This week, I finished editing Hell for Leather for the author, Sebastian Hickey. It’s gone for proofs, will be printed next month, and should be available in August at GenCon.
This last editing phase took one full weekend, every evening for a week, and a lot of lunchbreaks. This follows weeks and weeks of edits from various people (particularly on the excellent HfL mailing list) Fortunately, the designer Sebastian quite likes getting Google Spreadsheets with over a hundred final edits. Or at least is very polite when he does.
What I’ve found interesting in editing this, other texts and a lot of my own older work is the focus we take as designers on the really nifty bits of the system, and explaining them just so. Man, we obsess. But we gloss over huge, vital components of play because they’re automatic for one reason or another. Over-explaining ‘The guy who is doing the stuff right now’ and under-explaining ‘So once everyone agrees…’
Some of the Hell For Leather playtesting ran into trouble where social dynamics at the table papered over gaps in the system or text. For example, the group became so comfortable with building custom settings that no system was needed beyond a checklist. When we got through more external playtesting, and playtesting at conventions, it looked like a short system was needed to help everyone get what they wanted, which became a slick bidding mechanic.
There were also a few areas of player and character motivation where gaps crept in, but some recent revisions have added a bit of depth to PCs which makes the violence that much more shocking (or hilarious).
Now that the book is really on its way, I’m going to talk some more about the marketing we’re doing for the game.