I’ve written before about Jeff Preston’s 108 Terrible Character Portraits, and about the print-on-demand service at The Game Crafter. It’s surprising that I didn’t think before of putting the two together. Luckily, though, it didn’t, because I’d have been disappointed to find that someone got there first.
Story Game Character Portraits a bare-bones gaming accessory using Preston’s art. What you get for your $17.99 is very simple: a deck of 108 cards, each with one of the portraits from the collection (yes, even “Toon 1”), and no frills.
It’s a great idea, though there are a couple of things I would have done differently. The problems I see have to do with the size of the thing. A double-sized card deck like this can be a bit unmanageable to sort through. Also, the Terrible Character Portraits are a grab-bag of genres. While there’s something there that’s likely to be useful to anybody, you’re probably buying some cards that aren’t useful to you any time soon.
I probably would have assigned the cards to suits with colored borders or some such. That way, if I were looking for a particular card, I could narrow down my search a lot by fanning the deck. I also would have considered dividing the cards up into two packages, perhaps one modern (with the cyberpunks, super heroes, robots, and what have you) and one fantasy. Those categories don’t come out evenly, though, and don’t necessarily fit as well on the printer’s 18-card sheets, so there would be some compromises to be made there. Not to mention that you’d probably want the humans in each deck, if they’re to be useful separately.
None of this is to criticize the cards’ producer, though. They clearly were interested first in printing out a deck for their own use, and product design for any other audience was a distant second. And that’s fine; I’m not entitled to have them serve me in this case. But there are certainly some ways in which the product could serve better.