The Ipad DM: Index Cards

Posted on June 2, 2011 by


I recently purchased an Ipad, and am now using it at my gaming table.  My primary use for it is my gaming books, which are in PDF form, rather than print copies.  But this series of articles will not really be only about reading pdf’s (although I’ll cover pdf software eventually in this series), but rather about other apps you can use to help out your DM’ing.

I’m going to start the series off with an app that has quickly become a favorite of mine, Index Cards.  Index cards use in writing is a tried and true trick of the screenwriting trade.  On the cards you can lay out your scenes and arrange them in order, swap scenes around, etc., in a way that makes sense for your story.  So why not take that to the gaming table as well?

An screenplay index card layout (image via:

I’m going to create a simple adventure, and show you how the index card app may help you in the process of creating your own.

So the app starts you off with a corkboard, much like what you may use in real life to pin notecards on:

So lets look at how you can keep track of your NPC’s with it.  You can even create “stacks” of similar cards:

Our first stack, Important NPC's

Each card in the stack is an NPC, with a flavorful description on one side, and game stats on the other.

An index card describing an NPC

You can also include game hooks within the NPC description.  Find the dwarf’s lost sword is a good one.

Or better yet… create another stack with minor quests…

Now we're building a little collection of elements.

So for the actual adventure, perhaps we come up with encounter cards, or scene cards, and that’s the bulk of the story.

The Encounters/Scenes stack is now part of the project.

Inside the stack, we have different types of cards.  I chose the following for this example:  Combat Encounter, Roleplay Encounter, and Exploration Encounter as these are the three types of encounters in Dragon Age, the game I currently play.  You can color code the cards, so I assigned a different color to each type of encounter card.

Color coded cards can help you keep track of each type of encounter.

So what I’ve been toying with is using the app to then build an outline of my story, because the app lets you move the cards around and place them in any order you want. I duplicated the encounter cards and removed the duplicates from the stack, that’s why the stack and the cards are both on screen at the same time….

This is where you'd start building your sequence of events...

Now keep in mind that you can also transfer cards to other projects, so for example, the Minor Quests can be transferred over as drop-ins to another adventure, as well as NPC’s, or anything else you have.  After everything is done, one of the options you have is to transfer the whole thing via email as an RTF text file.  It won’t be formatted as an adventure exactly, but it is a good outline for when you sit to write one.  Also, you can, if you are detailed enough, include enough info in the index cards that you can in fact just run right from the app or the outline.  Another option has is to share the project via dropbox, which could be very useful as well.

Here’s the outline in RTF form for this small project.  I had to convert it to a PDF to upload it.  It does not export to PDF on its own.

Sample Adv. The Red Dragon _1

So there you have it.  I feel that this app would be a good one for you Ipad owning Dm’s out there looking for writing or story aids.  Screenwriters use this method a lot, I can’t see why transferring it to the gaming table wouldn’t be as useful.  At best, it can help you build a coherent story, and at worst it can help you build a nice library of elements you can use in your games such as minor hooks and npc’s.

Here is the Faq page from the app developers.

What do you guys think? Do you think this would be useful? Can you recommend any other writing apps for the series?