Tuesday, 3 January 2017
The Art of Reading RPG Books
When was the last time you actually read an RPG book cover-to-cover as though it was a novel? I have done so from time to time (most recently with Maze of the Blue Medusa), but much more often I approach them like a kind of literary flaneur. I dip in. I read a page here and a page there. Magpie-like, I gather bits and pieces of things that interest me. Sometimes this is just a flavour of inspiration that I take in a new direction. Sometimes it may just be a spark which sets my imagination off and running. When it comes to "crunch" I tend to scan through and identify the important bits and read them carefully. Sections of actual fiction never, ever get read. I probably read somewhere around 60-75% of the total content in the course of interacting with the book over time.
This means that for me RPG books might as well be written in any order. In fact I wonder whether I wouldn't be better suited with an RPG book that would come in a folder and you could just pull out clearly defined sections to read - a completely modular setup.
This also means that RPG books (in which the writing is complete shit as a general rule anyway) need to be really interesting at every turn if they're to be really successful. Each page has to have something good on it - preferably something which gives the reader ideas, in a presentable and quickly accessible way. The reader isn't engrossed in War and Peace. He's grabbing a book off the shelf and flicking through it, or sitting on the loo, or he's a player in a game idly perusing while his character is otherwise off-scene. The best book is one that works with that in mind.
This is part of the reason why I quite like how Yoon-Suin turned out. I can't claim it being deliberate. But I think one of its successes is that when you open it up at a random page there is generally something on there that you can get interested in. It isn't just a page of blah, which is what you tend to get with most RPG books.