Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What's Up With All the Digests?

Every time I turn around I hear someone say that digest or A5 books are superior for gaming. In this mini-rant I am going to disagree. But the caveat is that I don't dislike digest. I'm not arguing that digest is a bad format for a game. I'm just arguing that it is not inherently superior. And, naturally, the force of this argument is going to depend on how you use your game books at the table.

I am a pretty traditional Judge. I use a screen. I keep my shit out of sight. It is my abode. So I like to have my primary game book lying open on the table before me, usually with various sheets of paper and dice on it. I can't do that with a digest. I have to hold a digest in one hand if I want to reference something. And that sucks because when I run meatspace games I stand up and use a lot of body language. So what I end up doing is just making copies of the relevant pages and lying them on the table instead.

I am not young. I will turn 50 in 8 months (kill me now please). My eyes are not great. I do not enjoy reading tiny font. Now, since many people who are into OSR-type games are also not totally young, most designers tend to make their font sizes reasonable even in digests. But sometimes you get those examples of a game that was clearly formatted for full size but printed at half size. Cue the strained eyes.

Fuck... I'm guilty of this too. Some Black Pudding pages were made for full size. Did you look at A Trolling We Will Go in the new issue? I apologize if I hurt your eyes. I drew that on a big canvas.

So for these reasons I don't believe smaller sizes are automatically better. I am fine with them, so this isn't as much of an angry rant as I was worried it would be. It just irks me when I hear people smack talk full size RPG books. "They're so heavy!" "I can't lug all that around!" etc. The vast majority of RPG books have always been full size. Did you spend your entire gaming career being pissed off because you had large books to deal with? I doubt it.

Anyway... make your books whatever size you wish. It's all good. Do weird formats too. Those are neat. But don't feed me that bullshit about digests being better than full size because that is some bogus nonsense, bucko.

(Now to work on my next 6x9 game book!)


  1. Each format has its use. A5/half-letter also doesn't generally work if tables or maps are big, for example.

    But, I think, the point people are trying to (mostly) make, is that many books work in A5 with its advantages without a need to extend such books to a more traditional full-page.

  2. I'm the same age as you. This is a reason why I've been using PDFs on a tablet or Chromebook --- searchable, and you can zoom in on text or out on a map as needed. And paper zines and pamphlets seem too fragile and precious to my neurotic mind --- I keep them pristine on a shelf and actually use the PDF.

  3. Same old complaints. And the DMG 1e has some small print to boot. At age 54, It's almost beyond my capabilities to read.

    1. Yeah, those 1e font sizes are killer to the eyes. I wonder how many pages the DMG would be if it was done at a more typical font size?

  4. I started out with Chivalry & Sorcery which was 8.5x11"--but with a tiny, tiny font so they could cram about 50% more on each page. Even back when I was a teenager it was a struggle. As for digest sized books, I do like that they are much lighter and handier. The main problem with them, for me, is there's not enough room for maps and diagrams on a page.