One issue we need to tackle over the coming months is improving the appearance of 6d6 – its products and web sites. This will be a gradual process that starts with the storefront – 6d6RPG.com – as we update it inline with the one-product strategy. The storefront has a job to do – converting interest into sales – so it cannot simply be a work of art. That said there is a lot of little improvements in the design and layout which will give it that more professional feel.
Over on 6d6Fireball.com, it is a different story.
This is our ‘corporate’ site but its primary job at the moment is as a home for our blog. Because the blog is in a separate section the domain’s home page is effectively unused. This is the perfect canvas to do something visually striking that promotes the core ideas of 6d6 – openness and creativity.
I’m not sure how we do this so ideas are welcome and I will seek feedback as I start to put together plans.
Books & Cards
The other main area for beautification are the game materials themselves. This means internal art for the books and looking at the cards. Book artwork simple comes down to resources but we have recently been blessed by an artist joining our creative ranks. We also have another idea for acquiring artwork but that will take time to put together. Over the next six months I expect to see a gradual increase in the amount of artwork found in our books.
Artwork in cards has always been a vexed issue and caused many discussions among the 6d6 crew.
The number one problem is scale.
In 6d6 Shootouts, which is a card game with a fixed deck of cards, there are 80+ cards. Acquiring artwork for each will be expensive and time consuming. On the RPG side, this is even more of an issue where a setting such as 6d6 Bots or 6d6 Hellenic may each add another 100 – 200 cards each to a basic set of 150 cards in the system.
Ignoring the financial difficulties of acquiring all these artworks, just coming up with meaningful artwork is a challenge. Some cards, such as the Fire card, it is easy but the more esoteric cards, such as Regal Bearing, what art should we use to capture the card’s idea and help transmit it to the reader? Unless the artwork is meaningful and actually enhances either the game play or the speed a player can learn the game, all the time and money spent acquiring it will be wasted.
Scale brings other problems. A new 6d6 GM will need to produce between 100 – 250 cards. Printing these at home, with artwork and background colours is going to chew through an ink cartridge. That adds real costs onto playing 6d6 and lets face it, there are enough barriers to playing it already.
The sheer variety of cards also throws up difficulties. While some have barely any text on them, others have 30-50+ words that need to be on the card and readable. Sacrificing large sections of the card to artwork forces the text to be in even smaller fonts and less legible. As it is the text that is important to the game, compromising the readability is not a viable option.
A lot of the issues about art on the card come from the central ideas of the game, e.g. the rules should be on the cards (hence the need for a fair amount of text) and the game should be easy to play (hence the reluctance to cram text on a card in a tiny font). It is also an RPG and central to my believe of what makes 6d6 an RPG rather than a card game is that it is easy to expand / change the system. GMs or players can create a new cards on 6d6 Online in moments that are identical to the ‘official’ cards. The more artwork we place on the cards, the bigger the gap between official and home made, the further we get from the open game 6d6 needs to be to attract a genuine fan base.
None of this avoids the fact that our cards, amongst other things, needs to be beautified. It is just that the issue is more complex than slapping a bit of artwork on them.
Out of the internal discussions 6d6 has had about art, two viable ideas for improving the cards have surfaced.
The current solid colour coded border can styled for the setting. E.g. for 6d6 Bots the border could be made up of coloured nuts & bolts or circuitry or for 6d6 Hellenic, an abstract pattern taken from Greek pottery. This approach gives the cards some graphical flourish but maintains the important colour cues for players.
Having simple, iconic light grey (or other colours) images underneath the main text of the cards would give the cards more visual depth and variety. Rather than each card having a different image, we may have ten or twenty broad categories of cards (possibly setting related) each with their own watermark, e.g. all Body cards would have a watermark of a human skeleton, all Mind cards a brain etc. Done well, this could help a player learn and play the game at the same time as improving the look of the cards. Skill would be needed to make sure the watermarks do not overpower the text or be so washed out as to be all but invisible.
Beautification is vital, the plain look of cards does put the casual browser off 6d6. Achieving it will inevitably be a gradual process, in part because the technical issues of producing better cards via the 6d6 Online, but also because our graphical style and approach to artwork is still evolving.
Thoughts and ideas on the beautification process are welcome.
A special thanks to Grim of Postmortem Games for his work in stimulating the ideas behind this post.