Saturday, February 2, 2013

2 Booklet Tips

It's funny to me how my hobby has actually helped me do things at my work (mostly using digest-sized booklets for training documents).  Today the job gives back.  These aren't earthshaking, but two things you can do with your house rule booklets:

Simple Sections
If you want a visual way to indicate sections in a booklet the simplest way I've come up with is to use different color paper.  Works best if you can break your booklet into 3 sections.  Make sure the middle section is an even number of pages.  Now, just print 2 booklets, one in color A and one in Color B and swap the middle sections.

Say you've got a booklet for players running down class abilities-- Fighter, Cleric, Magic-user, and you want the sections visually distinct.  You've got goldenrod paper and white.  Print a goldenrod booklet and a white booklet.  Then swap out the middle section and you've got one booklet with a goldenrod cleric section and one goldenrod booklet with a white cleric section.

If the former is what you really wanted you can keep the latter for yourself or just discard.  A waste of paper, but unless your printer handles back to back printing well (mine jams every time) and you want to carefully count out colored paper sandwiches for it, it's the only practical way I've come up with to do this.

QR Codes
QR codes are a fancy bar code that you can scan with your phone to take you right to a web page.  If you have a physical document in your hands there might be few reasons to have an easy link back to the digital realm, but I can think of two.

You might want to save precious space in your booklet by offloading less important information onto a webpage.  Names are a good example, I think.  During character creation some people have no problem coming up with an imaginary name others are stumped and slow down everything.  You could tell them "scan that code" and have it link to a page with a list of names. Like this one:
The other reason is to link to an automatic generator.  You could have a chart in your booklet and have players roll on it, but, and names are a good example here too; if you want tons of possibilities, don't want to have to stop and show players which dice to roll on a chart, etc, a qr code could help.  With a qr code linking to an automatic generator you can just say "Scan this code and the first result is your name." Like this:
From my experience the codes are pretty robust for size-- you can make them fairly small and they'll still work-- but not for contrast.  I like to de-emphasize information that isn't of primary importance.  One way I do that is turn black to grey.  But when I tried that only the codes they couldn't be read.

The codes are supposed to be able to encode text in the 1000 character range, which got me excited with the possibilities (think solo adventures, private notes, an alternative way to do this).  But again when I tried encoding small paragraphs the codes wouldn't scan.  Maybe I was doing something wrong and that's still a possibility.

note: After typing this up I found out Christian apparently has used qr codes like this in Loviatar.  I hadn't seen that, though, so maybe you hadn't either.

note 2: I just realized you can scan the codes off a screen!  So, if you're a DM that's using a tablet or notebook a lot having players scan a code off your screen might be faster than emailing or texting a link.  This all assumes a bunch of technology and I'd rather just have simple paper tools, but as a DIYer I'm also open to all possibilities.

Okay, If you've got booklet tips please share them in the comments.


  1. One tip I would add is paper weight. Most multipurpose which is general cheaper is 20lb paper. This is great if your only printing on one side. But if plan to print on both sides I would suggest getting at a minimum a 22 to 24lb paper to stop bleed through. You don't want page three showing up on page four. Plus that slightly higher weight pages the pages feel more substantial and looks cleaner.

    That would be my tip for booklet/zine for the day Telecanter. I like this series.

  2. We've been experimenting with QRCs at work, and I've long thought we should be using them on our web pages. In terms of the resolution of the images, the more info that they contain, the larger the image has to be, and that includes the URL string. If you use a tiny URL, you can reduce substantially reduce the info load in the QRC, which should allow you to shrink it more. There are very small QRCs (.25" square) on consumer products like deodorant and hair-care products, so you can definitely create them in that size on physical products (haven't had a chance to try ones that small for on-screen scanning yet).


  3. A bone folder seems like a stupidly unnecessary and specialized tool, but it's more helpful than you'd think. If you're hand folding more than one or two booklets, a bone folder makes it way earier to get sharp, accurate folds.

  4. Different colored papers is a great idea.

  5. Thanks for the tips.

    @Tim: good tip. A related note that comes to mind is number of pages. At about 40 booklet pages I start having a hard time creasing the booklet. But 40 pages for a minimalist is a lot.

    @grodog: very helpful, thanks. I might try using url shorteners at work to make the qrs even less conspicuous.

    @Paul:Thanks, I don't think I'd heard of those before, but now that you mention it, I might buy one for work. Not good to have dirty looking booklets because I used my inky hands to crease them.

    I tried to think up more booklet tips but the only thing I could think of is if you are doing booklets semi-seriously get yourself a long arm stapler. If you can't justify buying one, stapling into styrofoam works pretty well.

    Also, most of my readers will know about pocket mods. If not, look them up. You can turn any 8 page section of your handbook into a tiny handbook. Could be useful for having one single houserules book and then give players a tiny book based on what class they end up. So fighters don't have to sort through spell research rules etc.

    The only thing is it will make the type quite small. In fact I pump up my normal booklets Time New Roman to 14 point for default text and 18 point for headers, you might want to do a separate run for pocket mods. But then that sort of defeats the purpose of the ease of using multiple formats. Not fun to try and revise and update multiple parallel documents.

  6. Thanks, Brendan, We must have been writing our comments at the same time.