It’s time for another “Accessories and…” spotlight and this time we are looking at the Bestiary Battle Cards for Pathfinder Second Edition. These oversized cards can be a great addition to any Game Master’s toolkit, whether they are used in conjunction with or instead of the Bestiary book.
Every GM uses their resources differently, but often a Bestiary book serves two purposes during a game. First, it provides all the stats and abilities for a given creature so the GM can functionally use them in the game. Second, many GMs will also use the book to show the artwork to the players, so their characters have an idea of what they are looking at during an encounter.
The front side of each card bears a portrait of a specific creature without (and this can be important) any label as to what the creature is. The reverse of the card has a complete stat block for that creature, exactly as it appears in the Bestiary book.
Here’s a glimpse into my process when I run a game. Even if the stats are right in front of me in an encounter, I will scan/photographer/copy the full entry from additional sources. Different editions of the same game, other adventures that might have more info, Bestiaries, whatever. I’ve got almost a full mini-bestiary worth of Goblin materials for when I run the We Be Goblins adventures, for example. I would likely still do all this, but these Battle Cards would certainly simplify running the encounters.
Most GMs, myself included, will use a screen of some sort to keep themselves organized out of player view. These cards are big enough to clip onto the top of your screen, and players still can easily see the portrait facing them, and the GM can see the stats on the back. The really fancy, custom made, screens often are even designed to do exactly that sort of thing without needing an extra clip.
Another advantage to the Battle Cards is that there is MORE art than in the book. Let’s look at the Dero, on pages 84 & 85 of the Pathfinder Bestiary: The first page features the image of a Dero Stalker. The second page features the image of a Dero Magister. In between the entries for those two creatures is the Dero Strangler, but there is no picture of them. The Cards, on the other hand, have three separate cards. One apiece, including one with specific art for the Strangler. There are exceptions to this, there is only one card combining Guard Dog and Riding Dog on a single card (with an unpublished Guard Dog portrait). There are also numerous creatures whose stats and abilities required two cards to be readable.
Things these cards DON’T have includes any extra flavour, lore, or items that the Bestiary entries might include. That’s important to me but is not functionally an issue to be missing in most cases. Paizo also missed an opportunity with the creatures that required two cards. I would have liked to see different art on the two cards. In some cases that could just be a mirrored image, but for others it would be a chance to feature different genders or simply a slightly different take on them. The other two “fine print” details I would have liked to see is a “card 1 of 2” on the appropriate cards (in case one gets sorted out of order without being noticed) and a page reference to the Bestiary entries. Those could both easily be done at the bottom next to the card number and copyright notice.
All told, these are a great tool for many GMs. The cost is comparable to the full book, which isn’t insignificant, so I wouldn’t recommend them for the casual player. But if you run games, they are definitely worth considering.