Announcements - [Hell for Leather] Beta & Layout advice

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 10th 2010 edited

I just broadcast the release of the beta version of Hell for Leather on the Forge, Praxis and RPG Net.

So, a couple of questions. First, should I post this news anywhere else?

Second, on the subject of layout, I'm looking for some advice. I've popped my layout cherry. This effort, for me, is as good as it gets. I've never read anything on the subject. It's all guesswork and copying from other people's works.

So, if anyone has any time, could you have goo at the layout for me? I'm trying to figure out if the body font and spacing is okay, and whether or not I need to adjust the justification (or should I leave it the way it is).

Right. Not a very specific set of questions. Sorry. You see, I'm in the predicament that because I know so little, I don't even know what to ask about. Frustrating. How about we start with the body text? Is it the right size? Is there enough white space? Is it easy on your peepers?

Thoughts welcome.

Love Sebastian.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 11th 2010 edited

Myriad is a highly readable font and I think the body text is fine. With the line length you have I would switch off the hyphenation completely (there was a "nor- mal" which is not needed when you have a long line and left-aligned/ragged right text).

I think it looks fine to be honest.

Where you have white text on black you might want to make the body text semibold and and bold "black" (I think Myriad has a weight greater than bold, if it doesn't then just stick with bold). On printing white text will be thinner as the black ink around it spreads slightly on the paper.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 11th 2010

Oh, I should say this is from reading the PDF on my iPhone. I will look at it on Monday on a real computer and print out.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 11th 2010 edited

Thanks Gregor! I'll fix those bugs. I never would have guessed about the white on black scenario.

I used Myriad because of 3:16. Your layout is sweet, so I tried copying what I saw there for the body text.

If the body text is okay (after I change the hyphenation), then my next question is about the text flow. Should I make sure that paragraphs never spill across pages (see page 19 going on 20)? I mean, should every paragraph finish on the page it started?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 11th 2010

Ah ha, so I have managed to get on a larger computer today. So... a few things leap out at me now.

(1) Hey, you should mention Nathan Paoletta and his competition that sparked the game in the credits. You might want to also cross-promote with Joe Prince about having a link (or ad, even) for his game in the book and vice versa.

(2) The line spacing looks a bit big. I'd prefer to see lines of text closer together and then if you want have a line space between paragraphs. (I did Solipsist this way and 3:16 too.) I'd leave the line spacing on the default for the font size and then set the baseline grid (more on that below) to that.

(3) I also think it makes it (subconsciously) easier to read when all the text lines are on a baseline grid. You're using InDesign 4, right? On the paragraph tab you'll want to "align text to grid" -- the grid settings are in Preference > Units and Spacing (I think). The "Help" in InDesign and this web page should help. [In fact, those Top 10s are worth musing over.]

(3a) So you might have text that is 11 pt with 13 pt line spacing (called 11/13 pt). Smaller, but still readable, text can be 10/12 pt (i.e. 10 pt text on 12 pt line spacing) -- that can be an excellent choice.

I find 12/14 pt quite large, and at the other end I find that 9/11 pt, while still readable, can be very "dense". 8.5/11 or 9/11 is the sort of thing I see daily in academic textbooks and journals.

(4) I'd keep the background page image for left-hand (even) pages the same, with the dark inky splodge at the top right, as this will be to the inside of a book. I'd flip the background image for right-hand (odd) pages so that the inky splodge is in the top-left of the page. This way the pages will be like mirror images with the dark splodge to the spine and looser splatter at the outside edges. It will also look like a rorschach inkblot or something.

(5) I tended with 3:16 to keep discrete packets of information on the same page, but it's perfectly OK to have paragraphs and sections spanning over pages. Things to watch out for are where a crucial rule caveat or situation creeps over on to another page. In those cases, you may find people mis-interpreting your rules because of this. So, you may want to cluster such rules on to the same pages.

(6) Your text didn't seem to have "widow" or "orphans" (I like the paragraph composer in InDesign and it does a decent job IMHO) so that is fine. Basically, don't have a single word or line at the start or end of a page/column.

(7) Pedantic but easy stuff to check/fix... I'd have films and book titles in italics and check with IMDB to make sure they are correct. So: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Rambo (the fourth film had many working titles but this is its name). I'd also put Hell For Leather in italics when it appears in the text, I think.

(8) For the final thing you'll want an Index. The easiest way to make a meaningful index is to go through each page noting down in a document, in alphabetical order, all the things on that page you'd want to look up. And while doing this "think outside the box", for example in Solipsist there is an Index entry for combat (even though the word doesn't appear in the book), so that anyone looking up "combat rules" will find the relevant game mechanic to deal with it. We also in that case added a footnote explaining that on the page too.

(9) Oh, oh. You have some examples of "good" and "bad" Motivations on page 18. At first glance all the Examples appear to be the same. I think you could have a header of Example then the next one could be Good Examples, with the third one having a header of Bad Examples, or What Not To Do, Chooms

But, yeah, a very decent first effort. See you in ORK.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 11th 2010

Thanks a million for this help.

I'm waiting to put an index once I'm a little more confident that the copy is finito. As for the thanking Nathan and Joe, they are mentioned inside the credits, but NOT ENOUGH. I have an epilogue that's going to take care of that, but I'm going to wait until I'm ready for print before I stick that baby in.

Thanks heaps! I mean it.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 11th 2010

P.S. Do you mind me asking what font size you used in 3:16? I don't know what fonts look like in print, so I guessed you were using 11pt. Was I wrong?

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 11th 2010

P.P.S. Is there any reason you'd advise going for the Rorschach look? I tried it out in an earlier version and my artist said he didn't like it, and since I'm torn between his artistic eye and your artistic eye, I'm wondering is there any particular (reading friendly oriented) reason to go for the Rorschach?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 12th 2010 edited

I guess try both ways for the background image and see which one you prefer. I was reading the PDF as "two-up" ("facing pages") with the "show cover page during two-up" ticked so that pages 2 and 3 are opposite each other on screen.

Perhaps it looks better with the left and right hand backgrounds identical. Or perhaps they look better mirrored. Or perhaps the left-hand background stays as it is and the right-hand background is flipped left-to-right and up-to-down. I've not seen anything other than the layout as it currently stands so I don't know which one I prefer.

However, I'm not totally sold on the way it is at the moment. It's quite a distinctive background and it seems to jar with me that it so obviously has a left/right pattern on each page, so it sticks out that it is repeated. If it was less "interesting" (and I don't for a minute suggest that you change the background), say a parchment or marbled paper, then it wouldn't be so noticeable.

Maybe that's just the best that can be done as it is. I'd like to see it mirrored though and look at some facing pages just to see how I felt about them.

Three Sixteen uses the following font for the body text:
Myriad Pro 10/12 pt, with a 12 pt baseline grid starting at 0.5 in from the top of the page. The text is left justified and always aligned to the grid. There is no hyphenation and I use the Adobe Paragraph Composer. I think I used the defaults for word spacing, etc. (80-100-133% and so on).

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 12th 2010

That's really helpful Gregor. Thanks a million.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 12th 2010

Oh, and in case you were wondering 6 x 9 in is a perfectly fine size for the book. LULU will print that size without a problem and many Indie Games are that size (Contenders, etc.).

Some go with 5.5 x 8.5 (like Best Friends, Cold City, etc.), but 6 x 9 is fine too (and in some ways more "common" since LULU does it).

A5 is probably a "wrong" choice (if there is such a thing) since you'll have a European-based paper size.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 12th 2010

I've attended to your advice in the recently uploaded version of the beta. I think the results are tighter, but I reckon I've still made some ludicrous layout errors that I can't put my finger on. Once I get a little more artwork back, I'll need to take another crack at it. So let's leave this dragon to snooze for a time.

Until the next Hutton masterclass, this is Seabass signing out.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 14th 2010

I think we can call this thread closed. Please create a new thread if anyone has any comments on it, or follow-up/related threads.

So, no problem, Sebastian. Happy to help. I have made a "tutorial PDF" made of your layout and I'll start a thread on that next week. But it'll take me at least that long to get around to it, so this is just some advance warning.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jan 19th 2010

I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Mar 23rd 2010

I think it makes more sense to continue this conversation here.

I've tweaked the layout, slapped up a teaser PDF and posted it here. The chapter splash pages are placeholders until George finishes the artwork. I think I'm getting there. I'll probably ask Jason to mess around with the "black streak" sidebar graphic.

How does this look to you guys? Is there enough white space? What have I done wrong? Again, I admit that this is all new to me. I'm doing my best, but if you can spot any dodgy layout mistakes, please let me know.

See you this weekend.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Mar 23rd 2010

Hmm, it just looks very "busy". There's, like, stuff everywhere on every page at first.

At the good end of the scale: 30-31, 38-39 and 70-71 look pretty OK to me.

I like the picture of the hands and dice, and the game in play. That stuff isn't done much that I can recall in RPGs, but is very functional and sometimes shown in wargames (like Warhammer, etc.) as it is functional.

Problems to fix: 32-33 doesn't need the shotgun image, it's sitting there being a distraction in a box. Otherwise, it's OK (and the black bars at the bottom match up)...

...p2-3 the black bars don't match up and it's visually annoying when viewed as facing pages (view the PDF as "Two-Up" and "Show Cover Page During Two-Up").

I don't like the presentation of the Frames. They're clunky and dense, with narrow columns of text. Just a white box, with no border and condensed text might work in a much clearer way. I'd also rather have the top of each frame be level with an uneven bottom, rather than aligning at the bottom and having the top intrude on the text above at different points. We read from top-to-bottom, left-to-right, so you need to guide the reader with that.

I really don't like the "not" being a different font size on p.14. To emphasize it futher than it already is you could put it in capitals instead. At the moment it's just crude and jarring on the eye. You should also (IMHO) put the positive message first:
Checkpoints are actions. Checkpoints are not locations.

I hope that helps!

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Mar 24th 2010

You're the best.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Mar 25th 2010

No problem, Sebastian.

I'm pretty impressed by the layout from someone making their first attempt at such a thing. I presume you've not got as far as an Index yet, but if you want advice on that I'd be happy to take that to a new topic.

I'll say that an Index really helps people look for rules and examples in the text, even for relatively short books.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Mar 25th 2010

Hi Gregor, I've updated the teaser to try and strip down some of that clunkiness. I think a lot of it had to do with the black strips which I'd used with too heavy a hand. I think this result is lighter, thanks to your suggestions.

I kept the two column structure for the Frame examples, but I've condensed the text, removed the black backdrop and lined up the tops of the boxes (where I could). I think it reads OK. I tried removing the border as you suggested, but I didn't like the result. If you think it still looks bad, I might go for a horizontal approach (as opposed to vertical).

It's getting better every time. Thanks again. You get a special mention in the back of the book. And I want to advertise one of your games, if you think it's appropriate. We'll get onto that in another thread (maybe something where members post greyscale CMYK jpegs of their 1 page ads—for other members to use).

The Man is calling. Gotta run to work.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Mar 25th 2010

I think that looks so much better now. It's pretty crisp. The Frames work for me as you have them. I think they're fine now.

My only quibble (and it is the ONLY thing that stuck out on my quick breeze through) is that some of the playtesters names are in different font sizes.

But, yeah, I think it looks pretty hot right now. If you make the whole book look like this then it'll look solid.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Mar 25th 2010

Thanks for your support on this Gregor.

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