Which RPG Has the Most Jaw-Dropping Layout?

During the month of August, I’m participating in RPG a Day 2017. Each day I’ll answer a question, or my interpretation of a question, about tabletop roleplaying games. For those who have wanted your beloved UncleBear to get back into RPG blogging, this is the closest you’re going to get.

Which RPG Has the Most Jaw-Dropping Layout?

There is a lot of Marcel Duchamp in my thinking. What can be defined as art? What is the purpose of art? Duchamp seemed to believe that art only becomes are when the observer interacts with it. At least, any value from art requires interaction. Until then, a painting is so much pigment on canvas. Books are a stack of paper sitting on a shelf unless and until they are read. A game isn’t a game until people actually play it. People bringing their experiences to it are the most essential and important component.

When I first started playing roleplaying games, dinosaurs roamed the Earth and we had to walk to school uphill, both ways, in a snowstorm every day. There were only 3 channels on the television, which was black and white. Telephones were attached to the wall and there was no internet. Roleplaying games had mostly amateurish art, and the production value was incredibly low. Somehow, I’m not sure how exactly, we still managed to have fun.

I have nothing again beautifully-produced, full-color books with painted artwork on every page. There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying or collecting those perfect artifacts. My issue is that it’s sort of become a requirement. Having a game that’s fun to play, with prose that’s well-written and rules that are clearly explained, isn’t enough. Having a book that’s well-organized, where one section flows logically into the next and information is easy to locate, isn’t enough. It has to sizzle. Style over substance.

My problem with this question isn’t that I object to “jaw-dropping layout”. My issue is that for a lot of people that’s become more important than the game bits. You know, the part you actually play. That a great swath of the hobby never actually reads these artifacts, let along plays them, but buys them to sit on a shelf and look pretty and allow bragging rights as to the completeness of one’s collection.
These are not games, to my Duchampian sensibilities.

The game is the interaction at the table. The relationships between the players and their characters. How the group interacts with the rules. The story being told. I can’t say that a game has ever been more or less fun to play based on the quality of the layout. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

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