[RPG] What’s a good way to design and layout an Apocalypse World playbook?


What's a good way to design and layout an Apocalypse World playbook?

I'm writing an AW playbook, and I would not like to start from scratch with regards to the layout and such.

Best Answer

I laid out the Heralds of Hell playbooks using Scribus, which is a cantankerous piece of software* but does the trick and is free. (Other layout options are described here at RPG.SE in the question "What free software can I use for laying out my own RPG?".) I did them in the original booklet format, not the new tri-fold, so I can only speak to that form factor.

The main body font is Consolas (at 7pt with a 7pt line height), which is a font distributed by Microsoft with one of their versions of Windows (Vista, I think) for a cleaner command line terminal font. Verdana is used for the footer and page numbers, and its bold variant used for constructing the "Rated R" box on the cover page. The largest title font is Vtks good luck for you, which is used just on the cover page for the playbook title and the Apocalypse World word-logo. The main titling font is a combination of Crust Clean and Dirty Ego—since Crust Clean lacks any glyphs for punctuation, Dirty Ego is used where the text needs punctuation in section titles.

Vincent has already written a short but complete-enough tutorial on how to reproduce the Apocalypse World art style. My only amendment to his tutorial is to really, really not sweat the details of the contours: I spent a lot of time zoomed in trying to faithfully replicate each curved contour in the original photo, only to notice later that Vincent's images have a lot of straight edges and shortcuts, and they don't visually suffer for it. There's a thread at Story Games discussing DIY AW Art as well.

The hardest part of the playbook was re-creating the character sheet in the middle. For that I ended up exporting an image from the official playbooks PDF, importing it into Scribus as a faded-out guide, and creating vector elements and text boxes in a layer over top of it. Once I had one version of the sheet I could adapt it as needed for the character archetype. Mostly that meant altering the big box or splitting it in two for stats/countdowns for gear, gangs, or other weird stuff. I used a similar process to approximate the layout for the cover page.

After all that work I pretty much loathed Scribus*, so I wanted something cleaner and easier to work with. I have a mostly-finished ConTeXt template (which is way easier to adapt to new playbooks), but it's stuck using the old XeConTeXt processor due to the fonts and I haven't manage to get a ConTeXt Mk IV version quite working properly. I also have the AW playbook Scribus template available on my site. Anyone is welcome to wrestle with either of those to try to bend them to their will.

* Now it's 2015, and Scribus has much improved in the years since. It was not maddening at all when I used it recently to create a graphical handout.

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