In praise of the 3×5 card

On the OD&D Forum someone once asked, “What should be on a character sheet?” to which I replied, “Lines to write on :)”

Seriously, the only thing that has grown more in size over time than the typical RPG character sheet is the software used to create it.  I used to think that extensive multi-page character sheets were the cat’s pajamas, but over time they increasingly appeared as cluttered and distracting.  I tried introducing a simple, relative spare D&D 3.5 character sheet to my grad school gaming group, but they preferred the “official” ones from WOTC.

When I first started role-playing, the character sheet was a 3×5 index card.  The entire time I’ve played in Prof. Barker’s Tekumel campaign all we ever used for character sheets were 3×5 cards.  It’s possible to scoff at them as being too small, but I think that’s their secret: they keep character creation and conception relatively simple.  There’s only so much that can go onto a 3×5 card, and therefore only so much time to be spent on generating a character to fit on said card.  From an “old school” perspective, it’s definitely the way to go – and it seems like other people have figured this out already, as seen here, here (okay, it’s Savage Worlds), and here (5th post down, if someone gets the link unbroken, please let me know).

I’ve got my own 3×5 character sheet for D&D, which can be found here; print on cardstock and then cut to size.

7 thoughts on “In praise of the 3×5 card

  1. Yeah, dunno if I could get all the relevant information for the Tankards & Broadswords RPG on a 3×5 index card, at least without abbreviating the skill names down, but I'm pretty sure I could do it on a 4×6 card.

    My original character sheet goal was to do it up as a two-column landscape sheet of 8.5×11, with the left-hand side being all the character info, and the right-hand side a place to jot notes and such. But, the 4×6 index card for the char sheet might just win out now.

  2. I'm not at all surprised one of your examples is Savage Worlds. As I've began to go back to simpler games through the OSR SW is the one "new school" game to gain in prominence.

  3. For a Band of Joyous Heroes I've come up with a one page (8.5 x 11 inch) Character sheet for the "Stars". That includes borders and lots of space to write a description (or whatever.) There are only 5 "stats" and a descriptive word describing the character's "Temper". Plus a space to write down any talents or flaws. Otherwise it's all "description/Background" and "Notes". How does one fit that onto 3" x 5"? I guess you have other pages for notes or descriptions? Howard – The Tekumel Project

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