Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bound to Please (Printed to Use)...

Buy an RPG rulebook and you've bought the publisher's version of what their physical product should be, which is obviously fine (and convenient).  But download the PDF version and you can print it out yourself and re-imagine its presentation, which is not only a nice capability, but also one in keeping with the hobby's home-brew, DIY ethos.  We all interact with our gaming materials differently, so this is actually pretty handy...

Interestingly enough, the BX game of the early 80s got the ball rolling by setting up the booklets with a three-hole margin for easy removal and insertion into a three-ring binder or whatever else you happened to use.  And it would be very easy to combine the various rulebooks into a single volume and insert your own house rules in the appropriate sections, which was a friendly nod to the primacy of the Dungeon Master.

Forty years later, PDFs deliver this and more.  I've seen the "old" rulebooks printed in a variety of clever forms, all tailored to the needs of the individual GM.  People do this with our own titles as well, which is immensely flattering.  We've seen digest-size, saddle stitched booklets made from letter-sized rulebooks and slick, glossy covers over spiral binding in the style of the greats.  One friend printed out our Pits & Perils as an antiquated volume with actual string binding (and in the digest-size format he still wants to see)...

Me, I prefer putting the pages into heavy document protectors in a three-ring binder complete with a cover image slipped in the front.  There's no wrong way to do this when it's for your own use at the table, and here's some of what we're talking about:


Combining the OD&D rulebooks into a single, spiral-bound format bookended by the covers of the original boxed set is an act of pure genius by our friend Norbert Matausch.


Bill Lackey turned our entire catalog (at the time) into a series of digest-sized booklets that capture the look and feel of 1970s production better than we ever could!


Dull by comparison, but functional; it's my personal printing of Holmes Basic using the aforementioned document protectors and binder.  I guess I'm rough on things and benefit from a little durability!  The best gaming is home brew, though, so I'm happy with it. 

There are others, and we apologize if we left anyone out.  Home-brew printings of PDFs capture something essential from the early days of the hobby and remind us all that it's the players - and not the rulebook - that makes the game.  We're all enthusiastic amateurs making our own fun, even when we're making it with someone else's rules; and I don't think anyone in the old-school community would ever have (or want) it any other way...   

7 comments:

  1. Curious, how much does printing cost. And I would probably do it via a printing company.

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    1. It looks like you can get it done through Office Depot/Max for something in the $10.00 range, although I'd assume this varies by specifics...

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  2. Sending pdfs to lulu (and setting to private) can get you a 32 pager for about $2.60, something like Nod, at 128 pages rings in just under seven bucks.

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  3. My local library allows patrons to print 70 pages b/w free per week.

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    1. Awesome library! Hope we can keep 'em around...

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    2. Ours just passed a levy (barely) so it will keep operating at the current level of service for a few more years.

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