Archive for the ‘Book Design’ Category

The mother of all tables (and other musings)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

I meant to post about this a while ago, but i kept on forgetting…

In a couple of spots in 7th edition, there exist some rather…large tables. One particularly massive table has to do with listing every single Mythos tome ever written about in any Mythos story. We’re talking well over a hundred entries.

Up to this point, i’d been doing all the tables by hand, but after starting in on the tome table, i was quickly realizing that i was losing Sanity points in big chunks. Surely there’s got to be a solution for this…

Lo and behold, InDesign has a function available, called Convert Text to Table, which can be found in the Table menu. I won’t bore you with too many details about it, but one important element i learned (the hard way, as usual) when using this tool is how tell it when to create a new cell. There are a few methods, but the simplest is by a tab. Basically, it works like this:

(glob of text)  [tab]  (another glob of text)

Select the text and apply Convert Text to Table

(glob of text in Cell 1)    (another glob of text in Cell 2)

It’s an awesome, time-saving feature, but you have to be careful that you have all your tabs cleaned up before you run the conversion; otherwise, entire rows in the table can be thrown off. If there are two tabs between your words instead of one, you’ll end up with an unwanted, blank cell.

In other news, i’ve sent off a completed chapter of 7th edition to Mike Mason; it’s been approved, and will hopefully be put on the KS page soon. And, of course, i’ll put up samples of it here as well. I’ve also mocked up some final card designs for Feed the Shoggoth; i brought those with me to a local con recently, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Once those are prepped, i’ll post those here as well.

2013 in review, and a look ahead…

Friday, January 17th, 2014

I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, 2013 doesn’t /feel/ like it was a busy year, but upon reflection, it was probably the most crazy year yet for us Squamous folk.

  1. Publication-wise, most of the stuff that Squamous helped shepherd to print were Miskatonic River Press books: Tales of the Sleepless City, Grimscribe’s Puppets, and Deepest Darkest Eden. Sadly, this would be the year that MRP decided to go on indefinite hiatus (though i know that they’re still working with Chronicle City to get Punktown out in the near future.
  2. Oscar Rios’ new company, Golden Goblin Press, started and completed their first Kickstarter, and we managed to get our first release, Island of Ignorance, out to backers in the timeframe that was announced. That was one hell of a project to work on!
  3. I joined Montag Press, and designed the first book for them, M Against M.
  4. Work began (and continued) on Call of Cthulhu 7th edition; by far, my biggest project to date.
  5. Continued work on my Feed the Shoggoth card game, with toiling away at the artwork top priority for that.
  6. A second book for Montag Press, Punish the Wicked, is in the works.

So what’s up next? Oh, nothing much, really…

  1. Call of Cthulhu 7th edition core rulebook and the Investigator’s Companion are released to the public in late spring. And if they don’t, you’ll probably never hear from me again, as a horde of CoC fans will have stormed my house and flayed me alive.
  2. Punish the Wicked will be out on the shelves.
  3. I plan on launching the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth in mid-March. Watch this space for further developments!
  4. Golden Goblin Press’ next Kickstarter is about get underway for Tales from the Crescent City. Assuming that the KS is successful, i’ll be doing the book design for that as well.
  5. I’ve got a project for Cthulhu by Gaslight that i’ve had on the back burner for months that i’m just itching to get out. By hell or high water…

And who knows what else the year will bring? I’d really like to thank everyone who’s been following along here, and those of you who have been posting comments. They’re very welcome, and i’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Cheers!

In the Gutter

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

One of the issues that plagues any book designer/layout monkey is the gutter. No, i’m not talking about the one outside of Lou’s Piss Shack that you stumbled and fell asleep in last night around 1:30am. I’m referring to that gap of space between where the spine ends, and the text begins.

As i’ve learned the hard way (see Dissecting Cthulhu for one brilliant example) that, if you don’t accommodate for enough space in the gutter, the text on the pages get too close to the spine, making the book more difficult to read. This is a major goof. Basically you’re breaking one of the ten commandments of book design: “Thou shalt allow for enough space in the gutter, lest a donkey shite in your car”. It’s a big no-no.

So there i was, absentmindedly thumbing through my copy of Island of Ignorance the other night, and noticing the gutter spacing was a bit too snug. And my mind started to wander a bit…7th edition is sitting at over 320 pages, and i’m on Chapter 12 of 18. This thing is going to need a big gutter.

Oooops.

Right. Problem is, how the hell do i institute this sort of fix book-wide? I sure as shit can’t do it page by page. That’d drive me (more) insane.

After fiddling around, i found the solution. Check it:

1) Go to your Master Pages. Select all of them. Make sure both pages in your Master Pages spreads are highlighted. This is important.

2) Go to Layout -> Margins and Columns. Here’s where you’re going to do your tweaking. Just start increasing the number value of the Inside Margin.

3) Now, this is a reeeeally important step. Before you start changing your numbers, make sure you have the Enable Layout Adjustment option checked. By doing this, you’re ensuring that your main text boxes on all the pages will be moved to fit the new margins, thus saving yourself a huge ass headache of having to do all that yourself by hand, page after page after bloody page.

4) If you have the Preview option selected, you can see the pages adjust as you increase or decrease the numbers, which is neat.

5) Now hit OK! You should now find that all your pages within the book have been adjusted.

Of course, you’re not done yet- since all of your pages have been altered, you’ll want to comb over your book, looking for things that’ll need fine tuning and adjusting. But trust me, this is really important, if you find yourself in the same situation i was just in. Hope that helps!

 

Working in phases

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Here at Squamous Studios, we appreciate insanity in all its forms; insanity gives us insight that we may not normally possess, and it gives us an excuse to drool on ourselves or smear ice cream on the cat.

However, sometimes madness doesn’t help. Sometimes, ya gotta be a little more organized. Like when you’re putting a massive tome like 7th edition together. Thus, i’ve broken down the process into 4 distinct phases:

Phase I: Getting the basic text laid out, formatting charts, inserting the basic page decoration, and so on. The skeleton and meat of the book is getting done at this phase. All the text for all various chapters are completed at this point, including all the boxed text bits, tables, diagrams, and so on. These are not, as of yet, incorporated into the main pages.

Phase II: Dropping in the artwork, and moving all the elements around so that everything flows together (boxed texts, tables, sidebars, and the like).

Phase III: Final tweaks and corrections. Admittedly, i will often start Phase III whilst i’m doing I and II; exporting a pdf, and seeing how things are looking in general. But this final phase is when all the fiddling and adjusting and fine tuning happens. Whether it’s corrections in the text, or scooting an art element over a few pixels, forcing a paragraph break in a header, or whathaveyou.

Phase IV: The final front pages go in (title page, ToC), the index is built out, and (according to Mike Mason) the ants take over.

So where are we at now? More than half way through Phase I. I’m staring at roughly 320 pages of book. Yikes! This guy is going to be massive. Phase I always takes the longest, with Phase II going much more quickly.

One last thing- on the Kickstarter page, a couple of layout examples were posted there. I definitely appreciate the positive comments; thanks! I do feel compelled to point out that those examples are a bit old at this point, and many of the criticisms brought up have already been addressed. Trust me, the book looks even better at this point. :)

I’m going to try to get some more up to date examples mocked up soon…

Take /that/, tables!

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

I’m sure the multitudinous members of my audience will be happy to know that i finally figured out how to slay the tables importing dragon. It took me a bit, but here’s what i ended up doing:

1) I copied the original table from the manuscript file, created a new doc in Word, and pasted it there.

2) I then created a new document in InDesign.

3) Created a text content box, and hit Command+D to Place the Word doc containing just the table into the box.

4) Lastly, i copied that box/table and placed it in the main book.

And that worked. A bit of a work-around from being able to import/place it directly into the book, but hey, now it’s in there.

Continuing on the subject of tables, i’ve been creating a bunch of others in the core rule book as they come up; Damage Bonus charts, Income levels, etc. And at first, i was doing them in simple black and white. Which is, frankly, boring to look at. I had to remind myself that i’m working in color…so why not, in the spirit of the game, make them ichor green and white?  And thus, they now are. :)

Oh, and one tip that i discovered with resizing the cells of tables- you can move your cursor over a table grid, and drag them, but that resizes all of the cells. But you can also Shift+drag, and that will resize only that one row/column. Very handy!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I’m happy to announce that Golden Goblin Press first release, The Island of Ignorance, is in the can, and is now available for order! Anyone who wishes to grab the pdf version can buy it now from GGP’s website…or you can wait a little while longer for the dead tree version.

http://www.goldengoblinpress.com/island-of-ignorance/

Plus, i’ve finished my first book for Montag Press, M Against M by Declan Tan. It’s not up on Montag’s site yet, but should be soon. Once i hear that it’s out and available, i’ll definitely post about it here. But you can always check Montag’s site by going here.

Meanwhile, i’ve been making headway with the design for CoC 7th edition. It’s slow going at the moment, as i still have to wait for art and text assets to come in, but i’ve completed chapter 3, which is the Call of Cthulhu short story itself. I’ve also been working on more card art for Feed the Shoggoth, and that continues to chug along. Funny how some pieces get reworked as they do. One card, “Horde of Penguins”, is an in-joke, making a reference to the story “At the Mountains of Madness”. Obviously, shoggoths and blind albino penguins aren’t going to get along well. At all. (in the game, using the “Horde of Penguins” card allows the player to move the shoggoth a certain number of spaces in any direction; the shoggoth just wants to get the hell away of those penguins).

It makes sense to me, anyway.

 

*ahem*

 

When i originally drew the art, they were normal looking penguins. But in the story, they appear as blind, albino penguins. So i’ve taken this opportunity to go back and make sure they’re the right kind of penguins. Gotta get my in-jokes right!

Lastly, i updated my portfolio with the latest books that i’ve designed; four more this year! There’s actually another Cthulhu fiction anthology (with added sci-fi!!) in Chaosium’s print queue, but it hasn’t come out yet: Eldritch Chrome. I guess that’ll be in 2014.

Almost there!

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

My latest design mock up for Call of Cthulhu 7th ed. was reviewed by the authors last week, and the response was very positive. Outside of a few tweaks here and there, and pending approval from Charlie, i think i can consider the design for 7th ed. done. Somehow, i suspect that this was the easy part…

Now, i should add that i’ve been concentrating on the core rulebook only. However, in the course of coming up with the design for that book, i’ve been able to experiment with design elements that i’ll end up using for the Investigator’s Handbook. Expect to see two very distinct designs between the two books. I’m really excited about this; i’m hoping it’ll come across as an actual handbook, or field guide, if you will.

I’m currently attempting to wrap up production on Deepest, Darkest Eden for Miskatonic River Press. I’m pretty sure all that’s left to do is place the ads in the back of the book, and i’ll be able to officially put this in the “done” pile.

Similarly, my first for Montag Press, M Against M, is nearly done. Feedback from both the author and publisher have been enthusiastic, which is awesome. Everyone has different expectations on what they want to see in book design, and working for a company, completely out of the RPG industry, has been a real change for me. But since everyone is digging what i’m doing, i guess i don’t need to worry.

Work also continues on Island of Ignorance- i’m done with all the articles, and am now throwing together the scenarios in the back.

And, somewhere, lurking in the shadows, Feed the Shoggoth waits to be worked on….

And so it begins…

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Needless to say, the biggest news around here in the Shoggoth pits is Call of Cthulhu 7th edition (if you haven’t checked out the Kickstarter for it yet, you can do so here). I’ve been putting together design elements and resources, gathering fonts, and tinkering with page design. After some early struggles with InDesign not bending to my will, i’ve managed to get the start of a framework going for the basic page layout. Right now, i’m getting really fussy with fonts, and still haven’t decided on the final font for the header. But other parts are coming together, and i’m (mostly) happy with the results so far.

Part of the thrill and terror of this sort of project is that i feel that in some ways, i need to pull out all the stops, and use every ounce of skill and technique that i’ve learned over the years to make this the best book it can be. It also means a) still trying new things, and b) making sure i stick to my function-over-form rule.

I’ve been seeing a lot of clamor lately about “FFG edition/Spanish edition/French edition looks so gorgeous! That’s what we want!” on the interwebs. It would be really easy to try to mimic those designs, and i understand that some gamers really want a pretty book. But as a Keeper myself, i know that the first thing i want out of a rulebook is for it to allow me to read it easily, and find the information i need quickly. I cannot in good conscience let the organization of a book suffer to make it look more attractive.

Since i’ve been doing book design, i’ve by and large trusted my gut, as to what looked and felt right. That’s what has gotten me to this point. I’m not about to change that now. So…i hope people will be able to trust my judgement.

In other news, i’ve finished off Grimscribe’s Puppets (though i need to send the files off to MRP), and i’m making a lot of headway with my first book for Montag Press. I’m also gearing up layout for Golden Goblin’s first book, really diving back into art deco styling.

It’s been a bit quiet around here…

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I hate it when real life gets in the way of work. Ugh. Sadly, it’s put a bit of a stall on projects, but things are ramping up again.

I’ve been working furiously lately to get Tales of the Sleepless City out the door; last night, i made a big push to get the page decoration done, and i think i’m there with it. Again, trying to be pretty without ruining the functionality, and working within an Art Deco style/framework. I think i pulled it off, but i need to see what Tom thinks. After that, i’ve got a round of corrections to comb through, which i’m hoping won’t be too long…

Happy to say that i’ve been given a new book to work on, a fiction anthology called “Undead and Unbound”. Given that it’s been shepherded by Brian Sammons and David Conyers, i’m sure it’s gonna rawk. :)

Feed the Shoggoth is, alas, something i haven’t been able to look at much, mostly because of time constraints, plus i’m still waiting for the art clean up to be done. But it’s still present in my mind.

Lastly, there are a couple of Gaslight-related projects that are in the works, but i can’t say more on that just yet. But don’t fear, that era is going to see some support. :)

Done, almost done, and, uh, not quite done.

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

It’s official- Lux In Tenebras has been released to the public! You can purchase a copy of this lovely .pdf release for Cthulhu Invictus at Miskatonic River Press’ website here.

Meanwhile, we’re getting very close with Dissecting Cthulhu, S.T. Joshi’s collection of essays on HP Lovecraft’s writings. I’d say we’re about 95% done; right now, i’m waiting on proofreading corrections, after had just finished putting the index in.

As for Cthulhu by Gaslight…it goes. Doing what work that i can on it. I’m taking a new approach to the layout, to hopefully speed up the process for when the artwork does indeed arrive.

I’ve slowly but steadily working on my revision for (Altered) Resonance, my World War II/Delta Green one shot scenario. It’s somehow ballooned to over 17,000 words. Not exactly sure how that happened. I’ve reworked the ending of it a bit, but not so drastically that it wouldn’t hold up under another playtest. It’s getting close to being done; the next step after this will be to submit it to Pagan and see what they think of it…