Author Topic: Rule Formatting  (Read 4357 times)

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Offline Clark

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Rule Formatting
« on: March 25, 2011, 11:41:19 PM »
I've been going through all the existing publications with a view to organizing the compendium I am planning.  Format and organization is an issue that I am confronting as I try to reorganise and in some cases re-write the LOS rules.  So I wanted to turn to the membership (or would that be the LOF, "legions of fans"  :) ) to get their input on what they find most comfortable, practical, intuitive and whathaveyou.

This was not a problem in the LOS publications because the basic rules were basic enough, and the follow-on publications added material in a piecemeal fashion.  We had to confront it directly in PS, so I guess that is where the evaluation can start.

Back in the day, Marco owned all the Squad Leader rules and supplements, while my poison was the complete Doomsday Edition of Star Fleet Battles.  On the one hand, they sufffered from some pretty severe rules-bloat that we wanted to avoid in LOS, but we admired the organization that they imposed on the rule chaos with their numbering systems that would have given Dewey and his decimals an aneurism. In SQ and SFB, the rules were actually designed to be binder-bound so you could remove and insert rules as they became introduced or updated (this is the same way that lawyers update their own "rules" for various fields of law). With a web release, LOS3e will be downloaded and printed, then probably punched and bindered. 

So the first question is: does rules numbering help?

Does it help you find the rule you want or could you find it just as quickly with a good (or better) index or glossary?

How much is too much in terms of updates and errata?  Would a numbered/bindered system  address the issue more efficiently, or can players keep a grip on new material as it becomes available?  How many updates are too many?

Just as an interlude, I wanted to mention the peculiarities of UPVs.  They were updated everytime we had a new publication and I expect that to be the case new material is released, especially the non-powered trooper and vehicle supplement that will not be named after an existing video game company or white supremecist group.  There is a rock-paper-scissor effect with new weapons and circumstances that is engaged everytime you change something.  Until I develop the UUPV system (Ultimate UPV) there will be updates everytime there are new rules or weapon systems are introduced. (And conceptually, I am working on it; tentatively titled KPMV which considers troop allocations among non-powered, powered, and vehicle units, adjusting for unit mobility and cluttered terrain. Anyways, until then, UPVs will keep changing. (And - where are you Tony Lin - that is the subject of another discussion)

On the up side, UPVs are simple to address because the stats for every figure will fit on just a few sheets of paper and that can be posted online for people to download and print out .

So, will a numbering system that makes the rules look more like computer code actually help anyone play the game? Would a reliance on prose and indexing be more useful? 

The second question is about an evaluation of the format that I came up with for Planetstorm: Succinct rule in bold, explanation in standard type and examples (as many as deemed necessary) in italics.  I came up with the idea before I went to law school, but  - surprisingly or not - many legal manuals follow the same format (legal rule in bold, discussion in regular type, and citations of actual legal cases in italics.)

It just seemed so intuitive to me.  Does  anyone have suggestions or comments in this respect?

Offline Clark

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2011, 11:44:01 PM »
I could have edited the above post but I will put the question to you separately:

Would numbering be useful in cataloguing unofficial material like experimental rules, scenarios, conversions and such?
Could it be useful as separate from the official publications?

Offline Scoutzout

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2011, 12:30:12 AM »


So the first question is: does rules numbering help?

Its distracting. Organization and layout is more important

Does it help you find the rule you want or could you find it just as quickly with a good (or better) index or glossary?

Index/Glossary is best with logical grouping of rules

How much is too much in terms of updates and errata?  Would a numbered/bindered system  address the issue more efficiently, or can players keep a grip on new material as it becomes available?  How many updates are too many?

Updates and Errata are best handled online. Most game companies like Infinity carry both an updated errata and a rules system online and available for download


The second question is about an evaluation of the format that I came up with for Planetstorm: Succinct rule in bold, explanation in standard type and examples (as many as deemed necessary) in italics.  I came up with the idea before I went to law school, but  - surprisingly or not - many legal manuals follow the same format (legal rule in bold, discussion in regular type, and citations of actual legal cases in italics.)

100% agree

It just seemed so intuitive to me.  Does  anyone have suggestions or comments in this respect?


Offline sergeant_hastp

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2011, 10:31:12 PM »
I disliked the numbered rules with the decimals etc.

Straight, logical layout works for me, in all cases.

Offline smokingwreckage

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2011, 02:13:55 AM »
I find italics a real pain to read. A well-formatted and well-written example doesn't need continual visual reinforcement of its status as an example.

If I may suggest keeping the basic rules as a separate entity? As I get older I find more and more of my part-time gaming buddies are less and less inclined to even glance at rules that seem intimidating, but are wowed by simple rules.

Offline Kindred

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2011, 08:47:23 AM »
On the other hand, I like the decimal organization and italics exmples.  I actually use hat specific format in the user manuals that I write. My last manual was 300+ pages, and the organization was critical, since the users were both printing it and looking at it on the screen.
Being able to say: go to section 8.1.2, which references stuff we covered in 2.4.1 was really clear and useful

Offline Dave Chase

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2011, 10:51:08 PM »
I liked the numbering system only because it seemed to make it feel more military in a way. But since I was military, I might have a warped view on it.

Index system is needed no matter what format is used. That way those who are not familar with the number system can still find what they need.

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Offline SgtHulka

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2011, 09:38:27 AM »
I very much like the decimal system. GDW/Marc Millar also used it back in the day iirc. It's even more useful now, imho, because a lot of rules discussion happens on forums like this. Partially due to the internet, partially due to the rise of the collectible card game, players are a lot less flexible than they used to be. Well, maybe I should stop projecting and speak for myself...I am a lot less flexible than I used to be. I like to make a hard and fast distinction between official and house rule, and, again, a numbered system helps facilitate that. Finally, as rule books become updated and/or re-printed in new formats, or rules become re-printed in new supplements, the numbered system helps clarify what's new and what's old.

I also love examples, the more the better. Creatively/aesthetically, my favorite examples are ones that both illuminate the rules and provide flavor text for the game. A series of examples that each pick up where the last left off, telling a story while following the adventures of a commando squad or a misfit squad cut off from HQ and penetrating deeper into a machine complex, for example. Personally, I do like examples to be in italics, but I understand if it's hard to read. I do want examples formatted in such a way that they're obviously examples, however. It could just be consistent indenting.

Miniatures gamers love full color photographs of toys in action. That might have been one area where Planetstorm fell down. The color plates were mostly art, not photographs, and the few photographs that it did have were static portraits...there were no awesome shots of minis in lovingly sculpted terrain. This probably isn't so necessary for a pdf style project that isn't designed to compete with the likes of GW or Osprey Publishing, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Offline grendeljd

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2011, 09:43:28 AM »
I think you could get away with having the numbering system there for those who have an affinity for it, so long as the whole thing is couched in solid graphic design. That way you can have numbers present but be more subtle about it, stressing the text layout instead. I certainly think organization of the whole is key.

I have done two tabletop mini's gamebook layouts, & one was a whopping 255 pager [Kindred, you've got me beat with your user manuals, but seriously - it was enormous for a mini's game!]. I was given free reign to assemble all the various components into what I thought flowed together in an accessible manner. I can't recall if it originally had a full decimal / sub-decimal numbering system to it [ala Planetstorm], but I did keep more simplified numbering for broad rules subjects in place. The first half contained rules, the second half contained army backgrounds, unit/figure/weapon/vehicle stats etc all grouped per 'race' as is done in LoS. I then had summary tables, player stat sheets & templates in the very back. I also included tabs on the outer margin of every page for easy reference by flipping to various sections, which you may want to consider. Mine were simple, but if you look at what other games are doing these days, that kind of thing can have strong visual impact on the layout as well.

A thorough Table Of Contents / Index is definitely essential to any book that large [as Planetstorm has].

In those books, I also followed what you've layed out as your basic format - Rule title in bold, description in standard & examples in italics. I got that format from Demian Rose, who likely was influenced by what you did! I took it a step further and made the examples with a separate graphic to help break up the monotony of text on white paper. You can view a demo of the rules portion at;  http://www.mj12games.com/defiance/  The link to a demo pdf is on the right hand side. In fact, I'd be willing to bet you [Clark] could get a free full copy if you talk to Demian, since you are listed in the credits as a playtester :)

Personally, I would never go for a 'punched & bindered' download - though I am fussy. Not to say I wouldn't want a downloadable copy, I would just take it somewhere to get it nicely printed and bound. A lot of companies are doing print-on-demand, which would be the ideal and most appealing way to go - that way you get a pdf copy but also a book gets sent to you in the mail [eventually - it seems some sites are starting to impose minimum quantities of a title being ordered prior to printing off a small run].   

RPGNow.com seems to be a popular site for all things gaming [including mini's rules] that seems to have a good set-up.

As far as updates & errata, I agree with others here that that could be kept to online downloads, unless certain updates became sizeable enough to collect in a separate supplement.

Smoking wreckage may be onto something with the suggestion of keeping rules as a separate download... and then the background as another collected book. That whole short attention span thingie seems to be a prevalent spreading disease, and keeping LoS in smaller doses may help it's appeal factor to a whole new generation of players out there... personally I am ok with one big fat book that has it all, but that's just me.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2011, 09:46:04 AM by grendeljd »
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Offline grendeljd

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2011, 09:55:04 AM »
Creatively/aesthetically, my favorite examples are ones that both illuminate the rules and provide flavor text for the game. A series of examples that each pick up where the last left off, telling a story while following the adventures of a commando squad or a misfit squad cut off from HQ and penetrating deeper into a machine complex, for example. Personally, I do like examples to be in italics, but I understand if it's hard to read. I do want examples formatted in such a way that they're obviously examples, however.

I'm with you on that, SgtHulka - I think some of the examples in the Defiance book were interrelated continued 'stories' where possible. It helps keeps interest up reading through the rules.

Miniatures gamers love full color photographs of toys in action. That might have been one area where Planetstorm fell down. The color plates were mostly art, not photographs, and the few photographs that it did have were static portraits...there were no awesome shots of minis in lovingly sculpted terrain. This probably isn't so necessary for a pdf style project that isn't designed to compete with the likes of GW or Osprey Publishing, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

I liked seeing the colour templates in Planetstorm, but I also found the colour pics of mini's to be dissapointing - many were pixelated and hard to see. You raise a valid point, the lack of model backgrounds on that first page was a detraction as well.

It is much easier to do bold page layouts now than it was then, so I don't think LoS3e should be handled with any less enthusiasm or quality standard than is present in the current modern competition out there.
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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2011, 01:14:16 PM »
I like the idea of having rules with examples together. Those of us that are true geeks and having played many games have no real trouble figuring things out. But if my ten year old son wants to pick up the rules it sure would help him.

I like a numbered system but I don't feel it is as visually attractive as headings and sub headings ect..

Offline YojimboUsaka

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2011, 06:32:58 PM »
I personally like the decimal system.  Works really well when you start adding rules variants and such. 

The bold, plain, italics format for rules is very nice.  Keeps the bare esentials readily findable but the detailed work up right there with it. 

Any more the books have to be 'pretty' to get any kind of mass appeal.  Hard to get anyone really interested when I show them the black and white book with line drawings but once I start pulling out the mini's and terrain things pick up quickly.


Offline Clark

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2011, 07:10:46 PM »
Perhaps we can make a distinction between simpler examples - which could still be in italics but not more than one or two sentences - and narrative examples with named characters, colour commentary and other fluf. These could be in a text box but in a font easier on the eyes than italics.

Another option, which is related, is an extended play example side-by-side with a short story. Several games have done this but the one that stands out for me was the James Bond Role Playing Game.  It is layed out on  letter-size portrait in two columns. The left (or outer) column reads like a short story while the right (or inner) column explains the mechanics, dice rolls and such.  A variation is to have the explanation in a narrative form like you are reading a story about two people playing the game, including their own comments, curses, taunts and such.

Offline YojimboUsaka

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2011, 02:42:46 AM »
I like the narrative of the story with the mechanics explained as it happens.

Gives not only the mechanics of what your rules are trying to do but the effect of those rules in the 'real world' situation.

That and I love a good story.

Chuk

Offline sergeant_hastp

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Re: Rule Formatting
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2011, 07:16:42 AM »

Another option, which is related, is an extended play example side-by-side with a short story. Several games have done this but the one that stands out for me was the James Bond Role Playing Game.  It is layed out on  letter-size portrait in two columns. The left (or outer) column reads like a short story while the right (or inner) column explains the mechanics, dice rolls and such. 

This is great.  I remember that RPG.

Quote
A variation is to have the explanation in a narrative form like you are reading a story about two people playing the game, including their own comments, curses, taunts and such.

This would be patronizingly annoying.