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I bought myself a shiny new rulebook for a relatively new system and, of course, there's already a full document of errata!

In order to make this easier for myself, I sat down with a pen and sticky notes to mark places in the book that have been errata'd. I found that the pen tended to smudge, and don't want to wait for each individual sticky note to dry as I make my way through the document.

Is there a good way to point to errata from within a rulebook, without risk of damage? I'm essentially looking for a method that:

  • Incorporates short errata directly into the book
  • Summarizes longer errata to incorporate directly into the book
  • Marks places where the errata document needs to be referenced
  • Does so in a legible, or easily intelligible, manner
  • Does all of this with minimal damage to the book itself and not diminish the books longevity. (Smudging, page wear, stickers that begin to peel, &c.)

Relevant Meta: I want to ask about methods of incorporating errata into a rulebook, but I'm not sure of its subjectivity

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to leave a gentle reminder to answerer that they should support their answer. The method you suggest should be tested, and that testing should give you expertise to say when it worked and any drawbacks or limitations it may have. This also goes to voters, please look for answers that show experience. Many ideas sound good until you try it and realize you forgot about X thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 23 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wait. So your complaint is that your pen is garbage? \$\endgroup\$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 26 at 0:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Harper Constructive. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jan 26 at 2:35

10 Answers 10

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I make sure to download or print a copy of the relevant errata so that I have it on hand when gaming. Then in the original source I will draw a small line (generally in pen) next to the text that has changed or received updates. Whenever I reference the rules and see one of those marks, I know to also reference the errata documents.

If multiple versions or additional errata are released, I will use a different color pen to indicate the source of the change. That makes it easy to know where I need to look.

I like this approach for several reasons:

  1. I don't have to spend a lot of time hand writing text or compiling my own rules sources.
  2. I have a quick indicator that there are additional, relevant rules when viewing original sources.
  3. If further updates are made, I don't need to remove or erase anything; I can simply make another mark and know exactly which sources I will need to reference for the complete picture.

I've been using this system for a number of years now and it's worked really well for me. One downside is that the information isn't immediately clear to another reader if someone is using my books instead of theirs to look up information. I see that as a very acceptable downside as it doesn't happen often.

I've also been considering writing page numbers in the same color next to these marks. I've not tried that yet, but I have noticed it can take a minute to find the right section if the errata document is longer than a page or two.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this. It's easily noticeable while reading it, without requiring extensive modification/ sticky notes. \$\endgroup\$ – NeutralTax Jan 30 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this. Add a few sticky notes for the rules changes you reference most often and you have a nice middle ground. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Feb 11 at 16:38
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When I've felt the need to do this, I've simply written on the book's pages, in pencil if that would show up clearly on the page and not smudge, else in ink. The margin had enough space for noting short errata directly. The only time I had long errata, I printed them out on a sheet of paper that I could put between the cover and the first page, and made marginal notes to remind me to look at the errata.

I've never used post-its notes for errata, because they can come lose and be lost, or end up on the wrong page and create confusion. I'm happy to use them as place-markers, because that doesn't need to be permanent.

If you're shocked by writing on a book, I have to ask why? It's a tool in playing a game, and it will wear out in use anyway. The lasting value in playing RPGs doesn't seem to be in the shelves of books, but in the things you learn, the fun you have, and the enduring memories.

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    \$\begingroup\$ No problems with the pencil smudging either? The paper tends to be a bit glossy in these books \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jan 24 at 4:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o: Thanks for reminding me about that: I haven't hit that situation often, as most of the errata I've had to note were in non-glossy books. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dallman Jan 24 at 5:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could also just use post-it notes, stick them on relevant pages and write on those. (Which is too similar of an answer, so I'm not going to make it one.) @Jason_c_o \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Jan 24 at 8:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnHamilton: Added a paragraph, bearing in mind the requirement for writing from experience. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dallman Jan 24 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @johnhamilton That's in the question :) \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jan 24 at 16:01
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I had similar issue with my programming books. It was before cheap, fast, always-on mobile Internet access. I needed to mark things that were no longer up to date. Different topic, but the same exact problem.

What worked for me was to print them on a really thin paper, cut out and just slip these between the pages, as close to the book spine as possible. Slips stayed there pretty well and, as long as there were not too many of them, didn't inflate the book too much. Less than sticky notes, I dare say. And boy, I was browsing these books as much or even more than I do with my RPG handbooks! So I believe that should translate well.

Now most home printers can go as thin as 60 gram per square meter, some of them can go 40 or lower, so you don't even have to go to pro photocopier point to do that.


Note, I did not mark the pages in any way, I was just using good headers on errata slips. OK, once or twice I covered some part of the text in the book with post-it saying do not do this anymore!. But that were cases when outdated method was not merely inefficient or not working, but when it could cause bigger problems and I couldn't afford that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you make any marks in the book to indicate which parts of a page were obsolete, or was it easy enough to figure out the relevant passage once you knew which page it was on? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jan 24 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson most of the time it was easy enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jan 24 at 10:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is important to note that if normal copy paper is used to limit the number of pages inserted this way, or the binding may end up broken and the book could start to fall apart. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Jan 24 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aherocalledFrog that was my thought. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jan 24 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aherocalledFrog - agreed. That's why I was using almost "parchment" paper, much thinner than normal. But everything has limits. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jan 25 at 1:37
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Create your own supplementary book

I have created my own supplementary books when I did not want to risk damage or modification to the primary books.

With created supplementary books, you need to be careful how you organize them. If your own errata book has, on page 2, an update to your source book's chapter 3 page 45, you could easily forget or miss the errata. At that point it's as good as if you didn't have the errata.

Whatever version you use below, keep the entries in order. If you have to make updates, try to write updates in where they should be in the correct order. If you can't, you will need to remake it.

If you can use a laptop to help assist your game, this is a great use for it. A word document which properly uses headings so that you have an automatic table of contents that you can just click on to see what you need works great.

If the amount of errata is small enough, try to fit it all onto a single paper.

If you are printing this, use tiny page margins, single-spacing, waste no space on the paper. Try to keep entries to 1 line if you can, and make the source-book's topic and chapter/page number bold.

Ch1, p5 Widget Care and p6 Sprocket Care: Change "month" to "year" and "peanut butter" to mustard"

Ch 3, p45 Foobaz Results: add "unless already buffed, then choose this or the other buff, not both"

This can still work if it flows onto a second or third page, but eventually

If not small, include a listing of source-book errata locations on the errata-book's cover page

Best shown by example.

Source-book chapter 1, page 5:

Widgets

Widgets are cool things that do stuff.

Widget Use:

Turn them upside down to make them go.

Widget Care:

Cover them in peanut butter once per month.

Source-book chapter 3, page 45

Foobazzing

Foobazzing is the thing people do to improve efficiency.

How to foobazz:

Sing "Mary had a little lamb" while holding a Widget in your left hand.

Foobazz results:

Efficiency is improved 50% for all actions.

Errata book cover page:

Errata for Player Handbook

Ch1, p5: Widget Care, p7: Sword Use, p7: Shield Use, p10 X

Ch3, p45: Foobazz results, p50 Y

Errata book page 1:

Player Handbook Chapter 1, Page 5

Widget Care:

Cover them in peanut butter once per year.

Errata book page 3:

Player Handbook Chapter 3, Page 45

Foobazz Results:

Efficiency is improved 50% for all actions unless they are already affected by an efficiency bonus, in which case you may choose which bonus to apply but not both.

Those entries could have been on the same page if they fit and that makes you happy, but I'm assuming there are other errata that might be on the page as well. Even if they would fit, it doesn't hurt to leave some empty space to write in more errata later on.

If the company adds another section about Widgets or changes something else in chapter 1, it would be nice to include that on errata-book page 2 instead of adding it to the end. Just remember to also add ", p6: Sprocket Care" to your cover-page line so it reads "Ch1, p5: Widget Care, p6: Sprocket Care"

If you get further errata to the same section, you can just cross out and write in whatever you need. For example, if a later source-book change makes Widget Care require mustard instead of peanut butter, then you just cross out "peanut butter" and write "mustard" so the line in your errata book reads "Cover them in mustard once per year."

If you have multiple books for which you want to keep track of errata, you can have one errata-book for all of your rulebooks as long as all of the "ChX, pY: Topic" summaries fit on the errata book cover page.

Some other tips to go along with this

If the errata book gets large enough that you can't find the page you need quickly, make it easier to find a specific section by making it stand out. Ways to make it stand out:

  • Use sticky notes where the sticky part is facing the bottom of the page and the non-sticky part is poking up out the top of the page, and write the section on the part sticking out. Eg: GM Guide, or Chapter 3.

  • Similar to previous point: do something to make tabs stick out the top. You can buy items to help with this from office supply stores, or you can offset a page so it's a half-inch higher than the others and cut off some excess so it forms a tab. Write on the tab.

  • Fold the corner of the page of a new section over, and write the section-name (GM Guide, Chapter 3, etc.) next to the folded corner. The corner helps you see where sections are, and writing next to the fold means you don't have the open that page up all the way to see what it is about.

  • You can also write errata-book's page numbers on its cover page summary and write page numbers on all the pages, but if you do that then you're stuck with specific page numbers and can't easily rearrange your errata book when more errata comes in. Write page numbers if you don't expect much future errata.

Other supplements, not just errata

This method also allows you to include whatever other supplemental additions you want.

Ch 4, p70 Types of Terrain

Homebrew additions to this table: Mushroom Forest, Moon, Lava Lake

and

Ch 5, p80 Spells

Bob is using the following spell from the "1 Million More Spells" book, but his sister is borrowing it so let's record it here:

Lightning Scorcher: Requires 1 metal rod and 1 battery. Blasts everything in sight for 10 damage.

Conclusion

Just make sure that any time you reference a source book that you have your errata page or errata book available too and that you glance at it to see if there is something for the section you are reading.

This method is the best balance I have found for leaving the source books in the best condition possible, referencing as much errata as you want, knowing fairly quickly if there is errata for a certain spot, including all sorts of supplemental info not just errata, and finding it quickly enough that you don't start to ignore it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not downvoting, because it may be good advice for other folks, but this sounds like a bit to much work for somebody like the OP who is too impatient to let ink on post-its dry. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jan 24 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TJL haha it's just a lot of errata, so a lot of post-it's ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jan 24 at 17:46
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The traditional way of dealing with errata (going back pre-war) was sticky-backed sheets of paper, precut to stick exactly over the wrong paragraphs. Licking and sticking was a ritual at whatever intervals changes were introduced. This could take an hour! We get lots of manuals in the museum where you stick them on edge and dozens of errata stickers fall out, because the glue has perished over 70 years.

However, we're on the right track. Look at the book and find Post-It notes whose sticky is a bit wider than the width of the paragraphs. It's important to use 3M brand Post-It notes because of 3M's unique knack of getting adhesive exactly right. The wide 3x5 might be a good choice. (and before anyone says "why not just look at your D&D 5e books?”, OP did not specify a game.)

Then, paste the errata into a Word document, with columns set up 1/8" narrower than the Post-It notes. Any errata too long to practicably fit, copy-paste it onto another doc page, possibly in another section with different columnation, and add a note saying "See extended note".

Make sure every errata contains a rule number or page number so where it goes can be easily found.

Print this on an Avery label sheet. Avery is much too aggressive to stick in a book, so stick it to the sticky part of the Post-It note.

By "too long to practicably fit" I say the height of the stickum on the back of the Post-It note, or about 5/8" on the 5" wide ones. Any thicker than that and the thickness of Avery+Post-It will make the pages unduly stiff. However, if you insist, apply Post-Its back to back so the paragraph sections have stickum top and bottom:

  • If the section is more than twice as tall as the stickum on the Post-It, tear only half the backing sheet off the back of the label, horizontally. Stick it to the first Post-It, with the Post-It stickum on the edge. Remove the remaining flappy Post-It material that was not able to stick to the label. Now remove the rest of the backing sheet, and apply that sticky surface upside-down to another Post-It. Remove the flappy, Post-It material, leaving a bit of overlap so the Avery glue can't touch the book. Now your errata paragraph has Post-It stickum on top and bottom edge. It will stay. Again, not a fan of this as it will make pages too stiff.

Mark them with Hi-Liter to make them more obvious. Do this before putting them in the book.

Trim off excess Post-It and stick them where appropriate.

Yeah, it makes the book pages stiff, but it has the highest "removability factor" you're going to get.

If you want to reduce stiffness, you could reduce it to a 1/2" square containing only "see errata 10.3.13” and 4-point type for page number and section... Then you could lay out as many as 10-up on a 5" wide Post-It strip, reducing the stick-n-cut workload quite a lot (since you only need 1 Avery transfer for 10 labels). I've never bothered.

The errata that won't fit on a label, which I mentioned to put in a different section of the Word doc, gets printed out on plain paper and stuck in the inside front or back cover.

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Writing in the book seems like the most straightforward choice. I customarily do this in pencil; especially if the edits/errata changes on a later date, then it can be erased (hopefully) and overwritten.

For some books a standard (hard) pencil suffices. I have one super-glossy ruleset (old Marvel Super Heroes looseleaf character binders) for which I use a softer pencil graphite grade, like a 6B. This gets a mark on the page, where a normal pencil mark isn't visible.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Did the pencil tend to smudge on the page? And I'm weary off too much erasing: that will definitely wear the page. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jan 24 at 17:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o: It's true that erasures are not great. But I've never had any pencil smudges that I've noticed on any type of paper. (Unlike ink pens.) \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel R. Collins Jan 24 at 23:35
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If the errata is important enough for me to worry about keeping track of it, then I stop worrying about damaging the book and concern myself primarily with neatness. I care more about having the corrected rule at hand and legible than any value the books might eventually have as collectors item.

To that end I measure out the space the defective rule takes up in the book (usually including a whole paragraph, or at least several whole lines) and the make a text box with those dimensions in the computer and fill it with the corrected text, formatted to look as close as possible to the original (I use Pages for this, but most word processing and presentation apps should work). If the corrected text is longer than the original (a common occurrence for errata in my experience) this allows me to reduced the font size or do other tricks to make it fit.

Once it fits, print, cut, and paste (I usually use double sided tape for this last step), covering up the defective rule. I’be been known to cover whole columns this way, when necessary, as well as layer correction on top of each other when subsequent errata changed previous errata.

The only time this has ever failed me was when the errata was an additional rule covering circumstances not foreseen in the original (I.e. no changed text, just added text). In that case I attach the extra rule to the page in a convenient location with a piece of clear tape on just one edge so that I can hinge it out of the way when needed or have it run “off” the original page and fold the extra back into the book for storage.

The books I did this with the most extensively were my D&D 4e core rule books where the errata document from WotC already formatted the errata to look consistent with the original text. In this case I often enough was able to skip straight to printing, cutting, and pasting. However, there still were some changes which I redid myself to ensure they would fit where I wanted them to go.

The method takes a bit of prep work, but makes for seamless use of the errata during play.

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Direct Annotation

I have held a print collection of copies of historical sources, that had annotations added with pencil regarding some particular sources if they were seen as a fake or not. That information stemmed from an essay that was published 30 years after the print edition of the sources was collected. The annotation in this case was a vital addition, it was added directly and permanently into the book by the librarian or a professor, above or next to the headline that introduced each source. The verdict was in most instances combined with a reference shorthand (author, title, year), which was enough to look up the essay, but technically didn't satisfy the citation notes.

For an RPG such a reference should obviously point to a corresponding Errata document and the page, for example Err I p.4 for "Errata document I, page 4" or. It can also be used to indicate where more aditional rules about a subject are mentioned, especially in a different book. As an example of the later, I have placed markers in some of my The Dark Eye books using a shorthand similar to this style, using the referenced books title as the first part and the page as the second part. MBK 123 would point to the book Mit Blitzenden Klingen page 123. Note that in the case of TDE even the official pointers in books use the same style and nomenclature!

Marking Sections

In editing essays and working with scripts I have found PostIts to work best in combination with pencil, but not always enough. Instead, I have sometimes resorted to colored marker-stickers (arrows) to indicate specific areas or formulae to look them up faster. Often they had a title on them or held a cross-reference to other markers. The plastic markers/arrows usually can be written on with pencil.

For example, my Math I-III script of 700-some pages had about 150 labeled and colored markers and arrows pointing to all the relevant tests and stanzas, allowing to quickly look them up in a pinch. I even managed to keep up a color-code for the topics. In this case it was actualyl better to use the cheap variant that was more sticky than the PostIt original.

They are more relevant for finding sections that are often used.

Editing Secions

To alter areas, I have sometimes taken adhesive tape. Not the clear shiny type but rough, matte, write on adhesive tape. Not all of these can be removed easily as there are at least two types around: one is "document proof" and is less sticky and removeable, the other can not.

In other cases, Washi-Tape has been helpful. This is a paper adhesive tape and often can be removed more easily than adhesive tape. Atop that, the color of it can be quite handy as highlight and to cover up areas of text.

The benefit of these tapes is, that they stay where you put them with no chance to loose them.

Errata/Houserule-Book

When the ammount of errata is especially large, like in the case of Exalted 2nd Edition, the better publishers usually have an errata publication or booklet. It is usually sorted by splatbook. In those cases, it might be best to just print out the relevant part of the errata book, put a marker or annotation to the section that has an errata and tuck the printout pages into the front or back of the book.

Final Notes

Note that using such a permanent markup is bad for resale and collectors value of the book. However, such can be very useful way to edit a Playtest copy, to incorporate house-rules or to cross-reference books as updated rules come out.

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  • Post-it notes applied to the pages in question. This can become annoying long term if you ever resell the book, as even if you remove the post-it notes there can be a residue that can cause pages to lightly stick. I usually only do this for the most major changes that directly affect my game. Example: D&D 4e.
  • Lightly penciled in changes—light enough that I can erase if needed. Best on non-glossy paper. Examples: Dungeon Crawl Classics, Paranoia 2004/XP.
  • Full page hardcopy tucked in the back cover. For errata too big for the bigger solutions. Example: D&D 3.5e.
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Use a PDF copy of the book that you can modify instead.

This is a strategy that was widely adopted by the community of the RPG Exalted back during the second edition of the game, where the errata documents reached hundreds of pages in length and dramatically altered how the game played. As a result, some fans compiled a file that would integrate with the official PDF files of the rulebooks and display the relevant errata when viewed in certain PDF viewers.

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