A while back I was introduced to The Sprawl, a cyberpunk band-of-criminals roleplaying game. The book itself was printed in two versions, “Midnight” and “Noon”. Midnight was black paper with mainly white text while Noon was the opposite. I gravitated to the Noon version for a few reasons and didn’t give it much thought, but then I was contracted by Modiphius to work on Star Trek Adventures (the standalone missions, mainly), and suddenly I was working on a game line with white copy on black text.
Late last month, I wrote about paragraph styles in InDesign. Although at the beginning of that writing, I talked about how I convert marked-up copy with grep searches and why that needed to have standardized naming conventions for styles. When I finished that article, I realized I began by saying “when I first started doing layout” to introduce the marked-up copy concept, and never went into how I currently prefer receiving copy. That way? Word documents.
Marked-up copy has several things that can slow down conversion to layout. Just to name a few: authors have to manually insert [bold], [h2], and other tags; an author might not close the tag correctly, which will mess up your grep queries; an author might label things like the headings incorrectly.
A Word document seems to take care of all that.
When I first started doing layout for RPGs, I was given marked up text and I tended to use that early on. The copy would come from the editor or author and be full of what looked like HTML in brackets or angle-brackets: [em]this would be set in italics[/em], <dice>8</dice> would mean to put in an 8-sided die graphic, while [ih]this could be an inline header (and it took me forever to find out what “ih” meant). The work would consist of taking this plain, unstylized text, and doing several grep searches inside InDesign to replace the markup copy with stylized copy.
For projects like The Fate Codex, I had this pretty much down pat. It worked for that because that project was a series of documents, all using the same paragraph and character styles.