If not Books?


I have been a vocal detractor of the book as a way to facilitate RPG rules and play. So, if I don’t use books how do I do it?

Some content leaves the book and becomes components like cards that feature the setting, items, or character building. These work great for things where you have many variants of the same kind of information. I have written about these examples before.

What about the process of gameplay and it’s driving systems? The sort of content that is in a boardgame’s rulebook. Should that still be in a book? Traditionally yes it would be in a book, but I would say even this information needs to be something else.

Systems in use are not liner, but learning a system is a liner process. There is a struggle between what order a game’s rules are best introduced for teaching and how the rules are formatted for reference during play. Most rulebooks attempt to serve both masters and suffer dearly for it.

To start playing a game you need an overview of how everything works, not the details. The details are best learned as the game reaches those stages of play. However referencing a document formatted this way makes it difficult to find any particular rule. the rule you need may be in the overview, the details, components listing? Even the way reference and instruction are written is drastically different.

There are some exciting games that prove there are good ways to avoid this conflict.

“Risk (revised edition)” has a stunning rules presentation. using a folder with a few tabbed rules sheets. each sheet covers a system in the game, set up, attacking, reinforcement, and such. The sheets are used in order to teach a game but thanks to the format can be pulled from the folder to quickly reference any rule in the system. this is a great way to present a game’s rules and aid in teaching new players.

Even better is the game “Legends of Andor” including an interactive teaching process that is entirely separate from the reference. One sheet guides the first few games, the other has the rules formatted for easy reference.

Another interesting route is what Fantasy Flight has been doing with their game play videos. These videos introduce the player to the game but do not teach all the rules. you can watch a few short videos and then start playing, referencing the rulebook to find the specifics. If they adapted the rulebook to function as a reference only they could do some very slick work.

A major road block i hit with 0hunters was when i tried to write a rulebook. I failed to remember these lessons. will be starting up development of this game again, by making a rules folder. expanding the presentation method used in my demo process and maybe making a video.


3 responses to “If not Books?

  1. None of your examples are RPGs. What works for board games does not necessarily work for RPGs.

  2. Hi Shaun thanks for commenting. Do you see potential hang ups for RPGs specifically? I’m interested to know.

  3. oh yes! I remembered something relevant. Early editions of DnD used folders of “Dragon” cards for rule instruction and reference. while I never played through that myself I have listened to an audio play through before and the format sounded great.

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