Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Layout Experiment

Last week, I posted an attempt at a dungeon module layout, organizing ideas by bolding and italicizing various sections of each room description. This generated two outstanding replies.

One of the many hats that I have worn over the course of my life is that of a typesetter. In other words, I spent several years turning someone else's text and a publisher's specifications into a working template that I and other typesetters could then use to produce the electronic side of a textbook.

As a result, when confronted with the excellent ideas of -C and Jim, my inner typesetter instantly started trying to figure out a template that I could use to produce modules. I love the way -C's approach flows. I love the visual organization of Jim's approach. However, neither entirely scratches my visual itch.

Thus, instead of blogging this week, I have been busy fiddling with a template. I have attempted to organize it using both -C's and Jim's techniques.

The left column of each entry indicates stuff that can be given to players with the most immediate/important details at the top and the less immediate/important details at the bottom.

The right column of each entry indicates crunch for the Referee about what is immediately to the left and/or information that can be given to players if they do more of an investigation of the information immediately to the left (or above).

This is still a rough draft, so there are things that could probably be tweaked. BTW, I did add a trapped chest to Room 4 in order to see how the template could deal with that level of complication:

One thing that I envision with this is a map of just these rooms on the same spread. Therefore, everything you need for these rooms is right in front of you. The map would indicate which page you needed to go to if the players move off that section of the map. For those who wanted it, there would also be a version of the entire map with each spread stitched together.


  1. I like! Although from my vague memories of Tufte, I wonder if you really need the checkerboarded background color?

    #4 does seem a bit complicated:
    - the guano is next to the centipede corpses, when there isn't a relationship between them.
    - the easily-visible loot inside the chest is on the LHS, when I'd expect it to be on the RHS
    Both of those changes would take up more space, which this approach does seem a bit profligate of. Switching from 4-columns to 2-columns would help that, but there's probably a good layout reason not to?

    1. Yeah, maybe switching to two columns and having a slight indent represent each level of elaboration. Slightly different colors or font effects could make rules and hidden things stand out. This would have the advantage of having an arbitrary number of detail levels, sort of like nested comments, which still using space efficiently.

      Something like this, for each location:

      (Sorry about the crude sketch. Let me know if it's not clear.)

  2. I like this example. The shading helps (me) and I might consider it myself. I know that I use color in my DM Sheets. It helps.

  3. The only change I might make at this point -- I would make others because I do things differently, but the way you're doing it -- is to perhaps rearrange the entries for each room so the most urgent thing is first.

    Normally this would probably be the biggest threat (the Thing With BIG TEETH!) or the most attractive thing (that massive mound of gold... though the dragon sitting on top of it might dwarf it in importance.

    There is currently a split on 'obvious' and 'hidden', but architecture and obstacle details usually come out after the PCs start reacting to the incoming hazards. They can learn about the table when the orcs tip it over for cover, the cobwebs will be obvious when the PCs run into them, and so on.

    I've seen too many room descriptions focus on 'setting the scene'.. but honestly, I don't care that there are two doors in the north wall when something is about to eat my face....

    1. I think Keith has the right idea. Thing that's going to eat my face is definitely the most important detail!

  4. Replies
    1. This is what I love about this community. Throw out an idea and let the piggybacking commence!