Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 23

Here we are at Day 23 (Hail Eris). It's a solid question today, one that I took in a direction you might not expect...

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Answer: Palladium Books. The whole line, at least up until the mid-2000s.

Those of you who have any of the old Palladium books books prior to 2005 will notice that the layout there in was a bit...odd. I could never put my finger on why it bothered me so much; the layout was incredibly simplistic, artwork was reprinted regularly and in a way that hinted the image was a copy of a copy. I didn't really now why until several years ago when I read a recount and criticism by Bill Coffin on Kevin Siembeda's design practices.  Bill's recount is rather colorful and laced with snark, but it did give me insight as to why I was bothered by it all.

Once Kevin's ready for layout, he prints out the whole mess and fires up his wax machine because he still puts these damned things together by hand. What's that? Desktop publishing software? Naw, he's faster without it! To his credit, he lays out the book in fairly decent time, but he also illustrates why all Palladium books have a simple two-column format. Kevin isn't going to cut columns to shape or deviate from formula because he might have to reflow a section of the book, and when he does, all those columns have to be standard or else none of it works. Where this really makes you want to bang your head against the tip of an artillery shell is when he lays out 80% of the book, discovers that he'd like to rename an alphabetically ordered item on page 5 and decides that it would be too much work to reflow the rest of the list. You know how every so often in a Palladium book you'll have a series of NPCs or OCCs or something and one of them is grossly out of alphabetical order? That's why. I used to think it was because Kevin couldn't read the alphabet. Now I know it's because he's truly, madly, deeply in love with putting books together in ways that even Monty Burns would decry as old-fashioned.
Now, admittedly a few years after this post hit, Bill issued a public apology to Kevin and they seemed to have buried the hatchet. But still, if that was what was going on with Palladium back in 2003, it certainly explains a lot of the issues I had with the layout of the various books from that company. This post always stuck with me, and every time I crack own a product from Palladium, even a modern one, I have to wonder if it was laid out by hand on a light table.

Tomorrow's question is going to be tough...probably because I don't think I've ever used a game from a Pay What You Want publisher.

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