To Serif or Not to Serif

The debate of whether or not to use serifs in fonts has raged almost since Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1440. What are serifs, you may ask? Serifs are the little decorative marks on letters, like the bars on the top and bottom of the capital “I”. Sans-serif literally means “without serifs”.

Since I write both fiction and rulebooks, I looked through an assortment of our roleplaying books and novels, and also some boardgame rules.

In our roleplaying books serifs are very dominant. I checked a sampling of our GURPS 3/4e, D&D 4e, OVA, and HackMaster 4/5e books, and they were exclusively serif fonts other than tables and sidebars in HM; sidebars, examples, and sample characters in OVA; and monster blocks in D&D. In other words, they use serifs unless the text is small enough that the serifs might make it harder to read.

Possibly the oldest novel in our collection is my much-loved and rather battered 1978 edition of Heinlein’s Space Cadet. It uses sans-serif for chapter headings and page headers, but serifs otherwise. My wife’s 2013 library book is the same – and some people say that’s the problem, but I’ll go into that shortly.

Boardgame rules are less cohesive simply because they come in a number of formats: sheet or two of paper, pamphlet, booklet, the box or similar material (Ultimate Stratego’s rules are written on the card used to divide the board while players set up). From what I have seen, those that print on card- or pasteboard tend to use serifs, while those on simple paper don’t. Munchkin uses fonts that fit the game’s mood, resulting in a mixture of serif and sans fonts in booklets. Pyramid Arcade includes a 75-page rulebook, entirely in sans serif.


The serif debate is as nuanced as any, but most people seem to fall into one of two groups:
* In long lines of uninterrupted text serif fonts are easier to read because the serifs help guide the eye.
* Sans-serif fonts are “cleaner”, and therefore easier to read. Serif fonts only seem easier to read because they are what we are used to.

I fall into that first group, but also agree that sans-serif fonts look “cleaner”, but in mixed case sans serifs can be confusing. Think of how the word Illinois looks without its serifs. In all caps or or all lowercase it doesn’t matter, but in mixed case capital “I” and lowercase “l” look exactly the same.

As a compromise I have developed the habit of using sans-serif (Arial for screen or Verdana for print) for headings, especially if they are all caps, and serif (Times New Roman) for text. Purely out of curiosity, I mocked up a fake page from my roleplaying game’s rulebook with one written completely in Times New Roman (right), and the other with Verdana headings (left).

Font Test with mock up of rpg rulebook page

So which do you prefer?

Cowboys and d6 Shooters

There are two Western-themed gaming Kickstarters going on right now by two of our favorite small game companies: Aces & Eights: Reloaded by Kenzer and Company, makers of HackMaster and Knights of the Dinner Table, and Six Shooters – Western Themed Dice by Black Oak Workshop, who we have backed twice before, for Bullseye d6, then Bullseye d4/8.

If you are a big fan of Wild West roleplaying games, then you may already be aware of award-winning Aces & Eights. What you may not know is that it was derived from Hackmaster 4e, which was itself evolved from AD&D 2E. HackMaster 5e, in turn, was adapted from A&8. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, KenzerCo is releasing a second edition, and it looks like the book will be a gorgeous, full-color, leather-bound tome like HackMaster 5e.

Even if you have no interest in the Wild West, its Shot Clock is an easy to way to resolve gunfire in a realistic manner without having to deal with cover and hit locations. Even better, the Kickstarter says it “can also be played as a skirmish-level miniatures battle.” I don’t have any particular interest in Wild West roleplaying, but we may well go for the $15 Showdown miniatures skirmish game rules.

Black Oak Workshop specializes in custom dice Kickstarters. We love our Bullseye dice, and are exceedingly happy with both the quality and how quickly they arrived. Like their previous project, this time the dice are 19mm rather than the 16mm of their previous offerings, which should make them much easier to read.

Take note that Aces & Eights is d20-based, while the Six Shooter dice are naturally d6s, but that didn’t stop Black Oak from backing Aces & Eights: Reloaded. Believe it or not, I actually heard about the A&8 Kickstarter from Black Oak Workshop before I did from Kenzer even though I’m on both mailing lists.

Happiness Jar #8 for 2017-04-09

Steve Jackson just released a newly-updated ”Munchkin Thingies”. As a result I was finally able to fill in some gaps in my Munchkin Compatibility Chart, and add in the recently Kickstarted Munchkin Shakespeare (we’re excited about getting our copy).

I’m also finally getting around to moving my files over to the desktop computer I built last summer, and it’s going pretty smoothly, in large part thanks to Box and Mega because they automated the transfer of nearly all of my documents. Going from 4 to 16 gigs of memory for Windows 10 is a dream – even more so since Windows itself is on a solid state drive (SSD), which I bought thanks to the advice of one of my best friends since high school.

Free Win7/10 tip I just learned: You can move your My Documents folder quite effortlessly by simply right-clicking on it in the folder tree in Explorer, clicking Properties, then the Location tab. That’s great because SSDs have limited read/write cycles, while mechanical drives can generally be re-used until something actually breaks. Thus if you can keep your software on an SSD and data files on a mechanical drive, your programs will run much faster, but without frequent saves wearing the drive out prematurely (my motto is “save early, save often” to avoid losing my work).

And we had several TCG-related happinesses over the past week: We got this Saturday’s Pokémon League Cup scheduled (with a Magic prerelease next week and Pokémon one the next), and I got to play in a sealed/demo for the Final Fantasy TCG. I can best describe FFTCG as Duel Masters or Kaijudo if they had been designed for adults rather than children. It moves the complexity scale a bit towards the Magic end, and even borrows some of its keywords (Haste, First Strike) and renames some others to make them better fit (Vigilance is “Brave”, Tap is “Dull”, Untap is “Activate”, etc.).

I can only make two relatively minor complaints about the game so far: the colors are too similar (Water and Ice are both blue, and Lightning is a very blue purple), making it hard to tell them apart, especially when foils get involved; and all of the power ratings end with “000” for no apparent mechanical reason – what I call the “Yu-Gi-Oh effect” or “Pokémon Effect”. In Pokémon every damaging move and every Pokémon HP is a multiple of 10, so you could erase that 0 from every card in the game and it would have no effect whatsoever. D&D 4e’s half-level bonus and 5e’s quarter-level bonus likewise serve only to make the numbers seem bigger even though they don’t actually make any difference mechanically since DCs and ACs go up right along with them.

But this is a Happiness jar, and that goes against the spirit of the idea, so I’ll get off my tangent now, and simply say that if you liked Duel Masters/Kaijudo but thought it was a bit too simplistic, or simply love Final Fantasy, give the game a look (they’ve got some great how-to-play videos. Even if you don’t play it, the cards are the highest quality CCG cards I have ever seen – and I owned an FLGS for three years! They are the same size as Magic cards, but significantly stiffer. If you were to look at the back of one without touching it, you would swear it was plastic, not paper. The art, of course, is amazing. So if you are an FF fan but don’t play card games, it still might be worth a look.

April Tournaments and Pokémon Decklist Sheet

We are proud to announce Asheville’s Pokémon League Cup on Tax Day (April 15th for you those of you not dealing with taxes yet). One week later is the Magic prerelease for Amonkhet, and a week after that is the Pokémon prerelease for Guardians Rising. Naturally, that means there will be no League Challenge this month, but they will begin again in May.

As usual, I have updated my deck registration sheet, including Guardians Rising, which won’t be tournament legal until May 21. But I just made an interesting discovery: PokéGym has a fillable decklist you can fill out in your browser and print. If you do, please make sure it’s only one page, even if you have to double-side it. It’s not only good for the Earth, it reduces the volume of paper we have to store because we are required to keep the sheets for a while.

Happiness Jar #7 for 2017-03-27

Had several good things in the last week. One was the big 50th wedding anniversary party for my parents on Sunday – a goal far too many people these days will never reach.

I also finally got back to work on the lite game I made and then abandoned five years ago. First thing was copyediting the original post. How it got past my usual meticulous proofreading is beyond me – the number of errors was appalling. But it’s fixed now, and version .2 is nearly done.

Happiness Jar #6 for 2017-03-12

I was a bit disappointed to discover how few Pokémon are now allowed in the VGC Standard Format, and even more so when I couldn’t find a list of them. That led me to create a list of all Standard-legal Pokémon, which led me to post the Standard Format rules, something I’ve been meaning to do for years. I’ll be adding both to my Downloads page shortly.

One thing that is helping me finish more tasks and create more happiness jars is an app called Habitica, which turns your life into an RPG. It’s deserving of a post of its own, so I won’t say more here, but I highly recommend it for anyone needing a daily kick in the butt.

Pokémon Video Game Tournament Standard Format 2017

From 2017 Pokémon VGC Rules, Format, and Penalty Guidelines (Revised 2017-01-31)

Only Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon game cards or downloadable versions are permitted.

Format uses Double Battles: players select four Pokémon from their parties of six to battle with. At the start of the battle, players send out the first two Pokémon in their party, making a total of four Pokémon on the battlefield. Gameplay continues until all of one player’s Pokémon faint.

Pokémon

Players may use Pokémon from the Alola Pokédex, from No. 001–204, 206-288, and 293-299, that are caught or hatched in the game, or received at an official event or distribution.

  • Only the Alola Formes of Pokémon with regional variants may be used.

Pokémon must have a black clover in the Pokémon summary screen to indicate that the Pokémon was acquired in Generation VII.

Pokémon may have Hidden Abilities.

Pokémon may only use moves acquired in normal gameplay or from an official event or promotion.

The levels of all Pokémon will be set to 50 for the duration of battle.

A player’s team cannot contain two Pokémon with the same Pokédex number or nickname.

A player’s team cannot contain a Pokémon nicknamed with the name of another Pokémon (for example, an Unfezant named “Pidove”), or anything potentially offensive.

Items

Players may use items that have been acquired in normal gameplay or from an official event or promotion.

Each Pokémon on a player’s team can hold an item, though no two Pokémon may hold the same item.

Pokémon may not hold Mega Stones.