Saturday, August 28, 2021

Layout Noodle

I come from a small press comics background, a DIY ethos. "Back in the day" we would draw our comics and then photocopy them, paste them (with glue) onto "flats", then photocopy the flats and collate and staple them into zines. It was a 100% manual process. I still have old yellowed flats in boxes in storage for comics I published in the mid 90s. (I need to do some house cleaning)

Fast forward to the digital age. In the 2000s I mostly published my stuff online. I did some print zines, such as Random Order Comics & Games, and I attended the Small Press and Comics Expo (SPACE) a few times to sell them. But I was mostly online, not in print.

In the early 2000s I experimented with digital layout. I played with Word, InDesign, and Dreamweaver. I used an early version of InDesign to layout my game The Questing Beast.

When I got back into RPG publishing in 2014 or so, I partnered with my friend Matt Hildebrand who has handled almost all of my layouts since then. I don't know what magic Matt uses but I don't question it. From the Umerican Survival Guide to Wormskin to virtually everything Goodman Games publishes, Matt's layout skills are on display everywhere.

The exception was with a few projects such as Black Pudding. That zine is laid out "traditionally" in the sense that I'm literally shoving raster images all over a canvas. I'm just doing it digitally rather than with photocopies. The layout process is manual. And fun.

Currently I'm in the mood to learn how to use modern layout tools again. I own Affinity Publisher and I've been playing around with it, getting my toes wet. I did an 8 page layout that is so damn ugly I won't show it to my worst enemies. I will burn it with fire. But it was instrumental in teaching me how to get started and some things to avoid... like stroke lines on inserted text boxes. Ugh.

Stay tuned for more of this riveting material. Next up I want to articulate my thoughts on the current trend of super high quality slick DIY RPG books vs. low key simple DIY RPG books.


  1. Ugh. My layout skills are only slightly better than my drawing skills. Nearly non-existent. I'm doing insert tables in word, and insert image. That's as far as I've gotten.

    I'm a writer dammit not a picture surgeon!

  2. Also I totally dig the Black Pudding layout. :-)

    Its it because we are 'from' the 90's that we like that sort of look?

    1. Possibly. I'm sure it has a lot to do with it. Like for me the black and white ink aesthetic is natural and comfortable but I suppose for a lot of people who weren't immersed in black and white comics and old RPG books that aesthetic doesn't work.

    2. For me, that's what RPG's are. You cannot divorce the content from the aesthetic. For me.