When crafting a rulebook think about how the player is expected to design their character and position the chapters in such a way that the player can build their character while going through the rules. If they have to jump around between chapters, perhaps find ways where box outs containing summary information can plug the gaps and allow for a smoother progression through the chapters. If you’re unsure how to proceed, turn to someone who has read a lot of rulebooks for assistance.
When double checking if your rule book is easy to read, see if there is someone who is willing to help you who has difficulty reading (even if simply due to lack of time) and pay close attention to what they have to say. When people check rule books during games they are going to be tired, stressed and in a hurry so their experience will be a closer match to players on the day.
Consider using some of these in your rulebook:
- Box outs for information that fits the theme of the chapter but is somewhat tangential or which goes into greater and more specific detail than it typically needed.
- Dot points for clusters of simple and straight forward information.
- Flow charts are great visual indicators for rules with obvious progression which may include character levels or tracking health point loss and healing in a more complex system.
- Align the text to the left rather than justifying your text (making it so each line fills the page). Justified text may look pretty but tends to cause issues with folks with dyslexia due to how it changes the distances between letters.
- Sub-headings in bold so folks can find the section most important to them.
- Ensure it has a robust Contents page containing all sub-headings, at the very least. An index is even better.
- Page numbers. Never forget them.
- Infographics are great though never rely on them alone. You should also describe it in the text.
- Clear chapter delineations. Lore shouldn’t creep into the rules section unless pertinent or clearly separated through italics. As an example, the skills section could have pertinent lore italicised just beneath the sub-heading and the mechanics details just below it.
- Pictures in longer works help break up the text and give a sense of style and theme that can inspire players.
- Paragraphs should each make a specific point. If there are two points in the same paragraph, consider splitting the paragraph.
- Large paragraphs can be off-putting. If you’re doing a two column design, your paragraphs will appear plumper than they would if they could stretch across the page. Always be mindful of where you can separate paragraphs.
- Conversely, if several related paragraphs are only 1 – 2 lines, they might be better off as dot points.