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Planning What’s in the Hardback

Planning What’s in the Hardback

With the #DelvingDeeper hardback in the pipe at last, I’ve had to re-think where the line should lie between Reliquary and the Ref Rules.

It isn’t easy. Going waaay back the plan was the Ref Rules were to be a minimal, no-frills framework; Reliquary (and other products) were to be the embodiment of richer games built on that framework. Well, it hasn’t really turned out that way, but perhaps the auld plan still has merit?

Three Years On

A lot has happened in the three years since #DelvingDeeper first appeared. Ha!, a lot has happened in the last nine months since V4 appeared as the #ReferenceRulesCompendium on Lulu. The Old School circuit is now bursting at the seams with games that have collectively pushed the envelope, and DD’s place in it all seems less clear to me today than it did three years ago.​ I want to fix that.​

To Improve is to Change (W. Churchill)

“Fixing” stuff of course means changes, but don’t panic. Reliquary will be the best DD ever!

The hardback edition will include a bunch of changes over V4 which means, eventually (after Reliquary has well and truly settled in), I will get around to updating the Ref Rules too. At that point Reliquary and the Ref Rules will be in sync but, in the meanwhile, it feels “right” to me that Reliquary should be “out in front”.

How will Reliquary Differ from V4?

1. Illustrations, examples, indexes, layout, structure.
2. A bunch of “optional interpretations” that appear in V4 will be moved to appendices.
3. Changes and additions to the remaining core.

“Changes and Additions”?
Reliquary will be more closely aligned with the source material than is V4. Some changes will be micro-details you’ll need eagle eyes to spot. Other changes will be more obvious, including:
. Inclusion of level titles for player-types,
. Inclusion of the Fighting Capability stat for player-types,
. Elves will be more dangerous with magic weapons,
. Update to attack/saving throw matrices in line with FC,
. Inclusion of “melee rounds”,
. Etc.

What will appear in the Appendices?
This isn’t set in stone yet, but some candidate appendices include:
. V4 “House Rules” capturing all the “V4-isms” that get bumped from the core text; so Reliquary will continue to “support” V4 this way,
. EGG’s House Rules,
. Arneson’s game,
. The Thief; a recreation of Wagner’s original pre-Gygax thief, and the DD V4 thief,
. Additional adventuring equipment list,
. DD V4’s “additional” spells (and possibly a couple more?),
.​ DD V4’s “additional” monsters,
. Discussion of “Normal” and “Rounds and Turns”,
. Etc.

So, that’s the thinking to date. I’m revising it continuously as I begin to work through the layout, so I wouldn’t say the above is final but it should give you a pretty good notion of what to expect.

Another Piece of Internet Ephemera

In a humble attempt to become a better internet citizen and, ideally, raise the electronic profile of Delving Deeper, I am starting up a blog to run alongside this G+ group.  The blog and G+ group are intended to be psychotically-linked so that anything I post on either site should appear on both.

Many thanks are owed (and gratefully given) to +Jesse Rothacher for helping me get the blog site set up, and to +Mike Tremaine my internet host and unparalleled network admin.

And so… the tender green web log can be found behind the button etched Blog at

Any recommendations from the more experienced bloggers would be most welcome!

What’s With Perfect Binding?

Why would anyone go to all the bother of doing a section-sewn hardback when POD services all over the planet will do you a “perfect bound” book at a fraction of the cost?

POD is ultimately about economy and convenience; it’s fantastically cheap and that’s a great thing. But POD books are typically “perfect bound”, which means the individual leaves are glued to the spine. This is fine for many books but repeated use will cause the glue to crack and split, and eventually the pages will separate from the spine. For this reason perfect binding is less suitable for reference books.

My latest copy of Delving Deeper (a perfect bound POD booklet from is no exception:

Perfect Bound Spine Splitting.
Perfect Bound Spine Beginning to Split.

In all I own own four copies of the Delving Deeper Ref Rules Compendium. One of them is sitting on my shelf in virtually untouched condition. The other three copies are work-horses in various states of disrepair due to regular, but hardly unreasonable, use.  

My original copy is about nine months old and is just about ready to be binned: 

Ref Rules Compendium V4 in a Sorry State.
Ref Rules Compendium V4 in a Sorry State.

On the other hand, I have a shelf load of AD&D hardbacks printed throughout the 1980s that are still going strong.  Of course these more durable books have sewn binding techniques, not perfect binding! 


Shipped by UPS

How would we fare with UPS shipping?

The news is good. Your book comes packed in a rigid cardboard box 12″ x 9″ x 3.5″ which would be a spacious ride for a digest-sized hardback if it were not for the copious quantity of bubble wrap surrounding your plastic wrapped book:

Shipping box compared to OCE boxed set.
Shipping box compared to OCE boxed set.

The box is packed tight with padding; there’s no way the content is going to move even a quarter-inch during transit, and–short of someone dropping a refrigerator on it from 20ft–it is unlikely to be damaged :

Box packed with bubble wrap.
Packed tight with bubblewrap.

Buried deep down inside all that bubble wrap you’ll find a water-tight plastic bag containing the main event:

Hardback in a plastic bag.
Hardback in a plastic bag.

Finally, you’ll come face to face with your book; and have enough plastic lying about to gift wrap a giraffe.

The book in hand, at last.
The book in hand, at last.

In all, UPS shipping looks to be a very sound option in terms of protection.

A Tale of Two Prototypes

Today, a man in a UPS shirt knocked on my door and handed me a box.

Inside, cocooned in a copious quantity of bubblewrap, were the two DD hardback prototypes. I had already seen photos and had a verbal report from +Cameron DuBeers (thanks Cameron!). However, holding the books in my hands is a whole different ball game!

I have to say, the first prototype is a great piece of work. It’s leaf-sewn into a block spine with a glossy, laminated cover, double thick end papers and tight and bright interior leaves. It’s a serious step up from POD (well, POD isn’t even in the same league); a beautiful, durable, work-horse reference book. It’s on par with most of the small press hardbacks I have, and is exactly what you might “expect” to get when a micro-publisher says he’s gonna do a hardback. I reckon 99% of us here would be stoked with it, and rightly so.

Thing is… I am that 1% freak. Which is why there was a second prototype in the box.

Cameron wrote to me last week:

“A superior product in every way.  I liked the other one, I love this one!”

I am going to go further: It’s friggin’ aaawesome!  It oozes quality. The matte cover is gorgeous to look at and has a smooth, velvety touch. The paper quality is a whole grade above; it’s heavier and warm-white rather than bleached-white, and has taken more ink so the type looks stronger and is easier to read. It’s section sewn into a square spine, so it opens flat. Damn, it even smells good!

To me this book is of an outstanding build quality. I may well be punch drunk on it, but my initial impression is that it holds its own against any RPG hardcover on my shelf. There are a couple very minor nits for me to pick with the binder, but either way this is the kind of book I want Reliquary to be, that I want to own, and that I want to share with you fine folks.

Having seen this, I’m absolutely decided: There will be a DD hardcover edition.  And it will be like this.

More words and pictures are coming…