Over the weekend, I sat down with the family and we played ICONS from Steve Kenson’s Ad Infinitum Adventures. We rolled up some characters (and wound up having the girl create her hero using the point-buy system). Within a half hour, the Guardian and the Wanderer took to the streets of Starfall City and quickly got in over their heads.

That evening I had difficulty sleeping, so I spent a little bit of time creating index cards for the NPCs, trying to mock up something that fits the layout of ­the game. I managed to develop the card with boxes for stats and indents, primarily using paragraph shading in InDesign CC 2015.3.

icons index cards

ICONS lists a hero’s abilties and powers by number and a descriptor, much like Fate‘s ladder: The Ant has a Coordination of Amazing (8). My first pass at the index card had a space for the descriptor and the value, but truthfully we really don’t need that descriptor.[1] So, over there on the left, six attributes.

That column of attributes is a text frame with each word its own paragraph, with the game terms paragraph style applied. That style has paragraph shading on and has a top offset of 0p4[2] and a bottom offset of 0p3 to balance the 8pt Gotham Rounded Bold (paper color, all caps) copy. We’re also going to have that shading go 0p2 left and right to get the box effects. Add a left indent of 0p3 and 0p7 space after the paragraph and you’ve got a nice wide colored bar with white type.

Now, you make a copy of that text frame and move it to the right to form your boxes. Select all the text in that frame and replace it with one character per line. Duplicate the game terms style, call it boxes.[3] We’re only going to make one change here, so have this style based on game terms. We’re adding a paragraph rule.

By keeping this based on the game terms paragraph style, we can keep the box outline perfectly aligned with each term. All you have to do is adjust the weight of the rule (12pt here) and the offset (-0p9). Bam. Perfect box.

Oh, we’re not done yet. Take a look at the second-level list under Diamond’s Super Senses. That’s paragraph shading as well! After defining a left indent for the aptly-named powers sublist paragraph style, create three paragraphs of copy. Adjust the top and bottom offsets of the paragraph shading so there is no white space between the middle paragraph and the top or bottom (top 0p1, bottom 0p3 here). Bring that left offset in to where your bullets would normally be (-0p8) and then a huge right offset to make that paragraph shading just a thin line (-17p0!).

Voila! A vertical rule, based on a paragraph style. No need to use that line tool and futz around with placement: just a nice, consistant vertical rule leader.

But what if I wanted to have vertical rules on both sides of a paragraph? Aha! Then we’d use the same trick as the boxes paragraph style: paragraph shading and a paragraph rule. That 0p2 left/right offset we added earlier? That’s a little bit of shading that sticks out from behind the paper colored paragraph rule!

Want the file? You can download the InDesign package here. Or if you just want the blank card, download a PDF of the blank 3×5 NPC card here.

  1. I think it’s a call back to the old Marvel FASERIP game system. []
  2. I am the only layout person in the hobby games industry that works in pica. []
  3. You’re very creative. []

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