Friday, December 18, 2009

two from Jamie Mal

As usual there's been some good stuff over at Grognardia this week. I wanted to respond to two of them very briefly.
  • Although I'm one of the guys that idolizes the '81 Basic D&D rules, I think holding up the 64 page book as a standard or ideal may be an error. If we need a gold standard (and I'm not sure we do) then I want to offer up digest-sized stapled booklets in the 24 to 48 page range as an alternative. Drop a little money on a long-necked stapler and suddenly ordinary printer paper and cardstock can turn ideas into cheap and easily portable gamebooks.
  • Jamie Mal's retrospective of Star Frontiers reminded me of one of my favorite parts of the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks ship-to-ship rules: The hit location chart included the possibility of a fire onboard your vessel. As long as the conflagration continued you rerolled on the damage chart each round to see what other parts of your ship burned down. More spaceship games should include that. Being on fire in the real world is not fun. Being on fire in a game? Hilarious.


  1. I want to offer up digest-sized stapled booklets in the 24 to 48 page range as an alternative

    I agree. I like that format as well.

  2. To be fair, I did say that 64 pages was my "limit," not that it was my ideal. I prefer 48 pages or thereabouts myself and, for some things, I can be convinced to go as high as 96 pages, but, generally speaking, anything more than 64 pages strains at my attention these days.

  3. I'm in total agreement regarding digest sized booklets, they're so practical for consultation when gaming.

  4. My preferred standard is "make it only as long as it needs to be." I detest padding (both in writing and in page layout) but there's definitely no way to reduce it to a formula. Risus is a six-page game and if it were 8 pages it'd be bloated. The Risus Companion, on the other hand, needs to be 32 pages and if it were 64 it would be bloated. Things just need to be what they are.

    That said, I realize that neither you nor Jamie Mal are actually crying out for some kind of hard-and-fast rule, and I certainly agree (obviously) that leaner tends to be better.

    That said, if FFE comes in at under 350 pages I'll be shocked. But that's what it needs :)

    [The FFE _rules_ will weigh in at 64 pages or less ... the rest is resource material for the players and GM, an all-in-one library of sourcebooks and modules, basically]

    What bothers me the most these days are 300 page rulebooks with only enough text in them to fairly fill 128 pages. So much padding in the layout these days, just to justify making the books more expensive and faux-substantial.

  5. Oh, also: you guys probably already know this but it's worth noting for historical context: there is exactly one reason why digest-sized rulebooks, once in common fashion, died utterly, and that is display racks. Most cheap display racks used by comic shops and game stores are either specifically designed to display comics (which is why some games experiment with that format) or are actuall built to display magazines. Digest-sized books get lost in those, falling down behind the fake boards and peeking out just at the their tops, and sadly this and only this was responsible for games that had been determinedly digest-sized (like Traveller and Car Wars) for abandoning that format.

    These days, with the Internet and the joys of a long-reach stapler, it need no longer be a concern.

  6. The Warhammer 40k starship combat game Battlefleet Gothic, at least in its earliest incarnation (no idea about more recent stuff) had almost that exact same rule, with regard to fire. Of course, in that game, small escort ships are the same size as a Star Wars star destroyer... so having a fire consume whole decks isn't as big a deal.

  7. I'm going to start coming across like I work for them because I keep mentioning this, but it's only because I'm running a game in the new year and it's on my mind; the new Rogue Trader also has similar rules for fires and stuff like that. Indeed it's one of the suggested things party members who don't have piloting/shooting/boarding skills can do to contribute in a space battle. But then RT's space combat rules are descended from Battlefleet Gothic, so it's not too surprising to see them in there.

  8. I wouldnt put hard and fast page number limits on rules, rather Id focus on a "just enough to cover the rules needed". For example 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars is 98 (or 99)pages but it provides full rules, a thin but workable setting and enough tips to get a GM new to the game and its mechanics up and running. On the other hand my favorite Classic D&D ruleset is actually the Rules Cyclopedia, as its a one book solution. I admit that the digest size is really nice, but I prefer simplifying what I need to grab when I cam. Now if you know a way to do a thicker Digest or carry all the digests to cover, say the 3 OD&D books along with the first 2 supplements and a booklet for the setting, in one handy setup Im all ears