There are many types of in-game ‘currency’ found throughout RPGs, and our recent fixation on Houses of the Blooded has concentrated on the use of Style points. Players begin the game with a designated amount of Style points, and can spend them to add desired details to the story, take advantage of details in a particular scene, and reuse advantages gleaned from personal details in a character’s story. Conversely they can be also earned, either by displaying especially characterful decisions, or by being compelled by the narrator to stay true to one’s character despite the gross potential for negative repercussions.
My experience with a FATE-related system began last year with the Dresden Files RPG, and throughout that game our group used poker chips to track Fate points- a rough equivalent to the Style points used by Houses of the Blooded. Easy to acquire and ubiquitous in their travel between players and narrator, the poker chips certainly served their mechanical purpose. However, as I most often join the group remotely through our Virtual Gamer setup, I’ve taken to representing my character’s Style points with some cartouche beads that I acquired years ago for a long-dead World of Darkness campaign. Given the intense individual nature and personal flair that is demanded of each character in Houses of the Blooded, it only seemed right to use something a bit more… well, stylish to track my in-game energy.
Which leads me to today’s post. I’ve been searching for something that would embody our group’s collective culture, while still enjoying the mechanical benefits of being easy to access and universal to all members of the game. In the past, we’ve tossed out the idea of using playing cards as game currency, which evolved in my head into the perfect counter for our campaign: vintage French tarot cards.
A quick trip to the internet located some fitting designs for this project, and with the added bonus of avoiding copyright infringement since they’re 130 years old. I decided to try a trick I learned in a college art course called “image transfer.” To start this method, it’s important to find a way to render your desired images into a digital format, then flip the images horizontally so that they mirror the original designs. Being the Luddite that I am at the computer, I used MS Paint. (Somehow, somewhere, my friend Matt just died a little bit inside.)
This next step is important: You have to make copies of the reversed images. Printer ink just won’t cut it for this project; you need to use the copied images for the transfer method. As the images I found featured nine tarot cards per page, I then cut each page up into individual cards with a pair of scissors.
Next, I needed to find some suitable medium to transfer the images onto. I wanted an antique feel for the cards, so I wasn’t looking for a pure white color to the card stock. I was lucky enough to find some old shipping labels that, after chopping the tops off, seemed to fit the bill. They were a little sturdier than paper, and just about the right size for my project.
All told, I ended up with 35 cards. Our group has been running with about five Style counters per player on average, so this gave me plenty for each of the four regular players in our group, and a reserve cache for the narrator.
Now to the actual transfer process. I used the following tools to achieve my final product: nail polish remover, a fairly wide hobby paint brush, a plastic spoon, masking tape, and a razor knife. All of these will be necessary, except perhaps the razor knife. Ill know shortly if I’ll need to cut away the copy after transferring the image.
Place a small amount of the nail polish remover in the cap, and set it on a paper plate or other disposable covering. Since the remover has acetone, it’s best to use it in a well-ventilated area, and on a surface that is either covered or unimportant. It’s entirely possible that we might make a mess.
Now pick one of the individual reversed copies, and lay it face down on a cropped ‘card.’ Once you have it in position, secure the edges with tiny pieces of masking tape. It’s important to note that the image will not transfer wherever the tape is, so avoid areas that have the image underneath.
Next, dip your paint brush in the cap full of nail polish remover. You may want to dab just a bit off the brush, as too much can destroy the copied image. Brush as much remover onto the back of the copy as you can; you should start to see the image bleed through at this point. Quickly take the the rounded side of the plastic spoon and rub the back of the copy with your thumb. You want enough pressure to push the copier ink onto the card, but not so much that you tear up the copy itself. This may take a little practice…
You may need to repeat this process several times, to get all the way down the image. Because the remover evaporates quickly, you don’t want to wait too long before rubbing the brushed portion of the image. If you don’t get to it in time, the ink will re-adhere to the copy paper and your image will not transfer.
Be sure to let the copy sit for a few minutes while the ink bonds to the card surface. Sometimes you’ll notice trouble spots on the back of the copy, and will need to repeat Step Four in these areas.
Finally, you’re ready to remove the copy from the card. Depending on what type of ink and what weight of paper your copier uses, you might find it necessary to coax the copy off with the blade of the razor knife. (I found this necessary in my project, as the lightweight copier paper seemed to want to peel off onto the card.)
The finished product will likely need a touchup here or there with a Sharpie pen, or other fine tipped permanent marker. Leave some imperfections here and there on the card though, to give it that aged feel.
To be honest, this technique didn’t perform as well as I remember. As such, I only finished a set of five cards to use for myself. I plan to finish the other 30, but not without a few modifications.
- Make copies on heavier weight paper; the lighter stuff falls apart too fast
- Trade out my nail polish remover for turpentine; the acetone just wasn’t cutting it for me
- Make the copies darker to begin with; some parts of the images just never had a chance
Has your group found a unique and stylish way to track in-game currency? Do you have some suggestions that might yield better results for me? Can you tell I’m a frustrated art major with too much time on my hands? Then tell us in the comments!