Making shorter RPG texts

I just finished editing the text of Conspiracy of Shadows: Dirty Hands. I can’t say the text is perfect and flawless, but I think it’s much improved. I  hadn’t edited anything in a while, and certainly nothing that long (43,000 words). It’s a robust and “complete” game — it has lots of moving parts and play advice. Good stuff.

One of the things I’m working on in the next couple months is editing the text of my game 44: A Game of Automatic Fear. I published the game as an ashcan a couple years ago. The text is shorter — it’s around 15,000 words.

And, another thing I’m working on is a game chef 2008 idea I had called Lady Killers. It’s not a complete design. I don’t know how long it will be. I’m aiming for very short. Say, 6,000 words.

Meanwhile, John Harper put out Lady Blackbird as a not-quite-stand-alone game that’s under 12 pages.

All of this got me thinking about texts. I’m really interested to see how lean and mean I can make RPG texts. When I play well-designed board games they have maybe 3 pages of rules! There are certainly ways to make that happen with RPGs. My original Dust Devils draft was 6 pages. The book now weighs in around 120 pages, though that includes lots of advice, history, and alternate game expansions.

I have the advantage of not trying to sell hefty books anymore (not that mine were ever really hefty). I can get away with free texts that are only 12 pages long. I have to wonder if other game writers can also cut down their books.

I’m curious to find out whether doing that helps make free texts I offer more appealing and playable to others.

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