Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?
RPG layout has never been something that made my jaw drop, except in the very few instances where it was jaw-droppingly BAD. This is extremely unfair to hard-working editors, but for me – and I think for a lot of people – bad editing and layout gets noticed and good editing and layout simply disappear into the flow of the material, letting the reader read without confusion or struggle. Good editing and layout are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – they organize the flow of ideas into a framework that is easy to follow (or they don’t). Good editing and layout will usually not sell an RPG, but bad editing and layout can certainly tank one.
All that being said, here are some things that I look for in a well-written RPG:
- Table of Contents AND Index: they are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE! Look, I know that a good index is an art form – deciding what topics go in and what topics stay out is something that all game designers should put thought into. But you need both. Table of Contents lays out the outline for the book and gives the reader an outline of what is to come so that they can begin to grasp the overall flow of the work (and as a side note, I hate TOCs that just list “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2” etc. All that tells me is that the damned book has chapters. But I digress). The index allows the reader to look up specific topics that may be partially covered in several places in the book.
- Font – please pick a readable font. Yes, you and your twenty-something friends might be able to read the 6-point font, and it is mildly impressive that you have taught yourself to read wingdings as text. But older, lesser mortals want to read your work too, and you want them to give you money. So put the work in some form of legible text, pretty please?
- Art – hand-drawn pen-and-ink art can be extremely evocative. It’s my preferred form of RPG art (not for me the lavishly illustrated full-color art of Pathfinder and D&D. Give me sketch art any day!). That said, it is generally a bad – a really bad – idea to use sketch art for things that require a detailed examination – like dungeon maps for example. Yes, they look really cool. But arguments about whether the flaming pi/crusher/spike/poison/dehydrator death trap is in a single square of extends into multiple squares can lead to fist fights and back-stab maneuvers. Also, you may like your handwriting, but others may find it less legible when it is converted into a reduced scale print map of your scenario map.
- Organization – character creation stuff should be in the character creation chapter. Skill resolution should be in the game mechanics chapter. World information should be in the world chapter (and yes you can smatter it elsewhere to hold the interest of the readers, but all the important stuff needs to be in the world chapter, and all the rest needs to be put in the index so everyone can find it).
Now I haven’t really answered the question, so let me mention a little game with innovative layout.
Nope. Not going to say another word about it – check it out.