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My Problem with Chronicles Book Layouts

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  • #16
    Ultimately?

    There's no "right" way to do layout. However you personally want the book laid out, makes someone else tear their hair out trying to make sense of things. Some people want the books to start 'big' with setting and lore, and then narrow down through mechanics, and so on, so that by the time you get to making the character you have all the information. Other people want to start 'small' with the basic character concepts, and then build out from there so the concepts get filled in and stated out as things are explained.

    If you have two detailed mechanics, group A will get them both without serious examples, group B will get one without examples but not get the other, group C is the flip side of B, and group D doesn't get either without more examples. But you don't have unlimited space so... there's no winning (especially since you have way more than two things to explain).

    Etc.

    If someone had managed to figure out the perfect RPG book layout... everyone would be copying it. The fact that there's no general consensus in the industry says everything there really is to say about it: there's no winning, just doing the best you can with whatever decision you go with.

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    • #17
      I'm used to jumping back and forth in RPG books so nothing about this layout is worse than any other. Other layouts might make more sense, but right now I prefer the consistency across all the games.


      Bloodline: The Stygians
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      • #18
        Personally I found it very refreshing. World building and setting tend to be very dense reads, then there is the learning of crunch which adds another layer of commitment. With these books I get a peak into that, but more importantly I get the up front bang of what will be played and what are the defining dramas of the books. I was very happy to have it done this way, but then I've been reading rpg books for almost 30 years now so I am definitely not a barometer for new readers trying to crack the hobby.


        "Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot." Sandman (Neil Gaiman)

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        • #19
          So I have the same opinion of pretty much everyone on here in the macro-sense: It's not especially flawed since there's no way to please everyone.

          That said, on the micro-sense I like CofD's layout quite a bit to the point that RPG books that have different layout priorities frustrate me. I like getting the fluff out of the way in the first chapter for the most part, and then having a central and concistant chapter for Character Creation.

          For me I use the Character Creation chapter as the Hub: I go through that chapter and once I hit a point that I need to deal with I go to that place and hop back to CC creation.

          I mean, it's biased and what I'm used to but I think there's likely no right way to do this.



          Frequent Story Teller for the Circle of Five gaming group.

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          • #20
            I think the problem with putting setting before the X/Y splats is that the setting isn’t ubiquitous across gamelines. For Demon, the ST will have different levels of God-Machine presence, or even what time period the game is set in. Most Demon games are going to have Destroyers, Guardians, Messengers and Psychopomps however, so it’s good to get those at or near the start of the book. Likewise, Changelings are going to have the six Seemings near the start because Changeling can happen anywhere, anywhen.

            I get where you’re coming from, but I honestly prefer having the character options near the start of the book and the setting options in the latter half. It creates better consistency when you’re trying to figure out what to look for where.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
              I get where you’re coming from, but I honestly prefer having the character options near the start of the book and the setting options in the latter half. It creates better consistency when you’re trying to figure out what to look for where.
              I don't mind either way, I just want the rules and examples in at lease one place, described consistently. I can enjoy the splats no matter where they are, and putting them early might attract a few new players who would be put off by a deep dive into the rules at the start.

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              • #22
                When I read a game book for the first time I always start on page one and go from there, even if I do lightly scan some sections to come back to in more depth later, so I don't have a problem with which section goes in front and since most of my group will never bother to read the books for themselves they don't either. What I do want from a books layout, and second edition is worlds better than first was, is that when in the midst of play I need to know the range of a shotgun blast, or which resistance attribute applies, or the details of the Numina the opponent just used, I can quickly find the answer without spending fifteen minutes on a scavenger hunt through the books (this is why I really miss the Subnet, even if I do understand why they were shut down). I like having the last ten pages of the book being a collection of tables and charts listing all of the crunch and none of the fluff.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by xiongrey View Post
                  So I have the same opinion of pretty much everyone on here in the macro-sense: It's not especially flawed since there's no way to please everyone.

                  That said, on the micro-sense I like CofD's layout quite a bit to the point that RPG books that have different layout priorities frustrate me. I like getting the fluff out of the way in the first chapter for the most part, and then having a central and concistant chapter for Character Creation.

                  For me I use the Character Creation chapter as the Hub: I go through that chapter and once I hit a point that I need to deal with I go to that place and hop back to CC creation.

                  I mean, it's biased and what I'm used to but I think there's likely no right way to do this.
                  I don't mind having the 'fluff' in the first chapter. What I do mind is having the splats in the first chapter before the setting chapter gives us any context to conceptualize them in.


                  Revlid wrote:
                  Yes, hollowing out your humanity to become an utterly utilitarian asura is the exact suggestion I would expect from you, Aiden.

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                  • #24
                    My groups view was that the layout was bad. Since it meant that it repeatedly used terms you would have no knowledge of and just assumed you would already know things the book hasn't yet told you. Hasn't stopped my group from playing or anything, people just complained abit about the being presented in a weird order.


                    Genius templates (for Demon: the Descent)

                    Rakshasa: the Kingdom (Featuring the Extinction Chronicle) [WIP]

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                    • #25
                      It would help if there was a little more clarity about what people are referring to. Just flipping through the 2e core books... It's not obvious what's being talked about. They all explain to varying degrees what the game is about and what the various x and y splats are before actually elaborating on them.

                      Character Creation rules being before the mechanics makes more sense if you presume that a lot of your readers already use the system, keeping in mind that 1e books made you use a separate core WoD book. I'd actually question why it's a chapter at all and not in an appendix.


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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Michael View Post
                        It would help if there was a little more clarity about what people are referring to. Just flipping through the 2e core books... It's not obvious what's being talked about. They all explain to varying degrees what the game is about and what the various x and y splats are before actually elaborating on them.

                        Character Creation rules being before the mechanics makes more sense if you presume that a lot of your readers already use the system, keeping in mind that 1e books made you use a separate core WoD book. I'd actually question why it's a chapter at all and not in an appendix.
                        In first edition corebooks, the order was a little different.

                        Introduction (brief overview of the line)
                        Setting Information (the World of Forsaken, detailing the origin story and what it's like, or Society of the Damned, talking about what vampires are like).
                        Character (creating a character, and character options, like clan and covenant, auspice and tribe).

                        In second edition, it's been changed around a bit.
                        Introduction (brief overview of the line)
                        Character options (clan and covenant, auspice and tribe)
                        Setting Information (more in depth view of what the setting is like, like the World of Forsaken or Society of the Damned chapters)
                        Character creation

                        So basically they split the Character section from first edition up, and put the primary character options (your x and y splat, with hints at z or lost xs and ys) right up front after the introduction, and before the setting).

                        I've been wrong before, but during first edition some people said it was a slog getting through the setting, and they just wanted to make their character or see what they could do first. So it might be a reaction to that, as well as an assumption that most people playing the second edition lines have played the first, and so are familiar with the settings.
                        Last edited by nofather; 02-11-2019, 03:16 PM.

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                        • #27
                          Heavy Arms is right. Moreover, the thing that hooks most people at first glance is seeing what kinds of characters they can make. No, they won’t understand everything at first, but it can still make a strong impression.

                          Also, most people aren’t going to read chapters of setting material before looking to see what they can play. Those who read RPG books front to back, in order, and are willing to learn the setting and mechanics before contemplating character options, will be surprised to find they are a minority. It takes most players quite a while to really grasp the details of the setting and mechanics, and a lot of that will come in play, and they’re just going to skip to the character options anyway.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Black Flag View Post
                            Heavy Arms is right. Moreover, the thing that hooks most people at first glance is seeing what kinds of characters they can make. No, they won’t understand everything at first, but it can still make a strong impression.

                            Also, most people aren’t going to read chapters of setting material before looking to see what they can play. Those who read RPG books front to back, in order, and are willing to learn the setting and mechanics before contemplating character options, will be surprised to find they are a minority. It takes most players quite a while to really grasp the details of the setting and mechanics, and a lot of that will come in play, and they’re just going to skip to the character options anyway.
                            The weirdest thing about designing the books with this in mind though is that they're no longer sitting on a shop's bookshelves waiting to be picked up and flipped through to inform purchase decision making. These are books generally being purchased by people who know in advance that they want to play, or at least confident enough to take that risk. I agree that reading cover to cover is for the minority, but it feels unnecessary to design the books so that they hook prospective players in the first few pages. It's pretty clear from the contents page where the character specific stuff is, and since you need a modicum of investment to even be holding a Chronicles of Darkness book in the first place I doubt needing to flick an extra chapter deep into the book is going to deter anyone. And let's be honest, even if it does, you've already made the sale.

                            And as the minority who does read the book cover to cover (since I'm generally the GM), having a truckload of information dumped on me devoid of context for the first chapter invariably leaves me feeling frustrated until around mid-way through chapter two. It's not the biggest deal because, well, as I said above I'm buying these books because external research has led to the conclusion that I'm interested in playing the game and poor layout isn't going to kill that on its own.

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