Layout and Design: Character Template for Demon Hunters

template-v1One of the things I’ve been slowly working on recently has been a single page character sheet for Demon Hunters inspired by the work of Hyvemynd with their Fate Accelerated Fantasy characters. I’ve been doing a little here and there, interspaced with having to learn more about how scribus works, mostly through trial and error. I’m never going to be a layout professional but I hope that once I’ve created a template then I’ll be able to start releasing more material on a semi-regular basis. Yes, in addition to the adventure starters I have underway. And the larger adventures. And Project Cassandra, which no, I’ve not forgotten about.

The first draft of the template is pretty much done, using only filler aspects and text for now. I’m happy with it but know there are issues. Firstly the space on the right needs to be used better, right now too much of it is comprised of text frames. Second I’ve yet to add boxes for conditions. Third, general spacing especially for stunts.

Overall though it works. This draft is designed for full characters but it should be easier to remove elements for minions and mobs than to add them back in.

Advertisements

RPGaDay 23rd August

23rd) Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

My immediate thought is Technoir, it really excels at having a minimalist future vibe that is clear, concise and easy to read. Those last aspects are particularly important due to nature of the information RPG books have to convey but where Technoir excels is that it achieves this while maintaining an appearance that suits the genre. Many books will lean heavily on one aspect over the other and at the moment there does appear to be a push towards more graphically complex books that lose clarity and readability. I’m of the opinion that this is partially down to the multi-facetted role that game books have.

tn-pageAt the simplest level they have to convey the rules of the game, in a manner that is logical and clear. Fate Core is a prime example of a game that achieves this, with a heavy lean towards the technical. It clearly lays out the mechanics of the rules in an unambiguous but also rather flavourless manner. The book is also well indexed and easy to flick through when double checking individual rules / aspects/

Which leads me on to what I consider the second level of game book design, enjoyability. Regardless of whether or not it impacts on playing a game I’m of the opinion that a game book should be enjoyable to read. Fate Core is an example here of where the writing puts me off, the first time I read the game I found it a slog, to the point that it put me off the system. The interesting contrast? I’d previously read the original Dresden Files RPG and really liked it, the style of that book helped me learn Fate because I was enjoying reading it. That game sacrifices a lot at the base level of clarity due to being heavy on the visual aspects of layout so I think somewhere inbetween is best. Amongst the Fate material I’ve read Atomic Robo probably achieves the best balance of clarity and enjoyability.

The final layer for me is inspiration. How well does the game get me to want to run it. A lot of this comes down to the writing and its ability to convey setting information (generally I’m not a massive fan of setting neutral systems) but the visual presentation also plays a part. I know there may be the argument of ‘well I can already use my imagination’ but to me that doesn’t really work. Just because I can imagine it doesn’t mean I will do so in the way that the designer intended. Having those visual elements is, therefore, important to me though once again it is possible to overdo them. It’s all about the balance.

Project Cassandra: Reorganisation and example of play

‚ÄčNovember is fast approaching and along with it my target deadline of finishing Project Cassandra by the time if the US presidential elections. That’s not likely to happen now, mostly as I want to reorder a couple of sections and expand on some others. On the plus side I think I now have all the artwork that I want to use so the new aim is for the start of December, just in time for Dragonmeet in London.

One of the sections that I’ve decided to add is a small example of play, the first draft of which is included below. I’ve tried to highlight the basics without going too long or too detailed though it still needs a bit of work.

The following gives an example of play. Dahlia Sarsin (played by Kate) and Keith Tanaka (played by Richard) are just leaving a small diner off of the highway, having convinced the Russian defector Sergi that they mean him no harm. Sam, the GM frames the scene.

Sam: You know trouble is brewing the moment you step out of the diner, there’s a man in a gray suit waiting for you by your car. He motions to you, his intent clear: Step this way. What do you do?

Richard: I’m unarmed so I nod and slowly start walking forwards, trying to get a parked car between us. 

[Tanaka, whispering] “I hope you’ve got a plan Sarsin.”

Kate: This is too simple, something’s wrong. I take a proper look around the lot to get a feel for the situation.

Sam: Think that’ll need a roll, with a difficulty of 4.

Kate: Ok, I’m using my Secret Service skill group and have surveillance, security and threat assessment which gives me a skill level of 3. [Rolls] Damn, only 2 successes. I’ll spend a  premonition to reroll it. [Rolls] Not much better, 3 successes and I think I need to save my premonitions for now. Oh, I’ll tag Angry and raise it to 4, I should have seen an ambush like this coming.

Sam: Ok. You spot her at the last moment, lying on the roof of a truck with a rifle. Her first shot whips past your shoulder, next to you Sergi freezes in panic. Tanaka – you’re almost at the car when you hear the gunshot, do you keep walking forward?

Richard: No, I’m going to dive into cover then I want to spend premonitions to make Sergi intangible before he gets himself killed. Sarsin should be able to look after herself for now.

Sam: The car just in front of you will provide cover but you’re having to react pretty quickly to all this‚Ķ lets make it 3 premonitions to activate your power in time.

Richard: Ok, so as the would be assassin makes her next shot Sergi turns slightly translucent and the bullets whiz through him, shattering the glass of the door to the diner. Screams erupt from inside.

Sam: I like it. In the commotion the two men by your car duck into cover, drawing pistols as they do so. What do you want to do next?

Kate, looking at her knowledges: This is a truck stop right? I know all about weapons, including that the sort of person who drives that 18 wheeler in the corner is going to have a shotgun in the cab. I make a run for it, cover be damned.

The Reset Conspiracy

One of the things about learning how to layout and produce a game as I go along is that every so often I come across a rather major issue that forces a rest on a particular aspect of the game. This time? The font. I mentioned this particular issue in the last update, that the text of the gag ghee wasn’t rendering correctly in certain versions of acrobat and having spoken to Adobe tech support it appears that this is due to a bug with that version of the software. A bug that they have no immediate plans to rectify and which means I need to find a replacement font for Project Cassandra.

Hopefully this shouldn’t be too big of a challenge, typewriter style fonts are fairly common but this time around I’ll be testing the output in a variety of formats before I layout the main document. Right now I can’t afford an Acrobat Pro subscription so testing it with that is, unfortunately, off the table at the moment. All in all this is one of those annoying but not too critical bugs. It would have been a different story if I’d already published the game but for once it seems like I’ve rolled a twenty on that spot check.

Edit 1: Actually ignore all that, as it seems to be an issue with multiple fonts, possibly even all of them. Next stop – getting in touch with the Scribus community and seeing if I can find anybody with access to Acrobat Pro to run the file through the preflight tools. Hopefully that will solve it. Meanwhile if you have any experience with this sort of thing then any ideas / suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Edit 2: Ok, so looks like it is an issue with embedding font, subsetting works fine. Progress of a sort but not sure why the two differ in their output.

State of the Conspiracy: Character Layout

One of the areas of Project Cassandra I’ve always been unhappy with is the layout and presentation of the game. While I’ve always liked the typewriter style font I’ve been using the document as a whole has always looked like something thrown together in word, for the obvious reason that it was. Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly learning how to use Scribus, a desktop publishing program that is available for free. I made the mistake of assuming it would be similar enough to word and dove right into it, trying the layout the entire game all at once. Suffice to say that didn’t really work so my focus of the last few days has been on laying out the character sheets, the initial result of which you can see below.

Character sheet comparison

The new sheet, on the right, is a vast improvement on the old one. It makes much better use of the space, with the individual sections more clearly defined than before. Most of all it feels (to me) like it is closer to something you’d find in a published RPG. There are, obviously, still aspects that need work with spacing being the main one. That’s something I’ll properly address once I have the character art in place, as I want be sure of the final dimensions of those images.

Speaking of art…

Something that drastically improved the look of the character sheet was the inclusion of some proper artwork. The piece included in the new sheet is stock art created by JEShields (who also has an RPG art Patreon here) and can be purchased from on drivethruRPG. Eventually this will be moved to within the main rules and replaced with artwork commissioned specifically for Project Cassandra, again drawn by JEShields. The first piece, of intrepid reporter Samantha Dawes, is already underway with the rest to follow once funds allow.