Good Rulebooks

Don Allen

With all of the talk about which RQ is preferred I am wondering what in your opinions makes a rulebook good (not just RQ but any rulebook)?

For me, one of the most importaint things is for the rulebook to be organized in a logical and practical manner. I like to be able to know right where to go to find a rule after reading the book once, therefore an index is also a must.

After this I think artwork is a primary factor. I like to see scenes, not just a warrior holding a sword. Put that warrior holding the sword behind an ancient pillar keeping out of view of a armed orc patrol and you have a winning pic. I used to stare longingly at the artwork of some of the old Advanced Dungeons and dragons book covers ( ) and think..."thats the mood and feeling I want invoke as a gamemaster". I dislike the new uninspiring covers that D&D has gone to (players handbook and GM guide). Runequest has followed with the same sort of thing (they probably don't want to invoke any particular kind of feeling since its OGL and the rules can be applied to different genres, but it's still boring).

Amount of content is NOT such a big issue with me IF what is in there accomplishes what it sets out to do. I hate getting a rulebook that is 400 pages when 200 would have sufficed. I don't need 10 pages worth of verbage when 1 page stated clearly is enough. I can spot filler a mile away and I stay away from it as a time waster.

Anywho... I'm interested in hearing what you want out of a rulebook.
Clear and readable text. No color behind the text, especially on PDF.

Examples that match the rules.

A good and accurate index. I prefer the index to be the very last thing before the flyleaves... faster to find it.

Good rules inside, preferably with no obvious contradictions.

Written clearly in relatively correct English. Low jargon, no "Creeping Capitalization Of Just About Every Noun."

Limited art, but art relevant to the materials within.

Readily found page numbers.

Logical flow.

Margins less than 1"; 1" margins (aside from the spine edge) waste a lot of space.

Border images not too intricate. (I was pleasantly surprised at the small size of the file for the RQ Rulebook.) One game-book I e-purchased had borders so dense that it made my laser-printer barf.

Discounted price for PDF. Since I have to pay for paper and ink, and the company doesn't, that seems fair. ($17.50 seemed quite fair vs $25 for the hardcover... which I may get ANYWAY.)

No DRM. I upgrade hardware every few years (every three so far) and DRM has been nothing but losses for me. Watermarked is great. And, unlike DRM, I've no legitimate reasons to try and remove it.
Without a doubt organization and user friendliness in the layout are the most important. Artwork is also important, but I can forgive this in a good game. I am cheap, so I want more bang for my buck. I like to see rulebooks that are comprehensive and can standalone and it is nice when there are additional materials included, such as starter scenarios, handouts, equipment lists, things like that.