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As I entered a contribution into a 24h-rpg-design-contest (Tanelorn Challenge; similar to Game Chef but German) I was wondering about how to lay out my game.

What software would you recommend me for getting an appealing layout with little effort? The software should be no or low cost.

Any suggestions?

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This would probably be better asked on a board about computer software like Super User - here's a link to questions about publishing software there: – mxyzplk Sep 1 '10 at 3:31

6 Answers 6

up vote 18 down vote accepted

There's a thread on Story Games about this. Let me summarize:

Scribus is free, multi-platform, but has a steep learning curve because it's a desktop publishing tool, built for experienced layout folks. But if you're an experienced layout folk, you'll be annoyed by missing features.

Serif Page Plus is free for noncommercial use (very cheap for unrestricted use), powerful, but only runs on Windows.

ConTeXt is a TeX-style markup language program that will do two-column layout pretty easily.

I'm told that OpenOffice's Writer (which is their equivalent of MS Word) can do layout pretty well. I use MS Word for most of my layout needs. Once you get the hang of styles and text boxes, you can do some basic layout that looks pretty good (for an amateur). OpenOffice is supposed to be more powerful for layout than Word. Tips here.

(Story Games links might require a free registration.)

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On the mac, Pages can do a decent job at the low-end commercial. It isn't the most powerful tool in the shed, but it's relatively easy to use.

Word, of course, can be used, but getting the professional result requires an in depth knowledge and some use of poorly documented commands.

Scribus is available for all 3 major home computing platforms and is free.

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I wrote and published my 24 hour RPG entirely using OpenOffice. It came out looking pretty alright.

Personally, I prefer heavier layout applications, but the benefit of open office is that it runs nicely on a low-end laptop and is free.

I know that Rob Lang had issues with the software in question (there are some odd workarounds to get full page backgrounds to work in it, for instance), but I haven't found a software that handles layout well without being a big hit on my processor.

Like using MSWord, getting professional results in Open Office requires that you learn some sneaky tricks here and there - ones that aren't well documented. Google ends up being a close and personal friend.

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For my own games, I have used LaTeX (not using columns, but using fairly wide margins). I find the layout to be pleasing and easy to read and LaTeX to be relatively easy to use.

On the up-side, you can use any text editor to edit your document(s), but unless you already know a decent text editor, you have the double whammy of "editor" and "LaTeX".

Project Unnamed RPG is one example of "no columns" layout generated from LaTeX.

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As mentioned above open office is great for general layout work on the cheap (free in this case). Gimp/Gimpshop and inkscape are my preferred tools for image editing. Gimpshop is gimp made to more closely resemble photoshop in it's general layout and inkscape is a vector image editing suite.

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+1 to Adam Dray's answer. Just a few more notes based on my experiences.

I use Scribus, Open Office and Serif.

Serif is really easy to use.

Scribus is hard on your processor, but very powerful. You can create really comprehensive styles, position everything very nicely, make changes mid-stream. Great program, but runs slow on cheap computers.

Open Office is super nice. Columns is one of the things I really like about Open Office. I think it's a lot more intuitive, easier to control and shows you a lot more options compared to Microsoft Word. Open Office won't check grammar though, so Microsoft Word is still better in that regard, even if it gets the grammar checker wrong some of the time.

Open Office doesn't do as much graphics and cool font treatments as I'd like, but you could do all your graphics and font stuff in GIMP and put it in your Open Office documents as images.

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