I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons on and off over the years, but one thing that’s always bothered me is the painfully slow combat system. Too many dice rolls, calculating modifications for environmental conditions, armor, surprise, etc., and too much paging through books to remember what your spells and attacks are. A relatively simple 3 vs. 3 battle can often take over an hour to complete!
So I set about creating my own tabletop RPG battle system. My first idea to make the battles move quicker was to eliminate the need for any rule book. Spells, items, and armor, then, would be presented as cards. Spells and items would be drawn at the beginning of battle, and once they are used, they are discarded. Simple, quick, efficient.
The game that has resulted from all this planning is a card game that’s played on a grid. To increase the immersion, I wanted to create actual playing cards for the various spells and items. Luckily I found Superior POD (POD = Print on Demand), a website that prints professional quality playing cards, plus a lot more.
Custom playing cards
Superior POD’s website looks a little dated, so I was hesitant at first to us it. It’s a small, family-owned print shop, and they print all manner of things: books, posters, business cards, standard stuff. But they also print a surprising number of gaming products.
I experimented with their Poker Size Custom Card Decks. The cards measure 3.5″ by 2.5″. The website features Photoshop templates for the cards (unfortunately you do need to know a bit about Photoshop to design your cards). The templates are divided into 18 cards. You can insert text, photos, really anything you want. You design both the front and the back of the card, upload the sheets to the website, and away you go! They charge $1.54 for each 18 card sheet, which I thought was pretty reasonable.
I made a mistake, though, when I ordered my first batch of cards. I designed the fronts and backs of the cards, just like instructed. What I forgot to consider is that the sheet for the backs of the cards is reversed compared to the front of the sheet. The sheets were divided into 3 columns of 6 cards each; what that means is that if the cards in the leftmost column are supposed to have a unique backing, then the design needs to go on the rightmost column. Anyway, look below to see what happened with my first purchase:
The mistake was totally my fault. Fortunately, it only affected a quarter of the cards from my first order. $5 down the drain, not a huge loss. I put in a second order, fixing my mistakes, and the cards arrived in perfect condition: glossy, smooth, unbent, and ready for playing! I now have the 189 cards needed for my play testing to begin!
Even though I’m extremely happy with the quality of Superior POD’s products, one thing deserves mentioning: they are really slow in fulfilling orders. My first order took a month to fulfill. The printing itself is supposed to take around 10 business days, not counting the standard shipping after that (about a week). Because they are a small, family-owned business, a little warning came up when I checked out that orders do take a while to process.
For my second order, I waited a month without hearing anything back. I contacted the company directly, explaining that I was hoping to play test the game over Christmas and needed the cards soon. The president of the company emailed me back right away, apologizing for the delay, saying there was no excuse. He printed the cards that night and sent them out the next morning via Priority Mail, and I had them three days later. So at least their customer service is friendly!
Other products worth investigating
Like I said, I only have experience with the playing cards, but I have no doubt their other gaming products are just as good. Here are some other products to check out:
- Card Decks: In addition to the poker size, they also have other card sizes should you need them, including square, mini, and tarot card sizes.
- Game Boxes, including the Large size box (8.5″ by 7.25″ by 1″), the Long Deck Box for storing hundreds of cards (several sizes available), and Tuck Boxes for storing smaller amounts of cards (which is what I’ll be looking into!)
- Game Boards, high quality chipboard (just like traditional board game boards). The boards come in two sizes, 18″ by 18″ or 17″ by 22″. I’ll definitely be getting one of these boards for my game!
- Rule Books and Rule Sheets
- Play Money. Does your game use currency? Design your own money and print it on up to 7 different color papers! A bundle of 28 bills is only $0.39!
- Chipboard Counters, including 1″ square counters, 5/8″ square counters and 2″ hex counters. I’m particularly excited about the hex counters: my brother is developing a game based on a hex grid and ordered wooden hexagons from a guy online, and while the counters are hexagon shaped, they weren’t cut with precision quality, meaning, the hexagons don’t neatly fit together like they should, thus they are useless for gaming. As long as Superior POD can cut their hexagons straight, everything should be good!
If you’re into designing your own tabletop game (and again, know a bit about Photoshop), give Superior POD a shot and let me know what you think! If you’re into gaming like I am, there’s no reason for you not to experiment with creating your own game. Sure, it’s fun to buy games in the store and play somebody else’s games, but Superior POD gives you all the tools you need to create your own game. Believe me, having high-quality professional products to play with is so much better than printing cards or markers on your boring old black and white printer.