Experiences with BIG Gaming books


I love a good tabletop game - so much so, that I took to writing my own a LONG time ago (I ran play-by-snailmail games in the 1990s and I wrote my first roleplaying game material in the 00s, including material for well known games like Paranoia, Fighting Fantasy and Nights Black Agents).

Anyway, some games seem to take it as a challenge to be as complete as possible and produce enormous rule books. Many games suffer from background bloat, locking the reader into 100+ pages of setting and prose before you reach the system. I appreciate that sometimes (I’m a fan of Symbaroum, for example, which has about 70-pages of setting material at the front, but then again, I read it from the back of the book…).

I have been a long time fan of Lovecraft and his stories, playing Call of Cthulhu since the early 80s. When Chaosium released the 7th edition of the game through Kickstarter, I backed it. When it arrived, the slipcased double book set was gorgeous… but, it’s a lot of material. For a game that has worked well in the past with a lot less, we suddenly had a Chase chapter that counts out around 11,000 words.

For my part, I countered this by writing my own rules lite game of the Mythos, The Cthulhu Hack - which I’ve self-published and expanded the line for over the last 18 months. The original rules gave you a complete game in half the wordage of the CoC Chase chapter — and even the current revised version runs about the same as the Chase.

What are you experiences with big books? Do they suit you well? Are there any big books that have worked, drawing you in and setting you up in a way that has made for greater enjoyment? I’d love to hear about them.


Hi Paul,

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by table-top roleplaying, but never had anyone to play with (I think I made my friends sit still for a painfully chaotic GURPS session, but that’s about it). But I still bought the books, and it was wonderful being able to just read them on their own. For that reason, I really appreciated the big books.

Nowadays, I thankfully have friends who are into tabletop role-playing, and I’m currently splitting time between a D&D and a Hunter: The Reckoning campaign. But we’re all in our 30s, some with families, and we no longer have the time (patience? attention span?) to immerse ourselves in a game’s setting to that degree before sinking in. Nowadays I’m just into the Rule of Cool, and leaving lore and worldbuilding up to the GM’s imagination. Maybe when I’m retired (if retirement still exists) I’ll get back into big book games.

And thank you on behalf of everyone for the rules-lite. That’s terrific, I think all game system books should include something like that.

Be well!