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Re: [icons-rpg] Task-oriented writing and ICONS

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  • Curt Meyer
    Thanks Gareth. please post a link to the preorder on the list. Sent from my iPad
    Message 1 of 13 , Jul 7, 2011
      Thanks Gareth. please post a link to the preorder on the list.

      Sent from my iPad

      On Jul 7, 2011, at 3:51 PM, Gareth-Michael Skarka <gms@...> wrote:


      Print.   Pre-order starts tomorrow, and book ships out (to pre-orders and stores) as a November release.


      On Jul 7, 2011, at 3:45 PM, Soylent Green wrote:

      Awesome. Print or just pdf?

      To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
      From: gms@...
      Date: Thu, 7 Jul 2011 15:42:32 -0500
      Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] Task-oriented writing and ICONS

      We're about to announce the next big ICONS book release tomorrow -- so I guess I'm spoiling the announcement here -- ICONS TEAM-UP, which is a companion volume which will include GM advice, new guidelines for team creation, sidekicks, super-vehicles, tools for running campaigns, and more.   

      One thing that I'm looking to include is a "all-in-one" reference guide -- not only including a top-level "how-to", and examples of play, but also an index to the ICONS core book, The Villainomicon, and ICONS Team-up, all in one.

      So, in other words -- keep talking.  I'm listening.   :)


      On Jul 7, 2011, at 3:20 PM, robert fv wrote:

      I hear what you're saying. I haven't given the rest of the book much thought (so far, it's worked pretty well for me), but I hate the way the powers section is organized. Well, that's too strong. The way it's organized makes sense. But I need a way to reference that organization. The problem comes when I need to look up a power's specifics. First I have to stop and think a) what type of power is this? then b) where does that group of powers lie in relation to the other powers? Then flipping through the pages requires that same process for each page I glance at. 

      I need a powers index - an alphabetical list of the power names pointing to the page of the book that power is on. Has anyone done this already? 
      That said, I know from experience that if I played this game more regularly, I would a) memorize all the power effects & intricacies, and b) remember where to to find them in the book. But right now, I only use Icons as an occasional pick up game, so referencing the powers is a big issue. 

      Howling in the Dark http://spookable.blogspot.com/

      From: John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...>
      To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thu, July 7, 2011 3:40:25 PM
      Subject: [icons-rpg] Task-oriented writing and ICONS

      Forgive me for one post--this is some thoughts at the intersection of my job 
      (technical writing) and ICONS, and it concerns rulebook organization and 
      software geekery. So while it thrills me, others might want to skip it. I'm 
      thinking out loud. There are no conclusions here, and I hope no offense: one of 
      the things I learn at work repeatedly is that different people think, well, 

      I had trouble grokking ICONS when I started. And I was wondering why.

      Currently, I think this is about organization and access. The shorter something 
      is, the easier it is to hold in the mind and the easier access to information 
      is. If you have one page, you need only minimal organization...but some bullet 
      lists might help. Once you get past a dozen pages, you need organization to help 
      users create a mental model that will help th em get access and find the 
      information they want, fast.

      One of the areas where ICONS doesn't work for me is organization. It took me 
      quite a while to get my brain wrapped around where the information is. The 
      information is there; I just can't find it. I don't have access.

      In tech writing, there was a period where the reference section of most manuals 
      was organized around the design of the program: you'd describe the file menu, 
      then the edit menu, and so on. To a large extent, that's how ICONS is organized, 
      both the powers and the Taking Action section: everything to do with prowess, 
      then everything to do with coordination, and so on. Sometimes this makes sense: 
      when I want to find out what the little blue light means on my BlackBerry, I 
      look up "Indicator lights" because that's the clue I have. (The DITA model 
      divides documents into three types of topics: conceptual information, task 
      information, and reference information. Each has its place.)

      And not all of ICONS is organized this way: for instance, it starts with some 
      conceptual stuff, and then a series of task instructions (creating a character). 
      Which is immediately followed by a reference section--we need to know what the 
      abilities, the specialties, and the powers do. In character creation, we learn 
      the name of the power and then we have to go look it up. Reference lookup makes 
      sense, for the Abilities, Specialties, and Powers.

      (Really, there are two parts to the rulebook: Creating a character is the first, 
      and playing the game is the second. You might even subdivide that second one 
      into Player and GM, because they have different needs.)

      But the buzzword in tech writing for the last decade or more has been 
      "task-based writing". That's where I feel that ICONS lets me down, in the 
      Taking Action section.

      Task-basked writing is figuring out wh at the player wants the character to do, 
      and then describing how to do it, regardless of what ability it's based on. It 
      works backwards from a goal. The headings tend to be "How do I" (explicit or 
      implied) and describe a goal, such as "How much can I lift?" "How do I knock 
      somebody down?" "How do I coordinate with another character?" "How do I alter 
      somebody's memory?" "How do I intimidate that guy?" "How do I represent lots of 
      gadgets?" "How do I get a Determination Point?" "How do I, as GM, reward 
      players and let them improve characters?"j

      This is the heart of a well-done FAQ, too.

      You can't present every possible phrasing, of course, or you'd end up with 
      thirty variations on "How do I bash someone?" that differ only in wording. (That 
      is what an index is for, in my opinion: a concise way to afford access to your 
      information to someone with a different vocabulary than you have. Access is also 
      why PDFs should have bookmarks.)

      Now, you can present this in any way that you think will make sense to your 
      reader. Some examples: 

      Abilities, of course. Alphabetical order by task. By power. By the order things 
      occur in combat (before damage, causing damage, evaluating damag e, recovering 
      from damage). By degree of success or failure (where that applies). In 
      categories such as Mental, Physical, Environmental, Social, and Spiritual. By 
      distances: Personal, close, extreme, visual, beyond. And you can mix them up: 
      use one set as your top-level heading. 

      Some are better than others; the best ones produce a mental model in the 
      reader's mind that makes lookup fast and easy. I'm going to suggest that, for 
      me, organizing tasks by ability is less useful because lookup does not turn out 
      to be fast and easy, and there isn 't a second method of access. (I've taken to 
      searching the PDF, but that doesn't work on paper.)

      The important thing is that it make sense to your readers. (Okay, the most 
      important thing is whether it fits into the operational constraints you 
      have--time, budget, space--but we ignore that because it always makes itself 

      I have not (and I repeat this) not looked at the Taking Action chapter and tried 
      to figure out a model that I think would work for me and ICONS. I merely know I 
      have trouble with the current organization. At this point, I'm just thinking out 

      And I' m not trying to offend anyone here: if it works for you, that's good. You 
      are clearly grooving in the model that Steve and Gareth had in mind when they 
      produced it. But I had to work at it.

      John McMullen (Young old coot)

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