Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Decisions

As my Star Wars compendium continues to shape up, there are several more 'overall' decisions I have made regarding it—things which I may not have stated before. The first decision I had to make was what kind of 'voice' I wanted to write the book with. I have always found it frustrating when gaming books are written in too 'literary' a style. The prime example of this would be several White Wolf books—namely the 'Hunter' series. While I love the overall concept of the game supplement, the execution of it just bored the hell out of me. Every freaking section begins with some short-story (many of which are 'handwritten'- GAH), so it reads as though the whole thing was done in first person, by a bunch of different people, and none of those people actually knew what the hell was going on. While this may be great for establishing mood, it is downright crappy for providing information in a clear and easy to use manner.

Thus, my book is going to be much more straightforward. The 'voice' of it is going to be partially omniscient—this means that all relevant details about a subject will be provided, including those not known by the general public. Of course this 'restricted' knowledge is identified as such, so the GM (and players) will be able to use it accordingly. In some entries, there are details that are only hinted at—giving the GM some room to either 'run with' the insinuation and use it as an adventure or story-hook, or to disprove it and not use it if he wishes.

I know there are some schools of thought that feel players shouldn't know everything the GM does—that they should have some information kept from them so they won't act on it 'in character' during the game. For the most part, with the groups I have gamed with, this has never been the case. I play with adults, and most of those adults are perfectly capable of separating what they as a person know from what their character knows.

The second big decision I made at the start of the project is when to 'set' the book within the Star Wars timeline. In many of the more recent Star Wars rulebooks (the d20 stuff), entries are provided in a kind of generic way, talking about how the subject in question relates to the different eras of the saga (Clone Wars, Rebellion, New Republic, Old Republic, etc.). I was originally going to do it this way, myself...but thought better of it. Instead, I am writing the books as if they are set directly after the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV). I have done this mainly for personal/nostalgic reasons. The original trilogy is my favorite setting—and it hearkens back to the original d6 gaming books. Therefore, entries on Clone Wars era things (droids, ships, etc.) describe what the item in question was used for during its heyday and what is happening with it currently. From this, I feel as though a GM who wants to run something in the Clone Wars or New Republic era will be able to extrapolate information easily enough.

Stat Blocks were another major consideration. I have railed against them in other posts—mainly due to d20's propensity for them. My main problems with these stat blocks is that they are poorly organized (paragraphs containing stats are a lot more difficult to read than ones listed individually) and often contain more information than I really care about. Prime examples of these in d20 are all the pages and pages of low-level, mid-level and high-level versions of various NPCs, each with increasingly longer stat blocks. Charts can be another drawback—but as much as I have chided d20 for its charts, I am finding that charted information is easy to access and perhaps necessary. What I really object to are extensive charts for seemingly 'simple' things (I recall a quarter-page chart regarding autofire bonuses in one of the d20 books, ugh).

I am going to have Stat Blocks in my game. But I am doing my best to present not just game statistics (dodge+4, attack+7, etc.), but usable story and setting information as well. What kind of personality does an R5 unit tend to exhibit? Where are they typically employed? This is just as important as what it's skill level at starship repair is. At least it is in my book. I am also presenting some of the more basic information not as dense paragraph, but rather within more easy to read formats that can be scanned quickly to get info. And (as I've mentioned before) I am trying to keep all information contained on one page, so that you don't have to flip back and forth to get it.

Included are a few examples of pages for your viewing pleasure (or curiosity). And yes, the layout is very similar. I've spoke about this before—the conflict between making an 'interesting' page layout and making an easy-to-reference work. I erred on the side of the latter. Oh, and the copy is still kind of rough. I haven't spell-checked or thoroughly edited it all yet—so please be kind in that regard.


  1. I'm brand new to your site (link from Jason Richards). Is the compendium going to be available to others (it sounds like it will be). I'd be looking forward to that.

    I like your site - we're adding it to our list at stuffershack.com

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Nice - very easy to look at and pluck info from. Very professional too.

  3. @Charisma: Sure, I'll make it available. My only concern is that I'm using artwork from published Star Wars books. Someone might get snippy about that from a copyright viewpoint, but the whole project is not for profit and hopefully falls into the 'fair use' policy, since I'll be giving credit to the appropriate sources and artists (and I encourage folks to buy the books the artwork has come from!). Worst comes to worst, I suppose I can make an 'edited' version without the images. But that would make me sad :(

    @bruno: Thanks! That's the hope anyway.