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Wind in the Flowers: Re-inventing a Game

Editing, Development, and Production

R. Sean Borgstrom
March 27, 2002 uMn! 9gE?;@J  &ܾLmY~{eџ؇ bKG$dON r!dÁM8/Ȋ-C6 U4⼣ruĆM1?w8Np"rkԋ~7[#*\hZöz/͡ y#4mgXΟKc੠9K%תc.pm.z-7?Z  

The manuscript left my hands after two months of intensive writing and entered the similarly five-fingered hands of one Bruce Baugh, editor. The first major change to come out of this was a structural reorganization.

The Pharos edition was, roughly speaking, written in the published order. I worked on the character creation section first, because I had to know what the characters could do before I knew what kind of world they lived in. At the end of that section, I had established a significant amount of information on the world, which I tidied up to create a description of the setting. Afterwards, I felt a need to round this out by describing the major NPC types in the setting. Then followed a chapter on resolving conflicts, an example of play, and advice on running the game. Finally, I stuck an introduction in front.

If this sounds somewhat primitive, it was. Nobilis was essentially my first work in gaming, and I had a long way to go before I would polish any of my craft. And perhaps it is obvious that this needed some rearrangement. But I hesitated to fiddle with that kind of thing too much in my own editing, because my job was theoretically cleaning up the book and adding a few small sections.

(If you're wondering how I got from 'cleaning up the book and adding a few small sections' to 'writing 130,000 new words for it in two months', so am I. Please tell me if you ever find out. But when I had written them, James Wallis told me he wanted them all, so it's cool.)

Bruce, accordingly, shuffled the setting and introductory material to the front and pushed various rules stuff more cleanly into the rules chapter. This broke some structural dependencies; that is, it created a few extra references to concepts not yet explained. He worked on fixing that too. Then, of course, came long stretches of regularizing capitalization, cleaving grammar knots, and suchlike. I'm sure he probably killed great numbers of my semicolons, as I overuse them, and left the commas and periods bewailing the slain. Editors are underappreciated; it's finicky, important work.

From there, I think, I shall step to overall product design. Section header quotes are both frequent and long in Nobilis. Many of them are literal excerpts from game world events, recorded from the thoughts or copied from the diaries of characters within the setting. A number of others represent fictional works from the game world that, in some fashion or other, set the tone for the appropriate section. I'm not going to go into why they're there; mostly, to keep the reader "in the world".

In any event, in the Pharos edition, the quotes served as the primary source of art. The italicized sections, each a word-picture, broke up the flow of plain black text. The attribution visually set them off. This was good, because we didn't have much other art to put in.

The original book was also a peculiar, small size, due to limitations of the print on demand process used. It had no margins, pretty much. James or Bruce had come up with the idea of the new edition (a) having margins, and (b) shifting the section-header quotes there. This in theory would provide some content to the margin, so it wasn't wasted space and wasted money, and also give some visual variety. Actual art and the section headers themselves would be used to break up the flow of black text.

James wanted a visually distinctive book, and, after playing around with the concept, he developed the idea for an 11x11 book with a photo art nouveau cover. This would allow two solid columns, room for quotes in the margin, and a book that would look beautiful sitting on a table or a shelf. The resemblance to a coffee-table book isn't entirely accidental; we wanted to make something the reader would be glad to own.

James had originally planned to purchase and reprint Nobilis, more or less, not develop a brand new edition. But by this point---long before, really---it was clear that this was a new product. This led, naturally, to a new, longer production schedule, which in turn gave us time to start a round of serious playtesting. This was a nice thing, all in all, and led to many changes in the text. The design principle was fairly straightforward: things that they found that were broken, I fixed. This is why playtesters get an acknowledgment at the front of the book; and I'll throw in another one here. Thank you!

Not that much in the way of complexity came up during the layout itself. James chose a slightly different format for Ianthe's sections (see a previous column) and made various game abbreviations small-capped. The single-column format used for the Ianthe section appears to me to better mimic the style of a person speaking or writing a letter. The small caps . . . hm. James told me that it looks better. If I were pondering this decision myself, I would say that abbreviations are one of those things that puts the reader very much into "gaming mode", and by making them crouch in on themselves, he minimized this impact. We wobbled back and forth on how to do the Example of Play, which had very few headings and therefore large sections of blank margin. There are pieces of fiction interwoven with the Example of Play, showing the perspective of some minor NPCs; at first, these were moved to the margins. That filled the margins completely and told the story out of order. Ultimately, we solved this the obvious way: James made me write more quotes for the margin.

Then came lots and lots of proofreading. And more proofreading. James proofread many times. I proofread once. (I've been busy.) I think Bruce proofread. I think there were also some volunteer or professional proofreaders he sent things to; if volunteers, thank you!

That brings us up to the time of this writing. The printers have returned proofs and James is looking at them. By the time you actually see this column, Nobilis should be at most a week or two away!

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