Skip to main content

Doctor GURPS Author, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The WYSIWYG Template

Something I see over at the forum from time to time is people saying that they're interested in writing for Pyramid or GURPS but are instantly driven off by the size and complexity of the style guide and the WYSIWYG template. And they can be intimidating documents. They're long and there are some really specific guidelines for certain kinds of material.

And that's necessary. Despite working almost entirely in the realm of the imagination, Steve Jackson Games is a technical publisher. They need to organize information in regular, predictable formats. It's like Safety Data Sheets, just of their own design.

But the thing I've noticed in several years of writing GURPS material is that you won't need most of it.

So if you want to write an article for Pyramid, here's what you do: Once you've gotten a thumb-up from Steven on your proposal, get the template, create a new document based on it (Don't use Microsoft Word? Me neither. I use LibreOffice. The template works fine there, and it should work in OpenOffice as well.), and start writing. Use what you need, ignore the rest. And how do you know what you need? Here's how it breaks down:

  • 90% of what you write will be in TEXT. If you're writing a paragraph, put it in TEXT. There are exceptions, but we'll come to those.
  • A-HEAD through D-HEAD are section headings. You do need to think hierarchically when writing your text, but if you can do that, the headings will follow naturally. Start your article or chapter with an A-HEAD. Subsections under that A-HEAD are B-HEADs. Subsections of the Bs are Cs and subsections of the Cs are Ds. This is just an implementation of the outlines you did when writing essays in high school.
  • Text boxes have a sort of subset of that, with special box-related styles (C-BOXHEAD for long boxes, two paragraphs or more, D-BOXHEAD for short boxes, and TEXT-BOX for the main text. And, yeah, you need to throw in the START-END markers to signal the boundaries of the box.
  • Tables are a pain, yes, but you don't have to compose using the table styles. I construct my tables using actual tables in the document. When it comes time to submit the manuscript, I convert the table to text, mark the body with TABLE and header row with TABLEHD. Done. 
  • Specific kinds of material can have very elaborate formatting: spells, monsters, NPCs, etc. This is why the good lord gave us copy and paste. I don't think I've ever tried to write up anything in those complicated categories from scratch. I always copy over the template example and fill in my own text.  
  • And if you want something that doesn't fit or you don't quite get, the good lord has given us Steven Marsh. If you've successfully run a proposal past him, he's there to help. For example, the template and style guide may be missing something. When I last checked the style guide didn't have the format for organization stat blocks from Boardroom and Cura. Want to write an article with organization stats? Don't try to figure it out on your own; ask Steven. Need a format for something new? Try something, or just ask. The table format for Treasure Tables didn't exist until it needed to be worked out, nor did the Boardroom and Cura stat block. Certainly, you'll make a good-faith effort to figure out things on your own, but the answer to some of your questions may be "this isn't in the template/style guide."
  • And put a halfline between style changes that don't have a HEAD or START-END style on one side or another.

So, TEXT under hierarchically arranged HEADs, with occasional use of other styles for special purposes, most of which you can copy-and-paste in. That's not so bad, is it?

Comments

Using OO or LO wipes the styleguide options when opening said document in Word. The formatting remains sometimes, but not always. Most of the rest of this is pretty accurate.

Popular posts from this blog

Writing GURPS Adventures

Someone over on the forum asked for advice on writing adventures for GURPS. Or more specifically, in context, writing GURPS adventures with an eye towards publication by SJ Games, which is a very different animal. Whatever method and structure you have for writing up adventures for your own use is, of course, the best and you should use it for your own purposes. But we're talking about commerce here, not just art, so this should be thought of as advice on how to do business with a particular publisher, not generally useful advice on how to write adventures.

I need to start by defining a term. SJ Games means something specific by "adventure." As the wish list uses the word, an adventure has a plot, or at least something plot-like in it. It presents a specific problem to solve through a progression of encounters. They are not sandboxes. Sandbox-style adventures, with their multiplicity of possible PC objectives, are, in the terminology of the wish list, locations. There ar…

Writing Historical RPGs, Doing Diversity

For a few years now, I've been seeing things like this and reading pieces elsewhere about apparent conflicts between historical accuracy in historical or pseudo-historical fantasy games and issues of deep interest to some parts (and some potential parts) of the modern gaming audience. I tend to write things which are both connected to history and are written to enable the fantasies of modern people, some of whom have a specific interest in not reproducing problematic parts of the past and present in their recreations, so it's something which touches on stuff that I do. And I think I tend to move and write in circles where this tends not to get much thought or attention even though I write for a game which makes accuracy a priority, so while none of this is new to people who grapple with these issues regularly, I'm thinking maybe I should say something about it to get it into spaces where I work.

So, how do I approach the demands of both accuracy and diversity in the stuff …

Still More GURPS Terrain

I've been playing with a few more hex floor pieces.

One thing I've been seeing in a lot of printable floors is a sort of natural stone texture. It's a little irregular and uneven, though not so much so to make it unusable as terrain. It crossed my mind that rather than build a "natural stone floor" set of pieces, I could print flat floor pieces, shear some "rock" designs in half, scale appropriately, and print with a very, very small Z height. Those get glued to the flat floor and painted. That way, I'm not dealing with huge files (those rock forms use a lot of triangles). Seems to work pretty well.


What I'm not quite so happy with is a wooden plank texture. I swiped some very detailed wood plank hexes from a design on Thingiverse and scaled it down to my 1-inch hexes. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it works well at that scale. That said, I recently switched down from a .4 to a .3mm nozzle, so I'll try it again and see if that helps…