I play a lot of Role Playing Games (RPG). I also love to read paper copies of stuff so I have seen my fair share of RPG books. Would I describe any of them as having jaw dropping layout? Absolutely not. Most of the big player games are carbon copies of each other. Most of the big indie games attempt to emulate the big players. For something to be jaw dropping it needs to be innovative. It needs to be smart and it needs to be beautiful.
The book that I enjoy reading the most is FATE Core. But this is a combination of things. The writing, the stylised art, the little blue hardcover. Does the layout make me want to emulate it? Not at all but it does make it easy to read. Always a plus when the layout makes it easy to read!
I really do not like the setting of Numenera. The book is pretty much a standard layout and follows a tradition in many core RPG’s. The one thing that is jaw dropping about the layout of this book is its character sheet. There is only one character sheet that comes close in beauty and functionality to this beauty.
Conan: Adventures in an age undreamed of
That character sheet belongs to this game. The sheet is also a work of art. It is not as functional as the Numenera one as some of the drops of blood on the sheet make it hard to read information. This book is also pretty emulative of every other book in its standard layout.
There is the challenge
Layouts in RPGs are way too standardized. There is an opportunity here to break the mold. Create something that is functional and new. I am bored of the two column inset art and full page art chapter starters. Work hard at this. Make it new and refreshing that suits the style of the game. The last time this was tried that I know of was in the 90’s in a game called HOL (Human Occupied Landfill). It was a shock to open the game and while it was not the best layout ever it took a risk. Give it a try RPG makers! Keep rolling!