Too much prose in RPGs?

Retreater

Legend
It depends on the lore. I really like the WFRP lore, because I feel like I can understand the Old World setting. When it's high fantasy with long proper names that are unpronounceable, I zone out.
Adventures could be presented better for my tastes. Necrotic Gnome's OSE adventures are usually easy to read and concise. I don't want paragraphs of text getting in the way of something that should be easy to reference during play.
 

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J.M

Explorer
Agree with the OP. I think the issue is that, consciously or not, most RPG books are written for the solitary reader, rather than someone running a game. Optimizing for quick reference at the table and conjuring a scene with concise, evocative language, is more akin to writing a technical document than a novel.
 

aramis erak

Legend
In adventures...
I don't want to see large bits of world lore unless that lore is in an organized sourcebook section. I don't mind prosaic description of the conflict and scenes, but I don't want 3 pages per scene or more as a general rule; I prefer 1 per scene and maybe 1-2 per chapter. Some of the prose in FFG's F&D Chronicles of the Gatekeeper is there because us playtesters asked for more details.

In Rules
Skip the bleeping short stories. Most designers really don't do fiction writing all that well, and they suck to read, so I pypass them habitually now. Prose form rules, however, I don't really find much issue with, tho' FFG could use a tightening up and use a larger font. At least the examples are mostly a match to the prose.

In Settings
I don't mind lore unless it's in story form. Again, good designers tend to be better technical writers than narrative writers, and it shows. Some exceptions apply; John Wick's Orkworld is a case where the stories are the setting as known by the characters... and are classical style educational lore. The problem with Orkworld is that John's not great as a Technical writer; many rules are unclear.

Overall...
I don't really have any nostalgia for super-condensed rulesets sans examples and explanations.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I fully agree.

This is why I don't buy premade adventures. Most of the time, it's a neverending stream of prose of things I don't care about and you have to read dozens and dozens of page to get a few nuggets of useable material. I think separating fluff and lore from the actual content is a good practice.

But it's very common, in my opinion, for RPG books to be designed to be a good reading experience (from page 1 to the end) rather than being a good referencing experience (which should be the goal). Many of the books I owned were a blast to read from start to finish, but when came the time to use them at the table, they were unusable. Referencing was hard, every important info I would need was hidden in paragraphs of text.
 

innerdude

Legend
In Rules
Skip the bleeping short stories. Most designers really don't do fiction writing all that well, and they suck to read, so I pypass them habitually now. Prose form rules, however, I don't really find much issue with, tho' FFG could use a tightening up and use a larger font. At least the examples are mostly a match to the prose.

So much this. I can't +1 this enough.

*Honestly, this right here is one of, if not the biggest turn-off for me around the World of Darkness products from the '90s / early 2000s.

The first 20+ pages of every book is a long, meandering, generally mediocre (or worse) block of prose trying to "hook" me into the game.

Seriously, enough already. Just explain the mechanics and teach me how to make a damn vampire!

*Edit: To clarify, the effect of the prose/tone of the WoD books elicits such a strong negative reaction from me that I've never given any of their products so much as a hint of consideration.
 
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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
So much this. I can't +1 this enough.

*Honestly, this right here is one of, if not the biggest turn-off for me around the World of Darkness products from the '90s / early 2000s.

The first 20+ pages of every book is a long, meandering, generally mediocre (or worse) block of prose trying to "hook" me into the game.

Seriously, enough already. Just explain the mechanics and teach me how to make a damn vampire!

*Edit: To clarify, the effect of the prose/tone of the WoD books elicits such a strong negative reaction from me that I've never given any of their products so much as a hint of consideration.

I agree with you about the WoD stories. On the other hand, I do occasionally read some fiction in rule books which I enjoy. But it's usually a page at most.

Honestly I'd rather read examples of play, in "play script" form, than fiction.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Completely agree with the OP. Sometimes I think that, when someone says a game is "rules-light" or "rules-heavy," what they're unconsciously referring to is the literal weight of the game books. :ROFLMAO:

Good prose is nice for pleasure reading, but imo a good RPG rulebook is a (semi)technical manual, and should be full of bullet points, flowcharts, tables, and other highly-formatted information. Setting lore and atmosphere is important, of course, but I like those to be visually separated from the presentation of the rules themselves, into their own sections, illustrations, and sidebars.

Adventures are similar, imo. Prose is helpful for establishing context and lore, but that should still be separate from the adventure itself-- especially for scenarios intended to be setting agnostic. I much prefer tight descriptions of places and NPCs; maybe some Q&A-style dialog starters; diagrams of relationships, plot points, chronology, etc; and clean maps and statblocks close to where they're referenced.
 


Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Agree with the OP. I think the issue is that, consciously or not, most RPG books are written for the solitary reader, rather than someone running a game. Optimizing for quick reference at the table and conjuring a scene with concise, evocative language, is more akin to writing a technical document than a novel.

Totally agree. Not all but many, and I think I see it especially with smaller games.
 

gorice

Hero
I agree completely with these criticisms. Fortunately, there are a few good adventure writers out there, though most seem to be OSR-adjacent. Actually, Kelsey Dionne is the only person I've seen making 'trad' adventures to the same presentation standards you get in old-school dungeon crawls.

I will say that I liked what Fria Ligan did with the Alien RPG, where you get your moody walls of text, but the important mechanical stuff is in little white callout boxes.
 

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