"Massmorph", "Monster summoning"...PLANT GROWTH!
Except as noted above, this spell is the same as a third level druid spell, plant growth. (q.v.)
Q.V. stands for "quod vide", and I don't speak Latin, but I assume it means either "so, yeah, good luck finding that" or simply "go fuck yourself".
Ok, but that was forever ago, in the AD&D Player's Handbook, back when the world was wonky and there was no money in Lake Geneva, let's zoom forward in time:
Type IV D&D Player's Handbook. So: good news--this one actually has a graphic designer credited. Three actually.
So: ok, kids, let's make a character...I have played this game many times before so this should be easy...
Now, wisely, they have chosen--on pages 30-31--to ape the most clearly-written RPG book ever written (Call Of Cthulhu) and have a 2-page spread with a little version of the character sheet here, with little call-outs, in order, telling you what to do. Let's take a look, shall we...
1. Character Name. So I'm choosing a name before I've got a race or class? Well, I choose that stuff myself anyway, why not...
2. Level/Class/Paragon Path/Epic Destiny: Leaving aside the fact that I do not know what half that shit means, let me just say that, hey choosing class now is ok by me...
3. Total xp. Well, zero, duh.
4. Race and Size. ok.
5. Age, gender, height and weight I haven't got ability scores yet, but ok...
6. Alignment, deity, adventuring company or other affiliation...ok...
7. Initiative Ah, at last, something to figure out. See page 267 (suspiciously high number for a basic concept, but whatever). On it!...now, wait, on page 267 it tells me that my initiative involves my Dexterity Modifier. but I haven't even got dexterity yet, much less a dexterity modifier, hey...
Of course what's really going on here is that page 3o is not actually a copy of that cool spread in Call of Cthulhu where they show you a character sheet and use it to walk you through character creation, it's just a full-color two-page spread showing you what a fucking character sheet is. Really?
Like it says:
6. Alignment, deity, adventuring company or other affiliation: Record your alignment, your character's patron deity (if you choose one), and the name of the group you belong to (if any).
Wait a second...So we have this labeled piece of paper, full of concepts that are explained in the book it is printed in. And then, in the book, there is a picture of the piece of paper full of concepts explained in the book and the picture is labeled with little call-outs with the names of the labels that they are calling out and then after these labels of the labels, there's explanations explaining that you should write in the thing the label describes after the label itself.
Really? Really? Really?
Ok, let's try generating a character again...
Turn back to page 14. Here are, (with no picture) the character generation steps.
1. Choose Race. Decide the race of your character. Your choice of race offers several racial advantages to your character. Chapter 3.
See a whole chapter? You couldn't at least list them here? Ok, well race is a fairly complex concept, maybe it needs a whole chapter, let's give them the benefit of the doubt...
step 2 is class (same deal), step 3...
3. Determine ability scores. Generate your ability scores. Your ability scores describe the fundamental blah blah..Chapter 2.
So let's ignore the fact that chapter 2 comes before chapter 3 but is the other way around in character generation--maybe they felt they had to do it that way to explain the concepts to newbies. Still, could they have at least told us what the 6 abilities were here? Or given us a short version of the 3 methods? Or at the very least fucking given us the fucking page number that the specific generating ability scores blurb was?
And then there are 6 more steps, each telling you almost nothing and then saying "read a whole chapter, fuckhead".
How hard is this? Let's take a look at how Cthulhu does it...pages 34-35...
Little character sheet, little arrow...big grey box
1. Determine characteristics. Find a blank investigator sheet. Be sure it is for the right era of play. Write your name in the space on the side.(see, they even had room for that).
-Roll 3d6 once each for...(and then all of the ability scores)...
They even have room for some hand-holding "these numbers are your investigator's skeleton. Be alert for ways to..."
2. Determine characteristic rolls (a whole box, explaining everything)
3. Determine derived characteristic points (the whole nine)
4. Determine occupation and skills (everything you need, except a list of occupations, but they tell you where that is)
5. Determine weapons (with the actual page numbers the weapons are on)
6. Determine Additional Background (some stuff you make up, some you calculate, all the calculations are there)
Plus, on the same spread we have yearly income table, damage bonus table, and little silhouettes of a flying monster and a natty Zelda Fitzgerald clone.
You know what you can do with this spread? You can sit down with a table full of people who have never played the game before and walk them through making characters. I've done it. The only hitch is sitting around and waiting for them to decide what skills they want.
Some will say "Oh but D&D characters are more complicated!". Well then ok, make one additional page for each class. Put the fluff wherever you want, but I want everything I need to do to make a thief on one page. I want to be able to say "Here, Frankie, do this".
(Though, while we're at it: Cthulhu, it's a 287 page rulebook, why aren't the weapon and resistance tables at the back of the book with everything else?)
So: Good graphic design.
Some will say the Type 4 Player's Handbook has "good graphic design" or, at least "better graphic design than the original". These people are wrong. RPG books usually have terrible graphic design--which is sad, because they are one of the very few types of books that actually need good graphic design.
I do not mean "good graphic design" in the boring, anal-retentive sense of "do whatever you can to make the book look expensive" (WOTC has that covered, since they have money, and most other game companies have it covered to the best of their ability) or in the commercial sense of "good graphic design makes the content look more interesting than it actually is" (RPG companies are all over that, they know all about that), I mean in the sense of "organizing the presentation of the entire corpus of information to be processed repeatedly at high speed by players and GMs". (Information design + graphic design, really, as DerikB points out in the comments.)
Good graphic design in this practical, engineering sense: Novels don't need it. Magazines don't need it. Encyclopedias could use it but don't need it. You can take your time with these--if you weren't taking your time you probably wouldn't be reading these things in the first place. On the other hand: Instruction manuals need it. RPG books--up there with maps and tourist books--do desperately need it. And we haven't even gotten started on modules--adventure modules need it more than anything ever.
With RPG books--like maps, instruction manuals, and tourist books--the quality of your actual experience doing the thing that the book is about depends to a certain (not huge, but significant) degree on your ability to find shit quickly in the book about the thing. You will have a better time driving through Belgium if you can spend less time thumbing through your book about Belgium and more time looking at Belgium. So this is where we've put our effort for the Kit.
To this end, we have sacrificed values appealing to the other kinds of Good Graphic Design. Most RPG products lean heavily on Good Graphic Design in the commercial sense--they stick pictures everywhere and dress the whole thing up so it looks kinda like it's from the same century as the game. I understand. All of us have known the feeling of being transported to a rarefied realm by a weighty game tome.
But this is not that thing: we only have 64 pages to work with, and they are half the size of a piece of typing paper (so it could be cheap) and I wanted (again) to create a book that I myself would (and will) use. This book will be built for speed, not comfort. So my priorities were:
-get a lot into those 64 pages, and
-make them easy to use
So: making you feel like you were in Vornheim was not a priority. Making you feel like Lamentations of the Flame Princess was owned by the very rich and operated by the very professional was not a priority. Making you go "OoooOOOOooooooHHHH" was not a priority (Though I do hope you like the pictures.). The priority was:
You have your players and they need to do something. And they need to do it now. And you press your fingers against the back cover and push your thumb in, compressing the pages, and they fan past you, springing out from under your raking thumb, and the headings are large, and -bing- there it is. And you use it. Because it is easy to use it. And it does not slow your game down and it does not require turning to a whole other page to see how it ends and it does not need to be highlighted or re-typed or prepped and so you not only have a book full of new stuff, you have a book full of new stuff it will cost you absolutely nothing to use.
So, hopefully, you will use it. You will not hesitate to add things in the book to your game because it isn't a whole involved thing. And your ideas and its ideas go together easily and with no gears grinding and you can play the game.
But this isn't really about us and the kit: We did the best we could and tried to make it fast and cheap and short and you can judge for yourselves whether we got what we were aiming for. This is actually about all the other companies out there, especially the big ones: you wanna make your game popular? Realize that making a working RPG book is actually one of the most difficult (and interesting) graphic design challenges there is (it is literature, instruction manual, reference manual and advertisement for itself, all wrapped in one), and hire people with some actual ideas* on the subject rather than drones who are just experts in making books look fancy. And then listen to them when they talk. And if you still have no ideas, check out the one page dungeon contest.
WOTC has more money than Jesus and three graphic designers and we can't even get a "How to make a druid" flowchart? "Fuck no, we need that extra space to print a second copy of the character sheet explaining that you write your character's name next to where it says 'Name'."
Ok, well how about a thumb index? Or, if that's too expensive, just a color-coded stripe down the side with different classes or kinds of powers/spells in different colors?
*Other than Cthulhu, the only genuine good new graphic design idea I have seen in RPG graphic design lately is the Origin Path chart in the Rogue Trader RPG.
Julius Moessel (1871 - 1957)
3 months ago