Play Book: Using Cheat Sheets

While we’ve been having a lot of fun with No Soul Left Behind, we’ve also been having some problems. Namely, remembering what our characters can do in game. While this is an ORE game and we’ve played games in that system before, the unique aspects to Better Angels are tripping us up. Since there are moves related to being another player’s demon, there’s actions you can with them. But we never remember that we can do them. When we do remember, we want to use them, which crashes the game into chaos. With our PCs, it’s hard to remember our powers and aspects, as they are usually long sections with specific rules. In this case, and in other systems, a cheat sheet would help us to better remember what we can and cannot do.

When designing a cheat sheet, it might be helpful to first take stock of everything you need as a player. Most character sheets are designed well and have what you need. Yet, there might be rules that affect your character that are hard to remember. If you’re playing a wizard with a lot of spells, having the spell names written down might not be enough. Perhaps a one to two sentence description of what it can do would help you choose better spells.

Some games, like Better Angels, already have a cheat sheet. There's a two sided player aid that has a lot of the info you need to play. However, shifting between pages or PDFs make it harder to keep stock of what you need at a given time. This is part of what made it hard me to remember what I can do. For NSLB, I use a word doc as my character sheet, and have everything on one page. I also have another page with the descriptions of my demonic powers and aspects. I copied all the text for them, so it is hard to read and contains flavor text I don't need. I can’t waste time reading a six paragraph description on the ‘Soulless Materialism’ power. I've realized I need to shorten it to a few lines that I can read quickly and know what I need to do. I also highlighted the Tactics used to activate my powers, so I know what to roll. Finally, I updated it for what my demon, Mammon from Accounting, can do, and what buttons I can use to push Angelina.

Another example would be Eclipse Phase. EP has an intimidating amount of stats, skills, abilities, and gear. In spite of my love for the game, I shudder to think about the task of filling out a sheet by hand. For our games I’ve used a fan generated Excel spreadsheet for character generation. There’s also a character generator program we all used for Into the Black, Singularity. You enter the information for your character, and it creates a couple page character sheet with everything you need. In spite of this, there’s so much gear I tend to forget, in addition to my skills. A cheat sheet with my gear and a short descriptions has helped me remember what Templeton can use.

For tabletop RPGs, knowing how to organize your character sheet is vital to using you character to the best of your ability. A cheat sheet in conjunction with your character sheet can make the game much easier. You won’t have to fumble around with the book or a tablet, stumbling to find stats or gear. Instead you can focus on the adventure at hand. Do you use cheat sheets? Any tips you use to remember what your character can do? Mention it in the comments