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Subject: Rule book writing rss

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David Fisher
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Since it's where I'm up to at the moment, I did some searching for threads to do with writing rule books ... here are the result.

Feel free to post any other threads or links you know of!

> Writing Rules... is there a format to follow?
> Best Instructions or Instruction Layout

o Rule book sections.
o Using numbered paragraphs for complex games.
o Structuring the rules so that first time players can read as they play (see also this thread).
o Writing rules in the same way you would explain them to someone else (see How to explain a game GeekList).
o Including an illustration of the initial set up and one full round; including a prominent, concise setup chart.
o Putting rules in the main column and examples in a side column.
o Not embedding rules in examples.
o Using consistent terminology.
o Being concise.
o Highlighting exceptions to rules and other critical points so they are easy to spot.
o Including (at least a summary of) the victory conditions at the beginning of the rules.
o Including a complete list of all cards used in the game.
o Having a glossary / definition of terms.
o Quick reference sheets.
o A successful rule book will be able to explain the rules even without having the game in front of you.

> When is a manual too detailed?

o Separating core rules from rarely used rules.
o Including an FAQ at the end of a rule book.
o Generalising special cases into a single unifying rule and eliminating redundant rules.
o Repeating the same rule in multiple places.
o Making sure no question is left unanswered.
o Avoiding forward references (see below).
o Side bars, diagrams and examples.
o Including an index.
o Over-explaining common concepts.
o Rules can be a tutorial or reference, but it is hard to be both.

> Do you like your rule book friendly or static?
> Rule books - the "do's" and "don't's"

o Humour in rule books.
o Including comments, designer's notes and humour in side bars.
o Ease of rule book navigation during play.
o Using consistent terminology.
o Including an overview / summary at the beginning of each section.
o Listing special rules in a separate section.
o Expressing rules positively rather than negatively.

> Examples of well-written game rules?

o Including rule summaries in margins.
o Confining the theme to the introduction or between sections.
o Some comments from a technical writer, eg. having two separate rule books: a how-to and a reference.
o Times when verbosity is needed (for the sake of clarity).
o Including a set of "quick start" (watered down) rules as an introduction to the game concepts.

> Don't just give me rules - Give me guidance!!!

o Including ample gameplay examples.
o Whether to include strategies in the rules; letting players discover strategies for themselves.

> Writing Rulebooks

o Difficulty of writing unambiguous rules that are easy to understand.
o Describing systems from several different viewpoints.
o Issues with the designer of a game also writing the rules.
o Avoid using examples as a substitute for clear rules.

> Gendered Language in Game Instructions
> Use of "Singular they" on game's rules
> Rule writing: second person

o Pronouns and other writing issues.

> Rulebook creation and organization software
> Making decent rule books
> Entirely free software toolkit for making maps

o Applications people use for writing up rules: Microsoft Word, Open Office, InDesign (CS2+), Illustrator, PagePlus, Scribus, QuarkXpress, Lyx, LaTex, Docbook, Pages (Mac).
o Another thread mentions KDissert (which produces LaTex output).
o The "term paper effect": rules that look like a college term paper (all the same font, few illustrations).
o Typesetting, spacing, fonts, font size and including illustrations in rule books.

External Links

o Frank Branham: Rules writing Deutschland style (Board Game News).
o Instructions/Rulebook Writing (BGDF).
o Best Rules? (BGDF).
o Writing Game Rules.
o How not to write the rules of a card game.
o Writing Game Rules (PDF).

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Mark Buetow
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Good list of points to consider. Now, here's an example of a top notch rulebook!

http://www.gmtgames.com/living_rules/CC_Rulebook_final.pdf
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Craig Somerton
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I consider the Queen Games Thebes and Alhambra to have some of the best instruction books. Pandemic is also an excellent example.
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Jay Richardson
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Nice list!

You might find some of the other items I've indexed under the "rules_discussion" tag useful as well:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/tag/rules_discussion/user/richf...
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David Fisher
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richfam wrote:
Nice list!

You might find some of the other items I've indexed under the "rules_discussion" tag useful as well:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/tag/rules_discussion/user/richf...

I hadn't noticed that tag ... it is useful, thanks.
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Andy Van Zandt
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an excellent post, i actually added it to my quickbar. also, after reading through some of those threads, it just re-inforces the idea that people all want something different, and it's hard to please everyone, so your bullet points are a good summarization of the very few well-presented ideas in the threads.

rules and packaging have a lot in common, in that sense...

in rules, one person thinks numbering is the bees knees, but only if it doesn't have letters mixed in, and the next person says they wouldn't play any game that used numbered rules. one person wants blanket rules statements, but then doesn't recognize the ambiguity in the ones presented as "good examples". few people realize that different approaches work better for different games, and one person will complain that the rules aren't clear enough in one game, then complain that they are too long and "complicated" in the next... which is often a very straightforward trade-off. lots of people will argue otherwise, and very few of them have actually tried to write rules and done blind rules tests with them.

with packaging, some people want awesome inserts, some want a big box with space for all the expansions, some want as small a box as possible, some want standardized sizes so they fit well or look neat on their shelves (see Queen games), but the next person will complain that the standardized box is too large for a lot of those games (see Queen games). few of them realize how much they're paying for the packaging to start with, and even more will complain about over-simplified packaging... and many of those same people will complain about the cost of games in general... and pretty yet functional packaging is often the fastest way to drive up the price.

but i digress...
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Lewis Pulsipher
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I have just opened an online audiovisual class about this topic.

"How to write clear rules"
https://courses.pulsiphergames.com/course/writing-clear-rule...

You can see the video promo on YouTube
http://youtu.be/5AfZYQ729UA

And the "What you'll discover" video also on YouTube
http://youtu.be/rS22akQYCsU

No, it is not free.

Lewis Pulsipher, Ph.D. (military and diplomatic history, Duke University)
·designer of Britannia (1986, 1987, 1991, 2006, 2008), Dragon Rage (1982 and 2011), Valley of the Four Winds (1980), Swords & Wizardry (1979), Law & Chaos (forthcoming from Mayfair), Eurasia (forthcoming from Worthington), Germania (forthcoming from Clash of Arms), etc.
·www.PulsipherGames.com
·Author of "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish", August 2012
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Mark Crane
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Malacandra wrote:
Good list of points to consider. Now, here's an example of a top notch rulebook!

http://www.gmtgames.com/living_rules/CC_Rulebook_final.pdf


updated link: http://www.gmtgames.com/living_rules/CC_Rules_2009.pdf
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joseph nicholas
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Great collection of some rule book help. I thought I'd offer my rule book advice as well?

http://indietabletop.net/constructive-guideline-to-rule-book...
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Stuart Cresswell
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Is what was considered here 9 years ago still an acceptable standard?!
 
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Susan Martin
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werekin wrote:
Is what was considered here 9 years ago still an acceptable standard?!
Human minds and how they work have not changed appreciably in nine years.
 
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Stuart Cresswell
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You would think.

The jury for Spiel De Jahres reportedly threw out more potential candidates for nomination this year than any other year before, due to books that failed to convey rules.
 
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Susan Martin
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werekin wrote:
You would think.

The jury for Spiel De Jahres reportedly threw out more potential candidates for nomination this year than any other year before, due to books that failed to convey rules.

Indeed. Which is why I am planning a second career as a rulebook editor.
 
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Caroline Berg
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werekin wrote:
You would think.

The jury for Spiel De Jahres reportedly threw out more potential candidates for nomination this year than any other year before, due to books that failed to convey rules.

Wow...
 
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M. Shanmugasundaram
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Lady Mondegreen wrote:
werekin wrote:
Is what was considered here 9 years ago still an acceptable standard?!
Human minds and how they work have not changed appreciably in nine years.


I'm not sure about this. I think people have gotten dumber in ways that matter.

The drive toward faster, "snack-size" content as a result of short attention spans has only become more intense over time.

Ironically, creating efficient content requires an extremely high level of focus and endurance.

I'm always amazed at the people who take the time to adopt and enjoy miniature games. To me, that takes a great deal of dedication.

Also amazed at the people who watch rambling, meaningless video content as if it was better than well-written content. There's good video out there, to be sure, but people will watch video JUST BECAUSE IT'S VIDEO.

I call it the "frog effect". Frogs target movement for food, so motion is more important than whether an object is actually food.
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Maxim Steshenko
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rumble wrote:
The drive toward faster, "snack-size" content as a result of short attention spans has only become more intense over time.

Not sure about the 'content' bit. Various threads about dungeon crawlers left me with an impression that people want "fast and reckless fun" in terms of the rules complexity. While the content itself should be diverse and almost infinite. I guess spending some time during a game to figure out a new rule on a card is less noticeable than learning rules before the game starts.

My favorite example of the modern take on rules is Stuffed Fables. The core rules are only 11 loose pages long. And then you can buy potentially endless amount of Storybooks to play "snack-size" sessions.

What might have change is an amount of new games on the market per year. Driven by the Fear of missing out, people cycle through games with maybe 10 sessions per game. That enormous availability turns familiarity into a very powerful concept and makes "unsatisfying" games easily replaceable.

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