Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Safari Card Monster Manual

I was reminded today about the existence of Safari Cards. Here’s the commercial from the early 80s that some of you may remember:

As a child, I positively adored these things. I obsessively read, filed, and re-filed them. I think some of the first mail I received addressed to “me” alone were little packets containing these cards (though I have no idea how my parents were suckered into subscribing to them, probably under the laudable auspices of the cards being “educational.”)

I remember convincing a teacher to let me do my “book reports” on animals that she would draw randomly from a pile (I think I still have one of these somewhere on the terrific Jackson’s Horned Chameleon). I’d get to write down the name, and she’d keep the card while I scampered off to the school library and immersed myself in the reference sections. It was always fun “checking my work” versus the card.

So, the information presentation on these was actually pretty interesting and could have some application for rendering Monster/Encounter information in a compact format. Let’s take a look at the front and back of a card (these were 4¾ by 5 inches):

While the front is dominated by the photograph of the animal in question (prime real estate and size for a monster illustration you could show to the players), the top bar is usefully dense. You have the creature name above a series of icons. I believe these were used for filing/organizing the cards within their storage containers (there were dividers), I think they map to Class/Order/Family, but we could just as easily have a set of icons for Monster Type: Undead/Aberration/Dragonkind, or other types of Monster classification icons (maybe solitary/group, treasure type?, etc). Next is a nifty line illustration of the type of terrain it’s typically found in (especially relevant for Overland Encounters, but a “Dungeon” terrain could exist) which was also used for organizing the cards, and a map with the geographic region. This format seems pretty pilferable (insert your fantasy world hex-map over the Mercator projection, with hexes highlighted). I believe the color of the top bar also was different depending on the climate the animal preferred.

On the back, we have two columns of information (monster fluff goes here, ecology, etc), and a lovely little table at the bottom with some additional interesting information (this might have varied a bit from critter to critter). I think a stat-block could easily fit in here, or maybe keep some of this box (the measurements are neat, and gestation information is woefully under-represented, other “fun facts” could also be presented here, I am a sucker for having any collective nouns/terms of venery at the ready for instance) and reduce the amount of text in the information/ecology section to add another few rows for simple, broadly compatible stats.

The card format could be useful for quickly building a “deck” for random encounters within a region/terrain/climate to have the monster statistics and relevant information handy, not necessarily as a generator (frequency isn’t really represented here), but as reference with all the necessary information in one place and a quick way to locate/re-file the monsters as necessary.

Just another idle idea. Perhaps I might eventually find the time to create some templates or example cards for this.


  1. I had these and loved them so much. This is such an awesome idea.

  2. I kind of like the idea of having different encounter "decks" for different regions. It looks like you could get 4 of them on a page?

  3. I had these!!
    I think these are why I collect monster manuals now...



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