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Prak
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:54 am    Post subject: Book Layouts Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So far as I can tell, we don't have a specific thread about organizing and laying out an RPG book.

I know that every system has its own idiosyncrasies based on what the writers think is important/the proper way to make your character, but I'm curious what people here think is the proper way to lay out an RPG book, and specifically a D&D-type RPG book.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Page 1: Copyright Information
Page 2: Table of Contents
Page 3: What Is Roleplaying?
Page 4: A basic description of the core mechanics of your game.

After that, it's all up in the air. There's nothing wrong with starting page five with a piece of genre fiction or some setting backstory or just getting directly into chargen. But the first four pages are fixed.

-Frank
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Don't forget an index at the end, and if at all possible, a fairly comprehensive index. SJ Games does fairly good indices, while WotC's tend to terrible. ie, the index for WotC's Gamma World 7e (a several hundred page rulebook) is shorter and less entries than the index for GURPS Henchmen (a 41 page reference guide to creating minions).

Other things:
* 2 column format seems to work best.
* Don't use sidebars, but break-out boxes for optional rules or background details that don't flow in the main text seems to work well.
* I think setting overview, quick introduction to game mechanics, character creation, specifics of game mechanics, beastiary seems to work as the conceptual order of the game but Frank's right that it isn't a fixed thing.
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Voss
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Coherently. Starfinder actively pisses me off for being a fucking snipe hunt.

Class and race chapters are easy (you'd think. Starfinder has two of the latter). But mechanics really need to be fucking organized, and related things shouldn't ever be dribbled all over the book.

For example: grenades don't have the 'thrown' special property, so don't use the rules for thrown weapons (except for the part where you use str for the attack roll rather than dex). Despite the thrown property being for weapons that must be thrown, and the grenade entry describing them as thrown weapons.

But anyway, to throw a grenade you need the weapon chart on page 178, the general grenade entry on page 183 (because that is the only place to find the reflex DC for grenades- it isn't in the chart), the explode property on 181 to find out how it works, 245 for how ranged attacks with thrown weapons work (you make grenade attacks with strength (probably) but the DC is set by Dex and item level), as well as how to target a grid intersection like p 181 says you have to.

The index will point you to 245 for general ranged attacks, but for everything else, you have to hunt it down by hand (and/or know they exist), because none of these parts reference each other.

Assuming you want to use grenades in starfinder at all, because, surprise, they're a money trap and don't scale for shit.


Last edited by Voss on Sun Jan 28, 2018 6:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

When designing a reference book, there are three things to consider

1)Searchability
2)Readability
3)Cost

This is true for all reference books, not just RPG books.

How easy is it for readers to find the information that they want, how easy is it for them to digest that information once they find it, and how much will you have to pay the printer.

1) and 2) are fundamentally at odds with 3.


Adding white space to make your book more readable increases page count, which increases cost. Color coding your pages to make finding things easier requires you to pay for color printing on every page, again, increasing cost. This is a fine balancing act, and the best layout depends entirely on your budget and how much information you have to convey. If you have to increase your word density by eliminating double line breaks, that would be goddamn terrible, but it's better than not being able to print the book. There are many formating techniques that can be used to increase information density, increase readability, increase searchability, but all of these have tradeoffs.

But we also have to ask if you're making a physical book or an ebook, because that's a world of difference.

Most RPG publishers format their ebooks exactly the same as their print books. At first they did this because they were cheap and lazy, and so just published their PDF-format print proofs as is, with maybe a hyperlinked ToC added on as an afterthought.

This is bullshit.

This is complete and total bullshit.


An Ebook doesn't have the same tradeoffs as a physical book. It gives you the ability to massively improve both readability and searchability for no costs beyond that of your editor's time. And while your editor's time is valuable, it's not that expensive.

We live in a world where I should just be able to ask "Alexa, how many Hit Dice does a Flumph have?" and get an accurate answer from the helpful lady who lives inside my tablet. But no, she's not sure. That is unacceptable. That is completely and totally unacceptable.


Last edited by hyzmarca on Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Page layout is a different beast entirely from book layout. Most RPG books are overszed compared to trade paperbacks, and the wide pages are amenabe to a two-column format, which is also very handy for including little sidebars and the like.
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Koumei
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Page 3: What Is Roleplaying?


When you're not one of the leading horses in the field, do you even need that? Wouldn't it be better, that early in the book, to start with "Why should I play this game instead of something else on the same shelf?" or some other kind of "You've picked it up, here's the selling point"?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:
FrankTrollman wrote:
Page 3: What Is Roleplaying?


When you're not one of the leading horses in the field, do you even need that? Wouldn't it be better, that early in the book, to start with "Why should I play this game instead of something else on the same shelf?" or some other kind of "You've picked it up, here's the selling point"?


Considering that valid definitions of role playing games include:
    The MC tells you a story in the second person.
    A tactical wargame where people extemporize dialog.
    People hitting each other with sticks in the back yard.
    Cops and Robbers with a conflict resolution system.
    Someone dresses up as a sexy flight attendant.
    A cooperative improv storytelling experience.

And honestly a whole lot more, when an indy rpg comes out, their mission statement of what they think roleplaying is about is probably more important than their elevator pitch of what their specific game is about.

-Frank
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Koumei
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Actually I suppose that's fair. You're not teaching a new concept to someone wandering in off the street with no idea of games, you're telling them how you think it's suppose to work.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The 'Wat is Roleplaying' sections on pretty much every non DnD rpg from the eighties were a complete waste of space. When I was a kid, that was a page you skipped. However, since the nineties we have seen the rise of rpgs that genuinely aren't DnD hacks, and because of that discussions of fundamental game structure are now important to have.

-Frank
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Going back a step, what about the way the game was organised in books? I mean, you have systems where everything is in one book, or you have 1 or 2 core rulebooks and loads of add ons or other ways of doing it. Though, beyond losing the "what is roleplaying" being repeated in each book after the first, not sure how that would effect layouts of each individual book.
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kzt
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A pet peeve with Shadowrun was that they put in new rules options and capabilities that basically rewrote the entire magic, computer or combat section, but would never just print up a "here's how combat works now, ignore all the rules in book 1 chapter X" thing. Which I really wish they would do.

I may be the only person in the world that wanted that...


Last edited by kzt on Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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erik
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
Going back a step, what about the way the game was organised in books? I mean, you have systems where everything is in one book, or you have 1 or 2 core rulebooks and loads of add ons or other ways of doing it. Though, beyond losing the "what is roleplaying" being repeated in each book after the first, not sure how that would effect layouts of each individual book.


Unless you are a big name then I’d expect the first book to contain enough to use for gaming on its own. All core areas could covered in one.

You only get to split up core material into multiple books when you can expect that people will buy more than just one book.

Exception: If your product is freeware then you can have a higher expectation of people getting multiple e-books/PDFs.

As for losing “wat is role playing” introduction from each book. It is still a good idea to explain “wat is this book”. Mostly what is contained and how it is intended to be used.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I usually do something like this with my 'what is an RPG' sections:

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I'm not fully satisfied with the actual "what is an RPG" text for that one, specifically, though.
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

kzt wrote:
A pet peeve with Shadowrun was that they put in new rules options and capabilities that basically rewrote the entire magic, computer or combat section, but would never just print up a "here's how combat works now, ignore all the rules in book 1 chapter X" thing. Which I really wish they would do.

I may be the only person in the world that wanted that...


When I started extensively house-ruling Shadowrun, I found the constant cross-lookups to be so bad that I eventually tore all the text out of the relevant rulebooks, reformatted it semi-sensibly, and pulled my house-rules inline with the text for my own PDFs.

When the rewrites get extensive enough, I think it does make sense to present the rules as they are now in the main section, with an appendix at the back calling out the specific changes.
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K
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm kind of torn about setting material.

WotC produced tons of books that were basically just history books. There was very little material that you would end up using in any particular campaign in most Forgotten Realms books, for example.

The core books had almost no setting material. The DMG itself had only sparse information on how to build your own towns and NPCs and adventures.

Has there ever been a game that told someone explicitly how to build an adventure? Something that wasn't more than a brief set of guidelines.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

K wrote:
Has there ever been a game that told someone explicitly how to build an adventure? Something that wasn't more than a brief set of guidelines.


Well, Bear World games tell you how to build an adventure, but it's super bullshit. Dogs in the Vinyard tells you exactly how to build an adventure, but the game basically only tells the one story, so whatever. Similarly, Orpheus was very structured and only told the one story and they did tell you how to tell that one story.

Champions and Feng Shui both have reasonably good descriptions of how to create adventures, but those games are literally series of setpiece encounters held together with genre tropes and mind caulk.

I can't recall a game that meaningfully allowed you to tell a lot of stories and let the players meaningfully escape from the rails and gave the MC a decent set of adventure building tools. Generally games that give structured examples of how to build an adventure are also railroad as hell. I can't really think of a counterexample.

-Frank
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The original Red Box Basic D&D sets (Moldavy or Metzer) gave pretty solid, step-by-step, adventure creation guidelines for simple dungeon crawls. They're not good for much more than reproducing Keep on the Borderlands or something similar, though.

Paranoia 2nd edition (the WEG box set) also has pretty good creation guidelines that can probably reproduce adventures similar to the more conventional, published, 2nd edition adventures. That's a fairly large space, but it's still limited to Paranoia type adventures.

Glancing over my library, I think those two are the best adventure guidelines. Everything else is noticeably worse. The GURPS specialty sub-lines (Dungeon Fantasy: Dungeons, Action: Exploits, Monster Hunters: the Mission, and After the End: the New World) give a lot of advice for building and running an appropriate adventure for each genre, but the GM still has to fill in a lot of parts from experience and guesswork
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Grek
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
I can't recall a game that meaningfully allowed you to tell a lot of stories and let the players meaningfully escape from the rails and gave the MC a decent set of adventure building tools. Generally games that give structured examples of how to build an adventure are also railroad as hell. I can't really think of a counterexample.


I'm going to go with Broken Worlds. It takes the PbtA base system, attempts to patch the more glaring issues with the system, and then uses the result to tell stories set in the universe of Kill Six Billion Demons. It doesn't manage to fix all (or even most) of the problems with PbtA, but it's a breath of fresh air in terms of layout and actually explaining to the DM how to make a good adventure. It's also fairly illustrative what parts of Bear World are inherent to the system itself and which parts would be perfectly fine with writer other than Vince Baker making it.

I should do a review.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I like having mechanics and setting separate in a book as it makes looking up rules faster, though flavor text like on an MtG card in mechanics sections is pleasant.

Half of the book be flavor/story/setting with scenic artwork and one page manga action, short stories that have characters doing things the mechanics are capable of supporting. Maybe a rule that all short stories happened in a play test game. Then the other half is rules of playing the game.

Mechanics wise, introduce the gameplay mechanics first. Character creation/class/spell lists is last as that requires an understanding of everything else to properly do.

also I’d maintain an up to date character generator my website and as an app.


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Grek
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Character generator programs are stupid and bad. The second the DM changes anything related to character creation (be it a house rule, a custom race for their homebrew setting, a custom prestige class) your character generator breaks.
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But more importantly if you elevate jerkishness into a principle, if you try to undermine the rules that keep niceness, community, and civilization going, the defenses against social cancer – then your movement will fracture, it will be hugely embarrassing, the atmosphere will become toxic, unpopular people will be thrown to the mob, everyone but the thickest-skinned will bow out, and the people you need to convince will view you with a mixture of terror and loathing.
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nockermensch
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Grek wrote:
Character generator programs are stupid and bad. The second the DM changes anything related to character creation (be it a house rule, a custom race for their homebrew setting, a custom prestige class) your character generator breaks.

So, non-moddable character generator programs are stupid and bad.
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erik
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

nockermensch wrote:
Grek wrote:
Character generator programs are stupid and bad. The second the DM changes anything related to character creation (be it a house rule, a custom race for their homebrew setting, a custom prestige class) your character generator breaks.

So, non-moddable character generator programs are stupid and bad.


I’d be less charitable. Why do screwdrivers suck so bad at hammering in nails? Stupid bad screwdrivers!
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Grek
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

nockermensch wrote:
Grek wrote:
Character generator programs are stupid and bad. The second the DM changes anything related to character creation (be it a house rule, a custom race for their homebrew setting, a custom prestige class) your character generator breaks.

So, non-moddable character generator programs are stupid and bad.

I have never seen a character generator which was appropriately moddable. I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but I am not holding my breath given the current crop of RPG designers.
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But more importantly if you elevate jerkishness into a principle, if you try to undermine the rules that keep niceness, community, and civilization going, the defenses against social cancer – then your movement will fracture, it will be hugely embarrassing, the atmosphere will become toxic, unpopular people will be thrown to the mob, everyone but the thickest-skinned will bow out, and the people you need to convince will view you with a mixture of terror and loathing.
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virgil
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I was able to handle quite the range of house-rules on Shadowrun through Chummer - even if it wasn't made by the game company.
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