Role-playing design notes

Random notes on the design of Gods & Monsters, and maybe even Men & Supermen if I can remember what I was drinking when I wrote it.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Organizing rulebooks

Jerry Stratton, February 5, 2010

The Greyhawk Grognard is looking at how to organize the various sections of D&D-style rulebooks. OD&D had Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, AD&D reorganized to the Players Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, and the Monster Manual. Why separate the game master book from the player book? Why keep monsters separate as well?

The way I look at it is this: if it’s a rule, it goes in the Rulebook for all players to read. If it’s specialized, it gets its own book. And I like to keep each book that gets used at the table at 120 pages or below and in a format that flattens more easily.

So, I have the Gods & Monsters Rules in their own book; the Arcane Lore magic book, and the Divine Lore prophet book. I separate out spells and spirits because only some of the players need them, and they take up a lot of space. I’m trying to avoid the necessity of looking things up in an index (one of the reasons I’ve avoided even making an index) by keeping each book focused.

I used to make a “big” book available on Lulu1 that combined the Rulebook, Arcane Lore, and Divine Lore. But nobody bought it—including me. At the table I found it more useful to be able to hand the Divine book to the prophet player, the Magic book to the sorceror, and not have them distracted by the rules that they don’t currently need.

There are a couple of oddities, currently. I have skills in the Arcane Lore book because they aren’t big enough to go on their own; I may end up moving them into the main rulebook since they are far more integrated into the rules than they used to be in previous incarnations. Specialties and psychic powers will stay in the Arcane Lorebook because they’re too small to go on their own. It’s all a tradeoff between playability and just plain having too many books lying around.

Joseph also asks, why not combine the monster book with the game masters guide? In my case, it’s because the Encounter Guide is meant to be used at the table, and the Guide’s handbook is not meant to be used at the table. That’s why the Encounter Guide is in the same 9x7 format as the other books, but the Adventure Guide’s Handbook is in a standard 6x9 format. The Guide’s book is meant for casual reading and for reference while creating the adventure rather than as an in-play reference. You should never have to pull out the Adventure Guide’s Handbook while playing the game.

  1. Right now I’ve got very little on Lulu, as I’m in the process of culling unused rules and simplifying the remaining ones.

  1. <- Real character sheets
  2. Level drain ->