TGN's Enrico Nardini delves into the tomes of arcane lore that are the D&D Spellbook Cards from Gale Force 9. Will these 5E compatible accessories cast a spell on him?
Did I mention that I love accessories? I am sure I’ve mentioned that before. It’s practically an addiction, and my wife has, on more than one occasion, commented on my “love of storage solutions.” It is one of those strange obsessions that mark me as a game enthusiast. Of course, my accessory infatuation is not limited to game storage.
TGN readers following The 5E Diaries (which should be all of you!), will know that I have recently started a 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign using the Hoard of the Dragon Queen supplement. I’ve also been creating some characters of my own in anticipation of being on the other side of the Dungeon Master’s (DM) screen. Wouldn’t it be my luck that Gale Force 9 has decided to release a series of D&D Spellbook Cards?
I created a bard, so the Spellbook Cards: Bard was a logical choice. The Spellbook Cards come in a box approximately the size of two playing card decks, with the 120 spell cards separated into two sections. The cards themselves seem quite durable. They are made of thick card stock and are laminated. This gives them a glossy appearance and enhances their ability to resist wear. I feel comfortable saying that these will hold up to use well, even without sleeves. They are quite stiff as a result, and if they are bent, they lack the flexibility to snap back into shape. Since you will not be shuffling them (at least not for their intended use), this should not be a huge issue.
GF9's spell cards favor utility over flare.
The card design is plain but appropriate for the product's function. All the card backings feature an illustration of a lute (marking them as bard cards) and a number indicating the level of the spell. (The cards use 0 to label cantrip spells.) The face side is where the action is; pertinent spell information is listed here. The font is necessarily small - if you struggle reading tiny text, you will struggle with these.
GF9‘s Spellbook Cards are intended to provide a handy and quick reference for spell effects in games of D&D 5E. I’m sure we have all experienced the delay in action that comes with having to look up a spell in the Player’s Handbook or another supplement. It can cause the game to lag significantly if it happens often enough. These cards attempt to alleviate that by presenting a spell's effect on a handy reference card you can keep next to your character sheet.
They succeed at this task, though not perfectly. For one thing, some spells are quite verbose. These do not fit fully on the cards, so many of them reference the spell’s page number in the PHB. The spells that require this still have as much important information on them as possible, but it does mean that you will still need to use the book in some instances. This is quite a frequent practice with some spell levels. For instance, 7 (out of 10) of the 7th level bard spells reference the PHB. I understand that this is a natural limitation of the product (you can only make the cards so big), but it also makes me wonder why I don’t just list the pages next to the spell name on my character sheet instead.
Spell cards can require additional reference to the PHB.
Spellbook Cards are sold by class. Breaking up the spells by class and selling them that way has advantages and disadvantages for the consumer. If you are a diehard devotee of a specific class, you can get what you want without paying for a number of additional cards you don’t need. However, it’s likely that, were this released as say Spellbook Cards: Player’s Handbook, the cost for all the cards would be significantly less than buying them piecemeal. Additionally, DMs would be able to make more use of them by simply having a collection of all the relevant spells.
Another, though admittedly minor, gripe I have with this product is the listing of cantrips as 0 level spells. They are not referred to in this way in the 5E PHB. I think a "C" would have made more sense.
D&D 5E allows you to enhance many spells by using a higher spell slot. The inclusion of these effects was a thoughtful addition. They are listed below the main spell text.
The overall quality of the GF9 Spellbook Cards is high, but their utility (the vital factor of an accessory purchase) will vary from player to player. Whether these cards are worth purchasing will depend on your patience for looking up spells in the PHB. If you find it really annoying, dropping $12.99 for a set of these ($6.99 for the smaller decks and $19.99 for the larger) may be worth your while, especially if you are partial to a particular spell casting class. I cannot recommend them to DMs in their current state. You would be spending a fair bit of your cash on a number of duplicate cards due to the overlap of spells between certain classes. Hopefully they will consider releasing a full PHB set at some point in the near future.