Bruce Baugh (bruceb) wrote,
Bruce Baugh

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A Thought About Formatting

I've been converting some WoD manuscripts for reading on my handheld—specifically with Instapaper since it handles relatively long documents smoothly. I make the manuscript into very simple HTML, load it up, save it with Instapaper, and then have it to download on the iPod Touch. I suppose I could take a fresh look at some of these in Stanza, too.

My point here, and I do have one, is that in reading the results I'm freshly confirmed in one of my long-standing suspicions: gaming books' layout could be very different without sacrificing much at all in the way of utility.

Consider this, at the tail end of the numbers for a sample character:

Light Pistol: damage 2 (L), size 1, range 20/40/80, clip 17+1, 7 dice

In most game books—like the World of Darkness book that one comes from—that would be presented in a table, and available online in a PDF, which then wouldn't redraw well on an iPhone/iPod (or presumably any other handheld). And yet that listing works just fine without a bunch of tab stops.

Something similar is true of sidebars. Now, I like writing them myself, and I think that used carefully, they can enhance the usefulness of a book in conventional 8x11 size. But they can also be vessels into which one pours sloppy thinking about the organization and flow of the text. I find that I can simply insert the overwhelming majority of sidebars right into the nearby main text and get something that works just fine.

I was a premature anti-fascist e-book enthusiast when I first started thinking about this stuff: a significant gaming population with Palm devices willing and wanting to use them for gaming things other than dice rolling never emerged. But the iPhone market is orders of magnitude greater, and given its superior display and other advantages, people are using it for reading as well as dice rolling and such. I think that whoever first starts routinely putting out material that's a lot more mobile-friendly than the typical PDF is likely to win some lasting audience.

While I'm still creatively slumped from cold and crud, I may try this with something I can publicly distribute that's of a hefty size, like Asia Ascendant, so that I can share the results more fully. Ripping off my publishers just to illustrate would be, well, not so good.
Tags: rpg

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