Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Tale of the Type (and Why We Love It)...

In the 70s, there were no personal computers, so anyone who wanted to make nice-looking manuscripts at home needed a typewriter.  Luckily, these were commonplace in business and industry and represented something of a professional standard.  Only newspapers and book publishers had anything better, and even by the early 90s in the Air Force, typewriters were still in use in some quarters, although this would end soon enough...

I remember spending my allowance on a used typewriter in 1978.  My mother kept me in ribbons and white-out because (ostensibly) it was educational, although mostly, I used it to write adventures, campaign notes, and the homebrew monster magazines I made with my brother (who never became a gamer).  Back then, typewriters were analogous to Microsoft Word today, and I was very proud of what I did with mine.

Now, OD&D is praised/reviled as amateurish, and the artwork certainly was.  But the cover and interior fonts would have most likely required metal type, and the books were doubtless printed on a AB Dick printer or a similar offset process, and even its bindery (stapling and trimming) would have required professional equipment beyond most...

As an aside, I studied printing and graphics arts at the local community college and even earned an associate's degree, working at several print shops until I met Robyn and joined the service, so I think have a fair understanding of what OD&D must have entailed, although I'd welcome talking shop with anyone in the direct know about this. 

So OD&D was semi-amateur at best.  But what about Joe (or Jane) amateur who wanted to publish their own stuff?  Answer: they used typewriters.  Now, I can only speak for my own experiences, but there was the equivalent of a small press publishing thing happening, where people (enthusiastic amateurs with great ideas) typed up their own games, stapled them along one side, and sold them in big Ziploc baggies for a few bucks at the most...  

And these creations made their way into my local hobby shop until professional products soaked up all the demand.  Again, I can only speak for my own experience, but this left an indelible impression and guides what Olde House Rules does today! 

Now, as someone who's used typewriters extensively, here's my advice for anyone wishing to recreate this sort of thing (for what it's worth, cause' I'm learning still):

(1) Boldface was possible by retyping over the same words several times, although this didn't always get the best results.  Instead, all capitals were used.

(2) Right justification of a sort was possible, but only by counting each character and making sure each line ended in roughly the same place.  This was a colossal pain in the ass, and I can't emphasize this enough, right justification was rarely, if ever, attempted.

(3) Underlining was possible by backspacing and using the line key, but many publishers drew this in themselves, which is a nice flourish for added realism...

(4) Finally, Adler is a nice, rough font.  However, it doesn't have the (!) character and always displays this invisibly unless you use something else, like Sears Tower, etc.  My Underwood is a cleaner font, but doesn't have the (!) or (+) characters, usually defaulting to Times New Roman.  So instead, switch to Sears Tower to preserve a uniform look.  Sears Tower is probably rougher than Adler, but dammit people, this one has all the relevant stuff! 

Oh, and Adler types (1) as a Roman numeral (I), so maybe replace it with a lowercase L to preserve some semblance of readability (hard-won knowledge, folks).

And that's the tale of the type (and why we love it).  Robyn and I are going on vacation this coming weekend and won't be back until June, so be safe and take care, everyone...


  1. Nice, typewriter fonts definitely have their attraction.
    Being pedantic, there were personal computers in the 70s. Both the Apple ][ and the TRS-80 Model I came out in 1977 and there were other less well known models earlier than that.

  2. I still use my Royal Mercury. There's something I can't quite define about typing away from the computer screen. Maybe it's because my subconscious can detect the screen refresh at 60hz. The only problem is either using correction fluid or writing multiple drafts, not to mention getting tired fingers. On the other hand, you don't need to worry about getting it perfect on the first attempt. Puke out your story, read it, cross out, make notes, retype. I've drafted on the typewriter and made the finished product on the word processor. It's not for everybody, but I like it.

  3. Great stuff! I remember using a lot of rub down transfers for booklet covers, headings and the like. Letraset was the trade name in the UK, probably the same elsewhere. Those were the days when we had endless patience and anything was better than homework!

    1. Letraset it was:


    Inkjet compatible rub on transfer sheet.

    Combine with this, the adhesive, and you can create your own letraset ;)