What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Desktop Publishling

I've touched upon the economics of Hobby Publishing in the past (see this ENTRY) and as I continue my quest to build up my fledgling studio, Arcana Creations, expenses do pop up and choices have to be made.  In my case, it sometimes feels like I'm hemorrhaging money though that is more to do with my life in general as opposed to my studio-related costs.

The gaming industry has changed significantly for pen-and-paper based RPGs and with Hobby Publishing on the rise, I do think more people will try their hand at it.  Interestingly enough, one of the seeds was planted back in the mid-80's.  Desktop Publishing became a reality and helped shape how a lot of publishers do various print products today.  What was once inaccessible became within the reach of a larger segment of people.  Of course, back then in the mid-80's, a word-processor was relatively 'vanilla' and simple with what it could do.  Desktop Publishing software helped shape the word processing suites we use today with rudimentary tools to facilitate the inclusion of tables, columns, and pictures.  It also had an impact on web design and layout.

A few of these programs have been around for years and in a couple of cases, practically since the beginning in one form or another.  Why does it have more of an impact now?  Well, the OGL can be largely thanked since it gave third parties a way to largely support the world's most popular game or build up something from it.  PDF-only products have also become more widely accepted since the start of the new millennium.  People recognize the value of the information as opposed to the form that the information takes.  Lastly, computers and software is now much more common and accessible than it has been all those years ago.

One of the leading packages available for layout is by Adobe... a program called Indesign.  It is recognized as a standard among professionals along with many other Adobe programs.  It is unfortunately largely inaccessible to many because of their pricing.  A new computer that can do everything a typical user needs it to do is less expensive than some of these programs.

Well, for someone like me who is very cost conscious, a program like Indesign is a very nice thing to wish for but let's face it -- you can't always get what you want.  You do the best with what you have and one of the key tools I do use is a good wordprocessing suite.  I've become quite satisfied with OpenOffice (open source and FREE) and I've been using it to get a bunch of work done.  While trying to layout a module in it is an exercise in frustration at times, Arcana Creations and Brave Halfling Publishing have managed to do well enough with the few tools at our disposal.  'The Secret of Ronan Skerry' and 'The Ruins of Ramat' were both done with it and everyone who I have spoken with were pleased with the results.  Of course, you need more than just that -- I do use a combination of GIMP and PaintShop Pro for the covers and artwork and just import what I need in.

Of course, using a reliable and dedicated Desktop Publishing program for my layout would save me a lot of time and headaches.  Besides, while what I use now may be more than adequate for for 20 - 24 page module / booklet, a 64 - 128 page project is a completely different beast.  Scribus was one piece of software which was recommended to me a while back.  It is an free and open source alternative to commercial offerings but I never got the 'swing' of it.  Maybe I just wasn't patient enough or maybe it was a factor of not being used to using this sort of software to begin with and not knowing what to do.  It was probably a little of both.

I knew I had to adapt to something better though than what I had been using and I also knew that John Adams of BHP was looking at the same thing.  I had found an interesting program a little while back that seemed to be fraction of the cost of something like Indesign.  While it did a lot and even offered features of an easy-to-use web design program, it seemed to have a little of everything and some of the innovations unique to it turned me off a bit.  John found one called PagePlus by Serif.  At first I was annoyed at the companies website -- apparently there was a free version one could download but it isn't readily available.  Google proves to be your friend and key to getting the SE version to try out.  I gave it a whirl and after stumbling around a bit and doing a brief tutorial (very brief) -- I start figuring out the software and using it.  The price tag... $100 dollars is a bit steep for me these days but after registering the SE version (you basically need to provide some info to get the SE version), I receive an email with a SUBSTANTIAL discount.  Better yet, the company sells older versions of the software (you will need to google this once again since you can't find it on their regular pages).  Version 9 is actually available for only $10 !!  Now, while I prefer many of the newer features in version X4 ... if you have a strict budget and don't like the open source alternative, it's hard to argue AGAINST a mere ten dollars.  For those who might be interested, this offer can be found HERE (it is also where you can get the free SE version to mess around with).

Suffice to say that with either offer (the email offer I received was $50 off), considering the versatility of the program -- well worth the cost.  Once again, you don't need to spend a lot of money to get the tools you need.



  1. Interesting. Thanks for sharing the information. Not that I have any plans for tossing my dice into the RPG publishing arena.

  2. Just some a few things rattling in my head. I think more people are jumping in because it has become so much more accessible to do so. PDF and POD pretty much paves the way for self-made hobby publishers.

  3. I actually create PDFs for my own use--mainly house rules and creatures. Besides the fact that I would rather support the publishing efforts of others rather than myself, I always worrying about legal/copyright/intellectual property issues. Even just posting homebrew monsters and character classes gives me the willy-nillies.

  4. I have been using LaTeX a lot recently and am very impressed with its power and versatility. It's designed for writing technical papers and books, but it can handle any kind of document. The genius of LaTeX is that it separates the work of writing and the work of typesetting, so authors can do what they do best without needing to worry about layout - but the designer doesn't need to wait for the author to finish in order to do the layout. LaTeX is free and it outputs to PDF.