Mechanic #014 - Card Character Designer

Category: Card-game
Posted: 05/22/07

A character design system for MMORPGs or RPGs which involves the use of collectable cards.


This is a sort of replacement for typical RPG character creation using cards to make specific choices. The premise behind it is that using a card system would make the process somewhat speedier. Perhaps more interesting is that you may not have access to all cards at all times. For instance, in a MMORPG setting, perhaps you could unlock additional cards as you play to improve your character or in order to start new, more powerful ones.


At the most basic level, you select a category card and then a number of cards that belong to that category. There could be numerous categories, but the simplest example would be to select one Body category card and one Mind category card. In each case, these cards will dictate which cards within that category can be equipped, and how many.


For instance, you select a Body card. It has a frame (light, medium, or heavy) and simple stats (valued 0-3) for Stamina, Dexterity, and Strength - not to mention a limit to how many Body cards can be equipped. For the Body, these cards are equipment and associated skills with that equipment. Some of these cards may come with additional skills or attributes if your stats exceed the basic equip stats in some way.

Some examples (details like +3% accuracy of adds X to melee attacks are illustrative only):

  • Plate Mail - May only be worn by medium or heavy frames, stamina of 2+. Adds X to defensive rolls.

  • Sword - Adds X to melee attack rolls. Any frame with Strength 1+. If Stamina is 2+, may do a whirling attack to hit all neighboring enemies.

  • Padded Shoes - Light or Medium frames, Dexterity of 3. Increasing Sneak skill by 1.

  • Pistol - Any frame, Dex 1+. If Dex is 2+, an aimed shot may be taken for +3% accuracy.


The Mind category card works in a slightly different manner. Unlike Body, it is not differentiated by frame size. It still has a few stats (Memory, Experience, Intelligence) which may affect which cards can be equipped or their practical effectiveness. However, the Mind cards are limited by certain categories, of which the category card says how many of each are possible, as well as how many total can be equipped.

Each Mind card belongs to a certain type of skillset. For instance, Hobby, Training, Education, or Street Knowledge. These different cards will have different skillsets on them that may alter which Body cards you can equip. For instance, a Firearms Specialist card (Training) may make Dexterity a 3 for any firearm Body card. So, the Pistol listed above would assume that Dexterity is 3 irregardless of what the Body category said (making equipping and aimed shots possible even with a Dexterity of 0). However, it would not affect the Sword card because it is not a firearm, and would only affect Dexterity rolls for attacking with firearms.

Some examples:

  • Jogger - (Hobby) - Stamina +1 (max 3) for Dexterity cards.

  • Bookworm - (Education) - Req. Intelligence 2, Memory 1. Can read difficult books to gain knowledge.

  • Sneaking - (Training) - Can remain invisible to all units who fail a Dexterity roll - X (where X is your sneaking level, default 1).

  • Swordsman - (Training) - Action: Can do an overhead swing with a sword, doing X damage to one opponent. Action: Can unsheath sword for quick attack, automatic initiative.

  • Size Up - (Street Knowledge) - On an Experience roll, reveal all equipment cards of opponent.

  Extensions to the Idea


The first questions that come to mind is what to do about one's class or profession, as well as Race. In both cases, you could create specialized versions of category cards. For example, and Elf would only be able to choose one of the Elf Body types. And while the core cards would still be available, perhaps there could be additional Elf-specific Body or Mind cards that could be equipped. Similarly, class could be defined as a specialized Mind card with an addition fifth specific category of skills unique to that class.

Additional categories could be used for parallel advancement in specific trades. For instance, in addition to your mind and body, perhaps your character is also a trained blacksmith. In that case, you may have a tradeskill category card (perhaps themselves separated to novice, intermediate, or expert), and each card you equip in that category could contain a few recipes that your character would know. For instance, you might have a Bronze Armor recipe, which includes the recipes to each individual piece of bronze armor. You could also have tradeskill abilities, like Expert Hammersmith, which could add X to your chances of successfully producing metal armor. Pretty much any area of expertise could be modeled by having a specific category card which defines which cards could then be equipped under it.

This idea was originally created for a MMORPG in which there was no persistent characters. Instead, each time you played, you'd build a character, and through playing, you'd unlock additional things that you could use to build your character. The idea was that you started from scratch each time with a progressively increasing pool of available cards.

However, one could also modify the system to allow linear progression. Just replace a category card with a superior one (like going from Novice Blacksmith to Intermediate Blacksmith) and then add additional cards. You could give the category an additional stat (the level) and have special cards that could only be equipped or replaced previously equipped ones once a specific level is reached. For instance, a level 1 mind may only be able to equip a novice firearms specialist, which includes only one skill. After placing down a level 4 mind, that card can be upgraded to an expert firearms specialist, which has three skills available.

The basic premise of this idea is to separate all the different elements of character creation into specific categories into which skills are equipped. By combining knowledge and skills together into individual modules, you can make sure that the knowledge and abilities are more closely related, and more realistic.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.