Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rulebook art?

What is the minimum necessary amount of art for an rpg rulebook? I know that (with the notable exception of the original "little black book" edition of Traveller) rpg rulebooks have traditionally included a lot of illustrations, and that certain types of products (bestiaries, adventures with scene-setting illustrations intended to be shown to the players, products aimed at beginners who aren't necessarily familiar with the genre and its tropes) need illustrations, but is this also true for a "standard" rulebook aimed at experienced players containing "crunch" info on classes, spells, magic items, and procedural stuff? Other than making the book more attractive to look at, are "filler" illustrations that just exist to set a mood (and fill white space) and aren't depicting anything practical really needed?

This isn't just idle navel-gazing, since I'm working on a product for publication that I am not capable of illustrating myself (at least up to a standard I would consider acceptable) so I'm trying to gauge how much art I'm going to end up having to buy (or beg) for this thing. A cover illustration is surely necessary, but what about the interior? RPG audiences are accustomed to seeing an illustration at least every 3-4 pages because that's what we've been given for the past 45 years, but if a book doesn't include that would it necessarily be seen as incomplete and unprofessional? Do I need little pictures of adventurer-types rappelling on cliffs in my section on wilderness adventuring, or a guy strumming a lute in the section on bard spells? And if I do need to include some interior illustrations, what is the minimum acceptable amount? Would 3 or 4 illustrations in a 128 page book be sufficient or if I'm going to have that few would I be just as well off not having any at all?

On the one hand I'd obviously prefer not to sink all of my potential dozens of dollars of profit (and more) into art, and I especially don't want to feel obligated to buy or accept a bunch of low-quality art because it's the only stuff I can afford, but on the other hand I think the text of this book is of high quasi-professional quality, and I'd like the presentation to be at a similar level if possible. If I'm going to expect people to pay real money for this then they should feel like their money was well spent, and I'm trying to get a sense of how important interior illustrations are to that determination.

I'm wondering how my 12 (!) readers feel about this. Given that a lot of good art isn't an option, what are folks' preferences between (a) no interior art at all; (b) a couple-three pieces of interior art; or (c) the book must be fully illustrated, even if the illustrations are of amateur quality?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Heroic Legendarium

Most of the 11 readers of this blog are probably familiar with the "AD&D Companion," the book of uncollected AD&D material by Gary Gygax (mostly from Dragon magazine) + original material I wrote based on or inspired by Gary's unrealized ideas and post-TSR games, that I compiled a few years ago and distributed as a pdf. I put a lot of work into that document and was pretty proud of it, but due to the nature of its contents was always leery of distributing it too widely lest I invite a Cease & Desist Letter from Wizards of the Coast or the Gygax Estate, or both.

Those same 11 readers may also remember that there was some D&D rules content on this blog (some new races, spells, monsters, magic items, etc.) that is no longer here. The two are related.

A couple months ago I began revising the Companion to remove all of the content that was directly copied from a prior source - in some cases adapting it, in other cases leaving it on the cutting room floor - as well as editing the whole thing to become OGL-compatible via OSRIC, which consisted mostly of changing references from "DM" to "GM" and not referring to AD&D or any of its rulebooks by name, but also of substituting out a few other "protected IP" terms - such as names of particular off-limits monsters, planes, locations, and characters. [A key point worth mentioning here is that in those cases where the OSRIC rules differ from AD&D - either through that work's editors' legal caution or personal preferences - I have not adapted my work to their standards and in particular have not adapted any of the alternate/substitute versions of AD&D classes found in Dangerous Dungeons (though I have pulled some names of monsters and planes from there).] Doing all of that left about 2/3 of the material from the Companion - those parts I wrote or adapted myself - all safely OGL compliant. From there I started plugging in new material I'd written since the Companion was released, as well as revising and updating the contents to reflect a couple years of additional playtesting and feedback. Some of this material has previously been posted here, but much of it is new.

That effort is still ongoing (a lot of new material exists only in rough-draft or outline form and still needs to be expanded and polished) but I'm making good progress and it seems likely at this point that within a couple of months I will have a document at least the size of the original Companion (if not larger) that consists entirely of original content - some of it adapted from other games, the rest of it original to me, but inspired by the spirit and flavor of Gary Gygax's AD&D. I'm calling this new version The Heroic Legendarium (because I obviously can't use its old name) and I think it's going to be very useful to anyone who plays AD&D or OSRIC in the manner of the original Gary Gygax-penned rules and adventures - that it really will feel like something TSR might have put out had Gary remained in control and the company not shifted directions creatively, a way for those of us who still hold onto and prefer that original creative vision to continue in that direction rather than remaining frozen in amber.

A few items from the old version are gone (Roger Moore's very long and boring article from Dragon magazine about the Astral Plane has been deleted and adapted into 2-3 paragraphs of useful info, the monsters and magic items collected from TSR's 1984-85 modules are no longer included, and neither is the Hunter class) but I feel the new material that's been added in their place all still captures the same spirit more than makes up the difference. I'm also declaring everything in the book to be "OSRIC Reference Content," so that any other OSRIC-licensed product may use and refer back to it: if someone writing an OSRIC adventure wants to use one of the classes, races, monsters, magic items, or anything else from this book they will be able to. I'm probably kidding myself about the likelihood of anyone actually doing so, but it seems kind of cool that they'll at least have the option to.

The downside (for you, not for me) is that now that I will no longer under the cloud of potential C&Ds, I'm no longer going to give it away for free - it will go up on one or more web-stores (as pdf and/or POD) and I too may get to live the dream of earning dozens of dollars as an rpg publisher. I don't have an estimated release date yet because I'm still working on the text (and haven't even begun to tackle the subsequent challenges of transforming that text into a credible publishable product) but I've made sufficient progress, and am sufficiently excited, that I wanted to share this update with all 11 of you, to let you know what I've been up to during the last few months and what's to come in the future. I hope you'll stay tuned!