Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice

Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice! is a podcast by Roger Bell_West and Michael Cule, in which we pontificate on role-playing games.

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There Ought To Be A Housekeeping Section 01 April 2016


This month, Roger and Mike consider After the End, problems peculiar to long-running campaigns, and the layout of role-playing rules.

We mentioned

Paranoia at Bundle of Holding, After the End 1: Wastelanders, Pyramid #3/88: After the End, GURPS Y2K, The Dracula Dossier, Grrl Power, Microscope, Powered by the Apocalypse, Nova Praxis, Pendragon), Never Unprepared, and The Zalozhniy Quartet.

Music by Kevin MacLeod at

(We do get free access to the Bundle of Holding contents, but this happens whether or not we plug them.)

  1. Posted by Douglas Sundseth at 01:52am on 03 April 2016

    As a professional technical writer (who has been indexing manuals for the last week at work), I absolutely agree that good indexing is both difficult and badly done in virtually all gaming rules. But then, those same rules tend to be very poorly written as technical documents (which they definitely are) in may other ways as well. IME, RPGs are particularly bad about not using consistent language and phrasing as cues to build system knowledge.

    Jim Dunnigan's work for SPI in the '70s and early 80s was among the best rules writing in the industry, though it was a bit dry as a read. GDW's and AH's works were better reads, but imprecise enough to cause serious disagreements in play about just what they might mean to players.

    Unfortunately for the quality of rules, technical writing pays quite a lot better (and more consistently) than writing for gaming companies.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:34am on 03 April 2016

    I've also worked as a tech writer from time to time; I'm not entirely disinterested here.

    It's possible to overdo the consistent language, though; I remember D&D4 with all its specific named status effects, and it was all very well but it often seemed to lose track of what it was trying to represent. So if I hit this guy, all my friends get a bonus to hit him – what's actually happening in the world we're trying to simulate? But that's a different argument.

  3. Posted by Douglas Sundseth at 11:37pm on 05 April 2016

    Yeah, hard to argue with that. Hero System is a good technical document, but it's very bare without special effects, for instance. (Of course that's what the dozens of world books are for. See also GURPS.)

    But if you're going to describe the same rules effect in the contexts of multiple causes, using different language just opens the rules up to the sort of hair splitting that can be really infuriating. "This rule is worded differently. Was it supposed to mean exactly the same thing as that other rule or is it intended to be subtly different in effect?"

    CCGs tend to do consistency in rules pretty well while leaving the special effects to the flavor text and artwork. I think that spell descriptions in Pathfinder (for instance) could include the flavor in italics and the rules (with consistently defined and used terminology) in roman in much the same way.

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 07:23pm on 14 April 2016

    Skyrealms of Jorune 2E boxset had a book which was a PC's guide to the world. Indeed if you used the standard campaign framework it was a book that physically existed in the game world. This was the Tauther Guide, given to each person when they become Tauther (someone starting on the road to citizenship, a convenient way to send people on dangerous missions for the benefit of the city). It wasn't completely accurate, but then as a book that exists in the game world you wouldn't want it to be.

    For long running campaigns Roger didn't mention his TORG campaign. Not anything like as long running as his WWII granted, but considerably longer than his usual campaigns. I suspect the reason Roger's burnout hasn't happened there is there is a published campaign arc that he is picking and choosing adventures from and it does all end eventually in one way or another.

    Speaking of campaign length, the Wednesday group I'm in with Roger is short compared to my Fridays. There a campaign that we play for less than 10 years is on the shorter end of the spectrum.

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 07:34pm on 14 April 2016

    How big is the Tauther Guide? My rule of thumb, as I've said a few times, is one side of A4: many players simply aren't willing to read more than that up-front.

    Torg isn't having the same sort of problem as most long-running campaigns, I suspect in part because the world setup is so broken that nobody's too worried about consistency and overall themes.

  6. Posted by John Dallman at 04:02pm on 16 April 2016

    I certainly don't worry about trying to keep track of larger events in TORG, since I don't expect them to make much sense. The understanding I thought I had of the setting when I designed my character proved to be quite defective, and the book about his home cosm reads like a fan-guide to the worst fantasy novel ever.

  7. Posted by Owen Smith at 04:31pm on 16 April 2016

    The Tauther Guide is 29 pages US Letter. However nearly half of that is gorgeous full or near full page pencil artwork, which is what drew us to the game in the first place. And if you don't read the Tauther Guide you can still play, it has an entire page on the lifecycle of the giggit larvae for example.

  8. Posted by Jon Hancock at 02:34pm on 18 April 2016

    I've been quite impressed with the work that Greg Porter has been doing in the area of gaming PDFs. His EABA2 system and supplements are designed with tablet computers in mind (although the limited capabilities of PDF readers for Android can be an issue) and include all manner of goodies: semi-automated character sheets; dice rollers; pop-up help tabs; extensive links; and even a choice of front cover.

    There's a free quick start version of the main rules available on Greg's site which displays many of the features nicely. Not perfect, but progress is being made.

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