Friday, July 11, 2014

Roleplaying Book Styles

I've realised more recently that I have a real preference for how roleplaying books read.  Although layout is important and I don't notice pictures except by their absence (unless it's a bestiary), I find that the books that hold my attention are the ones that write in a flavourful, succinct and precise manner - a hard combination to be sure.

I've found that Blood & Smoke is an easy read because each section clearly states what it needs it to say and does so through the use of rich analogies that also helps it paint a consistent picture of the game, style, and roleplay experience on offer.  Therefore reading it gives you not only a firm view of the rules but an equally full comprehension of what being a vampire feels like -- which is great because another culture's / creature's psychology is far harder to understand than a few basic rules!

On the other hand, I've found some of Trail of Cthulhu rulebooks a bit dry because it's rules are so quick, rapid and summative that my eyes glaze.  Ironically enough sometimes you need a few extra words to be succinct in a way that captures attentions and allows additional clarity. 

Does this mean I dislike the Trail of Cthulhu books?  Not at all.  There are parts that are rich in analogy and I love how they include extra details like clues left behind by monsters.  I just have a preference for Blood & Smoke (though not all White Wolf books - some are waaaaaaay too lengthy and spend an entire book belabouring a couple points).

I'm wondering how Call of Cthulhu 7th edition will go?  I liked the 6th edition book well enough, though I didn't find it mesmerising it was a solid read.  Hopefully it is an even better read!


  1. Agreed. I'm sure it varies by person, but some books just seem vastly easier to digest than others. Some of it is down to the ruleset, of course. D&D 4E was initially exciting, but I found it a pain to read because getting a feel for things involves ploughing through power lists and stat blocks, which felt too much like homework. In contrast I felt like Pathfinder was able to pain a picture of each class much more succinctly even though both books do it primarily through the ruleset.

    I find games with broad resolution mechanics are usually easier to sink into than those with compartmentalised rules, providing you can get your head around the mechanic. Although I find the book itself easy to read, FATE took me ages and I still don't feel like I've got how you're supposed to model things.

    Like you I found 6th Edition pretty easy to read. I think it's actually easier to read than it is to use, because there are so many sidebars and bits of rules in odd places (aging rules, for example). Those are good when you're reading, because they throw out ideas for alternatives or applications, but are often hard to track down again. It does help to convey the do-what-works feel of the game though.

    1. At least 6th ed. has an index (side eyes to vampire).

  2. Something I've noticed - particularly running a Vampire: the Requiem campaign is that there's a massive difference between a game book that is nice to read cover-to-cover, and one that is easy to refer to in-game.

    The AD&D Second Edition rules are extraordinarily dry to read, but very easy to reference. The Vampire the Requiem rules are extremely evocative to read but a pain in the ass to actually GM from.

    1. Agreed, every Blood & Smoke isn't immune to this as it describe the clan bane by feel in one section then by mechanic in another.