23 February, 2018

On the Publishing of Rules

You walk into your friendly local gaming store (FLGS) and look at the new expansion book(s) for your game of choice... or maybe you're a story gamer and you heard great things about this new game, that does "this awesome thing"... or maybe you're an OSR type and you decide to look at a product that does one thong a bit differently to everything else, or introduces a new character type...

...but then you look at your book of choice, and the bit that interests you is a single page, maybe two or three...half a dozen if you're lucky. In standard publishing, the book has a page count with a multiple of 16 pages, so your typical story-game or OSR supplement might be 32, 64, or 96 pages, and your typical mainstream supplement might be 160 or 240 pages. In some instances there might be an additional rule idea hidden in the pages that proves valuable, and maybe a decent chunk of the book is dedicated to a scenario that you might play once, only to find that your players go off the rails, and suddenly half of the scenario is useless. Perhaps you'll cannibalize elements of the scenario, feeding it into sessions over the next six months. Maybe there's evocative artwork scattered through it (or maybe the artwork is rubbish, and if you dare to post that in forums you get an "Emperor's New Clothes" effect where people just tell you that you're not edgy enough to get it). Either way, you have to consider whether you'll buy the whole book for the fraction you'll end up using, read the bit you need and try to remember it for later (then put the book back on the shelf), find a pdf torrent of the book, or just ignore it completely.

While I don't have a computer remotely adequate for page layout work, I've been thinking about the structure for any rule supplements for The Law. The original book was meant to be published like a comic book, with stapled pages, but at 32 pages most POD companies produce perfect bound booklets. So, my 32 page plans have dropped to 24. I've been thinking over the last few weeks that this is problematic because I've been writing chunks of rules that will be laid out with images into 14-18 pages (some of the smaller ones were 8-12 pages). The intention was to add two big ideas or three small ideas relating to a specific theme, then pad out any difference with new NPCs or story hooks that used these concepts.

..Pretty standard fare for an RPG supplement.

Then, this morning, I started thinking about my original idea for supplements for The Eighth Sea, over a decade ago. A single new rule, a single new environment where that rule is embedded, a couple of NPCs, and a story hook. The Law could easily follow a similar structure. Instead of 2 or 3 new rules, these supplements are deliberately focused on one...maybe for those 8-10 page elements we can squeeze in two, if they are specifically interconnected.

The whole idea is that someone only buys the rules they want and need. A bit like buying single songs rather than a whole album. I'm sure other people have had this idea in the past, but it just felt like a good way to move forward with this project.

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